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. c0wfunk Says:

    I’ve heard a lot of people criticize fishman’s moma wail – and it can be painful, but the sheer emotion he puts into it excuses the bad notes he hits for me.

    one of my favorite things is when trey’s melting down an izabella or crossroads or something like that solo and fishman starts egging him on with a “yeahhh goooo goo yeaahh”

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    love moma, the wailing not so much – sometimes I don’t notice it and that’s the best I can hope for

    that tag photo is great

  3. Exree Hipp Says:


    I agree that the only thing that makes it work in Moma is his enthusiasm, that’s why it remains listenable for me. I just love that he is so into it, and so unafraid to be in front of 20,000 people singing like that.

    The way he yells and encourages people during the jams is one of the absolute best things about him, imo. The yelps in the 12/6/97 Tweezer>Izabella segue take that recording to the next level for me.

  4. msbjivein Says:

    Maybe some off you should start a “People against Fishman singing” movement. Don’t forget there’s no Phish w/out Fish!

  5. SOAM Says:

    “all the years combine-they melt into a dream”

    they Jivein.

  6. RamblinOnMyMind Says:

    Just as a brief follow up to yesterday’s jazz conversation, the Al di Meola/John Mclaughlin/Paco de Lucia album some people were talking about (Friday Night in San Francisco) is available on Amazon for download for $4.99. Itunes is charging $11.99, I believe. I’m sure other people know how to get it for free, but I thought it was definitely worth the five bucks.

  7. snigglebeach Says:

    I can’t think of any others right now, But Fishman sounds great on MomaDance. He has a decent voice, but when he leaves the drumset, and they play some silly song, all vocal skills go out the window. He is fine on the accapella stuff too. The vaccuum has to go. it has never been good.

  8. msbjivein Says:

    SOAM, I just made that up. What do you think??

  9. Billy Breathes Says:

    The Allman Bros Box Set pre-order is available: $499

    $500???????????????? Wow. WTF.

  10. whole tour! Says:

    the vac sounds sweet when your tripping balls….

  11. Jay Says:

    No Fishman singing means no HYHU send up that always makes me smile.

  12. msbjivein Says:

    Ramble, Live at the Warfield! Good shit!

  13. whole tour! Says:

    10.31.09 will be an entire foreigner album

  14. c0wfunk Says:

    missed yesterday’s thread, but I read the post and now I’m listening to the dead w/ branford 3-29-90 and just heard the bird song from the first set .. very jazzy riff exchanges going on -> the second set has got a lot of jazz influences as well..

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    I like the encouraging Yeah! Woohoo! stuff, definitely, shows spirit.

    And IMO Fishman is the best drummer in rock history. So no disrespect intended.

  16. msbjivein Says:

    FINALLY! I’ve been calling for Foreigner since ’94!

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    you know the scream moments at hampton in Suzie G seemed slightly awkward .. I think Fishman only did one and it was the last one, and sort of seemed out of place. So did the “otis redding” section of I didn’t know for some reason. Like Page said in the phish book, some jokes get old, I guess..

  18. msbjivein Says:

    CowFunk, Is that the day they played Shakedown?? I was listen to that show not long ago and Bradford on Shakedown is pretty amazing.

  19. cottle Says:

    speaking of Branford, I heard he might show up at the Dead show in Greensboro this weekend. He has a house in Durham, which is only about an hour away from the venue….anything is possible.

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    /Mr. Completely stops himself from getting sucked into more Dead talk by c0wfunk ;o)

  21. msbjivein Says:

    Shit ,Branford!

  22. msbjivein Says:

    Btw. Jerry sounded fucked on that shakedown. Fucked up the first verse pretty bad. As always never took much away from the though.

  23. Billy Breathes Says:

    *Misses Me Jerry Licks*

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    I think the branford shakedown is from the msg 91 show not this 90 show. This one has branford only on bird song in the first set, then the whole second set. Eyes>estimated>dark star>d/s>wheel>throwing stones>lovelight

  25. youroutofyourelement Says:

    A well placed Roget w/ Fishman on vocals can be pretty damn good!

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