Four Crappy Phish Runs

As readers know, I’ve spent most of my time on this site highlighting the best and the brightest moments, jams and shows of Phish’s career. But let’s be honest, sometimes the band just doesn’t get it done. One needn’t look any further back than Bill Graham’s second night or 2011’s craptacular New Year’s Run to find shining examples of these less than stellar performances. Today, instead of pointing out gems from the past, let’s take a look at four of the least inspired runs in the band’s career.


New Year’s Run 2002-2003

NYE 2002 (S.Campbell)

Though everyone was through-the-roof excited for Phish to be back after a 2 ½ year absence, once they hit the stage, there wasn’t a hell of a lot to write home about. Their 2002 New Year’s performance contained very little impressive jamming, and got by on the community’s adrenaline alone. The only musically memorable part of this night came in the third set with “Runaway Jim -> Time Loves a Hero,” and even this jam was nothing too special. Phish’s highly-anticipated comeback show easily took the cake for the worst New Year’s Eve show of all time. And once the band got down to Hampton—the fucking Mothership—things just got worse.

Strewn by sloppy and uninspired play, the band slogged through three shows with zero listen back value whatsoever. The first night in Hampton provided the strongest effort of the three, highlighted by the jam of the run in “46 Days.” The second night fell totally flat despite a first set that looks great on paper. The “Wolfman’s” from set two provided a decent jam that got the Coliseum rocking, but outside of the live experience it’s not worth remebering. The third night was highlighted by—well—nothing that I can remember. The band had more or less lost me by the fourth show in the run, and I was just rooting for some serious practice time before they came out for winter tour. “Weekapaug > What’s the Use?” would have to be considered the jam of the show, but it was not memorable. When the band returned at the Forum in LA and then Las Vegas in mid February, they announced their return with their instruments, not just their presence on stage, and the 2.0 era got rolling in earnest


Turkey Run 2003

20th Anniversary Print (Pollock)

After a phenomenal and exploratory Summer Tour in 2003, the band took a few months off before hitting Nassau, Philly and Boston for their 20th Anniversary Run in November. Everyone was expecting some very special shows over this weekend, and most everyone was let down. Over these four nights, there were only a handful of highlights with “Twist -> Simple” from 11.29 at The Spectrum leading the way by far. The first show in Nassau Coliseum featured two engaging first set sequences in “Ghost -> What’s the Use” and “Bathtub > Free,” but the second set was completely innocuous, featuring a string of unjammed singles. Philly, outside of “Twist -> Simple,” really need not be discussed at all. I know a lot of people enjoyed the third night in Albany, but I found it to be a totally setlist driven affair. If there could be any less action in a sequence labeled “Tweezer > 2001 > YEM,” show me too it; it doesn’t exist. The “Wolfman’s Brother” that came towards the end of the first set pumped the crowd up and provided the one true highlight of the night. Halfway through the second set,however, the band invited their original fourth member, Jeff Holdsworth, to the stage to perform his songs “Camel Walk” and “Possum.” Holdsworth stuck around for to play the first song ever performed live by the band, “Long Cool Woman With a Black Dress,” and their old-school single “Run Like an Antelope.” It all sucked. Steeped in Phishy nostalgia, this set contained nothing worth listening to again.

When the band made their way up to Boston for their 20th Anniversary show, everyone expected musical fireworks and something extra special. But the band didn’t even address the crowd or acknowledge the event but for a stellar video retrospective that aired on stage during setbreak—easily the highlight of the show. The beginning of the second set provided the a small musical takeaway in the unconventional combination of “Rock and Roll -> Weekapaug -> Tweezer Reprise.” The guys dropped a solid “Maze” late in the set, but “Maze” can’t do much to save a show. All in all this “celebratory” run was pretty piss poor. Antelope Greg maintains that these shows didn’t cut the mustard because he wasn’t there. Well, Greg or no Greg, these shows simply blew. (But check that “Twist -> Simple” below as the jam of the day.)


Vegas 2004

Vegas ’04 (Pollock)

The three night run in Las Vegas in the spring of 2004 marked the beginning of the end. After this weekend, Trey would post his notorious message on proclaiming—“We’re done.” The news came as a stake through many a fan’s heart, but based on the guys’ haggard musical output over the weekend, few could argue with his reasoning. Sandwiched in the middle of a lot of very messy playing, however, there were some really solid jams, led by “Halley’s > Tweezer” that opened up night three and a manic “Twist” from night two. The other Vegas notables include a near twenty-minute “Pebbles and Marbles” from the final set of the run and an opening night sequence of “Drowned > 2001 > Disease.” But relative to what we recognize as quality Phish today, these shows really stunk up Sin City.


 New Years Run 2011

MSG 2011 (DKNG)

It’s no secret that last year’s New Year’s Run at MSG blew goats. After a stellar summer that concluded with an outlandish run at Dick’s, the community was incredibly excited to “Occupy YEMSG” for the holiday celebration. But after Phish came out and raised hopes with a high quality opening show, everything went down hill. Getting progressively worse by the night the band stumbled to the finish line in a run for which they didn’t hold rehearsals. The 29th featured little to no improvisation, with a single segue between “Chalk Dust” and “Hydrogen” making the only buzz of the night. The 30th was a trainwreck, less the jam of the run in the second set’s “Piper,” and New Year’s Eve immediately challenged the 2002 show in the same building for the worst ever. On one of Phish’s high holidays, a bunch of first set singles gave way to the “main event” in the second. The only jam of note in the set, however, was “Light” which saw Page make token use of his Theramin. Though the band jammed “Light,” I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to this version after my once through after the show. Remember the third set? Probably not. Three words—“Velvet Sea,” “Alaska.” Nuff said.


Jam of the Day:

Twist -> Simple” 11.29.03 II, Philly, PA

The one gem of 2003’s Turkey Run.

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410 Responses to “Four Crappy Phish Runs”

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  1. MiA Says:

    Vegas ’04 really made me wonder why I was spending money on the band. The replacement light guy was horrible.

    Selector! at 7 AM central

  2. jdub Says:

    Reading this after taking in the FYF show yesterday for the umpteenth time makes me happy. They have traveled so far and hopefully don’t pull an A-Rod after signing an extended contract with an NYC institution.

  3. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Boy I hope they practice before MSG this year.

  4. Snigglebeach Says:

    i guess turkey shows are nostalgic for me. 98 Worcester run practically changed my life. When 03 run happened, I enjoyed those too. Nashua more than the rest, but I was not as obv disappointed as some. I’m hopeful for a turkey run next year. Stick to woosta. Can’t miss at dcu.

    But no denying msg last year. And I tried like hell for those Vegas tickets. Guess I’m lucky I didn’t break the bank for that 1.

  5. poop goblin Says:

    totally shut out on MSG. probably gonna just sit it out this year. kinda bummin but only so much I can do to see 3.0 Tory. not gonna pay over face.

    as trying for 4 nights on onsale seems impossible any help on any nights would be appreciated. at this point looks like not gonna go but who knows could change.

    if we skip it gonna be chillin in Anguilla with the fam. not too bad.

    have fun kids
    keep me in mind on any extras

  6. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    now you are free to catch the sci run in colorado, poop!

  7. JR Says:

    You couldn’t be more wrong about Albany 2003. It was insane!!! The building was literally sweating from the dance party action. Wolfman’s was one of the best ever and led the band through a jacked-up second set of monster classics. It was the show of the run and made Boston feel like a wimper the next night, as if the band had already celebrated the 20th

  8. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Poop, you lie like a chicken.

    You will be there. You will pay over face if you have to.

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:


    that’s some shit he definitely won’t like.

  10. hoedown Says:

    While I agree with most of this post, I have to be honest about the 20th anni Boston show. The R&R>Paug>Tweeprise to open the 2nd set has gotten mucho play-back from me over the years. I find the R&R jam to be infectious. And I feel the Paug was a re-do for such a poor showing in Nassua….The 1st Piper finds a nice groove as well. But yes, I was expecting a bit more that night.

    Scored 2 for the 29th in the lotto, now time to get me some 28th and 30th…

    Cool and honest post today.

  11. jerseyjim Says:

    I too, was banished from The Garden.

    Will try for ticketmaster. ugh.
    Congrats to those lottery winners.

  12. SillyWilly Says:


    I was hoping to catch some post-show Coast-to-Coast with you in nyc

    I could call the “first-time” caller line

    you could call the “east-of-the-rockies”

    we could tell them about dead people sleeping on NYC benches

  13. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    good to hear that the selecta has his voice back

  14. MiA Says:

    Went to Anguilla.

    Definitely do that.

  15. sumodie Says:

    The horror! The horror!

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    12/28/12 Stash will take you to Anguilla

    just sayin

  17. sumodie Says:

    SCI nye in CO sounding more & more interesting, and cheaper

  18. sumodie Says:

    A whole set of SCI lullubies would be siiick:

  19. SillyWilly Says:


    SCI’s songs aren’t normally lullabies?

  20. poop goblin Says:

    been there MIA. one of my favs. can roll across the St. Martin 45 min on boat or whatever for gamblin and tourist bull shit and Anguilla is chill as fuck.

    last time I was there met Magic Johnson by the pool eating breakfast post first puff. at least for me. not sure if Magic was puffin too.

    only time in my life I was star struck. cool cat.

    I’m seeing Naked Raygun and the Dwarves in Chicago at the Cobra Lounge

    if I get in the building I’ll def go. but scalpin aint gonna work. remember I gotta get both of us in and it is gonna be expensive this year with first 2 nights on FRiday and Saturday.

    still haven’t figured out how to get all 4 nights on the onsale.

  21. El Duderino Says:

    Congratulations to Tela’s on the arrival of his beautiful new baby girl!

  22. vegas wolfmans Says:

    He blows goats. I have proof.

    Vegas ’04 and NYE 2002 were both train wrecks.

  23. SillyWilly Says:

    magic puffs.

    keeps him alive.

  24. marcoesq Says:

    Anyone in the Rochester area doin Umphreys tonight? coming up for work tonight and jonesing for some half decent music. m h o y t 1 3 at gheeemill

  25. gavinsdad Says:

    i can hit selectas site but his player wont work in FF or Safari…work doesn’t want us listening to the rebel music.

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