Tour Stop: Darien Lake

Darien Lake PAC, Darien Center, NY

Phish’s three stops at Darien Lake in their career have not only made the venue a legitimately Phishy destination, but all three shows illustrate, perfectly, the band’s musical development at that point in their career.  With performances in ’93, ’97, and ’00, the band had ample time between gigs to evolve into a completely different animal each time; every show providing a snapshot of Phish’s musical place in time.

The first show at Darien Lake’a amusement park setting, on August 7, 1993, saw a much younger Phish, amidst a peak month in their career, incorporating all of their eclectic musical trickery and zany humor into an absurdly intense show.  One needs to go no further than the opening of the second set to uncover this.  A newly-conceived “2001” upped the psychedelic-ante, blasting into a blistering “Mike’s” that carried a suicidal intensity that could only have been produced in ’93.  The band was jamming hard- like their lives depended on it- and the quality of the music was wholly overwhelming.  While squeezing in secret language cues, the band abruptly entered an enthusiastic rendition of “Kung,” and a return to “Mike’s” that had the place blowing up with musical fireworks.  “Speedjazz” at its finest, the band was ultimately precise and shredding with a purpose on this evening.

Darien Lake PAC

Typical of their insane month of August ’93, defined by breakneck jazz-rock psychedelia, the show also included dense, layered adventures in “Stash,” “Antelope,” and “Maze.”  Offsetting some of this crazed improvisation was a segue into the reggae rhythms of “Makisupa” out of an unfinished “Stash,” a relaxing and groovy ride through a first set “Reba,” and a serene second-set stop in “McGrupp.”  Additionally, many compositions stood at the top of their game during this month, and on this night, the band threw down “Llama,” “My Friend,” “Forbin’s > Mockingbird,” and “The Sloth.”  If someone asked you to illustrate what Phish sounded like in the Summer of ’93, this show would be a good starting point.  In Trey’s own words,this was “a roller coaster of the mind!”



If Phish’s first Darien Lake show was a portrait in time, their second gig in ’97 was an absolute definition.  Culminating their funk revolution of Summer ’97, Phish stopped in western New York before leading the circus up to Limestone for the very first time.  The theme of this show was the theme of this summer- raw, bass-driven funk.  Quoting Trey, “The funk was too deep,” in the second set, and the band never emerged from their Bozo-laced funked up adventure into Colonel Forbin’s Gamehendge.  Averting “Mockingbird” in favor of further groove, the band took a left turn into “Camel Walk.”

Ken Kesey

One of the finest outings of the summer was highlighted by one of the best “Harry Hoods” ever played.  Smack dab in the middle of the second set, this jam was the unfolding of a mystic fairy tale, and included a post-“Hood” jam that needs to be heard to be believed.  In addition to the heavily improvised second set, the first included a second-song “Fluffhead,” an early-funk-era “Free,” and a ferocious “Antelope” to close.  But beyond the divine music, this show held cultural significance as Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters joined the band onstage in a Wizard of Oz-type skit.  Kesey was looking for the “Bozos” who had been missing since 1995 (when Jerry died and Dead tour ended.)  Finding the Bozo’s on Phish tour, Kesey gave a stamp of approval to the Phish scene as the rightful inheritors of America’s counterculture.  (A detailed write-up of this show and its historical significance can be read here.)



Fast-forward to the year 2000;  Phish was on their final tour as they passed through Darien Lake one more time.  Though the band’s energy and creativity was on a decline at this point, you could never tell from listening to this show.  One of 2000’s most impressive efforts, 9.14 turned out so well that it wound up mastered as a Live Phish release.  The no-brainer highlight of the evening was the colossal mind-fuck that emerged out of “Drowned.”  Delving into abstract psychedelia and ambient madness, this was arguably the craziest and most “out-there,” terrorizing, and successful jams of the fall- all wrapped into one.   Accessing alien atmospheres during this mind-bending excursion, this jam illustrated the ’99-’00 millennial exploration of abstract soundscapes, an element of the band’s creative direction during these years.


Segueing from an epic “Drowned” into a dark “Crosseyed and Painless,” the band combined the two covers to create a definitively dirty forty-five minutes of millennial Phish.  Beyond this central section of the show, we were treated to an incredibly energetic first set that opened with a “Punch,” “Reba” combo, with the latter being a choice version.  After a mid-set “Carini,” the band ended with a smoking “Oh Kee Pah > Suzy” that included a dynamic funk explosion after the song’s natural conclusion.

Looking back on the theatrics Phish has pulled off under the circus tents of Darien Lake, it is no surprise that the community is amped for the band’s return.  Coming during the final four shows of the tour, you can be sure Phish will be firing on all cylinders when they pull into the amusement park this August, and something tells me this is a can’t-miss show.  If the band’s history at Darien Lake is any indication, this will likely be a highlight of Summer ’09.


8.7.93 Darien Lake, NY < LINK

8.7.93 Darien Lake, NY <  TORRENT LINK

I: Llama, Bouncing Around the Room, Poor Heart, Stash > Makisupa Policeman, Reba,  Maze, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Famous Mockingbird, Cavern

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Mike’s Song > Kung > Mike’s Song > TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > The Sloth, Sparkle, My Friend My Friend, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Purple Rain, Run Like an Antelope

E: Carolina, La Grange

Source: AUD (FOB)>AKG460b/ck61>Custom Preamp>Sony D10>Sony D7


R1’s DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY (Written by contest winner, R1)

7.21.98 Desert Sky, Phoenix, AZ < LINK

Desert Sky Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ

“The fellas ate their Wheaties before this one. This is a high-energy Phish show.  “AC/DC” opens the first set forcefully and “Fluffhead” keeps the juice pumping.  “Tube” brings the funk and “Antelope” closes the set with more of the unbridled power.


This second set is straight nasty.  Trey simply rips the shit out of the first portion of the “Mike’s” jam before things slow down a bit and get seriously funkified. Mike is throwing around Molotov cocktails, as the band fully locks in, slowly building, with Page moving from clav to piano, as Trey just relentlessly assaults our ears and minds.  The always natural-sounding segue into a bopping “Simple” is followed by a beautiful evolution into the debut of “Bittersweet Motel.” “Weekapaug” ripens pretty gently before Trey begins to dig in and the band speeds up, with Fish keeping up a blistering beat. Another highlight of the set, “Ghost” follows a steady upward trajectory along Rage Mountain, before cooling out and strutting into Taj Mahal’s “She Caught The Katy”, featuring some nice organ from Page.”

I: AC/DC Bag, Fluffhead, Roggae, Tube, Sparkle, Cavern, Frankie Says, Run Like An Antelope

II: Mike’s Song  > Simple > Bittersweet Motel* > Weekapaug Groove, Brian and Robert, Ghost > She Caught the Katy**,  Funky Bitch

E: Sleeping Monkey, Rocky Top

*First time played **Last played 04-29-87, 862 shows before.

Source: B&K 4011 > Lunatec V2 > Apogee AD-1000 > HHb Portadat @ 48k

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