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. Brimley Says:

    Listening back to pre-hiatus, Mike has always been a great player, but I agree with Miner that his playing is so much more profound now…The one thing about Lesh to me that seperated him was his unique phrasing and at times he almost sounded like another rhythm player….Mike has stepped his game up to that point in my opinion now

  2. Lycanthropist Says:

    I think I need another listen or two before I go full out on this..

    But at the current time, I think it is a wrong not to include the 28th with the rest of the run in talking about Miami’s greatness.

    The Stash was killer, and the Makisupa > Hood is pretty damn playful. I think it was a great way to kick off the weekend, with solid rippin songs all night. I mean, maybe it didn’t have quite the open jamming as the rest of the nights, but it was still a more than average Phish show, chock full of highlights.

  3. nonoyolker Says:

    re: Amphibian – I never caught them live, but i came across the album ‘Amphibian Tales’ about a year ago and gave it a spin. There is some decent material on that disc. A nice early version of the track ‘Nothing’ with a female singer. A few other nice gems too. All and all, not bad.
    Pork Tornado is still bizarre live…

  4. Brimley Says:

    Oh, I suppose if you have a crisp copy of 9/22/00 Allstate i’d probably download it immediately….Last great show in my opinion

  5. Neemor Says:

    Lycan, totally agree.
    The Makisupa raised it back to a must-hear song.
    There was good stuff to be found during every show so it needs to be heard to complete the saga, the ‘coming-of-age story, that is Phish 2009!

  6. Dr. Pronoia Says:

    Yup, Mike rules.

    The following is my vote for DofD tomorrow. In light of the recent boogielope, this show contains a meatstickelope, as well as a crazy first set:

    9/22/00 Allstate Center, Chicago, IL –

    I: Down With Disease, Meat > Poor Heart > Wilson > Slave To The Traffic Light, Dog Stole Things, Bathtub Gin, Heavy Things, You Enjoy Myself

    II: Tube, Reba, Ghost, The Wedge, When The Circus Comes, Meatstick*, Antelope**

    E: Bold As Love

    * w/ Japanese translation
    ** w/ Meatstick teases

  7. Dr. Pronoia Says:

    Holy Crap Brimley, I hadn’t seen your post when I was writing mine.

    Great minds huh?

  8. Brimley Says:

    Hilarious..! That show has fantastic versions of DWD,Gin,YEM,Tube,Reba,Ghost, and the Meatstick>Antelope is the shizzle

  9. Paul Says:

    Well said mr. Miner. Mike kicked some serious ass this year and truly shone throughout the nye run. So many instances where he stepped out to lead. A great instance was that tweezer, where he INSTANTLY locked on to that theme right when the jam started, providing the foundation for that masterpiece of a jam. In a somewhat related note, I’ve been spinning the 6/11/94 show recently and during the yem, he just gets filthy. He provides such a low, chugging groove at the onset of the jam and slaughters the b&d segment. Definitely puts that yem up there as one of my favorites. If y’all haven’t heard it, I would check that gem out.

    I would also be psyched for an aud to the bomb factory tweezerfest show to pop up in the archive, if it’s possible. Classic show for sure.

  10. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    great minds, sure, but “last great show” status? That’s a highly debatable designation. I can think of a few since then that I would put above that one… of course, YMMV! 😉

  11. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeah i surely wouldnt say that was the “last” great show.. definitely a good one!

  12. Brimley Says:

    Pardon…last great show before hiatus…Assuming makes an ass out of u and me…!

  13. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    ah, yes, that makes a lot more sense, Brimley!

  14. BTB Says:

    “Mike launched a personal, bass-led jihad on Vice City, romping around the neon-purple jungle as if a musical King Kong.”

    Lol dude. That’s some creativity.

    We should have a contest to see who can coin the greatest Mike/Bass Bomb analogy. Would be fun!

  15. Willowed Says:

    Mike launched a personal, bass-led jihad on Vice City

    I have an erection.

  16. bhizzle Says:

    What side projects do you feel had the most influence on Mike’s rise to bass prowess? The Duo, his honkey tonk excursion or his recent touring band?

  17. voopa Says:


  18. bhizzle Says:

    ahhhh…Kottke..thanks for reminding me Voopa. Is that your thought to my question?

  19. ma Says:

    @ lycan,

    agreed… 2nd set doesn’t need any critique…i finally, finally heard disc 2 ( mikes>light… since my buddy mislabeled it )…. don’t quite get the knocking on light that it didn’t get out there….really?

    keep in mind, it was heading to hydrogen, and to make a smooth transition, had to wind down…

    loved the first set as well….maybe sitting in the flagship had something to do with it ( in fact, i was in the same exact seats as 6 years ago )

    also, i didn’t have any travel logistics to deal with, coming from jupiter…( that’s florida pholks )

    building certainly was not 1/2 empty….all those around us were ragin’…never quite understood some of the comments….”mortuary of a set – OUCH!! “

  20. ma Says:

    sorry miner on that one, just my thoughts.

  21. BTB Says:

    Mike’s impeccably plucked five-finger-slap-to-the-spleen 5th string E-Bomb dropped on-lookers to the disco floor, unfazed by his aggressions towards mankind, the rhinestone vested Massachusetts Madman continued his uncongenial slap-happy jackhammer assault on the crowd with bobble-head mockery tiboot.

  22. ma Says:

    manteca tease…

    call it what you want, but at that point, trey can either take it down that path or not….it’s that simple, imo…

    he chose not to, when he very well could have…

  23. Leo Weaver Says:

    yes Voopa…I think maybe his collaborations with Kottke as well. They’re both very quirky and I think seeing Leo gave him confidence in his own quirkiness. And they were Leo and Mike…guitar and bass…for all intents and purposes. There’s a lot of musical space that they filled in their music…IMO filling this space and responding to Kottke’s style probably helped him develop his phrasing and style as much as anything. Man, I’d love to hear them do Access Me…

  24. Leo Weaver Says:

    nice BTB!

  25. chefbradford Says:

    Any time anyone uses the word jackhammer to describe something, I’m reminded of Hunter S Thompson.

    And sorry, but it’s too early, and it’d take too long to describe why

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