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)

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

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

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

====

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

====

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!

====

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)

Tags: ,

215 Responses to “The Island Run: Nassau”

  1. Davey Says:

    Ya. Phish could probably get the ball rolling but like we said earlier. Less stress equals no mess.

  2. camman Says:

    I was there at Deer Creek back in 1995
    I think it was June maybe July
    But Jerry was still alive

    All the kids in that parking lot
    They tore that fence down
    And I blamed them
    For the second show getting cancelled.

    I really wanted to go
    I saved up all of my dough
    I didn’t go to any other shows
    And I got my tickets M.O.ed
    And I never missed a Deer Creek show
    From ’89 to ’95
    I was happy just to be alive
    On my yearly Indiana vacation

    But that was cut short by a bunch of jealous,
    party bashin’, buzz thrashin’, gate crashin’, stinky bastards

    And if you’re one of them
    And you hear this song

    Fuck you
    You cock sucking motherfucker

    Fuck You

    i love me some Keller Williams

  3. elbows Says:

    Definitely indoor shows. They just bring the heat, and the acousitcs (if it’s a good room) bounce around like mad. Summer shows are great, but they always have that sort of casual, party-like girlfiend-and-boyfriend cuddling together feeling. Fall and winter shows are serious business, not for the faint of heart.

    Guy forget: Ha! For some reason I’m always inducing regurgitation on other people…I don’t know what it is about me that makes others puke!

  4. Mike Says:

    camman–
    These are close to being confirmed. A friend of mine’s uncle works at the Times Union Center and said so, on top of that, the general manager of the times union center said that phish is in the process of booking shows in october. It’s also been all over phantasy tour. One person said that an albany sheriff said phish is booking those two nights.

    So i’d get your hopes up

  5. showhe Says:

    That’s why I’m stoked to have a few indoors mixed with the outdoors this summer….knoxville is going to be an interesting show…right before the roo…gonna be the shit!

  6. elbows Says:

    I think that Knox show will definitely be interesting. What a strange tour, huh? Typical sheds, two TINY theatres, a basketball arena, and an 80,000 person festival. Talk about all over the map. I’m happy because they seem to be doing what they want to be doing. It seems like they’ve been able to transcend the monotony they’ve been trapped in for so long, and play outside of the box a bit. I think this is necessary for the surivival of Phish.

  7. camman Says:

    i’ll be at those shows mike for sure im NEVER missing another halloween gig

  8. Davey Says:

    I’m kinda bummed i’m only going to be heading to outdoor only shows. DC and Alpine because I love indoor shows. It brings you into the show a little more. The lights are also contained and seeing them zoom across the crowd is great. But hopefully the lawns will be good enough to get my groove on for now.

  9. Davey Says:

    And by bummed I mean absolutely psyched. But still want to catch an indoor.

  10. guyforget Says:

    well you know what, and i would hate to “stress” the band members out, but with celebrity comes a certain bit of responsibility. Posting that apology on their website shows they acknowledge the problem. That’s great if they do something to fix it, if not, it’s an empty apology.

    And just so we’re clear, i didn’t try for any tix via LN because i knew i couldnt’ do the east coast thing, but i feel all of your pain, and with the impending west coast announcement, i’m just anticipating the same bullshit. thanks god for Miner and his ticket board.

    TM & LN – “Carini’s gonna get you”

  11. camman Says:

    i agree elbows.. i think from here on out phish will have odd tours like this…. and not 15 arenas lined up over the course of a month… the guys need some fresh air…

  12. guyforget Says:

    elbows, you made me laugh, not puke, kid. funny stuff.

  13. Selector J Says:

    Indoor shows are my favorite, too. General admission at an indoor place is the best way to see Phish. Indoors shows just immerse everyone in the energy. If you’re on the floor, it’s like a big dance party. If you’re in the seats, you get a bird’s eye view of all the commotion below. The lights shinning on everyone, you’re part of it. Plus, you don’t have to watch a jumbotron show Trey play rhythm while Page rips some nastiness on the clav.

    And the GA shows throw all that seat hierarchy out of the window. You want front row. Get there early. Wait in line. And haul ass. You’re there. You want Page side? You got it. You want some dancing room? There’s plenty. Just look around.. That’s one of the reasons Hampton is the best. Everyone is feeling good… They’re in the spot they want to be the energy is sky high from the gate.

    Very jealous of you Asheville bound folks. It’s going to be a mini-Hampton in that place. I wish every show was GA.

  14. guyforget Says:

    i like my shows just like i like my grass, indoor.

  15. gho2it Says:

    ^word

  16. General Zod Says:

    By theater standards, the Fox is massive

  17. guyforget Says:

    Short story: so, i’m driving down my street on the way home from work the other day, and there is a car pulled over on the side of the road, running, as i approach, i notice the plate says “PNUTBAG”. I’m like “sweet, i’m gonna stop and say what’s up to this dude”. As i approach, it was some teenage looking chick, like a punk rock chick. It totally threw me for a loop, so i kept going. Then i got to thinking, “man I wish Camman was in here, this would be right up his alley”

  18. Mulcahey Says:

    YO MINER!

    THANK YOU for the 4/2/98 STASH love… my favorite stash by far, i feel it gets highly overlooked in this epic run… i think it is one of the top jams

    i love the 4/3 roses, but its not my favorite, i think this and the twist from this run are the 2 i also put on in a pinch

    AWESOME!

  19. Selector J Says:

    Mulcahey… There’s a Roses you enjoy more than this one? Do tell.

  20. elbows Says:

    Guy: I know, I was just playing, about the puke thing. I’m sure all of us has at least one major missed-show regret, right? What’s yours? What’s that one show, run, tour that you opted out of, and are forever regretting? My other one is Starlake 2003. “Nah, it’ll be a tame show…we’ll get what we need from Camden (2) and IT.” Schmuck!

    “i like my shows just like i like my grass, indoor.”

    ^^^That’s gold.

  21. General Zod Says:

    just found this site….nice job. I saw over 170+ Phish shows, most between 1991 – 1993. My first was 4/4/90. My last show was 12/31/02.
    I am going to Great Woods (Mansfield)…managed to get through over the phone..a number not listed on the phish website. Funny how it all comes full circle in the midst of all this technology. I’m very excited about the show! Not sure why, but I’m really interested to hear how it will sound. I fear that the “experiments” of Asheville, Knoxville, and The Fox might backfire if too many ticketless tourheads turn up in those places and ruin the chances of future smaller venue stops. Let’s hope not!

  22. RobAins Says:

    Ugh, hadn’t thought about Deer Creek ’95 in a long time. I was at that show, and it was awful. Also narrowly missed getting a ride to that afterparty where the porch collappsed, killing the kid trying to stay dry underneath. Jerry getting Death Threats, Gate Crashers, everything….thank god Phish was able to make me want to go back to the Indiana Cornfields again.

    Rememeber the JumboTron announcements Phil would make at Giants Stadium about jumping the wall??? “Blah,blah blah, and besides, you can’t dance with a broken leg!”

    I think Pallin’s Trip is a “Third”, as in Haywood Jablowme III

  23. guyforget Says:

    11/21/97 i regret missing, because i had a chance to go, and turned it down and instead made the next night my first show. It was insanely rediculous, but had i been there the night before, it would have prepared me so much more for the 22nd. Just like 12/2/97 was my second show and i knew what i was in for (kind of!) Talk about a sick Ghost.

  24. camman Says:

    my missed show regret…

    the past 25 fucking years…

  25. elbows Says:

    Welcome, General Zod. I agree; I think a lot of Phish’s future rests on the behavior of the fans. Every Phish head should be forced to read the last few chapters of any Dead bio to know how ‘not’ to act, and learn the consenquences of seemingly small things that could blow up.

Leave a Reply