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.


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.


Winged music note====

Jam of the Day:

Mike’s > Keyboard Cavalry > Weekapaug” 9.30.95 II


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.)



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


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

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339 Responses to “Memories of a Past Era”

  1. beepaphone Says:

    I was having myself a pretty good spaz a year ago too.

    re “IT”. I see it as maybe 3rd in the DVD rankings. Clifford Ball tops it for me, and the Walnut Creek dvd makes me think Page’s body is going to split open revealing a demon ghost piano monster. IT, while not a complete show, has some enjoyable jams, interviews, and nuggets.

  2. Rolling Papyrus Says:

    Trey’s botching Esther at this show is pretty classic… He bricked the lyrics to the last segment, ultimately coming up with “She died… She’s dead.” But then he goes on to butcher the ending guitar solo, and watching the DVD you can see he’s doing it on purpose because he’s got a half embarrassed / half shit-eating grin on his face throughout. Funny stuff.

  3. Bapslap Says:

    From a video quality standpoint the Vegas DVD is not great, but as a whole I enjoy it much more that the Brooklyn DVD.

    The Vegas Curtain With is one of my favs….

  4. HarryHood Says:

    I was only at the first four shows of Fall ’00 tour (Albany & Mansfield), but I can honestly say that I had a great time. I thought all four shows were pretty solid and I didn’t feel at all like they were just going through the motions.

  5. bearito Says:

    re “Another Phish tradition is to play a massive show right before a festival”

    Have they announced these shows days before the festival in the past or well in advance?

  6. Mitch Says:

    Are you on the west coast? My buddies who stayed up all night didn’t see the video til about 3am if I recall. We’re obviously splitting hairs at this point but I went to bed and no news had come out on the 30th (east coast time). Checked the morning of the 1st and it was there.

  7. Kenny Powers Says:

    bearito – in the past the shows right before the festies were the end of the “regular” tour, which would have been booked and announced way in advance. there’s no way they’re planning on shows prior to Indio…that would be less than a month away.

  8. Mitch Says:

    Just saw and it says ITS ON! on the 30th.

  9. fat bastard Says:

    any new albums get whacked today?

  10. butter Says:

    Sometimes when an anniversary comes around we say “wow, i can’t believe its been 9 years since….boy how time flies”

    Well the 99 Vegas run seem like it was a long long long time ago for me. Eons , lifetimes. The whole Kid Rock thing the night before really sent some shock waves throughout the community. I enjoyed it and thought it was entertaining. This is where Trey was at, at that time. (maybe he fantasized about being a drugged out, whiskey drinkin’, bad boy)

    Then the next night , (Trey’s B’day 9-30-99) was really special. We felt in for a treat as they were pulling out all these songs that we hadn’t heard in a long time and didn’t know when we’d hear again. It was a very powerful Col>Mock and Curtian With.

    We have a totally different band than 10 years ago, and thats a good thing.

  11. Mitch Says:

    This is hilarious!!!

    22 responses to IT IS OPHISHAL! 22 measly responses to Phish coming back. Look how far we’ve come.

  12. EL Duderino Says:

    It was 2000 butter!!!!

  13. butter Says:

    dude can you still see my skull?

  14. butter Says:

    i told u it seemed like a long time ago!

  15. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Miner, I concur. This period of Phish felt great. But something was amiss. you could feel it.

    My favorite part of the 30th was Maze and the Curtain With. Personally I feel the flubs, like Esther’s ending show their human side.

    The reason to own the DVD is for the PIPER>Guy Forget and Camel Walk for Sunday night in Phoenix.

    Holy Shit am I excited for the festival!

  16. EL Duderino Says:

    yeah the avatar is still messed up for me. everyone but yours is fine.

  17. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    Listening to the Vernon show for the first time in years, I am stunned that it completely holds up. In my memory, and that of my tour buddy, it has always been one of our favorite shows. The first set is super playful, with Trey making fun of Fishman relentlessly, references to Fish’s high school band “Frodo”, smoking Ramble On, with an actual jam rather than the straightforward cover that they did at Alpine earlier.

    It was a big dusty horse track in the middle of nowhere. We had found a campsite about 2 or 3 miles away, but as we approached the venue we found that there was de facto, if not legit, on site camping. Everybody was really laid back, security was no hassle, and the sound quality was pristine. The band was clearly jazzed about heading to the Wheel, but they delivered the goods at Vernon. We had skipped Pittsburgh on that tour because it was such a nasty drive from VA Beach and partied in New York City instead, so we were much refreshed. It was a lazy trip up to the Wheel after making all the way to upstate New York, so we diverted over to Hianis sp? and caught Bruce Hornsby at the Melody tent.

    All in all, that week of tour, Merriweather, VA Beach, Vernon, the Wheel, is probably the best week I ever spent on the road with the band. Everything went surrealy perfect. Nice walk down memory lane to listen to this show. Thanks, as always, Mr. Miner.

  18. Mitch Says:

    I still see the scull. Phamily Berzerker, what’s your avatar?

  19. wvbrdr Says:

    Miner, great post today. I was just talking to my buddy I went to the Fiddlers Green show immediately before the Vegas shows. In both of our memories, that was the absolute worst Phish show we ever attended. The scene was awful and the sound was so low that we could have a conversation without talking loudly during the first set. It amazes me how much the overall scene affects the vibe of a show. Should have headed down to Vegas after that, but I had a grown up job at that point.

    Thanks for upping that Vernon Downs show. One of my favorites. It had a different feel than the rest of the summer 98 shows, more of a rock and roll feel. My gf, now wife, brought her little sister with us for her first show.

  20. pence Says:

    Phish only jams 3.95% of the time.

  21. beepaphone Says:

    HA a clif bar and green tea avatar

  22. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @beep – you going to Franti on Thursday? Should be a good time for all.

  23. wvbrdr Says:

    nice avatar Phamily Berzerker. I actually tried to change mine. It shows the changed one on the main page, but the old one here. Hmm…

  24. notkuroda Says:

    I got in an argument this summer on this other message board, the point being made by others that nothing in 3.0 even compares to ANYTHING prehiatus. I disagreed not due to the grand first leg of summer tour, but because Phish has gone through some not-so-great phases before! And I thought about this show, and yes that Fiddlers Green Show. I actually really enjoyed the second Vegas show, the Curtain With was beautiful, my first Esther ever, the Happy Birthday was a special moment, and the Bag swept me off my feet. But I thought the set completely died with the mockingbird, the Sand and Twist were absolute bores. Long, noodling, go nowhere jams. I remember being behind the stage for the second set and enjoyed just people watching a lot more than the set. I saw a few shows in 09 that buried anything I saw in 00.
    Don’t know if anyone’s mentioned this but I think the reason it was made into a DVD is because it was simulcast on the web.
    Hope you all are doing well, I wish I could shoot the shit with you guys more but my work is changing and there’s just not enough internet time in the day. But I still read Miner every morning!

  25. Mike Says:

    Vernon !! possibly a write up on this in the future ? my first show

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