Fun In the Sun – Part Deux

12.29.03 (M.Collins)

12.29.03 (M.Collins)


The night turned to day and then back to night, and before we knew it, we were back inside American Airlines Arena for night two. Phish wasted no time, starting right where they left off after the scintillating show the previous night. Much like “Bowie’s” beginning to the 28th, the band kicked off the 29th already in high gear, opening with a wide open jam in “Piper.” Starting off shows with colossal jams is one thing, but opening with this level of unbridled fury was straight up mind-bending. As if the guys never left the stage, Phish tore into a passionate piece, likening its own force of nature; a proverbial sixth element. In a summation of the countless cosmic chases that “Piper” provided throughout 2003, this opener had people holding onto their seats (think Maxell-XL II cases) trying to not get bowled over by the overwhelming intensity that shot from the stage in a sonic laser beam. Holding nothing back, Trey wailed like this was his last chance to ever play guitar, pouring every drop of emotion through his instrument, while delving deep into his arsenal of trickery. With knee-buckling lead lines, creative phrasing, and fierce rhythm chops, Trey put on a clinic for twenty straight minutes; not to mention his band mates, who were right there with him. Crafting diverse patterns and backdrops for Red to color with his aggressive work, Phish built one of the indelible jams of the weekend. With a menacing musical hose, the band washed down the audience with sheets of psychedelia, and the show had barely begun. Without concern for anything outside of the moment, the band grew this “Piper” into an improvisational trapeze act before dismounting with both feet firmly on the ground.

12.29.03 (Unk)

12.29.03 (Unk)

After such a celestial initiation, the band toned things down for the rest of the set. But when the second half got underway, Phish began a musical stanza including five songs strung together coherently, all with natural transitions: “Rock and Roll > Twist > Boogie On > Ghost > Free.” This fifty-minute curve of creativity carried a more upbeat vibe than the 28th’s plunge into the abyss, providing more than enough dance music along the way. Though none of the first three jams developed into individual monsters, the on-point communication and their fluid musical connection made up for any lack of depth. Many cite this segment as the highlight of the entire run, and while that is certainly debatable, it is an unquestionable Miami highlight, and a more-than-engaging passage of music.

12.29.03 - Miami (Unk)

12.29.03 (Unk)

The essential part of this sequence came with its finale, “Ghost > Free.” A popular combination ever since “Ghost’s” inception, this incarnation of the well-documented pairing brought the show to an undeniable peak.  Launching into a careful exploration, the band left their all-out aggression for a more intricate version that featured full-band interplay throughout. Gradually building into more searing offerings rather than any funk-based licks, Trey, with Fishman, pushed this “Ghost” from its mellow incarnation into a surreal groove. As Mike and Page locked into the pattern, the band hit a galloping stride, gaining momentum for an explosive second half of the jam.  Sustaining a more aggressive palette for the duration, the band slowly upped the cosmic residue, giving way to “Free.”

12.29.03 (Unk)

A syrupy version of the song plodded at a methodical pace, while Trey toyed with the top half of the groove. As the piece progressed, Trey and Mike engaged in a duel, trading licks back and forth, and weaving their lines around each others, before crashing back into bombastic textures. The audience appreciated this unique take on “Free,” responding with enthusiasm. Getting somewhat crossed up during their final interchange, the band, nonetheless, continued pushing the envelope, coming up with new angles on old songs. And once “Free” growled to a halt, concluding the near-hour long adventure, the band heard it from the crowd in droves, appreciating the twisting nature of the trek.

12.29.03 (M.Collins)

The crowd energy remained high through the end of the show, beckoning the band to come out for two separate encores of “Waste” and “Coil.” Having crafted two heavy hitters in a row, Phish sat halfway through an enticing New Years Run that had begun to shape up significantly. The next two nights would provide some eternal highlights, but neither show, in their entirety, would hold up to the first four sets of Florida Phish.



12.30.03 (Unk)

With energy as high as possible following two top-notch evenings, the sky seemed to be the limit as Phish stepped onto stage on December 30th. The first set carried the same intensity and imagination as the previous two nights, but in the second frame Phish finally lost their snowballing momentum, inviting George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic to join them in what turned into a musical fiasco.

But the first set kept the Phish train rolling with a raucous opening of  “Wilson,” which slid, unfinished, into the only “Sand” of the post-hiatus era. Taking the rhythmic vehicle for an urgent mission, the band moved through the dance textures with focus. An ideal selection for the free-flowing nature of  their exploration of the era, Phish matched song and style impeccably, breaking out a piece that once seemed omnipresent. Coyly introducing the “Shafty” melody right into the full-on groove, Trey led the band in a patient and tasteful transition of the sorts that have been so elusive these days. Chugging into the bass-driven groove, for the  third night in a row, the band locked their seat belts and jumped into the fray mere minutes after the opening bell. Blending right into “NICU,” the band sported a playful attitude from the very start of the evening, a vibe that would permeate the entire show.

"2001" 12.30.03 (Unk)

After a string of bust-outs, including the liquid funk of “Cities” and the crazed bluegrass of “Scent of a Mule,” Phish capped the set in the same energetic fashion that it began. The opening notes of “Bathtub Gin” fired up the arena, but after some rocky parts through the composition and beginning of the jam, it took an awkwardly patient build to arrive at a real pocket. But when the band finally got there, they took off into some unique collaborative playing. Certainly not the highlight of the show, Phish salvaged the piece, moving to darker and groovier places, eventually setting the table for an ambient entrance into “2001.”

Able to let precision fall by the wayside and just groove, Phish closed the set with a series of looser funk patterns. Trey teased “Bathtub Gin” throughout the first musical verse, while foreshadowing the upcoming set with fully-quoted P. Funk melodies throughout the second. A solid frame that didn’t boast the tightness of the first two nights came to an exciting close, and regardless of the small step back, spirits remained high.

Phish and P. Funk - 12.30.03 (Unk)

The Parliament sit-in could be described in only two ways – “You had to be there,” or “an absolute debacle.” Whichever description one chooses to use, the guest spot stole a crucial twenty minutes from the middle of the second set, and absolutely derailed the band’s momentum they had built over the first two nights. When Clinton’s crew finally left the stage, more than a few fans were left scratching their heads. What could have been fun and quick, turned out to be boring and drawn out, as Phish took a backseat to the Funkadelic entourage.

12.30.03 - Miami (Unk)

Nonetheless, the band book-ended the second set with two fierce pieces of improv – “Tube” and “Down With Disease.” Opening any second set with “Tube” is like an adrenaline shot directly to the heart, and this extended version provided just that. With melodic guitar leads over an infectious groove, Trey brought a different feel to this jam. Coming out of a rhythmic breakdown where the band re-built the layers of the song, Trey came screaming in like a joker, cackling with menacing laughter, leading a section of candy groove. Phish soon infused their style of the time into the funk vehicle, moving into more dissonant psychedelia. Pushing into a dirtier place, Trey busted out his best Jim Morrison in a creative, but not-so-successful take on “LA Woman.” Stretching out the messy cover, the band made a necessary and abrupt change into “Birds.” Only halfway through, this set already seemed a bit off. Trey and George’s setbreak party probably didn’t help the situation either.

12.30.03 (J.Dorans)

But before the set came to a disastrous close, the band pulled it together, playing a powerfully emotive “Down With Disease.” Seemingly sensing their lackluster frame, the band made sure to slay their last jam of the night, taking the high-speed rock and roll piece on a cathartic jaunt. Out of the structured jam, Phish stepped into a segment of darker, gnarling interplay, but the piece’s defining moments soon began when the band pushed into dark ambient space. Trey used soulful melodies to gently caress the soundscape, and before long, the band converged in one of those moments of palpable magic. An amorphous jam united all members in a fragile musical glow, and they emerged with a segment of music that whispered directly to our souls. With utmost delicacy, Trey layered the “Disease” melody into the mix, bringing the band on a thematic climb through some of the most precious moments of the weekend; a triumph of the highest degree. Often overlooked at the end of this set, this one is a genuine diamond in the rough.

A set that represented both the successes and pitfalls on on-stage risk-taking, the 30th didn’t hold up to the previous two nights; but such is the nature of improvisational music. And despite some on-stage antics, there were more than a few high points that carried the show. It was back to the beach for one more day before New Year’s Eve’s three-set extravaganza; and the best jam of the weekend had yet to unfold.

To Be Continued…


Jam of the Day:

“Down With Disease” 12.30.03 II




11.21.09 The Crown, Cincinatti, OH < Torrent

11.21.09 The Crown, Cincinatti, OH < Megaupload

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

Oops! Forgot one of the best from the Fall.  “Rock and Roll > Ghost > If I Could” and “Split” are all keepers. And the “Antelope” is short, but smoking. All of fall will be in the archive soon after the new year.

I: Wilson, NICU, Wolfman’s Brother, Ocelot, Torn and Frayed, Strange Design, Ginseng Sullivan, Albuquerque, Split Open and Melt, Dirt, Limb By Limb, Run Like an Antelope

II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > If I Could, Backwards Down the Number Line, Prince Caspian, Suzy Greenberg, 2001 >The Squirming Coil

E: Sleeping Monkey, Axilla

Source: Schoeps mk22 > KCY> Schoeps VMS02IB > Apogee Mini-Me > SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz)

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701 Responses to “Fun In the Sun – Part Deux”

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  1. sumodie Says:

    @miner: do you take notes during a show, or perhaps shortly thereafter? or do multiple re-listens guide your pen? no wrong answer, just curious.

    i dig your delicious support for 2003 & its amazing jams. i too was really into the 2003 sound & didnt let the other stuff impede my enjoyment of the sweet spots. however, i do recall feeling uncertain about phish’s future, whereas today im reveling in the hope & inspiration, much like many folks here have stated.

    i love pfunk’s music but it just didnt work out that night (& i very much appreciated the effort). ive always admired phish’s willingness to try the unthinkable on stage, even if it doesnt succeed.

    the closer we get to miami, the more unbearable the wait – ARGHHH!

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    memory and listening.

    I have never used a writing implement at a Phish show.

  3. sumodie Says:

    thats what i wouldve guessed. as ive been learning here at the blackboard, there are some very dedicated fans that go deep w/ the listening.

    In fact, ive never listened to an entire years worth of shows till 2009, which does tend to alter one’s perspective on the shows.pretty cool too, thus far.

    btw, i had alread been planning to make another pt donation, but if JD gets played, or teased or even mentioned, ill up it to full $100. stranger things have happened 🙂

    may your holidays go peacefully well!

  4. Stir it with a Ladle Says:


  5. sumodie Says:

    saw AVATAR 3D last night. one of the most beautiful films ive ever seen. james cameronn has created a true frameshift in 21st film malking. i dug the ballsy eco plot too.

    Enough blathering -just go see for yourself!

  6. gratefulcub Says:

    Only PH Sand??? Really??

    I had no idea. Foggy memory I guess, but I didn’t remember Sand being all pre and no post hiatus.

    (Not questioning you, I am 100% sure you are correct, I am just shocked)

    1 Post breakup, right?

  7. sumodie Says:

    omly 1 sand in all of 2.0 caugh me by surprise as well.

    another random tidbit: there was never a fluff played @ msg till this year.

  8. albert walker Says:

    don’t sleep on that Cinci Wolfman’s

    I know we’ve grown pretty accustomed to these little 9-10 minute ragers
    but I feel this one is one of the best

    the way these have evolved to harder, more roots funk from the “cowfunk” days of old is a beautiful thing

    the hard, crispy clav playing by Page has def pushed this song in a real slick direction in 2009

    maybe another 2nd set blow up in Miami is due?

    I’m thinking Miami Sand is guaranteed
    little reference to the 2003 run

  9. KWL Says:

    really have to tip my hat to you this morning Miner. Just a great, great write-up!!

  10. albert walker Says:

    the ups and downs of the 4 night stand
    Miner’s write up really does nail the roller coaster ride that was 2003 Miami
    I’ve only listened to it the last couple of days and was not there but what he is describing def comes through on the tapes

    really the only way to see shows
    settle in and enjoy the ride
    seeing how relaxed the boys seemed at RR i think they dig the longer rusn also
    no travelling, just dig in and play

    seeing what

  11. Little Buddy Says:

    Before I respond to Miner’s post, let me just say that I’m going to be offline for a few days while we travel to see the wife’s parents in Florida. I’m going to stay away from the computer and TV as much as possible while I’m down there. I’m heading back to NY on Monday while wifey stays in FL for the shows. I just want to wish everyone a very happy and safe holiday season. Safe travels to Florida for all who are going down there. I am very thankful for this community that Mr. Miner has built for all of us. The PT community has become a rather large part of my life and I learn a lot from all of you. Take it easy, fellas. MUCH LOVE!

    Another great write-up Mr. Miner. Wow! The 29th was really great. I remember being completely floored by the Piper opener. I wasn’t ready for it; I don’t think anyone was. The hose came out and almost blew me up against the back wall of the arena. It was almost too much for me that early in the show, but wow – what a way to open.

    The P-funk sit in was ridiculous. It was cringe worthy, unfortunately. My wife and I had made our way behind the stage at that point and we had a good view of all the weirdness (since the arena was half-empty we got right down front behind the stage).

  12. gratefulcub Says:

    Wolfman’s might be my favorite 3.0 song. I have loved the “more roots funk” version

  13. BTB Says:

    I’d take P-funk over a miami NYE run sit-in of Enrique Iglesias anyday!

    Funny how sit-ins with Phish and Phish band member sit-ins with other bands always seem so controversial. People “get robbed” of twenty minutes of Phish.

    I get it though, you’re all set in PH mode and then Bam! No Phish for you!

  14. notkuroda Says:

    I think one of the reasons I had a bit of a disconnect with Phish post-97(besides just not seeing many shows) is that I didn’t have the patience to really catch these “diamonds in the rough” like Miner describes. I can only hear so many trainwrecks before I just tune out, and I’m not on the same ride the band is on. I really enjoy reading these entries because it gives me the opportunity to try them out, at home, without a the pressure of a roadtrip standing between me and the music. So thank you Mr. Miner

  15. bhizzle Says:

    @ sumodie.. I agree with the Avatar 3D. I saw it Saturday. I even had my “3D goggles” on before I left for the theatre. However, sometimes I felt like the glasses weren’t doing much. Maybe it was due to my pre-game? I try not to be a softy, but I must admit my eyes started to swell at a point or two. Then again there was a part or two where I thought the lead was getting corny. I was surprised at the length of the film. I didn’t feel like it was that long. Overall two thumbs up.

  16. albert walker Says:

    after hearing the P-funk sit in
    and seeing them live several times in the 90’s

    may have been better off with a Enrique Iglesias sit-in BTB

    that P-Funk shit was ROUGH to say the least

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    With all the p-funk sit – in bashing I want to throw out there that there actually is some pretty cool and inspired playing mixed into the p-funk ranting. Around 8 minutes or so they enter this really cool little thing. Kind of reminds me of a pigpen ranting lovelight, where the band tries to keep up with the wacky things the front man is going on about. In the moment the spectacle must have been cool, and it certainly doesn’t sound like Trey thought it was a waste of time, with all his “see that was better than fishman singing ‘touch me'” ranting..

  18. chefbradford Says:

    AW — the late 2nd set Wolfman’s from Albany 2 is a short, raging funk-beast, it’s perfect

    I was curious about Avatar (though I doubt it’s in 3D around here), I may have to check it out

    Mr Miner, another great post, I need to dig up some good ’03 AUDs; most of the few that I have are of terrible quality

    Catch you all later, doin’ a double at work today

    To any of you on the go, safe travels for the holidays!

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    actually it’s more like 9:30 that it starts on the little rising jam I was thinking of ..

    but yeah, every time they hit a cool groove, it falls apart shortly thereafter

  20. BTB Says:

    The only disc I purchased off live-phish for the Miami run was the P-Funk Show. I fell for the the “had to hear what it sounded like”

    Which is weird b/c my sister has some land .5 miles away from Nelson Ledges, OH (hipster music venue in Ohio) and P-Funk plays there 1 or 2 a year and I never go out of my way to see them.

    I’m a re-tard (say it like the hangover).

    I wouldn’t mind some old cuban-afro legend sitting in w/ Phish in Miami.

    I could use a Set II J-Lo “just jenny from the block” cover though. That would be some serious face melting action.

  21. c0wfunk Says:

    the peak in the section around 13 minutes is pretty cool too.

    I realized I’m just being contrary here though …

    the sand -> shafty is very well executed and I too was surprised to hear this was the only sand of phish 2. I too am expecting one next week that blows us all away .. as both a reference to the 2003 run and the beach it couldn’t miss..

  22. marcoesq Says:

    good morning, awesome piece Miner

    Wish I was going even more so now. Instead, will be driving farther north into icier climates

    Miami Sand will happen and will be a raging 20+min

  23. marcoesq Says:


    You’re coming back up north and she gets to rage miami-? good deal

  24. SillyWilly Says:

    Leave it to Mr. Miner to make the already painful knowledge that I won’t be in Miami unbearable.

    Thanks, Mr. Miner, for your writing. My understanding and appreciation of phish’s music has been deepened because of your insights. You provide me with a framework to articulate the emotion that the music stirs in me. Its almost like I can picture what your review will be while I am listening to the music.

    Anyway, Ive found a few people to commiserate and lament the fact that we arent going to be in Miami. One of these dudes was in Miami in 2003 and he had a late night sandwich and drink with Gordeaux after one of the shows. One of the coolest phish stories Ive ever heard. He said Mike was really easy to talk to. My friend plays bass and he said Mike talked to him for half an hour just about playing the bass. he said Mike also really wanted to talk about this movie The Island with Leonardo DiCaprio. Apparently, Mike and DiCaprio are buddies.

  25. Amazin1986 Says:

    @ sumodie
    fluff at MSG on 12.29.97

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