The Summer of ’99: Starting up the Mountain

So much love permeates the Phish scene for the years of 1997 and 1998; yet people don’t often mention 1999 in the same way- and I’ve never understood this.  ’97 and ’98 were clear steps on the way to 1999- a year that featured a blistering summer tour, two fall tours, and Big Cypress- the millennial festival the band has called the apex of their career.  1999 was defined by the momentum gained over the past two years, melding the musical approaches they had developed, while adding a new “millennial” sound that featured more dissonance and distortion; prominent walls of sound and color, and fast-paced abstract psychedelia. As the band careened towards Big Cypress in the fall and in December, this millennial sound would become more and more prominent- but here we will focus on the beginning of that journey during the placid days of summer.

Taking a full six months off Phish, Trey initiated his solo trio, and completed a well-received Spring run introducing his first side project and a host of new songs.  Coming off their collective break, the band reassembled in June ready to continue their romps across the country that had defined their career.  Excitement was high that Kansas afternoon of June 30th, as fans readied themselves for their re-immersion into paradise.  Bonner Springs kicked off the tour in grand fashion with a show that set for the tone for the month.  Mike was in the middle now; jams were more bass lead than ever, and his Modulus sounded massive with the uncovered pavilion in Kansas.  After stopping in Atlanta for the introduction of “Meatstick”- the summer’s anthem- and a top notch July 4th offering, the band turned up through the Southeast, up through Jersey to the only mid-tour festival at Oswego, NY, and into Canada before circling back around the Midwest, settling in the comforts of Alpine and Deer Creek.

The music on this tour took the raw funk ’97, and the funk/ambience of ’98, and incorporated new styles featured on the newly released, The Siket Disc, a collection of instrumental shorts and ambient experiments that went over huge with fans favoring dark, more adventurous jamming.  The result was not only an alteration of their musical style- no longer solely focused on groove- but also the addition of “My Left Toe” and “What’s the Use?” to the rotation, two songs that got into deep abstract improvisation quickly, and provided “connector-jams” in several second sets- Kansas, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Star Lake- to name a few.  Some fans didn’t care for this more overtly abstract style, longing for the direct dance music and rhythm guitar of the past.  But one thing I learned over the years is that Phish was constantly evolving, and you must also evolve with them, or you’ll be left in the past.  This happened to a lot of people in 1997, as they dropped off with the onset of the slow funk era.  Each tour and each year, added something to Phish’s style and approach, and as things were added, other facets of their playing were necessarily lessened a bit.  But let’s be serious, there was no lack of funk and dance music in 1999, there was just more aspects to the music.  As 1998 saw the addition of “ambient jams” in the fall, Summer ’99 is when Trey began to develop his “millennial” sound that would become accentuated throughout the fall and December, and deliver us into 2000.  With more focus on layering, tonal texture, and manipulating sounds and effects, Trey and Phish tore through an amazing Summer that provided many highlights and pointed to a very exciting Fall.  Finishing up in Japan for three stellar shows at the Fuji Rock Festival- setting up their Japan Tour of 2000- Summer Tour ’99 continued building on the musical evolution that started two years earlier in ’97.

The band was firing on all cylinders all summer, as it began its uphill climb to the pinnacle of Big Cypress.  While many cite a drop off in consistent balls-to-the-wall playing in the year of 2000, it was 1999’s drive to the millennium that pushed the band to the brink.  As Trey and Fish walked off stage at Big Cypress, with tears in their eyes, after reaching, in their opinions, the high point of their career, they looked at each other and said, “I think we should stop.”  In the words of Trey, “The wave had crashed into shore,”  indicating a wonderment of what else there was for Phish to accomplish.  Everything that preceded this moment in Phish’s career had built to this point of indescribable magic- experienced by the band even more strongly than the fans- and the summer of ’99 was a significant building block in the year that Phish reached the top of the mountain.

In honor of such an amazing summer, and to expose a lot of music that may be unfamiliar to a lot of people, I am releasing the second in the series of “Miner’s Picks,” “Summer ’99.”  Totaling 34 tracks and over seven and a half hours of music, this compilation should allow everyone to discover, or rediscover the amazing playing that went down during this historic summer.  Enjoy! (Photos: band-summer ’99, Fishman-oswego)


MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’99 PT. 1 ( all new mediafire links)





1. Run Like An Antelope: 7.3 Atlanta

2. Bathtub Gin 6.30 Bonner Springs

3,4. Birds > If I Only Had a Brain 7.8 Va. Beach

5. 2001 7.7 Charlotte

6,7. Tweezer > Have Mercy 7.17 Oswego

8,9,10. Mike’s > Simple > My Left Toe 7.21 Star Lake

11,12. Reba > Carini 7.13 Great Woods

13. Chalkdust 7.10 Camden

14. Free 6.30 Bonner Springs

15,16. Ghost > Slave 7.4 Atlanta

17. Split Open 7.12 Great Woods

18,19. My Left Toe > Stash 6.30 Bonner Springs

20,21,22. Tweezer > Catapult > Tweezer 7.24 Alpine

23,24. Runaway Jim > Free 7.18 Oswego

25,26,27,28. Meatstick > Split > Kung > Split 7.15 PNC

29,30. Birds > Walk Away 7.25 Deer Creek

31,32. Halley’s > Roses 7.13 Great Woods

33. Tweezer 7.10 Camden

34. YEM 7.1 Nashville


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