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. Mr. Completely Says:

    alright outtie

    got nothing done today

    gonna be a busy one tomorrow

  2. Lycanthropist Says:

    so i am spinning 4.5 in honor of todays post

    i know a little late.

    I got my ears cleaned today and this is the first Phish I am playing with them.


  3. jdub Says:

    Great Day on blackboard today, I had to read back a few pages because it was such great dialogue, lurked a bit in the middle of the day and finally have a chance to join in.

    Transcend and include. The key to evolution. That is what Phish has done in regards to the Dead and all their influences. As any great artist does, Phish created a very unique style that grew out of everything that influenced the boys from a young age until today. The music may not be derivative but the energy and spirit is and should be. That is the key to great art. Just like Coltrane influenced Garcia yet his style is completely different. Yet contains some key elements that are true for all great improvisational music.

  4. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    I really, really like Brokedown Palace. Beautiful song/lyrics

  5. jdub Says:

    @BK, Brokedown Palace is one my favorite songs of all time. It speaks to me.

  6. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    Lycan – Yeah I pretty much fell off that train after Friday. I listened to 4-2, but haven’t listened to any Island Phish since.

    I’m actually trying to ease on the Phish for a bit. Have so much music I’ve gotten lately that deserves a good spin or two. I did that with Bitches Brew today.

    It’s good to widen your musical tastes 🙂

  7. c0wfunk Says:

    brokedown is one of the best..

    at my first show, I knew very little, brokedown was the encore and one song I did know. We returned to the car, turned it on, and cued up, on american beauty in the tape deck, was brokedown palace.

    Shit like that had me hooked pretty quick..

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    if you like bitches brew check out the jack johnson and on the corner albums..

  9. Lycanthropist Says:



  10. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    In October of last year I went through a period where I listened to nothing but American Beauty for a week. Shit was my soundtrack for a bit I guess. It has definitely moved up as one of, if not my absolute favorite, album ever.

  11. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    That should be albums*

    Stupid grammar

  12. dyda Says:

    that’s nuts. exile was great.

  13. jdub Says:

    Workingman’s Dead was my anthem for a while when I was into albums. Love the rawness and Pigpen’s soul shines on that album at times. I need to listen to other music right now, it has been phish, phish, and more phish since about 08. Dead fans were known to be exclusive in that regard.

  14. Lycanthropist Says:


    how bout some CF or TSU?

    ha ha jk..

    some of the things I have been jammin lately:

    Pretty Things (thanks to AW)
    T. Bird and the Breaks
    some live Herbie Hancock
    MMW – Radiolarians
    The Cancer Conspiracy

  15. jdub Says:

    Lycan, I am going to do myself a favor and dive into some CF and TSU. In my younger days, when phish wasn’t as big in my life, I loved to get into up coming bands like yours. And you happen to have an ethos I totally relate to regarding music. Can you throw me three shows I should dive into. I listened to a random show a few months back but need to give some attention.

  16. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    jdub –

    I’m not Lycan , but I have listened to a lot of TSU/CF. Here are my suggestions.


    In that order

    9.19.09 (40min Soul Brew->jam melted my brain. You can talk to Lycan about that)
    Lycan’s B-Day TSU show (date is fuzzy for some reason)

    Anyways, those are my suggestions for now. 2005 CF has a whole lot of jamming in it, but honestly I probably wouldn’t recommend it to start out with. The shows I’ve listed for both are a pretty good intro IMO.

    You can always ask the man himself

  17. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    Oops, didn’t see the three shows thing before.

    3 shows for CF = 3.04.10, 11.24.09, 6.13.09
    3 shows for TSU = same as above

  18. Lycanthropist Says:

    BK has got it on lock jdub

    but to cherry pick a few

    11-24-09 CF
    03-04-10 CF
    03-26-10 TSU

  19. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    3.26.10! There’s the date! Thanks Lycan

  20. Lycanthropist Says:


    heres the link to the shows:

  21. Gavinsdad Says:

    Raining notes – nice AW

    and while not my fave bob tune, when garcia ripped those lil lead lines to el paso in the background of the whole tune it’d just give me chills

  22. jdub Says:

    I think the point is often blurred with the Dead – Phish connection. I really relate to what Mr. C speaks of. From a Dead Head who never saw Jerry and got into Phish because live, they felt the same as I thought the Dead would have. I became good friends with a couple of Heads who did the whole 80s a while back. They couldn’t do Phish because it was for the young kids and they have moved on or not with their lives. But the stories they would share while we listened to GD music are the same stories we all share about Phish. Great experiences wrapped around an innovative band playing wonderfuly pyschedilIc dance/soul music that happens to be jazz inspired improvisational rock music. That is the tourch that Phish took from the Dead and is carrying today.

    But I have to be honest. Phish has transcended the Dead (and included of course) by being in their late 40s and on the verge of playing the the most soulful and transendant music of their lives. It is hard to be a pioneer but I know, like any parent, that Jerry would be so proud of these four. And that Phil is proud, and perhaps a bit inspired.

    The world would have been a lit boring if the Grateful Dead and Phish never existed. And similar to Yaz taking over left field from Williams, there is great synchronicity in the timing of both bands.

  23. Lycanthropist Says:


    i guess that was an assault of CF info huh..


  24. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    Sorry jdub haha

  25. jdub Says:

    Thanks for the info BK and Lycan!

    I had some alone time with Dark Star from Filmore ’71 in the background. Hence the long post.

    Go Butler!

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