Not A Wasted Note

Fall '98

Fall '98 (Unk)

Once in a while, Phish will play a jam where every note falls in the right place.  Fluid and flowing in the subconscious state, the band becomes a model of musical efficiency, using each note with intention; nothing is superfluous.  The music is channeled directly from the source, untouched by human error.  Each tone, texture or sound has a purpose, and there is no part of the jam that isn’t completely coherent.  When all four members peak together for twenty minutes, the results can be glorious. A jam can- no doubt- be outstanding without this level of perfection, yet every now and again a version of a song pops off in such a way, leaving you amazed that four humans just created it.  There are many examples of this phenomenon, and 12.29.98’s “YEM” is one of them.

Punctuating arguably the best set of the ’98 New Years Run, Phish morphed into a robotically-precise groove machine, transforming Madison Square Garden into an all-out, end of the year, dance party.  This “YEM,” from its first note to its last, never missed a beat; a model of collaboration.  With communication like none other, this version sounded like you were listening to a record.

1998-12-29moThe initial composed portion was played almost impeccably, at a pace where every note of every arpeggio could be heard with crystal clarity.  Moving into the blissed out soundscape- the calm before the storm- the band never faltered, providing divine harmonies, yet moving through the passage with direction and a subtle sense of urgency.  As Phish moved into the next compositional segment, followed by the song’s mid-point build, they were firing on full throttle, without getting ahead of themselves for a second.  The pace of their playing was discernibly patient, yet fierce at the same time.  As Mike played a series of melodic lines behind Trey’s massive sustained peak, The Garden was cleared for take off- and that is exactly what it did.

From the initial funk drop though the end of the song, the band’s playing was flawless.  Moving through the lyrical segment and Page’s solo during the trampoline section, the band was clearly locked in and ready to explode.  And then Trey and Mike jumped off.  Communicating with mind-bending efficiency, the ensuing jam sounded completely rehearsed.

Hampon (Unk)

Hampon (Unk)

Beginning a clinic in Phish grooves, Trey initiated a crack-style rhythm pattern that Mike immediately backed with “The Way I Feel’s” bass line.  As the band moved into the jam, every member’s phrases were offered as complements to each others’, clearly listening as hard as they were playing.  Collectively switching patterns at the drop of a hat, or more literally a single snare hit, the band progressed through a catalog of dance patterns.  The music jumped from the stage with such vitality as a living breathing entity.   Dynamic and bursting with a controlled energy, this version showcased the band not only at the climax of a standout show, but at the end one of the peak years of their career.

Artistically building out of the funk, the jam gained a head of steam, driving forward like a freight train, with every member crushing it while fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Page’s lines leapt from his grand piano, Trey painted colorful strokes across Mike’s oddly melodic musings while Fish surfed a wave of precise beats and incredibly tight rhythms.

The peak and the post-peak sections maintained 100% engagement by all, and were good to the absolute last drop.  With each band member at the top of their game, this version of their seminal piece provided a snapshot of what 1998 Phish grooves were all about.  An archetype of efficiency, this “YEM” represents the type of jam that emerges when everything clicks and no notes are wasted.


LISTEN TO 12.29.98 “YEM” NOW! < LINK (Roll over, click play)



3.6.09: Photo: C. Taylor Crothers



4.10.93 Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL SBD < LINK

4.10.93 Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL SBD < TORRENT  LINK

Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL

Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL

Taking it back exactly 16  years, here we have a SBD memoir of Phish’s performance on this day in 1993.  In Chicago, the band threw down a hot show, with a big “Mike’s Groove” strewn with humor, darkness, and an interlude of “Great Gig In the Sky” holding down the second set.  In addition, local blues artist, and multiple-time Phish guest, Sugar Blue, joined the band for the final four songs of the second set.

I: Runaway Jim, Weigh, Sparkle, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil, My Friend My Friend, Uncle Pen, Chalk Dust Torture, Lawn Boy, David Bowie

II: Lengthwise > Maze, Bouncing Around the Room, Rift, Glide, Big Ball Jam, Mike’s Song > Great Gig in the Sky > Weekapaug Groove, Funky Bitch*, Help Me*, Hoochie Coochie Man*, Cavern*

E: Amazing Grace, Good Times Bad Times

*With Sugar Blue on harmonica and vocals.

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162 Responses to “Not A Wasted Note”

  1. Mr.Miner Says:

    Mike busted out Trey’s bassline in earnest during Shoeline 98’s YEM…(as faras I know)…

  2. voopa Says:

    First Fishman songs I got to see were Warfield ’93: Great Gig in the Sky and Cracklin’ Rosie. Both were hilarious!

    I also saw the debuts of Cryin’ and Suspicious Minds (9/29 and 9/30/95), which were entertaining too. I like the levity of a Fishman tune, especially after something heavy like Avenu Malkenu or Tweezer.

  3. Brimley Says:

    Speaking of ridiculous Mike bass lines, the ’98 Ghost that Miner has on his laidback funk from DeerCreek is some of my favorite Gordeux…

  4. c0wfunk Says:

    fav covers: drowned (sea and sand is great too but rare), crosseyed and painless, a day in the life, guitar gently weeps,

    terrapin station and sabotage were great, though terrapin was one time and sabotage was a 98 thing – I saw all 3 though!

    as far as fishman goes – he provides some great comic relief to a sometimes heavy experience, and phish would not be phish without his antics. That said, I’m glad it’s become a once or twice a tour thing and not a once a night thing.

  5. whole tour! Says:

    tickets for asheville keep dropping in price….one place has them for 200 bucks now.

  6. Jack O Roses Says:

    What?!? No mention of Purple Rain? Classic Fishman ballad! hehe.

    Also, who could forget Somewhere Over the Rainbow, 4-20-1994 at Virginia Horse Center. I’d love to hear that one again, too!

    Has anyone seen “Dark Side of the Rainbow?” It’s when you take Wizard of Oz and listen to Dark Side of the Moon over the dialog. It just struck me that Phish would be the perfect band to attempt a live performance of this, with the movie showing on a jumbo-tron!! Halloween 2009? 😉

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    re: perfection – great topic – I thought the Hampton DWD jam was close to that level until right at the end.

    re: Fish – I get the joke but I’m not into him singing at all. The fucking vacuum cleaner cracks me up though. What an insane sound that is.

    re: covers – I like pretty much all the non Fishman ones really. They have good taste in tunes. I’d like to see On Your Way Down again, a great old Feat song. God I love old Lowell George era Little Feat! Axis is a real fun encore/set closer type song. Izabella of course. Cities, Crosseyed, and Timber – absolutely – I have always heard Timber is a cover, who did the original?

    I think the Halloween ’96 TH covers are the most “important” in Phish history because of the massive and well documented impact they had on the band’s style. From everything I listen to, and from reading what the band said about it, everything that followed over the next few years started that night…but I am not a Phish expert to level of a lot of you all…it does seem that way to me though.

    Because of that, all phish fans know Remain in Light of course, but have you seen or heard the recordings from the Europe ’80 Heads tour with Adrian Belew and other musicians? A few DVDs circulate on torrent sites and they are ridiculously awesome. <– Cities – I like the funkier Phish version better, honestly, but this is ill <– Crosseyed and Painless – I’ll take the post-song Phish jams of course, but check this out <– Houses in Motion. The absolute heat. Belew becomes my personal Jesus every time I watch this. I wish Phish would bust this tune back out sometime.

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    speaking of oz – i like hearing fish sing if I only had a brain
    fishman’s take on the jungle book tune is fun too..

    bike and purple rain are probably my other favs..

  9. voopa Says:

    @ Jack O Roses

    moe. did that on 10/31/00. Don’t know how it turned out tho.

  10. bcb Says:

    Phish doing Dark Side of the Rainbow would be pretty tight, but lets face it, they already played Dark Side, they are not likely to do it again.


  11. msbjivein Says:

    OOOHHHHHH AAAALLLLL-buquerque! I love when Trey play this! Nothing really great about it musically, but it just seems like Trey really feels it when they play it.

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    almost done the YEM .. its crackling with energy. This peak where Trey starts power chording back and forth and page goes off completely is sick0; and the 98 style drum n bass jam with the whole band funkin out is badass.

  13. Jack O Roses Says:


    Thanks for the info. I’ll have ta check that show out, if only to satisfy my curiosity…

  14. RamblinOnMyMind Says:

    Right before the 16 minute mark of this YEM when Page starts laying down really heavy piano chords as the jam builds….beautiful.

    @bcb – Page’s synth tone didn’t scare me, but if I had a little buzz going I think I could get to that point. Right now it just sounds fucking cool. I love when he busts out the distorted synth sounds and can’t wait to hear more of that Hampton ’09 Suzy Greenberg style.

    As a sidenote, I think I downloaded the SBD of this show from this site, and the Divided Sky and Split Open and Melt are labeled incorrectly (they’re just reversed) so you’ve got to change the labels and stick the real Divided Sky as the encore. Though I don’t think too many people on the site will get the two songs mixed up…

  15. snigglebeach Says:

    Anyone else thinking, Maybe they will start sending out the Lottery tickets, for all shows, late next week??

    I know i got tiks, but to this date the only Phish 3.0 tik i have is stupid printer paper from Blockbuster. I am jonesing to see and hold my precious tickets.

    When it comes to Fishman songs, cool when you are there, but ridiculous when u listen at home. and even worse when one of your non-phan friends hears it. just confirms their position that you are nuts.

  16. Jay Says:

    my friends think I am nuts outside of my obsession with Phish

  17. bcb Says:


    I know what you mean, it so hard to try and explain to non-heads how good phish is when suddenly a fishman song comes on
    “uh, no this is kinda a joke, uh, they know its bad, but, you know, its funny. But seriously, they’re really good i swear, uh, just wait for this dude to stop blowing a vacuum cleaner”

  18. whole tour! Says:

    fishman….sexual healing…. mix with wookettes….nuff said

  19. Exree Hipp Says:

    It is really interesting how the so-bad-it’s-good exists in Phish, and how they dance around that line. Fishman’s singing is like that, basically all the time, imo. He got a lot better in 97 I think, when they got into the four part vocals, but hearing him wail along with the guitar line in Moma Dance in Hampton ’09 makes me want to just skip the song. The riff is so good, and his wailing is so bad.

    My favorite Fish experience was probably 12/11/95 Suspicious Minds with the cape and all. Also gotta dig Purple Rain. Ironically one of my least favorite Fishman singing bits is from the same show, in the old arrangement of Taste/Fog That Surrounds.

  20. msbjivein Says:

    ^^WHAT!! I’ve had 7-25-99 Purple Rain on repeat for the past couple days!!! Can’t get enough of that high pitched skreechyness and nither can my co-workers! PUrple rain! Purple Rain!

  21. R1 Says:

    ^Mr. Completely

    Timber (Jerry) was, I believe, written by Odetta (who recently died by the way). However it may be a “traditional”

    Whoever wrote it, definitely one of my absolute favorite covers.

    I think after a whole lot of shows and listening, Fish tunes lose whatever charm they ever held. I just don’t tend to get much enjoyment out of them anymore. Well, at least 5 years ago I wasn’t.

  22. msbjivein Says:

    ^^Don’t hate on MOMA! “A Frothy CAP A steady Slap” That’s sic shit dude!

  23. SJD Says:

    While this is a great YEM, on many fronts, there are a few issues. First, Trey does not, by any means, nail the entire arpeggio intro section. If you want an example of that you have to go back to 93 or 94 (i.e. Roxy 93). This, rather, is an example of a great jam that includes all members equally and exhibits their jamming strengths, not their note for note accuracy.
    Thanks for sharing Mr. Miner.

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    funny how quickly we’ve begun talking about phish in the present tense .. it’s almost like the last 5 years were but a dream..

  25. msbjivein Says:

    All the years combine and melt into a dream!!!!!!!!

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