Discussing Vegas: Part III


10.31.16 (Micahel Stein)

Lawn Memo: Before we get into the actual Halloween set, let’s talk about the first and third set of Halloween. Dave, what are your overall thoughts?

Mr. Miner: I thought they were both quite good. I thought the song selection for set one was great and there were a lot of high energy moments throughout, starting right off the bat with “Carini.” I thought the “Tube” “Wolfman’s” was a great combo and I really liked the juxtaposition of “Petrichor” “Antelope” to end the opening set.

Memo: Agreed, great song selection! The “Petrichor, “Antelope” combo put me in the perfect frame of mind going into the Ziggy set. Love the new-Phish and old-Phish combos. I liked the third set live but love it even more after a couple spins. “46 Days > Sand > Twist” was an excellent way to start off and “Slave to the Traffic Light” was the perfect way to close it. “Sand” and “2001” brought some excellent jams in short time frames. I thought both the first and third set were nice bookends to Ziggy.

10.31 (Michael Stein)

10.31 (M. Stein)

Miner: Yeah, the third set felt like a great exhale after the band nailed Ziggy. They let loose with some groovier stuff and created a really fun atmosphere to end the weekend. I think “Sand” was one of the high points of the run, as the band went outside the box to create a truly cathartic peak. And it’s always a treat when they blow up a “2001” like that amongst this era of four-minute versions. I love when Trey actually plays lead guitar over those grooves rather than just mess with effects which has, for better or worse, become the norm. I also really dug the “Twist” drum jam. The way they maintained the song structure within that limited expression was really cool.

Memo: Yeah, that “Twist” jam was really unique. Man, I love when they close a run with “Slave to the Traffic Light.”

Miner: It’s a great finale. It allows for reflection, introspection and a sense of peace after all of the madness. Definitely a great choice. I really likes this version as well.

Memo: “Slave to the Traffic Light” IS the song that does that for me. It melts me every single time. When it caps a run—you nailed it—total reflection for me. It gives me the warmest of all feelings. I could see “Slave to the Traffic Light” at every show.

10.31 (Michael Stein)

10.31 (Michael Stein)

Miner: Every show? It might get a little old for me as the jam is pretty formulaic, but when placed in the right spot, it is unquestionably perfect. My friends and I often say that a show needs to earn a “Slave,” and that it should be held back to cap a standout night of music. I think when they play it after a standard-ish show, it kind of loses its power.

Memo: Yes, every show. I need a lot of reflection in my life. Agreed that the right placement only elevates it. Some of the best hugs in my life have been post “Slave to the Traffic Light”.

Miner: Fair enough, I’ll take a Tweezer every show.

Memo: Ha, so will I! So after a full tour, what are your thoughts on “Petrichor?”

Miner: Funny you ask. I usually can digest new Phish immediately, but it took me three times seeing this song live to truly “get it.” At first it seemed like “Time Turns Elastic” junior, but it is actually far more dynamic that that song. Granted it’s a very long composition, but it has many feels and movements that work as one which is what I thought TTE never achieved. It’s a great piece of music.

Memo: “Petrichor” has grown on me. I loved the placement in Vegas and thought it’s execution was top notch. I love how different each section is yet how well they all fit together. I try to pause and think about the fact that my favorite band can write songs as different as “Petrichor” and “I’ve Always Wanted It This Way.” I have high hopes for “Petrichor.” They seem to touch on the jamming element but bail at this instance. I hope it goes deep sometime. I could see it being a baby “YEM”.

10.31 (M.Stein)

10.31 (M.Stein)

Miner: Sorry to burst your bubble, but they aren’t gonna jam “Petrichor.” That’s not what it was written for. There is no departure point written into the song. It creates a journey without improvisation, and I think that it’s strength. It’s like long form musical theatre. But I totally agree with you on Trey’s diverse compositional abilities. That’s always been one of his hallmarks. From something as simple as “Jibboo” or “Dog Faced Boy” to something as complex as “You Enjoy Myself” or “Petrichor,” for him to succeed almost every time is remarkable.

Memo: You’re probably right. I’m still waiting for the first “Waiting All Night” jam. I might be waiting even longer for “Petrichor.” Regardless, it’s brilliant. I listen to it a lot on my way to work, it always seems to put a bounce in my step. If they just so happen to jam it, well, we might need to do an entire post about it.

Miner: I’m still waiting for a “Bouncin” jam to be honest! What have they been doing all these years?!

Memo: One of the best part of Phish’s Halloween shows are how all-out their fans go with costumes. What were the best Halloween costumes you saw?

Miner: Two friends of mine dressed up as the murdered sisters in the hallway from The Shining and another friend of mine dressed up as Mike Ditka. They all nailed their costumes beyond anything I’ve seen in years. I’d have to say it was a tie.

Memo: I saw the Ditka costume, great stuff. Lot of good ones, however, nothing to top my all time favorite—The IT Tower which I saw at Atlantic City (http://i.imgur.com/6IECYwf.jpg). Moving forward, Dave, you wrote an entire blog post back in 2009 about how you thought Ziggy Stardust was the best choice Phish could make on Halloween. Seven years later it happened, was it everything you had hoped it would be?

Phishbill 2016

Phishbill 2016

Miner: Well, I didn’t really have any expectations of what it would be like. I felt that the storyline to the album and the history behind David Bowie’s alter ego of Ziggy had so many parallels to Trey’s rise and fall, that there couldn’t have been a more perfect album fior them to cover upon their return. I thought the entire performance was incredibly soulful and spiritual, especially with the recent passing of Bowie, himself. Though the album chronicles a tragedy, it is ultimately a hopeful story and that feeling truly permeated Phish’s performance. Trey, Bowie, Ziggy—they were all one in the same in this context, and the parallels of their three storylines are undeniable. I thought that made the performance incredibly intimate and personal.

Memo: Man, Dave you just nailed my thoughts in one paragraph. There is no doubt that Ziggy Stardust is an album with incredible meaning for Phish. I especially like your description of soulful and spiritual. It was of all that for me. Hearing each member of Phish belt out those incredible lyrics was something I will never forget. You could feel the emotion with each note and you can still hear the emotion on each re-listen. It was a soulful experience to take that in with 16,000 fellow fans and think about how each of our lives have risen and fallen, and what a journey it has been with Phish.

Miner: Yeah, if there was one word to describe the set it would be soulful. The band really accessed a part of their playing and themselves that isn’t always on display, and that made the performance so special. They usually fluctuate between goofy, rocking, grooving, and uplifting, but soulful isn’t a word I would generally use to generally describe Phish. On this night and in this set, however, they oozed soul.

Memo: Phish often has guests for these cover sets and Ziggy was no exception. What were your thoughts on the decision to go with strings and backup singers and no horns?

10.31 (Michael Stein)

10.31 (Michael Stein)

Miner: I, personally, don’t like horns with Phish. I realize that’s probably an unpopular opinion, but I just don’t dig on how their sound meshes with the band. There are probably a few exceptions throughout the years, like Exile, but I was happy with their decision to leave them out this year. I thought the strings provided an incredibly dreamy feeling to the music and I thought it provided the perfect accompaniment for such a soulful performance. I thought the backup singers were integral to the entire set. Without them I don’t think it would have worked nearly as well as it did. David Bowie’s vocals were obviously the most challenging element of the album for Phish to tackle, and I feel that the support of the backup singers provided the necessary complement for the songs to truly come to life.

Memo: I was initially shocked with the decision to go without horns, but I’m glad they went without them. The strings/backup singer combo was impeccable. It was the perfect complement to the central performers. At no point did they overshadow but instead only aided in the beauty. I get chills on each re-listen. The arrangements were perfect. I thought it was an all emotional, classy application and exactly the way they should have played it.

Miner: Phish has a knack for executing these sets perfectly. Their brilliant musicality and their unparalleled sense of the moment always combines in all-time performances. They were born for this stuff.

Memo: So what were your favorite parts of the Ziggy set? Favorite songs or moments?

Miner: This was the first album that Phish has covered—other than Dark Side—that I knew note for note while it was happening, and it is one of my favorite albums of all time as well, so it’s hard to pick what my favorite moments were since it’s such a holistic piece of art. I’ve always dreamed of hearing Trey play the signature guitar lick to the title track, so that was very special for me. I also thought “Rock and Roll Suicide” was perhaps Trey’s best vocal performance of his career and one of the most emotional moments in Phish history—the lyrics, the meaning, the crescendo of the set—it was absolutely perfect.

"Rock and Roll Suicide" (Michael Stein)

“Rock and Roll Suicide” (Michael Stein)

Memo: I firmly agree that “Rock and Roll Suicide” was a defining moment for Trey. The lyrics are so applicable to his journey that I think it helped him to find something extra. Trey belting out “You’re not alone” while bobbing in the front of the stage is an all time moment for me. I listened to that before work one night and was belting out in my best Trey rendition for about five hours. It was something special.

Miner: Yeah, who would have guessed Trey would have had a defining career moment without a guitar in his hand?

Memo: My favorite Bowie song has always been “Moonage Daydream” so seeing that was obviously something special for me. Trey’s voice rang true and the solo was everything I had hoped it would be. Powerful stuff. Speaking of the strings and backup singers, there are moments in “Moonage” where they intermingle with such beauty.  

Miner: I love the song “Soul Love.” I thought the strings and the backup singers really worked perfectly on this one. Once they nailed this tune, I felt they reached a level of comfort to execute the rest of the set.

Memo: “Soul Love” was outstanding.  Near the top for me in amount of re-listens. The backup singers give me chills. “It Ain’t Easy” was another tour de force with the background singers. I feel like I could take on the Death Star by myself while listening back.

"Ziggy Stardust" (Michael Stein)

“Ziggy Stardust” (Michael Stein)

Miner: Yeah, that was awesome. Another great Trey vocal performance. It was so surreal to see him on stage without a guitar. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before other than vocal jams and a capella tunes. Little known fact, that song is a cover of a Ron Davies original that Bowie included on the album.

Memo: As you stated the vocals were obviously the most challenging part of the album. I loved how Phish broke them up and every member contributed. For the most part I thought they were excellent. They may not have hit the range that Bowie could hit but the emotion behind each lyric elevated the performance.

Miner: Yeah, I thought the lyrics were as good as Phish could have made them, and what more can you ask for than that? Additionally, I absolutely love “Starman” and “Lady Stardust” and thought Phish really nailed each song. They both carried so much meaning as well. Phish are the starmen that have come down from the sky and blown all of our minds for thirty years now, and the lyric in Lady Stardust—”And it was all right, the band was altogether”—was a chill, borderline tear-inducing moment after all that Phish has been through. That lyric totally relates to this golden age of the band’s career and it hit with such poignancy.

Memo: What do you think Ziggy’s legacy will be? How do you think it fits into the pantheon of Phish Halloween sets?

10.31 (Michael Stein)

10.31 (M. Stein)

Miner: I’ve come to a point where ranking and comparing shows seems fruitless to me. They are all so unique and special. I know that’s a little against the grain that I’ve established on my site over the years, but how can one compare their Halloween performances? They are all so great and so different. I think the most we can do is pick favorites. But in terms of third sets, my runaway favorite is Vegas ‘98. That “Wolfman’s” is one of my all-time favorite jams and the most quintessential Halloween jam that they have ever played. That shit is over the top Phish. In terms of Ziggy, I think it stands on its own as a straight cover set as opposed to an interpretive cover set—just like the White Album. All the other sets, the band made their own in one way or another, often with improvisation. I guess the next closest straight cover would be Exile. I loved the reverence with which they played The Beatles, The Stones and Bowie. I mean what can you do to improve on such classic rock and roll albums? To even try borders on sacrilege. I also loved the more improvisational Halloween sets, they had a whole different feel, with the obvious example being Remain in Light, and somewhat lesser so Loaded, Quadrophenia and Waiting for Columbus. If one thing rings true, however, I’ve absolutely adored every Halloween set. I think they have all been perfect.

Memo: I thought Ziggy was one of the finer Halloween performances, and both the first and third set only help the 10/31/2016 cause. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Vegas as a whole was an all-time run. I want to give credit to how Phish approached the last two Halloween runs in Vegas. With Halloween being the first night in 2014, coming out with Chilling, Thrilling was brilliant. That set the tone for the entire run and was the perfect way to inject life into Vegas right from the start. In 2016, with Halloween being the last night, Phish slayed the first three nights with huge jams and even bigger sets. Ziggy felt like a culmination of all four nights. It was the perfect set at the perfect time. Both in 2014, and 2016 Phish nailed the setlist construction. Let’s talk a little about the show experience. Your thoughts on Vegas / MGM for Halloween as a city / venue?

10.31 (Michael Stein)

10.31 (Michael Stein)

Miner: Vegas is the best possible city for Halloween. I think that goes without saying. I feel it’s probably the best city for Phish in general. The all night aspect of everything is unmatched in other cities and all the sensory overload of Vegas make it the perfect psychedelic destination. Hunter Thompson was onto something. As a venue, the floor is a total clusterfuck, but there are enough nooks and crannies around the building to make it an enjoyable experience.

Memo: Vegas rules. It’s insane. I love it so much yet there is no city I can’t wait to leave like Vegas. The energy for Phish is on another level. Hearing everyone’s stories is an experience in itself.  I do love Boardwalk Hall as an actual venue but Atlantic City can’t touch Vegas. Hopefully it’s a common occurrence.

Miner: A lot of people talk about the grueling nature of four nights in Vegas, but I don’t really drink or gamble so it’s all just like one big 24 hour amusement park for me. I feel I get all the positive and none of the negative out of that town. I’ve been to every Phish show in Vegas, but never been to Vegas without Phish and I’d like to keep it that way. The city has little appeal to me without Phish there, but when the band is in town, I find the entire experience to be one big spectacle.

Memo: I am pretty sure I did enough drinking and gambling for the both of us. In fact, I still might not have recovered. 24oz Lagunitas IPAs during the shows is no joke.

Miner: Wow! That sounds like a lot of piss breaks to me. But, hey, any way you cut it, Phish and Vegas go together like peanut butter and jelly. And on that note, I guess this is a wrap! Great talking Vegas with you, brother. This was a lot of fun. Let’s revisit this format in the future. Happy Holidays to all!

10.31 (Michael Stein)

10.31 (Michael Stein)

31,104 Responses to “Discussing Vegas: Part III”

  1. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Salted tortillas are a saint!

  2. Kaveh Says:

    and he promises a ’73 RFK release and he’s going to make the Allman’s pay for it.

    ^ this!

  3. ColonelJoy Says:

    I’m more of a southern leg May 77 guy…Betty’s peak as far as recording fidelity goes from my ears

  4. wilbard Says:

    ^ that July 78 box is pretty much perfect quality too, imo

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    Colonel, we actually don’t really know the quality of these masters yet. They haven’t been professionally transferred until now. To my ear even the Cornell transfer is slightly too spacious/open, and the other 3 shows, well, they’re just not very clean.

    Quite often the biggest difference in these official releases isn’t the mastering, it’s the transfer.

    I certainly agree the already-released later May shows sound better. But, for instance, my old CDRs of Tuscaloosa and Richmond both had that slightly muted quality

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah the ebb and flow of Betty tapes from good to great to amazing is odd and I always wonder how much is the transfers…there are a few spectacular tapes from June 76, and a few more from April 78, etc…

  7. realoutcasty Says:

    watching that shit show presser with my mom (she’s visiting) and we joke about moving to Ireland as she was born there. she then tells me i technically get Irish citizenship. woohoo!

    “If either of your parents was an Irish citizen who was born in Ireland, then you are automatically an Irish citizen, irrespective of your place of birth. If you are an Irish citizen, you can apply for an Irish passport. You do not need an Irish passport in order to be an Irish citizen but having an Irish passport is evidence that you are an Irish citizen.”

    anybody up for Caps & Jams in Cork? 😉 i kid i kid. love me the good ol USA. nice back pocket option though.

  8. ColonelJoy Says:

    The Morning Dew link on Rolling Stone is definitely a different, new mix, which is cool. On listening it didn’t feel like a retread of the common mixes in circulation, for whatever that’s worth…

  9. ColonelJoy Says:

    Betty had several peaks for sure, just another delightful Dead oddity

  10. sumodie Says:

    I don’t bug G about holds so we’ll see when the emails arrive

    Being able to submit two requests per name/cc/address was a nice bonus this time

    I’ve never heard Cornell

  11. bobby weird Says:

    ^ ROC, true dat. my bro was in parts of the Middle East and Africa during the Iraq/Afganistan “troubles” working for an NGO, when American journalists and others were regularly getting kidnapped/killed. he obtained an Irish passport this way to avoid being seen as an American worth capturing. he’s still alive so it worked for him.

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I’ve long wished I had a closer connection to my irish or german peeps to get the other passport. if you can do it it is definitely a good thing to do if you travel internationally at all. flexibility is good…

  13. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah agreed Colonel, to my ear it sounds better, Keith and Bobby are cleared, the whole thing is more “forward” and enveloping

  14. MrCompletely Says:


    the dusborne matrix is a fun listen tho

  15. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    i know a lot of people like that, Colonel Joy. for me, i just think that Cornell is obviously the best show from one of the best months in the bands history. Cornell is fire from beginning to end:

    Best Minglewood ever
    one of the best Losers ever
    one of the great slow TLEO’s of all time- phil bombing and keith SHINING!
    arguably the best Jack Straw of ’77
    super sick Deal
    May ’77 was THE tour for Lazy>Sup- this one holds up against any of them
    show me a better Brown Eyed Women- Definitive version here
    Mama Tried is Mama Tried, but this one crackles
    Row Jimmy- a personal favorite version of one of my favorite all time songs. This could be the highlight of the show.
    Dancin’ in the Streets- do not fuck with this version. greatest of all time, imo. This could be the highlight of the show.

    Scarlet>Fire- worth the hype ever bestowed on it. one of the greatest ever played. This could be the highlight of the show.
    Estimated is one of the cleanest, perfect contained versions ever played. not a giant monster that it would become, but fuck, an amazing version. musical density
    St. Stephen>NFA>St. Stephen: i consider this one piece and it’s a fucking monster. i love this NFA so much- This could be the highlight of the show.
    Morning Dew- this fucking Dew is what it is all about. THIS is Morning Dew. This could be the highlight of the show. THAT is how you end a show!

    E: One More Saturday Night: just to remind everyone that the Grateful Dead is fucking rock and roll band. that rock and rollin’ music meets the risin’, shinin’ sun!

    i know it’s the most overrated, hyped dead show of all time. but it is one of my all time favorites. the show is fire, through and through.

  16. aj Says:

    real talk, kind of a dick move for dry goods to send out an email today

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    see I love this debate so with ALL LOVE and respect for differing opinions

    Minglewood Loser TLEO and even Deal don’t sound that unique for May 77 to me at all

    Jack Straw is very good but that song got so much better in ’78 I don’t care much for the ’77s

    LL > Supp, again, disagree May is the tour for these, they’re pretty but don’t go off. Strongly prefer the much shreddier versions from Fall, into ’78 and even a lot of the ’79s with the blazing hummingbird style leads

    No doubt early ’77 is the time for BEW (except for a few gems from 73/74) but I like the March versions best of all

    Row Jimmy, no argument it’s amazing. A stunner. Gorgeous. But have you heard 3.20.77? No contest IMO – and anyway I like the late ’73 versions more almost across the board

    Dancin – one of the best. If you want to pick it as #1 that’s totally fair. I like Swing better.

    Scarlet Fire – the first really great one, but again, too undeveloped to be my absolute favorite. Best parts are the intro (Phil) and ending (Jerry fanning)

    Estimated, I don’t hear it at all. Standard early 77 version, undeveloped but fine. Song was a hundred times better in the fall and into early ’78.

    Stephen/NFA – great, but I think the Buffalo NFA smokes Cornell and it goes into that Comes a Time…and compared to Englishtown, or the Winterland March with the Caution jam?

    Morning Dew – like Dancin, obviously one of the best. But THE best? Matter of taste. I like the big ’74s a little more for tone reasons. But if this is your fav who could argue?

    So to me that’s exactly zero clear best evers, but four (Jimmy, Dancin, S>F and Dew) you could make an argument for. Which is a great show!

    It’s a great show!

    One of the greatest shows. But yeah I just don’t buy best ever, or even clear best of tour.

    But you’re not wrong to think it is!!!! Just different ears and eyes!

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    I do like the synth sounds Keith used in those early Estimateds tho. Squidgy.

  19. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    I just like defending Cornell. Like a lot of people, it was probably the first tape i had that was really high quality. Also, I had one of my first “holy shit this band really is cosmically off the charts” moments when i was in high school with Cornell. I just hold the show and music very close. I feel like i’m sticking up for an old friend even though he may be rough around the edges all I see is the great in him. I do the same thing for 3.1.1969 for the similar reasons.

  20. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    you are not wrong, joggerz

  21. MiA Says:

    Damn. C’s critiques makes me not want to listen to it now. 😉

    Just kidding. The thing I like about Cornell, is that they are (to my ears) “hooked up” the whole show. While I am confident that there are stylistically “more interesting” versions out there of each of the tracks, this show seems like the one show that if you put it on, and someone still didn’t like GD, then they just were never going to get it. And it’s not just Cornell. It seems like all of ’77 there was a lot of that.

  22. MiA Says:

    Damn. C’s critiques makes me not want to listen to it now. 😉

    Just kidding. The thing I like about Cornell, is that they are (to my ears) “hooked up” the whole show. While I am confident that there are stylistically “more interesting” versions out there of each of the tracks, this show seems like the one show that if you put it on, and someone still didn’t like GD, then they just were never going to get it. And it’s not just Cornell. It seems like all of ’77 there was a lot of that.

  23. verno329 Says:

    I agree with my birthday brother in Heady for his thoughts on Cornell.

    And also with @MiA re: comparison between Fall ’97, though I would add Dec ’95 as well. Can never have too much of it, imo.

  24. MiA Says:


    I’m a GD noob through and through. Not sure why I even posted that thought honestly.

  25. MiA Says:

    Yes. Bring on more Winter ’95! Well, after you do the Deer Creek box set and Big Cypress.

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