My Least Favorite Show

Everyone has their favorite shows and particular nights that they enjoyed more than others. But what often strikes me as bizarre, is how some people in the Phish community habitually pick out all the “bad,” or unexciting, aspects of a show and obsessively discuss them ad, criticizing, to no end, the experience they love so dearly. Life is too short to focus on the negatives, so when one reads my reviews, I may not mention the lesser points of the show. Why waste anyone’s time harping on them? It makes no sense go me; very rarely are there not enough improvisational highlights to carry a show. But on one night along the course of Summer 2000, Phish played, what I still consider, the “worst show I’ve ever seen.”

Phish 2000 (pollstar)

Now, “worst” is quite a subjective word, and this is most definitely a subjective article, but for me, when Phish stopped in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 25, 2000, the show flat-out sucked. Don’t go getting hot and bothered if this was your first show and it meant the world to you – I’m glad. Not for me. And it had nothing to do with  my personal experience. In fact, the Sunday night show seemed less than crowded, and my friends and I had prime real estate in the flat handicap section on Page side. Security seemed completely chill, and after two smoking shows in Atlanta, (the previous featuring one of the year’s best jams in “Tweezer), the conditions were set for takeoff. But Phish tossed an air biscuit.

The first set faded in with a string of singles that read “NICU,” “Sample,” “Old Home Place.” Ho-hum. But many great Phish shows feature  song-based first sets, so who cared. The first glimpse of energy, “Punch You In the Eye,” was followed by another string of event-less songs, this time five. The only glimmer of hope in this run came via “Funky Bitch,” but Phish gave the song particularly sloppy treatment in a version that dragged rather than popped. As the band prepared for a set closer, nothing had, happened throughout the entire set.

Phish '09 (unknown)

But even the bunkest Phish shows have a musical peak, and Walnut Creek’s high-point came together in a vicious, set-closing “Split Open and Melt.” As if Phish turned on a dime, they focused their improvisational prowess in this multi-faceted exclamation. While the version did contain some early communicative speed bumps, it proved to be a scintillating version, especially in the context of this show. Moving through an early section of spacey grooves, Page took the melodic lead, as Mike and Trey followed along. Soon, the band connected in a menacing theme that remained firmly rooted to “Split.” Trey’s hard-edged offerings began to lead his cohorts further into into the unknown, slowly building out of the song’s natural groove, and bursting onto a more ethereal and melodic plane. Fully immersed in improv, Trey and Page came together, playing uplifting harmonies, while Mike and Fish chugged forth in a heavy groove. The entire band gradually drifted into darker waters, reconnecting to “Split’s” ending jam and taking it to the top. A high quality Phish jam, no doubt,  but little did we know that it would end the excitement of the show.

Polaris '00

Phish came out for the second set with a painfully generic “Jibboo,” a song that opened almost every other show that summer. I’m never one to care about repeats, but the band is gonna’ push a jam into most of their shows – be creative! Thus began the post-Japan era of 2000, when the band’s sense of adventure began a steep decline. Needless to say, this “Jibboo” went nowhere, possessing little, if any, musical dynamic. The band seemed to be going through the motions, each playing their own lines with little concern for creating a greater whole. They weren’t flubbing anything, but they weren’t doing anything interesting either; an incredibly sterile performance to say the least. And to follow up the less-than raging opener, a cool down with “Fast Enough For You.” Undoubtedly a gorgeous song which I hold dearly, it had no place batting second in set two, usurping a power hitter’s spot in the lineup.

Phish 2000 (unknown)

Then, the set-killing, thrash-grass of “Scent of A Mule” emanated from the stage. Laughing at this point, my friends and I wondered if the band was pulling some sort of joke on this evening. But, apparently, they weren’t. “Scent” can easily dominate a set with less-than-engaging music centered around the slow, extended “Muel Duel” between Page and Trey. Occasionally a cool segment emerges from said “duel,” but not on this night in 2000. Page and Trey traded intentionally slow and, ultimately, uneventful solos, sucking any energy from the pavilion. A tortuous segment of second-set nonsense, Trey continued the non-jam with a series of sparse effects that created a monotonous chunk in the middle of the second set. The band joined in the effect-laden texture before moving back into the slow, eastern-sounding build of “Mule.”

After an oddly placed interlude of “Meat,” the band revved up a mid-second set “Maze.” Hmmm. Apparently, the band had no intention of jamming on this evening. Once again, we’d have to settle for generic Page and Trey solos for the “improv” of the song. “Mazes” have their times and places, but this one, dropped randomly into the middle of a set that was going nowhere, did nothing but further that cause.

Hartford '09 (A.McCullogh)

And it wasn’t just the song choices. The band’s playing screamed of carelessness and laziness all night long, characteristics that seeped into their repertoire during this summer. On this night in Raleigh, the band’s primary objective seemed to be reaching the 11pm curfew, rather than creating any interesting music. Their music didn’t jump of the stage, it dragged along like a tired bulldog on a blazing hot day. Increasingly hit or miss, Phish shows of 2000 entered a new type of unpredictability. In retrospect, none of the shows seemed as sluggish live as they sound now, but the irony of Raleigh was the immediate consensus on the instant stinker.

Phish picked up the vibe at the end of the set, tacking on “What’s the Use? > Slave,” but the triumphant combination seemed wholly out of place with no musical fireworks to celebrate. The same lackluster playing that defined the night carried through the end of the set, and once the band stepped off stage, we were all ready to move on to the next show. Dropping the bizarre encore of “Uncle Pen,” “Bold As Love,” Phish faded into the evening.

We all go to shows for different reasons, and one man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but this night in Raleigh couldn’t have done much for anyone. If you’ve read this site for any amount of time, you’ve probably picked up on my positive perspective on Phish, but I would call this show the only true disappointment in my time seeing the band. There just wasn’t enough meat to carry the show, and never before or since have I seen one so thin. I figured I’d write this piece at some point, but there you have it, my least favorite Phish show I’ve ever seen.

I: NICU, Sample in a Jar, Old Home Place, Punch You in the Eye, Water in the Sky, Funky Bitch, Horn, Heavy Things, Dirt, Split Open and Melt

II: Gotta Jibboo, Fast Enough For You, Scent of a Mule, Meat, Maze, What’s the Use, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Uncle Pen, Bold as Love


Audio Archive

AUDIO ARCHIVE UPDATE: Due to the diligent work of Phish Thoughts’ community member, Halcyon, the audio archive has been completely updated with every show that exists on this site! Included are the majority of both Trey and Mike’s winter tours under the newly-added “2010” tab. So scroll and scour the site no more! Head right over to Phish Thoughts’ Audio Archive for all your downloading needs, and have at it!


Jam of the Day:

Ghost” 6.15.00 I

An under-exposed first set gem from Phish’s first show in Osaka.




4.9.93 State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN < Torrent

4.9.93 State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN < Megaupload

State Theatre - Minneapolis, MN

This one goes out via reader request to the Phish Thoughts NCAA Tournament Challenge winner, Kaveh! Enjoy the trip down memory lane, my friend.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Sparkle, Guelah Papyrus, Stash, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Maze, I Didn’t Know, It’s Ice, The Divided Sky, Cavern

II: Buried Alive, Suzy Greenberg, All Things Reconsidered, Llama, Mound, My Friend, My Friend, You Enjoy Myself, My Sweet One, Big Ball Jam > Hold Your Head Up > Love You > Hold Your Head Up, Possum

E: Sweet Adeline, Golgi Apparatus

Source: Unknown


541 Responses to “My Least Favorite Show”

  1. pagesidehighschool Says:

    Speaking of pipe smoking nazis…. How about that nazis’ pipe in Inglorious Bastards? Try sneaking that thing into a show

  2. ma Says:

    ^ whole tour,

    huh? it didn’t help that i was 2nd row ( best seats ever )…but that 2nd set speaks for itself..

    ghost > halleys > 7 below > tube > caspian > 2001 > fire !!!!

  3. whole tour! Says:

    Hampton 03….listened to the first two shows on yawning drone for the first time in years. God Awful. Far and beyond the worst air bisquits ever from this band. It was painful to listen to and for the most part i fucking love 2003. Just horrendous. Everyone was too caught up in them being back to notice at the time too. There are a few moments sprinkled throughout that are jammed out nicely…but there are just too many horrendous mistakes to overlook…believe me, i tried.

    Makes one thankful that phsih 3.0 came out sounding tight. Less jams at first, but at least they wern’t slopping it up.

  4. whole tour! Says:

    @ MA – the second set from raleigh 2003 was the fire…no doubt.

    But that first set was the worst set of phish i have ever seen.

    Mike was definately sick for that first set. trey must have smoked some crack with him at setbreak because he came back fired up.

  5. ma Says:

    the show notes mention how trey welcomed back mike after 7 below with MIKE! followed by a charge tease….you may be on to something here.

    either way, classic classic 2nd set.

  6. ma Says:

    gotta boogie for a bit…enjoy the morning.

  7. Mitch Says:

    I’m continually dumbfounded by people trying to get in where the literally do not fit in. Big woman just squeezed in between me and the dude next to me. She didn’t have room to the point she was wiggling in. I’m not a big dude, avg I’d say, so understand it’s not me taking more than my share. Now I’m squished and there’s nowhere to move. I understand she wants to sit too but be respectful of personal space please.

    End rant. I haven’t had my coffee yet and according to “stuff white people like” that’s an acceptable excuse.

    In other news, the gin from 7.9.03 is raging. It’s where I left off the other night so that’s why I didn’t mention it. Good stuff right here.

  8. Little Buddy Says:

    “i think hampton 04 was my biggest bust”

    I’m with you. I haven’t listened back to this show, but it was very disappointing at the time. Perhaps the expectations were too high, but of the many, many shows I’ve seen, Hampton ’04 does stick out.

    How great does a band have to be to have seen them over 100 times and only have one show stick out as “bad.” Pretty good, I guess!

  9. BTB Says:

    Halycon – mad props, high fives and ass slaps for the work on the Audio Archive. Appreciate your hard work and thank you!

    Grateful Dead at the Cedar Lee theater after work today – help is on the way!

  10. tela'smuff Says:

    @zzyzx – i could write an essay on how amazing the Polaris 2000 DwD>WMGGW was. For me, it’s a yop version of Disease, and it was one of the better segues I think the band has pulled off. I can almost yawn over WMGGW, but this version, this version owned.

  11. kenny powers Says:


    too funny. i saw you mentioned 7/17/92 as a bad show and was like “wha? i thought there was no scientific possibility of a bad Phish show back then…”.

    so i venture over to that show’s page and there’s 1 lone review by none other than zzyzx! gonna read it, then check my stash at home tonight to see if i have that one…thanks for your insight!

  12. Mitch Says:

    ^that was all re: my train ride this morn.

    That Gin smokes!!

    i really like this imagery: “it dragged along like a tired bulldog on a blazing hot day.”

    funny stuff.

  13. SillyWilly Says:


    I love Cedar Lee.

    There’s a Turkish/Mediterranean Cafe right across the street. Name’s not coming…wait, maybe its called Anatolia Cafe? maybe the best mediterranean place I’ve ever been.

    Have you been there?

  14. verno329 Says:

    @ma/whole tour! I really liked that Ghost from Raleigh ’03 but the rest of that show is pretty much a snoozer for me. I was stoked at some song choices in the second set (my 1st Halley’s, Tube, Seven Below) but wasn’t particularly impressed with the playing in those tunes. I wouldn’t call that a bad show but it didn’t compare well to much of the rest of that Summer ’03 tour, imo.

  15. kenny powers Says:

    “Just be thankful that there aren’t any tapes.”


  16. Mitch Says:

    7.9.03 scents intro sounds like they are trying to mimic space. it was shoreline after all. only for like 15 seconds tho.

  17. coiled Says:

    Haven’t been to too many shows, but i don’t know how you could say that Coventry wasn’t the worst show, based on a purely musical assessment. i remember looking at page and mike on the jumbotron on day 1, thinking that they were about to strangle Trey. I can understand that day 2 may have had some strong emotions that adversely affected the music, and I’ll give them a pass on day 2. But there is no excuse for Day 1. With the exception of Drowned->Coventry Jam and the extended jam on AC/DC Bag, 8-14-04 was one bunk note after another. If this show was a movie, it would be in one of those “worst” movie watch parties where everyone gets really drunk and watches a movie that is hillariously bad.

  18. mrfergie Says:

    morning all – itoday’s going to be a good day, I have a bit of a respite from the craziness that has been my job as of late, some bane waiting for me when I get home, and last night the dvd of 4/3/98 finished downloading from the traders den – gonna end the night well

  19. mrfergie Says:

    Also – thanks Halcyon and miner for the archive work

  20. ma Says:


    i haven’t listened to it in a long while..i’ll do my hw tonight and give it a spin…i think my location had alot to do with it as well..

  21. BTB Says:

    Silly – I haven’t eaten there yet, but it always has a lot of people in there on the weekends.

    MELT bar and Grille is opening at the end of my street in Cleveland Heights (across from the Cedar Lee Theater) next month. Can’t wait. Got to hand it to the restaurant entrepreneurs in Cleveland, they do a good job.

  22. ma Says:

    anyone sill uncertain if phish3d is playing locally?

    i’m baffled that there is still no theater mentioned south of pensacola, fl.

  23. verno329 Says:

    @ma yeah i was on the lawn for that one so that may have contributed to my impression a little, though I was also on the lawn for Charlotte a couple days earlier and was blown away so take it for what its worth.

  24. AbePhroman Says:

    Doesn’t sound as bad on tape.

  25. wilson8or Says:

    2nd night of All State Arena, 9/23/00 for me. Hell of a stinker: a 6 song first set (come on baby lets go downtown, Moma, Frankenstein, Halley’s, Fee, Stash). Then came the 2nd set that mirrored what Miner said about his bad show, and featured some of the same songs (with the exception of a raging tweezer): Boaf, tweez, scent, FEFY, Piper, Char 0, enc: Sleeping monkey, tweeprise.

    Bad show, bad sound. The only saving grace was the tweezer

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