A Bite At The Donut

A Bite At The Donut

As fans of this band called Phish we have a penchant for the extreme, yearning always for the peak experience and living our lives on the margins of hyperbole. The many years spent chasing IT, never knowing if tonight will be the show when it all comes together and the band and crowd flow as one have shaped how we experience this band and how we interact with each other as a result. Discussion and critique of, well, every single little aspect of our scene can and does get quite heated as one would expect when sharing and comparing one of the more personally emotional and potentially transformational live music experiences one could hope to be a part of. And considering that each of us brings our own past experiences (and current, um, “situations”) into the mix, to say that opinions can be varied about this subjective artform is putting it mildly. This range of experience becomes even more evident once you start looking at particular eras, years, or even tours. In all the many places one can go to discuss Phish on the internet and beyond there simply is no such thing as consensus about what “the best” even means. To me, that is one of the things that makes Phish even more appealing and what keeps the conversation about their career interesting. It also brings me to the point of attempting to write these thoughts out on sandpaper.

Phish and its fandom is a community rooted in rituals and traditions that range to include everything from how we react to musical cues to the coded references we share in identifying the like-minded amongst the normals and all points in between. One such ritual is the (hopefully more than) annual tradition of scouring the rumor mill, waiting eagerly for new show dates to drop, and then speculating broadly about what tour stop will be the one to hit to catch that heater or maybe finally get that bustout you’ve been chasing. Living here in the future of immediate access to information we have this all pretty well figured out to the point that there are charts telling us the most likely day tour dates will drop and websites devoted to aggregating any hints of what might be coming. For some endeavors this might take away from the allure of it all, turning recreation into the processing of information and removing the surprise of the unknown. But as we well know, that is not the case with Phish where even if we think we know what to expect we tend to end up getting the surprise anyway. This has played out so many times over the years that at this point the unexpected IS the expectation. There are so man examples to point to that it almost becomes redundant or at the least almost laughable. Think of all of the festivals, New Year’s Runs, Halloween shows, and more where you thought you knew what was going to happen – heck, often they told you exactly what they were going to do – and it STILL blew away anything you thought you would experience. That’s just life as a fan of Phish.

So after hearing the rumors and doing the dance we always do, when Phish announced their plans for Summer Tour that year on January 31st, 2017 we all looked at the announcement, mapped out the dates in our head, and then began trying to figure out just what the heck this “Baker’s Dozen” thing was going to be all about. This was unprecedented for Phish who has always routed tours snake-like across the country or at least a region. But this? This was five cities and a shorter run of just 21 shows if you included the now traditional Dick’s Run over Labor Day Weekend. And thirteen shows in one venue? Was the band getting lazy? Bored? Old??? What exactly were they up to with this weird tour setup? You can find all sorts of speculative posts and threads about it all with a pretty cursory internet search in case you forgot how crazy we all got back then. Heck, there are more long form essays on the topic of The Baker’s Dozen (both pre and post) than one could possibly want to read if you go looking. If nothing else, we are really good at discussing every single possible aspect of this band almost to the point of absurdity. It is kind of our thing.

Now, if we have learned anything over the course of these many years of cataloging and dissecting every single thing that this band does we know that those tour dates were just the beginning. Nothing is ever just to be taken at face value with Phish. They have made a career out of the ol’ adage “never trust a prankster” yet time and again we fall for their (now increasingly dad joke tinged) gags. Pretty quickly people started looking to decipher what this tour would become as after that first run of obviously-meant-to-be warm up shows the thirteen shows at MSG were broken up into smaller groupings smaller runs with three show weekends and midweek pairs in between. The name implied something was afoot too. Yes, a baker’s dozen is thirteen but there was no way that would be the extent of the reference. Further, the logo for the shows had a distinct look and feel which with the benefit of hindsight was clearly made to look like an old donut shop’s neon sign. Pretty good packaging to start our conversations…

But I’m getting too far ahead of myself.

Before we got to New York there were five shows to get our feet wet and immerse ourselves into this unfolding tour. What hints would these early shows give us about the prevailing theme of the summer and the Baker’s Dozen? Would we be getting new material? What new instrumentation tricks had the band added to their arsenal in the offseason? Which band was going to show up this tour, the one that slayed everything in sight in 2015 or the one that didn’t quite rise to that level in 2016? To say that there was a growing level of concern about where this band was headed following a relatively lackluster Summer Tour and most of the Fall Tour as well that previous year is putting it mildly. Some of that died down a bit with a well regarded NYE Run and the now almost traditional Mexico shows in mid January but everyone seemed to have a hot take on whether this extended residency meant the end for our touring warriors and the begin of the long slow decline into mediocratic irrelevancy. The speculation and anticipation is always part of the fun with trying to predict what we will inevitably get wrong (and be so happy that we did) but this felt like a new level of unknowing. Perhaps the closest recent example to point to was the festival location and cover album reveal ahead of Festival 8 for the Halloween Run in 2009 as even though the band was “back” then we didn’t know yet whether The Return was sustainable as the band we had come to know and love in earlier eras. But this felt like a longer play (con?), something that was going to have more import, more impact on the music and everything that surrounded it. We often talk about how the extended visits to a venue can be a good or bad thing for the playing on a particular night (i.e. the possibility of the band falling into a familiar pattern of how the show is approached and what types of songs are played on a Friday vs Saturday vs Sunday etc) so this was new territory since those traditional stereotypes may not come to bear. Or would they?

Throughout Phish’s history if you look at the tours and years that generally get the most praise from the fanbase (not everyone of course because we can never ever have any kind of consensus) there tends to be an event or a purpose that pushes them to the next level. Summer 2015 was influenced by Trey’s dedication earlier in the year to learning and practicing the Grateful Dead songbook in advance of participating in the Fare Thee Well shows. 1997 (and beyond) was influenced by the band learning and absorbing the polyrhythmic funk ahead of playing the Talking Heads’ Remain In Light album on the Fall 1996 tour. 1999 was pushed forward by Trey and Page practicing for and being a part of the Phil & Phriends shows at the Warfield earlier in the year (and more specifically Trey being pushed forward by playing with Steve Kimock for those). Spring 1993 was changed by Page finally being able to bring the baby grand piano on tour. Fall 1995 and 1996 saw the conscious move by Trey to get out of the way to give the rest of the band more space to “lead” when he added the mini-kit to his repertoire. The examples go on and on. This is far from an exhaustive list. But the point is that whenever Phish has purpose, an event that gives them a new means of approaching their craft or maybe just an excuse to refocus it tends to end up benefitting us all with the music they produce as a result. Now I’m not saying we identified this as being the case in advance. Far from it, more likely. No, as I recall it a lot of the speculation was about how they would handle playing the same venue so many nights and what that meant for song choices and which shows would be the ones to hit to try to avoid the potential clunker, limit exposure to repeats, and on and on. Again, we are really good at going well beyond in overanalyzing our favorite band. But even still, from the first notes of that first night in Chicago people were trying to figure out how this was all going to go down.

Another thing to consider in looking at how that Summer evolved is that unlike some years in the current era various members of the band had been on the road with side projects touring, namely Mike with his band for a couple of festival dates (Summer Camp and High Sierra), and Trey for a variety of dates including acoustic solo shows in March and his full band into June. Follow that with the likely full band practices that led up to tour and you have a motivated, well oiled machine hitting the line running as they started up instead of one working it out on stage with everyone watching. That is on display from the start on 07.14.2017 from Northerly Island where even that first song choice speaks to the knowing recognition by the band of things to come. Seriously, what other band could you imagine beginning Summer Tour with a dripping psychedelic instrumental like What’s The Use? besides Phish? In retrospect you can hear the seeds of what would become the “Baker’s Dozen Sound” from the start, particularly in the Wolfman’s and Everything’s Right (its Phish debut) jams that carry the frame. This becomes even more apparent with the NMINML that opens the second set which has a forward looking jam that could easily be mistaken for a middle night throwdown from the Dozen several shows later but the point is fully made with the jammed (yes, jammed) Your Pet Cat->Golden Age->Your Pet Cat that bleeds into the third debut of the night, Leaves, which we all came to fully love here in our pandemic lives with its appearance on Sigma Oasis. Looking back now at this first weekend of the tour there is a lot of table setting going on be it in debuting new songs, stretching out some classic vehicles and non-traditional ones as well, busting out a few songs for the first time in a while, and generally playing around with the normal structure of setlist construction. But those were mere hints of how it would fully blossom.

The remaining two shows ahead of getting to New York also provided several indications of everything Phish had planned, not the least of which being a Tuesday and Wednesday pairing between the weekends. Both were longed after returns to cities once on the normal touring routes with Dayton being the first time back there since a pretty famous show on 12.07.1997 and Pittsburgh being an even longer return from the last one on 10.18.1996. The pattern of debuts each night continued (following the total of 6 over three shows in Chicago) as each night saw two apiece. Bustouts and not-quite-typical setlist placement were also to be found but the thing that makes these two shows even more telling is the level of connected jamming the band performs whenever they seemingly decided to do so. The second set in Dayton is perhaps one of the best overall sets of the year, flowing out as one of the “all killer no filler” affairs we can’t get enough of. Even further, there appears to be a conscious intent by the band to not stick to the norm as they play around with jamming styles to the extent that Disease gets a Shipwreck section (amongst other motifs), Ghost has some Disease jam to it, and the surprise vehicle of the set Wombat goes to Ghost-y places. Pittsburgh furthers this even more when the first set ending Prince Caspian goes big, resulting in what many consider to be one of the best jams of the entire year. With these first five shows out of the way, expectations were ramped up and folks were ready to get to New York to get this show off the road.

The midweek tour stops that preceded the arrival to New York were highly anticipated in their own rights as this would be the first time in almost twenty years that they would return to Dayton, OH (and I think we all know how highly regarded that last visit on 12.07.1997 was…) and Pittsburgh, PA after an even longer gap (10.18.1996 at the Civic Arena). Yes, there had been visits to other venues in nearby towns in the intervening years but these were indoor shows in the summer which always gets people pumped up. Could these end up being the type of letdown that often comes with inflated expectations? Sure. But that’s not what we got. Instead Phish threw down an absolutely stellar show from front to back in Dayton with two more debuts (Tuesday which of course makes sense for a Tuesday show and the Mike tune Crazy Sometimes) a big crunchy first set Free, and then a second frame of the kind that the kidz will call “all killer no filler”. If there were any doubts about where Phish was in their playing at the start of that set I’d say they were put well to rest perhaps even before they segued out of that big Disease jam into MITM. In classic Phishy form they even played around with the jamming styles as the Disease gets a Shipwreck section (amongst other motifs), Ghost has a bit of a Disease jam, and the surprise vehicle of the set Wombat gets some of the Ghost feel. There are times when the Coil encore is earned and this was one of those sets. And then as is if to point out that there was no need to worry about them losing steam, the Pittsburgh show carries it forward with more debuts (Marissa and Rise/Come Together), a big jammed bustout (380 shows) for Mr. Completely, and one of the most surprising jams of the entire year in the first set closing Prince Caspian. Towards the end of this show you can kind of hear them ‘pull up’ a bit so as to perhaps not spill the beans too much but we are still left with a good taste and a healthy dose of added anticipation for the coming shows. With these shows in the bag it was time to head east and double down on the speculation for what was to come.

In those few days of travel and getting to New York the discussion focused fully onto the theme of the Baker’s Dozen and trying to decipher what clues we knew. There were definitely some overt hints out there about what might be going on with this Baker’s Dozen thing as those who had ordered the full set of show tickets through mail order received a custom pink ‘donut box’ with each ticket being a differently decorated donut design. Then in Pittsburgh the official show poster was able to be cut and folded into another box (if you could get yourself to do that to a poster you had spent time and money procuring…). I’m sure there were other easy signs to be found but here a few years later my memory of all that pales a bit so let me know what you recall from back then. Heck, I distinctly recall walking out of MSG at the end of the New Year’s show on 12.31.2016 with venue staff saying “we’ll see you this summer!” But even with that we still didn’t *really* know what that meant for the shows themselves. All that changed when the doors opened on the first night and in conjunction with the announced theme of Coconut the band handed out free donuts to early entrants (made by the awesome Federal Donuts out of Philadelphia). That was the first true moment of understanding that, yes, this was not going to be an ordinary run of shows. And when the band took the stage, it all started to come together.

By now we have all experienced the music of the Baker’s Dozen by a variety of means and it is likely that several of the shows have gone into your personal regular listening rotation. These shows have become a modern touchpoint for fans, acting as something of a line of demarcation in the sense of you either were a fan before and went or these shows were your entry point and now you are on the bus with the rest of us. As I’ve mentioned there will always be detractors or those who will try to make comparisons in the music or the experience to try to diminish the import of this unparalleled run but that’s just noise. The reality is that the Baker’s Dozen came at the perfect time for both the fans AND the band. The current era of Phish up to that point had been marked by a veritable roller coaster of peaks and valleys in the music. Once we got past the initial glow and buzz of having our band playing concerts again we settled into this pattern of vacillating between “oh wow they are really BACK!” and “um… this is not the band I grew up with anymore” and all points in between. That on its own is fine and normal but in looking at just how precipitous the perceived drop is from how strong they were playing throughout 2015 to where things got in 2016 many were concerned that this was the start of The Decline. This is not meant to throw salt on the good times everyone had at shows in 2016. I enjoyed the ones I hit including having a fantastic time for the NYE Run that year but that doesn’t mean I can’t look at the overall arc of that year and the playing they displayed to put it into its proper context.

This really just further serves the greater point of what the Baker’s Dozen became. To put it in the parlance of the season, these shows (and really the entire summer tour including the Dick’s Run later on) represent the band’s ability to find renewed connection with their music and fans, constantly challenging themselves to not do the easy thing over and over. It is the thing that keeps us coming back and perhaps the greatest talent this band has if you can convince yourself that anything could be more important than their musicianship. Many others have asked the question but it deserves to be asked again: How many bands have not just the ability but the desire to do something as ambitious as the Baker’s Dozen AND for that to happen so far into their career? You could probably argue that it only *could* happen because of the stature and experience that all those years of building their fanbase afforded. More than thirty years of band and fans all saying “yes, and?” provides a great deal of confidence in taking the risk of trying to pull it off. But the opportunity is just the beginning for success comes with execution. And holy crap did they execute!

This was a “gag” well beyond anything we had ever seen with Phish – and that is saying a lot considering everything we have gotten from this band. We are lucky to follow a band that thrives on never wanting to do the same thing twice and always looking for a new means by which they can challenge themselves to become better artists. You could perhaps say that a younger version of this band would’ve played bigger, more awe inspiring jams during these shows but I’d counter that I’m not convinced they could have pulled it off in the way that they did. The artful and clever pairing using the meta joke about donuts (lord knows how much we have literally bought into the donut thing over the years) combined with thematic relevance to the music is the foundation upon which each night built the anticipation, joy, and humor of the endeavor. And from that foundation Phish launched upwards with their playing, seeming to outdo themselves with each set they performed.

Thirteen shows. Twenty-six sets. Two hundred and thirty-seven songs played with no repeats. Debuts that were both topical and relevant. Explorations into the depths of the song catalog that brought songs back from obscurity or allowed for new approaches to their performance. Direct and meaningful connection with a hyper dedicated fanbase. Deep jamming and a thematic connectivity in the playing. But perhaps most of all jokes. Oh so many jokes.

The Baker’s Dozen began as another opportunity for Phish to play out an elaborate joke both for and at the expense of the fans (as always). From the beginning a lot of the allure of becoming captivated by Phish was rooted in being “in on the joke”. What the Baker’s Dozen became was an opportunity for the joke to become more than just a means to a punchline. It became The Event, the thing to be sought after. On the first night of The Dozen fans entering the arena early were greeted with free, fresh donuts matching the night’s announced theme of Coconut provided by Federal Donuts. The opener that night (the debut of Shake Your Coconuts by Junior Senior) and the closer (Coconut by Harry Nilsson) nudged us like a funny uncle after he tells another eye roller of a joke at Thanksgiving with their obvious reference as well. These set the table and we all happily sat down to eat up as much of it as we could. And over the course of the twelve nights that followed everyone did whatever they could to keep the joke going. By the time the lights dropped for the second night we had already started making calls for songs like Strawberry Letter 23 (the fantastic Shuggie Otis song debuted on Strawberry night which thankfully has stayed somewhat in rotation) and Strawberry Fields Forever (which really needs to be done again because that a cappella version is fantastic). Immediately post show we started watching to see what the next night’s theme would be to begin theorizing about what was coming. The anticipation and excitement that comes with every Phish show was pushed to even greater heights because we had no baseline, no trend or experience to lean on to keep us grounded. It was like the night before Christmas every time and we loved it.

And all along it wasn’t just the joke that mattered. The music was becoming more layered, more engaging. The band was clearly enjoying every second of this experience which was apparent with every song they played. To pull off something as grand as this took more planning and practice than I expect we as fans will ever know except in listening back to these shows and reveling in the music they made. Even though each show had a different theme and the songs played differed there is a cohesiveness to this music, a familiar sound that wasn’t there before these shows. When one of the jams from these shows comes on you just know it is from the Baker’s Dozen. Nothing feels rushed. Just as the band was growing more and more comfortable with their surroundings each night so were weTo borrow from another song covered (on Lemon Night), everything is in its right place. Considering all that went down, it had to be.

Just like everything else eventually it had to end. The spectacle and fanfare of the two weeks leading up to that final weekend could have overwhelmed the moment but thankfully they did not. Instead what I saw was gratitude and acknowledgement that none of IT could have happened in the way that it did without full commitment by the band, crew, staff, and fans alike. Those last few shows were a celebration of that, a culmination of all of the work put in, and a collective opportunity to express gratitude for how it came together. Some may consider it another throwaway joke but think about the banter between Fish and Trey after the Sunshine Of Your Feeling medley on Boston Cream night. This elaborate thing was essentially done to pay off a joke they had thought up more than twenty years prior. In true Phish fashion they went well beyond that punchline, of course. But then (also as they always do) they thanked us. They gave us all of this, the community, the entertainment, and most importantly the music. But still they came to the stage for the encore that last night and made us all feel that we were part of IT all. As the banner commemorating The Baker’s Dozen was unveiled it was clear that this was Phish’s achievement but at some level we were being celebrated too. The Baker’s Dozen renewed that connection between the band and we fans. But perhaps even more importantly they showed us that this band, its music, and our community were nowhere near done. The energy and inspiration that blossomed in these shows carried forward through the rest of the year and into 2018, a year many point to as one of the high points of the current era for playing by the band. But most importantly this experience underscored the true meaning of why we all can never get enough of IT which Willie said best and Phish used to say goodbye on that final night: “The life I love is making music with my friends.”

Live Baitin’ – Cataloging

Recently I was trying to figure out whether a certain track from a show had been released as a “leaked” sbd (what we used to call the various songs that showed up on From The Archives shows or had otherwise been made available outside of a full show release) and started looking around to see if anyone had gone ahead and made a shareable doc listing all of the songs that had made their way to our ears in this manner. With how thorough our fanbase is it surprised me to not easily be able to find such a list, specifically for the LiveBait series that Kevin Shapiro and LivePhish have so graciously been providing us for more than ten years now (geez that makes me feel old to realize that has been happening for more than a decade now…)

So I decided to do something about it.

And this then became a little project to work on (yes yes I am well aware that I haven’t gotten back to working through Fall 1999 but new job, little time, etc. etc.) to re-engage myself with Phish after the typical, post holidays, nothing-to-look-forward-to-these-days ennui around my personal listening habits.

The link below is the first step in that project. This is a google doc that shows every track (I use that term instead of song since in many cases the single track is a suite of segued songs) that has been included in the now sixteen volumes of this series. That’s 180 total tracks covering more than 30 years of the band’s history and still but a small blip in the grand scheme of all of the amazing music Phish has provided us.


Now, the second part of this is that I am listening back through every volume and will be creating a somewhat shorter, just the best of the best LivePhish playlist from these that I will share once complete. Once through that I will probably also share a bit on the stats of what is included in the series because there are some cool little things such as the entire 07.09.1999 second now being out there in sbd form though not as a full show release (two sections of the set comprising the entirety of it have shown up on two different LiveBait volumes). That’s for later so in the short term, enjoy now having a reference point for these great compilations. Longer term I am planning on doing the same for the FTA series, but don’t hold your breath on the timing. Life has an incredible ability lately of getting in the way of my fun.

12.29.PH – The Frankenshow Experience

Full Track Listing for the 12.29 Frankenshow Twitch broadcast with year of performance noted. Thanks to all who joined us, that was a ton of fun. Maybe next year we can tackle 12.30…


Piper (2003)

555 (2017)

The Connection (2009)

Caravan (1996)

Stash (1995)

Theme From The Bottom (1997)

Limb By Limb (2003)

It’s Ice (2013)

Wolfman’s Brother (2018)


Down With Disease (2013)

Carini (2019)

2001 (1998)

Possum (1997)

Tweezer (2009)

Twenty Years Later->Kung->Twenty Years Later (2016)

McGrupp And The Watchful Hosemasters (1995)

Big Black Furry Creature From Mars->Walk Away (1993)

Harpua (1996)

Good Times Bad Times (1994)


First Tube (2012)

Tweezer Reprise (2018)

12.29 And Beyond

Well hello there!!

As we careen slowly and haphazardly towards the end of The Most Annoying Year Ever and sitting here just a week away from what is traditionally one of the best, most reliable time of year on the Phish calendar, it is time to let you know about some plans that have been being worked out for your streaming enjoyment. No, unfortunately, I am not talking about anything official from the band because, well, I have no such connections or information to share on that front and they haven’t exactly been telling us much at all… yet.

But there *WILL* be streams, don’t you worry! We may not have the draw or cache or talent that Phish does but the estimable @telas_muff along with a host of supremely creative folks has been bringing music to the masses throughout these pandemic times (and well before, frankly). We will continue that next week with a multi-night streaming event to coincide with whatever we end up being graced with by Phish around the holiday.

Things will kick off next Tuesday (12.29), one of the traditional high holy days of the Phish year. I will be debuting a project geared towards the date-conscious, nostalgic jam hunters out there. No more detail for now as I want to keep the surprise…

More to come on all of this but set your calendars now!

Expect nightly streams at www.twitch.tv/telas_muff on 12.29, 12.30, 12.31, and 1.1. Times and schedules will be announced on twitter under my handle (@Lost_Reflector) and @telas_muff amongst other places.

Get your extra curriculars in order and your stream caves prepped because there are many, many hours of music and video coming your way next week…

At Least You Won’t Die Wondering — Boise, ID — 09.14.1999

At Least You Won’t Die Wondering — Boise, ID — 09.14.1999

In between the four show Northwest Run that opened Fall Tour and the four in California that would follow Phish stopped off in Idaho for their second ever show in the Gem State, the first since having played here on the Fall 1995 tour, and the last show to date in this oddly shaped kinda of also northwestern state but not usually talked about in that way unless by geographers and who listens to those map people anyway? The point is this was an outlier show that a lot of people didn’t bothering making the side trip for for the sake of about 450 miles of driving. You would think that after the prior Fall and that big time “you snooze you lose” gotcha show on 11.02.1998 folks would’ve gotten the message but alas, such was not the case. It wasn’t nearly as empty as that night but also not exactly a sellout by any means either. Judging from just the setlist you could have possibly have been forgiven for deciding to hang with your friends and recharge in the Bay Area ahead of Shoreline. But you would have been wrong, oh so very wrong…

Phish — Boise State University Pavilion — Boise, ID — 09.14.1999

I Chalkdust, Sloth, Curtain>Waste, Cup>WTU?, Wading>Farmhouse, Nellie Kane, Taste, Rocky Top

II Peaches>Bag>Gumbo, Disease>Frankenstein

E Simple, HMB

Notes Out On Sandpaper

–161 show bustout of Peaches En Regalia

–show has been released officially by LivePhish and it sounds awesome

The Central Theme

Wasting no time to let everyone stretch their quads and get limbered up for the show Phish starts out with the contained rawk of a typically strong Chalkdust Torture. I say typically because this version is pretty “typical” of what the song was in this era, mainly used for the energy boost and as a means of Trey-led shred. This version fits that bill perfectly, getting the place moving and setting the tone for the night to come. The Sloth continues the grimy fun as the first of four straight tour debuts and already you can tell there is some swagger coming from the stage tonight. Being a band that loves to prove everyone wrong you can imagine the backstage conversation around showing once again that people should’ve made the trip. That doesn’t really come to the surface just yet as we have a ways to go but still putting The Curtain in the three hole and ending up with that trio of tunes to open is definitely sending a message. For the maybe like three other people like me who care about this sort of thing, this is the only time those three songs have been played in sequence and only nine times have they ever even been played in the same show.

Maybe you are like me and back before the (With) part of the Curtain suite returned every time the band started up The Curtain you got giddy starting to wonder what song they would drop into immediately following. Maybe you aren’t. And that’s okay. But this is clearly not the place for you if those sorts of things aren’t at least interesting to you cuz it is kind of my schtick I suppose. Anyway, when that Curtain drops into Waste, well, let’s just say that is not the whizz bang jump one expects there. Normally The Curtain leads to something with a punch, perhaps a vehicle or something full of energy. Sure, there are a few ballad drops here and there but that’s not really the “norm” for the song. Who am I kidding though. Phish does what they want when they want. So if we are getting the first Waste of the tour out of Curtain than so be it. This remains the only time that these two songs have been paired thusly and the Waste is perfectly fine as our first breather in the four slot.

Not to worry though as the Loving Cup that follows is a pretty dang fun one. Going back to the Waste choice, the placement of this Cup is not typical either. There are only 25 (out of 137 total) performances of Loving Cup where it is not a set opener, closer, or part of an encore. And some of those are unique such as being part of the Exile set on 10.31.2009. But hey you gotta get the people moving, right? Following this fourth tour debut in a row they bleed into the second What’s The Use? of this young tour, again putting it in the odd-to-me mid-first set slot (though the math shows a little under 1/3 of the time this is a first set song). Sadly, this will be our last chance to wonder at what the use actually might be until next year so enjoy it while you can. Wading>Farmhouse is not a pairing you love to see on a setlist but it kind of works here even though at this stage in the set you have to be wondering if they are going to jam anything tonight at all.

My intel on this show from folks I know in attendance is that after the four shows to start people were just plain worn out even with that off night to make it over here from western Oregon. So maybe the pace of this first set wasn’t helping things. Could it have been purposeful trolling by the band like “hey let’s take it easy on them and let folks mellow out a bit”? I think probably not because you can clearly hear the band is engaged and playing well just not songs that are typically the pick-me-up variety so far. But never fear, the end of set is near! Nellie Kane is the grassy-sing-a-long to wake us up then a tight run through Taste clears the cobwebs even further. The set closes with Rocky Top, another wake-em-up grass tune that gets everyone moving just in time for the break. Classic. On paper this one may have you scratching your head and asking why this show of all those out there has gotten an official release. Yes the playing is solid and most of the tunes are firsts for the tour but there is a decided lack of jamming here. There is, however, a reason that Phish plays two sets every night.

Now I’ve heard stories about people being so tired and unenthused by that first set that they actually left at the break. I’ve never done anything like that and in fact would have been quite happy to camp out in the upper seats sitting if need be rather than risk missing IT which on this night is exactly what would have happened. Before we get too far, here’s video of the second set of this show which I hadn’t seen until recently but which will give you some great context on how this all went down. After a little bit of band convo they roll into the 161 show bustout of Peaches En Regalia, that wonderful Frank Zappa tune that still stands somehow as the lone Zappa tune that Phish has covered (well, except for all of those jams and songs that heavily lean on Zappa-ism-ness-itude). Bustout out of the way, they drop into the first ACDC Bag of the tour for what is assuredly just a secondary opener, right? Hahahahahahahahaha yeah no.

The song itself goes along as it does but after a relatively short “normal jam” where you would expect the rave up to close to arrive the band makes a subtle shift into a Mike-led section. I adore this whole part particularly if you watch Trey on the video as he is just completely wrapped up in what Mike is doing, playing off of the changes Mike makes. Page and Fish are vamping along as Trey stretches out with these searing, moaning notes. They sit in this pocket for several minutes until it feels like it is about to all fall apart into the standard ambient outro business but then Trey’s guitar starts eating notes and you can tell they are far from done here. Now they are searching, waiting for someone to assert with the big move to a new idea. Trey finds a melodic idea that Fish follows and now we are into a new but related section where Trey is still fixated on Mike but now more assertively driving the movement. Trey is soaring now with extended notes that feel so familiar but are wholly unique (a feeling we get a lot with this guy, eh?).

Suddenly, or at least what seems to be quite sudden, the pace and energy has increased and they move into a full-on swagger funk jam. The band is fully connected here in the type of funk that 1999 produces, not the campy/vamp cowfunk of 1997 but something a bit more refined. Page takes the forefront here on the piano as the rest of the band grooves along, eventually moving to organ as Trey heads to set loops and color against Page’s big fills. This section is top tier Phish porn that begs you to get up and start dancing. Trey and Fish orchestrate a couple of stop/starts to mess with everyone as the loop wails away. This is the type of tension building you could expect in this era outside of the typical areas like Stash or Bowie. Trey drops out from vamping along to add soundscape on his keyboard rig while Mike and Fish keep everyone rooted and moving (as much as one can in this kind of musical space).  The effects take over and at this stage it is hard to tell who is producing what sounds. Some may find this sort of jamming boring or pointless which, ok, whatever, I get that viewpoint I guess. Personally I love the ambient soundscape they craft here. It provides the bridge out of where they had gotten without feeling forced or contrived and makes the transition to the next song seamless.

Even if that wasn’t your favorite way to exit that jam your wait is short lived as Gumbo cranks in to the approval of the folks in attendance. The jam goes funk in a hurry with Mike pushing it into Another One Bites The Dust before they settle into a more “traditional” straight up funk jam. Page heads to the clav to accent the dance party as Fish interjects little vocal bits you could miss if you aren’t paying very close attention. The rhythm section drops out for Page and Trey to vamp coming back in at the perfect moment like some DJ’s big moment. The jam screeches to a halt for the shift to the intro for Down With Disease which after all that funk feels like an odd call so late in the set. And here I have to again chuckle at the graphics at this video including the big puffy lettered song titles. Goes to show how far video editing has come over the years I suppose.

Here in the future we have become accustomed to Disease being a set-carrying vehicle most of the time (and oh my gosh does that song open a lot of second sets these days). Back in 1999 you were just as likely to get a compact shredder than for the song to stretch beyond its boundaries. Tonight’s version is the former template, never leaving structure but elevating to a blistering pace and almost blowing the roof off the place with the bouncy energy it brings. Trey is straight up wailing on this one, just slaying the entire jam with note after note of shred. Not content to let that be it we get the first Frankenstein of tour as closer here, showcasing Page’s mastering of the Edgar Winters classic’s big keyboarding (though obviously this was well before he owned the James Brown keytar). Fish gets weird too, interjecting some lyrics from ‘One Of These Days’, one of those Pink Floyd songs it feels like they should have teased more than they have (there is just this one and another quote in the Carini on 08.10.2010). A quick Simple and Hello My Baby make up the encore and that will do it for the evening.

The ACDC Bag is worth the price of admission alone but top to bottom this is a completely solid show. At the end of this run through Fall 1999 I think you will find that this show sits somewhere in the middle but it is a great release that really clued a lot of people in to what this tour is all about. Now go rest up because we have a double header coming next.

Take Your Laser Beams Away

There is a very good chance you know this show already. Even if you have never spun the full show most fans would be hard pressed to not know of the Boise Bag. The funny thing is that for what is known widely as an all-time great show the singular highlights are not exactly overflowing. The ones below are absolutely ones you will want to spin though.

Loving Cup



Down With Disease

Frankly you could skip the Cup but it really is a notch above most of the other versions you will hear. But once you start that Bag just let ‘er rip.

This Happens Once Again

The California portion of the tour starts next with the two-fer from Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountainview. I have touched on this venue (and these shows) before in The Venue Project as it is one that Phish has a solid history with over many years. Get ready for our first sit-ins of the tour, some big time dark jamming, and more. No official releases on these so prep with the aud of your choice.

As Much As Once Before — Portland Meadows — 09.12.1999

As Much As Once Before — Portland Meadows — 09.12.1999

To finish up the first full “weekend” of shows (assuming you, like me, back in this time would have considered a Thursday night part of your weekend because c’mon who did any real work on Fridays in their 20s? Wait. You did?) Phish left the lovely scenic views of the Columbia River Gorge and continued south and west to Portland for their second year in a row playing outdoors at Portland Meadows, the now defunct and deconstructed former racetrack/concert venue/betting parlor/digital casino (don’t worry, gamblers, there is a new poker room and money taking site a few miles away with the same name). That US Summer Tour 1998 opener got an official LivePhish release and I’m here today to tell you that this 1999 show deserves the same treatment. Until that happens, along with the regularly circulating not-quite-great auds out there we do have a very nicely done remaster, done by the formerly quite prolific Kenny Powers (this and many more of his remasters can also be found via www.phishspreadsheet.com in the ‘Remasters’ tab of all places) and if you like videos there is a random upload of the BOTT from this show on youtube though I haven’t been able to locate anything else from this show which is odd… ok let’s get to it!

Phish – Portland Meadows – Portland, OR — 09.12.1999

I First Tube, Poor Heart, Mozambique, Gin, BOTT, MMGAMOIO, Frankie Says, BOAF, Lawn Boy, Possum

II Ghost>Jim>Roggae, 2001>YEM

E Theme

Notes Out On Sandpaper

–first Frankie Says of the year

The Central Theme

Showing that they really really like the song already, Phish opened with First Tube, its first time as opener but already the third performance of the song early on in this tour. It isn’t entirely uncommon for newly minted songs to be played a lot in their earlier tours with the band (like the “Every Venue Gets a Fuego” from Summer 2014 by example) but this might be getting a bit excessive already. Stay tuned I suppose. Poor Heart gets the classic second song bluegrass nod (listen for Trey almost falling into Yakety Sax) and then we are back to the new tunes for the second take on Mozambique by Phish. This one is a bit tighter and definitely shorter but gets us where we need it to… which is the drop into Bathtub Gin. So far this tour the first half of first sets have been pretty tame as the band has strung together mostly warm up songs and a few Limb By Limbs before settling in and opening things up a bit. Well tonight that changes a bit.

Dripping through the composed section and verses, this Gin starts off slowly paced and oozing with Trey and Page comping around the Gin motif. Trey eventually hits on a new riff which the band follows and they begin to stretch into a dance groove. Trey uses singular notes to set up the next move, continuing to move up the register and altering to a new, repetitive riff. He starts to peak it but backs off a bit and instead builds tension by not resolving before adding a drone loop and then soloing off of that. You can still hear the basis of Gin in the back but they are soaring now as Trey throws more ideas into the mix, false-peaking it several more times over the next few minutes and playing repeated riffs that hint to a big time release. Trey’s playing gets faster here as he reprises the Gin theme and drops back down into what feels like the song’s close after only about 12min of playing (and with no true release having been provided). Suddenly he goes back to the quick runs of notes, throwing it to our first peak and repeating that phrase multiple times before again seeming to head to the finish. But hand on, folks, because the gears shift again and now the whole band is rising up as Trey takes full charge and Mike (well, at least what you can hear of him in this mix) starts dropping big notes all over as Trey takes it nuclear to the full peak. Then for what feels like forever (but what is really only like two minutes) Trey is winding down as Mike pounds away and eventually they crawl back to the Gin close, leaving the crowd in post coital disarray, as the last underlying loop that Trey set continues to whirl around.

Now being Phish we all have our personal preferences when it comes to preferred jamming styles and what the “best” versions of songs are. And that is all part of the game. So when I tell you this Gin is easily one of my favorite versions of the fabled tune I say that with no intention of diminishing what others prefer. Just in the context of Gin you can go a few different directions for what you want to hear. Maybe you like the wide openness of The Riverport or the hose-to-the-max awesomeness of The Went Gin or the sideways improvisational wizardry of Winston-Salem 97 or something I haven’t even mentioned. Gin has gone through a lot of phases in its life and 1999 is a particular vintage that I, for one, appreciate greatly. And of that vintage this Portland one is my exact cup of tea. I have lost count how many times I have spun this Gin. But it still isn’t close to getting anywhere near old for me.

As that last loop wound down Fish kicks up the BOTT beat and we are back to first set fun time fare. Nothing too crazy here and soon enough we are into the second bluegrass number, another personal favorite in the cover of Jimmy Dale Gilmore’s My Mind’s Got A Mind Of Its Own. If you didn’t know better it would be easy to think the lyrics of this one were Mike-penned which I suppose works since he sings it. Immediately following we get the year’s first Frankie Says which is a fairly hard turn stylistically away from the shuffle beats of BOTT and the countrified grassiness of MMGAMOIO. Frankie Says gives us our first taste of lysergic intent in this show with some looped out fun in the back end, but not too much because you are still not yet to the uncomfortable setbreak convos and overly bright lights making you regret that doubling. Rest assured Phish knows and will “take care of you” as soon as the break ends. BOAF snaps us back with those infectious breakbeats with Lawn Boy giving us the only true breather of the set ahead of a typically fun Possum closer.

Coming out of the awkwardness that setbreak often seems to be you would be quite right to belt out a few “awwww yeahs!” as the lights drop and Trey sets that telltale loop (you know, the one he never does anymore?) that lets us know Ghost is a coming. I have to say I was pretty surprised to discover that out of the 182 total performances of this vehicle only 17 have been 2nd set openers (and seven of those have come in 3.0). However, in 1999 it was somewhat of a thing as four of the thirteen played are in that slot and frankly all four are well worth your time. And this one? Yeah, this one is a doozy. Go check out the heaps of praise @lawnmemo throws on this Ghost. He gets it. Frankly, I’m not going to be able to improve upon his breakdown. Heck this image alone is worth reading the whole thing.

What I will say is that this jam GOES PLACES. LOTS of places. It starts with the pre-verse loops and never lets up for close to 30 minutes. You get the Phish funk. You get some power rock. You get a big satisfying peak. You get the darkness and weird (BIG TIME). Shit, you even get one of the canonical Trey riffs best known from the 05.22.2000 Ghost for a bit (check the 16min mark here). Over the course of this jam there is something for everyone. But to be clear, this one goes to deep, DEEP psychedelic places that may not be your filet of Phish. For many of us, this is the type of completely connected musical conversation we seek from this band and why getting it is so amazing when it happens – because it doesn’t always happen. This Ghost has sections you can’t NOT dance to and sections where you fear the world is collapsing in on you. It is relentless and magical. And I love every second of it.

By the time they wind down into the warped close of Ghost you are definitely in need of something to bring you back to some semblance of normalcy. Runaway Jim fills that void, chugging along brightly but without much to speak of outside of the normal end solo bits. Roggae gets the breather slot and works well enough in that role. Immediately following Trey cranks up the loops and effects and we are off into outer space once more as the band works towards 2001. This pre-jam part is better than the 2001 itself, honestly, and you will see it tracked as “Spacey Jam” on some tapes (and I have included that part in the playlist from this show). Following the Deodato funk cover You Enjoy Myself starts up and once again the soundscape-building aspect of the then current playing is on display both in the pre-nirvana and main jam segments. After a solid if not top shelf main jam Trey hints at Johnny B Goode as they transition to what ends up being a loop-laden though abbreviated D&B section. As the song often does this closes the set and show. For the encore tonight we get Theme From The Bottom which is very rare in that slot having only encored eight times out of the 164 total performances for the song. That alone is worthwhile but then when you hear Trey reprise one of the main licks that informed the Gin jam (listen at 5:20 in Theme for the first go at it) it takes this one next level even for a compact get-them-on-their-way encore performance. And with that we are on the road again, albeit now with a night off to make the 400+ mile journey east for that outlier before the start of the California/Southwest portion of the tour.

Take Your Laser Beams Away

Here in the 4th night of the tour the band is fully gelling. Fans would be forgiven for being pretty tired at this stage considering they had already driven more than 500 miles for this first weekend of shows. But the payoff is worth it! Along with many other shows this tour you can start it at the opener and let it run and be perfectly happy. But knowing how we fans are, here are the songs I would recommend you spend the most time and energy with from Portland:

Bathtub Gin


‘Spacey Jam’ pre-2001


Theme From The Bottom

I recommend spinning this show top to bottom or at least those highlights above but definitely the Gin and Ghost if nothing else. Me saying more about those two songs would probably cause even fewer people to spend time reading this blog so let’s just say I consider these to be two of my favorite pieces of Phish improv from this whole tour and we are only four shows in so that should tell you something right there.

This Happens Once Again

Next we will hop over to Idaho for that very well known sleeper show stop that added so many miles to the routing for many fans. Hopefully you weren’t one of those who thought better than to do the drive and missed out on one of THOSE nights… Prep yourself with the official release of this classic night from Boise!

Where They Hoped I’d Be — The Gorge — 09.10-11.1999

Where They Hoped I’d Be — The Gorge — 09.10-11.1999

Today we play two! In the interest of moving things along and keeping my sanity, for any multi-show run I will do a single post covering both shows. This will apply to nine venues in total (The Gorge, Shoreline, Nassau, Albany, Cincinnati, CCCC, The Spectrum, Hampton, and of course Big Cypress). The posts will be longer but hey they weren’t exactly short to begin with…

Oh yeah and I covered these two shows a bit when I was doing the Venue Project thing (you know, before The Baker’s Dozen came along and pretty much ended any debate about which venue was the best for Phish*) so if you would like to read that please go here.

*Look I know the sample size is a big part of why MSG takes top billing for many people but the simple fact is when you have played a venue like that as many times as this band has and with as high of a hit rate as those shows seem to have you really are never going to be able to put together a reasonable enough argument that another place is a “better venue” for Phish.

Phish – The Gorge Amphitheatre – George, WA — 09.10.1999

I Farmhouse, First Tube, Twist, Divided, Ginseng, Carini, WTU?>WIGRIC

II Disease>Moma>Piper, Fee, Jibboo, Saw It Again, Melt>Cavern>Bowie

E Coil

Notes Out On Sandpaper

–debuts of Will It Go Round In Circles and Gotta Jibboo

The Central Theme

The first weekend of Fall Tour found Phish at The Gorge, easily one of the favorite venues of fans around the country, particularly those who have been able to make it to that beautiful place (me not yet included). This was the third year in a row that they stopped here, each time for a pair of shows as one does when the comings and goings to the place take as much commitment of time and energy as this one does. This is a ‘bucket list’ type venue and for the most part Phish has played highly regarded shows here, though in some sense it is difficult to separate the music from the experience which may result in an attendance bias amplification effect as a result. But that’s more for the other project. This one is about the music for the most part.

Starting off with a Farmhouse opener is… not exactly the way to prove the point about how awesome shows are here but hey that was a thing in 1999 as four times (including three on this tour) out of the nineteen performances of the song it came in as show opener. That out of the way we get the second ever run at First Tube, tonight a bit beefier and definitely befitting of the shadow opener slotting. Now we get to the fairly-standard-for-the-era run of songs that fill the bulk of this settling-into-the-scene first set. Twist is fun but mostly jamless and then Divided predictably gets the sunset slot. Notable here is that The Pause is quite long as even after Trey signals the return after 1:16 Fish waits another 1:30 before “answering” so you get a full 2:46 of Pause here which is neat. Ginseng Sullivan gets the bluegrass tune nod and then a crunchy yet contained Carini (which along with the Twist earlier has some solid use of the Note Eater 5000 by Trey) precedes the always-a-head-scratcher freestanding first set What’s The Use?. This is only the sixth ever performance of the song and the third standalone first set version (really only the 07.09.1999 version from MPP out of Free fits the ‘cool down’ slot many of us prefer for the song). Perhaps it was a callout for the next song played like “hey, what’s the use, let’s go ahead and debut this bad ass cover song that we really should have played more than just twice because c’mon who doesn’t want to hear this one?” though I am skeptical that was the intent. But hey at least we got the debut of Will It Go Round In Circles as the closer here. File that song in the long list of ones that should have stayed in the rotation. Perhaps even more today than then this song fits the vibe of a Phish show extremely well. The song lives on as a TAB staple though so I guess we can be happy it hasn’t fully disappeared.

After the break they opened with Down With Disease, a song that I’m not sure I could ever tire of though I am certain someone out there feels triggered by that statement so hello to whoever that poor soul might be. Though the song has now become one of the most reliable vehicles for open exploration in the catalog, at this time you really never knew if it would be a big ol’ set-carrying version or one of the tighter, shred-heavy, energy bursts along the way. Tonight is a little bit of both to be fair. But probably more contained than open. Basically, this one isn’t a setlist highlight but it surely doesn’t detract in any way either. While we are here, I will note that this one has the first example of something that if you know me at all you are probably already rolling your eyes about me bringing up here. Yes, my friends, this Disease has a nascent take on The Lick, a roughly 15 note descending phrase usually initiated by Trey that pops up all over the place throughout the years (well, mainly in particular songs like Disease and Gin and Ghost but yeah). This one comes in at 5:05 (aud) and is not the fully formed version it has become but it is there and like most in Diseases it signifies the drop into the jam proper. Consider this your forewarning that we are likely to find more of these as we go along.

Now warmed back up, the set moves along as Disease falls into Moma (nice but nothing too special here) and continues with a Piper that never really gets going before they bail out for the old ending. Fee starts up which at this point was becoming more of a rarity (and in 1999 was always done sans megaphone). This is the 2nd of three versions for the year but that doesn’t mean it would go quietly as the good thing about its rarity in this era was that typically the ending would stretch into harmonic ambient space. Now this one doesn’t go nearly as big as the one from 07.08.1999 in Virginia Beach (that one is the GOAT after all) but for a couple of minutes we do get to close our eyes and smile at the lovely tinkering going on up there on stage. Once Fee ends Trey sets a new loop, one that we now all know and (for the most part) love but here a new thing as they drop into the debut of Gotta Jibboo which up til now had been only heard in the TAB iterations to date. It got a LOT of workout on the May tour, being played in 10/12 shows so if you had any knowledge of those shows you probably knew this one was coming eventually. While fun and bouncy this one never launches and the result is solid but a bit underwhelming with the context of those 14-18min versions from TAB tour. Don’t worry though. More to come with this song a bit later on this tour.

Saw It Again cranks us back to the stuff we all knew, continuing the see saw feel of this set as they move between the shredders and the dance tunes. This leads to Split Open and Melt which is always welcome in the 4th quarter. To be frank, this is not a version you will hear folks singing the praises of but there’s nothing wrong with sitting in that syrupy groove for a while and just looking around for a bit, maaaaan. The pace is relaxed and particularly so once Fish drops down to more subdued playing, letting Trey build layers of sound within the Melt template. There is a lot of potential in this jam that never pays off though as I respin this yet again I guess my main gripe is I want more of it. Sit in that space for 10-15min and you never know what might go down. But here it feels like just as they are starting to get comfortable someone brings the Melt beat back and they start to work towards the close instead. Could be Mike but might have been Fish. Oh well. Buy the ticket take the ride. We don’t get to decide. I will give Trey credit though. He keeps that return going for a couple of minutes instead of cleanly wrapping it up and moving on to Cavern where, as par for course, the lyrics are botched. Still with considerable time to go here the Cavern is a fake out closer and instead they start up Bowie for what many hope will be the defining song of the set.

Well… see.. here’s the thing about Bowie in this time. Sure there are some nicely stretched out versions but we are well past the peak of jamming for this song (I put it as Fall 94 through Summer 95, ymmv). This does not mean good stuff isn’t going on here! Far from it! But let’s not go in thinking this will be some 30min monster. I mean this one is only 21min long (yes aud track times are over 25min bu that’s the encore break crowd noise for the final 4min) so clearly that is laughable! All kidding aside, I do like this Bowie. In true pre-millennial fashion the intro is VERY extended with loops and synths and full soundscape building to be found. Outside of the telltale high hat hits by Fish you would be hard pressed to know this is even Bowie for almost eight full minutes (and that without any teases, secret language, or other shenanigans). In the right (or wrong) headspace this Bowie intro could take you to some pretty weird places. At one point Fish really messes with your head by playing the “clock” sounds from the studio version of Maze (or at least what sounds like them) and then the band all drops out one by one, ostensibly to reset for the start of Bowie itself. Once in the “traditional” jam things get pretty standard though I would stick with it as the entirety of this Bowie is worth the time. Squirming Coil is the encore tonight which is nice enough. I’ll save the takeaways for the end of the post so we can do both shows at once.

Phish – The Gorge Amphitheatre – George, WA — 09.11.1999

I Tube>Funky Bitch>LxL, DST, PYITE, Billy Breathes, Heavy Things, Guyute>Free

II Wolfman’s->Sand, Meatstick->Maze, Caspian>Hood

E Circus

Notes Out On Sandpaper

–debuts of Heavy Things and Sand

The Central Theme

You might want to check out the full video for this show unearthed by the folks doing wonderful work over at PHArchive on YouTube. Really great to see this video circulate. Just be ready for some nausea-inducing optics at the start and frankly throughout the entire thing. Maybe double up that bonine hitter before pressing play. Oh and the bros chatting and looking at lot art at the end are great.

Following what I am certain was yet another crazy fun night and day spent in the campgrounds and by the Columbia River Phish opened up the second night at the Gorge with the high energy triple play of Tube>Funky Bitch>LxL. Tube is super short (even by today’s standards) but gets a quick loop-funk jam and an addictive Trey riff before they head to the Son Seals cover. The pace here is a bit slower than most versions of the Funky Bitch but I assure you no one was complaining at the extended soloing from Page and Trey. Limb By Limb represents the second song repeated so far this tour (First Tube being the first the prior night) and much like that one they seem to have a lot more to say in the second take this run. Not in terms of length as this one is about a minute shorter but it just feels more direct. Maybe I am just latching onto the Trey tease of Long Tall Glasses too much, I don’t know. I love how he just arrives there and goes with it and then his trill section later will bend your knees in a good way. The mid set gets a Dogs Stole Things (already becoming a rarity just three years into its life) and a fiery Punch You In The Eye. I love this song as an opener particularly with the extended intro but even here it rocks hard. I mean what’s not to love about a version that chugs along for over three minutes, building up tension as it goes, before we get to the lyrics?

Now it is time for a cool down and Billy Breathes fills that role nicely. This sets up another TAB-song-making-its-debut for Heavy Things, a song which has become more at home here than with TAB (which is not always the case obviously). I’m certain we all know what to expect with this one so let’s just move along. Now we have Guyute, another repeat already on the tour and one that goes against those complaints about the lack of compositional songs that people love to throw around about this era. But we aren’t here to dwell on that so let’s talk about the set closing Free instead. 1999 is a pretty dang food year for this song even if the jamcharts aren’t overflowing with versions from this year. It is kind of surprising they only played the song 13 times that year considering how much I like em all. The jam extends as Mike drops bombs and Trey gets his glitchy shred on, playing those backwards notes like they are going out of style. This is a filter that got a ton of use in this period and while it comes back from time to time at no point was it ever used as frequently as this era. Trey shoves a bunch of notes together as they work back to the song’s close, leaving the crowd wanting for more as they take setbreak.

Phish hit the stage for the second set with purpose, cranking into Wolfman’s Brother and really stepping on the gas from the get go. I always take it as a god sign when Trey is scat-riffing over his guitar line as they drop into it. The jam starts out as rocking wah funk but shifts through a few phases as they stretch it out. Trey hints at DEG at one point followed by a tension-filled section that counterpoints the deep pocket groove the other three have going. They move out into more pronounced wah funk that drops into big soundscape layering over the groove as Trey futzes with all the pedals at his disposal. Still in Wolfman’s but also some place else entirely, this jam is basically a template example for the power of what 1999 Phish could be, all four members playing with more swagger than a pimp on Shakedown. Almost suddenly the groove drops to ambience, snapping you out of that groove trance as Trey adds some keyboard tinkering to go along with his sustained tones. Trey goes shredster for a bit, sets a loop, and then communicates the change to Mike and Fish who crank into the debut of Sand! If ever there was a TAB song destined for Phish this is IT.

Folks who weren’t up on their setlists were likely looking around for some form of confirmation of what was going on especially since this one stretches over 18min (and still is in the top ten longest versions ever).  This is a slow burn Sand which primarily showcases Trey over the groove of the base song (something Mike would very quickly get away from as I am sure he got bored quickly considering his penchant for not sticking to the same bassline for very long). Here I will borrow from my venue project post to say that “this version is a Trey clinic as Mike lays down the static bassline, Fish rides rhythm alongside, and Page toys with accents and effects. Over the course of this 18” minute version Trey patiently offers up great idea, some which stick and other that don’t take…” As they move through the jam the intensity builds and builds with Trey going full Jimi and doing his I’m-so-amped-I-can’t-jam-stand-still dance the whole time. As debut versions go, this one is up there on the list with a select few songs. Yes, they would go on to play bigger versions even on this tour once the rest of the band caught up with Trey on how to approach it, but there is no denying the power of this original, interstellar dance-a-thon take on the vehicle. Mike even throws out a few fight bell hits in approval afterwards. He knows.

They follow that up with the tour debut of Meatstick, the first since their visit to Japan but here still without the Japanese lyrics we would come to know and love (for some). The outro jam drips directly into Maze which somehow accomplishes being both heavy shred and mellow at the same time (well, at least as far as Maze goes). I suppose that is another facet of 1999 playing as even with the soupiness of the layered sounds there was the ability to blow heads open as they always had. Maze starts with some loops and then gets to business as Trey uses distortion to great effect. Next – and believe me I am as shocked as you are to be saying this – is a very strong Prince Caspian which vacillates between overly tender playing and powerful soloing. And then we get a masterful Harry Hood with that wonderfully dreamy bliss playing followed by a series of false endings. Listen for some backwards note play by Trey in the intro too. When The Circus Comes To Town, a personal favorite cover for Phish in the non-jammed realm, encores tonight and now everyone needs to pack up for the quick turn to get over to Portland for the next night’s show, the fourth in four nights!

Take Your Laser Beams Away

These two shows found the band comfortable and loose with highlight jams popping up all over. Some of these will not make the final rankings but are worth your time if you go picking. The first night feels more like a tour opener than the actual tour opener was with the dips into open space being less pronounced and a decided focus being paid to the song side of things. But then the second night is Phish in their fully comfortable form. This is not unusual for multi-night stops at a venue where one night will be clearly more connected and flowing. While I love some of what we heard in the first two shows it is this third one where we are starting to get a good idea of what this tour will become. It is a good example to give someone who is not up on their 1999 Phish for them to hear the broad range of what the band was doing during this time. But if you do that, let them know this is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We got a lot more awesome coming shortly…

Will It Go Round In Circles






Funky Bitch>








I recommend checking them all out but please spend time on Bowie, Free, Wolfman’s->Sand, and Hood. Those are the goods. The player in the sidebar has you covered!

This Happens Once Again

Next we will hop over to Oregon for a show I love through and through but one that has not gotten much “official” love. Well, okay the big centerpiece jam is out there now but I’ll continue lobbying for the full show release…

Credit Or Debt — Vancouver, BC — 09.09.1999

Credit Or Debt — Vancouver, BC — 09.09.1999

Phish — GM Place — Vancouver, BC — 09.09.1999

I Mozambique, Axilla>LxL, Horn, Guyute, Chalkdust, BATCS, Stash, IDK, Zero

II BOAF, Ha Ha Ha>Ghost, Inlaw, First Tube, Tweezer, Bug, YEM, HMB

E Sample>Golgi>Reprise

Notes Out On Sandpaper

–debuts of Mozambique, Inlaw Josie Wales (Trey on acoustic), and First Tube

–first performance of Ha Ha Ha in 1999 (don’t worry, these won’t be too big of a thing – I just find it interesting particularly in Fall tours to see what songs are finally getting played for the first time that year)

The Central Theme

First of all, apologies on formatting here. They completely changed the architecture of post building and it is taking me more work than I want to get it to my familiar look and feel. So yeah. Sorry about that. We will get it all figured out.

Following the summer tour’s end in the Midwest in late July and that visit to Japan the week after, Phish arrived in the Pacific Northwest for their first visit to Vancouver since their stop at the Pacific Coliseum on the Fall 1996 Tour. The tour would start indoors here before several outdoor shows taking advantage of the mostly mild late summer/early fall temperatures along the way. But indoor Phish is a thing a lot of us love dearly so getting the tour rolling at a hockey shed (albeit a bigger, newer one than most of those they had laid waste to over the years) adds to the excitement and anticipation. This was the only time Phish has played what is now known as Rogers Center which at the time was just a year old and named GM Place. It also, unfortunately, is the last time the band has played in Vancouver, something they should get to fixing once we are back to seeing shows the way we are used to doing.

Tour openers can be funny things as with a blank slate you really have no idea what to expect. The entirety of the songbook is available and more than any other time the decisions on what to play are at the mercy of whatever Trey and the rest of the band are feeling. Sometimes we get the high energy shot of a well loved classic song but sometimes, like this night, they come out with a song they have never played, setting tone for not just this show but what is to come further along by not falling into the habit of the familiar. While I am certain the majority of fans probably weren’t completely familiar with the song when it dropped you cannot say that Mozambique was the last thing we could expect here. The song was now more than sixteen months old having debuted (as Free Thought – with lyrics! Or maybe it was Third Tube per phish.com?) back in the 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes show on 04.17.1998 not to mention the five times the song was played on Trey Tour in May. This first Phish version is a tad loose but serves its purpose and shakes the rust for the secondary Axilla opener that truly wakes the room up.

Axilla runs right into the first potential for some musical conversation and Limb By Limb provides it as Trey shines in his first real solo of the tour. This third song stretches a bit as they drop into a tranquil space, Trey soaring and noodling about over the rhythm section ahead of a short but typical Fish ending. Horn then starts up a run of familiar tunes with a chunky but contained Chalkdust and then Guyute proves that the composed tune chops are doing just fine, thank you for asking. Now we get a song that I still wonder about because while I get that it is a nice way to showcase Page on the Hammond Back At The Chicken Shack has never really connected for me. The song is fine enough it just feels like setlist filler. I cannot think of any version that makes me want to spin it more than just on the way through a show. There are only three more versions following this one so apparently the band felt the same way I suppose.

Perhaps the band felt this wasn’t cutting it either because the Stash that ensues is perhaps the best one of the year at least in my estimation. We will get to the other one worth mentioning in a few weeks as overall 1999 is not the strongest year for the song. Fully limbered following LxL and more, the drop here is effortless and reflective of the then current approach to jamming. Instead of the frenzied push/pull of dissonant tension/release this version is a slow burner. Trey uses the wah to great effect in setting the tone as he quietly tinkers around, playing wobbly lines that counterpoint the bevy of ideas Mike throws out. You know that feeling when you get into a hot tub and it feels good but then your friend turns it up and a bit later all of a sudden you are like “holy shit this is fucking hot!”? Well maybe you don’t but I do and that’s exactly the feeling I get from this jam. Trey is bending notes all over the place, building tension in a very different way than we are used to from this song. Some may say he is whaling here but if you consider that a negative thing then maybe this isn’t the type of Phish for your ears. All but unnoticeable for the first part of the jam, Page comes in with textured synth hits as they build up towards the release we all are seeking. Trey isn’t having it though. Instead he runs out a bunch of tightly grouped notes and eases back towards ending Stash, fluffing the crowd and taunting us as they never resolve it.

Fish gets the spotlight for I Didn’t Know following some fan service banter by Trey where he thanks the crowd for welcoming them to Canada and introduces “Vahjonna Fishman” who on this night is sporting a bandana in honor of the sushi place they clearly visited the night before (TOJO!). In the litany of names the man has been called over the years, this is one makes me chuckle more than most though that may just be my teenager sense of humor shining through. Character Zero gets the closer nod (of course) and while pretty standard Trey does bend and extend, building off the tension of the unrequited Stash and releasing all over the crowd ahead of the “quick break” that was likely not as quick as the singer would lead the gullible to believe.

The second set starts with Birds Of A Feather, one of four times the song did that in its thirteen appearances for the year. It is a good choice here though unfortunately unlike many of the massive versions from the summer tour this one stays in the box without much fanfare to note. Now I’m not sure if that is why the next song is Ha Ha Ha but I have a hunch it could be related. Seriously, when 2/3 of the prior six versions stretched well outside the song you have to wonder why this one got cut short. Who knows with this band though? Those confused thoughts are quickly assuaged when the Ghost loops start and the dance party cranks up in earnest. This time period is a good one if you like big Ghost jams especially the heavily layered, looped out, chugging grooves that typify the overall sound of the era. Similar to the Stash this one starts out smoldering and inbounds as Mike leads the way. Trey toys around with several ideas including an all but recognizable descending line and then some brighter let’s-head-to-the-peak phrases which the crowd appreciates greatly. On that note, really nice feedback loop with the crowd on this night in general which I expect is the excitement of first night of tour combined with the friendly nature of the local folk. Just when you think Trey is going to blast into overdrive they downshift, settling into a secondary groove before the patient return to close the song. Yet again, we are left without a big release. But that’s okay.

Trey picks up the acoustic guitar and debuts The Inlaw Josie Wales which had already gotten seven performances in the acoustic solo first sets from the May tour. This lovely tune has lived on in the solo format but we haven’t heard it at a Phish show since Hiatus and honestly I’m okay with that as it really works best as a solo guitar piece in my opinion. Hopping back to the electric Trey and the band drop into the debut of First Tube, another song first heard in that 04.17.1998 show and quickly becoming a staple on the solo side as well. Compared to what the song has become this version feels pretty tame but hey it was a new song to them so that makes sense. This one will be heard from A LOT as we progress to the point where people got sick of its frequency for a while there.

Maybe that First Tube ended the 3rd quarter or perhaps it opened the 4th but either way it sets everyone up for Tweezer. Things start out drippy and languid, that Tweezer funk pulling everyone in. Call it more tension building or whatever but they sit in the pocket for what seems like forever until things go sideways in that wonderful way. There are hints of other big Tweezers from this year in this jam but it is its own thing as well. The groove roils on with Trey and Page throwing out ideas above, reminding you once again that this is exactly why you put in all of the time/money/energy to And remember how they haven’t really payed off most of the jams so far in this show? Well, wait no more! This Tweezer EXPLODES into a glorious peak and that’s not even the end of it all. The denouement drones on for several minutes of pre-millennial space, never returning to Tweezer before finally fizzling out into nothing and the start of Bug.

Some folks groan at the thought of Bug but these 1999 versions really capture the song well. I like to think Bug is something of a late 90s take on the power ballad format that we all knew and loved/hated from the hairbands of the 80s but with the flourish that only Phish could provide. No matter what your feelings are for Bug this one works well in the aftermath of that Tweezer, slowly building up from the murk that brought us here. Still with time to burn in the set, Phish then drops into You Enjoy Myself, here a mostly “standard” version for the time period. Of note, the pre-nirvana section falls into more of that ambient soundscape space as Trey lets his notes linger and moan out ahead of the classic song proper. There is also a bit of groove to be found in the main jam but nothing more than a vamp fest outside of Mike’s playing… but the crowd sure digs it. Hello My Baby gets the mic’d but a cappella closer slot and then we are onto the encore. Nothing special here as it goes Sample>Golgi>Reprise but the fist pumpers were assuredly doing their thing throughout. Now time to pack up for the overnight drive of nearly 300 miles to The Gorge…

Take Your Laser Beams Away

A quick note here that as I did for my Fall 1998 and Fall 1996 tour reviews I will be updating the site’s music player as we go with all of the “takeaway” tunes I note in this section of each post. Most times these will be the songs with the jams but often other notable things like sit-ins, unique versions, or one offs that I feel are worth including. Keep checking the “I Love The Shiny Music” area in the left hand sidebar for updates.

Being a tour opener sometimes the highlights can be sparse and other times they can be plentiful. Tonight we get a decent number of takeaways (and I’m not even including any of the debuts!).

Limb By Limb





I recommend checking them all out but please spend time on Stash, Ghost, and Tweezer if you have to mind your time. As tour openers go I feel this show is very strong, particularly that second set.

This Happens Once Again

Next up are the pair of shows from The Gorge, the third trip there in as many years and the last visit until 2.0. Get stretched for the long jams!

And You May Ask Yourself

Well, how *DID* we get here?


For many fans, 1999 is a heavy, heavy year.


Take that line however it works best for you because there are several ways to interpret that and all are true. It may have been your first opportunity to really go big and hit a large run or full tour of shows. It may have been when you started to see the fraying at the edges both on stage and off. Possibly you connected with the layered textures of music you heard and dove deep into introspection or something a bit less… positive. Maybe this was the year when you saw how big it all had become and it caused you to shy away — or perhaps that drew you in more fully. These are but a few of the thousands of perspectives on what Phish was in 1999. So how did it all come to this?


By the time Phish got to 1999 they had become the biggest touring entity in all of rock music, something you can read about from far better writers in many other places. If you are here reading this I expect you probably have a good baseline of what got us here so I won’t waste your time on too much of that. Maybe a little though.


In the eleven years before this they had played 1036 shows (~94/yr), peaking at 150 way back in 1990 and playing the fewest at 71 just before in 1998. Even before 1998 the trend to play fewer shows had begun, most definitely the direct result of playing larger venues and having fully arrived as a national touring act that charted some songs and albums along the way. Phish had also pioneered the modern festival, setting the blueprint for Bonnaroo and beyond with The Clifford Ball, The Great Went, and Lemonwheel but also even earlier with their homespun events. Fandom thrived on the nascent internet as tapes spread wide and the word of mouth continued to sow wonder in the minds of a generation of seekers. It felt like whatever they could imagine they could pull off which made it quite inviting to the thousands of curious people looking to be there when it went down. Clearly, Phish was a THING now, a fixture of our culture but one that was always left to exist on the fringe of mainstream popularity.


Even with that relative obscurity the Phish machine was chugging along and they had more time on their hands due to less time spent on the road. This allowed for more time spent doing non Phish creative things (The Story Of The Ghost had been released just that past Fall) and each member of Phish filled their time in their own fashion. Mike played a couple of shows with Jamie Masefield and Doug Perkins, Page played some very important shows in April (along with Trey), Fish played shows with the two bands he always bounced between (Jazz Mandolin Project and Pork Tornado), and Trey played the first shows of what has now been a 20+ year side band with the core of Russ Lawton and Tony Markellis. Out of the recording sessions for TSOTG came The Siket Disc, released online in July after being edited by Page earlier in the year. All this at a time when they had gotten so big but still they kept creating.


And then came Summer Tour. Phish played 20 shows in 13 states (and one in Canada) over 27 days including Camp Oswego, that summer’s festival. Along the way they debuted thirteen songs including a new batch of mostly one off covers, a few of the Siket tunes (MLT, WTU? The Happy Whip And Dung Song), and a couple that would later end up on the Farmhouse album (BOTT, Bug, MITM). As with most tours there were bustouts and big jams and scensters and complainers and antics and setlist trends and a new Trey toy and complaining about the complainers and all that fun stuff. Perhaps this year the complainers had gotten more numerous or at least louder but there were signs that this wasn’t the tightly practiced band of yore. Without going into it all too much I’ll just point out that while the compositions waned in frequency and precision the era of the extended open jam had begun in earnest. And while nailing those intricate compositions is something that brought a lot of us to Phish it is the prospect of the new that keeps bringing us back. 


Whatever your thoughts are on the Summer Tour it was over in under a month and before we knew it there would be more shows to catch. But first… after three straight summers playing some shows ahead of the US tour Phish chose this year to make their first visit to Japan for the Fuji Rock Festival. During this trip they played seven sets over three days, not repeating a song and taking several out for long jams. Combining this run with the Summer and layering in all of those side projects before that, you can start to see that things were set up nicely for Phish as they got going for the Fall. The band was connected, in a period of high creativity, and – after a month at home recharging – well rested. Add in some more new songs, Trey’s mini keyboard tinkerings, and the lead up to probably the greatest single achievement in the band’s history and we have a lot to look forward to here.


So with that I leave you to do your homework. I’m not saying you have to go spin the whole May ’99 TAB run (but you could if you want) or skim your way through the summer tour (might not be a bad idea…) or really dive deep with Japan 99 (actually…) or even that you should revisit the April Phil & Phriends shows (okay this you should do). But all of those things plus the Siket Disc surely won’t hurt. Knowing we all are pressed for time these days, I do think you may want to run that 09.09.1999 show top to bottom.  Because in a few days we get this bus rolling for real.


Concepts I’ll Ponder

Well it has been FAR TOO LONG since I have spewed thousands of words about Phish here so let’s change that!


After some internal – and external – discussion about what I might want to take on for my next deep dive into a Phish Tour gone by I have decided to take on a two leg tour that many love but few discuss in depth. So as to not bury the lede too far I will tell you that this next project is to get comfy with the 40 shows that make up the Fall/Winter tours from 1999.


So why this year, this tour, now?


Part of that is the simple fact that I have a great appreciation for these shows and know that many others do as well. Excepting those of us who were not able to get on board prior to Hiatus or The Long Wait for any of a hundred different reasons, most people are at least familiar with this era of Phish even if they haven’t spent much time with it. For many this was a time that marked the long, dark descent towards those two events I just mentioned but for many of us this was our early to mid 20s, living (mostly) free and easy in the latter days of the Clinton US, living and breathing the then-exploding jam music scene that Phish helped to foster in the preceding years. But more than anything this is a time in the history of our band that I feel gets a bad rap due to its proximate association with where the scene had gotten at this stage and the later impacts of several factors that quite frankly I will not be focusing on for the most part.


My goal here as always is to focus first on the music, particularly the jamming styles and other minutiae. I am not a musician nor am I a historian but I am someone who really fucking loves this band and all that comes with it. So if you are into the dorky, setlist-dissecting, tease-hunting, trend-finding side of Phish fandom you are in the right place. While I was lucky enough to hit eight of the shows I will cover I am by no means going to put my experience forward as anything more than anecdote. Where possible I will add what context I can for what we heard and saw coming from the stage but that is and always will be skewed by my perspective so I welcome any and all to join in and add to the conversation as we proceed.


So with that I say get your ears primed, your dancing shoes shined, and your notebooks lined (gimme a break, my rhyming cadence is rusty). There will be a post or two more setting the table for what is to come but soon enough we will begin on our journey from one BC to the other, with stops at all point in between…