A Subtle Shift – Fall ’98

12.4.09 (W.Rogell)

After a full year of concentrating almost exclusively on collaborative band grooves, Fall ’98 represented a shift towards a new style of play for Phish. Come the end of summer and beginning of fall, the band began to infuse layered “ambient” improv into their repertoire. Moving beyond rhythmic and melodic conventions, the band engaged in selfless, amorphous jamming that resulted in many sublime musical trips over the course of this month. Without any true lead, all members pushed and pulled at the sonic brew, growing an organic musical amoeba. Representing the next evolution in Phish’s sound, Fall ’98 offered a new flavor alternative to the chewy funk of summer.

Hallowen '98 Poster

Taking no time to introduce this new musical plane, the band kicked off  fall tour with an other-worldly ambient excursion of “Reba > Walk Away” at the Greek Theatre, leaving all in wonder of what had transpired. Moving directly to Las Vegas, the band cranked out one of the defining psychedelic opuses of their career in Halloween’s third set “Wolfman’s.” While some consider this a “polarizing” version, I consider it one of the most sacred treks the band has ever taken. Diving fearlessly into the void, Phish harnessed the other side in molding one of the eeriest passages of their career. Oozing with mind-bending energy and exploration, this still holds up as the deepest dive into the occult the band has ever taken on All Hallow’s Eve.

As they continued along the path of Fall, the band consistently included this type of playing in many jams. In Denver, this sound grew out of “Frankie Sez” into “Bowie.” At UIC, this ambient style underlined the most creative and cathartic jam of the run in “AC/DC Bag.” While Grand Rapid’s “Halley’s Comet” contained passages in this vein, Greenville’s “Wolfman’s” and Hampton’s “Simple” highlighted this amoeba-like psychedelia. And in Worcester’s three-night finale, the jam between “Weekapaug” and Antelope” moved through this territory, while the “Simple” of the tour’s finale explored the dark side of this improv. Blending passages and hints of this style throughout the tour, Phish’s evolving ambient playing became more ingrained in the norm.

6.18.09 (M.Stein)

When Phish returned in ’99, they would build on this ambient style, adding thicker layers of effects and dissonance, developing their “millennial” sound that evolved throughout the year. Fall ’98 represents a moment in time when Phish dynamically navigated the musical ground between  laid-back funk of summer and the searing psychedelia that lurked around the corner, leaving a legacy of excellent exploration along the way.

Below are five jams that chronicle the evolution of Phish’s ambient style of Fall ’98:


Reba > Walk Away > Simple” 10.29 II LA, CA

Starting with the first show of tour, Phish began to explore this new style of jamming.



Wolfman’s > Piper” 10.31 III Las Vegas, NV

One of the band’s career highlights, and a journey into places unimaginable.



AC/DC Bag” 11.7 II Chicago, IL

Overshadowed in the first show of UIC’s three-night stand, this “AC/DC Bag” holds up to anything from Fall ’98.



Simple” 11.21 II Hampton, VA

A gorgeous ambient excursion with all members working in sync to form a stunning piece of music.



Simple” 11.29 II Worcester, MA

If Hampton’s “Simple” sounded like an ascension into heaven, this version depicts a descent into Hades.



Jam of the Day:

Bathtub Gin” 2.14.03 I


Phish’s “Welcome Back” jam in the first set of Winter ’03.



6.23.95 Waterloo Village, Stanhope, NJ < Torrent

6.23.95 Waterloo Village, Stanhope, NJ < Megaupload

This nugget of Summer ’95 one goes out Mr. Bishop. Phish provided an excellent two set effort after fans endured a clusterfuck of traffic to get into the venue.

I: Simple, Chalk Dust Torture, Prince Caspian, Reba, Ginseng Sullivan, Free, Taste, You Enjoy Myself

II: Runaway Jim > The Lizards, The Wedge, Run Like an Antelope, Harpua* > Jam** > Llama**, Good Times Bad Times**

E: A Day in the Life

*Unfinished; with Abba’s Waterloo
**John Popper on harmonica

Source: AKG 460b > Sony D10 Pro II

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722 Responses to “A Subtle Shift – Fall ’98”

  1. KWL Says:

    really like the idea of MSG as a cap on 09… perfectly sums up the year, great playing, a few type II jams but mostly a type I exhibition, energy through the roof. Albany & Miami will probably get more play for me, but damn, three scorchers in a row. Can’t get enough of that Light.

  2. neemor Says:

    Palmer, keep listening, this is going to get hot.

  3. KWL Says:

    how long do we have to endure that avatar, HH? 😉

  4. neemor Says:

    Seriously, the energy that happened in the Garden for that First Tube was something I may never see again and almost can’t even grasp.
    It was like Trey’s antics got literally every single person in the overstuffed room to scream as loud as possible at the same time.
    Never seen anything like it.
    Took the breath out of me.
    I remember looking over at Hood to see if he was seeing what I was seeing….with a crazy shit-eating grin plastered on our faces, you knew it was a moment…
    It was like everyone knew that Phish wasn’t going anywhere at that point and celebrated together.
    The look on stage, too, Trey’s face, Page cracking his knuckles and raising his eyebrows, Mike….well…being Mike. Crazy.

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Some old dude is getting loose in the front there. tied dye and all

  6. HarryHood Says:

    That depends on what the varmint decides in the morning

  7. KWL Says:

    that was a truly amazing moment, neemor. Made Fluffhead look like a warm up for the real deal.

    later kidz

  8. Mitch Says:

    hahahah how long do we have to put up with HH’s avatar.

    stupid ass groundhog dont tell me when to wear shorts beeyotch!!!!

  9. HarryHood Says:

    The collective energy in that room during First Tube was like nothing I’ve ever felt at a live show before.

  10. Mitch Says:


  11. Mitch Says:

    first tube was ok.

  12. Mitch Says:


  13. Mitch Says:

    hahhaa tried to see my last comment of ” 🙂 ” but it never showed.

  14. neemor Says:

    Palmer, that guy is at every show int he New Haven area, been dancing like that since I was a little guy going to shows looking at him and laughing at the silly way he danced.
    Now, he and I get down together.
    He’s a true Space Traveler.

  15. neemor Says:

    Palmer, this song is sick….

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Thats great.. alright, enough for me. good night folks. till tomorrow

  17. neemor Says:

    Zappa’s King Kong.

  18. neemor Says:

    neemor: “Palmer, this song is sick…”

    Palmer: “That’s great.”


  19. Mr. Palmer Says:

    llfa, my comment was sent before your last one. that didn’t look too good. I was out before that. funny

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    “thats great” was in re: to the space traveler friend of yours.

  21. Selector J Says:

    thanks for tuning in to those of us that tuned in 😉 (I kid Neemor.)

    seersly. hope you dug the reggae (and got well irie on the neemsbane while doing so). I appreciate your listen-nang.

    as reggae great Albert Walker might say…

  22. DS Says:

    A word of warning regarding the downloads for this excellent post: “Walk Away” from 10/29/1998 is mislabeled. The actual file to which “Walk Away” links is Wolfman’s from 7/26/1999.

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