A Blunt Prediction

It was setbreak.  About halfway though, I ran into a buddy and fellow secret agent of mine on our highly classified Phish mission. After strategizing for a moment, we made an executive decision to chill and burn one.  As we sat down on the rubberized basketball court of the half-empty Boise State Pavilion, I pulled a pre-rolled blunt out of my pocket.  (Although I live out west, I did grow up on the East Coast!)  Few of our friends had made the significantly out-of-the way drive from Portland to Boise, only to turn around and head to back Shoreline on the coast, so when we met up, we thought we’d take the last train to Sparksville.


9.14.99 Boise

As we inhaled our smoky delight, our spun minds turned to what Phish would come out with in the second set.  I noted that they hadn’t dropped a “Bag” thus far this tour, and Sean responded that he had noticed the same thing about “Gumbo.”  Hmm. “Sick!”, we thought, some sort of “Bag,” “Gumbo” combination in the second set! That would be great.  Our conversation drifted several different ways before it was ended as blunts burn for so long!  At some point we decided it was time to stake out our spots for the second set, despite the place being a ghost town.  He headed up front while I hung out about a third of the way back on the spacious floor. Meeting up with some other friends before the lights went down, my conversation with Sean was long gone from my memory- at least for now.

Fall '99 (Jay Blakesburg)

Fall '99 (Jay Blakesburg)

Mid-thought, when the lights went out, and I quickly ditched my stuff safely before the music started.  As the band emerged, everyone assumed their desired place in the wide open gym of the Broncos.  As Phish stepped up to play, Fish’s quaking drumroll led right into the beginning of “Peaches!”  The band hadn’t broken out their old-school Zappa cover since 2.28.97 in Berlin, Germany.  The intimate crowd was immediately treated to a special moment, as all were fully aware that the Phish hadn’t thrown down a “Peaches” in years. My mind was taken adrift by the bust-out, and when they dropped directly into “AC/DC Bag,” my mind never considered my conversation of twenty minutes earlier.

As most know, this “Bag” transformed into an all-time highlight, as the band transcended the song with existential playing that spoke directly to the soul.  Moving from funky AC/DC Bag textures, the band moved into ambient beauty that started in a dark place and became one of the most truly beautiful and awe-inspiring Phish jams.  The dark mysterious textures patiently grew into a musical portal directly to the divine through some of the most inspirational playing of the fall.  Peaking this gorgeous section of improv, the band dove  into a straight-ahead groove, hinting at “Crosseyed,” much like the Portland Meadows “Ghost” from days before, taking the theme for an exciting ride.

Fall '99 (Jay Blakesburg)

Fall '99 (Jay Blakesburg)

Once the music settled to the point of almost all sustained effects, they peeled them away at once for a heavy drop into “Gumbo.”  Boom– our prophecy had come true, but shit if i realized it!  I was so lost in the magnificence of what had just happened, that even the plunge into “Gumbo” didn’t make me recall the prediction we had made.  The music bellowed out of the speakers, taking over the small crowd who no longer knew if there were five or fifty thousand people there.  As the slow paced song took its time loafing into the jam, I embraced the compositional break without having my heart tied directly to spiritual improv for a few minutes.

But when those verses ended, we knew to expect a dance party with ample room for everyone and their double.  As the jam began, it took almost no time at all for Mike to begin teasing Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”  The music was moved from the uber-psychedelic realm to that of a dance club, and the band began pounding out slow rhythms.  As soon as Trey began joining the tease, the crowd responded huge and the band returned their energy with a full-on jam of the song.  Some of the most engaging grooves of the night came when the band began to improvise out of the Queen rhythms, creating a somewhat retro Phish-funk jam that reminded us of years past.

In a set that ended with “Disease” and “Frankenstein,” the musical fireworks were front-loaded in this one, yet Phish selected the perfect songs to feed off of the energy and emotion they had stirred up within their audience.  After the magnificent set, I met up with my friend Adam inside the venue and began heading out, reveling in the post-show flood of emotional bliss.  As I threw a sweatshirt on to head out into the mild fall night,  I saw Sean walking up ahead.

9.16.99 - Shoreline (Susanna Millman)

9.16.99 - Shoreline (Susanna Millman)

“Wait a second!?” I thought to myself, as our setbreak blunt talk quickly replayed through my head in milliseconds.  “They just ripped exactly what we had said they should!”, I thought, as my heart pounded heavier.  “And I never even realized it the entire set!? Ha!” I laughed to myself out loud.  I sprinted ahead and caught up with Sean and tapped him on the shoulder enthusiastically.  As he turned around, he knew exactly why I was so excited, and we reflected on the bizarre connection to something bigger that we felt at that point.  Did we predict the future?  Had we invented the set?  Would it have happened if we hadn’t shared that smoke and spoken that conversation?  Maybe so, maybe not.

These are the things that are beyond our explanation; strange predictions that turn out correct, synchronicities between you and the band.  This time, the “Bag > Gumbo” was a tour highlight, not to mention one of the high points of all ’99.  With this Phishy magic in the air, my absurd backtrack to Portland to pick up my future wife, which seamlessly segued into a non-stop drive to our place in Santa Cruz, seemed like nothing at all, albeit a near-24 hour haul.  Sometimes when the larger forces are at play the menial tasks don’t seem so important.  Puffing bubblers of Bubbleberry with Adam across the Northwest, pumping the “Bag > Gumbo” on the desolate Idaho highway, nothing could have been more perfect.  It was one of those timeless moments on tour that you will remember forever; the moments that make up the fabric of it all.



10.15.98 The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA < LINK

phish-fillmore-98The announcement of this special show sent ripples through the Phish community as the band prepared to play a pre-tour gig at one of Bill Graham’s famous haunts.  Once the on-sale location was disclosed over the radio, fans raced to a specific pier on the Embarcadero to get a place in line that would ensure them tickets.  The show contained many highlights, including a first set that far outshone the second.  Compiling two 90 minute sets, everyone got their hard fought ticket’s worth out of this night.  Show highlights include “Ghost,” “Wolfman’s,” “Gumbo,” and “Reba”– all in the first frame!  The second set brought a welcome rendition of “The Moma Dance” and a fabulous set ending “Hood.”

I: Ghost, Water in the Sky, Wolfman’s Brother, Gumbo, David Bowie, Brian and Robert, Reba, Character Zero

2: My Soul, Chalkdust Torture, Roggae, The Moma Dance, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Prince Caspian, Frankie Says, Birds of a Feather, Lawn Boy, Harry Hood

E: Dirt, Limb by Limb

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113 Responses to “A Blunt Prediction”

  1. Mutha_Ohks Says:

    Wilson opener

  2. Selector J Says:

    The drive between Alpine and Deer Creek is not my favorite either. However, skipping Alpine can cost you. Remember summer ’99 when they did Columbus>Alpine>Deer Creek… ugh.

    I knew a lot of people that skipped Alpine (myself included) so that they could get set-up at Deer Creek. Regretful move there.

    Alpine Valley, July 24, 1999
    Set I: Guyute, Fluffhead -> Jam > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday Reprise -> Jam -> The Wedge, Character Zero

    Set II: Tweezer -> Catapult -> Tweezer > The Mango Song -> Jam > The Happy Whip and Dung Song > Waste > Chalk Dust Torture

    Encore: Glide, Camel Walk, Alumni Blues > Tweezer Reprise

    I doubt anyone called that encore…

  3. Asher Says:

    I practically tackled a buddy of mine when they dropped Alumni at Alpine. We had both been waiting for that tune forever. Definitely one of my most joyous moments ever at a Phish show. That drive to Alpine is brutal but always worth it.

  4. BingosBrother Says:

    I didn’t call it, but I was listening to a tape of the last Alumni Blues on the way there. Something like 400 shows before, can’t recall. Imagine my surprise during that shit. Good thing I didn’t leave when my ride wanted to “beat traffic.”

  5. lanser Says:

    cole and buckley and me hitch hiked from portland to shoreline, and i’ll never forget passing mr. miners pathfinder with his future wife driving and everyone else asleep in the car as our car passed. tour.

  6. Henry Holland Says:

    I hadn’t smoked pot in 18 years when I sat down in my seat at the first night in Brooklyn (my 2nd Phish show). During the opening A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing a dude offered me a puff on his joint. I’d been at 100’s of concerts in those 18 years and turned down offers every time, but I took it, puffed and OH MY FUCKING GOD HOW I MISSED YOU, MARY JANE!

    Two nights later at 6/19/04 SPAC, I was waiting for the second set to start in the last row of the balcony and these two dudes shared a huge bowl with me. Woaaah! pot really *did* get stronger in the 18 years I was away. I was totally blitzed and halfway through that incredible Piper I looked back towards the lawn crowd and they….they…..were like a living organism, Chris’ lights just fantastic and all the glowrings too…. What an amazing night.

    I’m still calling a The Curtain (With) Hampton opener because they butchered it so badly at Coventry (I was watching it in a theater and I started to get tears in my eyes that they were going out like *that*), it would be a great Mission Statement to come out and nail it. Please, me have no regrets.

    Good luck everyone with your ticket requests, I can’t wait for West Coast dates to be announced…

  7. Mr.Miner Says:

    drives are never that bad with Phish at the end, though columbus > alpine was looong

  8. hawaii Says:

    Columbus > Alpine ’98…that drive really sucked totally. Thats why they opened with Ramble On. They turned that whole drive around for me with the first lick….

  9. Sean Ch-H Says:

    DWD opener… think about it…

  10. Jer Says:

    JPhishman Says:
    January 29, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    “I hadn’t considered going to Star Lake but…… Don’t skip the out of the way show right?”

    Exactly! Star Lake has long been a great example of this phenomenon since they started playing there. The 35 minute Jim from 8/11/98 is essentially unknown (when was the last time you read someone mention this Jim?)…but it is awesome.

  11. Clod Says:

    Like everyone here, I had a crazy morning on LiveNation.Com and on the phoneline. I must said “Bu Tickets” 110x into the phone today. After being thrown in and out of queues, having server errors and time-outs in the ticket buy section (all these instances happening several times), I had gone beyond frustration. I tried different browsers – Firefox, Explorer, Avant and Safari, but nothing seemed to give me luck. As the 11:30 EST approached and my hair began to fall out, I had to give up, for I had to pick my daughter at school and teach her how to ski for the afternoon. I went out to my car to warm it up and as I was about to leave, my wife told me I had until 12:30, which gave me a few extra minutes burning my eyes out on the computer screen. I went back to the computer to give it one more heave-ho and voila -2 tickets for both nights at Jones Beach. This went down around 11:50 EST – almost two hours after tickets went on sale. So, the moral of the story? I don’t know – perhaps keep the faith tomorrow and let those retinas burn.

  12. bunitingi Says:

    Just listened to 2nd set 9.14.99 last night, and it is INSTANTLY one of my favorite 2nd sets EVER. It is quintessential jam goodness and THIS could very well be the set i would give someone who wants to know who this band is and why i love them.

  13. Frankie Says:

    Wow, i listened to that show yesterday and what an amazing second set. Thank you for the story as well, this is a Phish jam i know i will get back to often in the future…

    Hit me with music!

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