Fukuoka 2000: A Retro-Review

Live Phish 04: 6.14.00, Fukuoka, JP

As some of you may or may not know, I worked with JamBase back when the site sprouted wings around 2000. When Phish toured Japan that year, I served as the their pacific correspondent, writing reviews at the crack of dawn after partying in Japanese clubs all-night. When my friends went to sleep, I routinely headed to the hotel business center to write up a piece to send off to Andy and Ted, keeping stateside fans in the loop. Due to the unedited nature of these reviews, they often rambled, providing more of a play-by-play account of the goings-on in Japan from the front line.

Recently, I’ve revisited these pieces to clean them up for future use, and I thought some of them would make interesting retro-accounts of Phish’s last gasp in 2000. Little did we know at the time, that the band would soon slide downhill. Our last experiences before Japan had been December ’99 > Big Cypress > Radio City; a pretty amazing run of music. In our minds, Phish was flying high on their first legitimate tour of Japan, and we were along for the far eastern adventure. I wrote the following account the night of the now-legendary Fukuoka show – 6.14.00 – after kicking it around the corner from Drum Logos in a club, ironically, called “The Tripp Factory,” which hosted an impromptu post-show affair for Japanese and American fans alike. I’ve edited a bit for tightness, but the review remains largely the same.

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While Phish puts on engaging shows each and every night, sometimes a second set comes around that is united in concept from beginning to end; a set that stands above a mere collection of songs and jams. This type of set is defined by its thematic coherence; a certain direction from the opening to the closing note. These are the musical adventures that define the essence of Phish; the reasons we jive and strive to get to each and every show. Last night at Drum Logos in Fukuoka, Phish threw down what is sure to be one of the best, if not THE best set of the summer – including all shows yet to be played! Relentless grooves fused with spacey psychedelia, as Phish turned the small club into a futuristic dance hall for seventy-five minutes. Let’s get down to business here, you need to know exactly what you missed.

First off, the venue was slightly larger than Club Quattro the night before, boasting a capacity of about 650 people. Upon arriving, fans could barely give their extras away, as 80 tickets were still unsold! The club had a multi-tiered dance floor, with three different levels, and a small balcony hung above, where the tapers and lighting board set up. The overwhelming feel of the room was blackness; the floors, walls, and balcony were all solid black, a potential foreshadowing of the music that would ensue.

In a great first set, opening with “Carini,” “Curtain > Cities” (!?), the improvisational highlights emerged in “Gumbo > Llama” and “Split Open and Melt.” The second set was primed and ready to explode, yet no one in the room had any idea of what would go down when Phish took the stage. The second half opened with the most extended version of “Get Back On the Train” to date, as the band stretched out the ending rhythms far longer than usual. Staying well within the structure of the song, the band warmed everyone’s legs with some bluegrass-funk that served as a table setter for the main course.

As “Get Back On the Train” wound down, they sparked the ever-changing intro of “Twist.” A spiced-up beginning, featuring a harder dive into the song, readied the crowd for the sublime improvisation about to unfold. As the jam began, Trey led the band through some “Twist-based” patterns, before fading a bit into the musical background while Mike stepped up to lead. The music progressed into an ambient space, much in the style of the cerebral “Twist” from Big Cypress, but without Trey playing a beautiful melody over top. Instead, Trey colored the music with textures, tonal colors, and waves of sound rather than straight ahead playing. This gave the piece a much more eerie and psychedelic feel, and as the band progressed, the jam continued to get more and more abstract, yet always remaining loosely connected to a groove – albeit some incredibly “out there” grooving. At this point, many people in the crowd were thinking that this would be the second coming of “Twist > 2001,” and as Page brought in his own futuristic sounds, the launch seemed inevitable.

But well into the jam, at its most formless point, the band slowly emerged out of the murky space with the return into the end of “Twist!” As they concluded the song, however, the band picked up right where they left off, amidst a similar spacey groove. This started very quietly, and Mike hinted at a more driving bass line to come. As he picked up the volume of his line, many fans recognized this as a very slowed down intro to “Ghost.” Yet, tonight, “Ghost” wasn’t to be, and the brief  hint at the song’s melody lasted for only a minute or so.

Drum Logos in the Distance (J.Greene)

At this point, Mike began to lay down some classic Gordeaux lines, as he took responsibility for both the rhythm and melody of the jam, while Trey continued his role providing textures and tonal color. Meticulously, Trey blended his musical thoughts into the mix as the band’s momentum continued to gradually build. As Gordon began throwing down more vicious bass lines, he was virtually soloing while leading the band. Fishman slowly progressed out of his ambient beats, holding down a tight pocket with Mike, and the entire feel of the jam became dark and sinister. From this point forward, this nameless piece of music exists as one of the nastiest Phish groove sessions that has recently gone down in public view – straight-up futuristic funk, all on a tiny island in the Pacific! This evil groove took on a life of its own, as it morphed from an ambient space walk into a psychedelic bass-driven excursion that moved your brain as much as your body. As the band basked in their exploratory session, Mike hinted at “Walk Away,” nudging the band to build the beginning of the old-school, James Gang cover. The crowd soon picked up on this transition and exploded in cheer, congratulating Phish on the epic music that had just ensued.

“Walk Away’s” pace, while a bit slower than normal, fit the set perfectly. Emerging seamlessly from the previous groove, Phish treated the Japanese-dominated crowd with a very slick transition. This was the first song that had been played in a long time, and the crowd responded energetically as Page belted out the lyrics.

Fukuoka Heads (P.McGuire)

As “Walk Away” ended, the band slipped back into a quieter bass pattern, returning to the space-aged feel of the set. This groove, again led by Mike, soon settled into a shimmering ambiance, and as Page and Trey began to add textured sound effects to the musical landscape, the crowd was now ensured of the “2001” that had been foreshadowed earlier in the set. As Fishman’s snare hit engaged the infectious rhythm, the crowd exploded – as much in motion as in sound – and Drum Logos now was spinning to Japan’s second ever “2001.” Mike continued to take the improvisational lead, as Trey chopped into play with some shorter rhythm licks. The first theme came relatively quickly, but the second section became far more drawn out and chock full of signature Trey licks and bulbous bass lines. For the first time in history, Phish decided to close a set, and a show, with “2001,” a significant exclamation point on one of the greatest sets in years. With nothing more to say after such a powerful, full-on, and non-stop performance, the band ended the set with, perhaps, the highest peak in their repertoire. And then they took a bow.

With a mellower encore of “Sleep” and “Squirming Coil,” the band provided some relaxation and reflection, allowing the set to stand on its own in the annals of Phish history. This was truly one for the ages; you’ll need to hear it to believe.

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Jam of the Day:

Stash” 9.9.99 I

Everyone knows of the big second set that opened Fall ’99, but this nugget of psychedelia jam came amidst a typically discombobulated opening set of tour.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

7.12.99 Great Woods, Mansfield, MA < Torrent

7.12.99 Great Woods, Mansfield, MA < Megaupload

Great Woods '09 (G.Lucas)

The first night of Great Woods ’99. After the five-year bust-out of “Foreplay/Longtime,” check out the first set combo of “What’s the Use?,”  “Split” under a blood-red sunset.

I: Foreplay/Long Time > Down with Disease, Back on the Train, What’s the Use?, Split Open and Melt, Water in the Sky, Character Zero

II: Twist, The Moma Dance, Makisupa Policeman > David Bowie, The Lizards, Guyute

E: Rock and Roll

Source: Unknown

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593 Responses to “Fukuoka 2000: A Retro-Review”

  1. Willowed Says:

    Sorry I mean staring

  2. Luther Justice Says:

    Nice post GD. Preach it!

    Jerry was struggling towards the end, but when he did pull it together, it made those moments so sweet. Sometimes you had to wait for them, but he really touched my soul in a way no other musician ever has. Before the Grateful Dead, I loved music. Once I discovered them, music became my way of life.

  3. gavinsdad Says:

    Gus went there with the Hanson.

  4. Elihu Says:

    Gavinsdad, just noticed you also referenced that Tampa 95 show. Nice 🙂

  5. butter Says:

    Great post GD

    Very hard to do what Trey/Phish is doing right now

    Breaking habitual patterns, learning from those before us, and not following the path of least resistance………..

  6. gavinsdad Says:

    “music became my way of life”

    love it LJ…i feel that is the way for so many of us.

  7. Luther Justice Says:

    I loved the Hanson sit-in w/Ratdog.

  8. Luther Justice Says:

    @GD
    I’m on for Hershey. Are you still planning on going?

  9. butter Says:

    My first GD was Soldier 93, first dose, first shrooms…….hello

  10. Luther Justice Says:

    I loved seeing the Dead in Chicago. It was always a full head take over.

  11. kayatosh Says:

    Thanks for the GD vibes, yall. i remember jerry in 95 with the long flowing white mane, like gandalf. remember seeing him at RFK singing days between — > chills.

  12. gavinsdad Says:

    @Elihu: jinx! and you got a whopper that nite… Black Crowes to open…and an Unbroken Chain…just got some chills writing that…

    @Butter: think you nailed it…”learning from those before us”…Trey coulda rode right into the ground…i’m amazed that he and the band made it to this phase…i want SE and NW peeps to get their shows no doubt but i also want these family men to be with their families, recharge, and do things that are good for them and their organizations…the only nefariousness i see on the horizon is a Red Light.

  13. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Finally getting a chance to listen to Fukuoka. Kids alseep (almost), baneing about to commence. This show is from another planet. No other way to describe it, besides Miner’s fine words of course.

  14. kayatosh Says:

    goodnight.

  15. Henry Says:

    @Luther

    A perfect example of Jerry pulling it together one last time is the So Many Roads from Soldier Field. Just beautiful.

  16. gavinsdad Says:

    @Luther: most definitely for Hershey…seems we have a little crew making it up there…hope we can find a spot to hang or at least coordinate pre-show. i need some people who’ve been there before to tell me where a decent spot is where i might also be able to dance a bit.

  17. Luther Justice Says:

    Everytime I listen to 95 Soldier Field, I feel Jerry’s life force knew it was coming to an end. Its easy to look back at the show after the fact and draw this conclusion, but the way he sang some of those songs – it can make you cry. I don’t listen to it too much because it still hurts after all of these years, but man could he express his emotions through song.

  18. Luther Justice Says:

    @GD
    I’ll be coming from BTB Fest to Hershey, so it could be a mass invasion of BBers. We will all have a GOOD time for sure.

  19. KWL Says:

    by midsummer ‘89 it seemed like all things were possible again

    what a feeling!

    sounds kind of familiar 20 years later

    backpack man bringin the heat tonight. great stuff.

  20. (Formally Known As) BrandonKayda Says:

    As far as GD goes, I generally listen to 73-77′ Dead, and some 89-91′ stuff. I really enjoy hearing your perspectives from those of you who toured with them, especially Mr C, GDad, etc. From your stories it sounds like life-changing experiences happened.

    It really blows my mind how one band (GD/Phish) could bring so many people together and help form a collective ball of energy between themselves and their audience. Phish is doing this now. I am really hoping that in seeing them live this summer I can feel this feeling thst you all seem to hold so dearly.

    RE: Crowd energy discussion from yesterday: It has always seemed to me, just from attending other concerts, that the energy seems to move in a wave from the crowd->band, and the band then absorbs this energy, puts it into their playing and reflects the energy back into the audience, starting the cycle again. It truely is an incredible thing

    I know I’m rambling now, but one of the things that just astounds me is how Phish/GD have such a deep, spiritual connection with their audience, and that is one of the main reasons why I am so happy to be seeing Phish this summer. Let’s hope that this collective ball of energy (or in this case, “udder ball” of energy), is in full force for Summer 2010 and beyond.

  21. flarrdogg Says:

    LJ- I was at those Soldier Field shows and am still unable to hold it together when listening to So Many Roads and Black Muddy River. It was as though he knew it was the end. I know EXACTLY what you’re trying to describe and have felt it also.

  22. Mr.Palmer Says:

    I still have three tickets to the fall ’95 MSG run that never happened. Sad.

    We’ll said BK- Good to know that the torch will be passed

  23. gavinsdad Says:

    i think the BTB fest people who got a good taste pre blossom or at blossom might just extend their weekend festivities thru to Hershey for sure…think you’re right there Luther…

  24. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Great convo this evening. I am part of the generation of fans who were essentially the bridge between the dead and phish. Cut my teeth on the dead, became a head on phish.

    Just to add to the impact of Phish 3d, one of the best things id seeing just how happy they (and particularly Trey) are throughout. The “money shot” of the entire film is during suzy when sharon and saundra are going off vocally and you can see Trey between them just grooving on it with the biggest shit eagting grin you can ever imagine. that image will stay with me and was worth the price of admission by itself.

  25. gavinsdad Says:

    BK – you’re just getting going here….you’re gonna forge some really fine memories in the years to come…especially if you find that school/life/music balance…sounds like you’re already pretty serious about that…it’ll serve you well.

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