Reclining in a lawn chair amidst our RVs, I witnessed the last sunrise of the century. Would the world last until tomorrow? With all of the Y2k hysteria going on back in society, it was anyone’s guess. The clear Florida sky soothed my body as visions of that Mike’s danced behind my eyelids. I was ready for it, I thought to myself. I was ready to take the seven hour plunge into the abyss, not knowing how I would come out on the other side. Yet, as ready as I could be, those butterflies fluttered inside me. This was going to be different.
The morning quickly turned to late-afternoon, and we made our way back to the stage. Finding our usual spot behind the speaker tower, we sat and enjoyed the sunshine. This afternoon set seemed like a cocktail party before a boxing match, a strange dynamic as everyone knew what we were facing mere hours away; the end of everything as we knew it. When it was over, it would be 2000.
The band made their way to the stage for the last conventional set of the weekend. As that morning sun began to head downward, everything started to flow. Perfectly fitting, one of the most classic openers in Phish history cracked the ice, as “Runaway Jim” took us into New Year’s Eve. As the sun inched ever closer to the horizon, the band dropped “Tube,” upping the rhythmic adrenaline of 100,000 at once. Taking in the grooves, watching the sun, the clouds, and raging with your friends– was this heaven? It sure seemed like it.
The centerpiece of the first set was unarguably the sublime playing within “Split Open > Catapult.” A menacing jam that absolutely took on a life of its own, Phish had me. This was where I was supposed to be– right here in the middle of the Florida swamps awaiting my destiny. They continued to breathe magical life into the music until it reached the most un-Split territory imaginable. Fairy tale majesty of the soul oozed from the universe through Trey’s fingers, producing some of the most beautiful life-affirming melodies of the weekend. The band built right along with this spiritual path, growing the jam to a delicate, yet chugging, peak. All of a sudden, as if discovering the answer to it all, the band began building this transcendent texture into a groove. Then, Boom! We were all free, sailing in the most beautiful and bass led groove on the planet. Like superheroes, we soared through the sky, trailing capes of vibrant colors as the band laid into the Everglades-sized funk groove. Honoring this other-wordly excursion, the band sung “Catapult” over the addictive, cathartic groove. In retrospect, this jam was arguably the musical highlight of the weekend.
Phish ended the afternoon set with a song that got everyone hyped for the evening– a first time cover of J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight.” The lyrics alone whipped the entire festival into a frenzy, and in my mind, further confirmed the fact that we were in for a cosmic event like never before. They “were gonna’ let it all hang out,” there’s only one thing that meant to me– seven hours of psychedelic improv. It was on! Some thought I was crazy as I began voicing what would happen. I thought they were equally as crazy. As we chilled in the hours up until midnight, my head spun faster and faster, dizzy with expectations.
Before we knew it, we were sitting in front of those speaker towers again. This time, armed for the evening; extra clothes, water, a two foot bong, the whole nine. IT was gonna happen, we needed to be prepared. As I sat amongst the crowd, people were forming betting pools, predicting what song would kick off the new millennium. It made me wonder. “Don’t they know?” I thought to myself. What else could Phish do but come out and play to the universe? Even as I saw the “bookie” writing down the bets and odds, I was sure his scorecard was completely irrelevant.
I wasn’t talking much in preparation for what would go down, and ran the quarter-mile to the side fence to pee one more time before this happened. As my mind was adrift, “Meatstick” started playing over the PA. Leaping to my feet, I saw the famous 1994 hot dog come sailing in above the crowd from the back left side of the field! Taking on a double entendre with “Meatstick” playing in the background, the craft sailed to the stage. “A little humor before the storm,” I thought to myself.
As the band deboarded, they encountered Father Time who had passed out while peddling the gears of an over-sized clock to the 21st century. Taking actual meatsticks, each band member fed Father Time who regained the energy to move us to the year 2000! Classic Phish absurdity at its finest. The band took up their instruments, playing along with the PA, soon morphing into a countdown to the end the century. Flashes of an apocalyptic New York City plagued by Y2k flew through my mind, quickly wondering what was going on in the rest of the world, and just as quickly forgetting….3….2…1….and the band bust into “Auld Lang Syne?” Ok. It’s a tradition. Now, here we go!
As the New Year’s hymn ended, Mike threw down the opening riff to “Down With Disease?!” Huh? What? Were we back in some arena on some odd numbered New Year? What the hell was going on? Maybe they would just play some songs before diving into a jam of a couple of hours, and then another, and then another. Yeah, that must be what’s up.
After a spectacular Disease and a segue into “Llama,” I was disoriented. Llama? What the hell was going on here. After “Bathtub Gin” appeared in super-sized form, it all fell apart. Trey began talking about ABC’s spot that was coming up, direct from our swamp. As Trey spoke to Tom Brokaw, or whoever it was, my vision of the night crumbled in front of my eyes. This was the least cosmic thing that could possibly be happening. While Trey gave his now famous instructions on how to use the road, poking fun at the fiasco that was the entrance to the festival, and then dropped into “Heavy Things,” I knew that my vision, my certainty, my truth was not to be. It took me minutes to cognitively process the shift in direction my evening was taking.
This wouldn’t be the adventure I had dreamed of. This wouldn’t necessarily be the greatest jam the band ever created, that was left to be seen. This was going to be one long seven hour Phish show. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This was gonna be one seven hour long Phish show!! Holy shit! I was so caught up in preparing my consciousness for a musical vision quest, I had completely lost sight of what was going on. This is what I had always dreamed of– a never-ending Phish set. One massive jam after another after another after another after another and so on.
It all came back together fairly quickly during the stunningly beautiful “Twist” jam. This was the soundtrack to the universe. As the band settled into a gorgeous down-tempo groove, something inside me realigned. Those expectations of a seven hour jam slipped away, and my heart beat to the methodical rhythm of this blissful jam. Without ending, the music slid into “Prince Caspian,” a song I had loved since its debut in ’95 due to its connection to The Chronicles of Narnia, far and away my favorite books as a kid. The song always gave me a sense of connection to myself and to my childhood, and this time around it was beyond poignant. It was the universe telling me that everything was cool, and we were in for a ride!
Phish was right on board my mental path as they bust into “Rock and Roll,” one of the most adventurous jams of the night. A thirty-minute Talking Head’s-esque Phish exploration of rhythm and thematic melody was one of the mega-highlights of the evening. Providing a wonderful musical joy ride through a four dimensional textured corridor, things were starting to come together.
YEM, Crosseyed. Okay, now we were talking! We were a couple hours in and things started to evolve to a deeper place. In certainly the most adventurous “chunk” of the all-night set, “Rock And Roll,” YEM, Crosseyed, and “Sand > Quadraphonic Toppling” totaled two hours of dark unbridled improvisation, each jam taking on a unique character. The Crosseyed was an unexpected treat that blew up into one of the most memorable musical portions of the evening. The “Sand” explored the hyper-complexities of groove and intricacies of sonic texture, morphing in the only ever Phish performance of The Siket Disc‘s “Quadraphonic Toppling.” This forty minute jam was one of the largest highlights of the night, with the band hitting their stride in a diversity of unheard of grooves
And after the darkness came the light. With Cypress-sized versions of Slave and “Reba,” Phish had us soaring through the nighttime sky on a magic carpet of spiritual threads. The Slave is straight bliss as the band takes as much time building to a drumbeat as they do building to the peak. The “Reba” gave everyone the chance to kick back and reflect on what was actually going on as our bodies floated through space. The jams of this set began to take on a certain slow-paced patience that came to define the music of the evening.
The next couple hours mostly read like a super long Phish show, though there were some big moments thrown in. The Bowie was solid, but the true highlight of this portion of the show was the absolutely locked in molasses grooving they hit in the post-“After Midnight” reprise part of the “Drowned.” Definitely battling for musical passage of the weekend, this was some of the greatest full-band playing of the entire seven hours. The jam was already impressive, moving at a down-tempo pace, but then they all simultaneously hit a tempo that everyone just gels with, Trey comes in with the perfect rhythm licks, and voila– Phish happens.
I always found it funny that the band had the presence of mind to insert one Fishman song in the exact relative time slot late in the second set, just as they would during a normal show. And just as in a normal show, after the Fishman song, the end of the show began. Tonight that happened in the biggest way possible.
The sky was already beginning to lighten a bit when the band strummed the opening chords of “Roses Are Free.” YES! Ever since that sacred night in Nassau, everybody in the scene had been waiting for Phish to go huge on this song again, but it hadn’t happened. Everyone knew this time would be IT. And so it was; Phish brought the audience on an awing ambient journey for nearly forty minutes as they brought up the sun of the next millennium. One of the most melodic and gorgeous jams of the evening, 100,000 people watched silently as time passed before their eyes and Phish crawled the outer realms. One of those Phishy moments, when everything was absolutely perfect, this Roses sunrise was everyone’s indelible memory from the seven hours. As the clouds split apart in a strangely psychedelic pattern, it was like the heavens were opening, welcoming us to the rest of our lives. Gazing around at my friends during this frozen moment, knowing the path we had collectively traveled for years to get here, we had finally arrived.
Resolving the massive journey with “Bug,” the morning had broken– we had made it, and somehow, contrary to the song’s lyrics, it did matter. It mattered a lot. Just in time for one last mind-fuck, Phish began the intro to “Harry Hood.” Playing the reggae for fifteen seconds while everyone exchanged looks of dismay, they had us hooked. Had they forgotten? They played this last night. Sure, it was most definitely the perfect sunrise song, but…as soon as my thoughts progressed this far, they used a natural break in Hood to smash into the first ever morning 2001. Smiles were so wide they hurt, as we absolutely raged the most blissful morning in memory. This was the stuff dreams were made of– busting into a sunrise 2001 after a seven hour set– were we positive this wasn’t heaven?
In one of the Phishiest moves of the set, they combined the funk anthem with one of their most poignant compositions, “Wading In the Velvet Sea” to approach the close of the most magnificent set ever played. It was as perfect as it gets. The beauty of the music and the surroundings were inseparable as all was most definitely one. As the ballad ended, the band picked up right where they had started, playing through a morning “Meatstick.” Everything had finally come full circle, and we basked in the dawning of a new millennium. As The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” poured through the PA, the power of the moment was awe-striking. Dreams do come true.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
12.31.99 Big Cypress RMSTR! < LINK
Thanks to the hard work of Paul Gwynne Craig, working round the clock in Europe, we have a remastered copy of this legendary night! Each and every track has been given his personal touch and attention, but unfortunately, due to his bandwith limitations in Europe, you will have to download them track by track. Don’t fret, just create a new folder and download them all to there! Thanks Paul!! This should hold us over until next year’s 10 year anniversary CD/DVD collection comes out.*
*Scotty B made that up.
I: Runaway Jim, Funky Bitch, Tube, I Didn’t Know*, Punch You in the Eye, Bouncing Around the Room, Poor Heart, Roggae, Split Open and Melt** > Catapult, Get Back on the Train, Horn, Guyute, After Midnight***
II: # Meatstick^ > Auld Lang Syne, Down with Disease > Llama, Bathtub Gin^^, Heavy Things^^^, Twist Around > Prince Caspian > Rock and Roll, You Enjoy Myself%, Crosseyed and Painless, The Inlaw Josie Wales%%, Sand > Quadrophonic Topplings*, Slave to the Traffic Light, Albuquerque, Reba, Axilla, Uncle Pen, David Bowie, My Soul, Drowned > After Midnight reprise, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Bittersweet Motel, Piper** > Free, Lawn Boy, Hold Your Head Up > Love You%%% > Hold Your Head Up, Roses are Free, Bug, Also Sprach Zarathustra$ > Wading in the Velvet Sea, Meatstick (7:45)
*With Fish on vacuum. **Unfinished. ***First time played; J.J. Cale cover #Set begins around 11:35 pm with Father Time on stage pedaling away at a stationary bike, powering a large clock, with the sound of the gears on the PA. At approximately 11:50 pm, Father Time collapses from exhaustion and the clock stops. At this time, with appropriate sound effects, a large fan boat entered the field from halfway back, stage right. Soon the sides and top of the fan boat were blown off to reveal the band riding in the hot dog from 12-31-94. The hot dog approached the stage as the band threw leis and other goodies into the crowd. Once the hot dog reached the stage, the band disembarked carrying several meatsticks. They fed these to Father Time, reviving him to drive to clock to midnight. ^Instrumental version, with the band picking up the song from a pre-recorded version played during the hot dog ride. ^^With vocal jam, as Trey, Mike, and Page sang the notes as they played them. ^^^Recorded live for ABC’s Millennium coverage; Trey instructed the crowd to chant the word “Cheesecake” after the song (instead of applauding), in an attempt to confuse TV viewers; Trey introduced the band for the recorded footage and offered a message of peace and harmony for the world (“The right lane is for driving. The left lane is for passing. So stay in the right lane unless you’re passing.”). %With “Cheesecake” vocal jam. %%Trey solo acoustic. %%%With Fish on vacuum; Fish introduced Page before the song, and Mike and Trey afterwards, and the band as “Phish 2000.” $Preceded by a tease of the “Harry Hood” intro. No encore; post-show music was the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.”