The Road to Cypress

ticket-jpgAfter a high-quality Twitter exchange with TJ Scheu (@Lyfeboi) yesterday morning, I re-spun 7.10.99 from Camden, New Jersey, and developed a new strand of thought about one of the musical narratives of 1999. TJ asserted that “a huge thing happened” in Camden’s “Chalk Dust” that the band continued to build on and reference throughout the year. While I certainly knew that something huge happened in Camden’s “Chalk Dust,” I never, necessarily, put the jam in the context of its entire year. While listening intently to this all-time version in this way, I had an organizing thought: Camden’s “Chalk Dust” was the first signpost on the road to Big Cypress.

Within the Camden “Chalk Dust” jam, Trey leads the band to a truly cathartic peak—one of those Phish moments that are hard to believe at the time and give you chills for the rest of your lifetime. It’s not just that the music is incredible—Phish has many virtuoso conversations—this jam is drenched in emotion, the likes of which you don’t quite experience in everyday life. The Jedi-like guitar work of Mr. Anastasio led to a sublime, whole-band arrival that invoked communal elation among the 25,004 involved. This musical theme of  “soul emoting” or “ultra bliss” as illustrated by Trey, with the support of his bandmates, in this “Chalk Dust” jam, provided a narrative string that would carry throughout 1999. As his band set its sights on December 31st—the biggest night of their lives—Trey returned to this style of play throughout the year, expressing indescribable emotions through his guitar like only he can.

The Stroke of Midnight (Unk)

The Stroke of Midnight (Unk)

I distinctly remember feeling momentum build throughout ’99, most distinctly through Fall Tour and the December run. Summer was fun, but once Fall started, it felt like a mission to the Everglades, one show at a time. The anticipatory emotion, excitement and sense of wonder surrounding Big Cypress was palpable, and it increased each and every time the band took the stage during this momentous year. I can only imagine that if the fans felt this energy pulsing through themselves and the community during this time, that the band members felt it several times more intensely. In many ways, Phish’s entire career had led them to this point—the year of 1999 and the brink of the new millennium. In retrospective interviews, the band has openly discussed how after Big Cypress, the crest of the wave had broken. They weren’t sure what was supposed to come next and, not surprisingly, in less than a year, they’d be gone.

I have assembled a playlist that follows this, largely, Trey-anchored narrative through 1999. While his style of “soul emoting” wasn’t a nightly occurance, it happened enough times to establish a legitimate pattern. The following jams become fully structured around this style of play, and represent the most significant examples from the year. Not all of these jams sound exactly the same, but they reach that special place and share a common emotional power that, I propose, came directly from their specific point in time for Phish. As Cypress crept closer, these jams waned in favor of darker, more ominous ones that emerged towards the end of fall and in December. Even at Big Cypress, the band tapped into the source with mostly different, far more relaxed feels, but the following pieces represent their building energy and incredible sense of purpose as they neared their date with destiny.

Chalk Dust Torture” 7.10.99 I, Camden, NJ

Following a”Wilson” opener, Phish tore into this monumental jam—the first brick laid on the golden road that would end up in Alligator Alley.

Download audio file (1.02-Chalkdust-Torture.mp3)


Birds of a Feather” 7.10.99 II, Camden, NJ

Brick two was unfurled only a set later in “Birds”—Camden “Chalk Dust’s” kid brother.

Download audio file (2.04-Birds-Of-A-Feather.mp3)


My Left Toe” 7.21.99 II, Burgettstown, PA

Music that is as glorious and emotive as any ever played. By anyone.

Download audio file (ph99-07-21d2t04.mp3)


Tweezer” 8.1.99 II, Niigata, JP

The final “Tweezer” of the Summer, performed in the shadow of Mt. Fuji on the “Field of Heaven,” certainly illustrates Trey’s emerging “soul emoting” of ’99.

Download audio file (ph99-08-01d2t03.mp3)


AC/DC Bag” Boise 9.14.99 II, Boise, ID

This household jam needs no introduction, but when looked as a part of this larger narrative, it becomes even more poignant.

Download audio file (ph99-09-14d2t03.mp3)


Boogie On” 9.18.99 II, Chula Vista, CA

Towards the beginning of Fall Tour, this second set opener brought the audience to a dizzying plane of catharsis in the middle of the warm California desert. On a side note, can we please go back to Coors Amphitheatre as soon as possible?

Download audio file (2.01-Boogie-on-Reggae-Woman-1.mp3)


Wolfman’s Brother” 9.24.99 II, Austin, TX

This dark-horse Fall ’99 jam elevates about halfway through and never looks back.

Download audio file (ph1999-09-24d2t05.mp3)


Tweezer” 12.16.99 II, Raleigh, NC

Raleigh’s to-die-for “Tweezer” represents an intersection of December’s slower, heavier and more ambient style with the “ultra-bliss” feel established during the summer months.

Download audio file (ph99-12-16d204.wav.mp3)


Split Open and Melt -> Catapult” 12.31.99 I, Big Cypress

Perhaps the most iconic jam that came out of Big Cypress, this “Split” represents the culmination of this anticipatory musical narrative on the road to Big Cypress. In this piece, Trey is speaking directly from his soul hours before the biggest night of his life.

Download audio file (ph99-12-31d2t01.mp3)
Download audio file (ph99-12-31d2t02.mp3)


Down With Disease”  12.31.99 II, Big Cypress

You can, literally, hear the excitement, relief and relaxation in Trey’s guitar tone in this jam—he is so happy to have finally arrived on the stage he had been looking towards all year long. All the pressure had been lifted, and this “Disease”  provided the portal into a night that nobody present would ever forget.

Download audio file (2.03-Down-With-Disease.mp3)


12.31.99, Big Cypress (Danny Clinch)

12.31.99, Big Cypress (Danny Clinch)

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554 Responses to “The Road to Cypress”

  1. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Mildly inebriated. So what? Goonie goo goo to you Gus.

    ‘Your wife’s a Bigfoot, isn’t she, Gus? Your wife is a Bigfoot, isn’t she? That’s why the bitch’s moustache is so motherfuckin’ thick… ’cause you shaved the bitch down and taught her to speak. I know a motherfuckin’ Bigfoot when I see one! Don’t bring a Bigfoot into my home, Gus! With my children? The bitch can’t talk! She can’t walk a flight of steps! She’s not trained well, Gus! She can *not* walk steps! I’ll bet she climbs the fuck outta trees, though, don’t she, Gus? Doesn’t she? DOESN’T SHE? But you got to not bring her around here – fuck her! And your motherfuckin’ children? They’re Bigfeet, too. They’re half-Bigfoot, Gus, ’cause the motherfuckers is 6 years old and have Afros 17 inches long. They’re little hairy motherfuckers, just like their mother. Look at the motherfuckers! You know how I found out they was Bigfoot – when I realized your wife was a Bigfoot when I took your kids fishing last week. I put the motherfuckers in the boat, Gus, and I took the worm and I put it on the hooks. And they both sat there, and they put their poles down in the motherfuckin’ boat, and slammed their faces in the water for 2 minutes! And I think, “What the fuck are these kids doin’?” Then they start moving their heads like this…’

    Rec the below which I’ve rec’d multiple times the past few days. Start around 1:09. If it don’t make you bob your dome there might be something wrong w/ you…clinically speaking of course…

    1:08:40 to be exact but who’s counting?

  2. vapebraham Says:

    Kelly rippa’d. many vt brews – heady, focal banger, bezelbub, fiddlehead – 3 Floyd’s alpha king pale ale, hoptimum, resin, 2 hearted, and a hearty pax in the alley. What a night. Peace n love.

  3. voopa Says:

    Goonie fuckin’ goo goo, Gus

  4. sumodie Says:

    Great night with Phil & Friends at the Cap

    2nd set brought the heat, esp from Scofield

    Cline fit in very tastefully and added some mighty fine licks at times. He contributed more than I expected for his first time as a friend. Such an intelligent & creative musician to go from Wilco to MMW+C to the Nels Cline Singers to Phil & Co.

    Medeski had his moments too but there’s so many musicians on stage (7 in set 2) that he doesn’t stand out as much as I’d like. Still a worthy friend.

    Would love to go again tonight but not in the cards

    Even FJ had his moments but he’s the least interesting member on stage as he doesn’t have his own signature sound.

    And as always good to meet up with Palmer!

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