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. Kaveh Says:

    Island Tour = an incredible run of music, for all the positive reasons stated above.

  2. whole tour! Says:

    i think that we can all agree that any show is better if your actually there.

  3. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Frankie – “What other band thrives for that 20-something years in their career?” – Great point, especially of “thrives”. The Stones have been computer generated holographic images since 1987. There is no other band today with the sustained relevance of phish and only the dead can be put in the same category for “all-time” sustained relevance.

  4. whole tour! Says:

    but at the same time there are shows we wern’t at that still shine on tape.

  5. Rolling Papyrus Says:

    @Frankie, the Hampton ’97 Weekapaug has a nice long Trey sustain while the rest of the band continues to rage… it doesn’t compare in length to this Omaha Hood, but the crowd certainly digs it.

  6. notkuroda Says:

    @r1, I get you, I liked the roses, I liked the birds, I thought the mikes was meh, can’t say I remember much about the tweezer. But apart from those jams, I heard a lot of sloppy playing and low energy. However since I wasn’t there, I’m not going to tell people who were that the island tour sucked. It’s also personal preference, I just prefer the tighter, hyperenergetic phish to the looser, groovy dance party phish. What we’re getting now is more like 93-96 than 97 thru 2000
    I guess part of my point of bringing that up is that it seems to be a given that 3.0 doesn’t hold a candle to earlier Phish. Yet some of the jams I heard I would definitely line up with a lot of my favorite phish. Hell, I was at both Asheville and 11/17/97, and I would put the asheville ghost in the same trophy room as that Denver Ghost.
    to conclude, recordings tell a small part of the story of a great phish show. To leave a show thinking it’s great, then to hear someone who’s heard the show on tape tell you it wasn’t as great as you think it was, is a little presumptuous

  7. whole tour! Says:

    i wasn’t at dayton 97, but i’ve always enjoyed the tape immensly. it’s like i was there, but wasn’t.

  8. KWL Says:

    a bit late on the gin discussion, but for a while 2.28.03 was the go-to jam in 2.0 for me… (destiny, tweezer>shakedown>bowie, birds all highlights in that show)

  9. Frankie Says:

    Yeah, there is the rock point of view and the improv point of view… Phish aren’t young anymore but this tour, they played with such youthful energy that wasn’t seen from them since the early 90’s… Camden Tweezer closer once again…

    On the improv point of view, things are cooking but the oven is just not warm enough yet… it’ll be come august and beyond i’m sure…

  10. whole tour! Says:

    ghosts in my trophy room:


    each one a uniquely terrifying spectre

  11. Frankie Says:

    Please put the 5.22.00 Radio City Ghost on that list… listened to it this morning from the From The Archives show and it is an EPIC achievement… So inspired! Disco Mike-led Ghost!

  12. Kaveh Says:

    Another great sustained note = Slave to the Traffic Light at Deer Creek 2004. (06.23.04)

  13. nonoyolker Says:

    ^ 2nd that Radio City request and the IT version is pure fire

  14. whole tour! Says:

    that list was just the ghosts i saw live.

    the radio city ghost is certainly a great one fo sho’!

  15. R1 Says:

    @NK: “To leave a show thinking it’s great, then to hear someone who’s heard the show on tape tell you it wasn’t as great as you think it was, is a little presumptuous”

    But isn’t that what you’re doing in regard to Island Tour? I’m not offended or anything – again, each to his own and I fully respect your preferences – but that seems like an odd conclusion.

    This highlights the difference in our preferences perhaps: I think the Asheville Ghost is great, but would be hard-pressed to put it in the same category as 11.17

  16. nonoyolker Says:

    Oh, and favorite Ghost is from Lemonwheel. Bliss.

    Out of this piece for summer hours, god bless the american work ethic! Have a great weekend fellas!

  17. Matso Says:

    Done on this side of the pond as well – have a great weekend guys.

  18. msbjivein Says:

    7-20-98 GIN!!!!! That’s the heat too. Check It!! It’s on ’98 Laid Back Funk

  19. Frankie Says:

    Cheers nonoyolker… still stuck inside on this marvelous summer day… oh well… Have a good one! 🙂

  20. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    I enjoyed the Lemmonwheel ghost, but my favorite, based strictly on shows I have been to, would have to be 12-28-97 in Landover. Ghost in the machine. Overall, a supremely underrated show.

  21. snigglebeach Says:

    @kwl, i agree the 2/28/03 Gin was the best i ever saw. Intense jamming that goes so far it leaves u wondering what you are listening too. If you missed the 1st 10 minutes, no way in hell would u have guessed they were playing Gin.

    In regards to Island Run. first show ever was last night in Providence. it obv. left quite an impression on me. But it really was not until the day after Thanksgiving that year that i really got it. I think that the island run really was just the peak. the end of underground band era?? or the beginning of the Music business Giant Phish??? either way i think everyone must have been excited about the future…

  22. msbjivein Says:

    I Loved hearing “Nothing” And “The Connection” both were nice treats. Wish i would’ve gotten a Undermind. Maybe @ RR!!!!!!!!

  23. Jerrydamule Says:

    I’ve spun through DC ‘drowned’ only once, in my car, windows down, wind blowing, so I hesitate a bit when making this statement: it sounded to me as they were out of synch for the first few measures, page’s opening vocals a bit unsteady. Yes, they pulled it together, and the rest was hot. But these slight miscues (if what I heard was accurate; also see JB1 the great segue borkfest ‘hahahaha’) are part of the 3.0 invagination process. It’s all good, though, as I love va jj!

    While I truly believe the jams have been significant (in the sense that they have marked, among other things, our return aboard the bus), there is a long way to go, IMO. But rather than stirring up anxiety or sadness, this thought brings a ridiculously wide and sustained smile to my face. Deep down, in part because they ‘definitely’ appear to be in the right frame of mind, I am convinced they will return to epicness. Will they do so by RR? Will they blow the mutha up (as they did the river in “Up the Creek?)? Are the fossils lodged in Creation Rock going to be dancing a jig come 7/30? It is possible… and I can’t wait to find out.

  24. notkuroda Says:

    @r1, no problem with a little friendly debate at all. You may have missed this in my comments:” However since I wasn’t there, I’m not going to tell people who were that the island tour sucked. It’s also personal preference, I just prefer the tighter, hyperenergetic phish to the looser, groovy dance party phish. What we’re getting now is more like 93-96 than 97 thru 2000″

  25. Frankie Says:

    “Sneeeeaaaaking Sally through the Alleeeeeeyy”

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