11.2.1998 – E Center (T.Wickersty)

The first two rounds of this past weekend’s NCAA tournament were defined upsets, those improbable scenarios that actually come true. These occasions, when the unexpected unfolds, provide moments of real-life drama, and not without parallels to Phish’s forays into musical adventure without knowing what lies around the corner. The excitement of both live experiences are united by the unknown, and the essence of each connected moment. Nobody knows how things are going to turn out, and that is precisely why people flock to both events. Just as people live and die by that buzzer-beater or the dramatic overtime win, so do others quest for glory in crunchy Phish grooves and full-throttle improv. If one were to stretch this analogy a bit and ascribe “upsets” to Phish shows, they would be discussing those special nights in history when down-low venues blew up in shows that were far more than the sum of their parts. Today, let’s look back at three significant upsets in Phish history. (Click on orange dates to download each show.)


11.2.1998 – E Center, West Valley, Utah

Dark Side of the Moon

After the high-key Las Vegas Halloween shows, most people dispersed home across the country, while Phish moved on to a half-filled arena outside of Salt Lake City. Equivalent to a 15 seed beating a 2 in the first round, Phish played virtually an entire show before dropping into “Harpua” and beginning their trip to the Dark Side of the Moon. No one could believe what they saw, much like that little guy on Northern Iowa pulling up for a game-clinching, three-point dagger, falling the invincible Goliath of Kansas. Immediately making waves in the community before the next day, this Dark Side show will go down as one of the most memorable “upsets” in Phish history. (Regardless of your opinion on how it holds up on tape.)


9.14.999 –  BSU Pavilion, Boise, ID

9.14.99 – Boise, ID

After the Northwest run of Vancouver > Gorge > Portland at the beginning of Fall 1999, Phish headed inland to Boise, Idaho, before returning to the coast for a couple nights at Shoreline. A long and completely out-of-the-way trip, many fans opted for a personal day, and drove directly down I-5. But for those who made the trek across Orgeon and into Idaho were rewarded with one of the most outstanding shows of the year. In a sparsely filled gymnasium where anyone could walk right to the front of the stage, Phish threw down the gauntlet in the form of “Peaches > Bag > Gumbo.” “AC/DC Bag” provided one of the most  soul-touching moments of the entire year, peaking with surreal, layered melody and harmony, before galloping into the sunset in a “Crosseyed-esque” groove. Coupled with “Gumbo” in the now-famous combo, laced with a thick and extensive quote of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust,” this show became an instant classic, despite a relatively forgettable first half.


6.26.1994 – Municipal Auditorium, Charleston, WV

Amidst a particularly smoking run during June 1994, Phish found themselves playing West Virginia for the first time in their career, and they decided to commemorate the occasion. Known simply as the “GameHoist” show, this night would be remembered forever – but not for any jams. Instead, Phish opened the first set with “Kung” and went directly into a full-blown Gamehendge set, complete with narrations between the songs. And after closing the set with a blistering run-through of the lizard’s sacred chant, “Divided Sky,” the band decided to turn their show upside down. Having released “Hoist” three months earlier, Phish came out and played their album, top to bottom, as close to the original recording as possible. The band even included a “Split” jam after the album’s final track, “Demand,” which was spliced into the album from a 1993 recording. Phish concluded the set, as they did the album, with “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.” This unsuspecting outing in West Virginia turned into one of the most unique shows in Phish lore history.

These are but three of countless “upsets” throughout Phish’s career. Share your own “upset”stories in the comment thread below.


Jam of the Day:

Ghost” 7.3.97 II

A little-known beast from Nuremberg, Germany that a friend brought to my attention this weekend. Check it out!



7.10.94 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY < Torrent

7.10.94 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY < Megaupload

SPAC – Saratoga Springs, NY

Continuing our look at big time summer Phish from upcoming venues, here we have SPAC’s 1994 installment.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Horn, Peaches en Regalia, Rift, Stash, If I Could, My Friend, My Friend, Julius, Cavern

II: Sample in a Jar, David Bowie, Glide, Ya Mar, Mike’s Song > Low Rider > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Bouncing Around the Room, The Squirming Coil, Crimes of the Mind*

E: Golgi Apparatus, Rocky Top

* w/ Dude of Life on vocals

Source: Set I: (FOB) Schoeps MK4/CMC5 > Sonosax SX-M2 > Apogee AD500E > D10 (through Rift, Apogee battery died) Stash to end of Set I : OTS AT- 4053; Set II: (FOB) Schoeps MK4/CMC5 > Sonosax SX-M2 > D10

The first two rounds of this past weekend’s NCAA tournament were defined upsets, those improbable scenarios that actually come true. These occasions, when the unexpected unfolds, provide moments of real-life drama, and not without parallels to Phish’s forays into musical adventure without knowing what lies around the corner. The excitement of both live experiences are …

Upset City Read More »

Phish & Halloween

A beloved tradition started fifteen years ago in Glens Falls, NY. Phish hadn’t played a Halloween show since 1991, having been in the studio the previous two autumns recording Rift (1992) and Hoist (1993). But in 1994, the band upped the ante. Via Doniac Schvice, their newsletter, Phish announced that the show would contain three sets, but that wasn’t all. Along with an audience costume contest, Phish would don a “musical costume” of their own, covering an entire album of another band. And there was yet another twist- they were leaving to the fans to vote on the album, and they would play the most popular choice. Many have since debated whether or not Phish went with the actual winner or selected between the most popular, but nonetheless, it brought the entire community into the process.

During the weeks leading up to the show, fans drooled with anticipation, constantly hypothesizing on which album would be selected. The leading contenders were thought to be Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage, and The Beatles’ self-titled record known as “The White Album.” The other mystery hovering around the 8,000 person show was that no one knew when the album would be played; there was no precedent and nothing had been announced. So when Phish took the stage at 10:15 for their first set, everyone was on the edge of their seats.


Ripping into the holiday-appropriate “Frankenstein,” the game began.  An extended “Simple” and a poignant “Divided Sky” anchored the beginning of the set, when unsuspectingly, the band dropped into “Harpua!”  With the opening “Oom Pah Pahs” many thought that the forthcoming narration would bring out the cover album. As the Halloween story progressed, encompassing the “Vibration of Life” and the “Vibration of Death,” Jimmy stepped to his record player. Seemingly on the brink of history, the story took a left turn as Jimmy put on a Barney album- but accidentally had placed the record on backwards.  And as the record spun in reverse, Phish played what Jimmy heard- twenty second of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” A classic moment in its own right, the cover would have to wait.  But before ending the set, Phish carved out room for one of the thickest, most emotional “Rebas” ever played.  In 1994, the year that “Reba” shone the brightest, this version is one of my favorites.


During setbreak, the obvious conversation piece was the album.  Would it come in the second or third set?  Which one would it be?!  The answer came soon enough.  At midnight, the band took the stage, and through the PA the audience heard the opening heartbeats of Dark Side of the Moon, drawing howls and cheers from much of the crowd. But suddenly the heartbeat stopped, and the voice of Ed Sullivan came from nowhere introducing The Beatles.  Over the recorded squeals and screams of teeny boppers thirty years ago, Phish broke into “Back in the U.S.S.R.” It took a minute to hit everyone that they were about to cover the entire double-album, but one song at a time, over the next 90 minutes, that is exactly what they did.

Phish & Halloween

While the band played most of “The White Album’s” songs  earnestly and accurately, they wouldn’t have been Phish if they didn’t add a little of their own flavor. By modifying the end of “Helter Skelter” with a barbershop quartet ending, changing the “fool on the hill” in “Glass Onion” to “Guyute the pig,” and adding some Electrolux to “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?,” Phish dappled the album with spots of Phishiness. Other interpretive moments included Mike’s bluegrass take of “Don’t Pass Me By” and a now-classic rendition of “Revolution 9”, when upon the concluding line, “You become naked,” Fishman lifted his frock over his head and pranced around nude while Page, Mike, and Trey blew bubbles and chanted behind him. This bizarre moment was forever immortalized in the booklet of liner notes for “A Live One”- page 11.

But aside from these moments, Phish’s performance was incredibly reverent, playing each song true to form. The only onstage flirtation Phish had with The White Alum was an “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” jam- not even the whole song- hence the band learned each and every one of the albums 30 songs. Several appeared sporadically throughout the years, but “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”- the song that stood out at Glens Falls- was adopted into the band ever-expanding catalog of covers.  The band stepped offstage at 1:30 am, to the recorded version of “Good Night.” But the night was hardly over.


About a half -hour later, Phish reemerged to a venue of mind-blown fans, some who had dozed off during the break. The band could have come out and played a five minute encore and the show would still be talked about in the annals of Phish history. But instead, they opened set three with an extended journey through a menacing “David Bowie”- this was Halloween after all! And after a “Bouncin” interlude, the band resolved the immense darkness of “Bowie” with a magnificent mid-set “Slave.” Bordering on absurdity, especially with the timing of everything, Phish raged on. The band closed the set with a smoking “Antelope” only to start the audience costume contest during the encore!  After a “Mound” Bar won the competition, the band chose “Squirming Coil” to end one of the most epic nights of their career. There would be many more, but this one was special.

And there started the Halloween tradition that we will rekindle so soon in Indio. Following up the White Album with The Who’s Quadrophenia in 1995 (another double album),Talking Head’s Remain In Light in 1996, and Velvet Underground’s Loaded in 1998- Phish firmly established the musical costume as one of their most loved annual rites. Halloween became a big as New Years Eve on the Phish calender, though the band never found their way back to October 31st after ’98’s Vegas escapade. But in2009, the year everything is coming back together- Halloween returns!


“Reba” jam 10.31.94 I

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” 10.31.94 II

Winged music note


Jam of the Day:

Bathtub Gin” 9.12.99 I

A perfect piece to take us into the weekend, this gorgeous jam came in a forgotten first set at Portland Meadows in ’99. An ideal tempo, the open-air sound, and some heart-tugging playing by Trey will have you grooving at your desk, cubicle, or wherever you may be. Some feel good Phish took for a Friday, this one will make you smile.



9.12.99 Portland Meadows, Portland, OR < Torrent

9.12.99 Portland Meadows, Portland, OR < Megaupload

Portland Meadows – Portland, OR

This show has always lived in the shadow of The Gorge’s two-night stand that came directly before.  But with the “Gin” posted above and a monster second set, this show has plenty to offer. One of the most psychedelic “Ghosts” of the year kicked off this five song second set to the tune of 20 plus minutes. After this night we walked away with more than a few memories too go along with our black boogers.

I: First Tube, Poor Heart, Mozambique, Bathtub Gin, Get Back on the Train, My Mind’s Got a Mind of its Own, Frankie Says, Birds of a Feather, Lawn Boy, Possum

II: Ghost > Runaway Jim , Roggae, Also Sprach Zarathustra > You Enjoy Myself

E: Theme from the Bottom

Source: Unknown

A beloved tradition started fifteen years ago in Glens Falls, NY. Phish hadn’t played a Halloween show since 1991, having been in the studio the previous two autumns recording Rift (1992) and Hoist (1993). But in 1994, the band upped the ante. Via Doniac Schvice, their newsletter, Phish announced that the show would contain three …

Halloween ’94: The Beginning Read More »

11.2.98 – photo: Todd Wickersty

Few evenings have gone down in Phish history like the night of November 2, 1998.  Ten years ago yesterday, following their high-key sold out Vegas Halloween weekend, Phish pulled into the desolate E Center of Salt Lake City, Utah on a Monday night.  As the weekend warriors happily dispersed across the country with the sounds of Velvet Underground’s Loaded floating through their heads, others on tour chose to skip Utah in favor or driving the more direct route to the following show in Denver.  Ever since Phish began donning musical costumes in 1994, covering Pink Floyd’s seminal work, Dark Side of the Moon, was an idea and rumor that consistently permeated the community.  Always brought up in conversations regarding potential cover albums, Dark Side was seen as the ultimate choice the band could make.  Arguably the best album ever made by the best studio band in history, many thought Phish would never attempt at reproducing such an epic; the counter-argument always being- “They are Phish.”

11.2.98 – photo: Todd Wickersty

Upon entering the frigid lot, one thing was abundantly clear- there was no one there.  This fact was confirmed once entering the arena.  With the seats virtually empty and the floor sparsely populated, everyone had the ability to roam freely throughout the venue.  This was the polar opposite of the densely packed Thomas & Mack Center, where you had to be a detective to find a few square feet of dance space.  With a totally divergent atmosphere from the opening weekend of tour, this evening had one of the loosest, mellow feelings of any post-1996 Phish show.  Something musically significant was bound to happen, but who knew?

As everyone chose their spot for the show easily and without hassle, Phish greeted the miniature 4000 person audience with something to dance to right off the bat.  Opening with a oft-looked over thirty minute combination of Tube > Drowned, Phish began to shred as soon as the lights dropped.  With so much focus duly placed on the other-wordly second set, this opening sequence consistently gets forgotten, but it is one of the best show-opening sequences of latter-day Phish.  A Tube jam that was sculpted by the band before Trey began painting their canvas with rhythm licks, this rendition kicked into overdrive when Trey and Page began to flow with complimentary lead lines.  Also standing out for its post-Tube jam similar to the classic Dayton ’97 version, this section differs in feel and grows beyond mere groove.  Far more than prototypical Phish funk, this jam evolved into improvised transcendent territory with Trey soloing majestically.  Finalizing itself with a smooth drop into Drowned, this Tube had the show off to the races.

“YEM” 11.2.98 – photo: Todd Wickersty

Moving from its standard upbeat rock ‘n’ roll into some driving full-band improv, Drowned continued the bombastic beginning before slowing down and smoothly segueing into ZZ Top’s “Jesus Left Chicago.”  Calming down into the blues number, the small crowd responded in a big way to the opening half-hour of the set, but it was not near the ovation that occurred when the band stopped for the first time at the end of the song-40 minutes into the set.  Knowing they were witnessing some special Phish, the small crowd exuded big energy.

With a string of more mellow songs filling out the set, the band dove deep once more before the break, with a fifteen minute excursion into the poly-rhythmic textures of Limb by Limb.  With many standout Phish jams in the first set, it is interesting that it hasn’t attracted more attention over the years.  Understandably overshadowed by what would happen later in the show, the first set remained one of the best opening frames of tour.

11.2.98 – photo: Todd Wickersty

With the opening Oom Pah Pah’s of “Harpua,” the “special out-of-the-way show” stamp was indelibly printed on the evening.  As the song entered its middle story telling part, Trey creatively crafted a tale that paralleled the fate of so many fans in attendance.  Jimmy decided to leave his house with Poster to go to Las Vegas, but upon reaching the city, he became overwhelmed by the number of people and chaos, and he just couldn’t take it.  Jimmy wanted to see a concert in Vegas, but he just couldn’t find a ticket- eliciting large cheers from the crowd.  Jimmy then hitched a ride back across the desert with a guy heading to Salt Lake City for a concert the following night.  As the guy puts on one of Jimmy’s “favorite albums,” the surreal quality of the night began.

“Harpua” 11.2.98 – photo: Todd Wickersty

With the unmistakable opening heartbeat of Dark Side coming through the PA, the few thousand erupted before a note was even played.  Sitting into the opening of “Breathe,” all were in disbelief of what was going down.  As Phish had often covered songs within the story of Harpua, the question of the moment was, “Were they playing the whole thing!?”  A piece of art that truly can not be broken up, it sure seemed like it was about to unfold.  Having decided to play the album only hours before the show, and “re-learning” it backstage, the band smoothly segued into “On the Run,” the ambient psychedelic buildup to “Time.”  If those bells rang, everyone in the building knew the band was going the distance.  The anticipation was intense, as they could have easily slid back into Harpua out of the space.  But sure enough, out of the silence came the barrage of alarm clocks- it was on!

Fans were shocked as they strapped themselves in for what would surely be one of the more memorable rides of the band’s career.  Sounding eerily similar to the original, Phish moved through the masterpiece of psychedelic culture with astounding proficiency only two days after playing one of the defining cover sets of their career.  “Time,” the first lyrical piece of the album, initiated everyone into the proceedings as the well known song set up the metaphysical themes of the album.

11.2.98 – photo: Todd Wickersty

As the record progressed, the band continually nailed the vocal harmonies of each song, while being treated to a valiant effort by Fishman trying to reproduce the operatic solo in “Great Gig in the Sky.”  Certainly fluctuating between impressive and hard to listen to, this would have to be the obvious speed bump in an otherwise spot on performance.  Without anyone who could truly do the part justice, Fishman stepped up and certainly gave it his all.

The classic “Us and Them” immediately turned into a show highlight as the band treated the liquid composition with delicate reverence.  Floating through the mind-altering bliss of the album’s slower centerpiece, Phish absolutely nailed this nugget of rock history, with Trey filling in smoothly for the missing saxophone solo.  After the song’s dramatic crescendo, the band seamlessly oozed into the slowed down grooves of “Any Colour You Like.”  Absolutely owning this segment of the album, the band collectively built the instrumental peak before sliding into the epic ending of “Brain Damage > Eclipse.”

Methodically progressing through the climax of the album, jaws hung wide as Phish played this transcendent sequence of music’s past.  They had done it; pulled off one of the Phishiest moves in history, treating the smallest crowd of tour to the set that everyone had been dying to hear for four years.  As the magnificent ending of “Eclipse” came to a head, and the “sun [was] eclipsed by the moon,” the band did not hesitate in moving directly back into the ending of Harpua, something most of the crowd had already forgotten about.

Moving through the magical ending melodies of the song, the band reminded us that despite their two musical costumes in consecutive shows, Phish would always be Phish.  On a night where nobody needed to be reminded of the band’s versatility, the band came out and jokingly threw down a one-time sloppy cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  A random ending to a once in a lifetime evening, the fans in attendance navigated the Utah cold with both an inner and outer glow that permeated the rest of the evening, the day off, and the entire drive to Denver.  A night no one would ever forget, many stories would be told about the night Phish covered Dark Side of the Moon, and nobody was there to see it.



11.2.98 E Centre, West Valley, UT < LINK

E Center – West Valley, Utah

Check it out in all its glory.  A great show even without Dark Side, this one is chock full of ’98 Phish improv. You need no more description of this night of pure Phish mayhem, just listen.

I: Tube, Tube Jam > Drowned > Jesus Just Left Chicago, Driver*, Bittersweet Motel**, Limb by Limb, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Sample in a Jar

II: Down with Disease, The Mango Song, The Moma Dance, You Enjoy Myself, Harpua > Speak to Me, Breathe, On the Run, Time, The Great Gig in the Sky, Money, Us and Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage, Eclipse > Harpua#

E: Smells Like Teen Spirit##

Only about 4000 in attendance. *Acoustic; dedicated to Wendy and Lisa, two women whom Trey and Mike met the night before. **Acoustic; with a “Freebird ending”, similar to the 07-20-98 “Poor Heart.” Trey dedicated it to the people at the Dead Goat Saloon, and talked about getting free drinks and karoake. He also discussed the band picturing what it would be like if the entire audience were on stage with them, with no one in the audience. So they played it with this image in mind. #One verse sung twice; another omitted ##First time played

Few evenings have gone down in Phish history like the night of November 2, 1998.  Ten years ago yesterday, following their high-key sold out Vegas Halloween weekend, Phish pulled into the desolate E Center of Salt Lake City, Utah on a Monday night.  As the weekend warriors happily dispersed across the country with the sounds …

There’s Someone In My Head, But It’s Not Me Read More »

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