Thinking Back to Coventry

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 14th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
Coventry (Boston Globe)

Coventry (Boston Globe)

Coventry. The mere mention of the word makes any Phish fan cringe. But here we are, ten years later, on the heels of Phish’s sixth summer tour since their return and on the brink of their fourth fall tour in six years. One can say we’ve come a long way from the mud ridden disaster that was Coventry in 2004. Sometimes the universe just provides the exact combination of elements to match a particular mood, and between the traffic debocle, the mud-soaked concert field, and fans being turned away from the site in cars while others hiked in, everything about this weekend was an absolute fucking trainwreck. And then we had the band. In what was supposed to be their swan song, the came out in arguably the worst form of their career—in every way. Despite a few highlights over two days, the music, overall, matched the vibe of the festival as well—an utter fucking mess. Calling Coventry a travesty would be the understatement of the century. It was really that bad. If you need any memory of just how bad it got, watch some footage of the final night. Viewer discretion is advised. There wasn’t much takeaway from that weekend in Vermont, other than Phish was gone, and this time it was for good.

And somehow, I was ok with it all. I was devastated when Trey announced that they were done, but at Coventry, everything was already a foregone conclusion for me and I wasn’t all that traumatized by the events. I just knew things couldn’t be right with the band, because they just played their farewell festival without dropping “Tweezer.” And that’s not a joke, but a funny truth. There was no stepping into anything that weekend except mud, and lots of it. I remember walking back to our RV after the final show and just seeing abandoned shoes stuck in the mud, and somehow it felt like an apt analogy for the entire weekend. You had to just let go to enjoy yourself at all, even if it meant leaving your shoes behind. Phish was done and this was one last hurrah. But the irony was that there was very little joy at Coventry, and it was hardly a hurrah.

Coventry (sensiblereason.com)

Coventry (sensiblereason.com)

When they say the crowd went the way of the band in this era, its no joke. I didn’t have to look further than my own RV and my closest tour friends to see the effect that oxycontin and other hard drugs had taken on our scene. I was always someone who kept it lighthearted, I got spun and smoked weed all night, but I never saw the point in the “post-show” drugs. At some point, things shifted for some of my friends, as I’m sure they did for the band, and the entire tour experience became intertwined with hard drug use that went far beyond any recreational habit. Band members, my friends and way to many people in our community were in the grips of the same drug that had its grips on the nation, the semi-synthetic opiate named oxycontin that had become easily attainable in America during this time. It is a drug that chips away at one’s character and zest for life as quickly as it does their health, and in retrospect, it’s amazing Phish cranked out the music they did that summer. Leg one was solid the whole way through, and they had even played a fairly strong two-night stand at Great Woods just before Coventry. Through all the substances and internal issues, the band could still jam. Their composed playing had gone the way of the wind, but those guys could jam up until the end. Just about.

Many people say that they knew Phish would be back. I wasn’t one of those people. I took it at face value. Phish was done. I had to in order to put it all behind me and move on. After a little bit, it almost became easier to live a normal life without Phish, because I didn’t want to leave town every couple months for weeks on end. I didn’t have to make excuses to families, employers, schools and beyond in order to sneak off onto the astral plane with Phish. But throughout the band’s five year absence, I never found something that spoke to me as personally as Phish had, thus when I heard they were coming back, this entire blog began as a place to simply process my thoughts. I guess those people were right, because Phish came back, and they came back in a big way. Though it took a couple years to shake off the rust, Phish had climbed back to prominence, adding chapters upon chapters to their legacy that few dreamed possible. Thinking back to Coventry now is like remembering a bad dream from long ago. I can still relate to the emotions of the weekend, but they don’t sting any more because we are six years into a new era. Now we can all legitimately say, imagine what our lives would be if Phish hadn’t come back? And that, my friends, is pretty damn sweet.

Coventry (fredshead.org)

Coventry (fredshead.org)

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Dear Phish: Words from Coventry

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on May 13th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Coventry 2004

This weekend I received an email from George Pratt, a stagehand and musican that was part of the crew hired to work Coventry. While breaking down the stage long after the band had left the mud-filled site, he found a notebook that a bunch of fans had filled with letters to the band and thrown onstage. With their band crashing and burning, none of the guys saw it or cared to pick it up. George has kept it through all these years and has recently made arrangements with a Phish.net moderator to send the book to the official Phish archives. However, he also scanned the entire thing to share with fans, and he has already done so on Phantasy Tour and Phish.net.

When I began to read this, I was fascinated. All of these people, none whom I know, were telling Phish what they’d always wanted to tell them—deep emotions from the heart. Laced with clever comedy, these letters provided an emotional throwback for me, and halfway through I found myself in tears. But these weren’t tears of sadness—for Phish is alive and kicking, but tears of awe at the power of band. So many strangers shared my powerful emotions, and to see these notes that were written down as Phish was bowing out felt nothing short of magical. A predominant theme throughout of the letters is how Phish changed lives and provided people with unmatched happiness and the experiences of a lifetime. Take ten minutes of your day to read through the notebook yourself. You won’t regret it.

FAN NOTEBOOK FROM COVENTRY (PDF) 

We also have a way we can show George appreciation for this priceless piece of Phish history. Here’s an anecdote from his email that explains how.

In 2003, one of the companies I worked for was hired to provide all the labor for “Coventry” so off we went. We spent nearly a month in that town on that land both before and after the show building the venue, setting up the site, building the stage, and setting up all the lights, sound and video, and eventually all the band gear. The community of stagehands backstage was a show all on its own. We had various types of lodging. I was housed in a ski lodge nearly 45 minutes away but it was very nice. Since we are all crazy and were used to getting little sleep, each night turned into a party. Our house being the largest often played host. One particular night when all the stagehands were there, I grabbed my guitar— as I always do—and started playing some songs that I had written along the way. One of the guys there had a 4-track recorder and he quickly set it up. One of the songs I played that night was titled “Piss Wall.” It’s all about the giant wall we built that surrounded the entire corn field-turned-venue and enclosed the performance area.

I have had this song and book for years, and recently pulled this all out as part of my plan to win a contest for free studio time. I have made it to the finals in large part from the help I received from a lot of Phish fans on various forums. But I have fallen back to 3rd place and could use more help. Voting goes until Tuesday, so I still have a chance. I thought that since your blog is all about Phish, perhaps you might be interested in this book and song. People are really loving it and I hope you enjoy it as well.

Here is a link to vote for George in the contest. Hook it up!

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Jam of the Day:

Scents and Subtle Sounds” 7.23.03 I, Noblesville, IN

The opener of night three of three at Deer Creek.

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TTFF: More Jams of 2004

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on February 3rd, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Hampton 2004 (Unknown)

As promised on Monday, here’s another playlist to help prove that 2004 Phish featured far more than opiates and sloppy compositions.

***

Birds of a Feather” 8.10 I, Great Woods

This “Birds” is another monster jam that often gets lost in the shuffle of the dark, ending period of August ’04. This version closed the first set of the first show at Great Woods in scintillating and exploratory fashion— a stellar excursion through and through.

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***

Halley’s > Tweezer” 4.17 I, Las Vegas, NV

Though April’s Vegas run was the low point of ’04 (less Coventry), Phish still cranked out a keeper version of “Tweezer” in this first set combo that directly followed a “Soul Shakedown” opener on the third and final night.

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***

Piper -> Jibboo” 6.19 II, SPAC

The world-famous SPAC “Piper” and a slinky segue into “Jibboo.”

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***

Chalk Dust Torture” 6.18 II, Brooklyn, NY

After Jay-Z left the stage, Phish dug into things for real with this perspective altering “Chalk Dust.”

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***

Nothing” 6.23 II, Noblesville, IN

Phish expanded on their Undermind single only one time, at this Deer Creek stop in June ’04. I’ve always liked this song (which I’m sure most will scoff at) and I think it could make for some interesting modern day jams. Not included in this clip is the “Forcety-Six Days” that follows a particularly ugly transition.

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***

Seven Below -> Ghost” 6.20 II, SPAC

This is the first half of Phish’s last four-song set on the second night of SPAC. While the opening show focused more on groove, this pairing favored twisted psychedlia. “Ghost” was followed by “Twist” and “YEM.”

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***

Walls -> Bowie” 6.19 I, SPAC

One of few versions of”Walls” in which Phish has crafted an interesting jam, this time with a quasi-then-fully ambient extension that blossoms beautifully before bleeding into a set-closing “Bowie.”

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TTFM: The Jams of 2004

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 30th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

8.9.04 - Hampton Coliseum

While many fans debate the year of 2003, a contingent of the community writes off 2004 all together. I am here to tell a different story. The year’s opening shows in Vegas were a complete trainwreck with only a few jams of interest, and it was after these nights in Sin City that Trey announced the band’s “retirement.” It is my theory that with this announcement, the pressure of Phish—and everything that came with it—was lifted off the guys’ shoulders and minds, thus when they took to the road for a short June tour, they saw the light at the end of the tunnel and played their hearts out. Brooklyn, SPAC, Deer Creek and Alpine—two at each—and more than a few highlights to speak of, including two of the band’s most impressive post-hiatus performances in Saratoga Springs. Then, in August, the band took their final run from Hampton to Great Woods to Camden and up to Coventry, Vermont. And despite the debacle of the festival, there are jams within this final run that deserve recognition.

After a positive response from Friday’s 2003 playlist, I thought I’d come right back and start the week with one from 2004. If you were there, you can attest to the passionate playing that Phish displayed this summer up until the very end. While there was often little precision through composed sections, there was never a lack of impressive improv—Phish could always jam. Now that they are back, happy and healthy, let’s celebrate the music of the year in which they crashed and burned! Stay tuned for part two on Friday…

***

Tube” 6.24 II, Deer Creek

This version kicked off the final set at Deer Creek until Summer 2009.

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***

Twist” 6.20 II, SPAC

This jam—the most impressive from SPAC’s second night—was part of a seamless four-song masterpiece.

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***

Seven Below -> Buffalo Bill” 6.25 II, Alpine

An exploratory piece of psychedelia laced with unconventional groove.

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***

Antelope -> 2001” 8.11 II, Great Woods

This exceptional and out-of-left field song pairing opened the final set at Great Woods until 2009. A smoking sequence.

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Boogie On -> Ghost -> Free” 6.26 II, Alpine

Phish exploded in groove on the final night of June’s short tour.

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***

A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” 6.19 II, SPAC

One of my favorite jams. Period.

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***

46 Days > Possum” 6.17 II, Brooklyn

This “46 Days” was the centerpiece jam of the opening night of tour from Keyspan Park. Many fans watched this show at movie theatres across the nation.

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***

AC/DC Bag” 8.14 II, Coventry

A standout jam from Coventry? Yup.

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***

Scents and Subtle Sounds” 8.12 II, Camden

A tripped out final outing for “Scents” drenched in layered loops and drone effects finalized Phish’s amphitheatre tour, closing out the second set at Camden. Only Coventry remained.

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A Post-Hiatus Playlist

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on February 1st, 2010 by Mr.Miner

7.10.03 (A.Markarian)

Out of the many great Phish jams during the post-hiatus era, here are a couple of top-shelf selections.

***

A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” 6.19.04 II SPAC

Evoking the feel of Pink Floyd’s psy-rock, this piece of improv is among my favorite regardless of era. A truly masterful excursion, this song needs to find itself back into rotation come summer.

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***

Scents and Subtle Sounds” 7.30.03 I Camden

Arguably the most impressive version ever played – it would certainly get my vote – this “Scents” highlighted the first set in one of the band’s most impressive post-hiatus’ outing.

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***

7-15-03 - USANA Amphitheatre

7-15-03 - USANA Amphitheatre

Mr. Completely > Low Rider” 7.15.03 II West Valley, Utah

In one of ’03s out-of-the-way and undersold shows, Phish debuted Trey’s longtime TAB classic, “Mr. Completely,” and with it came a furious half-hour of non-stop groove.

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***

Twist” 6.20.04 II SPAC

Another interstellar jam from Phish’s last stand.

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***

Seven Below” 7.13.03 II The Gorge

One of the first psychedelic masterpieces of the summer and  legitimate tour highlight when all was said and done.

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***

7.25.03 - Charlotte, NC (Alex)

Harry Hood” 7.25.03 II Charlotte, NC

A ground-breaking jam for “Harry Hood” illustrating the band’s exploratory spirit that underlines these years. A piece that once you hear you will never forget.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

9.18.99 Coors Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, CA < Torrent

9.18.99 Coors Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, CA < Megaupload

An outdoor affair that started in the dark amidst the Southern California desert; this standout show goes out via reader request to Christine!

I: Tweezer > Roses Are Free > Wilson, Maze, Brian and Robert, Tube, Rocky Top

II: Boogie On Reggae Woman, Meatstick, Free, Bouncing Around the Room, Harry Hood, Frankenstein, Cavern

E: Contact, Tweezer Reprise

Source: Schoeps cmc6/mk4v > Apogee AD-1000 @ 48k

Tags: , ,

A City Spectacle

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 21st, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Just when we thought we’d seen it all from our band, they came up with one last stunt.  We’d seen Phish play in so many contexts– atop an air control tower, on a flatbed truck rolling through the lot, from midnight to sunrise in the swamps, at Mt. Fuji, in European towns, at huge festivals, in giant hot dogs, in tiny clubs, and on multi-band bills– you name it, they had done it.  Yet, on the day after SPAC on their June ’04 run, they would pull off one more spectacular act.

img-3On June 21st, they were scheduled to play Letterman in NYC.  My ride was coincidentally heading back to NYC where I was hopping a late-afternoon plane to Indianapolis.  But on the way down to the to the city, we started getting text message rumors that Phish was going to play on top of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, where the show is filmed, that afternoon!  Whaaat?!  We were shot with 100 ccs of adrenaline knowing that we were headed directly for Phish’s next “concert.”  I told myself that I’d believe it when I saw it.

When we turned onto Broadway in midtown Manhattan, we looked up to the theatre, and sure enough they were setting up equipment!  Before long, the band was atop the two-story marquee for an extended soundcheck before taping their four-minute late-night promotional spot.  Immediately, I called American Airlines and switched my flight to the last one of the night, giving myself ample time for whatever might happen. We got there a couple hours before it was supposed to start, and there were already fans congregating behind the metal barricades that blocked off part of the street.  As time passed, fans continued to steadily stream in, creating an oversized crowd in the middle of the New York City block in broad daylight.  This was surreal.

img-4As Phish stood atop the marquee, they continuously practiced the newly-shortened version of “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” the song they would play for the show.  The gorgeous jam became the soundtrack to the afternoon, as they literally must have played it through ten times.  Meeting up with some others, we grabbed some rail space, watched the cars go by, and waited.  New York didn’t stop for anyone, not even a spectacle like this, and that made it all the more crazy.  Cars, trucks, and buses drove by like nothing was going on while over a thousand people congregated across the street and hundreds of others leaned out the windows of their apartments above the marquee.  In all of the my wildest Phish dreams, never did the this scenario pop up, and that is why Phish is Phish.

When the band finally took the mini-stage for the formal filming, they evoked memories of The Beatles playing their final concert as a surprise gig atop a building while cameras rolled.  As Phish started, they played “Scents and Subtle Sounds” not once, but twice!  I guess they would later choose which one to air, but what would happen next was anyone’s guess.  This was the discussion of the entire afternoon. How long would they play? What songs would they choose?  Would they rage it?  Would it be mellow?  All of these questions were answered at once as Phish dropped into a mid-day “2001″ in the middle of the Manhattan skyline!  As they swirled the grooves around the skyscrapers, I looked up and saw Phish against the New York City backdrop speckled with the bluest sky and cloud puffs.  A question we often found ourselves asking when baffled by this band seemed very appropriate here, “What the hell was going on?!”  Trey stared up at the clouds above and smiled as he was having as much fun as anyone with this Phishy spectacle.

ph20040621-162We were all blown away with the magnitude and sheer absurdity of what was going down; Phish, amidst a sea of skyscrapers, was ripping a “2001.”  As the band peaked the abbreviated version, they moved right into “Wilson.”  No one knew when this set would end, so every next song was like another shot of energy.  The crowd played their part chanting “Wilson!” from across Broadway, and the band looked giddy with amusement.  They tore into the song with utmost energy as we raged the the flat cement dance floor provided so graciously by the city.  Riding the frenetic tide, Trey concluded the song and ripped into the beginning chords of his personal favorite, “Chalk Dust Torture.”  We all exchanged shit-eating grins while passing some herbage, this was too cool to be true; we were five songs deep in a mini-urban-Phish set!  Sure the versions were truncated, but the jamming clearly wasn’t the point here.

img-1As the band wound up the final twist of “Chalk Dust,” it seemed perfectly reasonable that their “set” would end here.  But without saying a word, Trey dropped the opening lick of “Tweezer!”  I laughed so loud inside my head I’m certain that some sound came out of my mouth, but needless to say, I was speechless.  Trey looked like a kid in a candy store atop the marquee melting into a “Tweezer” jam with the sun reflecting off the glass monstrosities that surrounded him.  The band bounced their grooves around the urban playground, improvising directly into “Tweezer Reprise.”  Now this was the way to end the afternoon!  Everyone collectively freaked as Reprise bellowed through the streets of New York.  Phish was having at it in one of their favorite cities of all time, playing a selection of the most boisterous tunes possible to match the midtown madness.  They played to their surroundings perfectly as they always seemed to do.  Whether it was 100,000 at Big Cypress or 1,100 at The Fillmore, Phish were maestros of matching the mood.  With the final note of Reprise, Phish walked off the stage much more carefully than usual, leaving us with one of the most unique memories in Phish history.

With the two insane SPAC shows and this surprise appearance, New York rejuvenated the Phishy spirit one last time before the second go-round was over.  A band known for their extraordinary antics and sense of spectacle, this was one last ride on the ferris wheel.  Yet, as dormant as this spirit has been for the last five years, it has been reawakened, well-rested from an extended hibernation.  Regardless of what music Phish decides to play this year, you can be sure it will be infused with this very spirit we have come to love.

DOWNLOAD 6.21.04 The Ed Sullivan Theatre, NYC < LINK

Scents and Subtle Sounds (x2), 2001 > Wilson, Chalk Dust, Tweezer > Tweezer Reprise

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

1997-12-09gn12.9.97 Bryce Jordan Arena, Penn State, PA < LINK

This show gets overlooked and dogged on way more than it deserves.  While it may not be the greatest show of a standout tour, it has some great segments. First and foremost, an incredibly exploratory second set “Simple” that lasted over thirty minutes.  Leaving behind ’97 funk grooves, this jam goes way out, providing some abstract psychedelia.  This jam dominated a show that also featured a great show ending “Harry Hood,” and the infamous and blistering first set “Stash > Hydrogen > Weekapaug” songs after the “Mike’s” opener.

I: Mike’s Song, Chalk Dust Torture, My Soul, Stash > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Dogs Stole Things, Beauty of My Dreams, Horn, Loving Cup

II: Julius, Simple > Timber Ho, Contact, Axilla, Harry Hood

E: Fire

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Phish’s Last Stand: Part II

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 16th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Streaming out of the venue after the show, silent disbelief fell over most everyone. What had just happened?  That wasn’t just good, that was IT; but Phish was now calling it quits?  This inner mounting conflict swirled in so many minds after the first night of SPAC.  What had suddenly come over the band?  Would this type of playing continue for the rest of tour?  It was all a big mystery to which another clue couldn’t be discovered until Phish took the stage again.  After such a performance on night one, something hinted to us that night two would also be something to behold.  And it was.

"Ghost" 6.20.04

"Ghost" 6.20.04

Following another hot first set that featured smoking segments of improv out of “Waves” and “Drowned,” Phish prepared to play their final set of the weekend.  With echoes of Oceans and ‘Piper’ bouncing in the recesses of our minds, we readied ourselves to receive what Phish had left to give.

As the opening licks of “Seven Below” emanated from the stage, the seminal post-hiatus song enveloped the summer evening with new crystals of snow.  Having worked itself into Phish’s regular rotation, “Seven Below” had already produced several monster jams, and as this one opened the second night in Saratoga, everyone knew we were in for an improvisational beast.  As they began to move beyond the song’s chord progression, the playing moved from a rhythmic palate to a slower more amorphous place.  Phish smoothly slid into an overtly psychedelic melange of sound, beats and dissonance.  The jam had taken a turn for the dark side and began to explore a beautifully demented soundscape, neither led by nor devoid of groove.  Phish was happening once again.  Right in front of our eyes, the band engaged in a compelling journey that cast a spell on the legions of fans who willingly surrendered their souls to the extraordinary improv.

39302878106_0_albPicking up the pace, Phish emerged from the murky textures with a head of steam, tightly chugging away while hinting at the original composition.  Having no intention of conventionally wrapping up “Seven Below,” the band took this momentum and transformed it into a slowed down groove that somewhat abruptly moved into “Ghost.”  It was apparently just as on as it was the night before.  The band oozed into the “Ghost” jam favoring a slower playing, utilizing the pace to assemble musical phrasing that brought them back to the ambient and psychedelic realm.  Transforming into a stunningly amorphous and cooperative work of art, this jam moved far away from what you’d expect to hear from any “Ghost” jam.  Entering truly beautiful and transcendent territory, this jam conveyed both mystery and beauty simultaneously.  Skyscraping in scope, this divergent path was crafted with utmost care and delicacy, and was very much a continuation of the musical ideas presented in “Seven Below.”

Having been taken for an abstract ride through Phishy psychedelia for the first 30+ minutes of the set, Phish patiently transformed their playing into a groove that seamlessly entered “Twist.”  Far smoother than the initial transition of the set, it seemed as the band was working on a subconscious level at this point.  Flowing effortlessly, the band continued to produce music as if there was no separation between themselves and their instruments.  Completely connected and moving on sheer instinct, this “Twist” turned into an intricate masterpiece that would hold up to anything played over the two nights.

Using conventional “Twist” patterns, the band dove into the jam.  Swimming in the shallow end for the beginning of the jam, the band soon pushed off into deeper waters led by a thumping bass line that the entire band hooked onto.  Immediately, the jam took on an entirely new life with infectious and quickened staccato dance grooves bubbling from Phish’s cauldron.  The entire band jumped on the bus and went on a fifteen- minute joyride through some of the best music you’ll ever hear.

"Drowned" 6.20.04 (franckedesign.com)

"Drowned" 6.20.04 (franckedesign.com)

Busting into an outright Phish groove, the music grew in stature as Trey and Page delicately tickled the rhythmic canvas.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get better, Trey quietly began strumming some of the most delicate rhythm licks ever played, and the band moved directly into the center of IT.  Completely lost in their fantasy world once again, this moment is what it was all about.  Pure Phish improv showered down from above, lifting us to unimaginable heights.  As the band painted a surreal portrait of psychedelic groove, the crowd body-surfed the vibrant rainbow of Phish.

Tearing into the peak of the jam, Trey shredded as if there was no tomorrow, while the entire venue seemed to float.  Descending from the apex of the jam, the band concluded this journey with some slowed down, menacing funk grooves, letting the last note carry out into silence.  The crowd quickly picked their jaws up off the floor to fill that silence with boisterous applause and enthusiastic cheers for the perfect 50 minutes of music they had just witnessed.  Two nights in a row?!

"YEM" 6.20.04

"YEM" 6.20.04

Before we had time to process, the band dropped the opening melodies to “You Enjoy Myself.”  Of course.  What better way to end the weekend than a massive dance session to Phish’s most definitive piece.  The entire composed section was another one of those times that your cheeks began to cramp from the involuntary smiles.  As the drop of the jam hit, it felt as the entire audience was moving in unison as if some experiment in collective consciousness.  The dancing paradise that is YEM overtook SPAC for the final twenty minutes of the set, offering a catalog of grooves.  Straight Phish crack was this jam, and nothing could have been better to finish off this two-night other-worldly excursion into the depths of Phish’s universe.  Bringing it all back home, YEM centered us with a dose of classic Phish to bring out into the night with us.  The band put their signature at the bottom of the two night document that was SPAC.  A high-energy encore of “Good Times, Bad Times,” kept everyone’s spirits high while lyrically suggesting the ups and downs of life that the band was simultaneously experiencing.

6.20.04 SPAC

6.20.04 SPAC

Capping two of the best nights of Phish ever, the “four-song set” had returned, rearing its uber-improvisational head for the first time in 2004.  Thematic in nature and traveling an adventurous path, this set existed as one inseparable piece of music.  Like a psychedelic symphony, Phish delivered one of the most magical movements of the summer.  Rivaled only by the night before, these sets at SPAC suggested that Phish still had a hell of a lot of music left in their tank.  Unfortunately, it was their energy and motivation to produce that music that had been compromised.

The rest of the summer would wind up with the Midwest run and then the final farewell shows up the east coast.  Those SPAC shows must have been listened to more times than I can remember during that last month, because no matter how sad we felt, no matter how bittersweet everything grew to be, we would always have those two nights in Saratoga.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

11.15.98 Murfreesboro, TN < LINK

21One of the smallest shows of Fall ’98, this took place in a college field house– bleachers and all.  The retro environment didn’t impede Phish from throwing down some nasty jams, something that was seemingly involuntary during Fall ’98.  A great opening combo of “My Friend,” “Ghost” got things started quickly.  The entire second set is great, highlighted by the opening triumvirate of “Runaway Jim,” Stash,” and “Mike’s.”

I: My Friend My Friend, Ghost, Driver, Scent of a Mule, Cavern, Limb by Limb, Roggae, La Grange

II: Runaway Jim, Stash, Mike’s Song  > Simple, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Loving Cup, Weekapaug Groove

E: Rocky Top

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Phish’s Last Stand

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 15th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Something was in the air at SPAC on those June nights five years ago.  In the woods of upstate New York, Phish would throw down the gauntlet one more time before calling it quits.  Sure, Coney Island was a great time with the huge movie broadcast, the baseball field, and Jay-Z’s appearance, but musically, nothing from ’04 can compare to SPAC.  Deer Creek and Alpine would go on to provide us with fabulous music and moments, but it was in the intimacy the New York forest where the band last dipped their golden ladle.  On June 19th and 20th, Phish delivered the last opuses of their career.

6.19.04 (Mark Terry)

6.19.04 SPAC (Mark Terry)

The 2004 summer run was surrounded by a bittersweet aura.  Knowing this was gonna be it, we wanted to savor every last drop, but that unspoken feeling of imminent loss lingered.  We didn’t want to mourn something that we still had, but the knowledge that this would be the end of the road wouldn’t disappear.  After two exciting nights in Coney Island, the caravan headed north to Saratoga Springs for the first time since Summer ’95.  Following issues with management, the band was not invited back after until nine years later under new ownership.  The whole community knew that these shows would be special, but we didn’t know the half of it.  Once Phish hopped onstage in the beautiful northern setting, the magic hose would be turned on, and left on full blast for two straight days.  Phish would tap into the universal spirit more coherently than any other time in 2004, providing the audience with two final nights of cosmic communication to hold in our hearts.

While all four sets of this weekend were out of hand, this is a story about the second sets of 6.19 and 6.20, two of the greatest, if not the greatest, post-hiatus frames of music created by the band.  Whether it was the light at the end of the tunnel or just the the inspiration of performing their final run, Phish dug in and played their souls out.

"A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing"

"A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing"

As the lights dropped signifying the start of the second set, we assumed our places.  After a stellar first half, highlighted by an opening “Reba” and a sublime ambient jam bringing “Walls of the Cave” into “David Bowie,” we knew that what was about to drop would be special, yet how special, we didn’t know.  Launching the set with the opening drum beats of Undermind‘s “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” Phish chose one of their most sought after new songs to sculpt into a masterpiece.  As soon as the song started, everyone knew the jam would be huge, but the sheer perfection of it would be uncovered slowly.  After an abbreviated first-set “album version” at Coney Island, this second-set opener would clearly take a different course.

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SPAC '04

Following Trey’s Hendrix-esque guitar solo, the jam began in earnest, and one could tell it was on.  The twisting and sinister music soon settled into a space where the whole band hopped into a collective jam rather than merely supporting Trey.  This is where the shit began to go down.  Improvising on the future epic for the first and only time, Phish created a menacing, yet uplifting, jam that would immediately vault into the annals of Phish history.  The exuberance of hearing the band absolutely slaughter this new favorite, combined with their absolutely locked and flawless playing, resulted in one of my top Phish experiences ever.

14071878106_0_albThe band connected several directed sections of improv, building a monstrosity.  By merging hard groove with searing evil psychedelia, Phish created a beast we had never seen before.  About half-way through the jam, the band snapped into some collaborative playing that set the table for the unbelievably spiritual jamming that would follow. This is where the magic began to blossom at an alarming rate, infusing the menacing piece with a sense of redemption and hope.  The band garnished a serious Pink Floyd vibe at this point, creating a beautifully  intense soundscape that was led to a cathartic release by Trey’s surreal and triumphant melodic licks.  This jam defines epic; for those looking to start listening to post-hiatus, start here.  As the only improvisational version of the song, Phish went all out and created a masterpiece.

6.19.04

6.19.04

As the twenty-minute jam closed, Phish moved directly into the opening of a superbly unique 32-minute “Piper.”  Using the popular jam vehicle to blow out any of the song’s conventions, the band took the momentum from their opening jam and kept it rolling.  As “Piper’s” scorching path left a wake of fire in its trail, it wasn’t long before the band broke down the jam into a more percussive place, stirring more musical creativity and diversity into the mix.  Bass-led grooves began to boom as Trey initiated some highly-addictive rhythm licks; where were we headed?  The pace slowed a bit, allowing for more spacious improv from all band members.  Following minutes of this polyrhythmic playing, Phish settled the music down again, creating an ominous tone before dropping into an “Tweezer Reprise” themed jam.  Starting with slow infectious patterns, the band built a completely unique jam into a straight dance-a-thon.  Gripping us with their imagination, the entire venue was soon bumping to the otherworldly rhythms.  Infusing an edgier tone to the music, the band built towards the Tweezer-laced peak.  This was heaven; one of those times where you danced so hard you knew not where you were, and you smiled so hard that your face muscles began to cramp.  This was IT, plain and simple, and everyone knew it.  IT was unmistakable.  With Trey wailing with the enjoyment of 1995, we all seemed to jump into a time warp to a place where things were firing on all cylinders again.  Were they really stopping in a month?  That didn’t make any sense now.

SPAC '04 (Mike Piera)

SPAC '04 (Mike Piera)

As if the “Reprise” peak wasn’t high enough, the band eventually morphed into the third section of this “Piper.”  Peeling away some of the layers of sonic residue, the band stripped the music down to some heavy drum and bass patterns.  Soon Trey and Page jumped into the mix and the band was locked into another infectious piece of improv, this time a down-tempo bulbous groove.  At this point, everyone’s minds were shattered to smithereens.  We were 40 minutes into the set and the entire time had been filled with some of the best Phish improvisation ever.  Before we knew it, we were coaxed into a funky and accented rhythm that delivered us right into the bouncing beginning of “Jibboo.”

3176382207_0d3c0e8ddaAt this point, we all knew we were in the grips of the Phish on an incredibly special night of music.  The jam stemming from “Jibboo” provided the us with the tight and uplifting candy-grooving that was much-needed after such a long and ominous period of improv.  Returning our brains to some sense of normalcy, this “Jibboo” was placed at the perfect point in the set, bridging the dark and the light.  With none of their impeccable tightness lost, Phish lept from their melodic relief into a late-set “Limb By Limb” that turned into yet another indelible 6.19 memory.  Transcending the general path of Limb jams, this version blossomed with patience and beauty into some truly delicate Phish.  As the jam reached its midpoint, the music gained some swing and built into something far greater than an average Limb peak.  In a geyser-like eruption of melody, Trey led the band towards spiritual apex that echoed of The Grateful Dead’s rolling melodic peak of “The Eleven.”  This was pure hose, and it was good. Perfection, beauty, and symmetry are all words that could describe this musical arrival, putting an exclamation point to this set of utter insanity.

With the classic set closer of “Cavern,” everyone’s brains came back to earth and realized the enormity of the Phish they had just experienced.  This was a perfect set; the type that didn’t come around all that often in the post-hiatus period.  As the set ended and Phish came back for an encore, there was nothing they could do to upstage what had just happened. Fully cognizant of this, they elected for one of the classiest encores in their repertoire, “Wading In the Velvet Sea.”  Reserved for post-epic situations just like this one, Velvet Sea provided the perfect reflective denouement to a show that no one would ever forget.

And this was only night one.  To be continued…

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ironmountain_archive2ARCHIVE REMINDER: I know there are a lot of new readers lately, and I wanted to remind everyone that there is over 150 articles archived on Phish Thoughts.  You can use the orange “tag cloud” on the bottom right of the page to search by category (right above this paragraph), or you can search for any term using the search bar on the top of the page.  The search bar is especially useful when looking for particular show downloads.  You can always just click on a particular month of the archive, and all the articles should appear chronologically.  Also, the entire “Miner’s Picks” series is linked at the right side of the page as well, for quick access to the goods.  All links are always active.  If you find a broken link, please let me know via email.  Thanks so much, and enjoy!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

Markthalle - Hamburg, GR

Markthalle - Hamburg, GR

7.23.96 Markthalle, Hamburg, GR < LINK

Dipping back into Phish’s oft-overlooked Europe ’96 tour, this show was their last headlining gig, and a fan favorite from the tour,  A standout show from start to finish, this should fill in a gap in many collections.

I: AC/DC Bag > Foam, Theme From the Bottom, Gumbo, Scent of a Mule* > Down With Disease > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Stash, Hello My Baby

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Runaway Jim, Loving Cup, Sparkle, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Bike, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Rocky Top

*Contained an a capella solo by Trey.

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