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”

  1. HarryHood Says:

    @ Willy

    Not taken as pretentious at all. I actually think that’s a very mature way to look at things, especially at 22. Wise words from a young mind.

  2. SillyWilly Says:

    thanks, Hood.

    whenever i have the confidence and go ahead and post my thoughts on things like that the feedback i get helps me gauge where im at.

  3. ohhphee Says:

    First of all-I’ve yet to see a pretentious post from you, so don’t worry about that.
    As far as the money thing goes, I often don’t have much money, but I enjoy what I do for a living, and I have a beautiful, thoughtful wife, good friends, and a family that loves me. Good enough for me. Oh-and I have Phish again! Things could be a lot worse.
    And of course you know what it’s like to get older. You’ve made it this far, haven’t you?

  4. albert walker Says:

    I work with cats that all played the game right
    went to the right private high schools
    on to ivy league
    and are now in their early 30’s making a lot of money and some could even retire soon

    I made every wrong decision in my life and spent most of my 20’s travelling around the country partying, hearing music and meeting peeps from all walks of life

    we get this arguments over who made the right decision all the time

    the grass is def always greener on the other side

    learning to play the game is very important thing to know at that age
    it will make your life a lot easier in the long run

  5. notkuroda Says:

    so I’m curious, what are your predictions on when the bomb drops in Miami? My money’s on 12/30 but lets hear some calls!

  6. Neemor Says:

    Silly, if I was there at 22, I probably would be in a better spot than I am at 32.
    Saying that, I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

    Nothing like the new tradition of your co-workers getting drunk at work with the blessing of the bosses when trying to maintain a clean and sober lifestyle.
    I know it shouldn’t bother me but….time to call the sponsor….somehow doesn’t seem fair.
    I suppose that I’ve had my fun with those recreational implements, though…
    The fact that I’m working right now is not sitting well in my craw, if you couldn’t tell.
    As much as I try to maintain the spirit….

    Never easy during this time of year.

  7. SillyWilly Says:

    Thanks, ohhphee and aw

    those thoughts really help me out. ive definitely felt the urge to wander, to get out and roam a little bit.

    ive made a good friend at law school whos five or six years older than me and she went out on tour a couple times and hitchhiked around.

    she reassures me all the time that im doing the right thing, but sometimes i feel like i just gotta learn for myself a little.

    any way, i can add your opinions to the list that helps me stay the course ive chosen, so thank you very much.

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    Neemor, thank you, too.

    we really all help eachother out, and thats really cool

  9. ohhphee Says:

    You know the mantra-One Day at a Time. That goes for all of us, clean or not. No use living in a future that doesn’t exist yet or a past that is no more. Ok. Enough from me on that.

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I’m gonna say the bomb gets dropped on 12/31. why not? Seems that new years eve never actually gets the “treatment”. Now with band clean and sober, i say they kick it down on New Years hard.

  11. notkuroda Says:

    I work at a brokerage firm, get paid really well, have great benefits for my family. I get a lot of time off and it supports my lifestyle well.
    Problem is I hate it. Did I make the right decisions in life? Maybe, but I think the line between right and wrong blur the older I get. Everyone tells you how you should live, grow up, get a house. But then you look at how fucked up this world is, and you wonder why it’s the “right thing” to join the herd. Honestly, if it weren’t my kids, I’d take a 50% pay cut, move to Oregon and do something I enjoy

  12. Corey Says:

    Happy Birthday, Mr. Walker (read that like you’re singing Harry Hood)

    I’ll join you with the birthday celebration next Monday — that’s my birthday. Funny, I always loved having my bday over the vacation, in between Christmas and NYE. Never saw it as a bad thing. Now, turning 36, being less than 1/2 way to 70…now that’s depressing.

    At least I’ll (hopefully) get to listen to a stream of PHiSH that day.
    Haven’t been to see them on my birthday since the great 1996 holiday run. Those were great shows.

  13. ohhphee Says:

    notkuroda, do you mean the FMS bomb….or just THE bomb?

  14. SillyWilly Says:

    its never long til the face-melting-sparkle makes its appearance. and i love it.

    im gonna go with 11-29.


    because no one’s picking it to be big.

  15. notkuroda Says:

    THE bomb, the show that makes the run, the one that leaves you slackjawed and makes 12/30/97 look like 12:30 at applebees

  16. Lycanthropist Says:

    good morning all

    happy holidays to those who celebrate them!

    whats our topic of discussion this morning?

  17. SillyWilly Says:

    woops. 12-29. wheres my head?

    if they top 12-30 ill streak down state street in madison. just sayin.

    lycan, we’re trying to pick when the bomb will be dropped.

  18. notkuroda Says:

    Corey, my last nye run was 96 too. I really had a rough time over those 4 days, and I honestly thought 12/31 was the worst show I’ve ever seen. May have been my state of mind. Hoping this one makes up for it
    And SillyWilly I’m in the front row for 12/29 so I hope you’re right

  19. albert walker Says:


    I’m going set II 12/28

    maybe I’m just hoping
    but I think after a sterotypical 2009 1st set
    Trey is going to pop that ticket market for the 29th up from $0 by giving up the first REAL 2nd set of 2009

    get the hype machine rolling for the next 4 nights

    I love 4 night runs so much
    really the only way to see shows
    anything less than 3 sucks but 4 fuckin perfect

  20. SillyWilly Says:

    i meant if they top 12-30-97. im struggling on the typing today.

  21. albert walker Says:

    12/31/96 was kind of weak

    I thought the 2 in Philly 12/28, 12/29 and the night before in Boston had some pretty rippin moments though

  22. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeah i think i would have to go with either 12/28 or 12/29

    new years will be a big fun party show, but one of those first two are gonna open up big time

  23. ohhphee Says:


    12/31, so as not to leave pholks with a letdown show afterward.

    Morning Lycan, and a Happy Holidays to you, too.

    Silk nog, birthdays, getting older, having money, not having money, drinking at work, not drinking at work, and BOMBS, are the topics so far.

  24. albert walker Says:

    I did the 94, 95, and 96 runs so this is actually my first new year’s in a long, long time

    I was at Cypress but don’t count it
    that shit is beyond new years run
    a world of its own

  25. notkuroda Says:

    I thought 12/29/96 set II was fire. Incredible Bowie, Gin, YEM, Harpua

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