Moments In a Box: The Midwest

6.19.09 (D.Vann)

6.19.09 Deer Creek (D.Vann)

Finishing up our run through tour this week, today we will look at some of the most transcendent moments of Phish’s final June leg.  Having built improvisational momentum over the previous weeks, the band certainly kicked it up a notch for their final four nights.  Contained within this weekend were some of the most exploratory jaunts of the tour, foreshadowing what awaits come August and beyond.  Though hard to select just a few, here are some moments in time that no one will dispute.


“Oceans > Drowned > Twist” Deer Creek, 6.19 II

Take your pick, because this entire segment of music is pure money.  Following an unprecedented hour-long rain delay before the second set, sparked by a monsoon and copious lightning you might see in National Geographic, the house lights finally went dark.  Just as promised, they started set two at 11pm, and given the torrential circumstances, we all knew we were in for something special.

6.19.09 Deer Creek (D.Vann)

6.19.09 (D.Vann)

Playing off the soaking wet surroundings, the band took things out with the welcomed heavy drop into “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.”  Exactly five years to the day that the band unveiled their SPAC epic, they used it to launch the best set of June.  After breaking out the template in Knoxville, we knew that the song was back in the mix, and we would eventually get that next big version we had so eagerly awaited.  And on the five year anniversary of its definitive excursion, we had waited long enough.

6.19 (D.Vann)

6.19 (D.Vann)

Taking the song beyond its guitar-led jam and into an ambient wonderland of percussive rhythm and psychedelic sorcery, Phish delivered.  Given its context, the highly-anticipated jam couldn’t have been delivered at a more powerful time.  As the band worked through a spectrum of deep mystic textures, Trey sprinkled some of his magic atop, guiding our way through the forest beautifully.  As they wound down their improv to a piano solo, Page transformed the piece with a seamless transition into “Drowned.”  Moving from “Oceans” to “Drowned,” Phish was definitely toying with their setlist while annihilating the jams that stemmed from each song.  The Who cover similarly transcended its structure into a dirtier jam that wound its way to some high speed funk chops.  Combining two stylistically different pieces, Phish- inspired by the weather- took the crowd by storm.

Potentially a bit prematurely, Trey came in with the opening chords of “Twist”- a third creative jam strung together to begin the set.  With some of the tightest playing of this opening triumvirate, “Twist” was an ideal and familiar landing point for this segment of madness.  Given the context of the band’s contained playing all tour, this “moment” was incredibly encouraging.




“Tweezer Reprise” Deer Creek, 6.19 E

!!!!! - 6.19 Deer Creek

!!!!! - 6.19 Deer Creek

Following the band’s most creative and exploratory new-school set, and sheltered from the insane weather slamming the amphitheare, Phish let loose.  With lightning bolts framing the stage- and one particularly awing strike on the right side of the pavilion during the song’s initial build- everyone’s heads were on the verge of explosion.  There are musical moments, and then there are experiential moments of unbridled energy, passion, and adrenaline; those when life simply can not feel any better or more exalting.  This was one of those times. Everyone– from Trey marching like a madman on stage, to the last soaking fan on the lawn- was so alive at this moment, energy coursing through our collective existence, as mother nature and Phish converged in a spectacle like none other.  Sure there have been rainstorms at shows, but this was different.   This was 2009; this was Deer Creek; and Phish had just played the greatest set since their return.  They weren’t playing “Taste” when lightning struck close by (a la Raleigh ’97), they were playing freakin’ “Reprise” in a complete deluge!  Sometimes, life just doesn’t doesn’t get any better, and when you saw the band framed by lightening bolts, peaking the show- well, I get goosebumps just thinking of it.




“Piper” Alpine Valley, 6.21 II

6.21 Alpine (D.Vann)

6.21 Alpine (D.Vann)

After blasting off the last set of tour with the unexpected and ambient-laced highlight of “Crosseyed > Disease, Phish landed in a soaring version of “Bug” to wrap up their initial segment.  But as the ending of the song was carried out, Phish wasn’t about to slow down, slipping into “Piper.”  While the other two “Pipers” on tour (JB, and Star Lake) were exploratory and adventurous, they weren’t necessarily the most cohesive pieces of improv.  This would be different.

6.21 (D.Vann)

6.21 (D.Vann)

Cannonballing into the jam, the band wasted no time hitting the gas. Immediately they locked into some full-on, take-no-prisoners, type playing.  After the earlier adventures of the set, the band was warmed up and navigating the music as one entity; one of those times when they seem like a four-headed monster.  Trey and Page engaged in some fast-paced interplay, while Fish sat into a series of breakbeats that gave the music an urgent, sprinting feel.  Stopping, starting, and cutting on a dime, Phish ran though this jam like Barry Sanders effortlessly evading tacklers.  Completely in tune with each other, the band nailed one of June’s tightest pieces of improv.

It felt like Phish hit a stride in this “Piper,” powerfully uniting their musical ideas, taking risks and succeeding; a process that wasn’t omni-present on tour.  This was an instance where the music took on a life of its own; the music was playing them.  Ridiculously dense, filled with copious musical thoughts, this “Piper” was an encouraging piece of psychedelia as the tour wound down.  Getting exploratory without losing their cohesion is a mark of success in Phish’s current progression of their craft.  Heading into leg two, Deer Creek and this Alpine show upped the ante of what’s to come.  But looking back, this “Piper” is right up there with any jam of June.





11.16.1996 Civic Center, Omaha, NE < TORRENT

11.16.1996 Civic Center, Omaha, NE < SENDSPACE

phish-kiel-center-96This download comes as a result of much reader discussion.  Lauded for its otherworldly “Hood” which saw Trey hold one note for almost three minutes straight, this show was both unique and enthralling.  Boasting an odd setlist with even more peculiar execution, Phish crafted a wild ride on this night in Nebraska.  See the “Hood” video below!

I: Poor Heart, Down With Disease, Guyute, Gumbo, Rift, Free, The Old Home Place, David Bowie, Lawn Boy, Sparkle, Frankenstein

II: La Grange, Runaway Jim > Kung* > Catapult, Axilla > Harry Hood, Suzie Greenberg, Amazing Grace

E: We’re an American Band^

*w/ Vibration of Life


Source: Unknown

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245 Responses to “Moments In a Box: The Midwest”

  1. larrybirdflu Says:

    all of this talk about the island run and its highlights ( or lack thereof) and no one mentions that cavern from providence? for shame gentlemen, for shame.

  2. larrybirdflu Says:

    kidding of course. but that to my mind might be one of the best examples of cowfunk era phish.

  3. Mr.Miner Says:


  4. Little Buddy Says:

    Been absent for a few days… 3 things before I go home for the weekend:

    1) That hood video is sick – Trey is like a little kid up there.

    2) The island run is not overrated! At least not to those of us who were there, I think. Sick energy at those shows and the Roses, ohhh the Roses!

    3) I hope you get some sleep Colonel. I’m happy you’ll be coming home soon and I hope everyone takes care of you. Rock on, man! Thanks for all your hard work over there.

  5. freshtracks420 Says:

    Alright, so I guess that I’m gonna have to jump in on this discussion in support of notkuroda’s viewpoint regarding the Island Tour. I was at the 2 Nassau shows, and I did enjoy the shows. As the astute Col. referenced just a few posts ago, that early incarnation “Twist” and it’s subsequent jam were tight…that whole set 2 hit really close to home for me at the time…and is just as good of a listen subsequently! I just tend to agree, having listened to the entire run, that there is a prevalent amount of sloppy playing to be found from both venue’s shows. Don’t get me wrong, there is also some good stuff as well (as I recall, the RI “2001” was sick), but I am going to have to have a re-listen, as I generally agree with Mr. Miner’s recollections of past shows that we both saw.

  6. stimbuck Says:

    Omaha- I was one of the first dozen people in line that day- we stood in the rain for hours waiting to get in. Well worth the wait to be right up front, what a show! I recall Mike dancing with a scarf as well. The snow storm following the show capped it off well.

  7. Mr.Miner Says:

    “I just tend to agree, having listened to the entire run, that there is a prevalent amount of sloppy playing to be found from both venue’s shows.”

    ^ respectfully WHAT THE HELL are you talking about!?!?!?!?!

  8. Mr.Miner Says:

    have listend tho those 4 shows more than any other, and for the life of me have NO IDEA what you are referencing….an example? Don’t really think there are any to be honest, but very interested in what your ideas are…

  9. larrybirdflu Says:

    97-98 is probably the era of phish that i enjoy the most and consequently have listened to more than any other, and as i said earlier i believe the island tour is the culmination of that era of phish. or as i believe miner once said, more like the last shows of 97 instead of the first shows of 98.

  10. larrybirdflu Says:

    not sure if any can answer this question, asked it a few days ago and got no response but granted it was late, are the lottery tickets on second leg the same design as first leg? just curious

  11. cal Says:

    i still consider the island tour to be the coda to ’97…there are great moments in every era of phish, but island far surpasses the rest of ’98. i have to agree with miner: those shows were miraculously slop-free, and i’m kind of a slop-nazi. i mean, you can’t count the vocals by that point in time…

  12. SJC Says:

    Hit the whole run. The only thing on the island run that resembled sloppiness could be found in 4/2 set one. Sloth was a bit of a mess (distinctly remember this as it was one of the songs I wanted to hear on the run), made it all up with that Stash. Didn’t they end the set with Trey saying “let’s end this on a high note” or something to that effect? Other than that, I don’t really remember them screwing up too much the whole stretch. The music was absolute magic that whole run. Wolfman’s > Sneakin Sally> Frankie Says> Twist was sick. I could do on for days about 4-3, that whole run was 4 days of madness. Completely spun, I failed the sobriety test the LI cops were performing on the way out of the lots on 4-3 – I got the “keep your eye on the light without moving your head.” Didn’t even come close….they let me go anyways.

    @cal. the coda. I like that. It really did put a perfect cap on the ’97 funk. They really started heading towards the ambient jams Summer ’98.

  13. SJC Says:

    Miner, just read your Nassau write up for the first time. Spot on. For 4-3 I remember sitting in the back of the arena about 20 or so rows up center stage and just drank it all in. One of the best shows I ever saw hands down.

  14. Hunter Says:

    That’s one hell of a Hood. I love when Fishman goes into the half-time Latin rhythms in Hood jams. And when I see Trey like that, I wish I had his job.

  15. Mr.Miner Says:

    @SLC thanks man! 4/3 was def one of the best shows I ever saw- no question!

  16. currency Says:

    Crazy lightning outside a few moments ago!!!!

  17. freshtracks420 Says:

    Alright miner, give me a little time to give it the run through…but I will cite specific examples to you of what I found to be “sloppy” about the Island run, IMO, of course (well…only sort of…because flubs aren’t really subjective…IMO;)). Like I said in the initial post supporting notkuroda’s viewpoint, I enjoyed the hell out of the Nassau shows, didn’t necessarily find what I saw there to be “epic”…but enjoyed myself…especially the 2nd set of 4/2. However, I know that when I recieved the Island tour in the mail and gave it the initial run through in the car, listening to each night succesively…in order…that my initial response subsequently was that, while it had it’s moments, my overall feeling was that it was fine, but I thought that there could be any number of shows that would surpass these…after the fact…all bias aside…not so much judging as a run as a whole…just 4 shows that happened to be a “run” that was released officially. I know that I did not just imagine this, or just wasn’t in good spirits when I listened…I just heard several things that stood out in my mind as seeming a little “sloppy”. And I’m really not overly critical regarding Phish (i.e. try to nitpick a performance). But, like I said before, it’s been at least a little bit since I last listened…but, RESPECTFULLY, I know that you can’t find the run to be flawless…not that I even care or require that…really. But, as you said, “I have listened to those 4 shows more than any other”…perhaps a little bias could be at play on your side…which is honestly, obviously, OK…we all have our favorite shows that we saw over the years, for whatever reason. I just know that when I listen to Phish shows after the fact (whether I was in attendance or not), that I try to do so without bias…and for some reason, I came away not overly-impressed with the Island tour as a whole. Miner, it sounds from what I’ve read like you’ve seen about triple as many Phish show as what I have been lucky enough to have attended, but I have been around the block a few times myself with some “large” bands (Dead and Phish primarily) and am confident in the fact that my opinions on those musical experiences (once again, whether I was there or NOT) can be unbiased as well. We all know what they say about opinions, though. So it’s, of course, all a matter of opinion…and I certainly do respect yours…but I will get back to you on this…if I find it to be as I remembered. Sorry, didn’t mean to go on and on…hugs and kisses.

  18. george de la porge Says:

    yay for phish thoughts! miner, thank you for your well written articles, and for creating this phishy platform for the colorful characters to coalesce around. You guys are great! its nice to read posts that rarely mention the lamentable terms ‘noob’ and ‘face-melting’. and just for the record, i do think that the island tour is a bit sloppy! should i stick my neck out further and say the camden sand is way overrated? i’d go so far as to say the dwd from hampton trumps it in the drawn out 3.0 jamming-wise category. just my subjective opinion. cheers!

  19. Mdawg Says:

    “Stopping, starting, and cutting on a dime, Phish ran though this jam like Barry Sanders effortlessly evading tacklers.”

    Love the sports reference! That Piper was a four headed monster!

  20. Johnny B Says:

    Thank you Mr. Miner for giving the ASIHTOS>Drowned>Twist its due place in Phistory. I would also like to add if I may one song which has gone overlooked from the midwest run that I think must be addressed. The Antelope to end the first set first night at Alpine was truly a revelation to me. Only the second one of the summer, this Antelope provides true insight into Trey’s newfound intensity and sincerity. He absolutes destroys it and it was easily the best song of the set. My friend and I continually exchanged glances throughout in complete accordance as to this man’s musical genius. “Bit you to have any Hibatchi, mon?……YEEESSS”

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