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”

  1. gratefulcub Says:

    Miner: Thanks for Sucka Punched!

    It’s fun having great jams without having to hear the same songs repeatedly. 11.26.97 Zero>2001>Cities may be a top 10 phish segment.

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    11.26.97 Zero>2001>Cities may be a top 10 phish segment.

    ^^ love it. def top 10 of Fall 97 🙂

  3. jay Says:

    “Global Climate Change” is the Republican spin on global warming. Climate change sound innocuous and non-threatening. Should have said Global Climate Pandemic!!!! 🙂

  4. BTB Says:

    If people step back and take a look at cable news objectively, MSNBC is just as liberal as FOX is conservative. But you usually can’t make liberals acknowledge that b/c it’s the “truth” to them. Whereas conservatives are kind of proud that Fox is conservative. Just something I’ve noticed.

    I used to watch them both all the time and then I gave up. I only read the wall street journal (surprisingly liberal) and only certain columnists when it comes to opinions (both sides).

  5. BTB Says:

    Agreed. Pandemic scares everybody.

    Every time that came accross CNBC at work we would yell, “Pandemic” all at once. After a while, you realize it’s all bullshit.

    Unless we all get the Panda flu…

  6. Jkzen Says:

    Kinda off topic here, but I was driving my 4 year old son to preschool this morning and we were listening to Stash (1994/06/22) and he said “I like this song most because it starts out and I get really scared but then there is a big splash and everyone claps and we are happy” Pretty much nailed it.

  7. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    that’s awesome. I scared the crap out of my 3 year old nephew with What’s the Use? last week. He kept running around asking where the “dinosaurs” were.

  8. halcyon Says:

    @ BTB…..there is bias in all media unfortunately….The only news I will watch is ESPN, the local news (rarely), and nowadays read the articles that I find interesting …

    Now that Palin is on Fox I will be watching less news on TV.

  9. Mitch Says:

    !!!!!! and my friend still has residency in jersey!!

  10. BTB Says:

    ESPN is all hype!!

    4 months of NFL Football Coverage
    8 months of Brett Favre Coverage

    Palin is on Fox? Woah…I’m happy to be out of the loop.

  11. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    halcyon, hate to tell you, but espn is just as biased as any other news outlet. problems arise when you stand to make advertising money off of the potential story lines you create with your “news” programs.

  12. Mitch Says:

    “I like this song most because it starts out and I get really scared but then there is a big splash and everyone claps and we are happy”

    :starts slow clap>standing ovation:

  13. Mitch Says:

    type III,
    after the other night of your debauchery, i’m surprised you didnt ask where the dinosaurs were. he planted seeds for future trips to reference back on.

  14. BTB Says:

    Is one of the chronic illnesses Phish depravity?

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    hehehehe my boy used to fall asleep to What’s The Use? – it’s was one of our go to lullaby songs

    Stash is his favorite, he sings the “whoooaaah-ah-o-o, whoooaaah-ah-o-o, whoooaaah-ah-o-o, o” part all the time…


    ‘course msnbc is biased

    all media is biased, some more obviously than others…Fox is perhaps almost less harmful because they are so biased, it’s strictly preaching to the choir now…

    TV news is usually just biased in the pro-corporate-capitalism direction…since I believe that global corporations are inherently evil and dangerous to the future of our species, I hate them all…

    however in any case the few real spats on this board have been politics related so perhaps we should table the topic.

  16. jay Says:

    Glen Beck is an actor. Check out old re-runs of Cheers and look at the customers at the bar. He was usually one of them. He also had one of those “Crazy Guys in the Morning” radio shows. Those clowns on Fox news are as far from broadcast journalists as you can get. Just saying.

  17. gratefulcub Says:

    What C said. new topic.

    How about religion?

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah that Stash kid quote is amazing, really, considering that’s the intended dynamic of the song, usually

    he really understood it

    perceptive kid

  19. EL Duderino Says:

    BBC America is the only way to go…back in the day CNN was a good choice.

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    hellz yeah espn is biased

    The Trail Blazers are redefining the term “injury ravaged” this year to an astonishing degree but are 1 game out in their division and have one of the best records in the league when playing against other top teams, but you’d never know it from ESPN. How is that not one of the most compelling stories in the first half of the season? Hollinger gives a little love now and again…they hang in the top 10 rankings wise…but no real coverage or interest.

    Kobe, LeBron, the Chris Bosh sweepstakes, can KG’s knees hold up for another playoff run (hint: no), that’s basically it, NBA story wise….

  21. BTB Says:

    18th century male fashion? Pros, Cons, or viewpoints? Discuss.

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    BBC America is real interesting

    if you’ve never done it, pick a story and read/watch every bit of the coverage in a few major outlets: Fox, CNN, MSNBC, WSJ, NPR, and then BBC America. If you really have balls, go find the coverage in other foreign media, such as the english Al-Jazeera.

    It’s pretty interesting, and sometimes you can triangulate towards the truth.

    Usually it just shocks your brain though.


  23. halcyon Says:

    type 3….my espn….I meant Sportscenter to catch up on the daily scores….I agree with you.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    I am pro-wig but anti-waistcoast, and undecided on shirt ruffles.

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    well, BTB, are we talking cravats and codpieces or frilly collars and powdered wigs? I can talk about either genre pretty well.

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