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. ma Says:

    were hip and respected….dylan!

  2. c0wfunk Says:

    I really have no clue what weir’s influences are. His music is from somewhere else… But that makes sense .. that’s about when Jerry stopped innovating in his songwriting for the most part, too. exception being I guess foolish heart and maybe days between, most of his more creative, non countryish tunes were in the earlier days (china cat, bird song, eyes, etc)

  3. albertwalker Says:

    Good music is good music miner

    If you don’t like exile you are close minded and crazy

    If you don’t dig son house, or Freddie king, or little Milton that is fucked

    Not liking. The blues shows a close minded musical ignorance you only find at phish

  4. ma Says:

    in it’s own regard, the exile set holds it’s own with anything and everything.

    period…the nay sayers should say nada.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    cool Trey ripple….8.9.05…hmmm, no idea..

  6. ma Says:

    i would not admit to a single soul that exile did nothing to me.

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    well keep in mind c0w that all Dead songs were arranged mutually by the band

    Bob did not get to tell Jerry what to play on his tunes, or Phil

    So Jerry is responsible for (for instance) Victim or the Crime…which, like it or don’t, is certainly not like what came before

    minor exceptions aside, you are absolutely correct though. not disputing your larger point

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    lot of stuff in this dir that’s not linked directly on the Trey site

  9. albertwalker Says:

    I’m not saying everyone should love it all

    But if you dig jimi
    It’s the blues

  10. c0wfunk Says:

    hearing exile that night, through the stream and live, made me realize phish was now chock full of that old soul I had missed at the beginning. Shine a light at New Years brought that all home in person. It’s also cropped up in places like the asheville divided sky. The difference is that this old soul is running around kicking ass again and not just chugging along on auto pilot

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    “The difference is that this old soul is running around kicking ass again and not just chugging along on auto pilot”

    yes that’s the greatest joy to me

    that the path Trey has ended up on is NOT the Jerry path

    that’s fantastic

    I’m totally rooting for him to keep it up and I think he will

  12. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    I feel like I’m around the able with you guys. Bb rocks.

  13. c0wfunk Says:

    good point mr c… I’ve been noticing a lot Jerry’s contributions on weir’s tunes .. actually someone mentioned it here and I’ve relistened for it, but jerry just shreds on greatest story and cassidy and especially the other one, and the like.

    and victim is a great later example of this where Weir sets up an off kilter chordal structure and jerry just towers all over it

  14. Wilson Says:

    I live for Phish (since encountering them in high school). I’ve always loved the Stones (since i was a little kid). Both bands mean so, so much to me. To see the collision in Indio was amazing. I’m still trying to digest it, honstly. Two different things, coming together for me…. it’s just so hard to wrap my head around it. Was it Phish I was listening to, or was I listening to Exile for the 1,368th time? Spun Exile last week, and I thought long and hard about that moment at Indio. Just so hard to reconcile the two… Phish … Stones … Phish … Stones.

    i can see how some Phish fans wouldn’t dig Exile…. but those would be the Phish fans i just don’t understand. In my mind, there was never a more perfect rock ‘n roll album.

  15. fee4zy Says:

    My hubby is an old school deadhead. I only saw them a few times before Jerry died and never was able to get into the scene. I didn’t get into the Phish scene for a long time after hearing them, just wasn’t interested even though I liked the music. But then saw them out at the Gorge in ’98 and was hooked. Toured heavily till first hiatus. Was at Big Cypress, saw the last Shoreline shows, saw them NYE MSG when they cam back. Moved, got married, had kids during Phish 2.0 and didn’t really keep up. Was able to get to Indio and I’m hoping that now I can get a regular dose of Phish at least once a year. My love for this band is more than the scene or the music. It is about the amazing joy that I feel when dancing at a show to a sick 15 min Sand. I have an amazing family and I am truly grateful for all that I have, but nothing has ever come close to that feeling. I love Phish because they still make me smile when there is craziness everywhere.

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    I have more than once heard people say that they love Jerry and don’t dig Bob (which in itself I get), so they skip the Bob tunes

    that’s hilarious to me

    Jerry did tons of his best playing on Bob songs

    means you’ve never heard an Other One from ’69 or ’78
    or a Fall ’77 Estimated
    or a ’74 Truckin’ jam, or a ’73 Weather Report

    some of the sickest Jerry leads he ever played

    it’s like not liking the way Fishman sings so you skip Crosseyed every time


  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    of course if it’s a livephish release and you can skip right to the “no royalties for David Byrne jam” track, then that would actually work, kinda

  18. c0wfunk Says:

    @fee4zy – it is indeed about that amazing joy .. the dancing feeling .. all the rest is academic..

    @c yeah – cuttin off your nose to spite your face there, a bit. I believe the spinner church actually edited bobby tunes out of their tapes eh?

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    lol at no royalties. What’s the deal are they paying royalties by the second? Or are tehy just trying to copyright their “original” music, this being the jam immediately after the song

  20. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeh even at my blossoming Dead fandom, I cant imagine skipping a good Estimated Prophet..

    I personally love that song..

  21. albertwalker Says:

    Yeah I don’t love looks like rains like the bobby heads but Jer shreds some shit with his raining licks at the end of a few

    When he wasn’t singing he could focus on nodding and jamming

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    they don’t do it with their own songs, only cover tunes

    has to be a royalties thing

    sometimes quite comical, for instance 7-29-03 they’re still clearly in the Crosseyed mode several minutes into the “F.U. Talking Heads jam” as I have it labelled

  23. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Can i skip over Vince songs? 🙂

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    exactly @aw

    he’d just dial right into that interior space

    see also Watchtower from 89-90 or so

    very often the shreddiest Jerry of the night by far

    a storm of notes

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    yes sir Palmer

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