Looking past Festival 8, Phish will soon return to one of their Midwestern homes – “The Crown” (now called US Bank Arena) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Adding the arena to their routing in Fall ’98, Phish played four more shows there before pulling up short in 2004. The Crown doesn’t usually enter into discussions of classic Phish venues, yet, slowly but surely, that is exactly what it’s become. Hosting one of four multi-night parties of Fall Tour ’09, The Crown will again glow with the aura of the Phish.
November 14, 1998
Fall ’98 contained a seven show Midwestern run that Phish’s capped off with their first performance at Cincinnati’s downtown venue. Coming off a stellar UIC run and stops in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Cleveland, the band arrived in southern Ohio for a Saturday night gig. The first half contained serious versions of “Reba” and “Tweezer,” balancing the night’s improvisational highlights between the two sets. Reversing their usual pattern, Phish opened the second half with a colossal “David Bowie,” rousing the crowd with its ominous complexity. Tactfully, the band juxtaposed “Bowie’s” ordered chaos with a tranquil splash into The Beatles’ “Something,” calming the opening storm.
The second-set “You Enjoy Myself” stands out as the other significant piece of improv from Phish’s virgin visit to Cincy’s central part of town. As the jam dropped, Trey looped a rhythm lick and then began narrating a solo atop his own groove. This innovative style brought an added layer to “YEM’s” textured funk. And for an encore, the band surprised everyone by debuting The Police’s “So Lonely,” a classic track off of their first album Outlandos d’Amour. All in all, Phish’s first visit to The Crown provided a whole lot of fun and some indelible highlights. The vibe of the arena provided an added bonus, as ushers were non-existent, allowing fans to dance wherever they wanted to – a factor contributing to all of the quality experiences had at The Crown over the years.
December 3 & 4, 1999
Potentially due to this fan-friendly feel, Phish made The Crown a two-night stop along their climactic run of December ’99. Following a tour-opening blowout at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Phish moved south for a weekend stand in Cincy. Building momentum for Big Cypress throughout these shows, The Crown’s two nights brought more than a few “millennial” highlights, showcasing the band’s dissonant psychedelia. The first night, as usual, dove far deeper and darker, with the second set being the unquestionable gem of the weekend.
Opening with a ferocious “Sand,” Phish presented their first of many standout December ’99 versions that culminated at Big Cypress. Not slowing their creativity, the band followed the full-on, textured grooves with an incredibly exploratory “Limb By Limb” that certainly ranks among the best-ever. Moving beyond any conventional “Limb” jam into a section of deep ambient space while carrying melodic undertones, this version belongs in the record books – a truly transcendent piece of music. Phish closed out the set with a hugely aggressive “Piper” and a profound 20-minute “Hood” that dipped its ladle into ’99’s sonic ambiance as well. Composed of four significant pieces of standout improv with “Bug” as a breather in the middle, this set is among the best of December ’99.
The band came back Saturday night with a comparatively tame show that included only one standout jam – the second set “Split Open and Melt.” With their “millennial” sound peaking, Phish veered into a scintillating segment of psychedelic space-groove in one of the song’s best renditions of the year. The only other significant jam came in the blistering “Bowie” that closed the set. This Saturday-night-special catered to the weekend crowd with a lot of songs, and not a whole lot of improv. Even when they broke out a first set “Tweezer,” it remained quite contained with a simple build and peak. Nonetheless, the other-worldy “Split” defined this show, and provided another indelible memory at The Crown.
February 21 & 22, 2003
The next time Phish pulled into their Cincinnati home in February of 2003, the game had completely changed. Phish had taken their hiatus, and were now on their first tour since Fall ‘2000. As Phish regained their groove over this Winter tour, the Cincinnati weekend immediately stood out as the strongest nights of the tour up to that point. With another Friday / Saturday combo, The Crown instantly became a winter weekend destination for Phish fans across the nation. And when the band completed their fourth and fifth shows at The Crown, there were many outbound travelers leaving the city blissed out.
The first night boasted an exciting setlist from start to finish. Highlight jams in the opening frame included a massive mid-set “Disease” and the hottest “Antelope” that had reared its horns in the 2.0 era. But Phish upped the ante in the second set, as they came out with the tour’s first “Mike’s Song” – a raunchy 15-minute rendition that destroys anything the band has produced from the song in 2009. Without choosing a classic “Groove” connector, they instead used a monstrous segment of distorted music to segue into “Free;” a bombastic combo that almost blew the roof off the place.
After stopping off in “Waste,” the band continued the fireworks, crafting an intro to “2001” in which Trey quoted Bach as the band blasted into the first “2001” of tour – totally surreal stuff. Infusing the set with a consistent danceability, Phish let loose in a session of serious collaborative grooves that kept the venue bumping. The band already possessed tight communication – a far cry from their comeback run – as they sculpted a superb set. Merging celestial soundtracks, Phish moved from the peak of “2001” into the always-ethereal “Harry Hood,” completing a phenomenal segment of Phish. The set continued with “All Of These Dreams,” “Possum,” and ended with “Cavern.” No “Weekapaug?” A “Velvet Sea” encore left the vicious “Mike’s” hanging without a “Weekapaug ” – a very rare occurrence in Phish history. The Crown’s ’03 reunion had commenced, and as people dispersed to the downtown hotels, spirits soared.
A “Sloth” opener on Saturday gave an aggressive kick-start to the opening of the show, foreshadowing bigger things to come. A third-song “Piper” blossomed into a scorching piece of improv, making it seem like we were deep in the second set. The band carried the fast-paced jam into even quicker tempos, immersing themselves in an exploratory piece that organically, and seamlessly, wound up in a wild “Weekapaug,” closing out the “Groove” from the previous night! Believe it or not, this is the only time “Weekapaug” has ever appeared in a show without “Mike’s,” and this nugget of Phishiness pumped the already excited crowd into a frenzy. The band was clearly embarking on a very special show.
The second set of Saturday night’s affair still stands out as one of the best frames of the entire Winter ’03 tour, highlighted by a crack-like ‘Tube” jam, a centerpiece “Bathtub Gin” that broke electro-ambient ground, and a late-set “Bowie” that showcased the band’s intricate connectedness. With a distinct flow from start to finish, this five-song frame concluded with the reflective denouement of “Bug.” A “Suzy” encore put a fun cap on two very significant nights at The Crown.
To honor Phish’s history at The Crown and their upcoming visit, I have compiled “Miner’s Picks: The Crown,” totaling over five hours of Cincy jams. The links and track listing are below.
MINER’S PICKS: THE CROWN < Torrent
MINER’S PICKS: THE CROWN < Megaupload
2,3. “Tweezer > Moma” II
4, “David Bowie” II
6. “You Enjoy Myself” II
7,8. “So Lonely > Tweezer Reprise” E
9. “Slave to the Traffic Light” I
10. “Down With Disease” I
11. “Antelope” I
12. “Sand” II
13. “Limb By Limb” II
14. “Harry Hood” II
15. “Split Open and Melt” II
16,17. “Mike’s > Free” II
18,19. “2001 > Hood” II
20,21. “Piper > Weekapaug” I
22. “Tube” II
23. “Bathtub Gin” II
24. “David Bowie” II
(Note: I had to pull low bitrate versions of good sources for the post-hiatus stuff, since I only have the SBDs archived. My apologies.)
Jam of the Day:
“Limb By Limb” 12.3.99 II
Check it out.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
11.14.98 The Crown, Cincinnati, OH < Torrent
11.14.98 The Crown, Cincinnati, OH < Megaupload
I: Funky Bitch, My Soul, Reba, Bouncing Around the Room, Tweezer > The Moma Dance, Sparkle, Character Zero
II: David Bowie, Something, Piper, Golgi Apparatus, Guyute, Hold Your Head Up > Sexual Healing > Hold Your Head Up, You Enjoy Myself, Julius, Hello My Baby
E: So Lonely* > Tweezer Reprise
Source: M.Gefell m210->Lunatec V2->AD1000->DAP-1 @48khzTags: Miner's Picks, Venues