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. oneshowatatime Says:

    aside from the minor details and little finishing touches that would be made for an official live album release, i feel like hampton was near album quality (no?) and they released the boards first thing the next day… how did they do it so quickly?

    i’d rather wait for a month to get a good quality SBD (that i paid $$$ for for fuck sake) than get a shit copy 3 hours after the show ends. listening to the auds first is always more fun anyway!

    it’s a basic quality vs. release time issue and for a band with so many audiophile fans it just seems like a no-brainer to me. just my humble opinion.

  2. cal Says:

    wax, i am pretty much in synch with you to a point, although i’m still more of a ’94/’95 champion…the island tour is a joyous breather after fall ’97, nowhere near as powerful in terms of creativity. but i’d have to include 11/16, honestly; page rules the first set but the “timber”>”simple” plus that incredible “hood” and “bowie” encore is all scorching.

  3. Mr.Miner Says:

    pb & j……

    that week is def peerless, wax…

  4. ColonelJoy Says:


    This is what I’m reduced to. I have about 45 days left in Iraq. Been here 400 days or so. I had a little Ambien issue when I first got here, but was able to quit and still sleep well for many months after that.

    Now, the anxiety of going back to real life, the family, to my son whose first two B-days I’ve missed, my great wife, Marcia….there is anxiety…it is natural….

    I haven’t slept more than three hours in a night in several weeks…so tonight I broke down, purchased a bottle of Niquel at the PX and just took 3 shots….got to sleep…

  5. ColonelJoy Says:


    Island was pretty fucking creative…..Roses Jam sounded not much like anything in fall 97′, and the spacey Twist Jam from the first night, maybe my favorite thing of the run….is so overlooked and signaled the future….

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ wax- I wrote about that week a while ago…..

  7. ColonelJoy Says:


    Yeah, Hampton was near album quality, better than the awful Hampton Comes Alive, which is mastered more like Hampton’s Funeral, IMO….worst non download only live release, IMO

  8. msbjivein Says:


  9. notkuroda Says:

    @Cal, we speak the same language. I was at the 11/16 and 11/17 shows, and preferred night one. That Timber>Simple was INSANE, and the Harry Hood with Bowie encore were beautiful. Not going to get into a pissing match over which show was “better”, but for what I love about Phish, that first night just got me.

  10. ColonelJoy Says:

    Wow, you only had 21 responses to the best week ever! I blaver more on here in a few hours!

  11. cal Says:

    yeah, again, it probably comes down to preferences more than anything, and i don’t want to give the impression that i don’t revel in the island tour when the mood strikes, i love those shows. maybe it’s just that fall ’97 feels like the culmination of something to me, and island feels like relaxing and enjoying the triumph–which is just as essential for sure, but didn’t excite me as much.

  12. KWL Says:

    Miner, just read the post before the epic week–on 11.16.97 in Denver. GREAT story about Leaguer, & I got a pretty good laugh out of the ‘tripping balls’ picture as well. I have a friend who Leaguer sounds pretty similar too, not a fan of Phish but up for any kind of good time, & I’m taking him to his first show at Darien–I am expecting PRECISELY the same sort of goings-on for his first phish experience… I can only hope a wise old sage will be there with the crystal handy…


  13. SOAM Says:

    again colonel-props to you for kicking ass and taking names over there in Camelland-what a thrill you are in for to reunite with your family and then tour-god damn-cant’ ask for much more.

    try to refrain from ranting about/playing that Camden sand at your first family meal-they might think you came back alittle more wacked than when you went in.-which is possible but that is always best kept ont he down low-imo

  14. Wax Banks Says:

    @ wax- I wrote about that week a while ago…..

    Heh – I remember that post. Was that the one with the He-Man image? In any case, I’m with @cal – with only a couple of exceptions (Roses, Twist, maybe Brother, a couple others?) the Island shows seem like a party rather than a declaration of musical war, which those goddamn Hampton ’97 shows were. Perfect of their kind, but given your predilection for Phishy dark intensity, I assumed you’d prefer mid-Fall ’97 by a large margin over the Island shows.

  15. whole tour! Says:

    i’m more of a summer 97 man myself. nothing like when the acid pornofunk first hit north american shores like a typhoon of fury, melting a million minds in it’s wake.

  16. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I remember when that first set at Va Beach started to open the NA tour and we were all looking at each other wondering what the heck was going on. I had seen the setlists but hadn’t heard any of the shows from Europe beforehand and was definitely not properly prepared for that!

  17. SJC Says:

    “nothing like when the acid pornofunk first hit north american shores like a typhoon of fury, melting a million minds in it’s wake.”

    Maybe that was the shit that kept me up for 2 days after the VaBeach show. Just a thought.

  18. Mr.Miner Says:

    Phish is different for everyone, yet we can all get on here and talk about our own understandings- the most personal and collective experience ever…very cool.

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Miner, have you ever read the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience? Interesting read about achieving states of flow (like when an athlete is in the “zone”) in different experiential situations. there is a section about achieving flow with music (I’ve used it a lot when describing the Phish experience) and they also discuss the group dynamic of how a collective experience can have moments of flow as well. The concept, for me, relates directly to my feelings about the music and the scene as a whole.

    definitely a big topic, but your references to IT and shows being a collection of “moments” reminded me of it along with the idea of it being a highly personal and collective experience.

  20. Themanatee Says:

    Been reading these threads and digured I would weigh in on Hampton 04 first set a bit. I truly love that chalkdust, it seemed quite the desperate declaration at the time, we are goon out an we are going out searching for IT… In the ‘breakdown’ section of the jam toward the middle when Trey runs through some gorgeous melodic phrasing I remember being struck with nostalgia and bliss and sadness all at the same moment. There was a lot going on in those summer 04 shows, musically, and emotionally for all.
    Gotta give note to miners last comment , phish means so many things to so many people because of the diversity in their playing throughout 25 years. Think about how many people have intensely been interested in this band but so many have come and gone from the days of hitting lots of concerts or listening everyday . So grateful to have been given the chance to explore with them, you all, and myself

  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    Cool Mike quote about jamming:

    “When you really get into the Zen of it, magical experiences start to happen where the whole groove starts lifting off the ground like a flying saucer. I’m attached via my bass, and the interplay causes elevation. I focus on giving each note maximum space and depth. I don’t look at the fingerboard, but I imagine it while I’m playing. I don’t really plan what I’m going to do next. That happens subconsciously as I react to the other players. I might put one note a little behind the beat, or play the same wholenote five times in a row to raise an eyebrow. If I notice the guitar is accenting the “and” of two, I may jump on it as well. If I decide to grab a b6th with my pinkie, and someone else joins me—the ship rises even higher. Each moment presents its possibilities. If you stick to the album version of a song, or play what’s expected, then you rob the moment of the beautiful things that happen when the music plays itself. Frequency, groove, dynamics—all the elements of music—are tools you can use to stay on that flying saucer.”

  22. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ Type III

    I haven’t. Will def check it out- thanks!!

  23. Themanatee Says:

    Type 3 – great book. Czicksemehai or however u spell it knows what’s up! It’s pretty cool to have a academic take on IT. We had to read parts in my counseling grad program

  24. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Themanatee, I read it for a graduate experiential education class. there were times when I was just nodding while reading because I could relate so well to the concept through my experiences with phish. I recommend that anyone interested in the more academic aspect take a gander at it.

    and Miner, that quote speaks directly to flow.

    It’s all in the Helping Friendly Book anyway, right?

  25. snigglebeach Says:

    Mike thinks one of these days they are going to spontaniously take-off and start flying.

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