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. jdub Says:

    @Lycan, it’s a great sign that your best shows are your recent ones!

  2. halcyon Says:

    08/09/05 White River State Park, Indianapolis, IN
    Matisyahu as the opener

    Set I: Push On Til the Day, Cayman Review, Dark And Down, Money Love and Change, Invisible, Tuesday, Drifting, Air Said To Me, Come As Melody, Back On The Train1, The Inlaw Josie Wales1, Waste1, Brian and Robert2, Ripple2 3, Shine, Sand, Night Speaks To A Woman, Spin, Sweet Dreams Melinda, Mr. Completely, First Tube
    Encore: 46 Days

    Trey show with Dedication to Jerry

  3. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    I haven’t played that “Live Dead” Dark Star in awhile. Might wanna give it a spin tomorrow morning

    I always have to play some huge, dark jam in the mornings. I did that with the 4-1-91 Dark Star one morning while it was raining. People on my bus were pissed but I was basically in a catatonic state so I paid them no mind 🙂

    No problem jdub!

  4. jdub Says:

    Nice one Halcyon.

  5. Lycanthropist Says:

    ha well yeah…

    11-24 was my favorite from last year followed closely by 6-13

    and 3.04 was just really on… we had an old old old friend in the audience that night that we hadn’t seen in years. He is pretty much the Godfather of Chance Fisher. Anyway the first set is pretty much one non stop segue fest. And the second set features two new tunes and then we brough up a guest guitar player to join us for the rest of the night.

  6. halcyon Says:

    AW and Miner it is funny that you mention how many people did not dig exile. One of the first things I mention to a friend that they played Exile, and his first response was “Many people are not going to be into Phish playing blues, but I for one will always here them play a 12 bar riff.” Something to that effect. Exile was just amazing, just do not get where people say they didn’t like Exile. Exile was one of the most important Albums to have come out, and such an influence to so many.

  7. Mr.Palmer Says:

    The brain is ‘baned, some ’78 Dead cranking( in honor of the prior discussion), ready to watch some hoops. Hope Butler can pull it off, i’d be shocked if the did though.

  8. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    I fully support 3-4-10 as my favorite CF show, with 12-11 and 11-24 right behind it.

    (Here’s a plug for my shitty review!)

  9. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    Second comment down. I know you asked to read it

    Okay, enough douchey plugs 🙂


  10. Atwell Says:

    Now I know where you hangout, Brandon…. Revisit Island tour Revisited—I only caught the 4-2 (first night of the run) show. I fell down during the Chalkdust at the close of the 1st set. My friends carried me up to the seats way up in nose-bleed. One of the sickest jams I ever saw was what came out of that TWIST…Back of the stub says “Aliens are coming jam” Check it out, you’ll hear it.

  11. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    Sorry BB

    Obviously broke up the flow of things

    Won’t happen again

  12. Lycanthropist Says:

    ^stupid chance fisher….

  13. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    Sorry Lycan. Wasn’t meaning to be rude. Sorry if I offended you in anyway

  14. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    Huge failure on my part tonight


  15. KWL Says:

    anyone got floor crash space for jb?

  16. KWL Says:

    sorry to break up chance thoughts 8)

  17. KWL Says:

    new avatar in effect in honor of master’s week

  18. bhizzle Says:

    kwl – just wanted to you know I wasn’t bluffing on the backyard invitation the other day.

    Didn’t think Butler would be this close…..Also the bands are jammin white stripes?

    re: easily right up next to remain in the light for me…each holds their own but both opened a window to where they were in their lives spiritually, musically, etc…

  19. bhizzle Says:

    re:exile (duh…)

  20. bhizzle Says:

    you need a pic of the new tiger…goatee w/ shades

  21. sumodie Says:

    Exile show is peak Phish

    As if the band took my requested album

    And played it just for me & my ~40,000 friends

    A very personal experience for me

    E-P-I-C 8)

  22. bhizzle Says:

    with that sirius stream you had more than 40k…

    personally I wasn’t amped about a rolling stone cover (like stones but couldn’t hear it right from phish) but was turned easily….that was easily the most heart felt phish I’ve experienced.

  23. halcyon Says:

    Right On Sumodie! I remember telling KWL and his buddy the day after Exile that there were people all around where I was for that set in tears afterwards. It was so moving, and powerful. Still get chills when I revisit Exile.

  24. bhizzle Says:

    I have to add that Sharon Jones and the other singer along with the horns would definitely be missed if they did it all over again without and I hope, and I mean HOPE, they return with them for the Fallon show.

  25. Gratefulcub Says:

    Why did they just give Evan turner John Wall’s trophy? 😉

Leave a Reply