First Nights of the Later Eras

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

10.17.14, Eugene, OR (Eric Battuello)

Phish continued their unspoken tradition of dropping a chunk ofnheavy-hitting first night improv right on through the 2.0 and the modern era. Enjoy this long playlist of highlights, all plucked from the first nights of tours and chronologically ordered for your listening pleasure.

Bathtub Gin” / “Walls -> Carini” 2.14.03 II, Los Angeles, CA

After their shaky comeback run at MSG at Hampton, Phish announced their presence of authority with a feel-good and deeply grooving “Bathtub Gin” in the first set, and this menacing, wide open second set combo of “Walls -> Carini”  at the old LA Forum.

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Wolfman’s > Scents and Subtle Sounds” 7.7.03 II, Phoenix, AZ

This second-set opening combination was like happening upon a treasure in the middle of a desert. As “Wolfman’s” grew darker and demented, Phish twisted into the debut of “Scents and Subtle Sounds” in one of their greatest new song unveilings of their career What first sounded like a fable soon transformed into a glorious jam, and Phish’s Summer Tour of 2003 was officially underway.

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46 Days” 6.17.04 II, Brooklyn, NY

Coney Island’s Keyspan Park was a perfect atmosphere in which to kick off a summer tour. This version of “46 Days” went deep, opening up the psychedelic vortex that would engulf the eternally underrated first leg of Summer ’04.

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46 Days” 11.18.09 I, Detroit, MI

This dark horse version of “46 Days” from Cobo’s opening set came out of nowhere and is pure filth. A total diamond in the rough, Phish was still getting their sea legs back and dropped this dripping piece of psych-funk on the first night of Fall ’09.

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Ghost” 6.11.10 II, Chicago, IL

This version of “Ghost” from 2010’s opening night at Toyota Park was gargantuan at the time. And even years later, it can still hold its own.

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Waves > Caspian > Crosseyed” 5.27.11 II, Bethel NY

A methodical deconstruction of “Boogie On’s” groove led into this powerful trifecta from opening night of 2011 at Bethel. Both “Waves” and “Crosseyed” pack a punch, though of a decidedly different musical nature.

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Rock and Roll -> Meatstick” 8.5.11 II, George, WA

Opening night at The Gorge in 2011 resulted not only in an all-tour jam, but an all-timer. This sequence is still among the elite of the modern era. A month after Super Ball’s Storage Jam, Phish integrated the dark and abstract style into this improvisational behemoth. And what a segue into “Meatstick,” also up there with the all-time greats.

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Carini” / “Ghost > Boogie On” 6.7.12 II, Worcester, MA

Throw opening night of summer tour indoors and one gets much darker results. Both “Carini” and “Ghost > Boogie On” highlighted the second set, the former with more abstract psych rock, and the latter with grooves aplenty.

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Rock and Roll  > Ghost” 8.15.12, II, Long Beach, CA

It was in Long Beach on the opening night of Leg Two during Summer 2012 that Phish truly rediscovered long form jamming for keeps. It seemed as though they had reeled in their jams a bit over Leg One to tighten things up, and over Leg Two they began to let things breathe again. This “Rock and Roll” is a loose exploration that is a stark contrast to the tighter, thematic style of jamming we’ve heard over most of 2013 and much of 2014.

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Carini” 10.18.13 II, Hampton, VA

In a Fall Tour littered with jams at every turn, Phish dropped one of tour’s elite excursions during the first night of the run at Hampton Coliseum. This jam needs no introduction at this point, as it garnered almost instantaneous fame in the community. No jam of 2013 contained more swagger than the Hampton “Carini.”

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Harry Hood” 7.1.14 II, Mansfield, MA

This all-time version of “Harry Hood” went down during this summer’s opening night at Great Woods, and it would be the best version of summer tour. This version inaugurated a year of wide open “Harry Hoods,” though I’m not sure this version has been topped.

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Twist > Crosseyed > Hood” 10.17.14 II, Eugene, OR

This three-song sequence from Eugene was packed to the gills with high-level and creative improvisation, setting the bar incredibly high for Fall 2014 on just the first night. “Crosseyed” provided the centerpiece of the set with a multi-tiered leviathan, but the bookends were incredibly inventive takes on their songs as well.

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TTFM: First Nights of Tour

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 24th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
10.17.14 Eugene, OR (Eric Battuello)

10.17.14 Eugene, OR (Eric Battuello)

Beginning in 1997, whether they knew it or not, Phish began a tradition of throwing down a very significant jam on the first night of their tours. Sometimes they came amidst fiery tour openers and sometimes in lesser shows, but like clockwork, Phish announced the beginning of tour with a filthy jam that would most often hold up to anything played over the duration of the run. This unspoken ritual began in earnest in the summer of 1997, and that is where today’s playlist begins, tracing each tour through 2000. (Europe ’98 and Summer US 2000 were exceptions, thus not represented.)

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Ghost” / “Bathtub Gin” 7.21.97 I, Virginia Beach, VA

When Phish came back from a month-long tour of Europe, in which they explored their new medium of cow funk, they were rearing to show their fans what they had going on. It didn’t take long for them to show off the goods at the first show of the US Summer tour in Virginia Beach, opening with a deeply jammed “Ghost.” Later in the first set, the band dropped the jam of the show in “Bathtub Gin.” Enjoy both jams below.

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Stash” 11.13.97 II, Las Vegas, NV

Phish opened up Fall ’97 with a strong overall performance at a shrunken Thomas and Mack Center (half of the venue was cut off by a curtain). The jam of the show was the first of several standout versions of “Stash” that would transpire over the following month. This ominous second-setter landed in a tribal-like ambiance while steering clear of any grooves in a deeply psychedelic journey.

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Tweezer -> Free” 7.15.98 II, Portland, OR

Phish had barely any time between the last day of their European tour in Barcelona (7/10) and the first night of their US tour in Portland, Oregon (7/15), so you could say they were warmed up. The “Tweezer -> California Love -> Tweezer -> Free” that the band dropped in the second set of this tour opener needs to introduction—pure filth from a band on fire.

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Reba” 10.29.98 II, Los Angeles, CA

Phish dropped a monster second set at LA’s Greek Theatre to open Fall ’98, and this wide open “Reba” was its centerpiece. Introducing their new group-wide, ambient sound that would be expounded upon over Fall Tour, the band sculpted a mind-expanding masterpiece that deserves discussion amongst the all-time greats.

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Free” 6.30.99 II, Bonner Springs, KS

Perhaps the most polished, badass, groove-era version of the song ever played, the Bonner Springs “Free” is like a freight train in the living room of your mind. Methodically maniacal, this version carries the perfect pace from the start, featuring Mike in the middle of the formation for the first time. Trey’s solo possesses a generous amount of swagger.

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Stash” / “Tweezer” 9.9.99 I / II, Vancouver, BC

Both of these tour-opening jams illustrate the dark, layered and ambient nature that characterized Phish’s late ’99 style. Each of these jams were immediate keepers and they have stood the test of time.

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Bathtub Gin > 2001” 12.2.99 II, Auburn Hills, MI

This scalding sequence got tour winter started quickly at the Palace in Auburn Hills.

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Tweezer” 6.9.00 II, Tokyo, JP

Phish landed in Japan and wasted no time getting down to business, dropping this monstrous and exploratory “Tweezer” on their first night in Tokyo.

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Ghost” 9.8.00 I, Albany, NY

This fuel injected version of the late-’90s groove vehicle came as the third song of the first set—of tour.

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The Top Ten of Fall Tour

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 16th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
10.24.14, Los Angeles, CA (Jesse Herzog)

10.24.14, Los Angeles, CA (Jesse Herzog)

There’s nothing like making art compete, so welcome to this Fall’s Top Ten Jams! Trying to make this top ten list from was tougher than usual, because simply put, there weren’t that many great jams this tour. The guys did, however, churn out just enough high quality to make a solid top ten list. So without further ado, here we go…

Honorable Mention:  “Carini -> Plasma” 10.17 II, “Light -> Cities” 10.18 II, “Harry Hood” 10.28 II, “Down with Disease” 10.29 II, “Twist” 11.1 II

10. “Harry Hood” 10.17 II, Eugene, OR

To cap Eugene’s second set, the band picked up with “Harry Hood” right where they left off this summer, playing another revitalized and wide-open version of their classic. After navigating multiple themes, the band concluded this version with a proper build and peak. Certainly lesser heard that the San Francisco and Vegas “Hoods,” Eugene’s version was the proverbial cherry on top of a pretty perfect second set and gets my pick for the best of Fall.

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9.”Light” 10.29 II, San Francisco, CA

Much like Bill Graham’s “Twist” opened into a slow, dark lair, the next night’s “Light” followed a similar dynamic, traversing more than one ambient realm. This jam highlighted San Francisco’s final set with truly engaging interplay, but it met an awkward ending due to Trey’s hard-headed move into “Possum” as things were getting particularly nasty, costing this jam some serious style points.

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8. “Down With Disease” 10.24 II, Los Angeles, CA

A jam that traverses several musical feels comes to a final peak with the same classic rock rhythm progression featured in this summer’s Merriweather “Ghost.” A solid, full-band jam through and through.

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7. “Light -> Dogs” 11.1 II, Las Vegas, NV

Phish wasted no time digging into the new music they scribed for their Halloween set. On the next night, they combined “Light” and “Dogs” to form the improvisational centerpiece of the second set. Trey gets into a zone for the few minutes preceding the move into “Dogs,”  unleashing a series of powerful leads with a hard-edged, digitally beserk guitar tone. The band expounded on “Dogs'” theme, jamming the piece out of structure and into “Lengthwise.” I believe this was only the beginning of a new chapter in Phish’s career.

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6. “Drowned > Theme” 10.22 II, Santa Barbara, CA

This set-opening sequence from Santa Barbara’s second night totally smokes. “Drowned” moves from a melodic and ethereal space into a far darker second half, landing in “Theme From the Bottom.” Then, in perhaps the surprise move of tour, the band blew out the end of “Theme” into a sinister funk passage could rightfully accompany a bank robbing mission.

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5. “Kill Devil Falls” 10.28 II, San Francisco, CA

Add Bill Graham’s second night to the short list of times Phish has blown out “Kill Devil Falls.” San Francisco’s outing got the full treatment in the band’s sharpest show of Fall Tour, opening the second set with a traipse into an abstraction. Though it had been years since the band improvised out of the Joy rocker, they promptly utilized it to sculpt one of the more progressive jams of Fall Tour.

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4. “Twist” 10.28 II, San Francisco, CA

“Twist” followed its Fall ’13 renaissance with another strong campaign this Fall. Phish played three great renditions of “Twist” this run, but none reached a more profound place than the version from Bill Graham Civic Arena. What appeared to be a tight though standard run through the song completely opened up as it built towards its final theme. What transpired was several minutes of utter transcendence. The band downshifted into a creeping tempo in which Trey played some of his most mystical guitar of the tour. Completely connected, Phish explored this idea to its conclusion with music that likened ancient myth.

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3. “Chalk Dust Torture > Ghost” 10.21 II, Santa Barbara, CA

This Santa Barbara sequence stood out immediately, highlighted by a truly special “Ghost” which slowly slithers into a delicate space that matched the venue’s gorgeous surroundings. In comparison to Vegas’s version, the trajectory of this “Chalk Dust” jam remained a bit more standard, though the band’s interplay throughout is quite on point. It seemed like Trey went all out in this sequence and then ran out of gas for the rest of the set which fell pretty flat.

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2. “Crosseyed and Painless” 10.17 II, Eugene, OR

In their first show—and one of the strongest second sets—of tour, Phish blew the doors off this “Crosseyed” jam in the fashion we hope they will every time they drop the Talking Heads’ cover. This multi-tiered excursion fluidly connects several themes, as the band set the bar quite high out of the gates this fall. Moving through a full-on plinko stage before morphing into a soundscaped ambient groove, the Eugene “Crossesyed” is the most accomplished  stand-alone jam of Fall Tour.

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1. “Chalk Dust > Piper” 11.2 II, Las Vegas, NV

Simply put, this sequence blows the rest of Fall Tour out of the water. Trey’s focus, energy and creativity finally reached the level of his bandmates, and the result was a jam that sounds far more locked and inspired than the rest of these pieces on this list. Quite honestly, it’s like night and day, illustrating the relative mediocrity of Fall tour. In this sequence, Phish (read: Trey) actually sounds like the sharpened musicians we know them to be, as it’s amazing what a fully dialed guitar player will do for the dynamic of the band. Both halves of this two-pronged attack thoroughly depart from their conventional jam spaces, providing refreshing takes on “Chalk Dust” and “Piper,” two jams that can often get caught in ruts. On this tour, Phish saved their best playing for the eleventh hour, but better late than never!

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My Top 10 Jams of Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on September 9th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
The Mann '14 (Andrea Nusinov)

The Mann ’14 (Andrea Nusinov)

As always, rankings are silly, pointless and fun all at the same time. This list was extra tough for some reason. Depending on who you are, these jams could take different places, but I feel pretty confident about my group of ten. After making my initial list I re-listened to everything and did some major shuffling. There’s some serious goods in the Honorable Mention section as well!

Honorable Mentions: “Limb by Limb” 7/3, “Chalk Dust” 7/9, “Bathtub Gin” 7/11, “Light” 7/13, “Wombat” 7/18, “Harry Hood” 7/19, “The Wedge” 7/20, “Ghost” 7/20, “Chalk Dust” 7/25, “Tweezer” 7/27, “Fuego” 7/30, “Down With Disease” 8/1, Down with Disease 8/30, Carini 8/30

10. “Chalk Dust Torture” 7/28, Portsmouth, VA

Out of the many versions of “Chalk Dust” outside of Randall’s Island, Portsmouth’s version stands out for its coherence and its narrative thread throughout. The other versions feel a bit scattered.

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9. “Light” 7/19, Chicago, IL

A deep experiment in acid-space-jazz, this jam brought a late set peak to Chicago’s second set. And it was well needed as there wasn’t much of substance played before it.

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8. “Down with Disease” 7/11, NYC, NY

One of many early-tour jams that is laced with super-tight, super-original whole-band playing with a powerful Trey at the helm. This one gets buried in the avalanche of Randall’s jams, but it really shouldn’t.

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7. “Tweezer” 7/13, NYC, NY

Randall’s “Tweezer” was flooded with original playing from the moment the jam drops to its transcendent peak. At no point in this version did the band sit back on any convention, weaving pure gold for the duration. And the way the band collectively climaxed this jam with that chord progression that many reading this can hum right now was nothing short of masterful. This was far and away the best “Tweezer” of the summer.

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6. “Ghost” 7/12 NYC, NY

The centerpiece of a flawless set of Phish, this “Ghost” featured gorgeous whole-band interplay and some of Trey’s most powerful lead playing of the summer. The band hooked up early in this one and got into a Hose-like zone, bringing the jam to a huge peak and then sticking with it into an extended section of fully locked downtempo jamming. At this point in summer, the band was squarely focused on deep, psychedelic jamming and it really shows in the Randall’s “Ghost.”

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5. “Fuego” 7/4, Saratoga Springs, NY

This was as dramatic of a jam debut as we’ve ever seen over 30 years of Phish. We all knew “Fuego” jams were coming, and Trey made sure to make the first one extra memorable. This second version of tour opened July 4th’s second set with an extended exploration that ended with the most dramatic whole-band peak of the summer. The apex of this jam was a moment that, if present, one will never forget—one of those superhero type moments you wish the world could feel. After this massive version, who would have guessed we’d only see two more jams from the countless “Fuegos” played for the rest of the summer?

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4. Simple” 8/29, Commerce City, CO

On the first night of Dick’s all the pieces from summer seemed to come together within this all-time “Simple” jam. Fish and Mike took the reins of this jam out of the gate while Trey sat back adding accents and rhythm licks and plotting a long-range plan. He gradually emerged over the course of several sections and then—for the first time in far too long—took the jam home with a some gargantuan lead playing. After a cathartic peak where the band would usually move on, they—instead—stepped into an all-out, funk throwdown with Trey  spinning dance grooves in a style rarely incorporated into modern day Phish. This “Simple” also contained the longest period of groove of any jam in recent memory.

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3. “Harry Hood” 7/1, Mansfield, MA

Throughout their careers, it hasn’t been uncommon for Phish to drop one of tour’s best jams on opening night. And this summer, the band did just that with their late-set version of “Harry Hood.” This wide-open rendition initiated a character shift for “Hood” this past summer into a type II jam vehicle. While many versions popped off in different directions, this one still holds the top spot for me, a truly magical journey.

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2. “Fuego” 7/8, Philadelphia, PA

This centerpiece from the first night of Philly is a remarkable jam that is unique in its pacing and progression. Displaying incredible patient, the band shifted as a unit throughout this jam, crafting almost orchestral movements. Just as one thought they were heading for a big peak a la SPAC’s version, the guys took a quick left into a section of whole-band groove. All in all, this “Fuego” is quite an exercise in improvisation and another quality example of the band’s early-summer approach to their jams.

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1. “Chalk Dust Torture” 7/13, NYC, NY

While much of this list was difficult to put in order, the top spot was a no brainer. Differing from the many constantly-in-motion “Chalk Dusts” of summer, Randall’s version saw the band develop themes while settling in and exploring several distinct-but-connected musical directions. Even after Dick’s standout weekend, the hour of music highlighted by this “Chalk Dust” still stands out as the most accomplished and innovative playing of the year. There were many great shows this summer, but something special that bears significance in the context of Phish’s career took place on the final night of Randall’s Island.

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The Story of “The” Ghost

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

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

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

Radio City 2000 (Unk.)

Radio City 2000 (Unk.)

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

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

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

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

Radio City Soundcheck (C.Taylor Crothers)

Radio City Soundcheck (C.Taylor Crothers)

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Ghost” 5.22.00 II, NYC, NY SBD

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A Portrait of an Era

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

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

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

Lmnwhl Postcard (Pollock)

Lmnwhl Postcard (Pollock)

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

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

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

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Download link

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The Garden of Eden

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on January 6th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

The level and diversity of improvisation over the four nights at Madison Square Garden to end the year were absolutely mind-bending. I spent my afternoon listening to all the major jams from the run for the first time through, and now I am as jacked as I was walking out of the shows each night! Amidst a celebration of all that was and will be, the thing most deservedly touted is the state of Phish right now. To put a final stamp on their thirtieth year, the guys unfurled jams of all shapes and sizes in a holiday run that lived up to its potential and surpassed it, in one of the finest year-end displays of all-time.

12.28.12 (J.Silco)

12.28.12 (J.Silco)

Phish revved up its improvisational gears midway through the first set of the 28th, using some loose and gooey “Wolfman’s” funk to indoctrinate the crowd to the four-night party. Though “Sand > Piper” formed a smoking couplet to kick off the second set, the true gem of the show came via “Steam.” Finally exploding like we all sensed it could, “Steam’s” jam got deep, demonic, and excessively dirty. Harnessing a thick, larger-than-life, mechanical vibe, the guys brought the show to its highest peak through heavy, effected grooves in “Steam’s” most prolific version to date.

The next central, open jam sequence came on the 29th, and it stole my heart the moment it happened—“Down With Disease,” “Carini.” This one-two punch for the ages provided untouchably magical moments to which this entire year has built toward. Each jam was note perfect and both reached the highest planes of creativity, veering down alternate paths of sinister ideation. “Disease” took us on a psychedelic journey of staggering beauty, traveling into the void and back again, in an undeniable musical triumph. “Carini” harnessed the grit and urban glamour that defined Madison Square Garden Phish jams of the mid to late ‘90s, with filthy, monstrous grooves that made time stand still while engulfing and uniting the consciousness of the entire audience. Both jams exploded with fresh sounds and even fresher ideas as they, collectively, covered a ridiculous amount of sacred territory. The smoothness in which the band morphed back into the end of “Disease;” the heights to which Trey rocked the Garden back and forth with his Echoplex in “Carini” like MJ crossed over John Starks and the rest of the Knicks before tomahawk dunking on Patrick Ewing; the fluidity of both jams which were seen to ultimate completion; this was 12.29 the right way. This was a fucking dream.

12.29.2013 (Jake Silco)

12.29.2013 (Jake Silco)

Many New Year’s Runs over the years have featured one night in which the band took less risks and didn’t go for it quite as hard as the other three, but 2013 was not one of those Holiday Runs. The band just kept on trucking, knocking down the doors of the 30th’s second set with a hugely exploratory and very cohesive “Chalk Dust Torture.” Bursting through the composition, Trey took the helm and brought the jam to an initial peak of catharsis with one of his most emotional solos of the weekend. When the jam reached a mellow juncture where it sounded as though it might move into “Taste,” things were just getting going. Phish went on to weave together a delicately driving adventure that touched on many feels without totally settling into any of them. The band never lost their connection throughout, however, crafting a totally different type of centerpiece than we heard the night before in “Disease” and “Carini.”

12.29.13 (J.Silco)

12.29.13 (J.Silco)

Later in the set, after completing a relatively contained “Mike’s Groove,” Phish tore into the usual “Groove” connector “Simple,” and this is where our next highlight jam blossomed. Bleeding out of Trey’s guitar solo, the band entered into a slow, wide-open conversation that evoked the feel of a loose, late night, festival jam. Entrancing the audience with this ethereal passage, the band would soon segue into “Harry Hood,” forming an extremely tender final portion of the set.

The central jam sequence of New Year’s Eve, uncharacteristically, came during the third set in the post “Auld Lang Syne” paring of “Fuego > Light.” If one thing can be told by the dramatic placement of their new song and it’s mini, outro segment, it is that “Fuego” will be the next big jam in this Phish universe. The only Halloween song delivered with any improvisational flair, look for “Fuego” to jump into second sets all over tour this summer. And then they dropped into “Light,” introducing the improvisational main event of New Year’s Eve.

12.28.12 (J.Silco)

12.28.12 (J.Silco)

Shortening his guitar solo at the onset of the jam, Trey led the band into the fray more quickly than usual as they formed a light, percussive canvas with a distinctly celebratory vibe. The guys were fully locked together as they navigated this unique musical ground, and the feel of the jam remained this way for some time. And then it turned straight nasty. Lending a hard edge to “Light’s” final segment, they guys fully dug in during this third-set gem, and the final monster Phish jam of the weekend.

It’s quite clear that for a New Year’s Run, Fall Tour makes all the difference. This year, the band’s short fall run propelled them to incredible musical heights over this holiday run as opposed to past years where they have scrambled, after an extensive offseason, to put together four shows. This year at Madison Square Garden, everything came together in a perfect storm. Riding the momentum of fall, the excitement of a new album, and the outpouring of love and devotion of their community on their 30th Anniversary, Phish threw down a run packed with jams for the annals of time, making us fall in love with them all over again thirty years later.

12.28.12 (Andrea Nusinov)

12.28.12 (Andrea Nusinov)

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A Record of History

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on December 16th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Niagara Falls 12/7/95

Niagara Falls 12/7/95

With all of the hubbub surrounding Fall Tour, Phish’s release of their December ‘95 stop at Niagara Falls Convention Center flew way under my radar. I just recently listened to the discs for the first time and I must say, it’s another winner in a recent hot streak of Live Phish drops. This show—a classic even within a classic month—had been begging for the re-master treatment for years, and this shimmering two-setter has finally gotten its due. What a treat it is to get a Live Phish release from such a hallowed era in band history. Much like Hampton/Winston-Salem provided a glimpse into Fall ’97, and Ventura opened a portal to Summers ’97 and ’98, Niagara Falls brings us back in time to December ’95, the home stretch of legendary two-leg, 54-show fall tour on which the band truly realized all the skills they had been honing for years.

Having stretched the limits of abstraction over the courses of Fall ’94 and Summer ’95, Phish spent the fall of ’95 selecting the best elements of this growth spurt and tightening things up into a full-throttle, psychedelic arena rock show. In a matter of weeks following Niagara Falls, the band would play a career-defining show at Madison Square Garden, but on this night on the other side of New York State, Phish cemented another golden block in their yellow brick road of December.

imgresThough this show isn’t a masterpiece of set craftsmasnship, it contains elite, jaw-dropping versions of “Slave to the Traffic Light,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Reba,” “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug.” Additionally the we hear an early incarnation of “Taste” in the second set, at this point called “Taste That Surrounds.” Phish showcased their free form creativity of the era throughout this show, as they dove deep into second-set versions of “Split,” “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug,” taking each jam far off course and forming tour highlights out all three. A “Reba” that sounds like it’s in fast-forward compared to recent versions highlights the middle of this second set, as Trey’s comically confident and exceptionally emotive soloing evokes the sound and intensity of days gone by—a true gem that is often overshadowed by Niagara’s copious highlights.

Retro Niagara Print (Welker)

Retro Niagara Print (Welker)

The first set features an out-of-nowhere version of “Slave” that sounds like it’s plucked from the end of a hugely dramatic frame of music. Unfurled in between “Rift” and “Guyute,” this standout version—which sits in an incredibly delicate space for quite some time—could anchor the opening half all by itself. However, a unique “Curtain > Bag,” a bust out of “Demand” and a full-throttle “Possum” provide solid support.

In short, this Niagara Falls release provides a stellar portrait of Phish’s sound and jamming in one of the most historic months of their career. The band brought all sorts of furious jams to Niagara Falls that December night, though they delivered them within a less-than-artistic setlist. But when Phish drops so many Grade-A excursions on a single audience, how they unfold becomes largely irrelevant. This one is a keeper.

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Niagara Falls CD Giveaway!

Hippie Santa

Hippie Santa

Just in time for Christmas, and thanks to the kind folks at Phish Inc., I have three copies of this release to give away! If you’d like to enter your name into the ring, please write a haiku that touches the essence of December ’95. I will pick my favorite 10 entries (and post them), put the names in a hat and draw the three winners. Please have your haikus in to mrminer@phishthoughts.com by 7:30 pm Tuesday (tomorrow) night! Thanks for playing and Happy Holidays from Phishthoughts.com!

 

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TTFF: December Jams 3.0

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on December 13th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
10.18.13, Hampton, VA (Jake Silco)

10.18.13, Hampton, VA (Jake Silco)

Seven Below -> What’s the Use?” 12.27.10 II, Worcester

Amidst a snow storm in Worcester, Phish paid homage to mother nature with this centerpiece jam of the show.

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Tweezer > Caspian” 12.29.09, II Miami, FL

After all these years, the Miami “Tweezer” still holds up as one of the best of the modern era. And this “Caspian” absolutely crushes.

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Piper” 12.30.11 II, New York, NY

The only bright spot of a otherwise piss-poor show. How they pulled it together for this one jam, we’ll never know.

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Sand” 12.31.10 II, New York, NY

I’ve died and gone to plinko heaven.

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Carini” 12.30.12 II, New York, NY

This menacing abstraction was the talking point of the Holiday Run for months after.

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Light” 12.2.09 II, New York, NY

Just as “Light” was beginning to break form, Phish thew down this monstrosity at MSG—the most prolific version anyone had ever seen.

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Ghost > NO2” 12.31.09 II, Miami, FL

Everyone knows MSG’s “Holy Ghost” of 2010, but do you remember this grimy, funk number from Miami the year before?

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Harry Hood” 12.28.10 II, Worcester, MA

One of the truly magnificent jams 0f the modern era—musical perfection.

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You Enjoy Myself” 12.4.09 II, New York, NY

This is one of very few worthy “YEMs” of the modern era. This one goes out to Scott—@Tourtweet.

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TTFM: December Jams 2.0

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on December 9th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Reading 10.29.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

Reading 10.29.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

Piper” 12.29.03 II, Miami, FL

The standard against which all 2.0 “Pipers” should be measured. The short post-hiatus era were the true glory years for “Piper.”

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Runaway Jim -> Times Loves a Hero” 12.31.02 III, NYC, NY

The improvisational centerpiece of their comeback show.

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Wolfman’s Brother” 12.1.03 Albany, NY

A favorite of a couple friends, this one is in honor of Wade and Scotty B. Look out for the “butter” jam at the end.

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Ghost -> Free” 12.29.03 II, Miami, FL

This pairing provided the meat of a non-stop, second set sequence.

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Down with Disease” 12.30.13 II, Miami, FL

After a zany second set with both highs and lows, Phish stopped the antics on a dime and closed the show with a heart-wrenching “Disease.”

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Frankie Says” 12.28.03 I, Miami, FL

This is the stuff Phish pulled off in first sets in the post-hiatus era. Out of “Frankie Says” no less.” This was in the very first set of the New Years Run.

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Rock and Roll -> Weekapaug > Reprise” 12.2.03 II, Boston, MA

This unorthodox sequence opened the second set of the 20th anniversary show, ten years ago.

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Suzy Greenberg” 12.28.03 II, Miami, FL

The seemingly innocuous pop song turned into one of Trey’s darkest guitar confessionals in history.

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Stash” 12.31.03 II, Miami, FL

One of the finest post-hiatus jams, period

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Bathtub Gin -> 2001” 12.30 II, Miami, FL

This set-closing “2001” foreshadowed P Funk’s second set sit in as Trey teases some classic Parliament licks.

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