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)

Tags: , ,

334 Responses to “The Man of Miami”

  1. gus Says:

    @mr c.

    thanks, that’s what I would have guessed. its the same with the 50 minute tweezer, from 95 maybe? meandering fits the description perfectly.

  2. Lycanthropist Says:


    not a huge fan of the Jim myself.

    I for one am a fan of focused jams.. length is good as long as it merits the length. Length for lengths sake.. well not my cup of tea.

  3. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    but meandering does not describe the 45 minute YEM from 10.31.95. length is merited there.

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah that’s dope. it has lots of phases and is very active. nothing against very extended jams if they stay interesting.

    I feel like that Jim was just something they had to get out of their system.

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    oh and THAT’S WHAT SHE oh nevermind

    anyone see that clip of Steve Carrell’s acceptance speech from whatever awards show it was last week? hi-larious, though the crowd wasn’t into it

  6. Lycanthropist Says:

    agreed ^^

  7. gus Says:

    hahha yeah that steve carrell clip was great, i wish he hadn’t told the crowd to repeat after him though, cause then it was just a jumbled mess when they tried to repeat the long ones. but it was funny, i enjoyed it.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah the crowd should have just done the “that’s what she said”s

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    Immortal Technique pwns.

    Whoever was pimping him here a couple months ago: thanks!

  10. She Divides Says:

    nice write up Miner! Mike first got me with visions of his neon yellow and green outfit when I saw the Clifford Ball DVD. I’d love it if he busts one of those old school outfits out at a show this year!

    His playing this year has really been amazing and when I’m listening to recordings I frequently find myself zoning in on just the bass and getting even more obsessed with what he is able to do! I didn’t make his solo tour this year but heard very good things about it.

    Speaking of solo tours I am looking forward to Trey’s show at the 9:30 Club on 2/9. I caught the trio some years ago and enjoyed it.

    @Mitch…no offense taken 🙂 I support equal opportunity laundry responsibilities!

  11. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    anybody hear any of the new Blakroc album? It’s the two guys from the Black Keys with a variety of worthwhile MCs. No sampling, all live in studio.

    Mos Def
    jim Jones
    Nicole Wray
    Pharoahe Monch
    Billy Danze
    Studio G

    I’ve only heard a couple of tracks, but I like it thus far.

  12. BTB Says:

    Poll at

    The most popular thread in the forum asks for Phish’s “worst song”. These 7 were named at least 3 times. Which is YOUR least favorite?

    Big Black Furry Creature from Mars
    Dinner and a Movie
    Jennifer Dances
    Prince Caspian
    Time Turns Elastic
    Windora Bug

    They throw shame at BBFCFM and Dinner & Movie???? WTF???

  13. Lycanthropist Says:

    didnt somebody here make a plug-in for ITunes to play FLACs?

  14. Uncle Ebeneezer Says:

    does anyone remember the date when Trey kept saying “Cactus” during Sanity?

  15. Lycanthropist Says:

    im surprised Foam is on the list as well

  16. Uncle Ebeneezer Says:

    @Type III…that Blakroc is serious business.

  17. BrandonKayda Says:

    Dinner and A Movie

    Awesome songs


    Can be very good depending on placement

    Jennifer Dances:

    Don’t like the song, needs a little less salt.

    Windora Bug:

    Haven’t heard it, can’t judge

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Lycan, I think it was Mitch

    Windora Bug is a Fat Tony song first to me. Phish “covered” this Trey Band tune, imho.

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    Mitch has a script for taking FLAC all the way into iTunes on a Mac. Not playing them directly.

    @Type III – have not heard it yet but have heard that it’s great

    Foam, Dinner and a Movie are awesome…

    …and BBFCFM just fucking killed and ate whatever your favorite song is, so whatever

  20. BrandonKayda Says:

    HORRIBLE pun in my post

    Just so you know

  21. joe Says:

    need to check out that blacroc stuff. Been on an old school kick lately. Trying to clense my pallet of phish for a little bit after a super intensive 2009.

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    “The Poverty of Philosophy” is the dopest spoken-word track I have heard in many a moon

    straight truth preachin’

  23. sumodie Says:

    fans who hate on bbfcfm are def missing the point of that tune, thereby justifying its existence even more.

  24. flarrdogg Says:

    Has anyone heard anything about Phish playing Jazzfest this year? I’ve recieved a few emails from friends that live down there saying as much and is reporting a major artist addition for the first weekend….

    I was there in ’96 when they played and later moved down there. By all accounts it didn’t go real well with the locals (they weren’t ready for us!), so Phish being asked back would be a big surprise to me.

    Anyone confirm or deny?

  25. Joe Says:

    new avatar didn’t come out as plan. Funny picture for those nba fans out there.

Leave a Reply