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. gratefulcub Says:


    Next Mike will give away all of his muscle shirts.

  2. chefbradford Says:

    Daubs is credited in The Phish Companion as co-author of Hydrogen, and I know for a fact he played percussion at early gigs

  3. Leo Weaver Says:

    @pigsong…it’s only $29 here. I’m still not going, though I think I’d really enjoy it if I did.

  4. bhizzle Says:

    Mitch – they finally released that Phish bio?

  5. Mitch Says:

    thanks chef. my bad, was reading while baking the other day and the names were blurring.

    baking will be my new work friendly term.

  6. Mitch Says:

    yeah, came out recently and i got a 33% off borders coupon. if anyone wants it just email me. book was 18 bucks after all was said and done. in hard cover which is currently annoying me. the dust cover keeps falling off and it has such a stupid pic anyway, i just took it off. mr c was right about wanting a paperback version.

  7. bhizzle Says:

    the old lady and I call it “doing the laundry”. we have children so we typ. puff in the basement where the washer/dryer are located.

  8. Mitch Says:

    id think the basement would hold the smell. do you have doors that open down there?

    bhizzles kid is at school talking about how much his dad loves to do the laundry. he soon becomes the envy of every mom in the kids class.

  9. chefbradford Says:

    It’s all good. I don’t know about the rest of that interview/story though. Sounds like he was heavily into drugs and alcahol, and that + 25 years can mess with a mind

  10. Lycanthropist Says:

    not a huge sports fan, but not seeing how anyone can deny MJ’s greatness

  11. Mitch Says:

    p.s. to the ladies on the board, my post wasnt trying to be sexist. just going along with the social connotations of laundry in our society. i’m actually the one in our place that does laundry. and you can bet your ass i’m “doing laundry” while doing the laundry.

  12. BigNasty Says:

    ^^^”Cities” in Madison WI:

    It’s my vid 😉

  13. BTB Says:

    ^ nice dude. Mike playing with Trey when he’s 80.

    How do you guys get such clear video? We’ve come a long way since the funniest home video days.

  14. Mitch Says:

    that video is BIG NASTY!

  15. BigNasty Says:

    I have a Canon G9 camera….12 MP with all the power of a DSLR in a smaller body…fits into my pocket. Shoots HD video as well. The Mike show was really loud and kinda blew out the camera mic.

    I shoot a lot of pictures at shows, In fact I threw a few Miami shots on the Miner Facebook page the other day.

    The problem with shooting video and photos at shows is being forced to stand still, waiting for the shot etc. It can get in the way of the flow.

    I swear someday I will leave my camera at home….yeah right.

  16. marcoesq Says:

    ^Nice vid

    Love Gordo doing the “Cactus bounce”

  17. msbjivein Says:

    Marco, You gonna make it to the game Saturday??????

  18. Boris Says:

    holy crap i didn’t know mike covered 15 step and god put a smile on my face


  19. Brimley Says:

    Isn’t it NYE ’95 that they drop “old runaway Daubs” into the Jim….

  20. chefbradford Says:

    Brimley- yep

  21. JMelby Says:

    ^ Yes

  22. chefbradford Says:

    So we’re having a record cold streak here in Louisiana, and now apparently much of the town is shutting down because some important water lines have essentially exploded.

    University, which just got back from break, had to close

    Even Wal-Mart is closing

  23. Lycanthropist Says:

    daaamn chef!

  24. msbjivein Says:

    Damn!!!! That Sucks Chef!

  25. chefbradford Says:

    We should be fine out here, couple miles from town. Plus, I grew up in TN, I know to leave the water dripping when it gets cold 🙂

    Unfortunately, the house I’m renting has a sprinkler in the front yard that gets more of the driveway than the lawn, so the last couple of days I’ve had to drive through the yard and into the neighbor’s driveway.

Leave a Reply