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. marcoesq Says:


    I’m gonna try man, got a lot o’ shit to finish up at work this week if I’m going to make it but we’ll see!

    Not sure if you saw my other post but if I don’t make it Sat I’ll be in Indy in April for the FInal Four

  2. marcoesq Says:


    thats awful man

    Global; warming

  3. gratefulcub Says:

    Global Climate Change = crazy ass weather

    Europe is getting pounded by snow in places that don’t get heavy snow. I only know because almost the entire weekend of Premier League action was cancelled due to snow. I have never seen that happen before.

    Watching the matches they tried to squeeze in before the snow hit was comical. You really can’t play a game in which a rolling ball is important in a snowstorm. The ball doesn’t roll.

  4. Ocelot42 Says:

    You really can’t play a game in which a rolling ball is important in a snowstorm. The ball doesn’t roll.

    No, but I bet the players were probably rolling a bit. Keeping your feet in soccer looks hard enough to do on dry grass.

  5. bhizzle Says:

    Listen up here kiddies! Tell your mamas I cook too….

    My old ladie would kill me if she saw that!

  6. msbjivein Says:

    Right On marco. Hope you can make it. If not we’ll hook up in Arpil.

  7. WHAT!WHAT! Says:

    I bet the dude who came up with the Global Warming tag is kicking himself in the ass nowadays. He’s gotta be like “Global Climate Change?!?! Dammit, that woulda covered all the bases from the get go! KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHN!!!!” he shakes fists and stares toward the sky, cue camera lift pulling upwards, cue credits……it’s a wrap people..

  8. gratefulcub Says:

    “Keeping your feet in soccer looks hard enough to do on dry grass.”

    The funny thing is watching the South American imports shut down in their stocking caps and gloves, while….

    Arshavin, brought in from Russia, started running circles around everyond else and almost single footedly took over the game.

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    I know, right?

    good call W!W!

    semantics are important…now every time there’s a snowstorm Fox News gets to go all “oh so how do you like your global warming now, ha ha” and the fact that chaotic weather is actually evidence in favor of climate change never gets mentioned…

  10. chefbradford Says:

    So I now, thanks to you guys, have this urge to add llfa to texts that I think are funny. Problem: NO ONE I know would have any idea what that meant, even if I told them the acronym. If I said it’s a Phish thing they’d prolly roll their eyes and say something like “Of course”

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    I’ve gotta ask again, is Zappa Plays Zappa actually worth $40?

    ^ unquestionanbly

  12. Ocelot42 Says:

    “single footedly”

    I have nothing that can follow that phrase. I think I’m done for the day.

  13. gratefulcub Says:

    Fox News’ opinion of facts?
    Facts are simple and facts are straight
    Facts are lazy and facts are late
    Facts all come with points of view
    Facts don’t do what I want them to
    Facts just twist the truth around
    Facts are living turned inside out
    Facts are getting the best of them

  14. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    stiiiiiiill waiting…

  15. chefbradford Says:

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Fuck Fox News

  16. BTB Says:

    Fox news is going to start running clips of frozen iguana’s in the the jungles of costa rica. I can see it now…

  17. marcoesq Says:

    @Mitch, Oc42, beep

    youze got mailz

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    yo marco, care to send that link my way too?

    b_crossen at hotmail dot com


  19. beepaphone Says:

    here, here

    Say whatever you want, to whomever you want, but if you’re going to spew bullshit, your slogan can’t be fair and balanced.

  20. beepaphone Says:

    Thanks marco

  21. marcoesq Says:

    np TIII

  22. Mitch Says:

    thanks marco!

  23. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Leo Weaver

    You have e-mail

  24. Ocelot42 Says:

    Thanks Marco!

    Hey, I consider myself pretty far to the right side of the spectrum (somewhere between Libertarian and anarcho-capitalist) and even I won’t watch Fox News. Well, I kinda avoid all TV news. Too many people with agendas trying to say they don’t have agendas. That’s why I like the internet: people are unabashedly partisan.

  25. marcoesq Says:

    email explains but work mac is giving me issues

    I’ll have rest of em in 5-10

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