Another December Holiday

Continuing our run through Decembers of legend, today I am re-posting an article originally published on December 11, 2008, called “Two Anniversaries.” Discussed are the insane shows of 12.11.97 in Rochester and 12.11.99 in Philadelphia. Had I more time, the article might as well have been called “Three Anniversaries” and included the Phish’s top-shelf stop at Portland, Maine’s Cumberland County Civic Center on the same day in 1995. Audio highlights from all three standout 12.11’s are included below in “Saturday Jams.” (Click show dates for direct download, torrent and grab a 12.11 remaster below the setlists.)


“Two Anniversaries”

Today we find ourselves on the anniversary of a couple very Phishy shows. In addition to the Cumberland County ’95 show, this date brought two monsters in 1997 and in 1999. These two nights in Rochester and Philly were both instant fan favorites of their respective tours, and both are vibrant illustrations of where the band stood at that time. Happy 12.11!

12.11.97 War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, New York (SBD)

First, let’s circle back to a cold and dreary winter day December 1997. Phish was on the brink of finishing their now legendary fall tour. On the heels of a monumental Midwestern weekend and a stop at State College, Phish pulled into the Rochester’s War Memorial Auditorium, a room that hosted the Grateful Dead on several occasions. The show proved to fall right in line with Fall ’97’s colossal outings featuring one of the best second sets of the month.

11.24.09 (C.Garber)

The night opened up with the energetic three-song combo of “Punch, Disease > Maze.” “Punch,” one of the great openers in the band’s catalog, set the table on this night for a phenomenal “Down With Disease.” Within this upper-echelon excursion, Phish tore apart the song’s thematic jam for ten minutes before slowing down into syrupy rhythms that quickly brought the music to a far deeper place. From this juncture forwards, it grew quite apparent that Phish was tapped into greater energies on this evening. As the piece developed, Trey began to solo with a menacing musical scowl while the band dropped into a dripping groove around him. This now-famous “Disease” became a significant tour highlight mere minutes into the first set. Phish flicked the switch on early in the night, and it remained locked in position for the duration of the evening.

Phish brought “Disease’s” delicate dance patterns to a slow and winding close, as they seamlessly morphed into “Maze.” Bringing maniacal madness into the mix, Phish took the energy already in the room, and channeled it directly into their harrowing improv, creating a forty-minute set-opening segment that jumped off the stage and directly down the throats of the audience. Allowing little time for warm up, the band reserved their mellower moments for the end of the set, decelerating with “Dirt, “Limb by Limb” and “Loving Cup” before closing with an out of place “Rocky Top.”

This mind-bending improvisation continued throughout the standout second set. Phish quickly upped the ante with a twenty-minute “Drowned” opener that immediately sat among the heaviest, most creative, and darkest slices of psychedelia dropped during the tour. After jump-starting the show in shredding fashion, the band put the pedal back to the metal as soon as set two began. About halfway through “Drowned,” the band gradually moved away from the song structure into original improv. Moving from uptempo ferocity into slow and murky textures, this jaunt, all of a sudden, became a lot more interesting. For the duration of the piece, the band explored eerie musical planes with the patience and precision of a surgeon, methodically juxtaposing the two halves of the jam. As Trey layered infectious licks over a thickening groove, this jam soon tramsformed into an ambient affair with loops and effects galore.

Bittersweet Motel DVD

In a now-famous moment, this standout jam wove its way into the debut of Ween’s “Roses Are Free,” a performance made famous by the documentary, Bittersweet Motel. While few were familiar with the song on this evening, all would come to know it as sacred ground come Nassau merely four months from this debut. The ending riff to the song proved a perfect launching point for the rare “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars.” The lights went dark with white strobes, and the band dove into the quirky Phish-metal.  Trey ran laps around the stage amidst the maddening music, lending a deranged and tone to the already standout show. A version that lasted eight minutes, full of dissonant build and distorted climax, this was not your average “BBFCFM!” As if the band had gone temporarily insane, the asylum’s soundtrack morphed into an excessively slow and heavy groove, not unlike the ending of “Axilla.” Painting a sinister musical backdrop, Phish reveled in pushing the crowd to the brink. After a two-minute ending of beatless distortion, the band dropped into a perfectly placed funk-relief in “Ghost.”

Giving the crowd exactly what they needed, this “Ghost” leaped onto the top shelf of all-star versions in a standout year for the song. Providing the show with a much needed release of flowing Phish grooves, the band took liberty in precisely ripping the only “Fall ’97 funk jam” of the night – another factor that made Rochester so unique. A seamless “Disease Reprise” emerged out of this multi-dimensional odyssey, artistically closing the musical ideas sparked at the beginning of the show, and bringing the evening full circle.

I: Punch You in the Eye > Down With Disease > Maze, Dirt, Limb By Limb, Loving Cup, Rocky Top

II: Drowned  > Roses Are Free* > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars > Ghost > Down With Disease (Reprise) > Johnny B. Goode

E: Waste

*Ween cover, first time played

FLAC Torrent (SBD/AUD Matrix) < Link


12.11.99 The Spectrum Philadelphia, PA

The Spectrum - Philadelphia, PA

When Phish came back to The Spectrum for the second consecutive night in December ’99, they had a little redeeming to do. After a botched transition from “Have Mercy” back into “David Bowie” the night before, the band bailed on the idea in full and awkwardly moved into a Fishman interlude of “Cracklin’ Rosie,” all but killing the momentum of the set. The band stumbled to the finish line with low-energy versions of “Twist” and “Waste,” but what a difference a night can make!

1999’s version of December 11 presented, arguably, Phish’s strongest outing of their climactic December 1999 tour. Opening with “Harry Hood” for the first time in almost ten years (1.20.90), the twenty-minute version let everyone know they we were in for a treat! Expecting a breather to follow the intense “Hood,” Phish brought “Mike’s Groove” – ya’ gotta’ love it! Giving the “Groove” full treatment, the band migrated from the evil soup into “Simple” then “Hydrogen” before closing the segment with a smoking “Weekapaug.” After a reflective moment in “When the Circus Come to Town,” Phish leapt into Gordon’s rarity, “Scent of a Mule”- all in the first set! The Spectrum buzzed loudly during setbreak with the feeling that set two would be extraordinary. And it was.

In one of the tightest sets of 1999, Phish destroyed their classic Philly haunt with a frame of celebratory segues and pure dance madness. If you liked to move at Phish shows, then “Sally > Ghost > 2001 > Disease” provided the perfect soundtrack. Packed to the hilt with dense Phish grooves and a complex ambient build before “2001,” this sequence stood on par with any music that reared its head in ’99. “Ghost” and “2001” were both top-notch versions, and the latter space odyssey spun The Spectrum with the ease of Medowlark Lemons, Spaldings and “Sweet Georgia Brown.” The entire segment totaled 55 minutes of pure Phish crack; one of those unquestionably special sets that everyone agreed upon when it ended.

An incredibly well played show comprised of almost all improvisation, December 11, 1999 was an unforgettable night. One can hear the crowd roaring on the tapes, responding to the full-on Phish carpet bombing all night long. A night of beauty in a the City of Brotherly Love, December 11 brought, perhaps, Phish’s greatest performance in The Spectrum (with 12.15.95 as the only contender).

I: Harry Hood, Mike’s Song > Simple > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, When the Circus Comes, Scent of a Mule, Cavern

II: Boogie On Reggae Woman , Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Ghost > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Down with Disease

E: Possum



Saturday Jams: December 11th Highlights

Drowned > Roses Are Free” 12.11. 97 II



Sally > Ghost > 2001” 12.11.99 II



Reba” 12.11.95 I



The Curtain > Bowie” 12.11.95 II

[audio:,] Tags: , ,

280 Responses to “Another December Holiday”

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  1. voopa Says:


    Interesting to see how your writing has evolved, after only 2 years. Thanks again Miner!

  2. hislittlecatposternutbag Says:

    any fan of music might realize that other bands might have a show worth seeing. any phish fan who didn’t recognize roses are free might have a problem….ween was one of the best shows of the 90s phish included. i laugh thinking back on this summer when miner didn’t know what “the aeroplane over the sea” was…. ha ha ha!

  3. JeffieM Says:

    If you’ve spent time on this board, you’ll realize that pretty much everyone here knows plenty about non-phish music. Miner probably knows more about psytrance and electronic music than anyone I’ve ever met. Is your standard for music knowledge really NMH and Ween?
    Great post today, Miner. Happy Weekend.

  4. Jtran Says:


    thanks for those recommendations last night. Forgot about that Halloween 96, love that version

  5. Jtran Says:

    Gonna spin 12/11/99 and head up to the mountains for some ski time.

    Have a good one guys

  6. SillyWilly Says:

    Have fun shredding the fresh gnar, jtran.

    Haha. I can only pose as a real skier.

    Good morning, kids.

    Finished exams on Thursday. Tried to drive to chicago but somehow I destroyed my entire front differential on the freeway (I hadn’t rotated my tires in a year or so). Looks like the ol gray ghost is bound to be junked.

    Yesterday was a little regrouping day.

    But I’m back and ready to be a kid again instead of a law student.

    I owe a lot of people emails, so I’m planning on sitting down and getting those out today

  7. Tom Says:

    The dark and metal groove out of BBFCFM on 12-11-97 is Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral”, which starts right about the time that they cut the song on th DVD bonus. Mike and Fish introduce it while Trey is running laps and the band stays within the basic structure until the segue to “Ghost”.

  8. Little Buddy Says:

    ROC 12/11/97 was the goods! That second set really had it all. The DWD reprise is friggin’ sweet!

    No in my section at this show had any idea where Roses came from except me. I was going nuts and people were looking at me like, “What’s wrong with that dude? How could he possibly know this knew Phish song and be that excited about it already?” Funny. I’m sure many others in attendance were familiar with Ween and Roses, but no one near me was. Pretty great segue into it for being the first time it was played.

    Love both these shows.

    Amazing how far the BB has come, Miner. I was a reader and occasional poster back at the time your wrote this and we’d get maybe 50 posts a day. Sometimes even less. Now a few hundred is a bad day. Nice work, Mr. M.

  9. sumodie Says:

    Today’s anniversary shows may be torrented here:

    12.11.1997 War Memorial, Rochester, NY

    SBD + AUD Matrix Mix (60%-SBD/40%-AUD)

    12.11.1999 First Union Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

    Schoeps mk41 > kc5 > cmc6 > Sonosax SX-M2

  10. BrandonKayda Says:

    I’m going to have to grab 12/11/97 today – Forgot about that one

  11. sumodie Says:

    Excellent article on Keith Moon’s drumming style (contrasted with John Bonham’s) in Nov 29th issue of New Yorker

    Very lucid, thoughtful, and well written article

    Click on my name to download (repost from earlier this week)

    Have a great day!

  12. Mr.Palmer Says:

    My HD is getting a workout these last few weeks. I find myself just dumping all these shows in there, and just playing through COG in their original format. Gonna have a lot of converting to do when i want to travel with these …

  13. gavinsdad Says:

    thx for the nudge on that Moon v Bonham article @Sumo. Was never a scholar of either band, the Who much less so than Zep for sure. But I always totally admired Moon..not sure I’ve seen a more outrageous style of attacking a kit from that era thru today. Bonham is one of my fave pounders…but I still skew towards Bill Ward of Sabbath for the true heavy. Bonham most definitely can hang in the heavy dept., but I just prefer the more metal side of things. I have an appreciation for many many drummers without knowing a ton about them. I like the clean militaristic almost drumline jazz attack of Bruford and White in Yes…it’s also just so much more tech and diverse than the pounding of classic rock. Yet I don’t worship at the altar of Peart…love me some Rush, and the band wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t let Rutsey go and pick up Peart. I give Peart the proper amount of credit tho…he’s sick…but I never deified him like many have along the way.

    In the end I’ve always kept Fishman in his own little vaccuum. I think his rig is what got me in the early days…he didn’t play straight ahead drums and he had cute wood blocks and what looked like a crazy upside down bowl. He is one of my fave drummer and i don’t think he has equals because nobody thinks to fill space in as quirky a way as he does. With all the GD love around here I don’t think (while i chose billy over mickey from an admiration standpoint) that I ever fanboy’ed either of them as much as I nerded out on watching Fish. lots of my time spent watching Phish behind stage was to watch Fish from “behind the kit” since he was placed on that angle…if you found the sweet viewing spot you could watch his bizarre magic.

    a great sleeper drummer is George Hurley from the minutemen>fIREHOSE. really quirky tech and nimble. also able to viciously attack. check out the first fIREHOSE on my mediafire for some examples.

    ok i’ll stop blabbering.

  14. ae Says:

    thanks for the links sumo.

  15. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Trey- ” If i was going to see us play, i’d be watching Fish the whole time”

    or something to that effect. I forgot where that quote is from, on of the dvds.

  16. gavinsdad Says:

    ^unfortunately now i’m watching Neil Peart youtubes.

  17. vegas wolfmans Says:

    12/11/99 was the heat. Funny, I was just spinning this show (it remains in heavy rotation) yesterday and experiencing what can only be described as euphoric recall. Great show.

  18. Mr.Palmer Says:

    12.11.99 was the first show i took my wife ( then girlfriend) to. Was also the first time she indulged in some mild psychedelics. Needless to say, face meltage ensued….

  19. sumodie Says:

    @gdad: I figured that Moon vs. Bonham article might spur some good commentary here -thanks for blabbering, er…some quality sharing

    (11/17/97 Denver Ghost blaring in the background….must leave house but can’t till it’s over….)

  20. KfL Says:

    somehow i did not discover the bar in this town with the most taps (69) until last night. and i thought i was a serious beer drinker.

    sat down with a yellow snow, and denver ghost starts playing. i like this place.

  21. KfL Says:

    of course, today i’m nursing the hangover. yesterday’s 10 tunes are helping (i’m always a day late in my listening).

  22. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Palmer- That’s quite the introduction. If you take someone to a first show of that magnitude and they “don’t really like it” I say it’s best to stop trying. This has happened to me several times. Glad you’re lady experienced the meltage.

  23. Little Buddy Says:

    gdad –

    Great post and for the most part, I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. I will say though that Billy K in the Mickey-less early 70’s (71-74) was top notch. Those are by far my fav Dead years because they can just turn on a dime with Billy by himself back there.

    I know nothing about drumming, really, though my 3 yr old boy seems to have picked up some skills from his mom, who plays pretty well. (Kid has great rhythm and shows quite a bit of creativity behind the kit for a toddler. He just fucks around back there, but is always on the beat. Incidentally, our favorite tune to jam on is Roses.) To my ears though, Fish has no equals. Especially in the mid-late 90’s.

  24. vegas wolfmans Says:

    In addition to the source for Philly 12/11/99 Sumodie kindly posted above, Kenny Powers has remastered that bad boy and it’s available in FLAC.

    I hopped off after PSU in ’97 to save $ for New Years and missed Rochester and Albany. Wish I had a do-over on that one. Would have sold a kidney (maybe both). Happy Weekend all.

  25. Gavinsdad Says:

    I went to this earth day Phish show at Colorado college in spring ’90. Fishman was sitting on the lawn with 3 women around him. I thought it was extremely funny that these girls wanted to fuck a little troll man but I’m also not stupid. Dudes a drummer, dudes gonna get some action. The best, and most perplexing, part of the scenario was that the entire time Fish was beating out rhythms on a practice drum pad, like the kind you would have had in 7th grade. While these chicas were fawning over him it’s kinda like he wasn’t even there, so focused was he on his rudimentary drilling. That was one of the things that really got me about the dude…freaking girls trying to desperately to distract him, yet all he cared about was drumming.

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