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. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    I enjoy both bands (Dead/Phish), but have much much more Phish knowledge than Dead knowledge

    What this means…I have no idea. 🙂

  2. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    Awww, now you’ve touched a nerve c0w. You really want to fight this battle (July 4).

    Seriously, I’m just kidding.

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    “I’m not denying an influence. I’m just saying there are other influences. ”

    that didn’t seem like what you are saying, but I totally agree with that.

    I think at the very start the idea was:

    Prog + Zappa + Dead + Trey’s unique vision

    and then they said “whoa! we’re sounding too Dead-y and getting pigeonholed” and dropped as much of the Dead stuff as they could

    until they were ready to approach it with maturity and put their own spin on it

    I never, never, never try to reduce Phish to a GD rip or anything

    that’s an absurd idea

  4. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    I love your last point Mr C.

  5. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    The stars are aligned now

    Peace is restored to the Blackboard.

  6. albertwalker Says:


    I have phish tour friends that tell me they hated exile

    Cuz they just don’t. Dig the blues

    Phishies are crazy
    They just dig phish

  7. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    I like to stir the pot. Just part of who I am. I wonder by whom was I influenced to become this way?? B

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    marshall – don’t you know that john adams said

    “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    to me evolution is all about integrating various preceding ideas or forms with new ones

    the Dead did that with (rock + jazz + roots music + LSD) * Jerry

    then Phish did it again a generation later and were able to build on that and bring in more layers on top of it

  10. ma Says:


    a suggestion…put on that richfield stella and reflect on how sweet it was.
    i’m right there with ya’.

  11. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    AW is right.

    I used to love many bands. phish phucked that up for me. My musical heroin. Nothing else works.

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    hahaha actually I’m halfway into my second run through this “funky brian eno” mix that was posted recently

    killer stuff

  13. Mr.Miner Says:

    “I’d like to dedicate this to…probably the musician who I love more than anyone who ever lived [laughs]…just about…so this is for Jerry, this is his day today…just wanna say, wherever you are, I love you so much, and learned so much from you.”

    -Trey, introducing Ripple 8/9/05

    ^ when was this, or should i say, where?

  14. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    I really like 74′ Eyes. Big jams galore. The 3/31/91 Eyes is fantastic too

  15. c0wfunk Says:

    word mr c – the dead actually fought contemporary influences (jerry disparagingly talking about the talking heads and their afro beat thing with a “we’ve been doing that all along” comment) where phish, coming later, was able to embrace those influences. To their credit, phish has continued to glean influence from acts that have come along the way

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    funny marshall – I was like that with the dead when I first heard them. I wanted to hear NOTHING else.. phish was actually the tonic that opened me up and presented to me the possibility that all music is good. And from there I realized that, in fact, some music is good, but it’s of all types.

  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    not sure where it was Miner but you can hear it here:

  18. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    Funky Brian Eno mix? Where?

  19. Mr.Miner Says:

    I have phish tour friends that tell me they hated exile

    Cuz they just don’t. Dig the blues\

    ^ lots of people felt this way

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah @c0w

    Jerry stayed super hip and current right up til about ’75 or ’76 and then it seemed like his musical taste just froze

    Up til that time he was pulling new cover songs into his side project setlists in the same year the albums were released…

    interesting how that freezing of tastes is almost the same time he started using the junk

  21. albertwalker Says:

    The band, jimmy cliff, Jesse winchester

    Jer would cover contemporary artists he thought were hip

  22. c0wfunk Says:

    don’t dig the blues. Man that’s rough. Cuz it’s all blues man. Wondering where we’d be without pentatonic blues..

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    apologies, I forget who posted this, respect to you, it’s fun:

  24. Mr. Completely Says:


  25. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    aw’s opinIon has eased a bit. Back last fall it was “if you don’t like Exile you don’t like music.”

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