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.

Tags: ,

162 Responses to “Not A Wasted Note”

  1. c0wfunk Says:

    yeah when looking for a dead show to stream I was tempted by the new roseland shows but I was like .. I need some jerry licks.

  2. c0wfunk Says:

    (this is the eyes from without a net .. one of the first dead cds I had)

    but yeah
    fishman’s vocals definitely matured in 97 when he took off the dress and put on the suit. Remember Trey joking that he tried the limb by limb drum beat in the dress and couldn’t pull it off..

  3. msbjivein Says:

    @Cow, Yeah Your right. I believe he came out for a couple shows in ’91 on that MSG run if I’m not mistaken. Wasn’t there but had to of been a killer run.

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    While I agree that in general having people sit in with Phish is a bad move, Branford would be up for it, if he wanted to. He is a straight badass. Branford would rock shit like Ghost so hard the world would never be the same…oh ok I’m overselling that a little.

    Crazy People Music is a nice edgy branford album.

    Saw his “Buckshot LeFonque” fusion jazz-funk-rock-hiphop tour twice in 95 – much better than the uneven album – in fact 2 of the finest shows I’ve ever seen.

    The Shakedown is from the ’91 Garden show – it’s not as tight as the ’90 one which has an amazing Eyes – but Branford and Hornsby together was great.

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    Roggae is a beautiful song when played with a little energy and flow and Fish usually sings well on it, good call

  6. c0wfunk Says:

    I love the way the lyrics of roggae pass around the band and especially the “gordon knew the moment when the stars all turned around” page
    “but from that vantage point I frowned” mike

  7. voopa Says:

    9/10/91 Whole show w/Branford. Great stuff, once they get rolling.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:


  9. voopa Says:

    Branford was in Phoenix the night Phish played there in 2000…I thought for sure he would sit in, but no.

    Kinda glad he didn’t, since I had to cancel my plans for that show, but I’m selfish that way. Sure would’ve sounded good on that Piper > Forget > Circus > Camel Walk tho!

  10. msbjivein Says:

    As for some killer guest. For me the UNO Lakefront show ’99 w/ Micheal Ray on Trumpet and Tim Geen on sax doing Cars Trucks and Buses and Funky Bitch was BAD ASS! Also the Nashville shows w/ Bush were pretty Killer. OH! Oswego when Del and Boys come out!! Now that was some good shit!! Here’s the UNO show “99 setlist.

    Set I: Sweet Virginia, First Tube > AC/DC Bag, Dirt, Guyute, Bouncing Around the Room, Cars Trucks Buses, Funky Bitch, Mozambique, Cavern
    Set II: Twist > Piper, Mist, Heavy Things, Birds of a Feather, Meat, Down with Disease
    Encore: Meatstick, Rocky Top
    Show Notes: Sweet Virginia debuted at this show. The last four songs of the first set featured Michael Ray on trumpet and Tim Green on saxophone

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    sweet virginia, what a hilarious fucking song that is

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    guests: yem w/ flecktones summer europe 97

    yem w/ aru & dude of life may 93

    farm aid 98
    Runaway Jim* -> Arc** -> Down By the River*** -> Space Jam
    -> Down By the River -> Dissonant Jam -> Down by the River, Moonlight in Vermont#, Will the Circle Be Unbroken##, Amazing Grace^, Uncloudy Day

    the farm aid is classic – they never would have gotten that far out in that set unless neil young had joined them… but when he comes out during runaway jim and starts laying down his crazy epileptic guitar riffs, it gives phish license to go the fuck off.. the down by the river is bad ass, and then suddenly, willy nelson and paul schaeffer are on stage and it’s a friggin sing a long..

    the reaction of the CMT announcers afterwards is probably one of the most classic phishy moments on TV they’re like “uhhhh well that sure was a Jam” “uhhh yeah it was a Jammy Jam” completely stunned and slightly put off by what had just transpired.

  13. msbjivein Says:

    @ Oswego after the Beauty in my Dreams w/ Del & Sons (who wrote the song) Trey said “Now that’s how this song should be played!” Here’s that setlist at least THE SET.

    Set I: Punch You in the Eye, Farmhouse, Water in the Sky, Bathtub Gin, Back on the Train, If You Need a Fool, I’m Blue I’m Lonesome, Beauty of My Dreams, The Moma Dance, Reba, Chalk Dust Torture

    Show Notes: Back on the Train through Beauty of my Dreams featured a guest appearance by the Del McCoury Band, who had been playing on the venue’s side stage. During I’m Blue I’m Lonesome, Del McCoury broke a string, and a bluegrass breakdown ensued whil

  14. msbjivein Says:

    @ Cow, I remember Neil’s hat flew off during his LOUD NUTTY solo in DBTR! He was fucking feeling that shit!

  15. c0wfunk Says:

    I love del and the boys .. they’re playing LEAF this year, I’m psyched to see them again! Those guys define stage presence and showmanship.

  16. msbjivein Says:

    OOOOOOOOLD SCHOOOOOOOL!!!!!!!!! Love it! That’s how Bluegrass should be played.

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    hm actually I guess it’s just “the boys” .. ronnie and robby mccoury with jason carter on the fiddle…. the LEAF blurb has a reference to phish:

    “Known for their individual prowess on their instruments and their rapidly expanding reputation as collaborators with the members of numerous musical icons from Vince Gill to the Allman Brothers and Phish, this touring unit blends the best of the Appalachian tradition with the improvisational magic of jazz.”

  18. SOAM Says:

    That is msg 91

  19. msbjivein Says:

    What’s LEAF???

  20. Al Says:

    I’d love to see a very special guest one day. It is one of my wildest dreams. But it would be pure MAGIC! Imagine that:

    At a show like Fenway, right after the drop into the Reba jam – Trey welcoming Pat Metheny on stage playing on extended versions of REBA (Jam), later Bowie and Harry Hood!!! Imagine that!

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    Ronnie McCoury is the goods. One of the hottest pickers of the new generation.

  22. nonoyolker Says:

    I want David Bowie to be a guest for “David Bowie”

  23. SOAM Says:

    Will the set lists continue to be extremely long? the set list from years past look short as hell. Even considering songs that are jammed out to the max. I can’t imagine less than 10 a set.

    A box set of the Allmans for 500.00-Greg should start drinking again.
    That is more disturbing than ticket scalpers because that is the actual band trying to rape it’s fans-not some scumbag businessman.
    500 bucks for sets of music that should be traded freely-jesus h 500
    disgrace and I would be embarassed to be in that band.

    Duane is rolling over as we puke

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    oh yeah sorry ..

    it’s a local arts and music festival, focused on being a bring the whole family kind of experience. They love to bring in acts that aren’t at every festival, focusing on international and also appalachian stuff. It’s out in Swannanoa, about 15 minutes from Asheville.

    I am lucky enough to be a staff member working with the stage crews… it’s a place where magic things happen – One year I saw Michael Franti singing with a group of african refugee children late night in a cabin, and then the leader of the tribe handed franti a spear they had brought from africa for him – crazy stuff.

    They’ve also got a legendary drum circle / bonfire happening late night.. it’s sort of where many of the old hippies from asheville who are mostly straight now go to let it all hang out twice a year; you’re likely to see a city council person or two ragin it next to some schwillies..

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    @nonoyolker LOL that is obv. best idea ever – u r a genius – he can judge a “walkoff” zoolander style during the jam

Leave a Reply