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”

  1. marcoesq Says:


    I think that he’s found an appreciation for the ’09 pheesh and what they’re putting together as of late, and that’s kind of my take on it as well.

    Just because there are 20+min jams in the 2.0 era doesn’t make it good! True, they had some truly standout jams and some great runs, but the compositions and the consistency just weren’t there

  2. cal Says:

    Perfect topic for discussion here, as Miner is expert at providing. I’m pretty much with albert on this. It comes down to focus–both by the band, and what I focus on as a fan, or maybe what I can’t NOT focus on at least a little, and that is the cringe factor. 2009 held a much lower percentage of cringeworthy moments.

    I miss the big jams too, but for me, they more than make up for those with TIGHT jams, coupled with renewed precision and actually SINGING the songs again.

    It’s also about feelings, impressions at the shows. In ’03 and ’04, I found myself feeling embarrassed for the band that they’d let their chops disintegrate, and I knew how much better they COULD be. That might have been the crux for me.

    Or, maybe I’m just an incurable optimist, and I just feel like the foundation laid in ’09 is way more promising than ’03 (as Miner essentially points out). Either way, I’m enjoying ’09 way more than I enjoyed ’03, and it’s pretty rare that I’ll put in a 2.0 show when there’s so much great 1.0 out there.

  3. marcoesq Says:

    It just seemed like, back in ’03 they were like: “Okay, we’re back, the hiatus is over…here’s some halfass attempt at us playing music…but we’ll jam for half an hour!”

    This year, they’re ready, and we can hear it/feel it

    This will be a much bigger return that 2.0 post-hiatus

  4. HarryHood Says:


    I heard it too, anyone who has been in it that long heard it. I was at The Clifford Ball and I was at Coventry. No need to compare the two. I’m just sayin that the only real “bad” show that I saw was in that swampy mess of a field in Vermont in ’04. And that wasn’t even really bad playing, that was just downright raw sad emotion from all four guys…… I don’t know, maybe I’m just a glass half full kind of person.

  5. albert walker Says:

    I need the crispness, the direction
    like the jazz cats
    they know where they are going and how to get there
    don’t just meander around searching for something

  6. Stephen B Says:

    Maybe it’s me, but I looked again and did not see a posting of the second Crown show yet Miner? Been waiting to hear if they have indeed played a decent Split this year.

  7. HarryHood Says:


    I respect your opinion and I have many other friends that would agree with you. One of my closest show buddies jumped off in 03 and 04 for exactly the same reasons and never looked back. We used to sit and talk shop for hours and now she just kind of looks sad when I bring up the topic. She didn’t see one show in ’09 and still refuses to believe that they are returning to true form. I ran into her yesterday and she just simply sad, “Wow, that was some First Tube at MSG huh”? I just said, “Yea, you should have been there”. Kind of a sad moment. All I can say is that I’m really glad that I didn’t let the occasional sloppy moments of the post-hiatus years affect me in a way that I had to struggle to enjoy seeing them again.

  8. oldskool Says:

    AW, and I both go way back and both come from the same place. While ’03 had some moments for me there were just so many factors that made this a bad era for me. Everyone knew of Trey’s struggles and they could be seem almost nightly in embarassing flubbing of structured compositions he had played hundreds of times. Also, the scene had CHANGED!! This was not the same place AW and I grew up seeing the band. There was a very bad element on the scene and it was not the place of positivity it once was. When you are emersed in this life you cannot simply seperate yourself from that and not let it effect you, that is just not reality. While there were some epic jams for me it was a time of sadness as everything I had cherished about the once great band and scene seemed to be slipping into darkness.

  9. Corey Says:

    Right on, Albert.

    The nice thing is that we don’t only have 03 PHiSH to dwell upon, but we have new PHiSH (46 shows -i think it’s 47- or so in 2009 when this southern thing wraps up!!)

    They are renewed.
    We are renewed.

    My thoughts are already passed next week, as my birthday show will be viewed from home (read: heard.) My thoughts are now firmly planted in what PHiSH can/will do in April, in Worcester MASS. Let’s hope that rumor turns out to be fact soon.

  10. Corey Says:

    Uhh, my thoughts are “past” this week…not passed this week. Must’ve something on the mind this early Tues.

  11. albert walker Says:

    a lot of my tour friends from the earlier era were also suffering from similar problems as Trey post hiatus that were just starting around 2000

    watching Trey suffer like all of us just hit to close to home

    for us that made it through
    I wish I could say it was all of us

    2009 has felt great, and the light is growing brighter

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    well put, oldskool. I had the same feelings about post hiatus having come up in the early to mid 90s with phish. I know a lot of people point to 2004 and Coventry as the “point of sadness” but it started much earlier than that for me. Part of it was where I was at that point but inevitably everything was impacted by the downward spiral occurring at the time. In truth, it probably inspired some of the dark, exploratory jamming that many of us sought but it also (for me) indicated that things were not well in the world of phish.

  13. HarryHood Says:


    I agree that a 20+ minute jam doesn’t make it good. Not arguing that point at all man!

  14. cal Says:

    Some really good points by people today. I don’t think anybody would argue that ’03 DIDN’T feature some outstanding jams that top the jams of ’09. Well, maybe someone would argue that…but it is that positivity and focus that makes ’09 so exciting. Hell, ’03 was certainly exciting; it’s just that it kind of deflated after the summer was over and the playing wasn’t improving, whereas in ’09, they just got better and better the whole year, for the most part.

  15. albert walker Says:

    Miami Piper!
    Miami Stash!

    no doubt some of this shit smokes, hard
    compared to any era

  16. HarryHood Says:

    I don’t disagree with how the scene itself changed for the worse. If you think about it though, the scene reflected the changes going on in the world and the general struggles that everyone was facing. The economy was tanking, people were losing their jobs, the whole music scene was changing…… I think all 03 and 04 music reflects this. Look at the vibe being presented by the younger bands hitting the scene during that era. Emo (god I hate that term) was the “in” music at the time, and teenagers were growing up without having any concept of what “good” times were! There was definitely some spill over into our scene as well. It’s all mindset though. If you go into a situation knowing what you are going to encounter, you just have to tell yourself to ignore the stuff that bothers you.

  17. marcoesq Says:

    That all said, I’d also take ’03 over the majority of the ’04 shows

    ’03: Train barreling full speed down the mountain, there are some valiant attempts by the crew to try and rescue the train and some beautiful views on the way but…

    ’04: Trainwreck!

  18. Brimley Says:

    Miner, you’ve lit a fire as usual..Like the band, your writing has become better as the year has gone along, and I really love the Mike Tyson’s Punchout shout out…Phish in Miami will knock it out of the park like Piston Honda or Super Macho Man…

  19. ohhphee Says:

    Morning all!

    I’m just stepping in to put in my 2 sinsi before heading off to work. I’m not going to compare years technically or improvisationally. That’s being done well enough by others here. I can only go on how I felt then and now. While I was glad they were back from hiatus, and I’ve never walked away from a show disappointed(thankfully), I never felt then like I do now. And that is that they are BACK! Really back! During 2.0, I just felt that things weren’t quite worked out in their personal lives, and that was, at times, affecting the music and the vibe. Can’t blame the vibe on Phish necessarily, but things did feel a little weird with the crowd, too.

    I’m really feeling it these days, and I think their heads, AND the “heads”, are in a totally different place today for the better. LONG LIVE the PHISH!!

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    This is a fascinating topic to discuss because nobody is wrong in this debate. It comes down to whether or not you can overlook some “moments” and embrace some of the greatness. Which everyone seems to be able to.
    I always discarded a lot of this era, but recently took another hard listen and realized that there was some really good shit.
    There is no doubt that the excitement and freshness of Phish’09 will lead to great things in the future. That is the greatest diffeerence between ’03 and ’09– Hope.

  21. KWL Says:

    ohhphee: While I was glad they were back from hiatus, and I’ve never walked away from a show disappointed(thankfully), I never felt then like I do now.

    Exactly. Contra Mr Palmer (pg1), I can’t take these shows out of their context. The trajectory matters tremendously for me. No one is denying the highest of highs in 03. But. 03 didn’t have an impact on who I am like 09 is.

    Analyzing particular versions of songs, jams, sets, etc, is one thing, but the memories, feelings invoked, transformative moments, experiences (what truly matters for me, beyond just the notes played)–these are all wrapped up in the broader context/trajectory.

    While I am not ringing in the new year down in Miami, I can’t really contain my excitement for what is to come–in ways I never felt 6 years ago.

  22. Brimley Says:

    I must admit that I was severly let down after eagerly awaiting a listen to NYE ’02…I wasn’t a big fan of Trey’s new tone and I felt they went away from groove based jam…I didn’t like much of this show so I next grabbed first night Hampton thinking it was nervousness and rust…I once again wasn’t satisfied with the music and resented the fact that they had to re-start YEM of all songs…? I didn’t attend or listen to another show from ’03 and decided at the last moment to see night 1 Alpine ’04, only to be even more let down knowing this was the end…To me, I thought they came back for the wrong reasons and the drug issues were noticeable which made my experience even worse….I curiously decided to start to download some of the better moments of ’03-’04 after hearing Miner immortalize them and there is no doubt some very creative, well played jams out there…I will probably never listen to a whole show from this era due to some of the above mentioned flaws, but I can see this period in the evolution of the band more clearly now and dig alot of the jams…Hindsight is 20/20..!

  23. Corey Says:


    2009’s Hamoton YEM restart was a great “we’re all human” moment.
    Everyone was smiling and seemed to enjoy that PHiSH is back, perfect or no. I like the imperfections, sometimes as much as the perfections.

  24. Little Buddy Says:

    “There was a very bad element on the scene and it was not the place of positivity it once was. When you are immersed in this life you cannot simply separate yourself from that and not let it effect you, that is just not reality. While there were some epic jams for me it was a time of sadness as everything I had cherished about the once great band and scene seemed to be slipping into darkness.”

    Well said and very true. The scene has evolved (or perhaps devolved) since I first started going to see the boys. I didn’t start until ’94, which is much later than many of you, but what a different scene it has become. I’m not sure how to categorize the ’09 scene – it seems pretty individualistic. People want what they want out of shows and aren’t as open to just experiencing what the band feels like offering on a given night, and I think this individualism bleeds into the social scene as well. But in ’03 and ’04 the darkness was palpable everywhere. Sometimes that darkness was harnessed into very real musical genius, but not always. The scene had indeed changed as OLDSKOOL points out. Miami was a great, great time in ’03. Although there were some nice musical moments, I do not remember the music as quite fondly as Mr. Miner does. I didn’t walk out of any of those shows totally blown away. Maybe that’s on me though – tough to say. I’ve never listened back to these shows either either. What a fun party though…

    As others have said – I’ve never walked away from a show disappointed, but it wasn’t until Albany 2 this year that I finally had that truly blown away feeling again. I felt the feeling I forgot. I was numb with JOY. MSG 3 just cemented it for me – “may every song you sing be your favorite tune!” I’m not going to be in Miami and probably won’t catch nearly as many shows in 2010, but somehow I am okay with that because this fall I found what I had been seeking. It’s all good again! Have fun in Miami! My wife is taking this mission solo since I have to work (Boo!)

  25. butter Says:

    here is a video of Wolfman’s Brother from MSG I, i took from behind the stage. its a partial as i can’t sit still for more than 2 min most of the time. The band brings home the jam nicely to wrap up the tune.

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