Fun In the Sun – Pt. 1

12.28.03 Miami (J.Pinsky)

12.28.03 - Miami (J.Pinsky)

Phish’s last visit to Miami came at the end of the triumphant year of 2003. Only two and a half years after their hiatus, Phish returned to the road teeming with wild creativity. Essentially jamming their faces off, over their extensive summer tour, every show became a blast into the unknown. Armed with new vehicles and destroying old ones, the band impressed many fans with their nightly explorations, while others seemed turned off by the wide open, risk-centric playing. Sometimes meandering, but always experimenting, the band reached yet another creative peak in 2003, pushing jams further and further to places they had never been before.

12.28.03 (J.Pinsky)

A new “ambient” sound emerged almost immediately in the winter of ’03, and developed throughout their extensive summer tour.  Their new direction featured spacier and more layered textures than characterized the amorphous “ambient” playing of ’98. More often than not, jams took a turn for the dark side, akin to four mad scientists inventing new formulas on the fly. With a clear focus on improvisational adventure,  Summer ’03 represented a super-fueled, ridiculously engaging period of the band’s career. After listening through these nights so many times over, I’ve, literally, never understood a Phish fan not liking this era. Bottom line, the band tried new things nightly, and next to Summer ’95, 2003 represents the most outwardly psychedelic period of the band’s career. The groove-based playing that had dominated the end of their first career was left behind while new songs, old and new, opened up in brand new directions.  And Phish jammed ferociously night after night.

12.28.03 (J.Pinsky)

If comparing the band’s improvisation in their comeback years alone, 2003 blows 2009 out of the water, reaching planes the band hasn’t approached this year. The key difference is that 2010 is looking a hell of a lot better than 2004! Having taken things slowly this time around, Phish will be arriving at the future very soon, while in 2003, the band dove deep immediately, eventually self-destructing. But I am a firm proponent of the opinion that the jams never suffered on the way down; they only got more creative.

With only four relatively lackluster “Turkey Run” shows separating Summer from Miami, the sun beckoned all as Phish announced the first-ever four-night  New Years Run outside the Northeast. Ever since the band started doing New Years Runs in the early-90’s, they were affairs renowned for bitter cold, huge snowfalls, and wintry conditions. But in 2003 everyone traded in their parkas for bathing suits, and scarfs for shorts, taking the party to the ideal destination of Miami, Florida. Pools, frozen drinks, beaches, and sun by day and Phish and Miami by night, there was no denying that the formula trumped driving around up and down the salted highways of I-95.


When entering American Airlines Arena on the 28th, everyone found the basketball-only arena more intimate than expected. With a shorter floor, and seats that went up more than out, everyone seemed to be on top of the stage. Notoriously laid back security ran the show for all four nights, as the community took reign over the south Florida venue.

12.28.98 (J.Pinsky)

12.28.03 (J.Pinsky)

Stepping into a new room for the first time, one figured Phish would acclimate themselves to their environment before digging deep, but not this time. Coming out for the first of eight sets, the band slowly built an eerie spacescape to open the entire run. So much for warming up! And after moving through this dark intro, the band dropped into “David Bowie.” At this point, everyone sensed something special in the air; as the  four nights unfolded, everyone’s senses would be confirmed. Unleashing their fury like Hurricane Andrew, Phish attacked Miami early and often. Separated by only “Sample,” the band let loose on a laid back, swanky “Tweezer” that continued the instantaneous full-band interplay. Jumping into a melodic corridor, Trey led the troops with well-phrased melodies out of the gate, as Page added spacey effects behind the bulbous backing. Within the first half an hour of the four-night run we taking full-on “Bowies” and “Tweezers” to the dome like Glass Joe. Taking no time to get into the thick of it, the band continued with some of the run’s most cohesive psychedelia out of the late-set “Frankie Sez.” Blowing out jams like there was no tomorrow, Phish created at atmosphere of excitement and unknown before anyone had a chance to realize what had hit them. Punctuating the first set of the run with “Tweezer Reprise,” people were a bit more wide-eyed than usual when the lights came on for setbreak.

12.28.98 (J.Pinsky)

12.28.03 (J.Pinsky)

The non-stop explorations continued into the second frame, opening with the holiday-grooves of “Jibboo.” Exploding with crystalline dance patterns, Phish spun the room into a ball of bliss before dropping into a rather sinister piece of improv out of “Suzy Greenberg!?” Morphing from the song into a heavy metal journey into the eye of the monster, Phish unleashed their some of their most menacing music of the year. Exploiting his uncompressed tone, Trey growled with terror as the band sunk deep into a swamp of insanity. This type of jam is why 2003 Phish is fucking great, relentlessly pursuing the source with unending layers of psychedelic sorcery. Showcasing some of the most mind-bending guitar work you’ll ever hear from Trey, this was the man screaming from his soul; a rare guitar confessional. One of the defining moments of Miami, not to mention 2003, Trey rarely takes liberty to expose this side of himself  so deeply. It was a humbling privilege to be a part of – seriously. Leaving the audience in silence and absolute awe, Phish bled into an ambient soundscape. Continuing to choose each note passionately, Trey added subtle melody to the dissonance, and at the end of a  twenty-minute odyssey, the band splashed into the cool waters of “Theme.”

American Airlines Arena *(J.Pinsky)

AA Arena - Miami, FL (J.Pinsky)

Annihilating their landing point, Phish crushed anything in their path on this night, setting the tone for the following three. Culminating the set with “Harry Hood,” the band continued to take the typically happy jam outside the box. Entering some scorching places before rejoining the song’s theme, the whole band built to a dizzying peak. Climaxing a dream-like set, “Hood” put an exclamation point on a show that, contained two sets of full-on improv; in effect, two second sets.

Reveling in the neon glow outside the venue, an electricity pierced the warm winter air. Phish set the bar incredibly high, a bar they wouldn’t quite reach for the rest of the run. But if one thing seemed for sure, Phish would try their best to rip every pitch out of the park. And over the next three nights, they’d hit more than a few home runs.

To be continued…


Jam of the Day:

“Suzy Greenberg > Theme” 12.28.03 II




12.28.95 The Centrum Worcester, MA < Torrent

12.28.95 The Centrum Worcester, MA < Megaupload

With all the shows of fall having been posted, let’s turn our attention to New Years Runs of the past.

I: Split Open and Melt, Gumbo, The Curtain > Julius, Guyute, Horn, Rift, Fast Enough for You, Possum

II: Timber, Theme From the Bottom, Wilson, Buried Alive > Tweezer > I Didn’t Know, Uncle Pen, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Fee, Tweezer Reprise

Source: Schoeps CMC64 (split 10 ft, OTS) > Stewart BPS-1 power supplies > Sony TDC-D7

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730 Responses to “Fun In the Sun – Pt. 1”

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  1. Myers Says:

    Good summary of this night ! the vaccum 3 out of the 4 nights also

    next up the piper and the sinister duo in free

  2. Al Says:

    From this run I remember awesome versions of:

    -Frankie says

  3. Cortez The Killer Says:

    Morning y’all
    Nice writeup. I need to listen to these shows again.

    HELP PLEASE – Boston to Miami ride needed

    I was planning on driving with a buddy down on the 26th, since he has to bring his car back to south carolina for grad school after nye. now he has to go to a family gathering in mass on the 27th and cant leave till the 28th

    i already have a jan 3 flight back from sc (where my buddy is driving back to)

    i am looking for a ride down to miami from boston/new england.

    let me know if you can help or know someone who can

    colinjamesryan at gmail dot com

    thanks for any help friends.

  4. Stir it with a Ladle Says:

    Can Miners Picks be added to the audio archive?

  5. albert walker Says:

    I got off in 2003
    just gonna have to disagree with Miner on this one

    first half of tube, gin, and all of FOAM
    is what I see in 2003

    complete disregard for song structures, playing over each other quite frequently, not much direction or cohesion

    plus the P-funk debacle and the terribly sloppy LA woman fixtured set

    while there were great jams for me the sloppy playing was just too much to handle

    while I was not there for these shows I think 2003 gets most of the negative feelings it gets

    I’m not crazy man, I was never left a shown blown away in 2003

    for me I’ll take the Cinci Antelope or Split or the MSG light
    that is Phish, and it taking place in 2009

    since my comments kind of contributed to this write up I feel I got to stand by my feelings

    we def disagree on this on Miner

  6. albert walker Says:

    jamming def better than 2009
    no arguing that

    I do find a lot of the jamming to fall flat IMO
    comparing summer 95 to 2003 is just crazy talk

    one era is a band in its prime and one is another in total destruction IMO

  7. albert walker Says:

    controversial write up

    but great as usual

  8. KWL Says:

    Is there consensus on what the best aud source is for the MSG run?

  9. KWL Says:

    re-listening to 12-28-03 recently, I was really struck by how much better they sound in 09. I also found myself REALLY thankful that the Ross is back. Amazing how much tighter the band is now. Yes, 2003 was exploratory, can’t argue that, and it reached some great places (though IMO the peak of 03 phish was IT, and the brief fall run and NYE run had moments but were pretty inconsistent). I’ll take 09…

  10. verno329 Says:

    I only got see 3 shows in 2003, Greensboro, Charlotte, and Raleigh and 2 of the 3 were terrific (G-boro and Charlotte) while Raleigh was a complete letdown for me. The G-boro tour closer was a great show though it really didn’t have any wild exploration at all, just ripping versions of everything they played. Charlotte was another story. The second set is an absolute gem! The Hood gets all the attention (deservedly so) but the Drowned>Kung and the Twist are phenomenal too. But overall I’d have to agree with aw. The Spring Tour was great and the Summer Tour varied from transcendental to pedestrian at times, imo. The Turkey Run was disappointing and I’ve just never gotten the draw of the Miami NYE Run. I remember being stoked to hear the 12/30 but have never been more disappointed while listening to a highly anticipated show. However, I’m gonna relisten to Miami 2003 over Christmas break and give it another shot to see what I think now.

    The further into 2003 the less I liked the show generally and it totally gave us a window into what 2004 would be like. I love the 20 min jams too, but not when they feel forced. They ALL didn’t sound forced by any means, but there were definitely some cut and paste jams that just kinda took a while to reach a conclusion.

  11. BrandonKayda Says:

    I agree with you guys. 09′ has had some very good jams for taking five years off, and things are only looking better…

  12. chefbradford Says:

    2009 has been great, and I couldn’t be happier that the guys are as tight as they are, but 2003 held some serious fire. 2/28/03, Nassau? Pure bliss. West Creek, insanity. IT? F-ing amazing.

    That said, I haven’t heard much of the Miami run (I had bad copies of a couple of the shows; I mean BAD– I prefer to miss out than listen to something that bad.

    All of THAT being said, I love this write-up. Possibly a favorite of mine. And, since I don’t feel very good, I’m in a shitty mood, I’m working on my day off (again), and because it seems like a good idea, I’m going to listen to some dark, nasty, face-melting, psychedelic 2003 Phish at work today.

    Nice work, Mr Miner; when I get home, I’m heading directly for “Suzy>Theme”, thank you

  13. sumodie Says:

    @aw: congrats on the engagement -you’ve set a great tone for miami taboot.

  14. sumodie Says:

    miner takes his ’03 position from blackboard to blog, naysayers be damned! ok, a little hyperbole on my part, but i do look forward to reading feedback from folks.

    im hoping to finally start relistening to miami03 tonight.

  15. Danny B Says:

    Miami 2009:
    Where the boogie stops, and the woogie begins!!!!

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    If you listen to 12.28.03 from a strictly musical standpoint, you can’t help but be moved by the performance. I think people begin to bash it because the put these shows in the context that they were the beginning of the end. Remove this from your thinking. Don’t strain your ears so you can hear Treys voice crack, just listen.
    Listen to Frankie Says and certainly listen to the Jiboo>Suzy> Theme. The latter is some of the best Phish i’ve heard ever. Personally i think its a lot better than the Albany 7 below >Ghost. Sure the weekend had some not so great moments, but it also had some magic.

  17. albert walker Says:

    I am currently still spinning this run and taking it all in

    and there are some AMAZING moments!

    gracias sumo

    and like some have said
    one of Miner’s best write ups yet

    great defense of a great run

  18. Danny B Says:

    The jams in 2003 were really out there and exactly why I go to see Phish, but at the same time when they can’t even nail Possum, it starts to get irratating.

    2003-Big Jams, lack of commitment to the songs themselves

    2009- Tight compositions, but the jams are still developing

    I think in Miami we will get a glimpse of the new jamming style that will be on full display come 2010

  19. marcoesq Says:

    Whats up all, great write up Miner.

    I might have to disagree a little as well, I was never “completely” blown away by any ’03 show

    -Hampton: ’nuff said
    -LA>Vegas run: Fun, good to see the Ghost but nothing groundbreaking. DWD Reprise!
    -Greensboro: Like someone else said, ripping versions of every song but no real exploration
    -Camden shows: Everyone seems to love em, SSS was good times, nice bustouts

    I’m sure there were a ton of good shows out there, listening to ’03 Gorge as we speak, I just never left a show saying “DAMN!!!”

  20. marcoesq Says:


    I loved 12/28/03, best show of that run, wasn’t there though so I can’t speak to the show itself

  21. BTB Says:

    I gots to download this run and then I’ll throw in my 2 cents. I need a good relisten.

    Skeet, Skeet, Skeet Bitches!!

  22. albert walker Says:

    listen to Miami Wolfman’s
    spin Cinci Wolfman’s

    tight, cohesive, new tones, not stepping on any toes, Page killing the Clav, directional playing with a purpose

    believe me the boys are heading in the right direction these days

  23. albert walker Says:

    stop in later when this heats up

    doing a little work this morning

  24. HarryHood Says:


    I know that you’ve been in the game much longer than most of us, but it seems like you are caught up in the 90’s era Phish so much that it doesn’t allow you to enjoy what they are doing/have done since……. Trust me man, I understand what you are saying and I don’t completely disagree. I jumped on in ’96 so I did see them at their prime and comparing now and then is just what you said: crazy. ’03 was still pretty amazing though in it’s own right! I was at the 2/26/03 show in Worcester, and I never had any moments where I wondered if they were still on their game. They may have been starting a downhill tumble, but they didn’t let it show on stage every night. Maybe on rare occasions they had a bad night, but that happens even now when they are all happy and healthy. I don’t know, I just don’t understand the dislike for ’03 or even ’04 for that matter.

  25. albert walker Says:


    I cannot go on tour and hear the party crack in Trey’s voice every night
    I can hear the frustration between band members during flubs
    I can hear Trey hating playing classic Phish material

    I was never doubting the ability to hit high moments

    I did LA>Vegas>Denver and left kind of sad

    just me I guess

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