Miner’s Picks: Turkey Music ’08

11.28.03 Nassau

Thanksgiving has arrived, marking the beginning of the holiday season and a very Phishy time of year.  So many storied Phish anniversaries occur this weekend.  Some of the most memorable are the Worcester runs of  ’97 and ’98, along with the epic long weekend in ’94 spanning half the country from UIC > Minneapolis > Bozeman, and ’96’s run from Seattle > Cow Palace > Sacramento.  While celebrating these anniversaries and the holidays, you might as well celebrate that there are only 100 days left until Phish returns! Needless to say, we all have a lot to be thankful for this season.

With everyone busy with family, friends, football, and food, I figured I’d go light on today’s post and just provide some great music for the holiday.  I’ve selected some choice cuts that should go especially well with dark meat and canned cranberry sauce! The selections, and a blurb about each, are below.  Enjoy your turkey (or tofurky) and Happy Thanksgiving!

1. Bathtub Gin 6.30.99 Bonner Springs, KS

Kicking off the first show of Summer ’99, Phish wasted no time in giving the audience a preview of the insanity that would follow all tour long.  Opening with not just a Gin, but an improvisational beast, Phish introduced new styles that would characterize the year. This jam moved through multiple feels, making significant stops in groovy, ambient, and transcendent realms.  This pretty much knocked the socks off everyone at Sandstone, as this was the first Phish song performed since since New Years.

2,3. Ghost > Wilson 12.5.97 CSU Convocation Center, Cleveland, OH

11.29.03 Philly – photo: Piranha

This segment was the opener of the first show of an other worldly weekend in Fall ’97 that followed with Detroit and Dayton.  This “Ghost” got things underway quickly with thick grooves over a slower tempo, allowing the musical canvas to breathe and inviting the band to collectively crush it.  Trey gets into some quality rhythmic playing throughout this version, but also takes some perfectly improvised solos, sounding like he is leading a march of soldiers into battle.  This one isn’t talked about too much, but it is a superb version.  A segue into “Wilson” cemented the Phishy and militant feel of this opening portion.

4,5. Reba > Fast Enough For You 7.16.98 The Gorge

Taking on the vast and mellow vibe of its surrounding, this “Reba” settles into a unique funk groove that typifies the feeling of the moment that was Summer ’98.  One of those times where Phish was playing nature, or vice versa, this version diverges from standard form to congruently fit the majesty and laid back atmosphere of the Gorge.  Not ending, Phish continued the jam just until the sun dipped below the horizon, at which point they moved into a beautiful and appropriate “Fast Enough For You.”  This segment is summer Phish at its greatest.

6. Stash 9.9.99 GM Place, Vancouver, BC

The only real highlight of the first set of Fall ’99, this “Stash” is one of the more overtly psychedelic pieces of music they played all show.  Featuring layers upon layers of ambient effects, this jam built into a quintessential ’99 soundscape of seriously menacing music.  This one is a diamond in the rough, as the night is always revered for its standout second set.  Put this one on late at night.

7. Tweezer 9.23.00 Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL

11.29.03 Philly – photo: Craig

This was the long awaited first “Tweezer” of Fall ’00.  Waiting until the eleventh show of tour to drop it, this one was long overdue and highly anticipated, as you can hear from the roar of the crowd as it starts.  It did not disappoint.  Traveling through some classic “Tweezer” territory at the onset of the jam, Phish took the second half of the jam out to more exploratory and dirty places.  Locking into psychedelic bass-led drone pattern, the band uses deep distortion and delay to create machine like textures.  ’00 Represent!

8,9,10. Halley’s > Simple > Walk Away 11.11.98 Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

This Halley’s is simply stupendous.  Almost a half an hour of madness-inducing music, this version leaves the funk behind for some high-octane shredding.  Bouncing musical ideas around like lottery balls, this jam takes some focus to keep up with.  Unrelenting for the first section, the band does settle into some groovier playing that sees Trey spitting sublime full speed rhythm licks.  Passing through multiple improvisational sections to reach “Simple,” including a beautiful ambient portion, this Halley’s is one for the ages.

11. Slave to the Traffic Light 11.18.98 Bi-Lo Center, Greenville, SC

In a mid-week out of the way show, Phish threw down a huge second set.  Part of a late set “Slave, Fluffhead” combination, things couldn’t get much more uplifting.  A gorgeous version played to a half-empty venue that many walked into without having their ticket checked, this defining atmosphere is one place where Phish does special things.  A tender, slow and delicate build to a soaring peak, this Slave is a personal favorite.

12,13. Piper > What’s the Use 9.11.00 Great Woods Mansfield, MA

12.1.03 Albany – photo: Staunchy

The middle section of a tremendously coherent set of music, this “Piper” is typical of the many breakneck-paced standout versions of ’00- until about half way through.  After the initial psychedelic sprint, the band, led by Mike, broke down into a much slower tempo that proved to be the perfect juxtaposition to the preceding insanity.  Carrying out this slower jam that one would never guess to be “Piper,” the band sits in some bass heavy dance rhythms for an extended period.  Growing more ambient as it goes, the jam eventually slides into a the stunning post-apocalyptic jam-composition, “What’s the Use?”

14. You Enjoy Myself 11.14.98 The Crown, Cincinnati, OH

The Cincy YEM- one of the most interesting YEM’s from Fall ’98.  Right out of the trampoline section, Trey loops some rhythm chords and then begins “telling stories” via his solo on top of his own licks.  Resulting in some infectious dance music, this version had the house bumpin’ right throughout its unique jam.  A dark-horse version from a fall filled with so much amazing Phish, this version is sure to put a smile on your face whether you’ve heard it or not.

15. Down With Disease 5.21.00 Radio City Music Hall, NYC

5.21.00 Radio City Soundcheck

The first show after Big Cypress was as hard of a ticket as any in Phish history to that point.  As Phish entered the legendary New York venue to follow up their Everglades adventure, everybody wanted in the 5,900 person theatre.  Batting second in the second set, this blistering Disease just about peeled the paint of the Radio City’s walls.  The energy in the room matched that flowing from the stage, as the highlight of the show filled the hall with enough adrenaline to kick start a dead horse.  A well-known version, this is another gem from the underrated year of 2000.

16. Drowned 12.3.97 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

Smack dab in the swamp funk that dominated Fall ’97, this “Drowned” set the tone for the rest of the danceadelic evening.  Moving away from its characteristic uptempo rock textures into a Phished out groove-fest, this version illustrates how every song was getting the James Brown treatment during this superbly fun two-night stand.  One of the standout jams from the show, this longer version laid the foundation for the continuous flow of funk for the duration of the show.

17,18. 2001 > Velvet Sea 1.1.00 Big Cypress

Quite possibly the greatest finish to any show, this combination of songs reached the spectrum of human emotion under the first sunrise of the new millennium.  With the emotions of all so deeply touched by this epic evening, Phish brought out the first ever sunrise 2001, welcoming us to a new age.  After a surreal dance session, the band wound down with one of their most beautiful and poignant compositions, “Wading In the Velvet Sea.”  Overwhelmingly majestic at this point in time, there was no better song Phish could have played to capture the feeling of the moment.  This is why they are Phish.  As Trey’s solo dripped over us, it was a lullaby reawakening us to the wonders and spectacle of life.  Cleansed, renewed, and entering a new segment of history, Phish capped the most magical evening of their career in the only way possible.

1. Bathtub Gin 6.30.99

2,3. Ghost > Wilson 12.5.97

4,5. Reba > Fast Enough For You 7.16.98

6. Stash 9.9.99

7. Tweezer 9.23.00

8,9,10. Halleys’s > Simple > Walk Away 11.11.98

11. Slave to the Traffic Light 11.18.98

12,13. Piper > What’s the Use 9.11.00

14. YEM 11.14.98

15. Down With Disease 5.21.00

16. Drowned 12.3.97

17,18. 2001 > Velevet Sea 1.1.00

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