Memories of a Past Era

9.30.00 Las vegas (M.Mitchell)

9.30.00 Las Vegas (M.Mitchell)

On September 30, 2000, nine years ago today, Phish played Las Vegas on Trey’s birthday while sitting on the brink of extinction. Sure, they were proclaiming a “hiatus,” but who knew what would actually transpire. The band had finally run out of gas. Throughout Fall 2000, there were still moments of brilliance (see “Bathtub Gin” from the previous night), but they were fewer and further between. Improvisation remained adhered to song structure, and by the time the band reached the west coast, there were several nights, in retrospect, that Phish was simply going through the motions.

2000-09-30moIt’s an interesting time to reflect upon, because as I was going to every show – still having a blast nightly -  the musical stagnation wasn’t as apparent as it became years later listening back.  One might think the opposite; if I’d seen shows for years, wouldn’t the changes be more apparent? Well, not really. Busy living each and every Phish moment as if it was my last, I have nothing but fond memories of that last tour. But that final west coast run after Vegas certainly felt different. Defined by a bittersweet helplessness, we went to those last four, but this night in Vegas was the last show that carried the sense of still being on tour without the end yet in sight. There was still a show in Phoenix and a four-night run up the coast, but needless to say, emotions ran deep as the lights dropped on the last indoor Phish show.

Interestingly, I went back to listen to what has always been the musical highlight of the evening for me – “Twist > Sand” – only to discover that my memory was far brighter than the actual music. I hadn’t listened to it in years, though I certainly had heard it plenty of times. But juxtaposed with today’s Phish that I’ve been cranking lately, this time through, the band sounded pretty lazy; the period of decline had set in.

9.30.00 (D.Clinch)

9.30.00 (D.Clinch)

While much attention has been given to this Vegas evening due to Trey’s birthday and the copious bustouts, I’ve always found its only improvisational merit buried deep in the second set. After the appearances of “Walfredo” (244 shows), “Esther” (142 shows), and “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” (144 shows), but before “A Day in the Life” (166 shows) and “Emotional Rescue” (151 shows), Phish sank into a chunk of improv for the only time in the second set, combining “Twist” and “Sand.” After the “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” narration, referencing the band’s upcoming break, the musical highlight of the show unfolded – though on this particular night, that wasn’t saying all too much.

cover_502119312005

Live In Vegas DVD

Introduced by Mike’s bass lines, the opening of “Twist” subtly emanated from beneath the boisterous arena crowd.  As the jam gets underway, the band enters some pretty standard Santana-esque “Twist” grooves, with Trey flowing particularly well. Remaining anchored to the template of “Twist,” the band creates a minimalist backing that Trey and Page toy over collectively. Before they approach anywhere significant, the lyrical reprise returns, ending what could have been. But when the song ends, the band sustains a drone soundscape that Fish cuts through with the opening beats of “Sand.”

Adapting a laid back vibe throughout its composition, the rhythmic juggernaut seemed to be saving its wrath for the jam. But launching into a relaxed groove with Trey starting out on keys, maybe there would be no wrath at all. The band layers textures and effects instead of offering any melodic leads, creating a spaced-out vibe to the improv. Mike and Fish drive the jam behind the sonic layers before Trey even picks up his Languedoc.

9.30.00 Vegas (S.Phly)

9.30.00 Vegas (S.Phly)

Hitting some heavily altered notes, Trey uses his guitar to add another layer of sound rather than a distinct pattern. Without ever building the jam vertically, Phish explores spacier realms in a song usually reserved for ballistic exploration.  I can dig on this version, but I can certainly understand those who can’t. As I said, it’s an interesting time to look back on.

For some reason that I am still trying to figure out, this show became Phish’s first full-show DVD release, showcasing the band at one of the very few downtimes in their career. This show always seemed like an odd choice, somehow over-hyped, especially since the night before – despite the Kid Rock fiasco – was far more musically engaging. Some things I’ll never understand. Nonetheless, make your own decision on this Vegas 2000 “Twist > Sand” by clicking play below.

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Winged music note====

Jam of the Day:

Mike’s > Keyboard Cavalry > Weekapaug” 9.30.95 II

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Fourteen years ago today, Phish started a small tradition of dropping large Shoreline “Mike’s Grooves.” (The tracking is weird on this, and “Mike’s” actually goes four minutes into the second track.)

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

8.12.98 Vernon Downs, Vernon, NY < Torrent

8.12.98 Vernon Downs, Vernon, NY < Megaupload

1998-08-12moAnother Phish tradition is to play a massive show right before a festival, causing many a fan prioritizing a good camping spot to miss the throw down.  In ’96 it was the vastly underrated Hershey show, in ’97 it was Darien’s Bozo-laced adventure, and in ’98 it was this show at Vernon Downs. The last show before Lemonwheel, Phish threw down the a two-set effort that featured more than a few highlights.  The “Ramble On > Slave” is a must hear, while the band kills the entire second set.  Prepare to get bassed with these chunky FOBs!

I: La Grange, Makisupa Policeman, Funky Bitch, Possum, Roggae, Character Zero, Ramble On > Slave to the Traffic Light

II: Mike’s Song  > Simple > Rift, Loving Cup, Sleeping Monkey, Weekapaug Groove, The Squirming Coil

E: Burning Down the House*, You Enjoy Myself

*debut

Source: (FOB/BTP) Schoeps CMC6/MK41 > Sonosax SX-M2 > DA-P1

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338 Responses to “Memories of a Past Era”

  1. Leo Weaver Says:

    Evening Robear…

    Just gave wifey a few new albums to pick up…this is gonna be fun…sure wish I could make it for the Festivities. You guys have fun for ‘ol Leo…

  2. wvbrdr Says:

    “Page would work overtime on keys if they do Genesis
    imagine sing most of it too”

    I remember hearing in one recent interview with Trey, he called Page up to make sure he wanted to continue with the album, and Page said no. Hmmm…

  3. Wax Banks Says:

    Would love to hear Phish take the ol’ Crimson King out over the left field fence for Halloween. Ridiculous album, suits both their chops and their sense of humour.

    Never got much out of Lamb Lies Down myself – but then I think The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon are wildly overrated, so I’m swimming upstream tastewise.

    I think Phish could do a lot with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, actually. Interesting sonics, plenty of space for jamming, nice flow, vocals not super demanding (which is a real concern now, and why I strongly strongly doubt a full-album Michael Jackson cover is coming). Don’t know how they want to approach the album cover improvisatorily speaking, but if they’re looking for a chance to go deep, they’re better off with something spacious like YHF than a tightly-packed prog album. I mean, Christ, imagine Trey shredding ‘I’m the Man Who Loves You’ and page thundering those final chords on ‘I Am Trying to Break Your Heart’ and how fucking gorgeous a group vocal could be on ‘Reservations’! ‘IIIIIII’ve got reservations…about so many things, but not about you…’

  4. johnwcasey Says:

    Is The Basement Tapes (Bob + The Band) album on the list? A few years ago, I read that was one they considered… Or Sticky Fingers (Stones)would be nice.. Trey has ripped “sway” on his solo tour.

  5. KWL Says:

    @wvbrdr
    “i can’t wait to get home and spin London Calling, Ziggy Stardust, and Genesis (seems to be the top three on this board after today). Thank you phish.”

    my thoughts exactly. This has been fun so far.

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ when?

  7. William H. Bonney Says:

    @Wax If you really don’t like Dark Side of the Moon. Then you don’t like Pink Floyd. If Phish wanted to sell out the festival tomorrow all they would have to do is announce they are performing The Wall.

  8. KWL Says:

    really impressed with Brian Eno of the new stuff I’ve listened to the last couple days. About to spin Lamb Dies Down, and Neil’s This is Nowhere.

    @Mr. C. To me late 95 is where its at. But agreed with Mr Miner, 94-5 and 97-9 is apples and oranges. Part of what makes this band so great. Another part is what they’re about to do with another band’s album on 10/31–so fun to hear a new album and think ‘wow, Page would kill this.’

  9. whole tour! Says:

    didn’t trey open for the stones in like 2006?

  10. Mr.Miner Says:

    So far -

    Genesis: Lamb Lies Down
    Bowie: Ziggy Stardust
    The Clash: London Calling
    Pink Floyd: Meddle (doubtful…..would be insane)
    King Crimson: Larks Tongue….it would bore half the people though
    Eno: Before and After Science

    I’d like something psychedelic and out there rather than rocking. We will be in the desert after all….

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    “If Phish wanted to sell out the festival tomorrow all they would have to do is announce they are performing The Wall.”

    ^fact

  12. KWL Says:

    wow…. Genesis…. who the f*ck knew?????!!

  13. Mugician Says:

    The keeper of the city keys
    Put shutters on the dreams.
    I wait outside the pilgrims door
    With insufficient schemes.
    The black queen chants
    The funeral march,
    The cracked brass bells will ring;
    To summon back the fire witch
    To the court of the crimson king.

    Goddamn I’d love to see that. Too bad I can’t go anyway.

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