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. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Adub, íFeliz Cumpleaños!

    Enjoy your day, hombre.

    Les deseo un bien feliz navidad al todos!

  2. ohhphee Says:

    Gracias, Pham!

  3. c0wfunk Says:

    regarding wives – met mine at hampton 10 years ago! 🙂 I say if you can meet a girl at phish, and she’s a good one, it’s the only way to go. None of that arguing about tour, except – how can we both possibly afford to do this?

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    ok so i couldnt stay away that long…

    @Leo, thanks for the advice. Ill be getting that book for sure. I usually get some barnes and noble gift certificates for christmas so Ill be able to buy some books.

    Merry Christmas eve! to everyone checking in

  5. Leo Weaver Says:

    @cow…that’s one of the good things about a non-phan wife…my trip costs half as much as yours 😉

    no prob Silly…I’ll pimp that book as much as T3 has…got a follow up from the same author, just haven’t gotten into yet. I think you mentioned something about the interesting fact of athletes enjoying phish…the book will help you understand – it’s all about the flow…doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just that you’re in the moment or flow…and sports and phish allow for it

  6. c0wfunk Says:

    what’s the name /author of that book? Got some amazon gift cards burning a hole in my pocket..

  7. Mitch Says:

    Anyone have a Fest 8 poster they wanna sell me for $250? I finally found someone with a Camden Pollock that they will trade to me if I get a Fest 8 Pollock.

    thanks for any help. gorgemango at facemelt dot net

    …or if you just have the camden pollock, i’ll buy it straight up and avoid the middleman business.

  8. notkuroda Says:


    my buddy is in the same situation. He told the Epic that he wasn’t happy about the move, because it’s putting him a lot farther from the venue(taking it out of walking distance). They are going to try to get him into the continental if the epic doesn’t reopen. May be worth a shot, all very nice hotels

  9. Leo Weaver Says:

    For whoever it was looking for a Roggae, there’s a nice one from 9.28.99…which is a great all-around show. A lot of fun with a little bit of everything. Maybe Kenny or Flarr…your call on the best CTB being from the 9.26.99 NOLA Michael Ray show, right on. That was a great sit-in…love the mozambique!

  10. halcyon Says:

    Morning Everyone. Merry Chirstmas, and Happy Holidays. Mine will be spent working nights, followed by an early am shift. Luckily tomorrow night I will be able to hang out and enjoy. For those travelling today, travel safe. For those not travelling, enjoy your day!

    Happy B-Day AW. Have a great one.

    Felicidades a todos!

  11. notkuroda Says:

    that’s the cool thing about my arrangement, mine loves phish and live music as a whole, just doesn’t obsess about phish like I do. Makes it easier for last minute road trips like C’ville

  12. Leo Weaver Says:

    @cow…book title is Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience by (had to go grab the book so I didn’t get this wrong) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi…imagine filling in the bubbles for a standardized test…wow.

    @mitch…shoot me your addy when you get a chance…got an envelope to send you

  13. halcyon Says:

    Cowfunk…..the book is called FLOW by Mihaly something. It is a long last name. Just picked it up from the library, and its a good read.

    Funny how you mention that you did some work on homes of the super rich, and how they are as miserable as everyone else. I deal with some of those people in my line of work too, and you are right. They are as cranky and mean spirited as everyone. Definitely learned that money does not buy happiness. Their sense of entitlement is mind boggling. I often wonder where they lost their way, or if they ever had a way.

  14. Leo Weaver Says:

    @nk…that’s the setup I’d ideally have, but…guess I’ll roll with what I’ve got. consider yourself a lucky man!

  15. Leo Weaver Says:

    talk to you guys later…headed out to pick up lunch for the fam which will allow me some time and privacy to “get my eyes straight” 😉

  16. halcyon Says:

    @ Phamily…..are you in AZ? I might head down there next week and am wondering if there is any shows worth checking out.

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    thanks for the book info guys..

    my wife loves the phish, and music in general, but doesn’t obsess on nearly the level I do of course. She fills that with knitting, sewing, and all that and her phunky bitch / jam girl thing

    @notkuroda – someone else is dealing w/ the reservations so I’m just going w/ the flow on this one. There are worse things than a half hour walk thru miami after a phish show!

    @halcyon – the “problems” of the rich people I dealt with pale in comparison to the day to day things most of us deal with, but beware if you are the cause! Sometimes I wondered if they didn’t have more worries, because they had so much crap to keep track of and people trying to rob them at every turn.

    One of the richest couples I dealt with lost a bunch of money in the bernie madoff thing, and the last time I went to their house, they were trying to figure out how they could possibly keep up the life they’d been living. Honestly if they sold half of the fabrege eggs on the living room table it would probably be what I made all last year but that’s a whole different story.

  18. c0wfunk Says:

    heh checked my amazon wish list and flow was already there 🙂 musta picked it up here another day in a haze and forgot 😉

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    hah ! Looks like someone already bought it .. christmas spoiler I guess but pretty cool 🙂

  20. SillyWilly Says:

    Thanks again, Leo.

    have a good lunch.

  21. voopa Says:

    RIP James Gurley

  22. chefbradford Says:

    sumodie and Mr Miner, if you’re around right now-

    Thanks again for your incredibly kind offers to an exhausted guy you’ve never met in person last night

    Pretty much the first I’ve felt of the ‘holiday spirit’ this year

  23. sumodie Says:

    @you’re welcome, chef. Gotta inspire the maestro to keep the grill a cookin.

  24. sumodie Says:

    In the spirit of giving (and because I highly doubt I’ll give out miracles in Miami -see my earlier post on that), I’ll offer up super cheap to free Miami tickets to a ‘regular’ blackboard poster that didn’t think they could make Miami because of cash flow. Unfortunately, I can’t help out in the lodging dept. as we’re already looking cramped, and I’m flying down so ride sharing is out.

    erictmasters {AT] yahoo [dot} com

  25. chefbradford Says:

    And for what it’s worth, I’ll be making a small donation to the site later today, when I dig up my credit card. Won’t be much, but it won’t be the last one, either

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