Miner’s Dicks Picks

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , , on August 25th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

Here are my selections for the top 10 jams in Dick’s history.

10. “Carini” 8.31.12 I

This surprise jam, early in the first frame, set the tone for the FYF show.

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9. “Runaway Jim” 8.31.12 II

A rare siting of an exploratory, second set “Runaway Jim” in the modern era. This one is kind of aimless for a while but comes together in the second half. Some might rank this higher, but it just doesn’t hit me very hard at all. It’s kind of messy and all over the place.

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8. “Sand” 8.30.13 II

This “Sand” opens up into a gorgeous passage of Phish. While not quite 2012’s version, this “Sand” is quite good in its own right.

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7. “Piper” 9.4.11 II

An airtight excursion that passes through several themes, one that Page laces with his magic Theremin.

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6. “Sand” 9.2.12 II

A far more fluid jam than I ever gave it credit for, and sick throughout.

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5. “Chalk Dust Torture” 8.31.13 II

A defining moment of late-summer ’13, as the band set the course for Fall.

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4. “Chalk Dust Torture” 8.31.12 II

An incredibly cohesive monster with some of Trey’s most inspired work of the year.

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3. “Tweezer” 9.3.11 II

One of the bands most triumphant moments in 2011.

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2. “Undermind” 8.31.12 II

This set closer confirmed that something special was going at Dick’s in 2012.

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1. “Light” 9.1.12 II

The mac daddy highlight from Phish’s years at Dick’s. It’s just so good.

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A Brief History of Dick’s

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on August 21st, 2014 by Mr.Miner
9.2.2012 (Graham Lucas)

9.2.2012 (Graham Lucas)

Four years ago, the Phish community descended on Denver, Colorado for the Labor Day weekend. The band had booked a new venue—a soccer stadium just outside the city—for a summer-closing three-pack. Even before anyone stepped inside the venue, the idea seemed like a sound one—a free-for-all throwdown with a massive GA field where everyone could congregate in a hassle free environment. Tickets wouldn’t be a problem with such a large venue, and everyone could come out for the three-night run over Labor Day Weekend to enjoy the last shows of summer. And the stadium was named Dick’s. It didn’t matter that its moniker was taken from a nationwide sporting goods store, the community—and the band—ran with the inherent humor. Phish loves Dick’s. We love Dick’s. Everyone loves Dick’s.

In just a week, we will all head to the Rockies once again, for the fourth consecutive Labor Day fiesta. Like two of the three previous stands, this one will be a stand-alone trifecta that will seal the deal on another summer of Phish. But before we get there, let’s take a quick trip through the history of a venue that has become a modern legend.

2011

Dick's 2011 Official (LandLand!)

Dick’s 2011 Official (LandLand!)

Dick’s 2011 was the culmination of a huge summer of growth for Phish. They had played a two-legged tour beginning on May 27, with Superball in between. After trudging through 2009 and 2010 on a far slower learning curve than most anticipated, Phish made a huge leap forward during Summer 2011. High points came right out of the gate at Bethel and the “Rust Belt” run through Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati, in July at Superball, and later that summer at the Gorge and UIC Pavilion. The band took just under two weeks off before coming into their first Dick’s stand firing on all cylinders.

A tradition was born in Phish’s first show at Dick’s—the “S” Show. Throughout two sets and an encore, the band played twenty-six songs that began with the letter “S.” This stunt set a precedent of setlist trickery that now occurs on the first night of each end-of-summer weekend. Though fun, this show was somewhat light on jams, sprouting minor highlights in “Sneakin Sally -> Sparks” and “Seven Below.” Things changed over the following two nights, however, as Phish got down to business with jams aplenty.

Saturday and Sunday’s second sets were packed to the gills with improvisation, and an unforgettable “Tweezer” lead the charge. This jam departed from the darker grooves the song is known for and launched into the most heavenly jam of the year. But while “Tweezer” was most definitely the jam of the weekend, the set of the transpired on the stand’s final night, centered on a smoking sequence of “Twist -> Piper > Hood.” Needless to say, after three nights of top level Phish to close the season, folks couldn’t wait to return to the industrial park in Commerce City the following year

2012

2012 Official (Stout)

2012 Official (Stout)

Dicks 2012 was a whole different story. This three-night stand was a pivot point in the overall narrative of the 3.0 era, thus holding importance in the context of Phish’s career. In short, this stand was an absolute breakthrough.  The bad had rediscovered the art of long form jamming over leg two of summer tour in 2012. Before Long Beach, Phish’s improvisational passages had grown quite dense, but usually maxed out between 12 and 15 minutes, feeling more like appetizers than main courses. Though they had dropped a handful of extended jams in 2011, they had reeled things back over summer’s opening leg, one would suspect as a calculated move in order to make this jump over leg two. But when tour wound its way to Dick’s—he finale of summer’s second leg—things transformed once again.

A confluence of elements combined to make this weekend magic. The band was coming from six consecutive one-off shows through the South and Midwest and now had a chance to settle in for three nights in a familiar and well-loved environment. And Phish had—at long last—gained their sea legs again, playing with an enhanced sense of freedom over the previous fortnight. This was a recipe for the perfect storm, and as if that wasn’t enough, Phish helped out further by forcing their own hand on night one.

8.31.12 (G.Lucas)

8.31.12 (G.Lucas)

The band chose to spell “FUCK YOUR FACE” as their prank on this run’s opening night, a decision that allowed them to play only twelve songs over two sets. They had to jam their faces off to make this show happen, and that they did, setting fire to the soccer stadium with one of the modern era’s finest performances. Jams fell out of the sky on this night, including an all-timer in the first set in “Undermind” and an extended “Carini” to back it up. The second set is well known at this point, featuring a multi-tiered take on “Runaway Jim” and another all-timer in “Chalk Dust.” This was one of those nights where everyone walked out with eyes wide and sparkling.

And the next night the magic kept flowing as the band dropped a monumental version of “Light. This excursion traversed copious musical ground, as the band seamlessly rolled through several themes and segments, complete with a blues rock coda that left everyone’s jaws on the floor. This jam hit so hard that it was mere weeks before fans made pins, stickers and t shirts to commemorate it’s occurrence. It was that big of a deal—a true heavy hitter in a time when they didn’t come around too often. But all of a sudden, these monster jams were rolling of the presses at Dick’s in 2012! And they were played with the sense of effortless that made Phish famous. They were in the zone all weekend long, and we have the tapes to prove it. The rest of Saturday’s show was rock solid as well, a but a few years removed with a more macro perspective, this show is truly about the “Light.”

644063_10151135714484798_1697060993_nJust as the year before, the tightest set of Dick’s 2012 three-night run was its last. This set was centered on monstrous version of “Sand” that Phish opened up like never before. The minutes of music that took place before the band headed out the other side and into a harder rock outro are among the best of the year. Seamless segues from “Sand” to “Ghost” and then into “Piper” provided a non-stop 50 minutes of improvisational fireworks. “Twenty Years Later” and “Lizards” provided a poignant juxtaposition before a powerful “Hood” brought things home. Dick’s 2012 was truly a portal through which Phish stepped and has never looked back. Their playing from 2009 had all led up to this, and their playing since has been more consistently creative and inspired. This stand transformed the band’s confidence, and it became apparent that things were just really now heating up for this third go-round. The long wait of 3.0 had paid off, and Dick’s was the new Promised Land.

2013

8.30.13 Official (K.Taylor)

8.30.13 Official (K.Taylor)

Phish had just under a month off between summer tour and Dick’s in 2013, and this time the band didn’t come in with such fire. Just as they had forced themselves to jam with a 12-letter setlist in 2012, this year they all but eliminated any possibility of large excursions in spelling out “Most Shows Spell Something” in reverse. “Sand” popped off to start the second set, but after that it was a pretty straightforward show, as the band crunched in 23 songs to pull off their setlist pun.

The second night, however, was an 180-degree turnaround. Phish played one of their best start-to-finish shows of the season on Saturday night, featuring one of summer’s most significant improvisations in “Chalk Dust Torture.” This “Chalk Dust” would immediately be added to the laundry list of filthy jams dropped throughout Dick’s history, as this end-of-summer piece featured a blissed out beginning, a dark drum and bass section, a sequence of groove laced with a calypso vibe, and some stop-start theatrics. Once again, the rest of the show was quite good, but with a macro view, this show was all about “Chalk Dust.”

Sunday night of 2013 didn’t follow the pattern of previous years and, quite honestly, fell rather flat. I’m not sure why this stand took a left where the others turned right, but sometimes, that’s just the way it goes.

2014?

This year is an interesting case. Phish is coming into Dick’s on the heels of a summer tour that peaked early and coasted to a finish, and with the same amount of downtime’s as last year. Trey has been uncharacteristically laid back this summer, with varying degrees of success, and it is hard to predict what guitarist will show up in Denver. The band, however, has been playing well as a unit, and in a comfortable environment away from the east coast, anything is certainly possible. Answers in one week!

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Thirty Years Later

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on January 2nd, 2014 by Mr.Miner
12.31.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

12.31.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

What a finale! Capping a year of shows that were etched into our collective memory one by one, Phish destroyed Madison Square Garden over the course of four nights in a style unseen since the late-Nineties. Dropping a bevy of timeless jams, sought after bustouts and an array of new material, the guys showcased all the reasons that they are now—after their thirtieth year of existence—riding a wave like never before in their career. In a calculated move, Phish filled their Holiday Run with nine sets of exclusively original material, showcasing their eclectic musical virtuosity that won over all of our hearts in the first place.

12.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

12.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

Over the past couple years, the band had fallen prey to their extensive autumnal offseason, rolling into Madison Square Garden with little momentum and dropping spotty performances. This year, however, following a fall tour and the recording of a new album, that was not an issue. Finely oiled and playing with precision from the first set of the first night, the guys made no bones about their single minded holiday mission—to take care of business. Through the course of four nights, Phish nodded to their roots, the three “eras” of their career and a bright future, bringing the audience on a musical tour de force that cut to the core of this grand experiment. I said before this run that it had all the ingredients to become the most prolific stand of the modern era, and lo and behold, that is exactly what happened.

On each night the band dropped top-level improvisation, the likes of which we dream. “Steam,” “Disease,” “Carini,” “Chalk Dust,” and “Light” led the way with outlandish, mind-bending excursions that we will be listening to until the end of time. “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Sand > Piper” and “Simple” played supporting roles in the open jam category, while “Stash,” “Twist,” “David Bowie,” “Harry Hood” and “You Enjoy Myself” anchored the band’s structured improv—all pieces with ample playback value.

12.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

12.30.13 (A.Nusinov)

But this holiday run was about so much more than jams. This run was a celebration of our four musical super heroes from Vermont, and their illustrious thirty-year history. The band’s own nod to their earliest days culminated in an unforgettable second set of New Year’s Eve atop a faux tour truck in the center of the Garden. Ever lessening the gap between themselves and their audience, Phish replicated the stage set up of their first-ever show at the University of Vermont and played a set’s worth of über-old school material, the most recent of which was “Glide” debuted in 1991. Along side a divine “Reba” and a closing “Split Open and Melt,” the set featured the central Gamehendge tales of  “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird,” “Icculus” and “Lizards.” And amidst “Icculus,” Trey cut to the chase, instructing the audience in the ways of The Book, imparting the message of Gamehendge to a new generation on the most high profile night of the year. In another setting in another time, one might have taken move as being drenched in nostalgia, but as Phish has now reached a modern peak that few believed was possible, this message was an affirmation of all that was right in the land of Lizards as we crossed the threshold into 2014.

12.29.13 (A.Nusinov)

12.29.13 (A.Nusinov)

Beyond celebrating their unequaled past, however, this holiday run also kick-started the future as the band brought back most of the songs from their Halloween set. Phish interspersed their Wingsuit material throughout the four nights, highlighted by the dramatic placement of “Fuego” directly after midnight on New Year’s Eve. While all the other new songs were delivered in straightforward fashion, “Fuego” featured a tasty improvisational segment in a sure-fire preview of the next big jam in the Phish universe. Each new piece brought a jolt of excitement, as it evoked memories of Halloween while upping the ante of what is to come next summer.

To end their thirtieth year, Phish—finally—played a modern Madison Square Garden run that both upheld and paid homage to their prestigious past in the World’s Most Famous Arena. Scribing an unforgettable four-night chapter in their ever-expanding legacy, Phish—the four-headed, one-minded musical monster of Vermont—proved, once again, that it has no parallel in the history of live music.

12.31.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

12.31.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

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Musings on MSG

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on December 10th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Madison Square Garden '09 (Brian Ferguson)

Madison Square Garden ’09 (Brian Ferguson)

Madison Square Garden is one of the most celebrated Phish venues in the land. Playing the Garden for five consecutive years between ’94 and ’98, the band continued adding shows to their stands in each year but ’96, topping out with a four night stand in 1998. Four-night stands at MSG seem commonplace in the modern era, however, as this upcoming holiday run will be the third in three years. No building has hosted Phish more times than MSG, and these upcoming shows will,  coincidentally, be their 28th, 29th, 30th, and 31st at the World’s Most Famous Arena. And this year the band will have a full head of steam heading into New York! On the heels of a smoking fall tour and recording their next album, Phish’s momentum will have had little time to slow come December 28th, unlike the past two years in which the guys didn’t play between Labor Day and the New Year’s Run. Needless to say, the time is near, the mission’s clear.

12.2.09 (W.Rogell)

12.2.09 (W.Rogell)

Though the band has played the Garden at least three times a year since their return, only a few of those nights have truly stood out—namely, 12.31.10, 1.1.11, 12.28.11, 12.28.12, and 12.30.12. If I had to bet, this year will be different. Does this year have the potential to go toe to toe with 1998’s hall of fame run, also a four-nighter at MSG? If the band plays their cards right and really throws down, perhaps we’ll have a debate on our hands. Wouldn’t that be something? It would have to be the best stand of the era, but coming off the hottest tour of this era, why not?

What used to define those legendary mid-to-late ’90s shows was a certain grit and grime that matched the old school arena congruently. This fall, with Trey laying back on rhythm more than at any time during this era, jams took on a far gritter and psychedelic feel than at any time in 3.0. If fall tour was any indication, and it always has been, we could be looking at the dirtiest MSG shows of a notably clean modern era. And wouldn’t that be the perfect way to cap a truly monumental year of Phish?

As a fun exercise, I ran through my memory and have posted my favorites of everything in MSG history. Enjoy!

Best show: 12.31.95

New Year’s ’95 was the peak of everything Phish had done in their career up to that point; a culmination of their career. Many fans view this show as the band’s finest night of music, thus is needless to say that it comes in 1st in MSG history.

Best Set: 12.29.97 II

This set delivers for the duration with not a singe lull. Jams for days, one of the best “Tubes” of all time and impeccable flow. The only weakness of this set is a fairly routine “YEM” that doesn’t quite do the rest of the set justice.

Down with Disease -> David Bowie -> Possum, Tube, You Enjoy Myself

Best Run: New Years 1998

Four outstanding nights of music, ending what I believe is their best overall year of their career.

Best First Set: 12.31.98

Nobody was quite sure what had hit them when the lights came up after this one.

1999 > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Ghost -> Ha Ha Ha > Cavern

Best Third Set: 12.31.95

One of the best “Weekapaugs” of all-time and monster “YEM.” Plus a couple rarities to cap things off.

Auld Lang Syne > Weekapaug Groove > Sea and Sand, You Enjoy Myself, Sanity, Frankenstein

Best Encore: 12.30.97

The best encore in history, regardless of venue.

Carini – > Black-Eyed Katy -> Sally Reprise > Frankenstein

Best Modern Show: 12.31.10

A colossal night of Phish with a second set for the ages

Best version of (parentheses represent close seconds):

Tweezer: 12.28.12 (12.30.94) 

Reba: 12.31.95

Mike’s: 12.31.95

David Bowie: 12.29.97

Wolfman’s Brother: 12.28.98

You Enjoy Myself: 12.29.98

Piper: 12.30.11

2001: 12.29.98

Antelope: 12.29.97 

Weekapaug: 12.31.95 (12.31.97)

Harry Hood: 12.30.95

Gin: 12.30.10 v. 12.29.12—pick em (only versions)

Twist: 1.1.11 (12.28.12)

Ghost: 12.31.98 v. 12.31.10—pick em

Down With Disease: 12.29.97

Carini: 12.28.98 (12.30.12)

Light: 12.2.09

Tube: 12.29.97

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TTFF: Cities of Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 10th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.15.2012 (Michael Stein)

In the tradition of Kevin Shapiro’s “Live Bait” series, in which he highlights jams from the venues and/or cities of the upcoming tour, I have put together an “unreleased” playlist of my own that fits the same bill for Leg Two. Perhaps someday some of these choice nuggets may get the soundboard treatment. Until then, enjoy these audience recordings within “Cities of Summer.”

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The Curtain > Tweezer” 11.19.95 II, Charlotte, NC

Out of so many phenomenal Fall ’95 “Tweezers,” this version, from Charlotte Coliseum, is one of my favorites.

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Wolfman’s Brother” 8.6.98 II, Atlanta, GA

This Lakewood “Wolfman’s” is a perfect portrait of a band migrating from funk towards a more ambient sound during Summer ’98.

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Gumbo” 7.3.99 I, Atlanta, GA

The second song of a two-night, Lakewood holiday stand stretched into an engaging dance session right off the bat.

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Frankie Says > Bowie” 11.4.98 I, Denver, CO

A phenomenal chunk of Fall ’98 ambient jamming blossomed out of “Frankie Says”and  led into an intricate set-closing “Bowie” at McNichols ’98.

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Harry Hood” 9.28.99 I Pelham, AL

Playing like a man possessed, Trey leads the band and audience to the mountaintop and beyond in one of the greatest “Hoods” you’ve never heard. And it came at the end of the first set at Oak Mountain ’99’s throwdown! This selection goes out to Scotty B. of YEMBlog, one of the biggest “Hood” fans on the planet.

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Reba” 6.13.94 II Kansas City, KS

“Reba” and 1994 are like peanut butter and jelly. I’ve always loved this version for the hypnotic rhythm groove Trey spins right out of the gates. You can check out the awesome You Tube clip as well!

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Timber -> Simple” 11.16.97 II Denver, CO

Having always lived in the shadow of the next night’s monumental show, this “Timber” from the opening night of Denver ’97, never gets its due. One of the truly dark horse jams of Fall ’97—with a spectacular segue—deserves the soundboard treatment one day. It’s that good.

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Bathtub Gin” 7.20.98, Ventura,CA

Everyone knows the Riverport “Gin” from a week later, but this similarly, show-opening version from North of LA, laid the groundwork for the masterpiece to follow.

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Piper -> 2001” 11.4.98 II, Denver, CO

The centerpiece of an underrated show in Denver.

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Antelope” 8.6.97 II Maryland Heights, MO

After a cross-country trek from The Gorge to St. Louis, this blistering “Antelope”—with a theremin-laced “Makisupa” jam, was a talking point of the Midwest section of Summer ’97, and one of the best versions of the entire tour.

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MINER ON SIRIUS/XM’s JAM ON—MONDAY and TUESDAY

I’m both happy and excited to announce that I will be the guest host of Sirius/XM Jam On‘s “Gone Phishin” this coming Monday and Tuesday, 8/13 and 8/14. The show will air at 9 pm Eastern / 6 pm Pacific and will run for 90 minutes each night. Over the course of three hours, I will be highlighting my favorite jams of Leg One, as we prepare for Long Beach’s opener of Leg Two on Wednesday night. Be sure to tune as it should be a good time with great music guaranteed!

 

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MSG Memoirs: The “2001” of 12.29.98

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 10th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

12.29.98 - MSG

Coming off a sequence of earth-shattering Phish in the second set of 12.28.98, fans filed back into the Midtown lair of MSG on the 29th, and few could predict what might materialize. When a solid opening frame set the table for the main event, however, everyone was eager to find out. The band opened up the second set with “Free,” it seemed that over-sized, mammoth rhythms would soon engulf the arena. But Phish took a different route. Showcasing a grungy, distorted, and slow-paced jam, this version sidestepped funk in favor of searing psychedelic textures. Trey offered screaming and dissonant guitar lines that dominated the musical landscape while the rest of band was immersed in slow, elephant-like rhythms. Without much full-band jamming, the guys wrapped up their opener and delved into “Limb by Limb.” This song-based start provided a stark contrast form the worm-ridden psychedelia of the night before, but the band was crafting a different sort of show. And when the inspiring Trey-led version of “Limb” concluded, the real meat of the set began.

Out of the silence came a sonic groaning that likened the sound of spirits opening one eye after hibernating for years in the rafters of The Garden. A subtle but collaborative soundscape emerged from nothing, as Mike and Trey played off each other amidst a quiet, ambient beginning. Commencing a gentle, cymbal-based beat, Fishman moved into more syncopated patterns as he framed the increasingly abstract experiment. Trey layered a “cow groan” sound that he had employed in several ambient Fall ’98 jams over Mike’s upper-octave melodies, contributing to a sonic amalgam very much in the vein of the band’s abstract fall jamming. And once Page added spacey effects to this musical tapestry and slightly shifted the band’s focus, everyone knew where this was heading.

Amidst this layered landscape, Fishman gently oozed his beat into “2001,” morphing the abstraction seamlessly into groove. Following the extended intro, Phish took off in a high-octane, funked-up sprint. Trey set spirits free with a repetitive and dissonant three-chord pattern at the jam’s onset (possibly a quote of Spiritualized’s 1997 single “I Think I’m In Love”) and all four members locked into a relentless uptempo groove. Trey’s distorted offerings gave way to sped-up, marksman-like lead lines that coaxed the whole band onto his cresting wave. Unquestionably the leader of this jam—and the entire set thus far—Trey took command of this version with shredding yet intricate leads that left any funk stylings in a vapor trail of his super-hero-like axemanship. Eventually coming to a mini-peak with prominent “Crosseyed” melodies, he burst out this tease like a banshee. With fingers dashing up and down his fretboard like an army of madmen, Trey took the jam through the song’s first “chorus.”

MSG - December 1998 (Adam Foley)

As Red burst into the second half of the jam with enthusiastic James Brown rhythm chords, it felt like this “2001” might transform into a buck wild filth-fest. But instead of maintaining a rhythmic focus, Trey returned to his exceptional lead playing, painting high-speed, staccato-esque licks atop Fish’s quickening beat and Mike’s assassin-like bass lines. The entire band locked into a furious dance escapade as The Garden spun like a high-flying, death-defying, 360-degree slam dunk. Trey continued to stand out as the leader of this passionate affair as his sense of urgency never let up for a second. And the band sailed into the song’s second “chorus.”

Bringing the scorching instrumental to a climax, Phish had harnessed the energy of 20,000 fans and beyond, in a nearly 20-minute ballistic throwdown. Following a randomly placed “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” Trey counted off into an all-time version of “You Enjoy Myself” to round out the set. And while “YEM” may very well have stolen the show, its mid-set running mate was the greatest “2001” in Garden history.

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Jam of the Day:

2001” 12.29.98 II

A torrid, four-piece chase through the galaxy.

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MSG Memoirs: The 12.31.95 “Reba”

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

12.31.95 - MSG

New Year’s Eve ’95 is one of the most iconic shows in Phish history, let alone the greatest of their Madison Square Garden legacy. This night represented the peak of all the band had accomplished from their genesis through the end of ’95, and for three straight sets that flipped the calendar, Phish could do no wrong. Several jams from this show this have become household names, with “Mike’s Song,” “Drowned -> Lizards,” and “Weekapaug > Sea and Sand” leading the way. But the fireworks of this night started with the third song of the show—another classic piece of MSG legend—in a euphoric and poignant “Reba.” Sitting among the all-time versions, 12.31.95’s “Reba” underlined the subconscious communication that characterized the band’s playing throughout the show and the entire month of December ‘95. Tapped in to higher powers on this magical eve, the guys responded to each other with confidence, urgency, and intention; hesitation wasn’t in their musical vocabulary. The resulting jam became an instant classic while kick-starting one of the most memorable nights of the band’s career.

Sprinting through the composed half with less than immaculate precision, the band dove from the fugue’s final hits into a pristine pool of improvisational waters. Splashing into the jam without a hint of uncertainty, the band crafted a swift musical current. As if they were waiting on the tip of his tongue, Trey immediately began narrating complex, spine-tingling melodies. Mike embodied the band’s ultra-connectedness by echoing and responding to Trey with negligible reaction time. Fishman framed this conversation with a delicate beat and the entire band oozed IT from note one.

12.31.95

Trey held the reigns of this piece as passionate leads flowed from his ‘Doc with a effortless quality. Mike stuck with him every step of the way—an element of this jam that really shines on the remastered soundboards—and Fish’s ever-changing and nuanced beats anchored the silky groove. Page offered minimalist piano comps throughout this section, filling in the spaces left in the rhythmic blanket. The band members were totally synced in an astonishing improvisational showcase. The momentum of the jam continued to build.

The quartet spiraled towards “Reba’s” peak in complete cooperation and without a morsel of hindrance. And they kept rising and rising and rising, following the lead of their possessed guitarist who was playing as if expressing the secrets of his soul. Coming to a stunning crescendo in the earliest stage of New Year’s Ever, the band had an arena full of jaws on the floor, as we—collectively—embarked on one of the nights of our lives.

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Jam of the Day:

Reba” 12.31.95 I

Heaven in a Phish jam.

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MSG Memoirs: “Carini > Wolfman’s”

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 8th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

12.29.98 - MSG

December 28th has often served as an appetizer for the musical main courses of the next three nights of holiday runs. But in 1998, the Phish came out on the first night at MSG locked and loaded, and in the second set dropped the filthiest jam sequence of the entire four-night fiesta. Almost a year to the day ago, Phish had played the first domestic “Carini” to the shock and delight of all on 12.30.97 in an encore for the ages. But when they unveiled the sinister anthem after a Fall ’98 tour that was laced with ambient-psychedelic jamming, they were playing with a beast of a different nature. Never had the band jammed on “Carini” other than its Amsterdam debut in which the band essentially turned on a dime and started a smoking but non-“Carini” themed segment that would become the a centerpiece of the set. But when they launched off the song on the first night at MSG in ’98, that would all change drastically.

Taking the jam out with a slow-paced, screaming psychedelia, the band sat into the song’s menacing textures for a solid period of time before seamlessly blending into a far more exploratory and abstract section. The band had experimented with ambient playing throughout their Fall Tour, but more often than not it was of the melodic variety. In this piece of music, however, the band’s Jedi-like powers turned to those of the Sith as they embarked on an eerie jaunt through the dark side of the universe. Layered and searing effects, methodical rhythms and filthy textures characterized the music as the band’s dove through this wormhole. And as they did, green worms—part of a choreographed performance art—crawled through the stage in a freaked-out illusion. And as the band settled down from their furiously evil, they slid into a slow and collaborative groove that emphasized the massive space in the music as much as each part of the rhythm. And the worms ate through the stage, these monstrous grooves ate through the brains of the audience in one of the frozen moments of the jam. Spilling from the outer realms of the cosmos into hard dance patterns, Phish had MSG rocking and the audience in awe. As the crunchy rhythms echoed through the spacious round room, the band had arrived at the landing point of one of their darkest jams of the season. And as these grooves came to a natural conclusion, without missing a beat, Page hit the intro to a slow-paced “Wolfman’s Brother.” Coming off such a profound musical journey, something hinted that this jam wouldn’t stay within straight funk.

12.28.98 - MSG (unknown)

Oozing into the jam at an infectious pace, the groove parade began with thick rhythms and beefy bass lines while Page and Trey collaborated up top. Increasing in dissonance as it progressed, this jam would be a natural continuation of the ominous jamming that had just concluded. The band toyed with the “Wolfman’s” theme amidst this heavy medium as Trey unleashed a variety of infectious licks. Growling with sonic size and intensity, the guys finally spilled out of the song’s rhythm with a series of licks that led Trey through a quicksand-like groove session. Again, the band was exploring the dark side of things with the spirit of Lewis and Clark. And in this section, Trey began a series of slinky leads that gave the larger-than-life dance session a melodic top half. This was sinister Phish crack in slow motion and it felt like being surrounded in musical molasses. Combining a eerie feel with a hard rhythmic focus, the band was creating some of their most engaging music of the year on the very first night of the New Year’s Run. Fishman altered his beat and the rest of the band followed along, creating an harrowing and danceable texture that spoke to the exact elements that I crave for in Phish music. Drifting from these patterns to a more ambient-drenched experiment, the methodical pocket and cymbal crashes never stopped as Trey and Page dug into space-aged effects that brought an enhanced sense of the occult back into play. Morphing into an experiment in sound and fury, Phish were letting it all hang out in this jam sequence in a way that they wouldn’t replicate for the rest of the run. And they wrapped up “Wolfman’s” with the most dissonant, abstract and engaging segments of music they had played all night.

And when the band brought the jam to silence after nearly forty minutes of the darkest and most exploratory music of the year—mind-fuck Phish at its finest—I exchanged glances of disbelief with several friends—this was why we were there! With a magnifying lens on the dark half of the psyche, Phish wove a tale of dark-themed danceable music of the likes that we had dreamed. Walking back to the hotel though the massive metropolis of the New York, we were floored. After a spectacular Fall ’98, for Phish to come out and drop such a piece on the first night of the New Year’s Run was staggering. Stemming from the first truly jammed out “Carini,” the band wove a blissful horror story of magnificent proportions. Though many fans favor the happier, uplifting side of Phish, for me, this was the ultimate type of throwdown—a sequence that wouldn’t be matched over the next three nights of music for me. Though each night provided spectacular moments of its own, I’ll never forget the sinister escapade and green worms of “Carini > Wolfman’s”—another untouchable piece of MSG lore.

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Jam of the Day:

Carini > Wolfman’s Brother” 12.28.98 II

Check it out.

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MSG Memoirs: The 12.29.97 “Tube”

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 3rd, 2011 by Mr.Miner

12.29.97

It was December 29, 1997, and Phish was back in The Garden for their first holiday show since New Year’s Eve ’95. Skipping the midtown Mecca in favor of Philadelphia and Boston in 1996, the band showed up at MSG in 1997 for a year ending three-pack and they meant business. As memories of their gargantuan New Year’s ’95 performance danced in fans’ heads before the show, Phish came out with a bold sense of adventure and ratcheted intensity on this night. Playing a show—specifically a second set— that could make a strong case for the best in Garden history, 12.29.97 has stood the test of time with a main event that remains one of the band’s strongest sets of the late ’90s.

Phish had just concluded 54 minutes of to-die for jamming in the form of “Disease -> Bowie -> Possum,” and it seemed as if it might be time for a breather. Thus when the band dropped into “Tube” deep in the second set, brains splattered across the arena walls. And ten minutes later when the dust finally settled, this funk fiesta was—and still is—the best “Tube” ever played. The elusive song had been resurrected in Dayton’s Nutter Center weeks earlier, and it was given the full Fall ’97 funked-up treatment for which it had been salivating. A song made for the Cowfunk Revolution finally got its chance to shine. Phish followed up “Tube’s” breakout with a first-set rendition in Albany on the last show of Fall tour, and two appearances over the course of the year hardly guaranteed a spot in the New Year’s Run. But when the first-ever asteroid crashed in Madison Square Garden, things got straight filthy.

Fall 1997 (Unknown)

“Swamp funk” was a term that was tossed around during Fall ’97 to describe the thick, molasses-like grooves that ate up audiences across the nation. And come the year-end party, this “Tube” was a crowning dosage of immortal swamp funk—a hearty helping of Grade-A Phish crack. The collective groove session carried the perfect tempo and represented a culmination of the collaborative rhythmic playing the band had first realized during “Wolfman’s Brother” in Hamburg, Germany, and honed in on throughout the year. Band members filled in the empty spaces left by each other with marksman-like precision, creating one holistic groove throughout the jam while spurning one of the legendary dance sessions in Madison Square Garden history.

Page took the piece out with infectious clav patterns until Trey stepped into the mix with a series of swanky rhythm licks. As the band hit their stride, the music oozed an effortless quality as the audience pulsated as one, gyrating to the buttery excursion. Without missing a beat, the guys paused for three Fall ’97 stop/start segments, allowing Trey, Mike, and Page the spotlight for solos. And each time the band hit one of these breaks, they came back with increased musical momentum, pumping the crowd up more and more with each splash back into the funk. Locked on the same page and riding the wave of a colossal show, Phish nailed this “Tube” like never before or since. The pace, the licks, and the guys’ cooperation all contributed to this jam being far more than the sum of its parts— another unforgettable MSG memory.

Over the next few years, the band brought “Tube” into loose rotation, extending the former three-minute song into lengthy funk extravaganzas. And though they dropped many outstanding renditions throughout this era, none carried the absolute coherence and one-minded groove as MSG’s masterpiece. The Garden brings out the best in Phish, and this “Tube”—not to mention the entire show—is but another perfect example.

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Jam of the Day:

Tube” 12.29.97 II

Glorious grooves galore.

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MSG Memoirs: The 12.30.95 “Hood”

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 2nd, 2011 by Mr.Miner

December 30, 1995

The first time I set foot in The Garden for a Phish show was December 30, 1995. The band was coming off two smoking nights at Worcester and landed in the Big Apple with a head full of steam. Concluding their marathon year of touring with their second and third shows at The World’s Most Famous Arena, Phish had reached the pinnacle of their career. Their dedication, incessant touring, and grass-roots growth of their fan base landed Phish in MSG on the biggest nights of the year. The following night on New Year’s Eve, the band would play one of the most masterful and complete shows of their career and, in many opinions, the most impressive night of music in a lush MSG legacy. But in a song-based second set on the 30th, Phish dropped on of the all-time versions of “Harry Hood,” and it fundamentally changed my life.

I was behind the stage in the 300s when Fishman hit the opening drum roll to the classic piece. Though I had arrived at the show with friends, they weren’t with me for the second set and I was smack dab in the middle of a transformative experience. Sometimes when you’re teetering—walking that delicate line between very high and absolutely overwhelmed—nothing but the Phish can help. And this was my situation during set break. I needed the music to come back.

MSG 1995 (Unkown)

As the opening calypso chords of “Ya Mar” rang out to open the second set, a new life was breathed into my being. Thoughts subsided and the show became the soundtrack of my mental movie. Fully enraptured in the moment, any thoughts of teetering vanished with ease. Following a soupy, ’95-style “Free” they seized the moment and unveiled an instant classic in “Harry Hood.” In a nutshell, this jam brought me to heaven. Catharsis doesn’t quite describe the emotions that this delicate-turned-blissfully–intense “Hood” invoked in me. There was a sense of new life, a rebirth on the astral plane.

Few “Hood” jams carry such an organic and effortless flow from its meticulous beginning to its climactic conclusion. With Trey’s Languedoc wired through the Leslie speaker—usually used in conjunction with the Hammond organ to create special audio effects— a la Fall ’95, his guitar narration carried a beautifully haunting tone as this musical revelation moved towards the Promised Land. Dreamy and ethereal, yet driving and powerful, the band’s nuanced communication never wavered throughout this jam, and a sense of collective mastery painted the music.

Trey - 1995 (Unknown)

Trey laced the entire jam with heartfelt phrases and melodies, coaxing the perfect accompaniment from Mike and Page. Illustrating the airtight communication that characterized Phish at the end of 1995, this “Hood” jam features all members intensely listening to each other from note one through the climax. And when the four band members are locked in such a blissful musical conversation, the venue, the crowd, the people, and the madness simply vanished. There I was, eyes closed and heart wide open, behind the stage somewhere up in the 300s having an internal experience I didn’t know was possible in live music. The sounds of the divine—of the universe—flooded my consciousness as my soul did backflips over the stage.

This was pure, uncut IT. As the piece reached its final build, my soul was met by Trey’s enthusiastic final guitar run to the peak. I’m not sure if I wound up laughing or crying—more likely some of both—but when the peak of this jam spiraled to a crescendo and slammed into ”AC/DC Bag,” I had been touched by that sacred spirit Trey so often referenced when discussing the musician’s role as an intermediary between the universe and the audience.

I had felt IT before and I would most certainly feel IT again, but given my personal context, nothing was quite like that “Harry Hood” sixteen years ago. Suffice it to say, I have never missed another Phish show at The Garden.

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Jam of the Day:

Harry Hood” 12.30.95 II

The jam you just read about in SBD quality.

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