Laid Back in Las Cruces

Las Cruces, NM

Nine years ago today was one of those Phish shows you just had to love.  In the middle of the week in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with few tangential show goers other than a few hundred students from New Mexico State, this one would be for the people on tour.  A casual afternoon lot scene gave way to a spacious venue with a GA floor that provided a very laid back experience for those in attendance.  Able to move around freely, stubbing anyone you wanted down to the floor, this show was as casual as it gets, and represented the perks of west coast, out-of-the-way, shows.  Sure, they didn’t have the ominous feeling of MSG or Worcester, but you a got the sense that you were getting a more exclusive concert, one played just for you and those who made it a point to drive into the middle of New Mexico, Idaho, or Alabama.  Taking on a completely different, but just as Phishy of a feel, shows like Las Cruces, New Mexico provided a necessary balance to a tour that would inevitably pass through all the major markets and wind up in the crowded venues of the northeast.  Back to back with another show of a similar vibe, Las Cruces and Pima County Fairgrounds in Tuscon, AZ, gave Fall ’99 a southwestern siesta portion of the tour.

Easily walking inside without waiting in line, using an empty bathroom, and finding the ideal space on the half-empty floor with friends, a very mellow vibe encapsulated the room.  As showtime neared, more people flowed in, yet space in the venue was just never a problem.  Phish often came out and ripped in these off-the-beaten-path shows, rewarding fans who traveled to such locales, and Las Cruces was no different.  Hot off an exciting run down the west coast, Phish began to carve their way east, and as they pulled into Las Cruces, not very far from Roswell, fans felt tapped into extra-terrestrial aura surrounding Phish’s closest performance to the controversial and highly publicized UFO conspiracy of 1947.

Fall ’99

Apparently, the band was tapped into the same wave-lentghs, as they came onstage and used the first few minutes to build an ambient soundscape before dropping into a opening fourteen-minute 2001 dance session.  Combining high octane funk with ’99’s effects, and distorted, yet melodic, guitar leads, this version kick started the show, and gave a nod to all the conspiracy theorists out there.  Ripping right into Chalkdust, neither the band, nor crowd, had a lack of energy getting going on this night. Following a string of non-improvisational songs, the band sat into a twenty minute Bathtub Gin.  This jam began in laid back fashion, but as the band delicately moved the music to another plane, Trey and Mike began to lead the way with some tight interplay.  Trey took it flying into the emotional realm with those expressive melodies that remind you of your own inner thoughts and feelings.  This Gin generally remains tucked away in the first set of this under-the-radar show, but it’s a version that more people should know.  With a short interlude of Mozambique, Phish got right back to business, dropping the recently debuted Sand, late in the first set.  This jam provided fans- all with ample to room to move- yet another session of improvised dance grooves in what shaped up to be a very strong, and long, first half of the show.

The second set contained no nonsense as Phish built a set on diverse types of improvisation.  Beginning with the lighter candy grooving of Jibboo, the beginning of the second set continued the theme of open dance jams that had defined the first.  This got everyone warmed up for the meat of the show- a masterful and unlikely pairing of Ghost > Taste.  Totaling 30 minutes, this segment of the show began with some locked in jamming as the dark palate of Ghost provided the perfect canvas for Trey to color with consistently clean and snaking guitar melodies.  The band built the tension of the jam around his solo and Mike began to play in a way in which remained locked with Fishman, rhythmically, while simultaneously playing complimentary melodies to Trey.  Progressing into a more searing millennial ’99 segment, characterized by wailing walls of sound with Mike pounding away underneath, this Ghost contained multiple segments of standout jamming. Climaxing in a frenzied peak, this jam explored some aggressively psychedelic territory before quietly segueing into Taste.

Taste’s polyrhythmic textures and unique time signature provided a stark contrast to the heavy grooves that had just concluded, but as they entered the jam, in was clear that the band was on, and their precise shredding adapted quickly to the new musical milieu.  The complex jam contained gorgeous symbiotic phrasing by Trey, Page and Mike, as they navigated the divergent territory.  Coming to a mind-bursting peak, this usual set closer was magnified as it was inserted into the high-profile mid second set slot.  A perfect example of the four band members totaling more than the sum of their parts, this Taste gave Ghost a perfect running mate.  A long segment of top notch Phish, this Ghost > Taste provided the high point of the evening- even though things were far from over.

Stopping in Brian and Robert for a minute to catch their breath, the band subsequently sparked a fiery Mike’s Groove that splashed with a heavy funk section; Trey using his patented rhythm playing to get the room pulsing again.  With Page adding some dark colors and sinister sounds, Trey would soon leave behind his whispers in favor of wails, as Phish dug to deeper and darker places.  This ferocious Mike’s fit in perfectly with the groove-heavy show and the band reached some raunchy territory before using the Simple transition as an emergency escape route out of the quagmire.

Finishing on a lighter tone with Trainsong and Weekapaug, this show was one that noone left disappointed.  With a bust out encore of their classic ZZ Top cover, “La Grange,” this show had everything that all of those shows in the middle of nowhere usually had- bust outs, huge jams, and two sets chock full of great Phish.  As tour twisted into Texas, the placid desert days of Arizona and New Mexico had come and gone.  This one will live on in the memories of all who enjoyed it, and now you can too, with the download below.

I: 2001 > Chalk Dust Torture, Guelah Papyrus, Axilla, My Mind’s Got a Mind of its Own, Beauty of My Dreams, Bathtub Gin, Mozambique, Sand, Waste

II: Gotta Jiboo, Ghost -> Taste, Brian and Robert, Mike’s Song > Simple > Train Song, Weekapaug Groove

E: La Grange


Here’s a selection from back in the day.  This old school classic features the rarities of Landlady > Destiny Unbound and Tube in their heyday, along with Phish classics galore.  Filled with old-school Phish craziness, this one is picture of a different band at a different time.  Enjoy!

1: Chalk Dust Torture, Sparkle, Cavern, The Curtain, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil, My Sweet One, Guelah Papyrus, Gamehendge Rap > The Divided Sky, Lawn Boy, Golgi Apparatus

2: Llama, Bathtub Gin, Poor Heart, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Eliza, Tube, The Landlady > Destiny Unbound, Harry Hood, HYHU > Love You > HYHU, Bouncing Around the Room, Possum

E: Highway to Hell, Suzy Greenberg

Trey announces that the new name of the band is “Mrs. Pizza Shit,” and it is yelled repeatedly throughout the show.

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