Hey, Remaster This!

In 2001, during Phish’s first hiatus, the organization devised a long-overdue revenue stream by releasing entire remastered shows in 3-4 disc packages.  They would call the series “LIVE PHISH,” and it would highlight stellar shows from the band’s career.  While most of the shows chosen are certainly quality choices, I have often wondered why other gems were left out.  While it is difficult to argue against any of the choices (except 7.8.00 Alpine?), a strong case can be made for some other shows to be remastered and sold.  Here are a few.  (You can download each by clicking the link.)

12.6.97 The Palace, Auburn Hills, MI < LINK

Fall ’97

To this day, I have no idea why this show has not been remastered and released.  Someone needs to call Phish headquarters and inform them that they missed the boat with this one.  Arguably the best start to finish show of Phish’s beloved Fall ’97 tour, this show is straight fire.  With some of the most adventurous and creative improv of the fall, this show vaulted into my top five Phish experiences ever before I had caught my breath after the show.  Both sets came correct on this night, with set two being one of the outright highlights of post-1996 Phish.

The first set seemed like it started in reverse, opening with the patented set closers, Golgi and Antelope.  As the Antelope dropped, the band entered into their Fall ’97 dance grooves, and the show was off and running.  A well improvised “Bathtub Gin” made way for a creative segue into “Foam,” a relative rarity at this point.  The end of the set brought a smoking “Maze” along with some non-jammed Phish classics.

photo: Jamie Huntsman

The second set was another story all together.  Opening with one of the best Tweezers ever played, the band sat in some dinosaur funk before Trey opened up the universe with one lick of his guitar.  (If you know this jam, you know that lick.)  The band progresses into some of the greatest playing you’ll ever hear, locked-in and launched for the spiritual realm.  After this psychedelic space travel wound down, the band transitioned into the furious groove-based jamming of “Izabella.”  Without stopping once, the band played the entire set weaving one song into the next.  When they were done, everyone in the building  knew that was IT.  This is a definitive piece of Phish history, and no soundboard has ever leaked.   I’m still waiting for this one to pop up in Pollack-covered silver case.

I: Golgi Apparatus, Run Like an Antelope, Train Song, Bathtub Gin > Foam, Sample in a Jar, Fee, Maze, Cavern

II: Tweezer > Izabella > Twist  > Piper  > Sleeping Monkey  > Tweezer Reprise

E: Rocky Top (single song downloads, Paul’s rmstr)


6.30.98 Den Gra Hal, Christiana, Copenhagen < LINK

In a three-hour welcome to Europe’s Summer ’98 tour, this show kicked off the two week party in proper fashion.  Taking place in a small barn in Scandinavia under a purple night sky, Phish tore apart this venue for three nights straight.  This first show, however, had no slow points from the opening “Limb By Limb” to the closing “Mike’s Groove.”

Den Gra Hal, 6.30.98

This special show marked the debut of “Moma Dance,” “Roggae,” “Brain & Robert” and the reworked Ghost, and was infused with magnificent improv around every corner.  Opening with Limb, Ghost, the band wasted no time in jumping into some full-on improvisation.  (Coming off the Island Run, one can understand the band’s desire!)  Soon to follow was the first set combo of “Tube,” “Stash > Cities.”  Okay,  the band meant clearly business here!  Carrying on for considerably longer than usual, this initial frame also included a “Guyute,” “Funky Bitch,” and a closing Bowie.  The explosion of the first set had the crowd buzzing as they drifted outside into the cool Copenhagen summer night.

The second set continued in the pattern of the first- lots of big jams!  They came out with the debut of “Moma Dance,” reworked after the surreal 12.30.97 encore, complete with instructions on how to do the Moma “dance.”  After tearing through the third ever Birds, the band sat into a impressive segment of music that read,”Wolfman’s > Frankie Sez > Antelope.”  Combining divergent styles of  precise music, this portion flowed quite well, with standout versions as bookends.  After continuing with “Yamar,” “Ha Ha Ha,”  the band ripped into a club-grooving rendition of “Mike’s Song.”  A well-paced version that allowed all band members to shine in the musical space, this Mike’s provided a fierce highlight at the end of a superb evening. (Obviously the 7.1.98 “Tweezer >2001” would be the filler on this release!)

I: Limb by Limb, Ghost*, Water in the Sky*, Bouncing Around the Room, Tube, Stash  > Cities, Roggae**, Guyute, Beauty of my Dreams, Funky Bitch, Train Song, David Bowie

II: The Moma Dance**, Birds of a Feather, Wolfman’s Brother  > Frankie Says >  Run Like an Antelope, Lawn Boy, Ya Mar, Ha Ha Ha, Mike’s Song > Swept Away > Steep, Weekapaug Groove

E: Brian and Robert**

*rearranged  **debut


12.7.95 Convention Center, Niagara Falls, NY < LINK

From the storied month of December ’95, the only Live Phish release, excluding New Year’s, is Binghamton.  While the “Halley’s > NICU” jam highlights the show, with the support of the somewhat forced “Timber > Tweezer > Timber,” there are a slew of shows from this month that leave this one in the dust.  One such show, often overlooked due to its proximity to Albany’s 12.9 edition, is 12.7.95 at the Niagara Falls Convention Center.

With top ten versions of “Split Open and Melt,” “Reba,” and “Mike’s Song,” this show is chock full of maniacally tight late ’95 jamming.  One of the best-ever Split Opens began the second half, and set the course of dizzying improv that would follow.  Needing a breather directly after the opener, a stop in “Strange Design” led into a developing version of “Taste (That Surrounds).”  The connected playing in the Split flowed right into this jam, providing one of the most inspiring 1995 renditions.  Tapped in and not letting up, the band took an upturn to bliss with a stirring and quickly-paced “Reba.”  Absolutely firing from note one, this jam plainly illustrates why December ’95 is such a revered month in Phish history.  And then a thirty-minute “Mike’s > Weekapaug” topped things off in perfect fashion.  The urgent and demonic textures of the twenty-minute Mike’s lifted the venue to an psychedelic peak.  Favoring the more improvisational second jam that was scrapped in later years, the band creatively sculpted a masterful Mike’s that outshines many of the more popular versions from this month.   Skipping any interlude and jamming directly into Weekapaug, the band delivered the audience a superbly executed surprise segue to end the night.

All of this and I haven’t even mentioned the first set.  The two pairings of “The Curtain > AC / DC Bag,” and “Demand > Rift” provided some alternative spice to the opening frame before they delved into a mid-set Slave and the then-rare “Guyute.”  Bursting with energy and chops throughout the night, this one is a deserving candidate for the treatment of Fred Kevorkian (the engineer who remasters these releases.)

I: The Old Home Place, The Curtain > AC/DC Bag, Demand, Rift, Slave to the Traffic Light, Guyute, Bouncing Around the Room, Possum, Hello My Baby

II: Split Open and Melt, Strange Design, Fog That Surrounds, Reba, Julius, Sleeping Monkey, Sparkle, Mike’s Song > Weekapaug Groove, Amazing Grace

E: Uncle Pen


12.9.94 Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa AZ < LINK

The Nights Before Mesa

This is a show that needs to be released for three reasons, “Antelope,” “Tweezer,” and “YEM.”  The second to last show in a marathon Fall ’94 saw the band hitting on all cylinders on their 45th show.  While the entire night was strewn with typical late-’94 shredding, these three aforementioned versions stick out like an elephant in a strawberry patch.  Easily one of the most intense and definitive Antelope’s ever played, this fifteen minutes of fury closed the opening set on as high of a note as possible.

In a fall of redonkulous “Tweezer”s, only a week after the famous Salem Armory version that peaked with a “Norweigan Wood” jam, Phish set out to one up themselves.  Early in the this “Tweezer” jam, Trey initiated a barely coherent chant that when listened to closely repeats, “Let’s say good bye to Salem!”  He made no bones about recognizing the monstrosity of Salem’s version as well as the band’s desire to go even deeper this time around.  The result is a near half-hour epic exploration into the depths of Phish’s imagination, peaking with a “Slave jam.”  This version is Phishiness in its purest form, progressing through many divergent stages of improv to reach salvation.

I: Llama, Foam, Guyute, Sparkle > I Didn’t Know, It’s Ice > If I Could > Run Like an Antelope

II: Wilson > Poor Heart > Tweezer* > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Julius > Big Ball Jam, Cracklin’ Rosie, You Enjoy Myself > Suzy Greenberg

E: I’m Blue I’m Lonesome**, Foreplay**-> Long Time**, Tweezer Reprise

*With “Slave to the Traffic Light” jam. **Acoustic    (not the greatest source, but worth it!)\

Honorable Mention

10.22.95 Assembly Hall, Champaign, IL

5.22.00 Radio City

An outstanding Fall ’95 show that featured an incredibly fluid second set.  A true psychedelic journey.  Extended jam sessions came in “Possum > Catapult,” “Tweezer” > Makisupa, and a late set Slave.

I: AC/DC Bag, My Mind’s Got a Mind of its Own, The Sloth, Runaway Jim, Weigh, NICU, Fast Enough for You, It’s Ice, Poor Heart, Sample in a Jar, I’m Blue I’m Lonesome, Stash

II: Golgi Apparatus, Possum > Catapult, The Curtain > Tweezer > Makisupa Policeman > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, Life on Mars?, Uncle Pen, Slave to the Traffic Light > Cavern

E: Sweet Adeline, The Squirming Coil

11.15.96 Kiel Center, St. Louis, MO.

This was a classic along the path of Fall ’96.  The second set was “brought to you by the letter ‘M’ and the number 420,” Trey joked before the Weekapaug.  Set two would become known as “The M Set,” as every song featured a prominent M in the title, creating a Phishy twist on a quality night.  A surprise appearance by John Popper as “the dirty old man” in the debut of  “Mean Mr. Mustard,” and on harmonica for Weekapaug added some zest to the end of the night.  A great Melt and Mike’s highlight the set, as well as the cool opening combo of “Makisupa  > Maze.”

I: Wilson, The Divided Sky, Bouncing Around the Room, Character Zero, Punch You in the Eye, Prince Caspian, Ginseng Sullivan, Train Song, Chalk Dust Torture, Taste, Cavern

II: Makisupa Policeman > Maze, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Split Open and Melt, TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY, My Mind’s Got a Mind of it’s Own, Mike’s Song, Sleeping Monkey, Mean Mr. Mustard*, Weekapaug Groove#

E: Funky Bitch#

*First time played;Trey announced that the show was brought to you by the letter “M” and the number “420”.  #With John Popper on harmonica


What shows do YOU think should be released on LIVE PHISH? Respond in Comments below!

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