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. Robear Says:

    good call, KWL. Gotta’ revisit syracuse.

    I listened to it on the crazy stream that night. I remember thinking it was a big ‘ol ‘Stash’.

  2. c0wfunk Says:

    during the lineup to get into hampton last spring – maybe night 2? We were in the crush down front and a girl behind me basically passed out on top of me, leaning – clearly drunk /dehydrated. It was pretty scary .. a big dude right there took charge, grabbed her and plowed to the front of the line. I definitely get concerned, but it’s hard to get too wrapped up in it.. if you fall, you fall alone!

  3. Robear Says:

    ‘Ghost’ 12/31/98

    From the 5 minute mark on, Phish doesn’t get any better or more beautiful, IMO.

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    passing out on mushrooms usually only happens when combined with alcohol, dehydration or both – however if you combine the 3, especially with heat (whether environmental or dance/crowd related), passouts are totally common

    in fact people passed out from boomers + alcohol (not too much is required) + dehydration is by far the most common kind of crisis intervention in my experience and second only in total incidence to minor foot injuries

    absolutely happens all the time esp. at summer shows

  5. joe Says:

    and for the record, I don’t think the girl was really messed up at all, maybe a few drinks and a puff during the show. It was the music and lights that made her drop. We had nice floor seats and it was getting pretty intense.

  6. KWL Says:

    word @Kaveh. would love to help you out if we can get a 3-way trade going. Trying to get what I’m looking for first, then if I can’t get anything going my extras will come to the BB for face…

  7. EL Duderino Says:

    Boomers are weird for me at shows.

    Most times I’m OK. But sometimes my legs get too rubbery. The stomach can feel a little upset and the need to sit down can be overwhelming.

  8. Kaveh Says:

    @KWL – I have a three way which gets me Friday Greek tickets. So those type of trades do work for sure.

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    not to go too far into Lost here, but the statue was supposedly going to have six toes until they realized it wouldn’t be easily discernible that it was different than the “normal” five, thus, they went with four. coincidentally, the deity who the statue is based upon had four toes in egyptian mythology.

  10. joe Says:

    and the sweaty dance floor

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    fortunately the cure is someone with a calm voice telling the person: “here drink this water. you just got too high for a second. sit here for 15 minutes and do nothing but drink water. it’s ok if you throw up, just do it [wherever would be ok].”

    that’s all there is to it. no big deal 95% of the time unless there is underlying medical condition.

  12. SOAM Says:

    Show troubles-blackouts etc. I’m of the opinion that everyone who “plays hard” has had a run in with the “too highs” usually during their younger show going days–My opinion is this:

    do for others as you would have them do for you.

    If you see someone in trouble-you should stop and try to help-at a show or just do the right thing.

  13. gavinsdad Says:

    @el dude: thank you for the Raleigh hotel reco. made a res earlier today.

  14. neemor Says:

    I fell on zzyzx from the fungus.
    He enjoyed it, I’m pretty sure.

    That being said, there comes a point where it’s every man for himself.
    You handle your shit, I handle mine.
    I’d become adapted at the end of my career to handle myself and others while freaking out, but if I revisit that recreation and someone near me loses it, I do my best to talk to them slowly and gently and then walk away if they need more attention.
    I’m not losing the moment, I’m not killing my buzz….

    As far as falling over, you help get them to come to, give ’em water and tell ’em to sit down and eventually it’ll be fine.
    Tell them to Remember, it’s just the drugs….

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    a reminder with the above discussion that I would still love to facilitate a trade of Friday for Saturday Greeks (or purchase a Saturday Greek) for a good friend.

  16. flarrdogg Says:

    These were 4 of best concerts I’ve ever seen- let alone Phish shows. They literally could do no wrong….and they knew it. I’ve never seen them play with the type of swagger they exuded during these nights.
    “We are the best rock band on the planet” kind of a thing. Let it all hang out. Awesome.

  17. EL Duderino Says:

    I agree that the intensity of being up front has a lot to do with it. Most of the time it’s not so much the Jam or the lights but the claustrophobic waves that can hit you from too many people being packed in up front.

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    if it’s not a physiological cause it can be any kind of reaction to whatever is going on in their heads

    maybe they were having an incredible time and went out of body and forgot to leave the body on auto-stand-up mode

    or maybe they aren’t ready to go out of body and when it started happening they panicked and withdrew inside themselves

    could be anything

    probably a good time to change topics?

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    mmm intensity of being up front mmm

  20. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I find it a little ironic that I have a bunch of stuff on random play right now and as I’m reading about spunions and whether to help the fallen what song is playing as my little soundtrack? Torn & Frayed from *8*.

    “…Yeah, and the codeine to fix it.
    Doctor prescribes, drug store supplies,
    Who’s gonna help him to kick it…”

  21. EL Duderino Says:

    @ gcub

    You’ll really like the hotel, it’s brand new and pretty sweet.

  22. SillyWilly Says:

    Howdy, all!

    eventful weekend for me in Chicago. Looks like my girl is all settled in.

    Good news: Yesterday she said a promising sentence: “I can’t wait to go to the Phish show with you. I bet I’ll get into them after I see them live.”

    War isn’t won yet, but this victorious battle marks a strategic win setting the stage for a successful summer campaign.

    Don’t want to jinx it yet, though.

    Also, my tire shredded on I-90 this morning at 7 am (no coffee yet). Felt like Al Unser needling through traffic to get to the pit.

    Anyway, I thought the day was gonna be bad until I listened to Trey narrate me through the pore of my existence and then into my body all the way through my nostril into my bloodstream and into Gamehendge. (8-15-93)

    Hope everyone is doing well!

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    what a lyric in that song

    incredible to hear Trey sing that

    brave is the only word for it

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    it’s baseball season folks 🙂

    enjoyed the sox yanks startup last night, things in full swing today! Too bad my stupid local cable company doesn’t do the mlb extra innings things , but if yours does a reminder – you get a free preview right now and can watch any game, anywhere.

  25. Chuck D Says:

    Mr C, is that a young Kenny G in your avatar? Maybe a long-haired and mustached Freddy Mercury? Did Frank Zappa get hit with a shovel? Either way, you’re getting some nice chest hair exposure there.

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