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. c0wfunk Says:

    just finishing the stash from nye 03 – it’s kind of weird how so many of these jams seem “inserted” .. like when they end up back in stash, the preceding piece of music really had nothing to do with the ensuing peak. A little strange, kind of cool, and the peak is certainly raged, and the jam was pretty cool. But there is a moment of “where were we? oh yeah! Stash!”

  2. beepaphone Says:

    I think thats the whole deal with ’03 and ’04
    Of course there’s a ton of elongation as it just plays into the exploratory nature of that era. It seems like a lot more especially now, as ’09 has been quite trite.

  3. c0wfunk Says:

    “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”

    apparently wasted trey was running around the concert grounds late night entertaining green crew folks and maybe there was a little acoustic singalong thing? I know my buddy was telling me entertaining stories of late night coventry w/ red for sure..

  4. chefbradford Says:

    Brandon, I’m glad you at least like the Waves. It was definitely a taste of the Tower Jam to come.

    Like I said, even having been there, I haven’t found much reason to listen to Days closely again (I do recall, several months ago, someone writing a huge post extolling the virtues of that jam)

    Now. Go. Get. Ghost

  5. beepaphone Says:

    @ chef
    Dude my buddy and I were totally convinced of the same thing…instead they just brought out their moms (charming, I know, but for your last show?), and sang songs about key changes, bruno and scotland.

    They probably had something planned, but like everything else, it got stuck in the mud.

  6. voopa Says:

    So I just finished the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and wrapping my wife’s gift (the latest Coltrane box set). Time to make dinner…what should I listen to? aw’s earlier posts made me think Cincy Antelope

  7. BrandonKayda Says:

    Once again, I’m not trying to step on anybody’s opinions here. Not trying to spoil anybody’s recollection of that 46 Days.

    Ghost next? Hmmm….

  8. chefbradford Says:

    voopa- word. CK5

    cowfunk- i almost posted, after “due to the weather”: “either the rain in the grounds, or the snow in…” I’m not going to finish it, you figure it out.

    I’m glad the guys made it safely thus far, and I’ll leave it at that

  9. beepaphone Says:

    IT is all pretty legit IMO…just spin the whole thing, BK

  10. stitchstash Says:

    @ cowfunk, I wonder if it was the same giant wagon that stopped us from exiting the concert grounds on one of those Coventry nights. It was a crazy freak circus being pulled by a bunch of people. Did anyone else see this?

  11. halcyon Says:

    Voopa….are you sure that is not your gift??? 😉

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    Greek is the best, a unique venue, kind of a pain in the ass in some ways but so worth it – kind of a temple to good music

    first shows were in ’87, was spun and had to perch on that tiny lawn

    then in ’89 we had it more dialed in, good seats, friends in the Bay to stay with etc – last time the Dead played there – one of my best memories and the shows had some amazing moments.

    My wife was at the ’93 Phish show, which is a great one

    I was at those Summer Sessions gigs…those and the Cuthbert…fun shows overall

    a few other things over the years but those are probably the highlights

  13. Robear Says:

    Share the love. That’s what it’s about now.

    In 2003, I was a young father, with a 3 year old. I did spring LA > Vegas. We left thinking that we had heard some of the most unique jamming we’d ever gotten from the band. We also felt like something wasn’t right. We talked all the way to Vegas, then all the way back to nor Cal. We concluded that Trey needed essential fatty acids and serious health drinks. No joke. We thought he was starting to develop Carpal Tunnel from all the years of playing, when there was difficulty hitting composed sections of songs. Like we call all hear and feel the notes coming, Trey included, he just couldn’t hit them all. I’m serious. We gave my bro, who was on the bus at the time, some really quality essential fatty acid capsules. Hemp and Flax. We didn’t conclude anything about drugs.

    Fast forward to Shoreline, 7/9 10/03. I set a local river group, the with the Waterwheel. We had a huge crew of mountain folk / activists, most who had never seen or even heard Phish. Crazy success on every level. Being with the WW, I didn’t notice the difficulty getting through the beg. of ‘YEM’, walked in for the jam, on. It is still one of my favorite shows I’ve been part of. The second night was good too, more mellow. I told my people, you just saw some awesome Phish shows. Went to ‘IT’, after following the tour online. Marriage was falling apart. Different story. Great music. More for me on listen back. Had some amazing moments while I was there. Missed lots.

    ’04 was rougher for me. Missed Vegas b’cuz of car accident. Listened to the downloads and thought something was seriously wrong and out of whack. Heard about them calling it quits, then got bummed about no west coast dates. Flew out for DC > Alpine. Bitter sweet. Some highlights, a bit of a let down. Went to Coventry. Bitter sweet x 10.

  14. chefbradford Says:

    beep- yeah, the ‘bump’ thing or whatever during, what? Wolfman’s? Free? I don’t remember, think it’s Wolfman’s. Oh, and what about the ‘COD’? Coalition of Dads, before Guyute?
    do the BRUNO
    Dickie Scots
    then, a song for an old friend, “one, last time”…ba-bump, ba-bump

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    no love for Spock?


  16. c0wfunk Says:

    love the bruno and dickie jams … coventry every set has something to offer. Also every set has something akin to a kick in the groin.

  17. Robear Says:

    IN summation, I am amongst those that were amazed by the open jamming and improv. Really blown away. I was also in the camp that there was a disturbance in the force, hard to put a finger on. I thought the scene had improved and the vibe was really good in ’03. Much different than ’04.

  18. beepaphone Says:

    Yeah chef had I known I wouldn’t have got all spun. I wasn’t in “bump” or “ok now we’re going to E-flat” mode.

  19. butter Says:

    yea, the Greek is awesome

    would have loved to have caught the Dead there

    i guess i won’t rule out ever catching Phish there

    i saw David Byrne there this summer and it was one of the better

    shows i caught this year. Phish fans roll their eyes at me when i say

    he does cross-eyed better than Phish. Is that really that far fetched?

    it is his song right?

  20. Mr. Completely Says:


    and now, that’s not the end of your Phish story!

    you win!

    yay you!

  21. beepaphone Says:

    I am hating unfairly though…I did have a good time and there were some good jams in the mix

  22. c0wfunk Says:

    “We thought he was starting to develop Carpal Tunnel from all the years of playing”

    funny I remember the same theories going rmgdead around about jerry summer 95 – those moments where it looked like he was playing hard up there but no notes were coming out (rfk saint of circumstance comes to mind)

  23. chefbradford Says:

    Stitch, that sounds like the giant wagon I saw periodically at Coventry, but although I don’t remember ever seeing anybody pulling it along, I don’t think I ever saw it in the same place.

    Amazing how something that big could move around in all that mud, while every time I dared to put my foot down (and down, and further down), I hit someone else’s Birkenstock

  24. beepaphone Says:

    @ butter I caught Byrne’s crosseyed about an hour before Phish started at Bonnaroo…talk about your payoffs. It is his song.

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    Byrne rules!

    I bet that was great! I totally believe you. I definitely prefer the Heads version, album or live, over Phish – not counting any jams that might come out of it of course

    I think I am legally required to post this video every 2 months
    ^^^ watch this now if you don’t know it, and TURN IT UP

    of course Byrne doesn’t have Adrian Belew in his band anymore, but still

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