Ventura: A Glimpse Into the Glory Years—Pt. II

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on June 10th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Ventura County Fairgrounds

Ventura County Fairgrounds, Ventura, CA

Today we take a closer look at the Ventura shows from ’97 and ’98.

7/30/97: I: NICU > Wolfman’s Brother > Chalk Dust Torture, Water in the Sky, Stash, Weigh, Piper, Cars Trucks Buses, Character Zero

II: Punch You In the Eye, Free > David Bowie -> Cities -> David Bowie, Bouncing Around the Room, Uncle Pen, Prince Caspian > Fire

E: My Soul

First a little context. Ventura’s ’97 edition unfolded in the first half of the band’s US Summer Tour in about a week’s proximity to their experimental funk tour of Europe. The band was loose and honing in on a new sound they had developed since the previous Halloween. Eager to stretch almost any song into a syncopated groove session, the band had been throwing down spectacular shows in their first week stateside. Virginia Beach, Raleigh, Lakewood, Dallas, Austin, and Phoenix—all monster shows in their own right. And now it was onto Ventura.

7.30.97This Ventura show—an incredible portrait of Phish in the Summer of ‘97—has never circulated in great quality due to the coastal winds that swirled around the venue, thus this remastered soundboard comes as nothing short of a revelation. The first disc of the set brings us back to an era when first sets meant something. Right away in the second song “Wolfman’s” we hear the loose wah-funk that the band had been exploring all season. After Trey takes a solo over the bands extremely slowed patterns, the band locks into each other’s ideas in a thick dance jam that has nothing to do with the song, foreshadowing the methodical wah-grooves that would come to define the summer. The band surfs this wave without finishing the song with a brief jam on “Take Me to the River” that leads them directly into a “Chalk Dust” that grabbed me on first listen. The utter intensity and creative mini-tangents throughout this jam illustrate Phish taking no prisoners in their live show—even during a first set in Southern California.

The “Stash” that follows contains glorious jamming that smoothly moves in and out of a major key , providing a beautiful middle section to an intense tale. The band closed out the set with a four pack of songs, including a short, old-school “Piper” and a wah-infused “Cars, Trucks, Busses.” Despite the on point playing throughout the first set, this show has—rightfully—always been synonymous with the meat of the second.

Ventura Sleeve Art

Ventura Sleeve Art

Simply put, 7/30’s “Bowie -> Cities -> Bowie” is one of Phish’s finest jams from one of their finest improvisational years. Having warmed up for a month in Europe, the band hit US turf running, dropping monstrous jam after monstrous jam. But this one was special. Phish hadn’t played “Cities” in the United States since 1989, and the way the band builds into the song is nothing short of masterful. Blending their new-found groove with their intricate, prog-psychedelic roots, the guys dropped a piece of music that set the Phish world afire. Confident, daring, and without hesitation, they collectively tear apart the “David Bowie” jam as a band possessed, each contributing stunning pieces to the puzzle. But deep into the jam, the guys break down the seething music into something far more percussive. On comes Trey’s wah-pedal, and the band begins to migrate from darkness into quickened groove. The following few minutes are the most engaging of the jam as the band dives head first into some very unique funk patterns with Gordon going ape shit. The band is in destruction mode here as the music seems to be playing them as much as they are playing the music. Trey begins working in the rhythm licks of “Cities” and a James Brown concert breaks out! Straight Krush Groove here as the guys liken superhuman robots oozing with soul. “Cities” stays at its original pace throughout, far from the exaggeratedly slow versions that would follow. As the lyrics end, the band takes little time to seamlessly mesh back with “Bowie” in what seemed like an aural hallucination. And the band doesn’t just rush to finish the song, they dive back into the jam for seven minutes—longer than most current “Bowies” altogether—and annihilate the peak of the jam. Just as this sequence stole the show that summer night sixteen years ago, so does it steal the spotlight on this release, despite its mp3 soundboard having surfaced a few years ago. This sounds superior in every way.

After “Punch” kicks off the second set Free” gets the treatment in a version that serves as a signpost for the jam. The band had recently ditched the piano led direction and changed motifs with “Free,” transforming into the bass and guitar driven juggernaut of the late ‘90s. In this Ventura version, we hear the band acclimating to the new milieu, but without really building anything of significance. This would start to change over the summer and more earnestly in the Fall when the song truly started to expand. After such monumental jamming in the middle of the set, the band rode into the sunset with a quartet of diverse, well-played songs that end the show.

7/20/98: I: Bathtub Gin, Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, My Sweet One, Birds of a Feather, Theme From the Bottom, Water in the Sky, The Moma Dance, Split Open and Melt

II: Drowned -> Makisupa Policeman > Maze, Sea and Sand, Prince Caspian >Harry Hood

E: Sexual Healing > Hold Your Head Up, Halley’s Comet

Ventura '98 Promo

Ventura ’98 Promo

While Ventura ’97 stood out amidst its tour, Ventura ’98 most definitely did not. It was a solid show, but coming right after Europe, Portland, the Gorge and Shoreline, the SoCal Monday nighter felt like the West Coast afterthought before it started. But when the band greeted the crowd with a colossal “Bathtub Gin” to open the show, the possibilities opened wide. The Riverport “Gin” that came nine days later is often hailed as the top version of all time. This Ventura “Gin,” placed in a similar show-opening slot, paved the road for the all-timer with a jam that progresses through many similar stages. Check ‘em out back to back. Interestingly, this show all but excludes the chunky, rhythmic style of Summer ‘98, and the “Drowned” opener of set two illustrates this alternate path. Taking the arena rock cover in a direction that The Who might have if they jammed, this excursion was underlined by white-hot rock and roll. Loud, fast and boisterous, this jam is a musical depiction of a hyena going for the jugular of its prey. Once he has conquered and killed, the music shifts to a more down tempo feel as the hyena salivates over his family’s still-warm dinner. As he begins to drag it back to his clan, Trey hits his wah grooves and the music becomes decidedly chilled out in a gorgeous, sinister final few minutes.

Aside from these two prime-time jams, however, this show features unbelievable intensity throughout, allowing the performance to come off totally fine. The second set features the classic pairing of a hearty “Makisupa” and a full-throttle “Maze,” and a big-time bust out in “Sea and Sand” (the set’s second Quadrophenia track about water) paying homage to Ventura’s surroundings. Closing with strong versions of “Caspian” and “Hood,” this show set is carried by the band’s type I creativity and is a very smooth listen the entire way through. A quality “Split” punctuates the first set, while a looped-out “Halley’s Comet” provides the second selection of a double encore (after Fish had debuted “Sexual Healing) and sees the band exit the stage one by one leaving a series of delay loops behind them. The “Bathtub Gin” is the only lasting jam of significance from this night, but the strength of this show illustrates how effective Phish was at doing everything in their repertoire in the summer of ’98—not just open jamming.

Ventura Liner Notes

Ventura Liner Art

The final details to add about this Ventura release are the two soundcheck jams. Each feature extended, instrumental takes on “Makisupa,” with ’97 ‘s carrying a bit more musical depth. The ’98 soundcheck features” jokingly layered lyics from “Venus,” (“I’m your “Venus, I’m your fire…”). Though both are fun listens a couple times through, these aren’t like those crack soundcheck jams we get every now and then—just Phish having fun.

In summation, the Ventura box set is a fantastic release, easily the strongest since Hampton / Winston Salem. (Though 12/6/97 was in there too!) As time moves forward into this Golden Age of Phish, more and more re-mastered releases from their glory years continue to hit the shelves—a welcome trend that is sure to continue. Providing us crisp memories of magical nights gone by, sometimes all we need in a moment and a CD to take us back. And Ventura certainly does that.

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Bowie -> Cities -> Bowie 7.30.97 II, Ventura

Here is the mp3 SBD that has been out. This is NOT the release.

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VENTURA GIVEAWAY!

The Ventura Box Set

The Ventura Box Set

I have three Ventura Box Sets to give away for free! If you’d like to be eligible for this contest, please write two haikus—one that captures the essence of eachshow. Email these haikus to mrminer@phishthoughts.com by Wednesday at 8pm Pacific and I will post the three winning entries on Thursday or Friday! Make sure you adhere to proper haiku format or your entry will be disqualified. UPDATE: I’ m getting some really good entries and it will be tough to choose the three winners! Get yours in!

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Ventura: An Glimpse Into the Glory Years—Pt. I

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on June 9th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
The Ventura Box Set

The Ventura Box Set

Since about 1999 or 2000, I’ve been a jams-only listener. The immense amount of full-shows I’d spun previous to that combined with the transition from analog tapes to CD-R’s (and eventually digital files) resulted in me excerpting shows’ highlights more and more for my listening pleasure. Through these mix tapes and simply pressing skip the in the car, my habits of listening to Phish gradually changed. I no longer needed to spin entire shows time and time again. Most often I had been there and witnessed the start-to-finish flow, but even if I hadn’t, I no longer needed to hear the straight compositions. When spinning shows, I wanted to hear the meat, the tracks with significant jamming. When I got my advance copy of the upcoming Ventura release, however, I decided to listen to both shows start to finish, and in doing so, I was able to put a finger on the central difference between the Phish of then and now—non-stop intensity no matter what. Within the Ventura shows of 1997 and 1998, the band is focused and fully dedicated to each and every song, not just the highlights, and it makes all the difference.

Many people who only know my Internet persona think that I exclusively value Phish’s type II jams, and that I—for all intents and purposes—sit down and twiddle my thumbs for the rest of the show until they happen. Though such improvisation is unquestionably my favorite part of Phish—especially modern Phish—while listening to both Ventura shows, I realized why my take on 3.0 Phish can, at times, sound so type II centric—the band’s type I vigor is gone. Listening to Ventura ‘97’s “Chalk Dust,” I was blown away by the intensity and creativity contained in this piece of music that was bursting at the seams. Listening to Ventura ‘98’s “Makisupa,” I remembered that the song once had immense musical value beyond it’s current use as comic relief. The band is knee deep in dub grooves while Trey paints gorgeous melodies atop the irie textures. Listening to ‘98’s “Prince Caspian,” I was taken by how Trey annihilated his solo like it was a matter of life or death. And as I continued to listen to the type I jamming that dominates the ’98 show, I realized how glaringly the modern incarnation of Phish is missing this type of playing from their arsenal, causing shows—and particularly first sets—to drag when they aren’t engaged in type II jamming.

Ventura Liner Notes

Ventura Liner Notes

Phish can still weave freeform (type II) adventures as well as ever. They are master improvisers of the highest degree and have honed their craft over the course of 30 years. Anyone who doubts their improvisational acumen is fooling himself and needn’t look any further than the jams of Dick’s and MSG for proof. I fully see the band’s virtuoso jamming of the second half of 2012, to continue on an upward curve in 2013, but will the band pick up the slack from rest of their show? With members pushing 50 years old now, Phish reminds me of the crafty NBA veteran, think Kobe Bryant, who can play an awesome game at 75 percent and then go balls out in the fourth quarter and win the game. Phish now plays their contained (type I) jams with precision, but with very little intensity and creativity. Then they beast out in their open improv to save the show. To illustrate this type I fall off, think of songs like “Stash,” “Bathtub Gin,” “David Bowie,” “Reba,” “Mike’s,” “Weekapaug,” “YEM,” “Wolfman’s” and “Antelope”—ya’ know, the (former) goods! In the landscape of modern Phish, these songs are mere placeholders, reminding us of what used to be. No longer does the band even play quasi-memorable versions of any of these songs—only once in a blue moon. But with their improvisational skills at an all-time high, they drop pieces that steal the show and completely legitimize it. Think 12/28’s “Tweezer,” BGCA’s “Crosseyed > Light > Sally,” or 9/1’s “Golden > Caspian > Light,” or 9/2’s “Sand > Ghost > Piper.” Other than these segments, these shows, (with a 12/28 “Wolfman’s” exception) are pretty straightforward with little replay value. And this is why I most often focus on their creative jamming in my show reviews.

Ventura '98 Promo

Ventura ’98 Promo

If they played a “Chalk Dust” like Ventura ’97, I’d write about it! If they played a “Halley’s” like Ventura ’98 (which was run of the mill at the time), I’d write about it! Shit, if they played a “Cars, Trucks, Busses” with the zest of Ventura ‘97s, I’d write about it! But they don’t. Rarely is anything from a show worth chronicling other than type II jams and bustouts. As I’ve mentioned before, set crafting has gone the way of the wind, and without type I action, what else is there? To be clear, I absolutely believe Phish’s sublime improvisational passages make their shows worthy in full, but how great would it be if they could carry the rest of the show too?

To further my point, aside from the monstrous “Bathtub Gin” that opened the ’98 show and a “Drowned” jam that opened the second set, this show is dominated by type I jamming the whole way through—and it’s a great show! The band can’t pull that off any more (see 12/29/12). Their sustained intensity and type I creativity just isn’t there anymore (and setlists cannot carry shows no matter how outlandish). Worth mentioning, in a summer when laid-back funk ruled the scene, Ventura ’98 is a show that skirts the style all together—a complete and utter anomaly in a groove-dominated tour. “Gin” gets into a wee bit of danceable jamming, but after that, there is no funk, barely any open jamming’—and it’s a great show because Phish is utterly relentless, killing every single moment. They don’t cool down, they don’t lay back, they attack each piece as if it was the last they’d play, and the difference is as clear as night and day.

Quite obviously, my biggest take away from listening to these Ventura shows is their start-to-finish intensity; they pose such a stark juxtaposition to modern performances. Fans get so worked up about the amount of jamming that Phish does nowadays, many citing that they’d like to see more. Except in extreme cases, however, I don’t think that’s the main factor bringing some shows down. Unless we are comparing the band to the jammiest periods in their history, they are improvising at about the same rate as ever. But it’s what they are not doing in the rest of the show that cause modern Phish performances drag at times and make fans jones for the oncoming adventure. Maybe this summer, the year of their 30th anniversary, the guys will put it all together and play complete shows like the ones gracing their new box set? Their jamming will certainly be there, but what about everything else?

Tune in tomorrow for some more specific thoughts about the Ventura shows, themselves!

Ventura Liner Art

Ventura Liner Art

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Bathtub Gin” 7.20.98 I, Ventura, CA SBD

Here is a sneak preview of the release! This “Gin” paved the way for Riverport’s classic a week later, as the jam morphs through many of the same stages.

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VENTURA GIVEAWAY!

The Ventura Box Set

The Ventura Box Set

I have three Ventura Box Sets to give away for free! If you’d like to be eligible for this contest, please write two haikus—one that captures the essence of each show. Email these haikus to mrminer@phishthoughts.com by Wednesday at 8pm Pacific and I will post the three winning entries on Thursday or Friday! Make sure you adhere to proper haiku format or your entry will be disqualified.

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Going Alone

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 4th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

If you find yourself with a ticket to a show this summer, but nobody to go with, just go, because who knows what could happen.

I’ve only arrived to one Phish show alone—11.17.97—and it fundamentally changed the course of my life. I graduated in Spring ’97 and come Fall, my closest show-going cohorts of ’95 and ’96 were off doing other things. Thus, Fall ’97 represented a transition in my Phish life. I planned to do different parts of the tour with different friends, and I was planning on going to the Denver shows with my non-Phish buddy, Leaguer. After a particularly hectic first night, suffice it to say, he had no desire to go back to the circus. Thus, I brewed up some mushroom tea at his Boulder apartment, put it in a Nalgene bottle for the show and headed down to Denver on my own.

I had a floor ticket for the evening, but when I went to my seat, I noticed plenty open up ahead. I walked up a section or two and found an aisle seat, asked if it was taken and sat down. As is usually the case, these guys told me they weren’t in their seats either, but I was welcome to stay there. We talked before the show for a while, officially meeting each other. Then the lights dropped and the infamous first set started with “Tweezer.” Taking gargantuan Phish jams to the dome one after another, we all bounced behind the seats into the larger space in between sections and blew it up. After the set ended, a bunch of their friends found their way to the floor and I met a series of people that I would never remember the next day, let alone the next hour. I hung out with the original two people I had met for the whole show, said good bye and went on my way back to Leaguer’s.

Fast-forward to Cleveland two weeks later. In a story far too absurd to get into, I broke away from the girl I went to the show found a platform to rage on my own. In the middle of the first set someone surprised me by saying my name and passing me a bowl. I turned around, not recognizing the person at all, and he explained that he had met me back in Denver during setbreak. Things immediately made sense and we hung out and raged the set together. For reasons still to absurd to get into, I had every desire to find some some new people to hang out with, and joined them behind the stage during setbreak to puff joints. I re-met the same guy and girl—Jon and Sarah—that I sat next to in Denver. I continued meeting people from their extensive group of friends—all from their hometown—and I got along well with all of them. I wound up hanging out with some form of their group of friends for the next couple shows before they hopped off. Good peeps.

Fast Forward to Europe ’98. Jon—the original guy I met in Denver—was spending the summer in Prague, and we met up at The Grey Hall on the first night of tour in Copenhagen. As we introduced each other to our respective friends, one of the guys I met that night became my tour comrade and co-psychonaut through 2009, and one of the girls I met became my wife. Ever since that Europe tour, I, more or less, merged with their extensive group of friends for the duration of 1.0, 2.0, beyond Phish tour, and still to this day.

SO…if you don’t have a partner in crime for any given Phish show this summer, you should go anyway—you just might find your wife!

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NEW TO PHISH?

Everyone was a noob at one point, and we all sought information about the scene from anywhere and everywhere. Just recently, fan, Brent Nichols, sent me a link to “Phish: A Guide For Beginners” that he had written. If you’re reading this blog, odds are you don’t need to read his, but his piece serves as a great resource for that person in your life who just won’t listen to you about your favorite band. Check it out…

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TTFW: Summer ’97

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on May 22nd, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Summer '97 Pollock T-Shirt

Stash” 7.2.97 II, Amsterdam, NL

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Bathtub Gin” 7.21.97 I, Virginia Beach, VA

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Ghost” 7.23.97 II, Atlanta, GA

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YEM -> Izabella” 7.26.97 II, Austin, TX

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Antelope” 7.29.97 II, Phoenix, AZ

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Bowie -> Cities -> Bowie” 7.30.97 II, Ventura, CA

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Mike’s -> Ain’t Love Funny” 8.9.97 II, East Troy, WI

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Free” 8.14.97 I, Darien Lake, NY

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Wolfman’s -> Simple” 8.16.97 II, Limestone, ME

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Tweezer” 8.17.97 I, Limestone, ME

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Albany—Twelve-Thirteen

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on December 13th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

12.13.1997

Fourteen years ago tonight, Phish stepped on stage in Albany, New York, and finished one of the most creative and well-loved tours of their career. Each and every night brought a new musical assault on the audience, and this night would be the last. Following a gritty and exploratory second set of Albany’s opening show, the band threw down a celebratory set of anthems to conclude a tour that fans still celebrate to this day.

The meat of the second half is a full throttle romp through “Ghost,” “Mike’s” and “Llama.” After “Ghost” had been such an extravagant vehicle of groove throughout the tour, Phish gradually built this jam into a seething excursion that favored a shreddier path. And as “Ghost” wound down, Phish wound up another heavy-hitter of the season, “Mike’s Song.” Splashing into ballistic Fall ’97 stop/start funk around the comical, in-jam banter, “Bring In the Dude!” the guys alternated solos during the breaks and absolutely blew the roof of The Knick with adrenalized musical fury and one of the more energetic band-audience exchanges in memory. The end of such a legendary tour would not go quietly into the night.

Building the jam into dirty, clav-painted rock textures, the band then took it way down before bursting back into the piece at a breakneck pace. Taking their head of steam into an aggressive jam that saw its way out of “Mike’s” structure, the band was playing not like it was their last night of tour, but as if it was the last night of their lives. Building into a quickened pattern, Trey took the idea and turned it into a scorching mid-second set “Llama.” Phish finished the set with the more uplifting playing of “Weekapaug -> Catapult -> “Weekapaug” and “Harry Hood,” and although Fall ‘97 was finally over, the community was shits and giggles after a month of the best music we’d ever heard from the band. And New Year’s Run was only two weeks away…

I: Ya Mar > Axilla > Theme From the Bottom, Ginseng Sullivan, Strange Design, Sample in a Jar, Vultures, Tube, Good Times Bad Times

II: NICU, Punch You In the Eye, Ghost > Mike’s Song -> Llama, When the Circus Comes, Weekapaug Groove -> Catapult -> Weekapaug Groove, Harry Hood

E: My Soul, The Squirming Coil

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Jam of the Day:

Ghost > Mike’s -> Llama” 12.13.97 II

Phish brought it home in Albany and this sequence provided the dark meat of the set

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Sand” 12.13.99 II

And while we are celebrating anniversaries, this big-time “Sand” dropped in Providence 12 years ago, tonight.

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TTFF: Fall ’97 In the Shadows

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on December 9th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

MSG 1997

With the release of Hampton/Winston-Salem ’97 this week, there has been a lot of Fall ’97 nostalgia within the community on the 14 year anniversary of the legendary tour. Fall ’97 boasts so many jams that are household names, that quite a few playlists could be made from well-known highlights alone. The following selections aren’t exactly diamonds in the rough, but probably don’t jump to the forefront of one’s mind when recollecting the tour. Enjoy these lesser-played gems from one of the band’s most creative tours in history as we are now within weeks of re-congregating at MSG!

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Ghost > Wilson” 12.5.97 I

Though many popular “Ghosts” on this tour overshadow this laid-back, show-opening version from Cleveland.

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Timber -> Simple” 11.16.97 II

Having always lived in the shadow of the gargantuan show the following night, this jam and segue are spectacular.

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Bathtub Gin -> Llama” 11.19.97 I

With such a monstrous second set in Champaign, many forget that the first was quite impressive as well, and here is one of its centerpieces.

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Stash > Hydrogen > Weekapaug” 12.9.97 I

This unorthodox combo came together quite nicely 14 years ago tonight at Penn State. This “Weekapaug” absolutely kills.

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Drowned > Roses Are Free” 12.11.97 II

A monstrous piece of psychedelia in “Drowned” led into the debut of “Roses” in Rochester, another stellar outing along the golden road of fall.

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Run Like An Antelope” 12.6.97 I

Phish applied the funk paradigm to just about everything at some point during Fall ’97. This “Antelope” was the second song of the epic outing at The Palace at Auburn Hills.

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The Rebirth of “Tube”

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on December 7th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

Fall 1997 (Unknown)

Fourteen years ago tonight, Phish pulled into Dayton’s Nutter Center on a Sunday night following, perhaps, their best performance of Fall ’97 in Auburn Hills. The band had visited the intimate arena once before on 11.30.95 and a played a great show anchored by the second set sequence “Tweezer -> Makisupa -> Antelope.” But two years later, on December 7th, Phish was neck deep in funk grooves and there was still one song they hadn’t played all summer or fall. Because of my love for the ’95 Nutter show, when Cleveland hit on 12/5, I made the call to the people I was riding with—”Tube” in Dayton. It just felt right. The Nutter Center and “Tube” would go well together, at least in theory, and as it turned out the combination wasn’t so bad in reality either!

The last time the band had played “Tube” was in Stuttgart, Germany on 2.26.97 and they had already limbered their funk chops a bit in a first-set version of the song. But it was still largely anchored by Page the entire time—moving from piano to organ and then back to piano as the rest of the band sat aside comping him. Before that the song was nothing but a short, infectious, sought after bustout. But with the developments of Summer and Fall ’97, the potential collision of an asteroid and Phish, on a James Brown-esque rampage across the country, had all sorts of potential. Thus when the band actually did play “Tube” towards the end of the first set at the Nutter Center—I can still remember the moment it dropped—the intimate venue felt like it might explode.

Sliding into Page’s clav solo with precision, the band immediately carried a synced-tempo of champions. They hit a strong collaborative groove behind Page, as he went off on his clav then his organ. As the band hit a break, they came back in with a full-band funk jam of the Fall ’97 variety. The Nutter center was shaking as the band reinvented the song in front of our eyes. Hitting a classic ’97 break, Trey scratched out a guitar pattern and the band dove headfirst back into the funk for another section before bridging the ned of the song. All of a sudden, it seemed like this treatment was what the song had been made for, and Phish had done more than impressed everyone in the audience—they had impressed themselves!

After winding up the particularly tight groove, the band liked what they had done so much, that instead of starting a new song, they went right back into the rhythmic workout. Elaborating on the funk theme by adding layers of effects and melody, the band took this section into more earnest improvisational realms. Transforming into one of the eternal highlights of the fall, this jam transformed into a delicate palette of melody-infused hypergroove; this was music that felt as good as it sounded. Trey gradually blended in more hints of “Slave,” and the band eventually made the move into a magnificent set-closing rendition.

Though Dayton ’97 will always be remembered for many aspects of its show, the most revolutionary was the first truly funkified “Tube.” Transforming the song into a jam vehicle overnight, Phish went onto keep the song in loose rotation through the end of 2000, appearing in many shapes and sizes. And it was always an adrenaline-inducing dance party. Finishing a gargantuan Midwestern weekend in Dayton and with their reborn song in tow, Phish headed for the home stretch of their hallowed tour with a bulls eye on Albany one week later. All those “Tubes” we know and love throughout the late ’90s can be traced directly back to the grandfather of all significant “Tubes” from Dayton on this night so many years ago.

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Jam of the Day:

Tube > Slave” 12.7.97 I

A classic.

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A Box Set Debate…

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on December 6th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

In Stores Today

Instead of posting on Phish Thoughts today, I co-wrote an article with “Guy Forget” of Online Phish Tour for publication on their site. With the official release of the Hampton/Winston-Salem box set today, we had a written debate on which show is the “best” in the box—nothing like making art compete! I made a case for 11.23 at Winston-Salem, while he took the position of Hampton’s second night, 11.22. Check out the article, it should be a fun read!

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Jam of the Day:

Tweezer -> Izabella” 12.6.97 II

Today is the 14 year anniversary of my favorite “Tweezer” ever played.

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Here’s a link to a piece I wrote about this jam a while back. I’ll post the beginning below.

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My “Go-To” Jam

12/6/97 "Tweezer" T-Shirt - LE

Everyone has a go-to jam. It fits any mood you could ever be in, and you’ve listened to it several hundred times in your life. It is the first piece of music you want to hear when you are glowing after a show, ready to conquer the world. It is the first piece of music you want to listen to after a hard day at work. It is the only piece of music you could never possibly get sick of, even if played on a loop in your head forever. It is that analog tape you played to death, that CD you never lost, and now it is forever stored on your computer, iPod, and several other devices. It is part of you; you feel like what you hear, it just all fits. For me, there is only one answer to this scenario—the “Tweezer” from Auburn Hills ’97. Read on!

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Box Set Giveaway Results!

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on December 5th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

First off, thanks to all eight people who entered the contest! I realize it took more effort to describe a jam in 500 words than to send me your email address, and for that you deserve a round of applause. To decide the two winners, I chose my favorite five entries, put their name in a hat, and allowed Mrs. Miner to determine the fate of the box sets. And the two winners of Phish Thoughts Hampton/Winston-Salem Box Set Giveaway are…

Devin Concannon - “The Hampton Halley’s”

Mike Aurzada - “The Hampton Hood”

Congratulations! Shoot me an email with your address and I’ll get the box sets out to you today or tomorrow!

Thanks to all eight contestants! In addition to the winners, they were, Matt Stevens, Joshua Dobczak, Matt Gedellwas, Scott Graham, Chasin Holden, and Bob Davis. Below are the final five entries:

*****

Devon Concannon – “The Hampton Halley’s”

It has been leaked online for some time, but the hype isn’t another case of “well circulated soundboard syndrome” – in 25 short minutes the band declared proudly that this was Fall  ’97 and this was going to be one of, if not the best tour of their career.

6.3.11 - Clarkston, MI (Michael Stein)

After a legendary night-one, fans wandered back into the Mothership wondering what Phish could possibly have left to offer. After a strong first set featuring a “Mike’s Groove > Hood” opener, the band took the stage amidst high anticipation. Mike’s “bachoo” got the place roaring and we were off! Halley’s Comet itself is a hilarious mix of Phish’s barbershop vocals and blues, with nonsensical lyrics of Phish lore (though, not actually written by Phish themselves!). Regardless, on this fall night in 1997, a backdrop of comedy was the perfect launching pad for a Phishy adventure into the abyss.

Trey felt something in the air. He yells to Mike – “Let’s stay on this!” Immediately they settle into a bouncing funk groove, locking down over thumping bass and cow funk guitar chops. They begin to tell a story with the music, as if to score a film – by the 8-minute mark the groove has morphed into a thematic melody with a sense of searching, driving, yearning. Trey’s effects and delivery create a sense of tip-toeing across Page and Mike’s fluid offerings. With suggestive lines he leaves us sitting on the edges of our seats, waiting to find out what’s next in this story. Trey found an opportunity to add a new texture to the mix, orchestrally slamming the relative major chord over Page and Mike’s flowing groove. With his wizardly-wave, the momentum shifted on a dime without ever dismantling the unity of the song. Fishman transformed from groove-oriented setwork to a more percussive approach, matching Trey’s ringing bursts.

Over the next few minutes Trey would built a patient gorgeous soundscape that tapped into his inner emotions. I jot down the words that come to mind in hopes I can describe it for the purposes of this essay but I can not. The words I jot down are “wonder, gaze, awe, vastness, curiosity”. With incredible note choice, like a poet of masterful diction, Trey formed an incredible story within what became a frame of Zappa’s “He Used to Cut the Grass”.

As the band began to paint spacey textures of underwater exploration, Trey poured his soul into a guitar confessional – an emotion epiphany shared by the audience. In a telepathic build, they achieve lift off – Trey soaring through the air with the massive, glowing, Fall ’97 tone. Chills. My jotting becomes incoherent scribbles as the universe is channeled through Trey’s nerdy little pasty fingers, guiding the band through a secretive, blissful outro and directly into Phishtory as we know it. Hampton “Halley’s” is Phish, and Phish Always Wins. It’s a science fact.

*****

Mike Aurzada – “The Hampton Hood”

A more traveled friend of mine, who was with me at many shows of  Summer and Fall ’97 tour summed it up for me by saying “Every set… every song placement … from opener to closer is a target rich environment for an epic jam.  It surely keeps you on your toes.  There are no piss breaks”

Bold words, that Phish could turn on anywhere and everywhere.  My instant cynic said that Phish struggled to pull off those introspective, subtle, victory lap ethereal jams like a great “Slave” or “Hood” in a first set.  Without it being the set closer.

11/22 and Phish seemingly started a Set III from the previous night. Like they never took an encore and came out for one more set. Sea legs and ready to go.  A monstrous funked out melodic “Mike’s”  out of the gate, and into a phenomenal “Weekapaug.” Definitely Second Set material.  Good time to expect a breather. “NICU,” etc.

The roar from the crowd makes me smile. Set two antics, and just over a half hour into set one. Hampton and “Hood” go together.

The patience of the first two minutes is fantastic. The band phenomenally tight before the first chants of “Harry, Harry, Where do you go when the lights go out!” you know that they are all just laughing and having a great time on stage. Unforced. Confident. Relaxed.  And flawless. Not a note missed in the composed section. Perfection.

The Gorge 2011 (Graham Lucas)

I won’t go into the note by notes of the “Hood” Jam. Everyone probably has a passage that grabs them. But for me, I turn this “Hood” up, close my eyes and am lifted.  Starting with patience and  leisure, you can sense the communication of Page and Trey listening to each other that lets you know, there is no forcing anything here. Each a melodic equal. Take your time. No curfew to worry about. Let the notes flow through you  All four members come together each taking their own piece and rolling the melody along. Is there another song as coordinate as this jam? My ears wander musically between Page, Trey, Mike and Jon, and find each one with a pertinent, great contribution to say. Quiet, yet refined. Building.

I find myself breathing slower in the jam. A zen like state. Somewhere about half way through, Trey is gonna slowly lift me up. Like a friend reaching a hand out for you to get up from a comfortable sublime position you’ve taken. And at the end of that hand up, is a warm hug.

This band communicates to us. And while there is tons of raging porno funk and melodic jamming layered everywhere over these three days. It’s a simple “Harry Hood” that turns me on. Maybe it’s the placement. Maybe it’s the patience. But if someone wanted to know why I love Phish. Hey, listen to this.

Fall ’97 And every set and song placement is a target rich environment. Ain’t that the truth.

*****

Matt Stevens – Hampton’s “Emotional Rescue”

My favorite jam of the Hampton/Winston-Salem ’97 run is the very first one of the three nights, the” Emotional Rescue” opener on 11/21. Is it the best jam from these shows? Maybe, maybe not; there are certainly no shortage of contenders—among them the 11/21 “AC/DC Bag,” the 11/22 “Mike’s” and “Halley’s,” the 11/23 “Bathtub Gin,” and both “Black-Eyed Katy’s”.  What sets the Emotional Rescue apart to me is what it signifies where Phish was at the time it happened. Phish, in Fall ’97, is the only band in the world that could open a show with a first time performance of the Rolling Stones’ 48th most well known song, one with bizarrely falsetto vocals Mike admirably committed to and pulled off in his own twisted way, a song that 90% of the attendees had likely never heard before that night, and absolutely crush it for 17 minutes. A moment like this could only happen as a result of the confidence, precision, and majesty that the band was playing with at the time.

6.18.11 (John Crouch)

Led by Mike’s thumping bass, Fish’s sharp drumming and Trey’s wah-pedal driven funk scratching, “Emotional Rescue” fits perfectly within the central tenets of the Fall ’97 sound. As the jam begins out of the closing chorus of the song, Trey patiently allows his band mates to shine. Mike continues to lead the charge as Trey starts setting a series of loops. Trey then begins soulfully strumming chords over his loops as Page becomes more prominent in the conversation on the piano.  At about 9 minutes Page moves to the synthesizer and starts creating sounds to match the spaciness of Trey’s loops. He returns to the piano after a minute and Trey’s playing gets a bit more aggressive as a really nice section stressing “the one” of each measure develops.  Trey starts an eager riff which Fish picks up on and the tempo of the jam begins to increase. It is here, at nearly thirteen minutes in that Trey begins to play what would typically be considered lead guitar for really the first time in the jam, which is not to say his previous playing was not impressive or compelling as it was certainly both, rather that it was this thoughtfully restrained playing that allowed this and countless other full-band improvisations to flourish that fall. As the jam works its way out of the “Emotional Rescue” groove and into a darker, spacier place, Page returns to the synth and layers a wash of sound over Mike’s ever deepening bass bottom. The tempo slows way down and Trey delicately plays a pattern of notes as the jam begins to resolve. Finally Fish starts “Split Open and Melt” and it’s clear that this is not just any show. Neither, as it turned out, would it be just any weekend.

*****

Scott Graham – “The Hampton Halley’s”

8

8.17.11 (Michael Stein)

Trying to decide what jam you like the most from three stellar nights of rock-n-roll of that late November weekend in Hampton, Virginia is tough. Each show has its own unique qualities that stand out from the next. Personally “Halley’s Comet” stands out to me as a once in a lifetime “Halley’s.” Over the crowd noise you can hear Mikes low voice start the beginning of “Halley’s!” The vocal portion of the song is flawless even with the crowds help and the energy builds.  Just under 4:30 into the song the band dives directly into a 70’s porn funk groove without missing a beat. Thick and crunchy all at the same time with a perfect blend from each of the members it’s an instant dance groove. Page and Fish lead the way as Trey and Mike sit back and build momentum. Trey and Page start to exchange ideas and immediately seem to be on the same page. Trey’s light patterns are filled with delicate notes from Page as the four members start to blend on a single idea. These are the jams I miss today. The band takes an early idea to another level as Trey grows increasingly confident with the direction the music is taking him. A patient build and Trey takes control of the entire audience. This is one of the musical adventures that we chase as fans.  Twelve minutes into this song we all have a pretty good idea where this adventure is heading and it’s fantastic. Fish Mike and Page are locked perfectly in a complemented beat as Trey in detail expresses his emotions over the top.  When the band decides to switch directions they do so with little effort.  Page stands up and goes “up top” and starts to drop that old school funk feel which Mike and Fish pick up on instantly and seamlessly. You can tell Trey and company are enjoying this as much as the crowd.

As the music slows to me is where Phish’s true “art work” is on display the most. The delicate textures that keep the adventure going is something that sets this band apart from other jam bands.  Instead of going into another song they decide to keep this story alive. The next seven minutes, to put it simply, is Phish at its finest. Pure art work directly from the minds of four musical magicians. Its masterful, beautiful, dark, simplistic, delicate, deliberate, and complicated all at the same time. This song is why I drive thousands of miles and spend hundreds of dollars each and every year to see this band play. It’s a once in a lifetime moment that will never be recreated on stage. The energy that is created when four minds are thinking as one and there music is the idea we hear as a result is something that is hard to explain with words. Locking eyes with a complete stranger sharing a smile during what can only be described as a “moment”…

Thank you Phish!

*****

Bob Davis: “The Hampton AC/DC Bag” – A Haiku

AC/DC Bag
This is what it’s all about.
You had me at Ghost.

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Jam of the Day:

Harry Hood” 12.5.95 II Amherst, MA

A phenomenal Fall ’95 rendition from UMass from 16 years ago today. Trey playing through the haunting Leslie cabinet…

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Slave to the Traffic Light” 12.5.97 II, Cleveland, OH

A dark and exploratory “Slave?” Fourteen years ago tonight…

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The First “Four-Song Set” of Fall ’97

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 13th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

Fall '97 Advertisement

Fourteen years ago tonight, Phish stunned an undersized audience in West Valley, Utah, with their first four-song set of Fall ’97. Fans were left counting songs on one hand after the last notes of “Slave” crashed down, and what we had witnessed was the beginning of history. Phish went on to play several more four-song masterpieces that Fall and beyond, but with Utah’s second set—a frame that featured creative jamming on songs old and new, and the onset of several fall tour trends—the golden road of Fall ’97 was just getting started.

Following a truly stellar first set, the band came out to open the second with “Wolfman’s Brother.” The last we had heard from the song was the epic Great Went version and when the guys began taking this set-opener into uncharted waters, one couldn’t help but think back to the Limestone’s monster. Pushing far beyond the funk in consecutive renditions, this final stages of this jam sounded, momentarily, as if it might land in “Simple,” just as its predecessor, but the guys crafted a melodic bridge into “Piper” instead. This “Wolfman’s” jam was a significant signpost at the beginning of the road of Fall ’97, as its foray into a deeper, groove-based psychedelia began an evolution of “funk” jams from summer’s less refined pieces into the multi-faceted excursions that became a signature of the fall. Additionally, “Wolfman’s,” itself, would blossom into reliably exploratory vehicle by tour’s end.

The band had debuted “Piper” in Europe at the beginning of the summer and it quickly became a staple of setlists throughout the season. After the previous night’s “Mike’s Song” in Las Vegas sounded as though it might merge with the new school piece, Phish used it as the landing point of a more profound jam in “Wolfman’s Brother.” Still (most often) consisting of a drawn out intro and a raucous, though circular guitar peak, the band tore through a climactic version of greater magnitude than we had heard in the US that summer, and this proved to be the onset of another emerging beast. “Piper” dissolved into its kindred song, “Twist,” and it would be this jam in which Phish dove into the cosmos.

Fall '97 (C. Taylor Crothers)

Navigating the jam’s groovy textures and far beyond into original planes, Phish gradually worked their way into space.  As the band reached a wildly abstract soundscape, Trey tore into a soul-bearing guitar solo that spoke to a new stylistic paradigm—Fall ’97’s psychedelic spectrum was just beginning to develop. Staggering in both sound and scope, it felt as though the band had broke through a portal in space-time and Trey was offering universal information in a seething, six-string prophecy. Finding into a different dimension than many summer jams, this psychedelic abstraction foreshadowed a far more expansive style that would grace so many jams of fall. Dark though deeply spiritual, this version of “Twist” warmed the psyche of fans to centerpiece jams that would routinely transcend funk during Fall ‘97—a tour that gets too often pigeonholed as Dance Party-only.

Fall '97

And to resolve the creative madness that had ensued since Page’s opening notes of “Wolfman’s,” Phish dripped into a massive version of “Slave,” rounding out the four-song suite. More nuanced than the linear builds of many “Slaves,” this version concluded the set with exclamatory beauty and drama. Jams were huge on this night in Utah and fans were floored. It was only the second night of tour and it felt like Phish had elevated their game from an amazing summer with a deep and cohesive adventure into a parallel universe. The band’s four-song set in Salt Lake City— 14 years ago tonight—immediately raised the bar for Fall ‘97, and provided a starting point for so many of the tour’s iconic show to build from.

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Jam of the Day:

Twist > Slave” 11.14.97 II

The second half of Utah’s early-Fall explosion.

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The Mimi Fishman Foundation’s Online Charity Auction

The Mimi Fishman Foundation

The Mimi Fishman Foundation has launched a new charity auction that features many items including ticket packages to the end-of-year, sold-out Madison Square Garden shows. The online auction is currently live with the bidding period closing on Thursday, December 1st. Proceeds from this auction will benefit the Delta Gamma Center for Children With Visual Impairments, Phish’s WaterWheel Foundation, as well as the Vermont flood victims.

To view and/or bid on the auction, as well as read about the charities the auction supports, please visit the Mimi Fishman Foundation Auction Page.

In addition to the MSG ticket package, other items up for auction include:

  • Signed Summer Tour 2011 posters
  • Greek Theater Pollack Package: A numerically matching set of the three Pollock prints from the Greek Theater shows in 2010
  • A signed poster from the recent Phish Vermont benefit (9/14/11)

http://www.mimifishman.org/auctions/

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