Phish’s Japan tour of 2000 came right on the heels of Big Cypress and Radio City; an incredibly exciting time in Phish history. Still carrying the musical and emotional momentum that crested in the Everglades, Phish took off to the Pacific for their first tour of the Land of the Rising Sun. Greeted by a prepared legion of Japanese heads- with lot shirts, mushrooms, and hash to share- the band and their American fans were happily surprised by the graciousness and enthusiasm of the Japanese Phish culture. Much of the musical focus of this tour has centered on the other-worldly Fukuoka show that transformed into one the strongest LivePhish releases to date. However, the band was on fire all week long, producing more mind-numbing music than most people realize. Although Phish wouldn’t be around by the end of the year, these Japan shows showcased one of their last pre-hiatus bursts of creativity, producing perhaps the most interesting week of Phish2k. Below are three jams that you may or may not be familiar with- all of which absolutely smoke.
“Tweezer” 6.9.00, Tokyo II
On Air East, a tiny club hidden up side street in Shibuya, a shopping district of Tokyo hosted Phish’s first show of tour. Making our way through the intricate subway system to the tiny, bright yellow building, every step was surreal; tracking down a show in the middle of Tokyo! And as the second set started in this simple cement room, a dream came true. Wasting no time, Phish unveiled the long-awaited “Tokyo Tweezer”- it even sounded legendary in name. Phish knew as well as we did, that they had a moral imperative to greet the wildly psychedelic city with a blowout “Tweezer”- and this 30 minute introduction was one for the books.
The improv began with a distinctly laid-back feel, as the band got on the same page via some methodical grooves. Subtly building the relaxed rhythms into aggressive textures, led by walls of face-melting guitar dissonance, the band began to fire. A truly perspective-altering segment of music, the overflowing energy and people bounced off the walls and each other in this crowded demonic dungeon. As Trey let up, the band settled themselves, allowing everyone to momentarily gather their shit before delving far deeper.
A frightening walk down a mysterious alley morphed into an ambient exploration of a Japanese tea garden, as Phish seemingly incorporated the foreign culture into their improvisational concept. Patiently exploring this delicate realm, the band took their time to lift themselves from the meditative space. But when they did, the band arrived at an incredibly triumphant groove that took us sailing into the Tokyo night, where the future seemed as bright as the thousands of neon lights that flooded our vision.
“Down With Disease” 6.15.00, Big Cat
Phish pulled into Osaka for the final two nights of their short, but sweet, run splitting time between two different venues. The first night, the band played a club that was in a multi-level shopping plaza- everyone had to take an elevator up to the floor of Big Cat. The band had tore it up all week long, and when they opened the second set with “Disease,” the madness began all over again. Taking the composed jam into snarling territory, Phish had the pedal to the metal, driving the music with abandon.
Peaking the initial segment, the band dropped into a galloping groove led by Mike’s thumping bass lines. Trey layered some rhythm licks atop the pulsing canvas, and the band morphed into a “Crosseyed”-esque jam. Greatly diverging from the opening segment of music, Phish sat into this groove session with a purpose, adding, subtracting, and altering layers along the way.
But the most intriguing section of this “Disease” came last, as the rhythmic patterns transformed into eerie, unclassifiable music, sounding like the soundtrack to a Phishy haunted house. Some of the most original improv of the run, this section likened a musical narration of a ghost story, again led by Mike’s thick patterns. The rest of this piece is defined by spacey psychedelic exploration; some genuinely “other” type of stuff . Click play and take a ride.
“Runaway Jim” 6.1.6.00, Zepp Osaka
The final show of Japan was again centered around the second set opener – this time, “Runaway Jim.” Wasting little time in taking the song away from its character, Page, Mike, and Trey combined in a sublime harmony over Fish’s shuffling beat, instantly bringing majesty to the music. Phish has a way of infusing a bittersweet quality into their final jams of tour, and while this was only the beginning of the set, that emotional feel set in with the band’s complementary tones.
Hinting at the song’s theme as they carved their way beyond it, Phish’s virtuoso communication seemed routine by this point. Trey began to play a completely original melody, leading the band to more dainty pastures. Moving like a four-headed being, the locked-together music seemed to be generated from a single mind.
As the band rode this segment of music to its natural conclusion, they soon found themselves in some of the most intriguing music of the week. Peeling away sonic layers, Phish created a sparse palette for creation – an opportunity Fish seized to create a totally different beat. As the others drifted with him, the band got into a segment of completely original music. With creativity paramount and Trey on keys, this “Jim” evolved into some nouveau Phishtronica, yet another illustration of the outer realms that Phish explored throughout the Far East. This piece is right up there with their most unique outputs.
Jam of the Day:
“Piper” 6.10 Zepp Tokyo I
Sticking with the theme of Japan 2000, here is another scorcher.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
11.2.96 Coral Sky Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach, FL < Megaupload
The show that kick-started the second half of Fall ’96, Coral Sky also holds up as one of the best of the entire tour. Plucking “Crosseyed” from their Halloween set for the first time, the band took the cover for an extended ride before everyone had “waited long enough” and the band transitioned into a centerpiece “Antelope.” One of the classic segments of ’96 Phish, “Crosseyed > Antelope” saw the band adapt the percussive style of Remain In Light into their own music. Beginning to embark on a new musical path, Karl Perazzo stayed on for a few to help the boys along. “Yamar” and “Hood” are also standout versions. Included in this fileset is an additional pre-FM SBD of the second set.
I: Ya Mar, Julius, Fee, Cavern, Taste, Stash, Lizards, Free, Johnny B. Goode
II: Crosseyed and Painless > Run Like an Antelope, Waste, Harry Hood, A Day in the Life, Sweet Adeline
E: Funky Bitch*
Karl Perazzo played the entire show. *With Butch Trucks on drums and Fish on Trey’s mini-kit.
Aud Source: Unk / Pre-SM SBD of set II