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:

    leaf = “lake eden arts festival”

  2. msbjivein Says:

    Wow! I hope your head was clear when they busted out the Spear! I bet that was some intense shit MAN!

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    @c0wfunk did LEAF used to be called the Black Mountain Music Festival? I went to that a few times. It was one of the most awesome little festies you could imagine. With the late night drum circle up on the hill? And floating in the lake during the day? We talking about the same thing? From the map it looks like it.

    Really an Edenic setting and just a beautiful time. I have totally blissful memories from that scene.

    Albert Einstein used to go to Black Mountain College on retreat sometimes, they had a spotlight with a silhouette of his face on it like the Bat Signal….

  4. c0wfunk Says:

    pretty clear yeah .. the night before I had about 3 bottles of wine with my sister and fell out at the drum circle and got lost in the woods all night – though somehow woke up in my tent.. so saturday I was takin it easy 😉

    I encourage one and all to check it out ->though tix are almost gone. This year we are mooging out late night in Eden Hall.. I think the Antibalas Horns and some other folks will be playing as we do surround sound, loops, and mooger fooger action, should be great.

  5. shpongleyez Says:

    My favorite Fishman song is Rockowilliam. Rulez.

  6. msbjivein Says:

    @SOAM, I hope we get the long setlist for summer tour. That first night at hampton I seriously thought they were gonna do one long ass set. When they took the set break I was about fucking beat. My shirt was pitted out already. I can remember the last time I pitted out a shirt indoors before setbreak! At least from dancing and not tweeking!LOL!

  7. c0wfunk Says:

    yes .. this is the site of the original black mountain college (actually their second site..) that was one of the first arts schools in america, where the likes of john cage and bucky fuller taught. Many of the buildings in use by the camp were built by the college students back in the 40s and 50s.

  8. Mdawg Says:

    My favorite version of Roggae is from the Live Phish Island Tour release. They have a version from sound check where they boys just start screaming “Rooooggggaaaeeeee!!!” towards the end of the tune and it never fails to make me smile. There is also a sick Shafty from sound check too.

  9. msbjivein Says:

    NiCE COW, The Antibalas horns + Mooging out = one hell of a night. Sounds fun! Do you own any of the old moog stuff? I have a killer mini moog VST plugin it sounds pretty good to me. The virtual inst have come a long way.

  10. Comrade Says:

    # c0wfunk Says:
    April 10th, 2009 at 10:49 am

    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..

    <–C0wfunk – i was right in front of Fishman for Suzie – he did miss the first scream – the mic was set too low on the stand and when he tried to swing it around for the scream – it hit his kit and he couldn’t turn it around. finally in time for his last scream a roadie had come out and readjusted the mic.

  11. Brimley Says:

    Del McCoury is fantastic, but I love me some Cheesy pickin…

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    comrade thanks for the closeup info…

    I don’t own any moog stuff myself, but a friend has a little phatty, and another friend (who is technical/artistic director of the moog foundation) has every moogerfooger there is and the most outrageous setup you can imagine. He actually just moved his drums in front of his rhodes so he can kick out a beat ->moogerfooger / loop rig while also rockin the keys .. dudes’ out of control. We love to do improv 4 tracks and stuff, just go for it.

    I am working tonight at an electronic music festival w/ the foundation – we set up theremins and synths w/ headphones for people to play with while getting out the word about Bob Moog and the Moogseum etc..

  13. Pence Says:

    I want David byrne to sing Crosseyed with them…Maybe rooooooo?!!?

  14. msbjivein Says:

    I’m Jealous!!! You need get Page down there! I bet he would love that shit. Remember “somewhere over the rainbow” w/ Thermin?

  15. c0wfunk Says:

    oh and that “minimogue” vst plugin is sick .. it’s polyphonic with a built in sequencer!! love it ..

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    yeah .. that would be nice. Who knows what could happen, this is an exciting time for the moog foundation.

  17. voopa Says:


  18. Al Says:

    Best version of ROGGAE is Vegas 10/31/98 (Vol 16). Mike’s bass line in the outro is magic and gives that song that special note!

  19. msbjivein Says:

    I heard Roggae a lot in ’98 & ’99. But not so much since I think twice since 1st hiatus. I missed the Vegas ’98 shows. I’ll have to check that one out.

  20. OlFactoryHugh Says:

    Sorry for the sidetrack, but does anyone know the rules regarding still cameras in the taper section? Is this venue specific or do you need a press pass to get a camera in the venue?

  21. msbjivein Says:

    With all the Fish talk earlier I got to reading Fish’s Forum and found a good post from Fish ’99 november just before The Hampton run And big Cypress. His take on the two worse songs of the millennium.

    “So it may come as some shock to know that you and virtually everyone you’ve ever met has sung the worst song in the world a number of times by now if they’re old enough to read this. It’s the song all of us will experience humiliation in singing, and even greater humiliation in hearing. It is a song of shame, disguised as celebration. It is a song which is never in key, never in time, and usually sung with the heartfelt enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning having to say thank you for a sweater when he’d rather have a toy. It is a song that has been so overplayed, that in comparison, it makes every other song in history seem like a flash in the pan.

    Like the great songs, it is also easily learned when we are small children, and is fun for a while – necessary, even. Insidious, really, because as the years go by, and we hear this song over and over, rather than getting better, it starts to produce an unsettling feeling that bothers us all just beneath the surface, that somehow, as a people, we can do better.

    The song is “Happy Birthday,” and something needs to change. It’s too late to explain it to the children, and the best thing we can do is to sing it, when we must, with gusto, knowing in our hearts that any excuse to sing is probably a good one. As adults, though, we should start to replace it by asking our loved ones what song they would like to have sung to them on their special day. Perhaps then “Happy Birthday” could follow, once the weight of obligation has been lifted. And for the record, I’d like to kick things off from now on with a hearty “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

    The runner-up for worst song of the millennium is “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” Think about it – whenever that song is sung, you’re more likely to get hit by a bottle than drink one. It inspires anger almost immediately. It’s just dumb, which is why it’s great to sing and even better to end as quickly as possible. The real proof of its badness, though, is this: nobody ever finishes it. Why? Not because it’s too long, as one might expect. If that were the case, people would at least get past 97, or maybe 96. The only logical conclusion is that it’s just a bad song. [Editor’s Note: Incidentally, both of these songs were penned by the late Russian dissident composer Michael Eliot Gactin, sometime during the mid-czarist period. Their horribleness is understandable in light of the fact that toward the end of his life, when these songs were written, it was well known that as his mind was deteriorating, he took to walking around with dog shit crammed in his ears.]”

  22. Weyoun42 Says:

    And yet when they tacked Happy Birthday onto the end of Contact at Hampton, it was awesome. I do get his point about some things being played out, though. He shouldn’t have to screech at certain times in certain songs unless he’s feeling it.

  23. SOAM Says:

    I saw Trey with three other dudes (jazz quartet of sorts) at JC Jazz-a short lived nightclub in Plattsburgh NY in 92-93 ish. I sat at a table 5 feet from him/them with my broad and had dinner. When we got there the place was empty-when we turned around to leave it was standing room only. I went up to him and asked him if he wanted to puff-we had shrubs going right above the bar in an apartment-the taste/holy.

    He came up , sat on the couch-we burned asked him what music he would like us to play and showed him our phish bootlegs and he said “I can’t believe you have phish boots” We ended up talking and not playing any music, then he notice the tima and had to go catch a ferry-thanked us and split. My friend -who was the biggest fan of all of us at that time-was past out on the couch the whole time-his head a couple feet from Trey. He would not believe that trey came and puffed our nugs, chatted and split but it happened and I have to say he was really down to earth-pretty cool dude-true story-I’m alot of things but I ain’t a bullshitter.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    “My friend -who was the biggest fan of all of us at that time-was past out on the couch the whole time-his head a couple feet from Trey.”

    that is a great story dude

    everyone I know who has hung with red says the same thing, down to earth, cool to chill with – even in the crazy years

  25. nonoyolker Says:

    That story is fucking sweet SOAM. Nice work.
    My buddy was puffing a blizz in a driveway on the cape and of all people to walk by was trey. Apparently he was there on vaca. He saw my buddy and his friends, got a nose full and asked if he could partake. Of course my friends were thrilled to oblige. They said he was mad cool, they puffed tough, he told a story or two and he was back on his way down the road. Pretty awesome. Love to share a jabrone with the crimson dego.

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