They innocently oozed into it right out of Moma. Phish had the crowd in the palm of their hand, and decided they’d play with them a bit. Beginning from a place of near silence it commenced. A few meandering bass notes with some guitar noise, and before you knew it, the band began to shape their ball of musical play-doh. Very subtle at first, adding only sound and effects, Phish created a space-scape with a delicate texture shimmering like a the first star in the summer sky.
Trey added some walls of tonal color and dissonance, with Page following suit. The entire band instantly was up to their ears in a primordial sonic soup. As the size of the sound continued to grow, and its shape expanded, most everyone in the spaceship was sure the band was creating a monumental build to 2001. It was a given; where else would they possibly bring this type of gnarly martian music? The entire building would explode with Fish’s snare hit. This was it.
This inner anticipation created the childlike dynamic of needing to stay in bed just ten more minutes before you could get up on Christmas morning. The excitement living inside your soul was so deep it was almost sickening. You couldn’t wait to run down those stairs, into the family room to see a twenty-minute 2001 sitting under the tree. The five-minute passage that Phish created seemed like an eternity as we lied under our covers, knowing what lied just ahead of this menacing passage. The dark to the light, the eerie to the divine; this is what Phish was all about. With each sonic swell, you felt the bass bulge inside you, and heard the intergalactic keyboard tweaks setting the gears for take off.
As the band checked their systems, using their instruments in unique and complementary ways, they formed a flowing cosmic noise. It felt as though the entire room was levitating, and would soon zoom off into the ether, leaving vapor trails like Doc Brown’s Delorian.
As Fish rolled around on the toms, snare, and cymbals, take off was imminent. Safety belts were strapped as the band entered a silent countdown. 3…2…1…”Bug?!”
Just as everyone and their mothers thought Phish was taking us to the outer rings with Fall ’99’s last 2001, the band dropped right into “Bug.” On the recording you can hear Trey make the call about four seconds beforehand. What many people would complain about after the show, was actually an incredibly Phishy anti-climax. While the band became known for blowing your brains out, but they were also famous for pulling the anti-climactic move when you least expected it. Yet, while everyone was wondering why they weren’t dancing to funk, Trey and the band were busy annihilating the “Bug” jam, creating a soaring piece of improv in its own right.
Phish were known to throw the change-up when the crowd is sitting dead red on a fastball, and to be honest, that is what made them so fresh and unpredictable. Often dropping “Harpua” out of the blue, the band would also use their ballads and composed songs at times when you expected a deep journey. This is where expectations came into play. Don’t carry them- they are unneeded emotional baggage. Phish will naturally unfold in front of you, and the beauty of it all is being a part of that organic experience. Forcing your own thoughts and ideas into what should be played only tarnishes a pristine experience. Yet, during this jam in Hampton, nine years ago today, Phish convinced everyone in the building that we were heading for the Andromeda Galaxy. The anticipatory nature of the jam is so definitive that the band used it as the backing music for their comeback announcement video, late that fall night.
Phish’s trickery was always half the fun. We were, in fact heading for unbridled psychedelia, it was just coming a few minutes later in the form of a demented twenty-minute “Split Open and Melt.” They say that good things come to those that wait, and the following night, to open the last set of tour, Phish tore apart that 2001 we all so longingly desired. And it was good.
LISTEN TO 12.17.99 BUG NOW!
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
Another show from a reader’s request, this one is plucked from the all-star spring of 1992. This high-quality AUD is allegedly from the rig Shapiro and friends’ ran during this tour. A high energy beginning with Suzy and My Friend got the adrenaline coursing early, as Trey shredded the My Friend solo ferociously. The first set reads as a typical 1992 first set, but is highlighted by an atypically smooth, piano-led “It’s Ice” jam. Set two features a “Sanity, Buried Alive” opener and a hot Mike’s Groove. A side note, this was the last appearance of Fishman’s “Bag-Vac” in “I Didn’t Know.” Thought you’d like to know.
I: Suzy Greenberg, My Friend My Friend, Poor Heart, The Landlady, NICU, The Sloth, The Divided Sky, Guelah Papyrus, It’s Ice, Horn, I Didn’t Know, Possum
II: Sanity, Buried Alive, Wilson, All Things Reconsidered, My Sweet One, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Mound, Lizards, Llama, Terrapin, Golgi Apparatus
E1: Lawn Boy, Good Times Bad Times
E2: Rocky Top