The Island Run Revisited

Retro Island Poster

Twelve years ago today, Phish wound up The Island Tour in Providence, Rhode Island; arguably the greatest four-night run of the late-90’s. Littered with masterful improvisation that expounded on ideas and musical styles hatched during the game-changing tour of Fall ’97, Phish upped the ante over these nights, crafting eight sets of that bled with powerful, mystical music that stood apart from anything before or after. From the first note of Nassau’s “Tube” to the final note of Providence’s funkified “Cavern,” these four shows built on the band’s new musical paradigm, extending their late-’97 peak right into April of ’98.

The band had just finished a Fall Tour and New Year’s Run of legend in 1997, an era that is still revered today. Phish shows had transformed into massive dance parties, as the band refined their raw over-sized grooves of summer into addictive, dance-adelic soundscapes, reaching deep into the cosmos. During the tour, each show entered a new realm of the unknown, as any song could turn into a groove clinic at any minute. But when the band came out for the stand-alone Island Run, they evolved yet again.

After a series of prolific practice sessions in March, in which the band developed over twelve new songs, Phish channeled their own enthusiasm into a four-show run, announced within a month of the shows, themselves! It seemed that the band’s attitude matched the community’s collective head space at the time – nobody could get enough – and everyone jonesed for more Phish! Without a mail order period, and tickets sold only through Ticketmaster, things were a go.

"Reba" 4.3.98 (Unkown)

Over these four shows, which can be read about in detail in this two-part series, the band emerged with an enhanced textured style of jamming, blending layers of sonic psychedelia with their patented style of groove. When an extended “Tube” kicked off the run, it became evident Phish was as exited as anyone to be in the venue. And when they unveiled one of the run’s superb jams only songs later in a first-set “Stash,” the band pushed the pedal to the metal from the moment they turned the ignition. Phish went on to play a stretch in the second set – “Wolfman’s > Sally > Frankie Sez > Twist” – that held up to, if not surpassed, anything we’d heard recently. But all that would be blown right out of the water the next night.

The date is one of Phish lore – 4.3.98. “Roses > Piper” – the only two words necessary to reference this defining night of the band’s career, a night that nobody would ever forget. After a smoking “Mike’s Groove,” with a heaping dose of molasses-funk to open the show, capped off with a “Crosseyed” and “Mozambique”-laced “Weekapaug,” the band, again, seemed to be chomping at the bit. But when the second set finished that would turn out to be an incredible understatement. In “Roses > Piper,” one of the greatest jams of the late ’90s, Phish morphed from ferocious grooves into a psychedelic magic carpet ride of the soul. A jam that many hold sacred to this day, Phish dropped a piece of music that defied imagination, entering the very fabric of the universe. Nearly 45-minutes after the set began, Phish ended this journey into the void by transitioning into “Loving Cup,” celebrating their return to earth. And then, as fate would have it, the famed stage jumper kicked the end of the show into high-gear with the bombastic, “Carini’s Gonna Get ‘Cha!”-“Antelope,” and subsequent three-song encore of “Carini > Halley’s > Reprise.” This was pure Phish energy, and almost everyone in the building left with their jaws dragging on the floor, having experienced everything they quested for in the live experience – and the run was only half over!

"2001" 4.4.98 (Unknown)

The drive to Providence was like a dream, and before anyone knew it, Phish opened night three with a twenty-minute, exploratory “Tweezer” to match Nassau’s closing “Reprise.” The second set of April 4 stood out immediately as another frame of pure musical mastery. Highlighted by a sublime excursion of “Birds > 2001 > Brother,” Phish followed up with a second half of the set that read “Ghost > Lizards, “Bowie;” “Hood” encore. Phish was firmly in the zone, like a four-headed King Midas, they could only weave musical tales of gold over these shows. “Birds > 2001 > Brother” stood out as the other most insane segment of the weekend next to “Roses > Piper,” boasting, arguably, best-ever versions of “Birds” and “2001,” and certainly the most compelling and gorgeous music to ever stem from “Brother.” The “Ghost” and “Hood” provide two more reasons why 4.4.98 is another date that needs no introduction.

"Down With Disease" 4.5.98 (Unknown)

Finally, Phish arrived at their final two sets, twelve years ago today. Each year, one can’t help but feel the energy of these shows when the calendar turns to early April; the experiences really do live eternally inside us. Starting the show with “Oh Kee Pa > YEM,” making the run’s four openers “Tube,” “Mike’s,” “Tweezer,” and “YEM”, the band annihilated my personal favorite version of their classic. Moving from a series of subconscious grooves into a compelling guitar narrative, the band never slowed down once, a microcosm of the four-night stand. Other final-night highlights included the first set “Gin > Cities,” and the set-ending “Split.” The second set focused on more celebratory music, centering on “Disease > Caspian, Yamar,” all played to their fullest potential, and then ended with the famed transitions of “Maze > Shafty” and “Possum > Funked Out Cavern.” Nobody, including the band, wanted the run to end. Phish’s music had reached a larger-than-live status; and the band channeled the magic of the universe as proficiently as ever over April 2-5, 1998. And anyone who was there will easily attest. Leaving Providence Civic Center that night, we all knew we had witnessed four all-world nights of Phish. And we all still know it today.

Happy Island Run Anniversary!


Read Full Reviews of The Island Run: Nassau & Providence


Jam of the Day:

Oh Kee Pa > YEM” 4.5.98 II

The Island Run “YEM.”




4.5.93 HUB Ballroom, Seattle, WA < Torrent

4.5.93 HUB Ballroom, Seattle, WA < Megaupload

April '93

Let’s take it back seventeen years to the day – Spring ’93, April 5th. Enjoy!

I: Llama, It’s Ice, Fee, Maze, Fluffhead, Paul and Silas, Stash, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, David Bowie

II: Axilla, Poor Heart, Caravan, Punch You In the Eye, Tweezer, Glide, You Enjoy Myself, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin’ Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Tweezer Reprise

E: Carolina, Fire

Source: (FOB) Neumann km140 > Sonosax SX-M2 > Sony D-10 II pro (@48 kHz)


901 Responses to “The Island Run Revisited”

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  1. ChefBradford Says:

    Fantastic write-up, sir. Love the Island Run, and now I feel compelled to re-visit it! AGAIN!

  2. ChefBradford Says:

    FWIW, the Island Twist was my go-to Twist, until I listened to the Twist posted a couple days back on your Funked-out post. Hoo, I love that kind of competition!

    Doh! Fukuoka! Ahhhhh…….

    So much Phish, so little time………

  3. garretc Says:

    @Purple (from the last thread)

    Well, I have listened to 12/31/99, I forgot to mention that… But definitely no Went or 12/30/99!

  4. garretc Says:

    Nicely done Miner! Really really nice write up today… Especially nice with the shows all fresh in the memory!

    So excited to listen to 4/5 again tomorrow!

  5. Foul_Domain Says:

    Morning everybody,

    @Miner – Are you going to CMAC? I have an extra ticket with your name on it, if youre interested.

    Sec. RCE Row AAA

    ….Token of my appreciation for all you do here. Let me know, and if not, Im sure Ill find it a good home.

  6. Lycanthropist Says:

    some of my favorite shows ever

  7. pagesidehighschool Says:

    1st night providence was my first show, it was also the first show that I was shut out of. 🙁

  8. Lycanthropist Says:


  9. jdub Says:

    Happy Monday. Thanks for celebrating a momentous run Miner with an exhillarating write up. Adjectives don’t do justice. Wish I was there but once again you make me feel like I was.

  10. hoedown Says:

    Great write up Miner. Can’t wait to revisit again! Happy Monday BB 🙂

  11. AbePhroman Says:

    I just framed my Island Your poster on Saturday. It’s the shit.

  12. BTB Says:

    I’ll have 2 scrambled, dry rye, coffee and a review of the island tour.

    Top o’ the morning fellas.

  13. Willowed Says:

    For those of you who want to take off….take off but where just going to stay up here and play a bit more.
    Trey said something like this near the end of Providence night 2. May have been right before they jammed into the cavern funk..
    I need to revisit this show asap!
    I remember looking at my friend and saying….we just witnessed greatness.
    I was hoping they were going to play all night after he said that. I would have been totaly cool with it!!
    Morning folks and thank you Mr. Miner!

  14. nonoyolker Says:

    Ah, the Island Tour. Gift that keeps on giving.

    Starting my day with 4/4, set 2. I agree that Birds is in the best ever category, which begs the question of what others stand out from the flock? Quick ones that come to mind:
    8/9/98 (a short and sweet suckerpunch to the solar plexis)

    I used to rep Mansfield 8/10/04, but relistened recently and the first 10-ish min are kinda sloppy. Peak jam at the end is pretty hot though

    Sunny and summery in the Bean. Sox beat the Yanks opening night. Restful weekend. Life is good.

  15. fat bastard Says:

    well i didnt have good luck w phish tixs over the weekend BUT(ler) i got 2 tixs to the DUKE-BUTLER game tonite!! leavin chi at high noon.


  16. Willowed Says:

    It looks like we have a champion in the First Annual Miner NCAA Bracket. Kaveh has taken the lead from me and it looks like there is no chance of me getting it back!

  17. Willowed Says:

    Yes Yolker
    The Sox beat the Yanks. All is good on this earth!!
    Go Sox

  18. kenny powers Says:

    freakin’ awesome write up Miner, and bravo for linking to your previous in-depth write-ups on the same topic. Makes it easier to fully immerse!

    I only got to attend the last show of the run, and although the consensus seems to be that it was the weakest of the run I had a near-religious experience. May have a wee bit to do with my first Molly escapade, but had a LOT to do with the music pouring out and the energy in that same building I was used to watching PC basketball in.

    That first set is still, in my book, one of the greatest of all time. Just watched the TRUE segue from Bathtub -> Cities on the Team Hood DVD and i got straight-up choked up.

  19. kenny powers Says:


    did you catch the 5-year old last night?!? “SCREW ‘EM!!!”

    Wife and I high-fived and laughed for 5 minutes straight!

  20. fat bastard Says:

    oh, in case your wonderin $100/per for “decent” seats

  21. c0wfunk Says:

    7/10/99 was a great birds, very similar to the chalkdust in the first set..

    missed the nassau run but made it up to providence – an extremely tough ticket at the time, we grabbed tix on a whim and made the long drive from blacksburg va to rhode island for the weekend.

    After fall 97 phish nation and the band themselves were chomping at the bit for more more more and this run was a carryover from that fall.
    love 4/4 set 2 as a whole, a really great, flowing set, and 4/5 the entire night is the same way.

  22. marcoesq Says:

    morning all, great piece Miner…love da islannd run boy

    Having my morning coffee and then OFF TO INDY!!! LETS GO BUTLER!!


    Love that Va Beach 7/7/99 BOAF, fun show

    7/10/99 Camden BOAF is pretty good tppp

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Only made it to 4.3.98. It was good.

  24. Stupendous Says:

    Morning To All…

    Dreadful Monday after an awesome beach weekend!

  25. c0wfunk Says:

    @kenny to me it’s actually the strongest of the run 😉

    probably swayed by my attendence, and I know people who saw the roses would disagree – but I much prefer 4/5 to 4/3..

    oh kee pah -> yem opener ! as you mentioned, bathtub -> cities is stellar, and the second set is one flowing musical hose .. the jam between ya mar and caspian is sublime and maze>shafty>possum > funk jam > cavern an amazing passage..

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