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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Perspectives on Phish

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on May 8th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
MSG '13 (Ken Scelfo)

MSG ’13 (Ken Scelfo)

I see two dominant schools of thought in analyzing Phish history—the “classicist” and the “progressivist.” Allow me to elaborate. The classicist school believes a certain historical period represents the band’s best work. They believe that Phish caught lightning in a bottle during this era, and that the rest of their career simply doesn’t hold up to the playing in this one. Maybe the year is 93? Maybe ’95? Maybe ’97? But the argument is that there are are tangible boundaries of time that bookened the band’s most proficient era. The progressivist sees things on a continuum, and views the changing of Phish music as an evolutionary process. This evolution entails retaining improvisational elements of the past while integrating new ones to form a more advanced whole-group ethos. The progressivist sees 3.0 Phish as the culmination of this process, an era in which the band has integrated their entire past with new elements in forming some of the most virtuosic music of all-time. The classcicist will argue that the modern era is nothing but a watered down version of the band’s glory days in which Trey could play more notes per second and melt-faces with his more technically proficient guitar playing. The progressivist will see Trey’s step back in ’97 and discovery of rhythm guitar as a huge advancement of the group ethos, and a stepping stone towards Phish’s more free-flowing, communicative jams of the late ‘90s and beyond. The classcisist attaches to his past era as if represents an age that can never be matched—energetically, musically, scene-wise—you name it; it was better then. The progressivist sees the evolution of Phish as continuous through 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. He believes that the modern era represents the full realization of Phish’s hall of fame career. The classicist comes to modern shows for nostalgia and flashes of what used to be. I think you see the difference by now. In fact, I’m sure you have already thought of five friends that fall into each camp. There is that much of an unspoken—and spoken—divide in the Phish scene in relation to the past. And this divide represents the proverbial elephant in the room in so many unproductive Phish debates.

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

This is not a new rift in the community. It has always been there. In ’97 there was a camp of fans who became disenchanted with Phish’s change of pace—literally and figuratively. These fans longed for the speedier, guitar-led jams that they had grown up with and couldn’t wrap their head around the fact that this change could actually represent evolution and not destruction. Many of these fans missed ’97, ’98 and ’99 only to kick themselves later. Many stayed away until 3.0! If one is so caught up in glorifying an era or style of the past—or the past at all—he will, necessarily, not value the present nearly as much as someone who believes (read: understands) that the past has led Phish to their more evolved music dynamic of toaday. Many of these fans still see the 3.0 era as nostalgia and whatever-era-in-the-past as inherently untouchable. But that’s a fool’s perspective. Listen to the jams of 2012 and 2013 and try to tell me that they aren’t the among the most egoless, democratic conversations of the band’s 30 year career. You can’t. Everything has led to now.

12.29.13 (J.Silco)

12.29.13 (J.Silco)

Phish’s improvisational skills are at an all-time high. They may not play the fastest or the funkiest that they ever have, but their jam-to-jam diversity, creativity and consistency is unmatched at any other point in their career. The guys routinely code-switch between improvisational feels, refuse to get stuck in any stylistic rut, and jam with an unparalleled level of democracy. Simply put—Phish are the smartest musicians they have ever been. One would be hard-pressed to argue that point. Perhaps they don’t practice like they used to and don’t nail all their compositions (though they’ve been doing better in this area), perhaps they don’t play with the speed and ferocity of 25-year olds at age 50, and maybe they jam slightly less than they did once did. Phish’s improvisational ideas, however, are as creative as ever and when they do open things up, the results—as proven over the past couple years—are most often sublime. Perhaps modern Phish isn’t one’s favorite era, but anyone would be hard-pressed to argue against the evolutionary thread that is evident throughout the band’s career; a thread that has led us to another high-water mark for the legendary quartet from Vermont.

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Twenty Years Later” 10.29.13 II

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The Final Night

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on April 5th, 2014 by Mr.Miner

“Oh Kee Pah > Yem” Part 1

“YEM” Part 2

“YEM” Part 3

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“Cavern”

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Up to Providence

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on April 4th, 2014 by Mr.Miner

“Birds of a Feather” Part 1

“Birds” Part 2

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“2001″ Part 1

“2001″ Part 2

“Brother” Part 1

“Brother” Part 2

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Roses are Free

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on April 3rd, 2014 by Mr.Miner

“Roses Are Free”

Can’t find the complete “Piper”

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Island Memories—Night 1

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on April 2nd, 2014 by Mr.Miner

“Twist Part 1″

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“Twist Part 2″

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“Stash”

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“Tube”

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