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. garretc Says:

    Branching off of @ma’s advice:

    If you’re going to buy a fire extinguisher from a booth in one of those giant bootleg product markets in Beijing, be forewarned that:

    a) Despite them demanding 200 yuan for it, they’re making 100% profit, since the building gives them the fire extinguishers and they had 2 in their booth, so you can talk them down to 45 yuan (like, 5 bucks)

    b) They’re apparently single use

    c) You can take them on a plane from Beijing to Hong Kong, but they’ll take you out on to the tarmac and take your fire extinguisher out of your luggage if you’re getting on a plane to San Francisco

    So now you’re all prepared to go fire extinguisher shopping in China!

  2. c0wfunk Says:

    trey certainly grew into that realization in 05 .. I’m sure in taking the mantle of captain trips, whether he wanted it or not his face is the one on the sillouette sticker, and his guitar shape is the one we hold up .. I’m sure this brought him closer to jerry as cosmic twins..

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    I have to disagree man

    I think it’s an objective argument that you will lose

    I don’t have time for it right now but sometime we can tackle it in detail

    I do think the early years of Phish – after they stopped playing Dead songs 😮 – are relatively un-Dead-like

    But the “main sequence” of phish has been the process of them incorporating open improvisation into their style, freeing themselves from the prog rock cage, and therefore – the Dead were the singular pioneers of ensemble improv in rock, that’s allowing the Dead influence in.

    Is it identical in the details? of course not.

    I’d argue though that the core similarity is experiential, and has to do with the relationship between the crowd and the band and the energy exchange that so many of us – including at least a few of the Phish guys, based on their statements – experience.

    Bottom line, saying there isn’t an influence is just as wrong as saying there’s not a Zappa influence. Not really a matter of opinion, I don’t think.

    If you’d like to get into the details I’d be glad to do it some evening, but for now I gotta run.

  4. Lycanthropist Says:


    fwiw and I am sure you already know this, but anyway:

    there is so much more to a band process than the music.
    there is no doubt that Phish is EXTREMELY influenced by the Dead in their process.
    They yielded much different music no doubt.

    But a lot of what makes Phish Phish has to do with the groundwork that the Dead laid.

    Lets put it like this :

    Phish – The Grateful Dead = They Might Be Giants

  5. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    I just think there are more simliarities than influences.

    I love you man.

  6. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    :::: dead heads getting panties in a wad ::::::


  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    it’s frankly bizarre to me that anyone would deny it.

    I’m honestly quite shocked.

    it was a valid argument…in 1992. Maybe ’93. As soon as the improv segue-fests hit…no.

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    marshall lovin it kinda funny i must admit 😉 I see both sides but I’m a libra and it’s always like that

  9. albertwalker Says:

    What they had in common was a desire to not get pinned down by one specific genre and a lead player whose knowledge and appreciation of what constitutes good music from many avenues and funnels it all into live performance and jamming.

    The biggest gift you can receive from both is not just a love for their music influenced by these master works but learn to understand and appreciate their influences

  10. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    For the record, I’ve had a few beers and would pick an argument over the date of Independence day right now.

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    “:::: dead heads getting panties in a wad ::::::”

    that’s just insulting, honestly.

  12. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    See my last post …

  13. c0wfunk Says:

    aw that’s insightful – there’s no way jerry and trey would play the same, jerry an sf psychedelic banjo player, and trey a suburban prog rock kid, but they both had a yearning for a new sound and combed the old sounds for ways to make it. They also both had a great stage presence and a body of musicians willing to back them up and follow them into the realms unknown.. and a group of people willing to forgo personal hygiene and basic economic responsibility to follow them around and watch it happen

  14. albertwalker Says:

    Simple 1 or 2 chord vamps with modal guitar based jamming

    Other one jam – antelope jam

    One in the same

  15. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    Interesting convo today guys

  16. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    I thought everyone’s opionions were welcomed around here???

    Where’s the lightheartedness??

    At the end of the day, who gives a shit. I’m going to seven summer shows and, like a Pointer Sister, I’m excited.

  17. Lycanthropist Says:


    FWIW i would not consider myself a deadhead

    I am literally just now delving into the Dead’s deeper catalog.

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    so being drunk is an excuse to be insulting?


    what’s cute is when Phish fans are so threatened by the idea of a GD influence that they’re willing to go to absurd lengths to deny one of the most obvious musical influences in the history of rock

    it’s especially obvious in prog rock fans since when Phish started ensemble jamming -which is the core part of the Dead musical influence – was basically when then got bored with just playing the proggy stuff over and over again.

    Such fans tend to see the move towards Dead-influenced improv as a repudiation of the prog rock roots and therefore get defensive about it, and occasionally, after a few beers, insulting.

  19. Lycanthropist Says:

    nor am i offended 😉

  20. c0wfunk Says:

    to me, independence day will always be july 2, the date of legal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia

  21. Uncle Ebeneezer Says:

    Skipped out on work release in Indianapolis to see that ripple, haha

  22. ma Says:

    dead > shined the light of bluegrass upon me > grisman….enough said.

    agree with the above posts….they were as are we influenced by all the precedes us… and for that , i’m forever grateful.

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    To be clear – I see Phish as a step forward in musical evolution

    this isn’t trying to reduce one to the other

  24. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    I’m not denying an influence. I’m just saying there are other influences. And I’m not drunk. Just having fun.

    Come on C.

    I won’t say anything else about it.

    Peace brother.

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    ^^^ this is a point I often leave out but I hope is clear to everyone

    I do not think “influence” makes Phish lesser, quite the contrary

    it means they were starting from further down the road and have so been able to achieve more…

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