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. camman Says:

    i agree davey.. i rally think the ross will make a huge difference,, trey just seems hungry again…. i cant wait to see them drop a muther fucking atomic bomb at Bonnaroo…

  2. guyforget Says:

    Davey – good luck on a bank loan!! People can’t even get money to buy cars or houses, and you’re gonna go in there and be like “hey, can i get a 5K loan to go on tour with Phish?” Obama will have your ass arrested, and that bank shut down!! Hey, it’s worth a shot though 🙂

  3. camman Says:

    haha why would Obama have him arrested?

    those denver shows will be hard to pass up…

    fuck i hope i get some serous finical aid and scholarships for college so every extra dime i have can go towards seeing phish…

  4. A_Glide Says:

    No one even mentions Miami? It should definitely get a nod here as being a sick 4 night run

  5. Davey Says:

    I’ll just stroll in and be like
    “Dudes what’s up?”
    “Hello sir how are you today?”
    “I’m great! Thank you! My favorite band is TOTALLY back together and they are TOTALLY going on tour again. Actually it’s funny, that’s why I’m here.”
    “You’re here because your band is on tour? I don’t think I understand.”
    “Well you see, I need a lot of money to follow this band because, as you must already know, they are the chronic and you can’t just see one show and be done with it.”
    “Oh fisho’ braddah, let me crack that safe for you and totally give you a steezin loan. Don’t worry about payin it back though. If it’s for my numba one stunna’s Phish then it’s all gravy.”
    “Killer”

    *Takes $10,000 and get’s arrested for robbing a bank.

  6. JPhishman Says:

    Wow Miner, you have outdone yourself again. Your words re-hash musical moments more vividly than any I have ever read. I just watched 4/3 pretty recently…. EPIC!

    What if they imposed a 2 ticket limit? 1 ticket even? If you want in you have to want it bad enough to get the ticket yourself……. Just thinking out loud about how that would affect this ticket crunch.

  7. Pence Says:

    I just went on the live nation site and read a phish review…..

    I was skeptical when I first randomly wandered onto the page to buy Phish tickets. But then I saw all of these positive reviews by like minded individuals and I thought, “hey man, let’s rock”. Thank you for all these “jammin” reviews. I can’t wait to “whig out” and be “phunky phresh” with a rocking rock band. Thank you also to Live Nation, you run a tight ship there. This ticket buying experience could not have been smoother, “man”. “Peace.”

    What are you fucking kidding me.

  8. guyforget Says:

    nice one Davey!!
    Phishman, what do you mean you watched 4/3?

  9. Davey Says:

    silberchair has it on youtube.

  10. guyforget Says:

    Pence, i read that too, and i pictured some fucking jerkoffs in their marketing department totally laughing and having fun at our expense. i typically don’t condone domestic terrorism, but if TM & LN headquarters burned to the ground (wink, wink), i don’t think anybody would give two shits.

  11. camman Says:

    im definitely eating phish food ice cream

  12. camman Says:

    guyforget…. check the comments above.. i posted links to vids of the ENTIRE island tour enjoy man

  13. guyforget Says:

    i saw that, i didn’t realize it was the whole thing. i used to have a link to then entire run, on some web page but it’s no longer there..i just thought Phishman had some DVD or something..

  14. Clod Says:

    Have you seen Ticketmaster/Ticksetsnow response to Springsteen fiasco?

    http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/

    I apologize if this has already been posted.

  15. camman Says:

    yea man, have at it.. i hope you enjoy the vids

  16. Davey Says:

    It seems to me like a load of crap. They just do that refund thing so they can get the government off their back and keep ripping everyone but springstein fans off.

  17. Mike Says:

    The island tour is my favorite run in phish history. Every member of the band sounded at their best.

    Heres something to add to your rumor mill:
    10.30 and 10.31 in Albany, NY

    mark it

  18. Clod Says:

    It is annoying, but certainly not atypical, that it took the Bruce Springsteen ticket disaster/crash to elicit a response, while its been old news to Phish fans

  19. guyforget Says:

    with all due respect, it’s not really been that old of news, its’ only been for hampton, and this tour.

    Springsteen tickets, i have to believe are a lot higher demand than phish. Plus, they generate alot more revenue sine the face on them is alot higher.

  20. Davey Says:

    I think Clod was just saying that it sucks it took an act like The Boss to cause action when there should have been something done about it from the beginning. No matter how big the act, ripping people off is the same crime everyway you put it.

  21. camman Says:

    hey Mike.. where did you get those date from? legit or did you pull them from this air?

  22. guyforget Says:

    I totally agree 100% with Clod, but let’s give some credit to the Bruce fans who took action, wen to the NJ state legislature, and prompted a response. Perhpas we can do the same, or we can sit here and complain and not do anything. Action = reaction, let’s not just sit here and call it a mainstream vs. non-mainstream issue.

  23. camman Says:

    i agree guy.. but what can we do… ? i mean a service like ticketsnow isnt a bad idea…. becaues it does allow fans to get tickets.. but by no means should we be directed their when tickets are still available

  24. Davey Says:

    I think it is a mainstream vs. non-mainstream issue though because that senator might have been ripped off trying to buy his bruce tickets ya know? I could be totally wrong but it seems like more people in a power situation that could do something about it would like Bruce a little more than Phish. I don’t know many governors or senators that listen to Phish. Also as sad as it sounds, senators don’t really listen to “just another hippy” complaining about getting ripped off.

    On the other hand I drove back to my parents house not too long ago to protest the sale of southern Utah’s wilderness to oil companies and nothing came from the protest. But one of the guys there actually decided to do something about it, walked into the bidding house and made $410 Million in fake bids on the land to keep the oil companies from buying it. He’s in jail but the land is safe because he hiked up other peoples winning bids and they had to cancel the whole thing.

    Anyway, a guy with no power CAN do it. But he’s got to give up a lot more than a senator who got ripped off on his Boss ticket. Make any sense? Or just another rant?

  25. elbows Says:

    Dear Elbows,

    You’re a fucking idiot for missing the Island Tour…and I’ll never forgive you for it.

    Love,
    Elbows

    Guyforget…from many posts back…I agree completely on Lakewood in Atlanta (that was you defending it, right?) I’ve never seen a bad show there, and also had many interesting experiences, like a crackhead’s tooth falling out and into our van window as she was trying tell us where to park. It was sad, but strangely funny, too. And lakewood has one of the best lots I’ve ever been on.

    Bruce’s team wrote a great letter to LN…I wish Phish would’ve done the same. I hate to say it, but if they’re gonna play in the big leagues, then they gotta act like it. I’m not one of those folks who feels that Phish should come running everytime the fans encounter a problem, but this was serious, and they do have a responsibility to ensure that their consumers (in the basest sense) are treated fairly.

    I understand that Phish V.3 is all about keeping the stress levels down, and I’m all for that. But they can’t cop out in the face of something like this. What I worry about, however, is what message we’re sending them by complaining, even if are complaints are justified. I’m sure after Coventry the last thing they want is to hear another onslaught from unhappy fans. So…I think we should give them a while to iron out the kinks, the clusterfucks, etc. But if in a year there are still problems, I’ll be a little insulted.

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