The Island Run: Nassau

It all started with a surprise announcement in the beginning of March.  Phish was so juiced and inspired by the music of their epic Fall and New Years ’97 runs that they just couldn’t sit around and wait for their July European tour.  They were “bored,” as Trey would explain.   I remember exactly where I was in my buddy’s house in Philly when I heard the news- Phish would play a four-show run at the beginning of April in Nassau and Providence!  There was no mail order for these spontaneously announced shows; there simply wasn’t enough turn-around time.  Tickets would be sold via Ticketmaster, and that was it.  The excitement that prompted the band to announce these shows was fully ingrained in the Phish community after the end of 1997.  It seemed that nobody could wait for the next show– and now, we wouldn’t have to.

4.3.98 Nassau (phish.com)

4.3.98 Nassau (livephish.com)

Two at Long Island’s legendary Nassau Coliseum and two at Providence’s Civic Center- The Island Run- as it was dubbed, would immediately vault into the upper-echelon of all-time Phish performances.  Never has there been such a dynamic four-show run– ever.  You can put up any four consecutive shows against them, and they would get beaten down like Peter McNeeley against Mike Tyson.  There is simply no contest.

My friends and I used to posit theories as to why these shows stood out so brightly amongst all others.  Maybe Phish had time-traveled back from the future to play these gigs, showing us what we had to look forward to?  Perhaps that was the reason for the quick, out-of-nowhere, announcement? Although we sought explanations to this one continuous four-night super-highlight, we never came to a definitive conclusion (theories are still welcomed!)  Needless to say, these were four of the most powerful, magical, and transportive nights of the band’s two-decade career.

4.2.98

508742593_d894737740No one knew quite what to expect as we entered Nassau’s Thursday night show, but everyone was overflowing with adrenaline.  As soon as the lights went off, there was a mad rush of fans climbing onto the soon-crowded GA floor.  Yet, before anyone even had their bearings straight, Phish bust into the run with an opening “Tube.”  OK!  “This is gonna be a fun four days,” I thought to myself.  But I didn’t even know the half of it.  As the “Tube” provided a kick-start to the weekend, the crowd was lifted back to that emotional place we had all been jonesing for since the end of ’97.  This jam hinted at a groove plate that would be the launching point for the other-worldly “Roses Are Free” the following night.  Whipping the crowd into an immediate frenzy, the whole building nearly burst with energy upon this asteroid’s crash.

While much of this initial set was comprised of mild-rarities like, “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own,”  “The Sloth,” and “Horn,” the undeniable highlight of the set, and arguably the show, came in the form of a twenty-minute, supremely psychedelic “Stash.”  The improv started immediately as the band drifted into the jam with Trey taking the lead with some staccato melodies over the menacing pattern.  The band seemed to be communicating without thinking, fully tapped in and feeling the flow, only songs into their first set.  This adventure continued to build in intensity, creating an undeniable musical tension, spiraling upward.  Easily one of the top “Stash’s” ever played, this version contained mind-numbing playing and went directly for the jugular.  But just as the music couldn’t have grown any more intense, with Trey wailing subconsciously, the entire band connected as one, and with the peak of the jam imminent, the band allowed the tense textures to settle, and Phish entered one of the most beautiful musical passages of the weekend.

This “Stash,” all of a sudden, became a delicate palate for spiritual work.  Trey shifted his tone and began to play improvised melodies that you could have sworn you’d heard before.  He was channeling the powers of the universe directly through his guitar and into our minds; an incredibly powerful moment.  The dark and twisted took a turn for the sublime and inspired, creating one of the highest points of the four nights right off the bat.

1998-04-02gn1The Coliseum buzzed with excitement during setbreak, mostly regarding the insane “Stash” that had just gone down, but more generally about the undeniable collective vibe in the room.  Everyone seemed to be on the same revelatory and exploratory page; all in it for the same reason, band included.  And that was only the first set!

As the band came out for their second frame, the high-energy combo of “Punch,” “Simple” got the arena rocking, while setting up the debut of “Birds of a Feather.”  A song that had grown out of a jam from 12.12.97 in Albany, the song’s rhythms reached out and grabbed the audience, urging them to move to the high-paced and boisterous rock textures.  While this was a noble debut of the song, two nights later in Providence, the song would explode, immediately discovering its improvisational potential.

3177217568_24476d84e0But the true fireworks of this set came after the first three songs.  As the band sank into a warm and groovy “Wolfman’s Brother,” the audience basked in the thick grooves that they had grown so accustomed to the previous fall.  As the smooth patterns washed over the audience, prompting all sort of funkified movement, the band methodically churned away, creating a series of infectious rhythms.  Intentionally, yet subtly, the band set up a seamless transition into “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley,” a song that brought our collective consciousness back to that crazy night of 12.30.97.  Combining these two funk springboards, the band created an incredibly infectious dance session with their precise and collaborative playing.  This was some addictive music.

Interestingly, following the rhythmic pop-off, the band transitioned into another debut, “Frankie Sez” (though no one really knew the name at the time).  An enchanting and mystical tune about the earth’s natural movements and its relationship to humanity, its first performance was a gripping juxtaposition amidst this phenomenal set.

3251307446_d82a7cd91cThe highest point of this set, however, was about to drop– “Twist.”  Taking this song further out than ever before, the band created an astounding psychedelic journey of melodic space-groove.  This is pure Phish crack, the stuff that just reaches out and grabs a hold of your heart without letting go. This was IT.  About halfway through the jam Kuroda hopped on board, creating perhaps his best lighting performance ever (see below.)  This jam is an essential piece of Phish history, illustrating the improvisational chops of the band and Kuroda, all at once.  A blissful amalgamation of melody, harmony, and rhythm, this set the bar for the following three nights- a bar that would readily be demolished with the following show.

4.2.98 “Twist” Jam (Kuroda’s Finest Moment)

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4.3.98

Simply put, this is my favorite Phish show ever played.  With two sets of pure fire, and a second set that represents the ultimate in Phish improvisation, the numbers 4.3.98 will always hold a special and unique place in my heart.

4.3.98 Nassau

4.3.98 Nassau

On the second night of our island adventure, the band chose to begin with a full-on “Mike’s Groove.”  (They opened the four shows with “Tube,” “Mike’s,” “Tweezer,” and “Oh Kee Pah > YEM”…’nuff said!)  Building on every bit of energy from the previous night, the band busted out of the gate like Secretariat with a booming “Mike’s Song.”  Like most Fall ’97 versions, this one included a distinct funk jam before it dove into its more seething psychedelia.  Mike was straight thumping as Trey joined in with perfectly complementary wah-grooves.  Page fit in playing short organ patterns without dominating the texture.  The band entered in a dance groove that seemed like we were deep in the second set.  Before long, Trey began playing leads over the bulbous and layered grooves, sounding as if his playing was composed.  Trey was flowing like lava from his first note on this special evening, and he never stopped.

As this “Mike’s” grew more engaging with each passing moment, it was quite evident that the band had something special going on this evening.  With one screaming lick, Trey initiated the darker half of the jam, leaving the sparse funk behind and heading for dirty psychedelia.  Oddly enough, this “Mike’s” segued into “My Old Home Place” rather abruptly.  But following the down-home ditty, the band tore into a multi-faceted twenty-minute “Weekapaug” that would normally stand out as the highlight of any show; but not on 4.3.98.

4.3.98 Nassau

4.3.98 Nassau (Joel Price)

The band didn’t take long to improvise away from “Weekapaug’s” typical path, heading for much more percussive territory.  With each member using their instrument as a rhythmic tool, a polyrhythmic groove emerged.  At this point, the band dove into some extremely Talking-Heads-esque playing; some of the most interesting bass-led music of the evening.  The band entrenched themselves deeper in their percussive experiment, creating some phenomenally tight patterns.  Soon, the band found themselves chanting the “Crosseyed and Painless” melody over the insane grooves.  What the hell was going on!?  The band was this deep twenty minutes into the show?!  Yes; that they were.  Trey took the “Crosseyed” melody to his guitar, artistically peaking the section of the jam and landing perfectly back in “Weekapaug.”  These were some amazing musical acrobatics, pulled off right at the onset of the show.  After the 35 minute “Mike’s Groove” ended with an unconventional double-time musical sprint without a lyrical reprise, the crowd was floored.  Was the band serious?!  This is when I started to ponder what was really going on at these shows- the band might as well have been a four-headed monster rather than four individual humans.  This was different than the previous fall.

The remaining highlight of the set, as if it needed any, was a sublime trip through an extended “Reba.”  Phish pulled out many heavy hitters, and the quality of the playing was extraordinary; perfect in a way I had never heard before.  So many of the jams from this night are so together and tight they sound rehearsed.  With transcendent melodies effortlessly rolling off the stage, the band was in a place of supreme musical comfort, and we were blessed to be a part of it.  It’s no wonder they were bored up in Vermont with this type of energy bubbling inside them.

1998-04-03gn2However, for every bit as good as the first set was, this night’s second frame would go down in history as one of the best ever played.  I am hesitant to even attempt to write about this set of music, knowing whatever words I devise can not come close to describing its majesty.  The 40+ minutes that made up “Roses Are Free > Piper” passed through so many Phishy realms- grooves, bliss, ambient space, and evil darkness- all wrapped into one jam, it was literally a dream come true.  Exploratory, yet cohesive; out there, yet directed, this segment of music contained unbridled power.  Initiating the improv with an extended set of to-die-for Phish grooves, Trey and Mike absolutely crushed it, wrapping their minds and musical ideas tightly around each other.  Page and Fish framed their grooves, contributing as two complementary cogs in the machine.  After this period of sublime rhythmic focus, Trey transcended the patterns with ridiculously flowing improvised leads that sounded completely pre-written.  How could everything be so perfect?!

Soon the jam traveled into an abstract Phishy-ambient space.  With Fishman bringing the music deeper with shimmering beats, Page, Mike and Trey transformed into an amorphous ball of harmony and melody.  When the jam finally seemed as if it could be heading for a calm landing point in “Piper,” the whole band jumped on a new idea and took the abstract jam to a much darker place.  Before long, the music built into one of those delicate and sacred places where the band just oozes IT.  Trey ascended to his “spiritual” tone with divine phrases and licks, bringing everyone along for the ride.  Things then became subconscious- for them, for me, for everyone- the unifying spirit; a completely unique experience.  Led by improvisation that was not heard every day, and was most definitely worth writing home about, this jam possessed at least some of the answers to the universal questions.  Phish then somehow crept the music, unsuspectingly, back from the depths, right back to where it was headed in the first place, landing in “Piper.”

4.3.98 Nasau

4.3.98 Nasau (Joel Price)

Seamlessly transitioning into the song, they band absolutely nailed it, and just as the adventure was winding down, there sparked a new beginning!  For the first, and only time in the band’s career,  they improvised out of the melodic denouement of “Piper.”  From the first time I heard this song in Virginia Beach, I always knew it could reach another level if they used the ending as a springboard, and they finally did!  This was my perfect world.  The progressed  from this beauty back into even darker and heavier abstract places- stuff you’d never really imagined.  Spirits of the universe groaned awake after a slumber of a million years.  They band channeled extra-terrestrial energy, providing a psychedelic trampoline to face your inner-self amidst this celestial sludge; confronting your fears and realizing your dreams.  Building to a frightening peak in this alternate universe, the music finally trickled back down to earth.  This was the ultimate.

As my my brain slowly slid back to Nassau, NY, Page began a celebratory “Loving Cup” that seemed so perfectly placed after the unrelenting and gorgeous psychedelia that preceded it.  Yet what happened during this “Loving Cup” turned out to be more significant than the song itself.

3176382207_0d3c0e8ddaToward the end of the song, a fan jumped on stage, and narrowly avoided being caught by drum tech and stage security guy, Pete Carini.  The crowd roared as the the fan hurled himself back into the crowd untouched, and as the song ended with the crowd deafening, the band started up an “Antelope.”  This intro had the now famous, “Carini’s gonna get you!” joke, started by Fishman and carried out by the rest of the band.  You could feel the overwhelming energy of the audience bubbling up with each repetition of the line.  The place was about to explode, and it did with a ridiculously fierce set-closing “Antelope.”  Phish had the the venue literally going berserk when this set ended.

Although the band had just played a career-defining concert, this massive surge of energy certainly came from this late set stage jumping episode.  Had it not been for his antics, the encore most likely would have taken another route.  But with the building vibrating with enthusiasm, the band came out and dropped the second ever domestic “Carini,” only three shows after dropping the first (12.30.97).  The show could have ended here, but instead, surfing the emotional wave, Phish dropped into “Halley’s Comet” to the delight of all!  As the time came for the jam, the band cut right into “Tweezer Reprise”- but there was never any “Tweezer!”  Breaking out their ultimate tool of adrenaline when it was most appropriate, they would follow up the improvised “Reprise” with a set-opening “Tweezer” in Providence the next night.  This “Reprise” found Trey aggressively marching in circles on stage, knowing they were putting the stamp on one of the best nights of their career.

“Tweezer Reprise” 4.3.98

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WEST COAST SUMMER ’09 RUMOR MILL:

3250483699_bf81d04535Expect an announcement soon!  Maybe today!  The dates I’ve heard are:

7.30 – 8.2: Red Rocks, Morrison, CO
8.5: Coors Amp. Chula Vista, CA
8.7 – 8.8: Hollywood Bowl, LA, CA
8.11 – 8.12: Shoreline, Mountain View, CA
8.14 – 8.15: The Gorge, George, WA

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PHISH THOUGHTS TICKET EXCHANGE:

3251306826_09e533a8acThe board is up and running with well over 200 users having posted requests or tickets.  I am putting a permalink in the upper right hand corner of the home page, so you can always access the board from there.  Remember, you need an invite in order to post on the board.  To get one, send an email to ticketexchange@phishthoughts.com with your email address as the subject line and a funny joke in the text.  Thanks!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

6.13.97 SFX Centre, Dublin IR

phish-1The initial show of Summer ’97 featured the debut of seven originals and two covers, comprising almost half the show.  Along with their new host of songs, Phish squeezed in great versions of “Stash,” “Maze,” and “Slave.”  The highlight of the show, however, came when “Chalk Dust” morphed into an atypical funk jam which led into the first-ever “Ghost.”

I: Theme from the Bottom, Dogs Stole Things*, Beauty of My Dreams, Billy Breathes, Limb By Limb*, Wolfman’s Brother > Wading in the Velvet Sea*, Taste

II: Stash, Maze, Water in the Sky*, Vultures*, Slave to the Traffic Light, Chalk Dust Torture > Ghost*, Oblivious Fool*, Character Zero

E: Stand!#, Izabella##

*First time played. #First time played (Sly and the Family Stone cover) ##First time played (Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)

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215 Responses to “The Island Run: Nassau”

  1. MangoMan Says:

    YES!!! Watching Trey during that Tweeprise is unreal.! Lets hope for that same energy in the Hamptons!

  2. Frankie Says:

    I was lucky enough to download the entire Island tour on DVD about two years ago… Anybody know if the torrents are still up somewhere?

  3. Swamprabbit Says:

    Wow. This summer tour is shaping up to be quite spectacular if these rumors prove to be true. The tickets might be hard to get but the venues are excellent. Looks like the boys are playing where they want to play! I live in SC and had been mentally preparing myself for a show at Lakewood in Atlanta (one of the absolute worst venues in the nation). Now I get to go to ASHEVILLE! Looks like you West Coast folks will have a blast. Did I mention how much I love this site! Thanks Miner for keeping it positive!

  4. Jerrydamule Says:

    4/2 and 4/3 were great shows; energy was ridic as we waded through through that “celestial sludge.” Ha! Great stuff, Mine’s. Yesterday’s post was very interesting, as well. Broken down like a true professor.

  5. Clod Says:

    I love that Twist jam. It always remind me of the “krautrock” sounds of Neu!

  6. Frankie Says:

    In celebration of all the good Phish vibes out in the world these days…

    First 4 people who e-mail me at disco1013@hotmail.com with Island Tour as the subject get the Island Tour show of their choice on DVD delivered to their door. Good luck!

    SHARE IN THE GROOVE!! :o)

  7. brandofunk Says:

    being from Nassau I couldn’t of asked for anything more.
    Great Writing as always Minor. I think I’ve been reading your thoughts daily, for the last 6 months…THANKS!!

  8. nonoyolker Says:

    FRANKIE SAYS RULES! I JUST WON!!! Way to spread the good cheer!

  9. brandofunk Says:

    Jumping over the boards couldn’t of been any easier with phish providing those opening tunes

  10. Frankie Says:

    Offer closed for now! Thanks for playing! 🙂

  11. Jordan Says:

    Hooray for frankie says!! Thanks man!
    Excellent post again Miner. Wish I had been a part of it. How about that funk groove/cavern on 4.5 : )

  12. Wilfred Brimley Says:

    Just a random musing…many a Head say that they think ’98 was the point that Phish peaked and started to decline in certain ways…I disagree with this assessment somewhat, but I think that all agree that Phish turned a corner in ’97 as far as the funk and their playing style in general…for the better in my opinion. Could these 4 outstanding shows have been to Phish what May 1977 was to the dead…Obviously, there were many many more outstanding shows and periods of times that the Dead were fantastic as well as Phish but could these four nights in April of ’98 ultimately be their peak of greatness…?

  13. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    I’m already looking forward to a rundown of the Rhode Island second half, which are two shows in my top 5 all time. Hometown shows are the best.

    I’d been abroad all Fall ’97, which meant I’d missed some serious phunk, and I didn’t think I’d be able to hold out until the Summer to see the boys. (This was before I could even conceptualize taking a 5 year break.) Boom, hometown shows announced, prayers answered.

    And then they ripped them, and it was better than expected.

    I specifically recall downing IPA at Trinity Brewhouse across the street from the Providence Civic Center in deep conversation about whether the music was going to be on point, given that they’d been off for three months. Just goes to show (for those worried about rust in Hampton) that you never know when Phish is going to bring it.

  14. Frankie Says:

    That’s a good question Wilfred. I believe that Phish has had many “peaks” in their career. They just continued to grow as individuals and musicians but as a band, they were just hitting one peak after another from the early ’90’s up to the end… I believe though that, to continue on the analogy of climbers, the highest peak they ever reached was Big Cypress. Even they would tell you that, where to go next? What to do? What does a climber do when he reached the Everest?

    Even the Island Tour is a foundation on which Big Cypress is built on… Listen to some jams during the Midnight-Sunrise set and you can trace it back to the experimentation of the Island Tour…

    The most interesting things are ahead though. What do they have in store for us? Where will they take the music (and us) for a ride next? The possibilities are endless if their hearts are in it, which i believe they are, we are gonna witness magic once again…

    That’s what i think anyway! How about you?

  15. full tour: announced! Says:

    97/98 was th epoint where th eband had fully matured and came to a point where stylistically they were about to jump into hyperdrive. Forme, the band never “peaked.” They continued to stretch and polish their sound to the point where this huge sound began to take over. Even up to the very end i feel that they were always expanding and tweaking their sound. 97/98 is the point where the shows began to focus on psychedelic explorations and masterpieces of improv. Maybe thats why i always tend to listen to more 97 – 04 shows, because they had reached a mastery of the craft that is comparable to a magician hitting his stride and transpoting a whole crowd through th elooking glass to gamehendge. One can’t deny that every aspect of later phish was getting tighter. The pocket of gordo and fishman becan to really hit its stride starting in 97 and further progressing into 98-2000. Even page started to get gnarly on the clav and organ fills like never before.

    you gotta admit, nothing beats that page/trey interaction where page is backing trey up with those killer sheets of hammond organ background mixed with the clav or piano.

    I think 3.0 will expand upon every point made in their 20+ year career. I am eager to hear how the sonic soup has progressed.

  16. full tour: announced! Says:

    have to disagree about lakewood. Its one of the best venues in the country. Phish has never played a bad show there. Sure, its in the hood in atlanta, but that was always part of the fun. I was actually upset that they choose to skip this all time phishy summer tour stop.

  17. guyforget Says:

    In regards to the upcoming west coast announcement, i really hope they are working on a better ticketing solution. Thus, i would expect this to not be so soon, unless they already have a better gameplan. Or, was the apology on the website just for the hell of it, and nothing will change? What are your guys’ thoughts??

  18. full tour: announced! Says:

    ^ looks like bruce springsteen just broght the heat against ticketbastard/ticketsnow. They went as far as to take down his tickets from ticketsnow.

    Hopefully this will effect phish tickets as well and next time around we wont get the shady as hell message of “we are sold out (but not really) and we happen to have $400 tickets available now!”.

    But also keep in mind the merger of livenation/ticketbastard will create one giant corrupt monopoly.

  19. Frankie Says:

    How about that Phishy breakfast picture Miner? Looks gooood! 🙂

  20. tubeopener Says:

    Does anyone else remember before the show and during setbreak at Nassau 4/3 all of the fans that were jumping the barriers to get on the GA floor and the crowd kept cheering them on as they got away from the security guards? I definitely remember being above it all watching the kids running through the crowd of people like a maze trying to get away. That vibe continued all the way to the one kid with the backpack jumping up on stage and getting away. And that day my friend just came into my dorm room and was like “Hey you wanna go see phish tonight, they’re playing some random shows up north?” And I blew off the rest of my classes and it was one of the best shows I ever went to. The vibe was just so incredible.

  21. themanatee Says:

    the island run how i love theee…amazing post miner…literally taking us through all the improv of the first two nights…nice work. stash>horn, tube, wolfman’s sally, twist, mikes groove , second set of 4/3 – seriously is there anything better…but the lockstep grooves of the roses jam – its like a pre-recorded band …simply astounding.

    changed my life yet again.

  22. Matt Says:

    4/2 was the first live phish album i ever bought; first thing i ever heard from the band besides “farmhouse” and it stole my mind away from me. never been to a show because of my age (i was 9 in 98) but this post, miner, woah. it makes even me have the jitters. star lake and roo this summer will be my first shows and this recount makes the summer intangible; light years away.

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR THOUGHTS.

  23. Pencilneck Says:

    Man! I doon’t think I have these fab shows. Are they official LivePhish releases? Sound pretty dope.

  24. full tour: announced! Says:

    ^ yes…..a must own…the sound is superb! buy it and blast it loud!

  25. full tour: announced! Says:

    perhaps the best sounding livephish releases to date!

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