A Spellbinding Set

Posted in Summer '21, Uncategorized with the on August 5th, 2021 by Mr.Miner

Ascend Amphitheatre [Rene Huemer]

Every now and then, Phish crafts a perfect set of music. Such statements are filled with top-shelf improvisation from start to finish, contain an impeccable set list, and feature jams that are stylistically diverse, illustrating just how dynamic this quartet can be at the peak of the their powers. On Wednesday night in Nashville, Phish dropped one of these sets. Twenty-four hours after playing a modest show to open their twin bill in Tennessee’s capital, the band returned to the stage and knocked it out of the park in what has to be considered the best frame of music of their young summer tour.

At their best, Phish are master set crafters who create flowing musical experiences that bring their audience on a thoughtfully contoured journey. Their once drill-bit focus on set crafting has fallen by the wayside a bit in the 3.0 era. These fully realized sets still happen, but they are fewer and further between than in Phish’s hey day. A number of variables create requisite flow for such an artistic statement—set list, transitions, jam length, and musical contrast to name a few. Once again, the band’s second performance in Nashville’s provide an illustration of all of these elements.

Phish sparked the night’s musical fire with an incendiary take on “Mr. Completely.” The band members immediately sounded in sync as they splashed into this jam, and they built a spirited journey that ran the sonic gamut from clean, delicate and nuanced interplay to vigorous, heavily effected soundscapes. Navigating this piece with notable patience, the band members listened and responded to each other diligently.

Breaking out of a quiet ending of “Mr. Completely” with a raucous jolt into “Birds of a Feather,” Phish injected some straightforward rock and roll into the set before stepping right back into adventurous jamming with “Ghost.” A creeping version of the late-‘90s groove machine saw Trey feature his Leslie cabinet to voice his contributions, giving the jam a notably eerie feel. Only towards the end of the piece did he pop back into his clean tone as the band began to consider their next move. It sounded like Mike and Fish initiated the pocket of “Bathtub Gin” well before the band moved into the song, but Trey responded with a tease of “Mr. Completely,” possibly suggesting a return to the set opener. Fish then went along with Trey, bringing back the song’s signature rhythm, but the band didn’t commit, continuing their open-ended jamming. Minutes later, however, they executed a smooth group-wide segue into “Gin” without breaking stride.

A fiery, guitar-led group romp through “Bathtub Gin” provided a stark juxtaposition to the more outward playing heard in the set’s opening two excursions. The clean, largely effect-less interplay invigorated the set with an rollicking energy that really hit the spot.

The final hit of “Gin” transformed into the opening hit of a syrupy “2001” with a tempo that likened the slower grooves of Deodato’s original composition and the Phish’s earliest takes on it. The thickness of the groove even translated through the audio stream, which means that shit was pure goo on the dance floor.

But even after all this action, the best was yet to come as Trey called for the set closer of “Split Open and Melt.” “Split” saw quite the renaissance in 2018, highlighted by the mind-bending epics from The Gorge, Hampton, Las Vegas and MSG. And Nashville’s master work belongs right along side these in the annals of all-timers. At its best, a “Split” jam will blur the line between pure dementia and tight cohesion, as its odd time signature, dark tonal color, and penchant for abstraction create a disorienting psych-laced adventure. This version did all that and then some. The set closing jam began with very intricate and connected interplay in which one could easily follow the conversation, though it ultimately reached a symphonic crescendo where the band collectively played one sound, muddying the boundaries of their four individual contributions into a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. This jam popped out of my speakers live, and held up just as well on multiple relistens —this is a truly elite Phish and the perfect exclamation point on a monstrous set of music.

As the first leg of Summer Tour 2021 reaches its halfway point this weekend, Phish has fully regained their footing after 17 months away. It feels like Nashville’s second performance is ushering us into the second stage of this comeback tour, where the sheer excitement of their return of a crowd has moved through the band and they are back to business in earnest. It is an exciting prospect to think of what the next week plus will bring to fruition, especially as they prepare to step into the hallowed cornfields of Deer Creek. The round two bell is ringing and we are here for it.

I. Evolve, Free, Ocelot, My Sweet One, Cool Amber and Mercury, Halfway to the Moon, Water in the Sky, Theme From the Bottom, Suzy Greenberg, Fluffhead

II. Mr. Completely > Birds of a Feather, Ghost -> Bathtub Gin > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Split Open and Melt

E. Character Zero



I am writing this piece in the air as I travel from the Bay to Indianapolis for Deer Creek and beyond. I made my decision before this show happened, but if there was ever anything to support it, this set was certainly it. I will wear a mask at the shows, first and foremost, by choice, but just as importantly, to respect the band’s wishes. If I feel comfortable at these shows, I will also be going to Hershey and Atlantic City. Thus, I am not sure if I will continue writing or at what pace. But it has certainly been fun to revisit this space after so many years away, so I suspect I will continue in one form or another.  Hope to see some of you out there this weekend!


Posted in Summer '21, Uncategorized with the on August 4th, 2021 by Mr.Miner

Ascend Amphitheatre [Rene Huemer]

After bursting from their pandemic-induced hiatus over the weekend as if shot out of a cannon, Phish exhaled on Tuesday night, playing a solid but unspectacular show to kick off their two nights in Music City. One had to expect some element of a hangover after three monumental efforts over tour’s initial four nights, thus I don’t suspect this is much more than a speed bump in the road of summer tour. Each of the band’s second-set improvisational swings bested the one before, culminating with an outstanding, meditative take on “Light” in which they achieved a fully flowing conversation bubbling with ideas. Alpharetta’s “Tweezer” was a hard act to follow, and while fans were primed to digest another epic, Nashville’s opener saw the band regress to the mean a bit.

Following the peak of its composed jam, “No Man’s” pushed forth into some collectively crafted, space-aged textures, but the jam possessed a searching quality without ultimately cohering in any true direction. “Ruby Waves,” however, was played with notably more gusto and purpose, growing into an engaging and satisfying piece of full-band improv. After a choppy and unexpected mid-set coupling of “Possum” and “When the Circus Comes to Town,” Trey decided to give the band one more swing at connecting—and they did.

“Light’s” jam immediately sounded more cohesive than the band’s previous two attempts, and took off in earnest as Trey then Page echoed an eclectic bass offering from Gordeaux. The band reached a different level of communication in this passage, and the rolling, repetitive nature of Fish’s rhythms and Mike’s bass lines created a cerebral tone to the music. Trey played his best leads of the night within “Light,” providing a current to the jam that carried the listener along an inner path. Phish allowed this piece to breathe, leaving more space in the music than in “No Man’s” and “Ruby Waves,” and, as a result, they were able to step back and really listen to one another.

The band capped the set with a standard run through of “You Enjoy Myself.” I am sure it was fun in person, but from the sidelines—outside of “Light”—night one in Nashville just didn’t pop with the same energy or ideation that we heard over the weekend. But such is the nature of human endeavors. Tours always contain fluctuations in output and while we all wanted to see Phish crank out 25-30 minute jams every night, that felt more like a pipe dream than a real possibility. I predict that night two will be more musically significant as the band ramps up towards their three-night stand in Deer Creek this weekend.

I. Punch You in the Eye, Strawberry Letter 23, Sample in a Jar, Halley’s Comet > Backwards Down the Number Line, Undermind, Divided Sky, Mull*, It’s Ice, About to Run, The Squirming Coil

II. Party Time, No Men In No Man’s Land > Ruby Waves > Possum, When the Circus Comes, Light, You Enjoy Myself

E. Loving Cup


Back to the Freezer

Posted in Summer '21, Uncategorized with the on August 2nd, 2021 by Mr.Miner

Ameris Amphitheatre [Rene Huemer via Phish]

Anyone following Phish’s first week of tour could feel a Sunday night “Tweezer” coming from a mile away. And given the band’s current proclivity for extended jaunts through their second-set centerpieces, one could only imagine what might happen if these two things collided. When they did, the results were drool-worthy. The band set shifted into high gear and let it rip for over 30 minutes straight, crafting a full-throttle epic that has the Phish world buzzing.

Jams this long usually have an ebb and flow to them with distinct thematic sections and movements, but aside from one gorgeous synth-drenched, quasi-ambient passage early in the jam, this “Tweezer” became a relentless groove fiesta through and through. Fishman really pushed the pace and drove this jam, maintaining hard-hitting, punchy rhythms for a mind-numbing length of time. Coupled with Mike’s otherworldly bass work, the two of them maintained a dynamic pocket for far longer than we usually hear. This foundation of groove provided a playground for Page and Trey to play liquid lead lines and funk-laced dance patterns that kept the vibe at 11 for the entirety of the monstrosity.

Though there are subtle shifts within the jam, once the band is in the zone—which happens after a blatant tease of “Esther” in the 15th minute—they achieve a one-minded flow state for the duration in which they channel groove ambrosia directly from Mt. Olympus. During this second half of the jam, it sounds as if their minds shut off and they reach improvisational zen, allowing the music to move through them from the subconscious realm out into the world.

Much like this “Tweezer,” Phish’s three mega-jams thus far in tour, have been more straight forward and energetic rather than abstract and deep. One can hear the band’s enthusiasm and emotion dripping from each melody, beat and bass line. It feels as though they are trying to make up for time lost over the past year and a half, jamming more with instinct and inspiration rather than calculation or thought. Their impassioned improv is jumping off the stage and translating loud and clear, even through audio streams and webcasts far and wide. It almost sounds like the band members have just been released from captivity and are re-discovering what fun it is to jam together. Wait…

It will be interesting to see how second-sets develop moving forward. Will the band’s improv largely come in these larger-that-life packages or will it become more evenly dispersed throughout second sets to which we are accustomed? I’m not saying one is preferred but just observing a shift in contour. Though their have been secondary jams that have encompassed the improvisational fallout from these main events, aside from “Prince Caspian” these supporting excursions haven’t really reached original places. “Twist” kept the jamming going last night, and was certainly engaging if less than groundbreaking. “Piper,” however, did reached some inventive, collectively-built spaces by its ending. The main improvisation of each past three shows, however, has primarily come via the macro-jams of “Carini,” “Chalkdust,” and “Tweezer.”

Sunday night’s vibe was set early on with the one-two punch of “Set Your Soul Free” and “Reba.” “Set Your Soul Free” reached a blistering, feel-good peak that foreshadowed what would follow throughout the night. A particularly slow take on “Reba” and a creative version of “Jibboo” both featured very patient interplay between Trey and Page and carried the clean, emotive soloing that is quickly characterizing much of Trey’s post-pandemic work. Each also provided cathartic peaks that pointed to the more monumental ones that would come in “Tweezer” after setbreak.

That was quite the comeback weekend for the Phish from Vermont! With a full-slate of shows scheduled for this summer and fall, it feels like the sky is the limit for the band right now, as they are—in essence—just getting warmed up. And if crushing 30+ minute “Tweezers” is what they are doing on their first weekend back, what is to come at Deer Creek, Atlantic City and beyond? Time will tell. But first, a stop in Nashville.

I. Buried Alive > Set Your Soul Free, Reba, My Friend, My Friend, 555, Kill Devil Falls, Gotta Jibboo, Sparkle, Thread, Meat, Run Like an Antelope

II. More, Tweezer > Twist > Piper > Farmhouse, Waste, First Tube

E. Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise

Hitting Stride

Posted in Summer '21, Uncategorized with the on August 1st, 2021 by Mr.Miner

Ameris Amphitheatre [Rene Huemer via Phish]

Phish’s third show back from their pandemic-forced hiatus was filled with fiery improvisational highlights, notably anchored by the impeccable guitar playing of our favorite six-string assassin. Armed with his new “4.0 Guitar,” Trey’s tone and dexterity really stood out tonight as he took the helm on most all of the band’s excursions, guiding the music with clean, emotive soloing. Tonight’s shining example of this style of play came in the band’s marathon take of “Chalkdust” that opened the second set. Throughout the jam, Mike and Fish shaped an uptempo, chugging rhythmic course not unlike many “Chalk” jams of lore, while Trey’s inspired guitar narration pushed the plot of this jam into enchanting pastures—a golden thread woven through a captivating musical journey. And when he sometimes backed off into rhythm playing, Page was right there to carry the melodic path with an array of his new school sounds. Though the synergy of the band underlined the entirety of this piece, their one-minded play really popped in its second half where Phish navigated some authentically original textures and Trey’s inventive, melodic eruption reached its pinnacle.

While “Chalkdust” was the jewel of the show and of Trey’s individual showcase, the most boundary-pushing improv of the show came two songs later. After a swanky version of “Steam” came out of “Chalkdust,” the band started up what seemed to be a cool down interlude of “Prince Caspian.” But clearly feeling the flow, the band blew out the jam into a drone, collective sound sculpture that is right up my alley. Hearkening back to their millennial sound of ’99, Phish employed layers of distortion, feedback and blurred, shoegaze effects to craft a sonic exploration that drastically veered from the clean, melodic vibe that has characterized most of their improv of this young tour. Page unfurled more of his modern synth offerings that lent an almost prog-rock element to the tonal psych-art. I really dug this mid-set surprise and would absolutely love to hear further jaunts into this realm this summer.

Phish came out with guns blazing in Alpharetta, playing an improv-laden first set filled with choice bangers. Absent of filler material and stacked with classics and crowd favorites, the opening set illustrated the band’s burgeoning confidence while immediately gripping their audience. When Trey’s playing is really on point, it elevates the band’s structured jamming, creating engaging excursions that are otherwise susceptible to the generic. Examples of this came in the set’s final pairing of “Stash” and “Bathtub Gin,” the two brightest highlights of the first half for me. His playing in “Stash,” specifically shone. Trey, and the band as a whole, built momentum throughout this set, coming out of the gate strong with “Sand” and an extended run through “Everything’s Right,” but gaining cohesion and tightness as they progressed through the opening frame. Trey’s precision with the intricacies of “Foam” provided a signpost of what was to come from him throughout the rest of the show.

As expected, it has not taken long for Phish to find their way again. Possessing telepathy like few bands in history, the band has gotten right back to business and is excelling within days of hitting the stage. After playing together for over 30 years, what’s a year and a half?

I. Sand, Everything’s Right, Turtle in the Clouds, Maze, Destiny Unbound, Foam, Stash, Bathtub Gin

II. Chalk Dust Torture > Steam > Prince Caspian > Golgi Apparatus, AC/DC Bag , Shade, Mike’s Song > Silent in the Morning > Weekapaug Groove

E: A Life Beyond The Dream, Cavern

Letting Loose

Posted in Summer '21, Uncategorized with the on July 31st, 2021 by Mr.Miner

Oak Mountain Amphitheatre [Greg Marcus]

The tentative band we saw in Arkansas was nowhere to be found on Friday night in Alabama, as Phish came out far more relaxed and played a really good show, taking a strong step forward towards regaining their groove. The change of vibe was palpable throughout the first several songs of the night, highlighted by “The Final Hurrah,” prompting Trey to call for “Ghost” in the middle of the first set. The late-’90s groove vehicle quickly transformed into a cohesive, melodic-ambient exploration that stood out from anything played on night one of tour for it’s single-minded purpose. Page—mixing his Rhodes and synths—and Trey hooked up to collectively paint an impressionistic top half of the jam as Fish—switching up the rhythm and sometimes eliminating the backbeat—teamed with Mike lending an amorphous feel to the excursion. I love this style of Phish.

The buzz of the show, however, will certainly be the longest-ever take on “Carini.” Pushing the piece to 25 minutes, the band unleashed a straight ahead groove escapade that must have had everyone at Oak Mountain buckwilin’. As the jam exited its structured framework, Trey surfed his bandmates’ collective rhythmic wave with extended blues-based soloing that just wouldn’t quit. But when Trey finally gave up the reins, the band entered more varied music textures that pushed the music into edgier, three-dimensional territory. After they briefly passed through these experimental waters, Trey cast in his line and hooked them out into a soaring, blissful peak for which modern Phish has become famous. It felt like this was the first time in the opening couple shows of tour that the band fully dropped their inhibitions and let the music flow through them without concern as to where they were heading, resulting in a catharsis of built up pandemic tension.

I gotta take a moment to comment on the “Martian Monster” that followed up “Carini.” Ever since it’s Halloween debut in 2014, I’ve been waiting for Phish to place this piece in the second set and really have at it. It’s potential is astronomical. Though they didn’t blow it open here—not by a long shot—they got loose and improvised more than usual. As Trey laid some thick ’97-esque rhythm chords into the groove, I thought shit was about to truly pop off. Nonetheless, it was great to see the band inject some playfulness into the all-too-static single, and hopefully there will be more second set versions to come this run.

“Golden Age” saw the band fully synced and the funk jam possessed some extra teeth tonight as Trey alternated between lead and rhythm playing. It seemed as though it might be moving into deeper territory just before it wound down into “Mist.” “Blaze On” and “Hood” rounded out the non-stop set that certainly bodes well for the upcoming weekend in Alpharetta. “Ghost” foreshadowed what I believe will be the next step in Phish’s quick return to improvisational virtuosity, moving out as opposed to straight ahead. The band began this re-development with Arkansas’ “Simple” and furthered the process with “Ghost.” Be on the lookout for Atlanta’s “Tweezer” and “Mercury” to further this arc.

Having been to so many of these shows over the years, its kinda funny and cool how I can more or less have the experience at home—totally sober and eating dinner and what not. And if even if I’m not actually having the experience, I can viscerally feel the experience I’d be having were I there. I can picture the people I’d be next to smiling and laughing, and feel the energetic contours of the show. Listening at the same time the show is happening, which I did tonight, helps facilitate this for sure. Over the past couple years, I have found that the mental buildup of missing shows is far worse than the actual experience. As it is happening, it is just not that big of a deal. That said, I’ve yet to miss a truly monstrous “Tweezer,” so talk to me after that happens. But in the end, the show unfolds and then it is over—c’est la vie. It is certainly easier knowing the shows are going on in hot spots of an ongoing pandemic, but nonetheless, like so much of life, it’s all in your mind.

Atlanta Phish rarely disappoints, and this weekend feels like it will deliver big time. Stay safe out there!



And We’re Off…

Posted in Summer '21, Uncategorized with the on July 29th, 2021 by Mr.Miner

7.28.21—Walmart Amphitheatre [Rene Huemer via Phish]

Well, I was expecting something a bit more explosive than that. Though the band looked overjoyed to be onstage again and played a perfectly palatable opening set, they sounded less than cohesive after set break as they dipped their toes back into open improvisation. I suppose that was to be expected after such a long layoff, but I figured their preparation plus the magnitude of the moment would cause some sort of Phish magic to click and they would drop a comeback show that would have the community abuzz. Instead, the tour opener in Arkansas likened a welcome home party rather than a serious musical undertaking, likely super fun for those in attendance, but somewhat short of engaging from a distance. That said, I think the jamming will come around quite quickly, and I expect that the band will be far tighter come Atlanta.

“Simple” provided the most engaging and ambitious music of the night for me, as the band dug through some dark and abstract terrain en route to a pretty unique jam. Though the band members explored the same sonic wormhole throughout this passage, they didn’t always sound fully connected while navigating it, sometimes presenting individual ideas that didn’t completely mesh. I really dug the melodic motif Trey laid down at the beginning of the jam and continued to reference throughout in various tones and contexts. I liked the direction of this jam quite a bit and hope to hear more improv that covers similar musical ground.

“Disease” was fine but nothing out of the ordinary. This jam didn’t progress much in any narrative sense, though it seemed to be finally getting somewhere in the minute or so before they moved into “Simple.” Page employed some synth-heavy sounds towards the beginning of the piece that could lend some nice textures to the mix this summer. It was great to see the band attempt two full-on, quasi-patient segues, from “Disease” into “Simple” and even more interestingly, from “Simple” into “Fuego.” I liked the go-get-em attitude right out of the gate, and it bodes well for an adventurous spirit this summer. Beyond the opening two-song sequence, the second set didn’t really offer much to write home about.

Phish did seem totally proficient in their structured jamming in pieces such as “Tube,” “46 Days,” “Wolfman’s” and “Plasma,” all which provided smooth and satisfying groove-based excursions. So their somewhat clunky open jamming wasn’t a matter of chops, but communication which makes perfect sense after they were all sequestered alone for the better part of a year and a half. I really don’t see this as an issue at all though, as they should easily kick this rust off within another show or two.

The question of what song the band would open the post-Covid era with circulated amongst fans for the better part of the past year. I had moved through several stages of predictions, and at one point long ago, when i first heard it, I figured they’d open with “I Never Needed You Like this Before.” It just made too much sense from a lyrical perspective. I had since moved on from that thought and posited they’d go with a well-known favorite to get the crowd instantly amped, but as it turned out, they decided to send a musical message of dedication to their fan base with Trey’s pandemic-scribed rocker. It seemed to work well, especially as they followed it up with the adrenalized injection of “Tube.” The show got underway quickly and the band’s new era was off and running.

In terms of my own experience, I used the webcast audio to listen to most of the show without the video, only watching the very beginning of set one and the very end of set two. The video really throws everything off for me, bringing in a visual element that has never been a part of my Phish experience in the live setting. I have never really looked at the stage during shows, and watching the close up video feed is really jarring for my senses, causing me not to hear the music in the same way at all. Subsequently, I’ve never gotten into Phish videos of any kind—official or Team Hood DVDs, webcasts, Dinner and a Movie archival videos—they don’t do anything for me and detract from my listening experience. I’d much rather just listen to a show as a means of revisiting it. Moving forward in this experiment, I won’t be watching webcasts to experience the music. If I am able to tune in live, it will be through an audio-only feed, though due to my paternal responsibilities, I will be listening to the shows after the fact more often than not.

I will say that I thought I’d be seriously thinking of changing my mind about Atlanta after tonight’s show, but after seeing the crowd, I do not think I’d be comfortable around that many people in such tight quarters right now. It didn’t look fun to me in the present climate. So I will move forward with listening from afar for the time being. I hope all who were there had a blast!

Hello Again

Posted in Uncategorized with the on July 28th, 2021 by Mr.Miner

This is a new era of Phish. Call it what you will, but there is no doubt that we are entering the next phase of the band’s sprawling and illustrious career. After 19 months off due to the pandemic, the band will step on stage tonight—in Arkansas of all places—to rev up the engine once again. And I won’t be there. I am not feeling fully comfortable with pandemic Phish at the moment. I feel there are too many distractions and peripheral stressors for me to close my eyes, let go and immerse myself in the expansive, boundary-less experience that I have come to know and love over the course of 26 years. I was planning on going to Atlanta, Nashville, Deer Creek and Atlantic City this run, and for now, it seems that I am going to be skipping until Deer Creek at the earliest. I have traditionally distanced myself from the shows while I am not there, because after seeing every show from for so long, missing them was always a bitter pill to swallow. I don’t webcast the shows and sometimes I don’t even listen to them right away. But it feels different this time since I am opting out rather than not going because I am unable, and so I am thinking perhaps that I will try to engage with the music differently while being home.

Subsequently, I am thinking I may write some thoughts on this site for the first time in a long time. I won’t try to review the shows—that would make no sense without being there, as Phish is a live experience. But perhaps some stream of consciousness thoughts about the music, the jams, the new songs as I digest them from afar. I am not sure what form this might take, and I might start and feel like it isn’t going anywhere and bail right away, but maybe it will help me metabolize this new experience as it unfolds. We will see what happens. Stay tuned.

Transforming a Tradition

Posted in Uncategorized with the on October 31st, 2020 by Mr.Miner


After Trey unleashed a soaring Duane Allman-esque solo to punctuate a standout version of “Down With Disease” in Reading, Pennsylvania on October 29th, the final show before Halloween 2013, the rumor that Phish would cover The Allman Brothers’ Eat A Peach seemed to be coming to fruition. The band had been featuring, bluesy, Allmans-like peaks to their jams all tour, and this one felt like the tipping point towards their forthcoming Halloween costume. But while fans were busy scouring jams for clues as to what might transpire in Atlantic City’s cover set, the band was hatching another plan altogether.

Since coming back in 2009, Phish had delivered two scintillating Halloween sets, covering a pair of double albums from the annals of classic rock history—The Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street” and Little Feat’s “Waiting for Columbus.” After skipping fall tours in 2011 and 2012, the band found itself amidst a stellar fall run in 2013 as they prepared to descend on Boardwalk Hall for their second Halloween party down the shore in New Jersey.

Keeping everyone guessing until the last moment, fans were thrown a curveball when they stepped into the venue on Friday night, receiving a Phishbill announcing that the band would perform Wingsuit—“an album from the future”—a set of twelve unheard, original songs. Phish would debut a host of new material—half of which they had written together after listening to recent jams—that they would begin to record in the days following Fall Tour. With this unprecedented move, the band broke from their well-loved Halloween tradition and jumped into the unknown with their fans.

10/31/13 (Jake Silco)

Phish had only approached such a daring feat a couple times in their career, debuting six originals at a one-off benefit show in Lowell, Massachusetts in May of 1995, and seven then six, respectively, on the first two nights of Summer ’97 in Dublin, Ireland. But of all the crazy things the band had done in their 30 years, they had never before played an entire set of new, original music, and certainly never flirted with such a feat in such a high-profile affair.

There was no greater risk that Phish could have taken on Halloween. Many Phish fans have a notorious reputation for hating on new music as Trey explained in an anecdote from Wingsuit’s Phishbill: “Every time we’ve put out a new Phish album—literally every time—a certain contingent of fans has felt that the band they know and love is coming to an end. It’s never true.” He went on to recall how he was heckled in 1990 after debuting “Reba,” one of the band’s most hallowed compositions. Needless to say, Phish didn’t expect their audience to lap up their newest offerings in Atlantic City, but they put their wingsuits on and played them anyway. And in doing so, they shocked a fan base that thought it had virtually seen it all.

Through reading their essay and interview in the Phishbill, the band’s energy for their upcoming set became palpable. They were clearly excited to get their songs “dirty and mess them up a little” before recording them, while having “the live energy of a Phish audience directly involved in the making of [their] new album.” Page added that the band was eager to make a statement that in their 3oth year they “were a vital, creative force still, and in some ways, more so than ever.”

10/31/13 (Jake Silco)

There is nothing quite like hearing new Phish music for the first time, and the Wingsuit set put the entire audience—noobs and vets alike—on the same plane, transforming everyone into first-timers. This aspect provided the most novel element of the Halloween set which became an experience in collective discovery; expectations were impossible. The audience learned the nature and dynamics of these songs in real-time with the band. Wingsuit was a collaborative exercise; an unprecedented gesture in live music in which—most often—fans come to hear the familiar. How many other bands could step on stage and captivate their audience with 90 minutes of brand new material?

With their Wingsuit performance, Phish opened the studio doors to their fans, allowing them to be a part of the creative process. The songs of the set varied in style, and many would soon become staples of the band’s live rotation in the following years, including “Wingsuit,” “Fuego,” “The Line,” “Waiting all Night,” “Wombat,” Devotion to a Dream,” “555,” and “Winterqueen.”

Phish didn’t have to take such an audacious risk. The guys could have easily memorized another album from the past and crushed it. It probably would have been easier and less stressful. But choosing the road less traveled has defined Phish’s ethos from their genesis. Throughout their career, their audience had come to expect the unexpected from the band, and Halloween 2013 was another such instance. But little did they know that Wingsuit was the first step towards a new, even greater, Halloween tradition.

2014—Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House

10/31/14 (Eric Battuello)

As Halloween 2014 approached, the door was now wide open for anything Phish wanted to do. The scene had shifted to Las Vegas for the first time since 1998 and anticipation for the tour-ending weekend was sky high. What transpired, however, far surpassed anything anyone could have possibly imagined.

Following their own lead of 2013, Phish again performed a set of totally original music, but this time they folded their old tradition of covering an album into the mix. In the middle of the afternoon of the 31st, the Phishbill leaked and fans learned that this year’s cover album would be Walt Disney’s 1964 Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. But with the assistance of Google, everyone also quickly learned that this album contained no music—only short, spoken vignettes with accompanying sound effects. Hmm. What was going on here?

As it turned out, Phish wrote ten new instrumentals to accompany the album’s eerie narrations while incorporating Disney’s sound effects into these jams via samples triggered by Page. The result? A sublime mash-up of fantasy and psychedelia that plunged the depths of imagination. The band interpreted each scene from the album with an instrumental passage, inviting audience members to be active participants in envisioning mental movies for each musical narrative. Disney’s sketches set the scenes and Phish took over from there, leaving their audience spellbound in awe. When all was said and done, Chilling, Thrilling, as it would come to be known, was the most well-loved Halloween set the band had ever played. Never had Phish honed in on the spirit of All-Hallows Eve like they did on this night, and with a set’s worth of original music without lyrics or songs, proper, this performance was many a psychonaut’s dream.

10/31/14 II Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

The production of Chilling, Thrilling was as ambitious as the music. A massive haunted house crumbled after the second “song,” revealing an elevated square stage on which the band performed in white tuxedos and full makeup above a troupe of dancing zombies amidst an elaborate graveyard. Positioned across from each other to enhance focused communication, the band went all out in creating a ghoulish spectacle unmatched in any previous Halloween set.

And then there was the music, itself. These instrumentals were not thrown together haphazardly, but meticulously developed with each boasting a cohesive theme to go along with Disney’s scenes while leaving plenty of room for improvisation. A few of the pieces—“Martian Monster,” “Your Pet Cat,” and “The Dogs”—soon become hallmarks of the band’s live rotation, while two others—“The Very Long Fuse” and “The Birds”—were played less frequently. Though the pieces have not developed into the jam vehicles that many fans envisioned at the time, they are always choice reminders of this special night in Vegas.

The power of hearing new Phish music in real-time without expectations or reference points that underlined Wingsuit once again infused the experience of Chilling, Thrilling, but this time the band wrapped an entire concept and production around the music, bringing these pieces to life in a way that did not take place in Atlantic City. There was much more scaffolding for the audience this time around as the band took them on a musical adventure not unlike a Disney ride from childhood. All the audience had to do was pull down the safety bar and let go.

2018—I Rokk

10/31/18 (Keith Griner via Live for Live Music)

After a 2016 detour in David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, in which Phish honored the late icon, 2018 seemed primed for a return to the band’s newly minted Halloween tradition. And this time, they flipped the idea on its head once again. Not only did Phish play a full set of original music, they fabricated an obscure Scandinavian band, Kasvot Vaxt, and set out to cover their long-lost album of lore, I Rokk. Though it was clear from the get-go that this was another in the long line of the band’s elaborate gags, one still heard stories of fans who bought into the tongue-in-cheek ploy hook, line and sinker, truly believing that Kasvot Vaxt existed.

The Kasvot Vaxt set featured not just short instrumentals, but a totally new “album” of ten, fully fleshed out Phish songs, complete with hilarious, pastiche lyrics and improvisational passages. This Halloween performance was a comedy show and a psychedelic rock concert mashed into one—a quintessentially Phishy maneuver. In I Rokk, Phish combined the strongest elements of Wingsuit—a brand new set of developed songs, and Chilling, Thrilling—a full-blown, conceptual production—into their most ambitious Halloween set ever played.

Jaws hung to the floor throughout the arena in laughter and disbelief as the band rolled out one incredible song after another while donning Nordic-white outfits on an illuminated, white stage. Everyone in attendance knew they were witnessing something incredibly special as this set transpired—one of those indelible moments in Phish folklore. These songs had obvious staying power from moment one, and it was clear that Phish wrote them with the intention of keeping them around far beyond this Halloween spectacle. “Turtle in the Clouds,” We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains,” “The Final Hurrah, “Say it to me S.A.N.T.O.S,” and “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” have all become central in the Phish catalog and crowd favorites since Halloween night, while “Passing Through” and “Cool Amber and Mercury” have also proven to be worthy additions to any set. And unlike any previous Halloween set, Phish has since performed every song from I Rokk in their live shows.

10/31/18 (Jake Silco via Phish)

The band collaboratively wrote the Kasvot Vaxt songs and they represent Phish song-crafting at its finest, replete with catchy melodies, infectious motifs, deep pockets, and their trademark sense of absurdist humor in instantly memorable lyrics such as “I’m the glue in your magnet,” “This is what space smells like, “Faceplant into rock,” and “Cluuueless Wallob.” This set of songs injected the Phish repertoire with the most clever, innovative and fresh-sounding material in a long time, and much like Chilling, Thrilling—but even more enthusiastically—everyone in the community was on board. The Kasvot Vaxt performance became an instant sensation among fans, while the band responded by creating all sorts of merch to commemorate the special night. Phish and their fans collectively reveled in I Rokk‘s afterglow as everyone’s energy bubbled over throughout the months off and right into the New Year’s Run, where the band excitedly opened the 28th with “We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains.”

It short, I Rokk was one of the absolute peak performances of Phish’s illustrious career. This set built upon what they had learned through Wingsuit and Chilling, Thrilling and could not have transpired without the stepping stones of those previous performances. Traditions take time to develop, and Phish took a bold step in 2013, breaking from their time-honored rite of a cover album and forging forth with a new idea of how a Halloween set could be crafted. Challenging themselves to reinvent Halloween rather than resting on a well-proven formula, Phish veered off the path of least resistance to create a new tradition that has been even more invigorating for the band and more spectacular for their community. Over the span of three performances, Phish has built a new Halloween ritual that stands out in their prolific musical legacy and has set a new standard of greatness for the band that always seems to have a new trick or treat up its sleeve.

10/31/18 (Jake Silco via Phish)

Twenty Years Later: Japan 2000

Posted in Uncategorized with the on June 12th, 2020 by Mr.Miner

Japan 2000 Poster

This week marks the 20th anniversary of Japan 2000—one of my favorite Phish runs of all time. My friend, Myke Menio—aka @LawnMemo—invited me onto his Daily Soundcheck podcast to talk about these incredible shows. We will be recording five episodes. The first episode just went live and is linked below. I will add the new links to each episode onto this post as they go live. Hope you enjoy!

Episode 1: 6/13/00 Club Quattro and the Tokyo shows 

Episode 2: 6/14/00 Drum Logos, Fukuoka

Episode 3: 6/15/00 Big Cat, Osaka

Episode 4: 6/16/00 Zepp, Osaka

Nassau Wins the Title

Posted in Uncategorized with the on May 7th, 2019 by Mr.Miner

Nassau Coliseum

#1 Nassau Coliseum 52 #1 Auburn Hills 36

In the championship game of Tweezer Madness, Nassau Coliseum’s ’03 version took down the Palace ’97 and captured the trophy. Although the game was competitive, the result was never truly in doubt, as Nassau grabbed an early lead and was able to maintain separation throughout the game. The only 2.0 Tweezer in the tournament out-dueled the Fall ’97 favorite in a battle between two defining versions. We caught up with Nassau in their champagne-soaked locker room, and the champ had this to say, ” We want to congratulate the Palace on an amazing season. That’s a nasty Tweezer over there, and it deserved to win as much as we did. In reality, Auburn Hills is a deeper, more psychedelic jam, but we had the advantage of length, and you know what they say—size matters. I want to thank all the voters that came down on our side, and we are happy to represent the much-maligned era of 2.0 in taking home the title.”

The Palace version offered it’s own take. “I can’t say we’re not disappointed, but its no embarrassment to lose to that monumental Nassau version. That middle section of music is as good as anything the band has ever played. I thought the score would have been closer, but sometimes things just don’t fall your way. They started the game quickly and we could never quite catch up. On another day, I think we could have defeated the Nassau squad. It was an honor to play in the national final, and it’s an experience we’ll never forget.”

It was a game for the ages, and the fitting end to an amazing month of music and basketball. It was truly a fun event and a joy to watch unfold. Hopefully people got exposed to some new versions and were able to revisit some old favorites along the way. And that brings Tweezer Madness to a close. The selection committee and Uncle Ebeneezer would like to thank all of the voters who helped make this tournament happen. We hope you’ve enjoyed the experience, and we look forward stepping into the freezer together in a little over a month as we prepare for new versions to unfold. Until then…please her with a Tweezer.

Championship Stub—2.28.03