A Change of Pace

Posted in Uncategorized with the on June 23rd, 2014 by Mr.Miner

With tour a week away, I wanted to write a note about some changes this summer. I have loved being a one-man newsreel for five years, cranking out pieces before going to sleep each and every night. I have loved the feedback from all Phish fans and I have always enjoyed the conversations that my reviews have sparked. However, I find this Summer Tour to be a good point of transition. As the band enters a new chapter in their 31st year, armed with an album of fresh material, I am going to step away from my at-all-costs commitment to reviewing every show.

This is not to say that I won’t be writing during tour, I almost certainly will. Maybe I’ll write on the off days, maybe I’ll write after some shows—I really don’t know. Because people have come to expect my reviews every day, I just wanted to put it out there before tour that I am not going to hold myself to writing after every show. Perhaps I’ll get bored without writing and I’ll switch back to my old routine. I just don’t know. I am also not positive that I will be at every show. I’m kind of playing this summer by ear. As always, thanks for reading along and I’ll see you out there.

Spring ’94: The Birth of “Psych Jazz”

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 8th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
Phish 1994 (Unknown)

Phish 1994 (Unknown)

In their heyday, Phish advanced their style of play on a tour-by-tour basis, constantly refining their past while adding facets to their game. Their progression through the groove paradigm of the late-‘90s has been well documented on this site, but the first peak of the band—the years between 1993 and 1995—followed an evolutionary path as well. New Years Eve ’93 in Worcester was the culmination of Phish’ early years. Demolishing The Centrum with arguably the most impressive performance of their career to that point, Phish had peaked out their musical style. 12/31/93 represented the apex of the band’s tight and frenetic “speed jazz” approach to jamming. Most often within song-structure and communicating far more like jazz musicians than the psychedelic rock colossus of later years, the band had honed this style from their earliest days, and it came to a notable head during 1993’s Summer Tour, specifically in the month of August. But after the year came to a close in Worcester, Phish had to find a new path. In a very similar dynamic to their year-end show at Madison Square Garden only two years later, the walls of their musical style could be pushed no further, and the band needed a new focus. The answer to this year-end dilemma of ’93, interestingly enough, would put Phish on a road directly to December 31, 1995.

1994 T Shirt (Pollock)

1994 T Shirt (Pollock)

As the band stepped into the touring year of 1994, in was inhuman to think they could jam any tighter or faster than they had in ’93, so it was time to loosen up. Just a bit at first—and then a whole lot more. Phish’s “speed jazz” jamming of ’93 could be generally described as pushing a musical structure as far as it could possibly go within it’s boundaries. In 1994, the band traveled an outward path, loosening up first over Spring, more over Summer, to Fall where all structure would be obliterated. Along this path towards abstraction, Spring ’94 represented the beginning of the “contortion of structure” phase that intensify throughout the Summer. During Spring tour the band was just starting to bend structures, while their playing was still clearly rooted in the jazzier approach of their previous years. As they took their first steps towards musical deconstruction, Instead of “speed jazz,” Phish began to play “psych jazz.”

With this shift, the band became more adventurous. They were more likely to fully leave a set course of a jam to pursue a sonic tangent. Jams often carried abrupt, stop-start cadences, and carried angular feels. These were the days of centering “Antelope” and “David Bowie” in the wheelhouse of the second set, jams that spurned intricate, conversations with band members playing closely off each others phrases, either repeating or responding to each other in the jazz tradition. There were no effects, no soundcsapes, just straight playing.

11/94 (J. Commentucci)

11/94 (J. Commentucci)

While pointing towards the open-jamming that would infiltrate the band’s live shows in the Fall of the same year, the playing of Spring ’94 was still only months removed from the band’s year-end shows of ’93, and things don’t change in an instant. And therein lies the beauty of this tour. It sounds like balls-out, classic Phish, but with a dash of exploration sprinkled throughout.

Come November Phish would be undertaking, long-form jams such as the Bangor “Tweezer,” Bozeman “Tweezer,” Minneapolis “Bowie,” Providence “Bowie” and many more iconic explorations. One can clearly trace this outward progression from the beginning of Spring ’94, through Summer and Fall, all the way to Summer  ’95—Phish’s most abstract tour. This Spring, they were just scratching the surface of this direction, and for this reason I can see why this tour holds a special place for purists. And the tapes don’t lie.

Today I have put together a Spring ’94 “psych jazz” playlist. (I will do another for Summer.) These jams illustrate the first step away from structure in Phish’s movement towards becoming the most proficient, whole-band improvisers of all time.

David Bowie” 4.13.94 II, New York, NY

A late-second set “Bowie” from the first of three nights at the Beacon Theatre.

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Run Like an Antelope” 4.14.94 II, New York, NY

A ferocious, centerpiece “Antelope” that set the tone for the many versions to follow on Spring tour.

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David Bowie” 4.17.94 II, Fairfax, VA

“Bowie” jams have started to expand already, as the band many versions early on in tour.

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Bathtub Gin” 4.18.94 II, Newark, DE

A short, but sweet “Bathtub Gin” that jumps out of theme.

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David Bowie” 4.24.94 II, Charlotte, NC

And this “Bowie,” from the Grady Cole Center, was the version to which all the others were pointing.

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Tweezer” 5.7.94 II, Dallas, TX

The Bomb Factory “Tweezer” represented a big turning point in the band’s willingness to let things move far outside the box.

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Run Like an Antelope“ 5.8.94 II, Bee Cave, TX

Phish’s mojo was still working the night after the Bomb Factory, as evidenced by this centerpiece “Antelope.”

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Split Open and Melt“ 5.13.94 II, Tempe, AZ

A “Melt” from the desert

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Run Like an Antelope > BBFCFM > Antelope“ 5.16.94 II, LA, CA

The now-legendary “Big Black Furry Antelope” from LA’s WIltern Theatre.

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Tweezer” 5.28.94 II, Monterey, CA

Spring ’94 ended at Laguna Seca Daze festival along the central California coast. Phish played two-setters each night. This was the “Tweezer” from the first night.

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Split Open and Melt” 5.29.94 II, Monterey, CA

And the “Split” from the tour-closer.

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A Dying Breed

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on June 3rd, 2014 by Mr.Miner
"David Bowie" 11.19.96 (Unknown)

“David Bowie” 11.19.96 (Unknown)

Though Phish picked up a new direction on Halloween ’96, they did not just up and drop their old style. Just as many jams became forward-looking pieces that hinted at the groove of ’97, many standout excursions still elevated via Trey’s lead guitar. And the sonic juxtaposition between the two styles was significant. The jams that foreshadowed the funk were informed by the Talking Heads ethos of collaboration on a single groove—each person contributed a part of one, overall musical structure. The other sort of post-Halloween highlight of Fall ’96 nodded to the breakneck, psych rock patterns that fueled their ’94 and ‘95 ascent. But most of all, these jams were anchored by Trey’s marksman-like lead playing. Remaining out front for almost the entirety of these retro-looking jams, Trey stepped back only to play his mini drum kit, another sound that tied these improvisations to the past rather than the future. But with their newfound inspiration from their holiday cover set, this retro style of jamming received a necessary jolt as well. The beautiful thing, however, about this juncture in Phish’s career, was their past was glorious and their future was brighter than they could possibly imagine.

For the five weeks of Fall ’96 that followed Halloween, these 95/96 hybrid jams were just as common, if not more so, than the 96/97-style excursions. Additionally, as evidenced by 11.6’s “Mike’s Song” from Knoxville and 11.13’s “Suzy Greenberg” from Minneapolis, Phish often mashed these two styles together in long-form jams that moved between improvisational approaches within single, era-morphing pieces. Whereas groove jams were a pushing of their own musical envelope at this time, these psych rock pieces with Trey at the helm represented Phish’s safe space on which they could comfortably rely.

SCA961122-HBOne can hear a totally different dynamic within these 95/96 hybrids as compared to their 96/97 counterparts. There was far more urgency behind these pieces, and the band communicated in a  totally different manner. During mid-90s arrival, Trey’s lead guitar was like a compass, always guiding the band in the right direction, and it was this time-tested formula that guided these jams. When jams opened up, most often, the rest of the band would fall back into support positions for their six-stringed assassin. One can hear Page and Mike play “behind” Trey, almost like jazz players comping a soloist. But Leo and Cactus often “comped” with whole melodic phrases of their own, a technique that formed a notably dense musical palette. Page stuck mostly to piano and organ during these pieces, using the 96/97 jams to incorporate his crunchier clavinet and electro sounds that would come into full bloom during the following years. Page and Mike often stepped to the forefront when Trey hopped on his kit, a common pattern in many extended Fall ’96 jams, but when he was done playing rhythms and picked up his axe, this dynamic returned quickly.

Fall of ’96 was a fascinating time in the Phish world. What began as a listless tour down the East Coast was totally transformed and invigorated by Halloween, took on a revitalized sense of adventure in the weeks thereafter. The band’s renewed inspiration shone through in their many groove-laced jams that dotted their westward road, but it also came through loud and clear in the final stretch of old-school, psych rock jams of their career. Though their Phish’s music would assume several stylistic shifts over the rest of their career, never again would we hear the improvisational remnants of their iconic peak of 1993-1995. Their sound changed forever.

Today, I present to you a playlist that illustrates this then-dying breed of old-school, psych rock jams as seen through the lens of late-Fall ’96.

Bathtub Gin” 11.7.96 II, Lexington, KY

A historic piece that is a perfect example of the style of jamming to which I am referring. If Trey is holding his guitar, he is leading the way brilliantly. And in this jam he does so in more ways than one.

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Simple” 11.8.96 II, Champaign, IL

After a stint on the kit, Trey picks up his guitar and annihilates the rest of this hard-edged jam.

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Split Open and Melt” 11.15.96 II, St.Louis, MO

Phish’s old-school style of improvisation truly catered to “Split,” as evidenced by this balls-to-the-wall version from St. Louis’s “M” set.

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Mike’s Song” 11.15.96 II, St.Louis, MO

This take-no-prisoners “Mike’s” jam leans strongly towards ’95 in pace and texture. And it is amazing.

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Simple” 11.18.96 II, Memphis, TN

In this well-known “Simple,” following his turn on the mini-kit, Trey takes the helm with a heart-wrenching solo and never lets go. Page offers gorgeous comps of piano and organ, but there is no question who is center stage in this one.

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David Bowie” 11.19.96 II, Nashville, TN

This extended, set-opening “David Bowie” illustrates the guitar-centric style of the 95/96 hybrids. Page provides some co-leads on piano in spots throughout the journey.

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Weekapaug Groove” 11.23.96 II,  Vancouver, BC

When Trey played like this, “Weekapug” really packed a wallop!

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Simple” 12.6.96 II, Las Vegas, NV

“Simple” was the most prolific jam of Fall ’96, and this final version from Vegas provides a third, very different take on Gordon’s anthemic piece.

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Mike’s Song” 12.28.96 II, Philadelphia, PA

This Mikes” moves into a blissier territory than most from the year on the heels of gorgeous lead playing by Trey and some equally beautiful piano co-leads by Page. (And it gave me a tenth track to round out the playlist.)

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Tweezer” 12.30.96 II, Boston, MA

Phish’s year end “Tweezer” was one of the last versions in which Trey would assume such a lead role and maintain it throughout.

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Bridging the Gap

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on June 2nd, 2014 by Mr.Miner
Phishbill 10.31.96

Phishbill 10.31.96

When Phish concluded 1995 with a peak performance at Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve, nobody in their fanbase could have predicted that the band would return to the same room, two years to the day, and sound diametrically different. In fact, the same could be said for the their two-night MSG stand that nearly bisected these year-end holiday shows in late-October of 1996. There was still no hint as to the band’s oncoming metamorphosis, despite the fact that it would start in just over a week. In just the opposite vain, the band, for the first time in their career, had downshifted into a stylistic neutral following the end of their crowing year of ’95. That’s not to say didn’t play great shows. Virtually the entirety of their short US Summer Tour were standout shows. The Red Rocks, Deer Creek and Clifford Ball runs were stuff the of legend (and still are), while Hershey has come to light over the years as a show on the level with any of them. The only standard performances that aren’t still discussed today were their stateside return at Wolf Mountain, and Alpine Valley. But despite these standout Summer shows, Phish was treading stylistic water. They were riding out the wave of fast-paced psych rock that had delivered them to The World’s Most Famous Arena on the biggest night of the year, but they didn’t quite possess the same full-throttle nature as the previous Fall. Having only played a handful of headlining gigs in Europe while opening for Carlos Santana earlier in July, and with a resultingly truncated US Summer, they hadn’t had much on-stage time to develop a new direction before the start of Fall.

Billy Breathes

Billy Breathes

Phish released their sixth album, Billy Breathes, the day before kicking off Fall Tour ’96 in Lake Placid. And as they set out in support of this album (whose songs were virtually all live staples already), their shows—in retrospect—were pretty uninspired. This may seem hard to believe, but in the 11 shows that pre-date Halloween on Fall Tour, there are but three jams with all-time musical value eighteen years later—Pittsburgh’s “Maze,” Charlotte’s “Simple,” and Tallahassee’s “Mike’s Song” (whose treasure lies in its sub rosa rehearsal of Talking Heads’ “Houses in Motion”). That’s slim pickings for twenty-two sets of Phish, regardless of what year it is! Only two months removed from a stellar Summer run, Phish’s sense of purpose had faded and their shows were suffering.

But then came Halloween. A proverbial shot in the arm if there ever was one, Phish’s musical costume of the Talking Heads on October 31 in Atlanta, forever changed the course of their career. To learn “Remain in Light” for their third Halloween set, the band had to embrace a percussive style of groove-based playing with which they had only flirted. Composed with a far more democratic style Phish was used to up through 1995, “Remain in Light” gave the band a new way of looking at improvisation. This seminal performance was the first brick in the road to the band’s funk-based paradigm shift of 1997.  But five weeks of Fall Tour still remained!

Markthalle—Hamburg, GR

Markthalle—Hamburg, GR

And in these last five weeks, Phish’s new direction began emerge. The tempo of many jams slowed down. Trey became more and more enamored with his wah pedal, playing sparse and chunky chords structures for his band mates retort. Highlights began to bubble up at a far quicker rate—inspiration was clearly afoot—and they sounded far different than the music before Halloween. The thick grooves that we would come to know so well started to seep into Phish’s repertoire slowly but surely over the rest of Fall. This time period represents the beginning of a process that culminate on that fateful night in Hamburg, Germany, March 1, 1997—commemorated on “Slip, Stitch and Pass”—when everything “clicked” for the band, and they had fully realized their new direction.

During a 1998 interview with David Byrne, himself, for Sessions at West 54th St., Page looked back on Halloween ’96 and noted:

It may have had the biggest effect on us because we really learned the grooves and we really tried to get inside the grooves on the album…I took so much away from that. And the groove-oriented playing that we’ve done in the last few years – repetition, pulling things out, putting them back – all that sort of thing, a lot of it was from learning [Remain In Light].

The point of today’s playlist is to bridge the gap between Halloween and the the Hamburg’s March 1st arrival. I have selected tracks with which you can track the band’s stylistic progression over this time. Enjoy the selections. (And forgive the repetition of songs, there were only so many jams they were taking in this direction.)

Crosseyed > Antelope” 11.2.96 II, West Palm Beach, FL

The band was so amped about their Halloween set that they brought “Crosseyed”—and the whole Talking Heads style of jamming—directly to their next show. The results were legendary.

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Tweezer” 11.3.96 II, Gainesville, FL

Still with Karl Perazzo, acting as training wheels for their first excursions into full-blown groove, Phish continued their percussive style of play with this “Tweezer.”

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Mike’s Song” 11.6.96 II, Knoxville, TN

After a more conventional and high quality “Mike’s” jam (some with Trey on  mini-kit), the band breaks into an extended section of collaborative funk grooves, bobbing and weaving through some straight James Brown steez! This jam illustrates just how gargantuan of a pivot point that Halloween truly was, as only a week later, the band’s jamming sounds completely different.

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Tweezer” 11.11.96 II, Grand Rapids, MI

Here’s a “Tweezer” I’ve featured a lot before that sounds like it could be plucked from some point in ’97. Only 11 days after Halloween and the band was already turning the party out with dance music funkier than they had ever played before.

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Suzy Greenberg” 11.13.96 II, Minneapolis, MN

In between more torrid musical bookends to this long-form jam, Phish slows down into some serious wah-funk.

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Tweezer” 11.18.96 II, Memphis, TN

Gary Gazaway sits in on trumpet for this slowed down and swanky “Tweezer” jam. A cool diversion from the norm, but underneath Gazaway’s soloing, the band is plugging away at thick, collaborative grooves.

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Tweezer” 11.27.96 II, Seattle, WA

Within this standout “Tweezer” jam (and even within the composed song) you can feel the oncoming funk train slowly moving in. The pace has slowed and the music is thick. Toto, “Are we still in ’96?”

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Mike’s Song” 12.4.96 II, San Diego, CA

In this “Mike’s,” Trey starts in with the wah feel early in the first jam, and then again about ten minutes into this monster “Mike’s” jam, the band shifts into a very forward-looking musical feel without losing the harder edge of “Mike’s.”

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2001” 12.6.96 I, Las Vegas, NV

From the first set of Fall Tour’s finale, this is one of the very first jammed out “2001s,” and none had reached this length or absolute smoothness.

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Down With Disease” 2.17.97 II, Amsterdam, NL

I can still remember hearing this tape for the first time in college and thinking, “Who is this band?!” with beaming excitement. In this gooey “Disease,” the band is honing in on Cowfunk.

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2001” 2.18.97 II, Paris, FR

While this version may sound relatively common place after all these years, in the Winter of ’97, it was blazing a funkwards path.

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Down With Disease” 2.21.97 I, Florence, IT

Phish had begun to shift jam vehicles already, shying from “Mike’s” a tad more and leaning towards “Disease.” This version from Florence is brniging the band closer and closer to the goal of their collaborative quest. This one is an under the radar, first set gem.

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TTFF: The Dark Side of ’99

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on May 29th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tweezer” 9.9.99 II, Vancouver, BC

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

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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.

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Ghost” 10.9.99 I, Albany, NY

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

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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.

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Drowned” 12.12.99 II, Hartford, CT

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

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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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The Road to Cypress

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on May 27th, 2014 by Mr.Miner

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.

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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.

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My Left Toe” 7.21.99 II, Burgettstown, PA

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Wolfman’s Brother” 9.24.99 II, Austin, TX

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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12.31.99, Big Cypress (Danny Clinch)

12.31.99, Big Cypress (Danny Clinch)

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The Story of “The” Ghost

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on May 23rd, 2014 by Mr.Miner

20100616-000718-776261“Ghost” is a composition that Phish wrote in 1997 to facilitate their newly found passion for equitable groove-building. At this time, Phish’s musical focus fundamentally shifted from their past. No longer did they thrive on frenetic, guitar-led jams and scorching peaks, but focused on collective, group jamming amidst textured dance music. Debuted in the first show of  Summer ’97, “Ghost” jams became the band’s primary vehicle of funk exploration. “Tweezer” was barely played this summer. “Sand” didn’t exist. And while Phish, no doubt, inserted funk jams into just about every improvisational sequence, “Ghost” was the portal through which their sonic transformation truly took place. Though this protean jam made the stylistic shifts of the late-’90s right alongside the band, its conceptual raison d’etre was realized three years later—and 14 years ago yesterday—at Radio City. On May 22, 2000, Phish not only played their most accomplished version of “Ghost” to this day, they informed it—start to finish—with the democratic ethos that defined their groove transformation of 1997-2000.

As I listened to this magnum opus with close attention yesterday, something that never registered with me came to a glaring forefront—Trey played virtually no lead guitar in the 27 minutes that composed the Radio City “Ghost.” Mike played a serious leadership role throughout this jam as it morphed between feels, but most particularly at its onset, where the band coyly dripped into one of the filthiest—and most equitable—groove sessions of their career. Where Trey often took the lead right out of the gates in “Ghost,” this time he simply laid back and didn’t play at all, allowing his bandmates to craft a pornographic dance groove.  And when he did decide to enter, it wasn’t to play guitar hero, it was to be a fourth layer in the groove, filling in space with sparse rhythmic hits. As he offered his sound into the textured music, the whole band locked into each others ideas and the result was legendary. Radio City might as well have been Studio 54 as the band laid into a dance explosion.

Radio City 2000 (Unk.)

Radio City 2000 (Unk.)

As their first investigation of groove concluded, Fishman slid back into a more conventional “Ghost” rhythm, and the band sounded as though they could have been launching into the beginning of the jam once again. This brief return the the song’s theme—during which Trey played lead—served as a coy reset of the jam from which the band launched once again, this time into a very different feel. But even in this second movement, Trey remained very much a part of the whole, offering, first, a repetitive and glitchy, melodic phrase, and then playing off it and tweaking it for the duration. This is a quintessential 2000 Phish jam, focused on intricate layering, innovative sound, and whole-band, drone textures in the aftermath of Big Cypress.

A single guitar lick acted like a lasso, pulling the band out of this jam and back into “Ghost’s” theme for the second time in this Herculean piece. Trey resumed his position as lead for this section, but just as one might have thought it was heading for a rock-based, guitar-led peak, Phish took another left turn. Trey backed off his solo and began to offer rhythm chords that followed a very emotive progression. At this juncture, the band moved back into full improv mode prompted by Trey’s change, and Page came to the forefront, playing rolling chords along the same progression that Trey had started. This third movement takes on a reflective feel that seemed incredibly appropriate as this “Ghost” represented the band’s first monumental excursion since the Everglades. I’m sure being that deep in a jam again brought them back to their peak experience in Florida, and it came through powerfully in the music. Mike, once again, stepped into the lead  in this section, as Trey slid into a spiral lick with intermittent rhythm chops. In retrospect, it really sounds like they were having a musical conversation on stage about where they were in their career in the Spring of 2000.

2000-05-22mo3The band finally pushed through into a fourth and final feel, an ambient passage that rode the same emotional wave. Trey offered a quiet, high-register solo over an aural blanket that infused the final portion of the Radio City “Ghost” with an undeniably spiritual feel. And the band—still fully locked and improvising—flowed, together, to a final resting point that sounded like musical poetry.

At no point during this nearly half-hour odyssey did Phish fall back on any musical conventions. Not for a second. They were in full destruction mode the from the first note to the last. I still remember the feeling that I had when the opening notes of a late-set “Ghost” oozed into the space of Radio City Music Hall. It was haunting and inspiring feeling. But it was no comparison to the feeling in the building upon the jam’s final notes. Following almost five months of dormancy after the most historic performance of their career, Phish had once again exploded in virtuosic creativity, throwing down the defining version of their late ‘90s dance anthem in an Art Deco theatre in the middle of New York City. And it was the ultimate realization of their late-’90s shift to collaborative, groove-based playing. Once and for all-time, Phish had told us “The Story of the Ghost.”

Radio City Soundcheck (C.Taylor Crothers)

Radio City Soundcheck (C.Taylor Crothers)

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Ghost” 5.22.00 II, NYC, NY SBD

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A Portrait of an Era

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on May 20th, 2014 by Mr.Miner

1091808964_1553For the past two weeks, I’ve been playing a game that has totally diversified my Phish listening. If you have the Phish On Demand app, and can get a speaker for your phone in your bathroom, you can play too! Before every shower, I hit the random show selector. No matter what show comes up, I choose one jam to listen to from that show for the duration of that shower. Several of these jams have been featured in my last couple playlists, but last night I hit the jackpot!

The random show selected was 8-14-98, Limestone, Maine. Your thought is correct, there was no show on that date. The app had pulled up the Lemonwheel soundcheck. I almost just hit the button again to select a real show, but staying true to the rules of my game—you can’t pass on a show—I decided to let it ride. I’ve never been one to listen to soundchecks all that much beyond The Bunny or live at a festival, and I had never heard any of this multi-tracked Lemonwheel affair. I selected the 20-minute jam and hopped in, not sure what to expect.

Lmnwhl Postcard (Pollock)

Lmnwhl Postcard (Pollock)

The tape cut in on a laidback bluesy, groove—nothing all too special. But after a couple minutes, the band dissolved into an ambient jam that clearly foreshadowed the late-night “Ring of Fire” jam in which they—essentially—debuted their next improvisational palette that would take them through the fall and beyond. This was a spectacular, and totally unexpected end-of-the-day soundtrack! And, boy, Phish sounded like they were at complete ease, clicking immediately into a gorgeous, emotive passage. But they weren’t just testing levels here, it was much more than that. This was the first time the band had stepped on stage at Limestone since The Great Went. They were re-acclimating themselves to the magical surroundings and reacquainting themselves with the spirits of the north woods. You can hear the guys’ awe and sense of majesty in their playing. They had reached the end of a long and winding summer tour that started six weeks earlier in Copenhagen, came stateside in Portland, Oregon, and wound its way to the northeast corner of America. The near-psychic connection the band had developed over this time is evident in the utter relaxation and collaborative nature of their jamming. And you wanna talk collaborative? Wait to hear what comes next.

1998-08-16moAfter coming to a natural pause, the band’s dripped into a quintessential, Summer ’98 funk groove that absolutely slays. At this point I’m dancing to some never-before heard ’98 Phish in my shower at 1:30 am—and fuckin’ loving it! This music transported me back in time instantly. They say that smells can evoke specific memories of a place in time, well so can chunky Phish grooves, because I felt like I was back at Limestone, 16 years ago. Comfortable and confident, the band sounded in their element, neck-deep in groove and playing to a wide open field.

This 22-minute jam truly represents a sonic portrait of 1998 Phish—a year when they had built on their raw funk of ’97, smoothed things out considerably and began to travel outwards via melodic, ambient-amoeba jamming. Two of the band’s signature sounds of the year are captured in this single soundcheck jam. And don’t let the word “soundcheck” throw you, this is the straight dope! Listen below.

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Download link

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TTFM: Lesser Knowns—’98-’00

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on May 19th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

12.28.13, MSG (Jake Silco)

I had a lot of fun putting together Friday’s playlist, so I assembled another for Monday. Again, I tried to stick to jams that aren’t super popular—quite a tough task in this day and age of stacked hard drives and social media, as just about everything gets played. Nonetheless, maybe I nailed a few you’ve never heard before. I’m gonna pull out some older tracks this week as well. Stay tuned.

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Ghost” 7.30.99, Nigaata, JP

This little-known, daytime “Ghost” from the band’s first trip to Japan at the Fuji Rock festival is an absolute beast.

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Wolfman’s Brother” 8.6.98 II, Atlanta,GA

This set-opening jam flies under the radar with so many heavy hitters littering Summer ’98. A quintessential Summer ’98 groove fiesta.

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Piper > 2001” 11.4.98 II, Denver, CO

This show is constantly—and rightfully—overshadowed by Utah and the UIC run that surround it, but this segment has legitimate merit.

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Stash” 9.9.99 I, Vancouver, BC

I’ve featured this dark and ambient, first-set-of-tour “Stash” a bunch throughout the years, but it totally fits this thematic playlist. When’s the last time you spun this one?

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 ”Mike’s Song” 11.7.98 I, Chicago, IL

Speaking of UIC ’98, this “Mikes” kicked off the entire run (after a “My Soul” opener), but is often lost in the three-night fray. Trey sets this jam off with a series of swank rhythm grooves, and the band brings it home with a bliss-laden second jam.

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Halley’s > Tweezer” 10.8.99 II, Uniondale, NY

A slow, slinky and methodical ‘Tweezer” that moves out into an increasingly ambient-experimental soundscape. (Contrary to the mp3 tag, there is no performance of “My Left Toe.”) Not a bad “Halley’s” either—a complete juxtaposition of sound and tempo.

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Limb -> 2001” 10.9.99 II, Albany, NY

Another under-the-radar sequence that absolutely typifies where Phish’s stylistic progression was at the time.

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Down with Disease” 6.15.00 II, Osaka, JP

After years of anonymity, the first set “Ghost” from this show finally gained its proper recognition as an all-time version. I’m not sure the same can be set for this outlandish, near 30-minute “Disease,” as it still lies in the shadows on Japan’s more well known masterpieces.

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Slave to the Traffic Light” 11.18.98 II, Greenville, SC

One of the truly memorable “Slaves” of the late-’90′s. Are you familiar?

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TTFF: First Set Situations

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on May 16th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

For this playlist, I tried to go for a bit more under the radar, first set jams from the golden years. Hope you enjoy

Ghost > Yamar” 7.31.97 I, Mountain View, CA

Quite the opening couplet for a summer show.

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Split Open and Melt” 8.12.96 I, Noblesville, IN

A filthy, second-song “Split” while the sun still shone in the cornfields.

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Reba” 10.15.98 I, San Francisco, CA

The Fillmore “Reba.”

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Tweezer” 11.14.98 I, Cinncinatti,OH

A ferocious first-setter that combines grooves and ambient-melodica a la Fall ’98.

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Cities” 7.31.98 I, Columbus, OH

A classic first-set jam from the Summer of ’98. Here’s the one well-known jam I let slide, because frankly, I always forget about it.

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Free” 8.14.97 I, Darien Center, NY

Here’s an early version of “Free” fully breaking loose.

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Tweezer” 12.4.99 I, Cinncinatti, OH

Here’s another first set “Tweezer” from the very next year in the same building. Listen to how profoundly the band’s sound has transformed from the ambient-laced groove palette in ’98 to the ominous, layered and millennial monstrosity on the brink of Big Cypress.

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Gumbo” 12.13.99 I, Providence, RI

Here’s another little first set Winter ’99 nugget that delivers. So smooth. So heavy.

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Harry Hood” 8.10.97 I, Noblesville, IN

A unique and under-the-radar version that deserves so much glory.

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