I, like many of us, have a long and varied history with the band Phish. I have been privileged to see this band all over the United States in every possible type of setting over the course of twenty-five plus years. I have not seen the band in a foreign country and there are definitely big stretches of shows over that time that I was unable to attend for whatever reason but I feel lucky to have gotten the opportunity to share in the experience of their music as much as I have.
In thinking about what tour to tackle next in reflecting back here I wanted to focus on something that was wholly removed from my personal experience with the music. I also wanted it to be a tour that I have listened to but have not done a deep dive into as far as listening goes so that it would be fresh for me to hear so that I could come in with something of a clean slate. So this would require the tour to be one where I did not attend any shows and where I had not spent a lot of time listening back as compares to some of the more classically highly touted tours in the band’s history. And at the same time I wanted it to be a tour that has musical merit and value within the evolution of the band and their sound which is to say that my decision would factor in some thought about where the band was coming from and where they were headed considering my ability to shine a retrospective light onto the proceedings. Lastly, I wanted this tour to be one that was high on jamming and open jamming in particular since that is, at the core, what Phish does best in my estimation.
As fate would have it, there are a few tours that fit this bill quite swimmingly with one being a tour that I long did not listen to very much because I was unable to catch any shows on — but for what I consider a very good reason. After catching several shows along the Summer 1998 Tour as I finished up grad school work, several friends and I took the Fall to backpack our way around Europe, starting in Madrid and doing a lap around the continent over the course of about four months. People came and went along the way but I personally came back in late November having missed any opportunity to catch Phish that Fall. Don’t fret for me though, as I had an amazing time and capped it by seeing what would be my final full NYE Run of 1.0 at the end of the year. We won’t discuss why I didn’t make it to Big Cypress the year following as that’s a conversation for another day.
So call it burying the lede, but what I am announcing with this post is that my next project will be to detail the show by show goings on of the Phish Fall 1998 Tour.
This tour includes a lot of what we all love about Phish in these twenty-two shows and shows a band on top of their game but still pushing the envelope to get further out. We will have plenty of big jams to dissect, antics to laugh at (or deride if that’s not your thing), new songs, an album release, a Halloween cover costume, the don’t-skip-the-skip-show show of all of them, and much much more. Heck, with this small number of shows perhaps I should just start with the few shows that led up to that tour opener in Los Angeles, as there is a lot to detail in those as well (this includes the Farm Aid set, the surprise show in San Francisco, and the pair of sets at The Bridge School Benefit).
For now though, let’s all get our files in order to start going back to that time when Phish had graduated on to bigger venues and bigger expectations, a time when they seemingly could do no wrong, a time when their sound included all of the elements of what had gotten them here but not a time of stagnancy of any sort. The band and scene had grown to all but peak height and many openly wondered whether it could keep going in this way for much longer. While that sort of thinking would eventually become more of a factor, here in Fall ’98 the wheels were still turning and the Phish Express was chugging along with no signs of apparent wear, tear, or ill repair. So let’s hop on board and listen in to what the band threw down in the middle of those years that many refer to as The Peak, shall we?