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. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Jay – 06-28-2000 Gin is true gravy, nice call. The version from Cliff Ball has always been a favorite of mine – just a straight forward rocking, concise version. Real gin is always a nice raging romp. I like the Gin from 12-2-99 as well, especially if you count the Gin -> 2001 -> YEM segue. That YEM is easily one of my favorites. Really unique jam at the end, different than most YEMs. If you haven’t heard, check that. Love it.

  2. albert walker Says:

    thanks for the Omaha miner can’t wait to listen

    that has to one of the oddest looking sets ever just looking it on paper

    We’re comin to your town we’ll help you party down
    we’re in American Band

    just spun that DC again yesterday and I believe the playing on Oceans Sing and Crosseyed are the highlights for full band interplay and jamming so far for 2009

    of course all these shows will get blown out of the water at red rocks!!

  3. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @nono – Gotta agree on 12-2-99. I was at the show and probably haven’t listened to it in 8 years or so. Just downloaded it from etree earlier this week and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  4. Mitch Says:

    I’d also like to see the full size version of that lightning pic.

    heres another awesome one

  5. jay Says:

    @nonoyolker – “I like the Gin from 12-2-99 as well, especially if you count the Gin -> 2001 -> YEM segue”

    I actually downloaded this show a couple days ago. Serious Gin there for sure. Kept on peaking again and again. 23 min of bliss.

  6. notkuroda Says:


    Truth about Red Rocks. Did you go to the 96 run? A lot of the people going to that are really not prepared, hehe. One of the best weeks of my life. Anyone wanna have the “best 4 night run” debate again? JK

  7. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I used to live about 10 minutes from Red Rocks and I don’t think I ever have had a bad experience there musically. There is something about that place that brings out the best in musicians, no matter who it is or what the genre. Hell, even going to see movies there is awesome! Can’t wait to get back to my old home place!!!

  8. Frankie Says:

    I really have to check that 12.2.99 show out!

  9. Matso Says:

    @ nonyolker –

    Agreed re: Cliffy Gin. A nice, concise version with a very satisfying peak. After the disorientating CDT opener (it was all so big and new and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to connect the band with so many other people), that Gin put any doubts to rest.

  10. albert walker Says:


    yeah I was at 95 and 96 red rocks
    lived in Colorado a little in the late 90’s
    can’t think of a better place for 4 nights of Phish
    I think it will be the first taste of what the 2009 band really has to offer

  11. BingosBrother Says:

    Man those are some great pics! I read a quote today that seems somewhat apt for Deer Creek and what will be Red Rocks. “Art is nothing as to nature.” True, but when combined it is magic, as Phish has proved again and again. Have to admit to taking a break during this Piper after C&P, DWD, and Bug during which I was a whirling dervish, but it does hold up.

    “AND, can someone give that Back On The Train some love from the first set Alpine II?????”
    Done. I remember saying to my brother mid-rage, “I think I’m starting to like this song.” Seemed to be a very funky, bouncy, and chunky version.

  12. notkuroda Says:


    yeah I did those to, should be a good 3.0 blastoff for ya

    @ type III I saw a bunch of different shows there, they all had something really cool about them. It’s an antenna, for IT

  13. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Matso, nice man, glad the gin put you at ease. That version is straight forward, compact and very satisfying. The first 4 tracks from that day are all along those lines (CDT, Gin, Ya Mar, AC/DC). I had those 4 in heavy tape rotation for a while. Nice clear, cohesive jamming. Great way to kick off a ridiculous weekend of music.

  14. cal Says:

    i only caught dc>alpine this summer, but i have to say i was pretty blown away. listening to all the tapes up til then did not at all prepare me for dc set 2. i still think that was the best set, sunday alpine set 2 being a close second. i don’t think the playing in all of ’03 and ’04 touched these two sets, at least for what i personally love about phish. but i LOVE that you honor the tweeprise, miner. even on tape i can feel the electricity coming from the stage and the sky. no prior experience quite compared to that for me.

  15. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Cal – “i don’t think the playing in all of ‘03 and ‘04 touched these two sets” – bold statement. Strongly disagree

  16. albert walker Says:

    always felt 2009 would get better as it progressed
    I saw Creek through Alpine and I think that held true
    no reason to think 2nd half won’t be the same
    only going to red rocks and toyota park but flying out for SPAC is looking more likely if the tour continues to progress as it gets farther along

  17. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Cal – sorry, glossed over the “…at least for what i personally love about phish” caveat.

  18. albert walker Says:

    inconsistency seemed to be a problem in 2009
    if we can get a few more shows like Deer Creek I think we will surpass the tours of 2003-2004

    and I agree this is def more the band I fell in love with than the 2003-2004 band

  19. notkuroda Says:

    I saw 7 shows this tour. While I thought a couple of sets were less than stellar, most of what I saw was high quality Phish

  20. El Duderino Says:

    Trey on coffee is better than Trey on opiates IMO.

  21. nonoyolker Says:

    I am a big fan of ’03 and some of ’04 (namely SPAC weekend). Late winter tour and especially summer tour ’03 were really hot. Nice holiday run too. I feel like they have some work to do to get up to the level they were at in ’03. Just my opinion.

  22. nonoyolker Says:

    ^ …though i have loved the run so far and have had a great time at the 5 shows i went to. The boys are kicking ass and showing great progression. Not trying to sound like a debbie downer, just need to keep things in perspective when saying that what they have done so far is better than anything in v2.0

  23. Matso Says:

    @ nonoyolker –

    That set gets even better from there: a beautiful Esther, a top 5 Divided Sky and a quick Halley’s into a tremendous Bowie (someone on here described the sound at the end of the Bowie as louder than jet engines).

  24. cal Says:

    yeah, not saying there weren’t great things happening in the mid-aughts; just that the (admittedly inconsistent) exploration coupled with an increased focus on precision that’s happening this year is what i prize more.

  25. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Matso, true that man. I used to get to the end of the AC/DC and need a rewind, solely for rocking purposes. Sunset + % sky = beauty. Arguably one of the hotest first sets going.

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