The Man of Miami

12.30.09 (S.Williams)

Phish’s greatness emerges when the musical spotlight shines not on one band member, but the group as a whole. When Phish engages in top-notch improv, as in Miami, the notion of naming an “MVP” of the run seems absurd. Any musical heights reached directly results from the virtuoso mixture of four, rather than one all-star performer. The old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts has never rang more true than with Phish. That being said, Mike Gordon annihilated Miami like a like a bass-driven assassin, owning his instrument in a display likening a musical Harlem Globetrotter. While leading most jams of the weekend, Mike cast down bass line after mind-expanding bass line, defined by his one-of-a-kind phrasing and unparalleled fluidity. From nuanced effects to ludicrous runs up and down the fretboard, Mike’s mastery jumped from the stage in Miami, and continues to surface with every shows’ re-listen.

12.28.09 (S.Williams)

When Phish decided to reunite, Mike returned to the band in the best musical shape of all. Hot off two acclaimed tours with The Mike Gordon Band, and having just scribed his first solo rock album, The Green Sparrow, Gordon came back to Phish already thumping. (His only other solo project was 2003’s Inside In, the soundtrack to his film “Outside Out,” with a host of guest musicians.) Gordon dedicated himself to his solo project, becoming a band leader for the first time, while playing his originals as well as an eclectic array of covers. Far more active than Trey, Page or Fish in 2oo8, Mike didn’t need the same adjustment period as the rest of the band.

12.30.09 (S.Williams)

But over the year of playing together, not only did Phish regain their band-wide communication skills, but Gordon grew from a beast into a musician that now has his way with his instrument like Michael Jordan crossing over Craig Ehlo. His playing steadily improved from summer to fall, and peaked over New Year’s Run in a superlative bass expose. Forging transcendent pathways in “Tweezer,” “Back on the Train,” Ghost,” and “Piper,” Mike left his mark on each of the weekends most successful jams. But not only did he guide the band through the astral plane, he also peppered their compositions and simpler songs with unique, ever-changing phrases in a non-stop display of creativity. Hell, he even improvised bass fills during “Auld Lang Syne!” All weekend long, Mike launched a personal, bass-led jihad on Vice City, romping around the neon-purple jungle as if a musical King Kong.

Throughout the run, Mike and Fish seemed very much on the same page, and when Phish is in the pocket, things begin to happen. Anchoring arena-sized grooves with a flair for the dramatic, Mike joined Fishman with diverse playing, ranging from chunky and buttery grooves to driving, jazzy and melodic patterns; always hitting that least-expected note to push the band exactly where they needed to go. While all four band members brought their A-game to Florida, Gordon shone with supreme originality and subconscious determination. Mike once described his ideal on-stage mind state, in quintessential Gordeaux fashion, as “half awake and half dreaming.” One can only assume he stood in between worlds for the duration of Miami’s four nights.

12.30.09 (S.WIlliams)

The greatest side effect of Mike’s passionate playing is how it pushes Trey’s imagination. Intertwining ideas in intricate musical passages throughout the run, the duo’s interplay provided the foundation for much of the band’s holiday improv. The greatest Phish jams tend to arise when Trey and Mike are locked in, perfectly complementing each other every step of the way, and this happened more than a few times in Miami. Beyond the weekend’s open-ended excursions, check out “Reba,” “Stash,” “Hood,” “Bowie,” “Slave,” or “Ocelot” for top-notch examples of two minds working as one.

Owning Miami like Tony Montana at the peak of his empire, Mike sat atop Little Cuba in a plush musical throne. With the band also atop of their game, the most engaging nights of the year seemed to materialize with relative ease and a whole lot of fun. But spinning these shows over and over again, new bass lines continue to emerge; the idiosyncratic building blocks of an unforgettable weekend.

12.30.09 (Photo: Shawn Williams)


Jam of the Day:

2001 > Slave” 12.29 II


The exclamation point on a phenomenal set.



…Will return tomorrow. Drop any requests that are not already in the audio archive into today’s comment thread or in an email to In addition, the fall and New Year’s shows, as well as some ’03 and ’04 – graciously uploaded by reader, Jon Gollatz – will be added to the archive within the next little bit. Cheers. Miner


12.30.03 (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

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334 Responses to “The Man of Miami”

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  1. Baxter Says:

    I love Mike. Is he planning any solo stuff soon? I would love to check him out again with his band (and Billy K.!) Thanx for the stuff, Miner!

  2. Kenny Powers Says:

    “top-botch improv”


  3. Kenny Powers Says:

    “like Michael Jordan crossing over Craig Ehlo”

    double llfa

  4. JerZ Says:

    “owning Miami like Tony Montana”- classic

  5. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I believe a pretty good case can be made for Mike to be the 2009 overall MVP.

  6. nonoyolker Says:

    “bass-led jihad on Vice City” – wow guy, A game.

    Mike is 2009 MVP, no question.

  7. marcoesq Says:

    Good morning all, haven’t even read the post but first just wanted to say…

    GO RAVENS!!!

  8. butter Says:

    Whasup everybody?

    chillin in Turks and Caicos to decompress from Jamcruise

    and the madness that was Miami Phish

    this year getting on the boat after a 4 night Phish run was brutal

    i felt like i usually do getting off the boat when i boarded Jamcruise

  9. ATL 007 Says:

    Don’t forget Mike also got ripped for this tour . Gun Show…pumpin iron…

    Thankfully we can make a case for each member being the MVP of 09. Thats amazing to me !

  10. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Marco – There was a game yesterday. Too bad nobody let the Pats know. My squad played awful. Nice win though, hope you crush indy.

    Anyone catch the end of the GB/Cards game. Wow… Finkle-esque kick gets redeemed after acrobatic D following lost coin toss. At least one game was entertaining this weekend.

    @ Butter – way to stretch out the vacay pal. Hope you are living it up.

  11. punkmug Says:

    My request for the Audio Archive is the show with my all time favorite Reba: 1995.10.21 Lincoln, NE. I was looking for it in the Audio Archive yesterday and was completely shocked it was not in there. Make it happen!

  12. Kenny Powers Says:

    @ punkmug you probs know this but that show is available as a LivePhish SBD download.

  13. gratefulcub Says:

    MSG II: I, although I learned later that I am in a small minority, thought the first set of MSG2 was the worst set of Phish I heard in 09 (I only saw 8 shows, but it was the 16th best set).

    Set 2 that night: I truly thought that Mike knew it was a bad set, and he came out in the second determined to single handedly save the evening. I have never had the honor of being in the building when Mike was better. I don’t know if I have ever seen any musician better than Mike for that hour and a half.

    Clear MVP of 2009. At least Most Improved Player.

    Can we say without question that Mike is better than he has ever been?

  14. kenny powers Says:

    @ punkmug – i may have an aud of that show (i’m at work and can’t check). if i do i could upload it to my Megaupload acct and forward you the link. if you’re interested email me at digs5446 at gmail.

  15. punkmug Says:

    KP. I do, but a nice AUD should be available right? I’m just sayin since it’s such an all time classic show…

    Plus with the goofy publishing rights for the LP release, the only way to get the entire show from LP is to purchase the actual cds. All the download options are only partial shows.

  16. st8 of mind Says:

    Safe to say that Mike was MVP of the decade!

  17. Neemor Says:

    “All weekend long, Mike launched a personal, bass-led jihad on Vice City, romping around the neon-purple jungle as if a musical King Kong.”
    That’s right, Miner.

    Mike was MVP, claimed his title after Fall tour – specifically Portland – the rest was simply a formality.

    Morning all.
    Mike is great.

  18. bhizzle Says:

    I definitely hope Mike does some more touring with his band. Getting BASSED this past year was one of the best things ever.

    I would also like to see Page solo. I caught one of the first Vida Blue stops, but would like to see him perform some of his more recent solo material.

    I would like to stress that I would NEVER again like to go see another Pork Tornado gig though. Definitely would go see Jon with JMP tho!

    Unfortunately Trey’s tour is outside my travel range or I feel like it is. I must be getting old cuz a drive from the ROC to Philly was never a problem before.

  19. Neemor Says:

    Thank you Jon and Wendy.
    Way to chip in!

  20. Neemor Says:

    Which is worse, Amfibian or Pork Tornado?

  21. bhizzle Says:

    Never seen Amfibian (Tom’s band?), but would bank on Pork Tonado beating them hands down. I tell you I was scared at that gig.

  22. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    as for Archive recs, I would say The Bomb Factory show (5.7.94) could use a crispy AUD if there’s one out there, though I realize this is a livephish release as well.

  23. kenny powers Says:

    @ punkmug, true. forgot about the copyright restrictions on digital downloads…poop.

  24. Lycanthropist Says:

    good morning all.

    All hail Mike G, for he truly pulled Phish up by the bootstraps and made it happen! He got Fishman back in the pocket, he got Trey back in the creative flow, and hes got Page’s back.

    Miner, superb write up today.

  25. Panda Says:

    Dont forgot this all started on the 28th with the MIkesasupa Policeman!

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