With summer winding down, and visions of tours past dancing in our heads, I want to focus one more post on a summer tour- musically, my favorite summer tour of all time- Summer ’95. This summer was not for the lighthearted, as Phish was at its peak of psychedelic experimentation in the truest sense. Straight mind-fucking madness leapt down your throat from the stage each and every night. Multiple twenty-plus minute excursions into abstract and aggressive darkness were routine. Each show was truly a trip- bringing you face to face with the demons and then back to the light of the divine. Coming six months after an insane end of 1994, with the band tight as ever and carrying the most momentum of their career, Phish dedicated the tour to ridiculously dark improvisation. Summer ’95 would provide the open space to deeply explore both the abstract and fiery jamming that had defined their careers, and Phish would move beyond anything done previously into music parallel to the realms of outer space.
Experimentation was paramount this summer; risk taking with no abandon- jumping into the void without knowing what would come out. With the depth of the band’s communication, and a focus on very dark and psychedelic adventure, fans had to dig in each night. You were never sure when a 40+ minute Tweezer would come crawling out of the speakers- there were multiple that summer- or when a dark groove would melt into an extremely ambient space- suggesting the mystery of the unknown. The only thing you could expect was the unexpected. Massive Bowie’s exploded all over the summer landscape; both abstract and heavy tension-and-release Stash’s, Split’s, and Antelopes raged in a way not seen in the late ’90s; terrorizing Mike’s Grooves descending from above. The new, Free, began to expand itself into cool combinations with classic songs. The band’s focus on putting together true mind-fucking outward journeys was clear, and the results were often brain numbing psychedelic treks through yourself and beyond. Some jams made you sincerely question, and maybe fear, the massive power of the Phish. It was like a summer of Phish Acid-Tests? Could you pass?
Their playing this summer featured more insane improvisation- the kind when you can’t remember what song they were in, because in essence, they weren’t in any- they were just letting it hang out. Some fans reject this style as too over the top and inaccessible, but this was a major focal point and piece of Phish’s development that would be refined through the peak of Fall 1995. Jams like the Red Rocks Mike’s Groove, the Mud Island Tweezer, the Lakewood Bowie, the Walnut Creek Split, Sugarbush’s Runaway Jim, or the Great Woods Stash showcased just what Phish was capable of at the time- heavy full band psychedelia, not resembling the groove-centric playing of later years. This was the depth of the quagmire, the primordial soup, the overt attempt to disrupt your reality.
Yet, with these dark adventures came divine moments of bliss as well- heavily improvised Reba’s, ultra-tight Hoods, and triumphant Slaves seemed to fit right in with these dark themed shows. The focus on precision playing and communication brought these uplifting songs to colossal heights. Juxtaposed against the madness they came before or after, they always provided necessary stops in the sunshine before lifting another cosmic rock to find out what creature lied beneath.
This was also the last tour that was happening in conjunction with Dead tour- it would all change after this. Phish’s scene would grow much bigger, attracting the hangers-on of Dead tour who were just out there for the lifestyle and the lot. And some would begin to come for the music as well. The Phish scene was still purely Phish during Summer ’95, and it would be the last time that this would be the case. The whole size of the scene would begin to multiply after this blissful summer in Gamehendge, and things would never quite be the same.
There would come a loss of Phishy innocence after this summer, and many saw the year of 1995, culminating in the triumphant New Year’s show at MSG, as the peak of Phish’s career. While it certainly was the absolute peak of their career and style up to that point, they would go on to redefine themselves into the industrial groove machine that dominated the late ’90s with danceadelic shows and quite a different style of play. Some people stayed, some left, and a whole lot more came. But Summer ’95 was when Phish’s teeth were razor sharp, and you had to survive a trip into the jaws of the band each and every night. Coming out alive, or the same, was not guaranteed. They spent all June and July stretching the limits of improvisational music and re-defining what was possible with a four-piece band.
To remember such a special time in Phish history and evolution, I have created the third installment of Miner’s Picks: “Summer ’95.” Totaling over seven hours of straight madness, this compilation will surely have you amazed at the mastery and overt psychedelic nature of what Phish did before 1997. Download away!
MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’95 PT. 1 (new mediafire link)
MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’95 PT. 2 (new media fire link-fixed)
MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’95 PT. 3 (new mediafire link)
MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’95 PT. 4 (new mediafire link)
Miner’s Picks: Summer ’95
1. Mike’s > H2 > Weekapaug 6.10 Red Rocks, CO
2,3. Runaway Jim > Makisupa 7.2 Sugarbush, VT
4. David Bowie 6.15 Atlanta, GA
5. Reba 6.19 Deer Creek, IN
6,7. Curtain > Stash 6.17 Gainsville, VA
8,9. Down With Disease > Free 6.26 SPAC
10. Split Open and Melt 6.16 Walnut Creek, NC
11,12,13. 2001 > Halley’s > Bowie 6.24 Philadelphia, PA
14. Slave to the Traffic Light 6.15 Atlanta, GA
15. Run Like An Antelope 6.23 Waterloo, NJ
16. Mike’s Song 6.20 Cuyahoga Falls, OH
17,18. Runaway Jim > Free 6.16 Walnut Creek, NC
19. Harry Hood 7.1 Great Woods, MA
20. David Bowie 6.19 Deer Creek, IN
21,22. Stash > Strange Design 7.1 Great Woods, MA
23. YEM 6.19 Deer Creek, IN
24,25. Timber Ho > Bowie 7.3 Sugarbush
26. Tweezer 6.14 Mud Island Amphitheatre, Memphis, TN
(photo of band: Shoreline 1995, Tim Mosenfelder; Sugarbush: Jon Michael Richter)