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. BrandonKayda Says:

    No offense, but:

    The IT 46 Days is boring the hell out of me right now. I realize that it is open jamming and everything, but NOTHING has happened for the last 15minutes.

    I know you guys didn’t ask…continue

  2. voopa Says:

    first: sting at the Berkeley Greek
    second: Depeche Mode at the Berkeley Greek
    third: Genesis at the Oakland Arena

    ’85, ’86, ’86..didn’t see the Dead until ’91…Phish, ’92. Saw a lot of stuff when I was younger though…HS Jazz Festivals in Burbank, Opera in LA…

  3. brother Says:

    makes perfect sense C.

  4. beepaphone Says:

    Talk of these first concerts…mine was REM and Luscious Jackson at the Rosemont Horizon on my 12th birthday back in 1995….had I only stuck around till 10/31…damn.

    My Aunt and all her friends took me and they partied hard. A couple years ago she admitted to me they were all blown out. Jeebus.

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    Lollapalooza ’91 kicked ass! what a lineup! Ice-T singing “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” with Janes Addiction is still one of the most insane things I have witnessed! I have sbds of one or two of those gigs actually…crazy shit

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    Brandon, if I remember right, it fucks around for a long time and then gets a lot more interesting at the end – there’s a pretty good payoff, I think

    it’s controversial, I guess you’d call it

    definitely an example of the kind of thing they don’t do in ’09, wallow around looking for a groove…

  7. c0wfunk Says:

    wallow that’s a good word..

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    bobby brown on his my prerogative tour was melting faces 😉

  9. beepaphone Says:


  10. chefbradford Says:

    That same sister was going to take me to a GD show in Memphis, summer ’95. Tickets were lined up and everything. She and her fiance decided at the last minute that it wouldn’t be a healthy environment for them (both were recovering from various addictions). Jerry died soon after, while I was camping with family. She was immediately sorry we didn’t go, I think more for my sake than for hers

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    @voopa, I bet that Sting show was pretty great, that’s the Blue Turtles tour with Branford and that band, isn’t it? I was oblivious then, but that’s pretty amazing music really, and I’m not a Sting fan (post early Police)

    plus, can’t beat the Greek – wow, what a great first venue! beats the crap out the Greensboro Coliseum

  12. stitchstash Says:

    Cowfunk- We have two rooms. I’m not sure how much it costs compared to others in the area. My husband has all of our hotel information on his Email address. I will Email you sometime tomorrow after I talk with him. You may want to check if your original hotel is closer. We always like to not have to worry about driving and cabs.

  13. chefbradford Says:

    Brandon, I was at IT, and I waxed and waned between bored and floored with the 46 Days. Have only listened to it a few times since, but haven’t ever found anything to draw me back.

    Now tell me what you think of Ghost! The middle chunk of that song, from around 8 minutes until around 17 or 18, was one huge peak for me, and still is

  14. BrandonKayda Says:

    It is going places now, but I swear there was like 17 straight minutes of the same dark space loop…now it is back in funk territory, looking better.

    I still wouldn’t say it was worth the big wait though. Then again, it was probably a religious experience for people who attended the shows. You gotta remember, all of my comments are coming from a kid who has never seen the band live, so take everything i say with a grain of salt.

  15. beepaphone Says:

    As a general rule, cut meandering time in half if you’re there live and thats how long it seems IMO

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    word stitch thanks — if it’s a hassle at all don’t worry about it for sure. I need to find out what the deal w/ this 4 seasons is (location, new rate, etc) before we make any decision anyway..

  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    oh there are definitely a lot of people who think that 46 Days is the epitome of bad 2.0 Phish, regardless of the payoff

    I don’t have a strong opinion either way…I don’t remember it clearly enough at the moment…however it has never stuck out as one of my favorites from that festival, fwiw, but I tend to fixate on the Waves and Chalkdust (epic!) and Tower Jam (WTF?)

  18. chefbradford Says:

    All of the Phish I’ve been listening to lately has made me wonder: has Page ever NOT been totally on fire?

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    LOL @beep great observation – we should call that “Beep’s Rule”

    but even with that, the 46 Days is a bit…elongated?

  20. voopa Says:

    Yep, Blue Turtles tour w/Branford, Kenny Kirkland, Daryl Jones and Omar Hakim…pretty badass. I was stoked to find a live double LP from that tour (import) at my local Tower records the next year…think I paid 25$ for that one…

    Been blessed to have the Greek nearby…I’ve also seen Trey, Oysterhead, Pat Metheny, Summer Sessions ’99 (Phil, moe., Mule), Mountain Aire Road Show ’01 (w/Charlie Hunter, Galactic, Critters, Garage a Trois, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson) there too. Love it.

    Then there’s Shoreline. And the Fillmore. And the GAMH, Crest, Warfield, Independent, etc…

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    Ladies and Germs, I present to you the pinnacle of modern civilization:

  22. chefbradford Says:

    Dammit, why’d you have to mention the Tower Jam? The people who so kindly took me in didn’t think there was going to be a late-night set, so we wandered back to the campsite, roughly 1000 miles from Shakedown, the Tower, ground zero. By the time we figured out what was up, it’d have been over by the time we lumbered back.

    So of course, at Coventry, I was convinced there’d be a late set.

    No dice, obviously.

    Although, post-show I heard rumors that the band had planned to do a set from the giant wagon, possibly while roaming the grounds, but canceled due to the weather

  23. stitchstash Says:

    Great first concert experiences everyone. I’m interested to see the progression to Phish. Mine is:

    Tiffany > Aerosmith > Marky Mark > Smashing Pumpkins > Grateful Dead > Primus > Allman Bros > Phish > various others

  24. BrandonKayda Says:

    I actually liked the Waves and the space in it, but that 46 Days just left me cold. It sat in space for about 20minutes, and never peaked when it came down. It just sort of messes around for a few more minutes and then goes back on the 46 Days riff before ending. Not worth the 40minutes IMO

    Albany Seven Below>IT 46 Days


  25. voopa Says:

    When you hear jams meandering, imagine Kuroda kicking ass.

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