The Return of Phish 2.0

It was on this weekend six years ago that Phish re-established themselves in the post-hiatus era.  As much of the Phish community flocked to Las Vegas for two nights at the beginning of the band’s winter comeback tour, many fans held lingering questions in their mind.  The Hampton shows left a bland flavor in mouths of most fans, and aside from those who saw the “Walls > Carini” at the LA Forum on Valentine’s Day, many wondered when, and if, Phish would regain their explosiveness.  Any unclarity was wiped away over the course of two demonstrative shows in which Phish musically exclaimed their return.

image-808998a843c311d7There was nothing like another spectacular weekend in Vegas for Phish to regain the confidence of their fan base. (Ironically, it would be a weekend in the same room about a year later that signaled the band’s imminent demise.)  Returning to the Thomas and Mack Center, the site of so many special nights, the band played with a creative dynamic and that sense of urgency that was so blatantly lacking in their four-night reverse New Years Run.  Weaving together lively sets all weekend long, Phish highlighted songs past and present, culminating with the much-loved second set of the 2.16.03 show; no set of the weekend better exemplified the meshing of the old and the new.  The opening segment of “Disease > Seven Below > Disease” popped with intensity while the band’s playing remained incredibly intricate.  With remarkable improv and seamless segues, this was one of the first big highlights of 2003, a year that would resurrect Phish and bring us all back to those mystery-laden adventures of yesteryear.

powerYet, what also emerged from this Vegas weekend was a new direction in the band’s sound and playing.  Not as squarely focused on groove as in the late-90’s, the band still anchored their playing in dance rhythms- though with far more texture and effect- creating a “space-like” quality to the music.  This new direction would be typified by such legendary Winter ’03 jams as the Cincy Gin (2.22), the Chicago and Nassau Tweezers (2.20 & 2.28), and the Worcester Ghost (2.26).  This style of dissonant-space-groove became magnified as the tour and year moved on, taking Phish’s jams to new and different places than ever before.

image-ba5346c0449611d7The colossal “Piper” that came later in 2.16’s second set also foreshadowed a post-hiatus trend; that of huge “Piper” jams.  On this night, the song would fly off the handle for 22 minutes, something that became the norm throughout the year as it produced continuous highlights.  Including musical references to the set’s “Seven Below” and a full “Disease Reprise,” this “Piper” soared in a new direction for the song- a launch pad for adrenalized, full-on improvisational adventures.  Like this Vegas version, every time “Piper” appeared in ’03, jaw-dropping  jams materialized.  A full-speed canvas that the band collectively shredded to bits, “Piper” became one of the best developments of ’03, fully realizing a transformation that began as the band wound down in 2000.

While the most impressive playing came within the weekend’s final set, the others shone as well.  2.15’s “Waves > Bug,” highlighted the Round Room composition for the first time since the comeback show, and the “Ghost” that followed absolutely smoked. (Potentially in response to a banner that hung from the second level image-ba5300d6449611d71proclaiming it had been 871 days since the previous version.)  The first set boasted hot versions of “Reba” and “Antelope,” while 2.16’s first set opened with a ferocious “Bowie > Catapult > Bowie,” and brought some amorphous new-school improv with the second “Round Room” ever.

This Vegas weekend back in ’03 was cause for universal celebration in the Phish scene, as they were finally back.  Both inspirational and playful again, the Phishy vibe had returned in a city where it had thrived for years.  These nights were the first building block for Phish 2.0, in a year that saw their playing evolve, exploring a plethora of new ideas.  This was the first step (well, second and third) down a path that would culminate in Miami’s magnificent New Years’s Run.

All photos from Vegas ’03



Over at, they are running a Hampton opener contest!  If you guess correctly, and we all know we have the right answer, you have a chance to win summer tickets. The top prize is one ticket to The Fox if you are the only person to guess the answer correctly!  Give it a shot; why not?  Details are on the site.



hampton_outsideFor those of you who won’t nearly be done with your night when the encore ends, there are Phish after-parties scheduled in the surrounding Hampton area each night.  If you are arriving on the 5th, the night before the shows begin, The Disco Biscuits will be passing through Norfolk on their winter tour.  After Friday’s Phish show, Bassnectar and Orchard Lounge will take The Norva Theatre’s stage starting at midnight.  Following both Saturday and Sunday’s shows, Steve Kimock and Friends will be playing late-night gigs at The Norva as well.  In addition, after Sunday’s show, UK psychedelic dub maestro, OTT, will be headlining a down-tempo electronica party at The Omni in Newport News.  Click on artists below to buy tickets now!

3.5 The Disco Biscuits @ The Norva, Norfolk, VA (Pre-Phish)

3.6 Bassnectar, EOTO, Orchard Lounge @ The Norva

3.7 Steve Kimock and Friends w/ Melvin Seals @ The Norva

3.8 Steve Kimock and Friends w/ Melvin Seals @ The Norva

3.8 Ott, Bluetech, Telepath @ The Omni, Newport News VA



10.26.96 Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC < LINK

1996-10-26gnA show that has always been overshadowed by the Halloween hubbub in Atlanta just a few days later, this stop in Charlotte had plenty to offer. With a second set filled with feel-good Phish anthems, the band took the most improvisational liberty with “YEM,” “Simple” and “Antelope.”  This night had an upbeat feel from the beginning, and was a solid effort amidst a relatively generic east coast run to begin Fall ’96.

I: Julius, Cars Trucks Buses, Wolfman’s Brother, Reba, Train Song, Character Zero, It’s Ice, Theme From the Bottom, Sample in a Jar

II: Down With Disease, You Enjoy Myself, Sparkle, Simple, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Waste, Run Like An Antelope

E: Fire

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81 Responses to “The Return of Phish 2.0”

  1. soulish Says:

    Kindred spirits indeed Matso, since I am nothing close to a lawyer.

  2. Matso Says:

    @ soulish –

    Unfortunately I am but nice to know that we’ve got a more special connection than just the same job.

  3. Billy Breathes Says:

    makes you wonder what Phish 3.0 will evolve as?

    any news on the new album/songs?

  4. Matso Says:

    A few more cents on labelling ‘jams’:

    I avoided this at all costs back when I was making tapes for folk. Part of the fun of getting tapes or seeing setlists or listening to shows afresh is that behind every song title could lie something totally amazing. It might just look like a mid-set Yamar, but you won’t know until you bother to dive in (eg. 8/2/03).

  5. SOAM Says:

    Second night Deer creek 96

    big phat bag.

  6. JMAN926 Says:

    Matso – what type of law and where?

  7. Matso Says:

    Corporate and London, UK.

    If only the people I work with knew that I once sported a thick beard and ate mushrooms in a field with 80,000 in a backwoods nowhere called Limestone… 😉

  8. JPhishman Says:

    I had a Phish dream last night that I was late for the show and got in just as the band kicked into Alaska….. Not sure what venue I was at but it was small. I have had multiple dreams of this particular small venue too. I think it only exists in my mind but who knows….. Maybe I will have serious deja vu when they play Alaska at the Fox…..

  9. verno329 Says:

    @ matso

    being kindred spirits with soulish isn’t all its cracked up to be, trust me.

    and I agree with you about labeling jams and for the same reasons; i avoid it at nearly all costs; it also makes it nice when I load up a show I haven’t heard in a while onto one of my mp3 players (shut up soulish!) and get surprised with a long Chalkdust or something

  10. Asher Says:

    Mr. Miner, thanks for the words on Phish 2.0. I was not on the bus for that chapter in their life. But I’ve definitely been feeling the need to explore what I missed as version 3.0 approaches. Vegas ’03 sounds like a great place to start. What other 2.0 shows should be required listening? Anybody out there have some favourites to recommend?

  11. Davey Says:

    Loving Page on that Simple > McGrupp

  12. lot rat Says:

    17 days


  13. elbows Says:

    Mr. Miner: Thanks for this post. It seems like we’re on the same page, because in the last week or so I’ve started ‘tapering’ off my usual 93-97 listening habits, and until Hampton have decided to listen only to post-hiatus Phish. Yeah, part of this decision is so i don’t be dissapointed, walking into Hampton with a 94 Bowie in my head; but I also want to get back to where they left off, where they were, where the music was, in order to be a part of this exciting continuum unfolding.

    I caught L.A, Chi-Town, and Cincy(2) on that winter tour. What I remember most was the energy in Cincy: the place was going nuts. And what always blows my mind is the Bach tease Trey throws into the beginning of the Cincy 2001; it just fits so perfectly; it throws the astronauts helment onto the classical composer; cool shit.

  14. elbows Says:

    J Phishman:
    Nice dream! I love Alaska; unlike a lot of their newer material, this song really just seems ‘phishy’ to me, with it’s blend of goofy, off-beat lyrics and fractured groove.

    Anyhow, I’ve been hearing lots lately about Phish dreams. It’s clear that the boys have once again tapped into our collective unconscious. It’d be cool if Phish, like the Dead (sorry for the comparison) did some sort of groupthink experiments. Or, if Mr. Miner, did a post on Phish dreams, with everybody submitting their own dreams. I dunno, it just seems like a fun thing to explore.

  15. SOAM Says:

    You should just go to alaska and see if they show or even better start a cover band and play sweet home alaska..fucking alaska

    who’s got the latest on rehearsals-whats this about Trey/Clapton combo recording shit I’m hearing-the last thing we want is for trey to turn into the incredible bore old god is. Clapton stay away from Trey. youi either rock or smoke ____!

  16. Congressman Says:

    Hey Miner,
    Are you Admitting to another absence from a phish show or were you one of those at the Forum “Who saw the Walls>Carrini”… Has that been Addressed?

  17. Brian T. Bowman Says:

    Yeah, what is the latest on them practicing????????

    I can’t believe we haven’t gotten anything out of the new camp yet except for the ticket shenanigans press release.

    Can I get a sentence, phrase, or paragraph guys? A joke about Fishman? I’ll take anything…

  18. SOAM Says:

    The rehearsals are so intense trey pushed mike down a flight of stairs after he fucked up on jiboo, just like in sausalito in ’66 when Jerry threw Phil down the stairs and said “you play, motherfucker”

  19. Davey Says:

    Hey Miner, I was wondering if you could put that 7.24.93 Mansfield show back up or send me a link to it. My internet was not downloading anything that day and it’s one of the summer 93′ I haven’t picked up yet. Email is

  20. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ links are always active

  21. Davey Says:

    Restarted my computer and it worked. My Internet doesn’t like me very much.

  22. Jeff Says:

    Davey – that Simple is indeed all about Page.

  23. Congressman Says:

    Miner Pleading The 5th?

  24. JMAN926 Says:

    @Matso – BFT SC Insurance Defense. Yeah, same here re: beard…
    Glad to hear people are “listening” to 03. The winter run was quite tasty. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the piper from Gboro is concise, but texturally interesting.

  25. lot rat Says:

    Are they in VT, NY, or VA? Someone must have seen them around…its certainly possible they went undeground and are practicing in a cave in south america somewhere…

    Just reveived email….tix on the way

    Tough break with Mike getting tossed, but if he cant hold it together on Jiboo how are we gonna get through the complicated songs.

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