TTFF: The Dark Side of ’99

Fall '99 (Jay Blakesburg)

Fall ’99 (Jay Blakesburg)

To balance the light, there is there is the dark. And just as the guys were climbing spiritual mountains of ultra-bliss during 1999, another strand of their improvisation was growing more ominous and abstract. Phish’s ambient jamming of Fall ’98 focused primarily on the melodic side of things, with push-and-pull, amoeba-like interplay. In 1999, however, buoyed by the release of “The Siket Disc,” Phish’s abstract jamming—and overall sound—progressed in a much darker direction. The band grew an affinity for sonic layering and dissonant effects, developing what I have called their “millennial” sound. Favoring a drone and hypnotic style of play, Phish moved into their next mini-progression of the late-’90s. Within this context, Trey favored harder-edged guitar work, sheets of sound, and effect-laden soundscapes that veered from his center-stage soloing of years past.

Beginning during Summer Tour while, largely, showing up within single jams, this “millennial” sound became more prevalent and nuanced as Phish moved through their Fall and Winter tours, often dominating the feel of sets and shows all together. Phish music was growing darker in both the downtempo and uptempo realms, a vibe that seemed congruent with the oncoming unknown of 2000 and beyond. As the world crept closer to the turn of the millennium and a potential Y2k disaster, Phish provided an ominous soundtrack to a time filled with shrouded in mystery and speckled with hope.

For today’s playlist, I picked a couple jams from each tour in ’99 so you can hear the progression of the band throughout the year.

Bathtub Gin” 6.30.99 II, Bonner Springs, KS

It had been six full months since we had seen Phish—the longest stretch of down time in Phish’s career up to that point. And the band greeted us with this 20-minute tour-opening “Bathtub Gin” that touched on their darker, ambient sound that would grow throughout the summer.



My Left Toe > Velvet Sea > MLT” 7.7.99 II, Charlotte, NC

This choice ’99 nugget is dedicated to RJ of Helping Friendly Podcast and our own Albert Walker. This clip seemed way too timely to ignore based on yesterday’s Twitter debates.



Piper” 7.18.99 III, Volney, NY

The Oswego “Piper” covers a wide array of ’99-esque feels over a near-half hour, but most of all it is an example of how densely layered and hard-edged their sound had gotten to by the middle of the summer. This would be an example of the developing uptempo millennial jamming, without the pronounced dissonance of late Fall and Winter.



Stash” 9.9.99 I, Vancouver, BC

This “Stash” was the first jam of Fall “99, in the first set of tour. A tale of dark magic, this jam had the venue buzzing at setbreak.



Tweezer” 9.9.99 II, Vancouver, BC

This “Tweezer” moves from candy grooves into a seething section of abstract, millennial psychedelia.



Ghost” 9.12.99 II, Portland, OR

One of my top five “Ghosts,” Portland’s massive version moves through some hypnotic grooves into a section of abstract darkness.



Ghost” 10.9.99 I, Albany, NY

A first-set ambient-laced giant from the Knick.



Sand” 12.3.99 II, Cincinnatti, OH

Having just re-spun this “Sand” yesterday, I was reminded of its quintessentially millennial qualities. A great example of a lot of what I have described.



Drowned” 12.12.99 II, Hartford, CT

A dark horse piece of scalding, uptempo, late-99 jamming.



Jam > Bug” 12.17.99 II, Hampton, VA

Most thought the band was prepping the Mothership for liftoff, but they faked everyone out after a five-minute sound sculpture. This was the soundtrack to the Hampton reunion video..

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291 Responses to “TTFF: The Dark Side of ’99”

  1. BingosBrother Says:

    I love that idea Mia. A Readers Choice would be fun too.

    Best Skip Shows Ever would be a sweet post(if not already done).

    Daughter had a tick yesterday. On her scrunchie though. Thankfully.

  2. little umbrellas Says:

    In Barstow. Headed to the Grand Canyon (South Rim) tomorrow… With no camping reservations.. any tips?

  3. phishm Says:

    Take 2 hits each and find a comfortable spot. What a beautiful spot on the earth to be. Might as well take advantage of it if you can. My opinion anyways.

  4. IrieWalton Says:

    Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens, @LilUm. Then grab a drink on the terrace at the El Tovar overlooking the south Rim.

    Love that place.

  5. little umbrellas Says:

    Def gonna be beautiful.. just wondering about tips on a place to choose for viewing (it’s big and we’re only doing a day)… And also any tips on camping (Mather seems full)…

    Gonna try and see the sunset tomorrow and the next mornings sunrise.

  6. little umbrellas Says:

    ^Ohhh yeah IrieW! This sounds like the goods. Experience’d. Thanks.

  7. little umbrellas Says:

    @IrieW. Did you stay at Indian Garden’s? Did you need a reservation?

  8. Stoney Case Says:


  9. phishm Says:

    This should be a fun ride. Haven’t listened to this jam in the longest time. Should be fun.

  10. Bwana Says:

    Late night Spafford set from Denver. Live now:

  11. voopa Says:

    This place has been busy, and so have I. And I’m 46 on the 2nd, holy crap!

  12. the Baker Says:

    Welcome to your 47th year, VoopSuit!

  13. phishm Says:

    Thanks Bwana. Great music. Enjoyed that a lot. Still enjoying.

  14. the Baker Says:

    Happy Monday BB!

    Here’s to ‘Murika & a reminder f what we are NOT(…yet);

    …25 years later…we’re Still up-side down…

  15. Bwana Says:

    Sure thing Phishm. They didn’t start until 11pm CO time. I let it stream while falling asleep. Those boys get it. That Feel Like A Stranger led me into dream world…

  16. ek_wilson Says:

    the limb and hood from 12.3.99 scared me. wish they made the cut. maybe it was the dose

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