All selections text and by Wilson Walker.
The old Hive was a special place for a lot of reasons. That cavernous room – with great curves – made every band that played the joint sound a little bigger – and boomier. As for the evolution of our favorite law enforcement officer, I’ve always preferred the older, lazier, loping reggae stylings of a ’94/’95ish Makisupa to the modern, peppier versions. I mean, is it a comedy piece now? Also, who could argue with the vintage “Maki > Maze” pairing? As an opener, those two always went together like good wine and good cheese.
“Ghost” 7.31.97 I, Mountain View, CA
The Shoreline ’97 show is understandably overshadowed by the previous night (“Bowie > Cities > Bowie”), but there were plenty of great nuggets in this one. The whole evening had a nice, laid back feel, and it all started with the band’s newest centerpiece. Remember the first time you heard Trey tell you the Story of the Ghost? Remember what “Ghost” sounded like that summer?
What, on paper, looks like a total bizarro cover instantly turns to gold, followed by a jammed-out “Halley’s” to begin a strangely compelling first set. This was one of those weird nights in ye olde corn fields, just look at the setlist. The show, as a whole, wasn’t exactly stellar, but the opening sequence was certainly some high-caliber Creek. Anyone else feel like a lot of the Creek nights kind of bleed together?
“Moma Dance” 8.9.98 I, Virginia Beach, VA
“Terrapin Station?” Of course. The “Bag?” Oh yeah. The “Gin?” Blistering. That said, I think truly great Phish shows are built around more than just the big-ticket items. Great shows happen when those unforgettable big-ticket items are held together by some very important and often overlooked glue. That glue is when the band nails the small stuff. “Moma” never sounded any better.
Like many of you, I was stunned – STUNNED – when Phish released Hampton ’98 – as opposed to ’97. Even more baffling to me was that they would release two shows I found rather uninspired, when just a few nights prior they unleashed an absolute monster. The Bi-Lo Center is the only show I’ve seen that I think was a certifiable masterpiece – while no one else seems to regard it as such. Give the 2nd set finale a good loud spin. It packs the best versions of “Slave,” “Fluff” &” Zero” I’ve seen, all lined up in one scorching fastball. It still blows my mind every time I hear it.
“2001” 7.7.99 II, Charlotte, NC
Well kids, this is about the time the dark vibes started creeping into our little funhouse. The scene in the parking lot this night veered between messy and slightly scary. Our crew – and we certainly weren’t the only ones – got popped by some really aggressive undercover cops. For me, it was an instantaneous dawn to the dark days ahead. That said, we all made it inside. Barely. Perhaps fed by the juju that spilled in from the lot, the show exploded into a mind bending piece of Phish. Start to finish, this one was stunning. The highlight: about 10 minutes of noise to lay the groundwork for the stickiest, swampiest, ’99-iest 2001 there ever was… and that was just the start of the second set.
“Bathtub Gin“7.26.99 I, Noblesville, IN
Again, a show eclipsed by the previous night (which happens to be the only show i was ever shut out of – stupid time zone confusion.) Needless to say, I laced ‘em up pretty tight for the tour closer. That disclaimer provided, I think this show deserves a little more love than it gets. It had a nice big ’99 feel to it, and I was a sucker for those. I submit for you a “Gin” that seems a little lost, before it finds its way to pure scorchery.
“Limb by Limb” 7.25.03 I, Charlotte, NC
Huge – huge – peak in this one. Also, check out the way-groovy “Gin” in the same set. This was the only show I really enjoyed in 2003. It just wasn’t working for me. When I walked out, I looked at my sister and said ‘you know, i feel like that might be the last time I ever see those guys play. It almost was. I didn’t see Phish again until Fenway Park. Now, 37 shows into 3.0 and nine more on tap for this summer, I couldn’t be happier to have the band back. See y’all on the road.
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