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. gratefulcub Says:

    ^And Albany Ghost, forgot that one

  2. lastwaltzer Says:

    I thought a lot of the Stash’s sounded hollow, like they were about to fall apart with a lot of meandering.

    Ghost had some good jams contained within the tune but the tune itself never seem to get played right. They would miss the changes coming back into the song out of the jam.

  3. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    Stash followed me around last year (45% after 12/28/00’s version).

  4. Robear Says:

    ‘Stash’ in ’09 was straight out of the early 90’s. Pushing at the edge of closed jamming.

    Me likes the Portland ‘Stash’

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ Foul – that’s great man. Thanks! I’ll definitely take it 🙂

  6. c0wfunk Says:

    “Ghost had some good jams contained within the tune but the tune itself never seem to get played right. They would miss the changes coming back into the song out of the jam.”

    true true – but as w/ mikes they really nailed ghost in miami, I believe they hit all of the breaks cleanly and with verve.

  7. SOAM Says:

    My 2 fave Ghosts were Albany and Hartford-not so much for the playing but for the excitement built around the segues or presegues

    7- >Ghost and Ghost>Psycho Killer>Ghost

  8. joe Says:

    almost 100% sure (my memories about exact shows is really bad) that night 2 of Providence my buddy took a girl he was dating who had never seen phish. During maze they were getting really dark and the lights were going crazy and she just dropped to the ground between us. We were doing whatever it was that we used to do in 1998 and were in no shape mentally to deal with the situation. Luckily the guy in front of us took control of the situation and got her seated and hydrated. I mostly kept listening to the music (not proud). He (we) made her stay till the end, it really was that good.

  9. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    @ Mitch – did you find 8.13 pavs yet?

    I have a pair, but they aren’t the best. Section E (call it “Trey side”), row CC (last row of pavilion).

  10. Robear Says:

    Neemor, this ‘Mike’s’ from 12/31/98 is ear candy.

  11. c0wfunk Says:

    mmm 12-31-98 mmm

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    did a full sbd of that ever surface ? Or just the 3 or so tracks that have been around?

  13. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    Miner – Atlanta pits will be controlled by writsbands. I got an email confirmation from the venue on it.

  14. lastwaltzer Says:

    note so self: never attend anything with joe.

  15. Robear Says:

    cOw, you just read my mind. was wondering about a sbd. the aud. is good, but a bit hollow, like listening through a barrel.

    the poster from the Island Run has a 4 fingered figure.

    the statue on the ‘Lost’ Island has 4 toes.


  16. Robear Says:

    lol @ LW!

  17. lastwaltzer Says:

    @robear its like I said on 4/1 the whole series is actually just hurley smoking a B in the middle of a huge harpua, nothing more nothing less.

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    re: Stashes and Ghosts

    Red Rocks has solid versions of both. That Stash went well away from norm and the Ghost>Wolfman’s has a really nice segue.

  19. joe Says:

    @lw. I’m fine to go to shows with, just don’t pass out during the second set of one of the best ones ever. Maybe if she was my girlfriend, I would have more compassion but it was a girl he was kind of dating.

  20. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    @ Robear – so you’re at the episode where Sayid says he’s now sure what bothers him more about that statue …?

    Season 3?

  21. Kaveh Says:

    @KWL – Do you still have your 08.07 extras?

  22. neemor Says:

    Yes, I love that Mike’s.

    Stash from both Portland and Hartford were wonderful…
    I consider Stash to be the epitome of Phish and while I used to overlook it sometimes, take it for granted, it’s another one that was reborn for me in ’09.
    ala Tweezer

  23. c0wfunk Says:

    simpsons also have 4 fingers – i think sometimes artistically it’s just easier

  24. Robear Says:

    not tom,

    on season 5 now.

  25. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Robear

    Charlotte is 3 1/2 hours away from ATL.

    Flying out of ATL will probably be cheaper since it’s the main hub of the south east. I would assume Charlotte would be the second cheapest since it’s the second largest city down here. Just and FYI

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