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”

  1. gratefulcub Says:

    My boss always says, “If I can do without them for 2 weeks, I probably don’t need them at all.”


    never leave good notes for the person who is going to do your job while you are gone, and always push for the biggest waste of space to cover for you.

  2. KWL Says:

    hey folks

    i am looking for SPAC pavilions/balconies, 1 or 2 for either or both nights

    i have the following extras to trade:

    2 JB2 section 5L
    2 Greek 3
    2 camping passes @ telly (high school)

  3. gratefulcub Says:

    Listened to the ’98 Riverport Gin yesterday, with earbuds, while doing yardwork.

    When they came back to the Gin about 23 minutes in, I wanted to stand and applaud.

    May be my new favorite phish song.

  4. neemor Says:

    I’ve got job security….I sleep with the boss’s wife…she won’t let ‘im fire me.

  5. llamalee Says:

    @neemor, do you want my reserved ticket to hartford night one still? i can’t go anymore, landed telly. it’s a single also, section 200, row j

  6. Prince Nabby Says:

    Does anyone have a single pav for first night MPP? I’m having the hardest time tracking one down . . .

  7. Mr. Palmer Says:

    need 2 pav or balcony SPAC saturday

    – will trade 1 Sunday pav. sec.15 + cash or lawn

  8. Kaveh Says:

    04.03.98 is an all-time epic!

  9. llamalee Says:

    @kaveh, looks like your taking home the gold from phishthoughts tourney. you should ask for 4.3.98 DVD as prize

  10. Kaveh Says:

    Good morning everyone…Championship Monday!!

    Wondering if anyone remembers what our NCAA pool was played for? I want to say a DVD show from someone, I just don’t remember who. Any help?

    And speaking of tickets. I have Walnut Creek and Charlotte pavilions, need one Saturday Greek. Anyone?

  11. Kaveh Says:

    @llamalee – I know! Sweet. I should ask for 04.03.98, as I always wanted to know what was going on during the Antelope and all that madness that surrounds it.

  12. AintNoTele Says:

    Nabby: I know you prob don’t want it, but I’ve got a sat MPP mailorder lawn if you don’t find a pav

  13. marcoesq Says:

    I’m out, headed to BWI to catch my flight to Indy!!

    GO BUTLER!!!!!


    Hit me up on my email, I’ll hit you up when I get to Indy

  14. fat bastard Says:

    kaveh sorry about your luck…in about 12 hours. go DAWGS

  15. Prince Nabby Says:

    HI Tele: Thanks, man. I do actually have a lawn. I’m just looking to trade up. Appreciate it, though!

  16. Kaveh Says:

    @marcoesq and @fb – don’t apologize now – it is still anyone’s game. And we’ll see what happens. Great to hear you guys are going. I went to the 2001 Minneapolis final game, always a rocking time. Safe travels and enjoy! I’ll be looking for you guys. 🙂

  17. Kaveh Says:

    @Mr Palmer – envelope with check and goodies is in the mail today! Thanks again.

  18. cal Says:

    Morning, all! Nice to see gracious BB ticket flow starting to happen.

    Thinking about the Island Tour gets me all excited for the next indisputable classic run, where everyone just walks around dazed afterwards, and you bask in the afterglow for days. I still can’t decide between 4/3 and 4/4 as to which is my favorite.

  19. fat bastard Says:

    good sportsmanship. ill be the guy in the red iu sweatshirt and the cashed eyes

  20. gratefulcub Says:

    Good luck tonight Kaveh

    ::head down, looking at feet, because it pains me to say something I can’t possibly mean, but feel the need to say anyway::

    ::under breathe:: “fk’in Duke….”

    In all seriousness, enjoy the evening as much as you can, and enjoy a championship if that happens. (I will be engulfed by the hellmouth, but you enjoy.)

  21. neemor Says:

    llama, I’ll take it!

    Can either go to my new gf or a friend if things don’t work out…

    Let me know!

  22. Kaveh Says:

    @GC – I will enjoy indeed. I’ll be at home yelling at my TV to “Grab that sucker” and “execute” – my usual helping friendly voice to Duke players. Like I said yesterday, it all comes down to tempo and which team establishes their playing style the earliest. BUT, remember, the first half only gets you to the second half, where all the magic seems to happen. I’m hoping for another solid, solid performance from Duke like Saturday night.

  23. Josephish Says:

    4/3/1998 Mikes>The Old Place Home
    phukin nuts

  24. gratefulcub Says:


    For some reason, I seem to know that the players can’t hear me…….but, I obviously believe the ball can not only hear what I have to say, but might actually respond:

    “Get in the hole!!!!”

    (obligatory ‘that’s what she said’)

    After out 0-20 start against West Virginia, I think the ball hates me.

  25. neemor Says:

    Like me on the golf course:

    “Grow legs, ball!”
    “Stupid fucking ball!”

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