Don’t You See Anything That You’d Like To Try?

Fall 98 Takeaways

You see that little spreadsheet above? That’s the tracking for our takeaways from this here Fall 1998 Phish Tour. This is the raw data from the end of each post where I identify what songs are potentially worthy of the highlight reel, based on a highly scientific set of criteria that is all subject to my personal and quite subjective preferences. The songs highlighted in yellow are the ones I throw in as “add ons”. Any time you see a segue notation (> or ->) that denotes that the song following it here is part of the sequence. There ends up being a lot of songs here to work through but this is what we do as scarily obsessive fans. I do not expect that another person’s list would be the same as mine but then they aren’t the guy writing this blog now are they?

 

Over the next few posts I will be taking these “takeaway jams” and categorizing them a bit, perhaps tiering them in some fashion. The goal here is really to revel in the wonderful music, not to offer anything that could be mistaken as ranking art. For simplification and ease of digestion it becomes more expedient to break them into groups but that is more convenience than anything. That said, there are some versions of songs here that are “next level” Phish and as such we will focus on them more than the relatively straight forward or otherwise not srs bns epcot level jams. If you feel that there is anything that I have missed here, leave it in the comments. That way we can all point and laugh at whoever puts forth the proposition that there should be more Wadings in the list (just as an example, of course…).

 

 

Like Water That Drips From Above – Worcester, MA 11.29.1998

Phish — Worcester Centrum Centre — Worcester, MA 11.29.1998

I  P&S, Axilla>Theme, Sparkle>Horn>LxL->Catapult->Kung>Maze, All The Pain Through The Years, Layla

II  Roses>Simple, Makisupa, Possum->Wipeout->Possum, Gin, YEM

E  Roggae, Hello My Baby

 

Tour ending shows, particularly Fall Tour closers, have a reputation as being pretty hot throwdowns where anything goes. Part of it is the band giving us one final thank you for yet another great tour. Seriously, outside of maybe the first Euro Tour in 1996 (which has its highlight moments…) has there ever really been a “bad” tour? Sure, there are those who will say some of the 2.0 tours were a bit rough but that’s more a combination of disparate factors than a comment on the music. In a way, the tour finale acts as a summary essay on the tour that just occurred while possibly looking forward towards what is to come. For Fall Tours that means you have the chance to wrap up the entire year with a nice Phishy bow before the celebration that will be the impending New Year’s Run.

 

Look back all the way to 1992 and you have the pair of shows in Canada that capped the Fall (both at venues called The Spectrum, oddly enough) and there’s the tight playing that would beget the Speed Jazz era that blossomed in 1993. There is no Fall Tour in 1993 since the year is front loaded with a 70+ show spring tour and a big summer but that final show from The Greek on 08.28.1993 you get the culmination of the 93 sound with some aspects of the more open psych to come. Fall 1994 ends in Santa Monica with a show opened by the Dave matthews Band that includes a fantastic Stash, the Simple you have memorized from A Live One, a call back to the Beatles cover set earlier that fall, and the debut of one of my favorite songs they have only ever played twice, Chalkdust Torture Reprise. The epic Fall 95 tour concludes just a scant eleven days before the NYE Run with a wonderfully boisterous show from Lake Placid that puts the exclamation point on the big arena psych rock sound so prevalent that year (and that Tweezer->Reprise is straight awesome). The 1996 Fall Tour ending show from Las Vegas should need no introduction but it too pulls together the massive psych and budding funk that made this tour so impressive in its variety while giving hints of the much much bigger things to come not to mention including a great Harpua encore that brought some friends to the stage to help out. Albany’s tour ender for Fall 97 might not be the biggest show on the tour where Phish destroyed America but the cowfunk is in full effect for this dance party show. I’ll skip 1998 since we are about to discuss that in detail but 1999 from the Mothership is a great example of the junction between the funk and ambience that was at the forefront throughout 1999 while also showing the budding Millennial Sound that would be explored in more greater depth at Big Cypress and beyond. From here it gets a bit more difficult to use these shows as boiler plates for the band as first you get Hiatus in 2000 then the start of less frequent touring during 2.0 followed by The Long Wait and finally the enigma that is 3.0. By that I mean that I think since we are still in the midst of it we are trying to determine what this period of Phish means in the larger context of the band’s legacy and potential future so understanding the impact of developments within the band’s sound is not as easy to do as when we look back ten or more years. There is also the fact that what Fall Tours we have had in 3.0 have been much shorter than in prior years meaning that any theories developed based on the music played therein suffers from lack of data. The important thing, I believe, is that Phish is still together and creating meaningful music which reminds me that I am getting really sidetracked here and need to get back to the matter at hand… eventually.

 

Along with being something of a celebratory culmination of the tour that preceded it there is something a bit melancholy about a tour ending show. It means the party is ending and it is time to get back to “real life”. It means there is no new Phish to look forward to, at least until you make the annual pilgrimage to whatever big arena or reservation they happen to be playing for the New Year’s Run to come. It also means parting ways with new friends and old perhaps after several weeks spent traveling and running into the same people over and over both on the lots and in those random moments in the hotels, rest stops, and other places we tend to frequent on tour. For these reasons the tour ender brings with it emotions of all kinds and offers one last chance to lose ourselves in the music before the stark white fluorescence of life gets in the way of the rainbows of our mind. Here in 1998 there is a bit of all of the above going on as we get a show that looks back while pushing things forward in certain ways as well.

 

Your first sign that things are a tad different here in the tour closer is the opening Paul and Silas, a song we grew quite familiar with in Spring ’93. This marks only the second one of the tour (and the second all year taboot taboot after its 115 show bustout in Chicago) and tonight the lyrics are a bit different as Trey adds a bit about Paul Languedoc‘s legal troubles from the night previous. Apparently the then soundman for the band (and luthier of the wonderful guitars that Trey uses and Mike used to) was arrested for failure to vacate a hotel bar in a timely manner the night before so Trey decided to give him some shit about it. Not knowing the reference, most of the fanbase would have been content with the bluegrass song opening a show for the first time but if you listen carefully he alters the lyrics in reference. Next is the more traditional opener Axilla which rocks along before giving way to our first opportunity to stretch out a bit for Theme From The Bottom. Both Trey and Mike are on fire here with Trey leading the band to a soaring peak all while Mike offers up some quite interesting bass work. A frenzied romp through Sparkle keeps the energy high as they almostbutnotquite lose it at the end before going into Horn for the second time this tour. This one is almost clean in the execution and then we head back to the heights for Limb By Limb. The jam here is mostly straight forward in that lovely LxL way that elevates to a big peak but instead of breaking down to the octopus Fish drum clinic outro they stay on the repeating line and hit an almost calypso groove. As you are zoning out to this beautiful music your eyes close and then you snap them back open once you realize that Mike is singing Catapult over this smile-inducing groove, busting out the song after its last appearance in the Fall Tour ending show from Albany 67 shows ago on 12.13.1997 in the midst of a big Weekapaug jam. After getting through the verses Mike voices his approval with several footbell *tings* in time with the beat before Trey comes in over that groove to start up the Kung chant (the only other time these two songs have been paired was in reverse as the coda to the Jim->Vibration of Life->Kung->Catapult sequence in a show best known for the epic sustained note crowd/band peak of Harry Hood). The groove is maintained as the backing music here which ramps up a bit following the intonation as Trey starts up a repeating lick to complement the polyrhythm of Mike and Fish and eventually they all give way to a transitional loop that Trey sets. Fish then comes with the high hat to get us into Bowie… or maybe Maze. Maybe that was more a thing people confused back in the day and I am really only joking because clearly Bowie goes “sika sika sika” while Maze goes “tske tske tske”. I mean, c’mon. It is sooooo obvious. Anyway, they dive into Maze and shred the shit out of it as they are wont to do with a Shafty tease in there for those looking.

 

From here the set takes a bit of a left turn as Trey introduces a guest who probably would not have been overly familiar to anyone who didn’t live at that time in Vermont (and honestly he is still not really very well known outside of the VT music world). Being that they all lived in Vermont at this point it is not surprising that they bring out Seth Yacovone to play on a couple of songs to end this set, though the very fact of bringing out a guest at all is perhaps the most surprising bit here. If you are not familiar with him, Seth has his own eponymously named band that is more on the hard bluesy side of improv rock with Seth being the guitar player for the power trio. Their first brush with Phish was when Trey met Seth at a guitar workshop. This was followed by Seth’s band being asked to play the lots at The Clifford Ball before eventually joining Phish for this appearance. Trey would end up sitting in with Seth and his band during Hiatus on the majority of the second set from 02.07.2002. Seth has also shared the stage with TAB during the famed Vermont Easter Jam show that saw all four members of Phish eventually have the stage to themselves for a few songs as well as an Amfibian show less than two weeks later where Mike also participated. But here in Worcester they had him up for the two songs to end the first set, first his composition All The Pain Through The Years and the only Phish performance of the Derek and the Dominoes classic Layla. The first song is straight up blues rock with Seth leading on vocals and lead guitar while the band lets him shine, Trey taking his solo turn as well and adding a quick Layla tease which would have been a good precursor of the next song if anyone was able to make that connection in the moment. Layla is pretty well by the numbers to the original you know so well with Trey and Seth trading off on the signature licks of the tune. Neither song elevates to anything otherworldly but it is an interesting sit-in all the same to once again confirm that in the end Phish is just better when we get the four playing without interference by other players. There are definitely some guests who work quite well with Phish (Bela Fleck, MMW, Santana, most of the various bluegrass luminaries who have joined them, and others) but the ones that work best are all world class musicians known for their ability to improvise. This is not to speak ill of Mr. Yacovone’s playing abilities as he is an accomplished player in his own right and perhaps it has something to do with the song choices but this sit-in falls a bit flat for me. The Layla in particular just doesn’t have much replay value considering it is a song everyone already knows every note to and this version does nothing to move the song forward. In the end this sit-in ends up being yet another geeky footnote in the band’s history rather than something we cherish for its greatness. And in closing the set with these two songs it provides a bit of fun but doesn’t exactly give the punch you might expect for the end to the penultimate set of this fine tour.

 

While you are still debating the merits of that sit-in with your friends the lights come down to get us moving into the second set. Tonight our opener is Roses Are Free, one of only three times they have opened the second set with the Ween tune with the others being the epic Island Tour version and the Desert Sky version from 10.01.2000 (there are also two show opening Roses out there in the 07.25.1998 one from Austin, TX and the 08.02.2009 one from the final show of that wonderful four night run at Red Rocks). Unfortunately, as with all but a scant few amazing versions there is no jam here as they instead start up Simple. There is promise here as Simple has been a consistently strong song on this tour and tonight is no different as from the start of the jam it is clear they mean to take this one for a ride. It stats out with some exploration around the Simple groove with Trey trying out different ideas along the way. Eventually they break down to a more sparse space leading to a searching jam that feels like transitional space but eventually settles into a hard edged, dissonant, and noisy adventure in distortion. This is a different type of ambient jamming than we have seen on this tour, relying more on the powerfully discordant drawn out notes from Trey to open up the portal to a darker sense of ambience instead of the generally blissy nature of the ambient texturing that Phish typically employs. Some may not be fans of this sort of music but it is very encouraging to hear them explore the other side to this ambient sound. The jam seemingly resolves itself into nothingness and they start into the second (this seems to be something of a theme tonight…) Makisupa Policeman of the tour. Tonight’s keyword is another nod to Paul’s arrest as Trey says, “hey Paul, can you pass me the soap?” to the confused delight of the crowd. There is a bit of drippy, loop’d “dub” to follow which is pretty darn cool if you like your music trippy and then they come back to wrap the song up.

 

When they next start up Possum you start thinking that they are probably just going to go high energy rock Phish on us for the rest of the set but when Trey lays down a final nod to Wipeout in the early part of the jam here you realize that maybe the fun isn’t quite over. This Possum is pretty much what you expect but the jolt of that quick run through Wipeout almost blows the roof off the building when the crowd pushes that energy back to the stage. Once returning to Possum they work it down to a whisper before coming back up to the typical Possum peak as Trey throws in some almost DEG phrasing along the way. Following this they could have gone any of a dozen directions but we are treated with a late second set Bathtub Gin, something not really too common. There are a good number of solid second set Gins but the song generally shows up in the first half of the set which is a bit odd considering that it is so often a first set closer. Well, tonight we get one of those late 2nd set versions and this one first starts out with a raging Gin jam that stays close to the main theme while chugging forth on the patient climb up towards the peak. But that peak never fully releases. Instead, Trey drops out to allow Page to offer up colorful fills before they all drop down to the lower register and head into another ambient jam this one more in the contemplative realm than the Simple jam earlier in this set. Over the next five minutes or so they move through a few different themes, the most engaging being a Mike-led segment that Trey accents with singular notes and Page drapes in spacey effects all while Fish keeps that beat going. This evolves into a sweet little groove pocket that feels like it is about to explode into a big time bliss jam buuuuuuuuut instead they pull back and move on to start up You Enjoy Myself.

 

This YEM might not end up being your favorite one even from this tour but as the set closer to the final night of Fall Tour you could do a heck of a lot worse. The funk is prevalent in this one early and often even without an end D&B section as Mike and Fish push the pocket higher and higher. Fish in particular is driving the bus in this one with a drum line that is hard to not just get up and dance to as the other players ride this rising wave to bring the room to collective release. Mike is in agreement of the merits of this one as he throws in a bunch of fightbell *tings* throughout. Trey chimes in with some Superbad similar to the one from Albany. This is a great dance party version of a song that brings the room to that final peak you know everyone was looking for having gotten several jams on the night that teased at the release and just built the tension up towards this moment. After the VJ we are on to the encores and, fittingly, we have a more subdued pair with another soulful take on Roggae before they end with one last a cappella song in Hello My Baby. From here we are left to the hugging before one last trip through Shakedown to capitalize on all of those “end of tour” deals the vendors were assuredly offering. I’m sure the nitrous mafia was really gracious in that regard.

 

Tour ending shows are somewhat difficult to evaluate as you get a bit of everything. There’s the emotional aspects at hand, the “tour summary” feel in certain places, and the overall celebratory feeling of being there for the end of it all. The band always offers up their big thanks to the fans and the crowd is giving it right back to them so in that sense the music sometimes gets elevated by everything contributing to it. This is not always the case, of course, but thankfully on this night it all seems to come together pretty well in providing us with a balanced show that has so many of the elements that make a Phish show great. I’m not saying this is an all-timer show but there is a unique setlist construction, a decent at worst sit-in, some bustouts, a bunch of solid jams, a bit of inside-joke humor, and several nods to the tour gone by. It is clear they had a great time on this tour and this show is a joyful example of that. There isn’t even a single ballad to mess with the flow of the sets. It might not have the highest highs or include everyone’s favorite tunes but it works in its role here as the tour finale. So with that all that is left is the takeaways from the night which tonight are rather a lot. There’s Theme, LxL->Catapult->Kung, Simple, Possum->Wipeout->Possum, Gin, and perhaps YEM with the Seth Yacovone sit-in stuff being interesting at least for a listen. All told, yet another fun night with this band called Phish.

 

On a final note, as I have mentioned in previous posts I will be doing a bit of summarizing for this tour over the next few posts. With Thanksgiving coming up I will probably get to that next week. So enjoy the holiday and give thanks that we are able to devote so much time and energy to this wonderfully oddball band we obsess over way too much. And thank you for joining me on this tour.

 

Here We Shower Ourselves With Lightness – Worcester, MA 11.28.1998

Phish — Worcester Centrum Centre — Worcester, MA 11.28.1998

I  Gumbo, Tube>Disease, Guyute, Albuquerque, Foam, Moma, Melt

II  Julius, Wolfman’s>Timber Ho>Cup>Mule, Caspian>Crossroads, Tweezer, Cavern

E  Sample>Reprise

 

Following up a legendary show can be something of a challenge as you have now increased the already lofty expectations of the fans who want you to “beat” that one with something even more memorable. But it also presents opportunity as when Phish is playing well and connecting with the crowd it can lead to great things as well. Sometimes the show following one of the great ones can fall flat or at least be received more reservedly in being compared to its predecessor. But being Phish, where each night produces its own unique snowflake of musical intrigue, the surest bet is that the show following will be nothing like the one before it which is what makes it all so exciting to experience.

 

For this middle night of the Turkey Run in Worcester there was definitely a lot of buzz after the Wipeout show from the night before. That show was a seguefest punctuated by a few key jams but really most notable for the setlist construction and don’t-leave-the-room-cuz-you-might-miss-something feel of the way they threw down that second set. On this Saturday night we are treated to a different form of Phish one that is not quite the full jamnation of something like 11.17.1997 but that is also not just an energy rock show full of fun songs and solid playing. This is a hybrid type show with a setlist that might not set the world on fire but that continues the theme of Phish playing whatever they tackle extremely well. I’d also recommend watching the often times dizzying, other times Zapruder-esque fanshot video of this one (from the upper deck, no less) to get a good glimpse into the band’s playing and interactions (including some fun stuff between Mike and Fish during Mule but I’m getting ahead of myself). This is the first set and here is the second. Just warning ya though. You might want some Dramamine.

 

The show starts out well with a return to jam form from the get go as they open up with a stretched out Gumbo. Tonight they leave the Manteca theme out and we get a thick groove that plods on for a few minutes with Trey sharing ideas over top before they dive into the soup for a bit of loop’d, ambient goo that eventually resolves to our next song on the evening. That song is Tube and even in being a quite compact version has a bit of a min-jamlet in the middle before the final verse. I kept waiting for the Tube Reprise jam to kick in as we got in Utah earlier this tour but alas that was not to be here in Wootown. Instead they head to the murky beginnings of a third song Down With Disease to the delight of the crowd. While perhaps not as triumphant as the Disease that preceded it from New Haven tonight’s version has the inevitably wonderful peaky Trey shining forth above the cacophony of noisy rock groove the band develops here. This is not an exploratory version of the song but gets to that major mode shred quite well for a version that will definitely get you moving. Doubling down on the peak energy we get our 7th Guyute of the tour (in 21 shows to date) making this song one of three that sit in the #2 spot for most times played this tour (and just because the question has been begged, the three most played songs at eight so far are BOAF, Roggae, and Moma Dance with all three of those songs being featured as they are included on the then recently released The Story of the Ghost album). Guyute is its typically rocking self here and gets the crowd even more engaged which means they will probably play a slower, bathroom-break-friendly tune in its wake.

 

When your one true cool down tune of the show occurs mid first set, that is a good thing (not that you would have known that this would be the case during the show but just work with me here). This is not to say that there would not be other opportunities to take care of business but the ballad-esque nature of Albuquerque just lends itself well to making that quick run out to the concourse to reload the nachos and maybe get a soft pretzel and a beer and maybe some candy… anyone else have the munchies? Just me then? Hmmm, maybe I should have gotten that burrito on lot preshow after all. Lord knows I wouldn’t have been able to find any fried eggs and country ham which reminds me I am supposed to be talking about the slow tune they played here, Albuquerque. Yeah, so they played Alburquerque to follow that Guyute. Right. Moving on. Then they go back out for some more energetic music by kicking into Foam for only the second time this tour. For as little as they played the song this tour it sure sounds good here as they keep it it bouncy and tight, bringing back the rocking dance party that this set began as. That aforementioned eighth Moma Dance of the tour pops in next and (again) while not a massive version just drips with the languid funk that they have been exploring with this song on the tour. Then to cap the set we get Split Open And Melt (3rd 1st closing Melt of the tour and just the third time they played the song as well). There is some very nice exploration going on in this jam within the construct of Melt itself resulting in a satisfying version that doesn’t beg you to hide under your seat like some of those mid-90s versions at its peak but sends everyone off to setbreak saying “okay, that was nice, let’s have some more in the 2nd set, please!” Looking back at the setlist once the lights come up you are hard pressed to find anything really lacking here. It is a set full of well-loved tunes played well and the only “lull” in the action comes in the form of the only cover song played in the set. If more first sets were like this one there would be a lot less complaining about them.

 

Eventually they come back out for the second set and continue right where they left off by getting the room up and bouncing for Julius. While never a song that will stretch its boundaries musically it can often be a quite spirited ‘type I’ platform for Trey to lay waste on the guitar while the band provides that wonderful swing beat groove in the back. Tonight’s version is a good example of that as Trey lords over the jam with Mike and Fish providing that pocket and Page interjecting with piano fills and comping to accent Mike more than anyone. Julius is happy time bubbly Phish and I’ve always thought it makes for a great wedding reception dance song for a band to cover though I haven’t ever heard of that actually occurring. So instead we are left with Phish to make the Centrum the wedding venue of our minds with beautiful women twirling about in flowing dresses of floral print, patchwork, and other more abstract patterning replacing visions of the bride and her attendants spinning about on the temporary “wood” dancefloor all while cagey wook ‘groomsmen’ groove out and share a smoke with questionable intents in mind. This heart-pumping dance party gives way to Wolfman’s Brother and based on what we have already gotten from this song here in Fall ’98 you have to think another solid version is coming. We aren’t expecting the second coming of the Vegas Wolfman’s here but it is clear they intend to play with this one as once through the lyrics they first start with some exploration on the Wolf funk theme before taking a turn towards dark waters. Trey is offering up some great ideas here and Page is adding effects to the great, um, effect. The groove devolves into dark ambience in that Fall ’98 way with some loops accenting the drone and effect soundscape they put together. Eventually Trey plays some recognizable chords to trigger our transition into a (semi) bustout (62 shows) of Timber (Jerry) the Josh White penned classic that Phish has taken and turned into a springboard for dark improv over the course of making the song their own. Seriously, listen to the original and then one of Phish’s big jam versions of it and tell me they are being true to the original structure of the song. Fans colloquially refer to the song as Timber Ho! (sometimes with parentheses and/or exclamation point and sometimes not) which is more a reference to the words in the refrain than anything.  Here in 3.0 the song largely lacks the improv jam that would generally grow out of this one but it is a sought after tune to catch all the same. If you go looking for the key versions of this song check out some from its peak year of 1995 like the Hampton 11.25.1995 take that hints towards MLB, Nashville 11.29.1995 version, the famed 12.14.1995 version which resides in the middle of a great Tweezer, and the super dark one from 12.28.1995 also from here at The Centrum or the stretched out versions from 1997 like Austin 07.26.1997 with Bob Gullotti on the second drum kit, the effects-laden beaut from Denver 11.16.1997 that segues into Simple, or the linear shred of the 11.28.1997 version yet again from here in Worcester. This one in 1998 lives up to the rep it has gained in this venue by going down the hole once more with layered dark ambient washes providing the backdrop for Trey and Mike to solo over while Page adds flashes of bright piano to counterpoint the depth of the jam. Fish is crushing it as always and hitting the crash cymbal with abandon as they bring it up to the peak and circle back to the main theme of the song and final verse/refrain. It kind of leaves you wanting more in a good way but we are soon off into Loving Cup so there’s not much time to play the woe card for what might have been. The rocking energy of the Rolling Stones cover gets us back to that Julius-type headspace after two pretty dark jams and after a fine run through this one they start up the bane of the jam chasing jaded vet’s existence, Scent Of A Mule. Now, before we go deriding this as a mid-second-set-waste-of-ten-minutes let’s considering a few things. First, it is a tune that A LOT of people really like (just watch videos of it on youtube and you’ll see) and, personally, it is one I never complain about hearing considering that it combines their humor, oddball lyrics, and some pretty impressive musicianship over the course of the song and duel/jam. I’m not going to sit here and say that it is transcendent music by any means but I’ve seen a few that pretty well made me laugh out loud in lysergic enjoyment of the antics going down. And someone over at .net really likes the song or at least wanted to be complete with it as there is a quite large jamchart devoted to a song that isn’t exactly a jam vehicle. Plus there are many instances, such as the one during the first show from Vegas here in Fall ’98, where they have used it as a means to play for a bit either in debuting a song, dive into a rare song like Catapult or Digital Delay Loop Jam or otherwise have a bit of fun. Considering the dark nature of the jams earlier in this set this song pops in at a time when they were building back towards a peak of sorts in the setlist construction. This song provides a bit of breathing room and rest for all while still moving things forward. And tonight it goes a bit further than normal with Page and Trey interactively soloing in the typical Mule Duel manner before Mike takes over and then Fish joins him for their own duel, with Mike donning the Viking Helmet to mirror Fish no less (the song starts around the 36:00 mark of that second set video I linked way up top). It is one of those funny things that happen at shows that you really can’t explain well to people after the fact and possibly part of why when you start detailing what goes down at Phish shows to your non-phan friends they start to get that concerned look in their eyes while backing away slowly and looking for a way to change the conversation. Oh well. Some will never understand why we do it all.

 

So after our antics/humor portion of the set — and let’s be honest with ourselves, would you rather a Mule or some Fish vac tune or (gasp!) a Big Ball Jam? — we head back to the songs with Prince Caspian starting up. Now, some will say that gives us two bathroom break tunes in a row while also debunking my one-ballad-only show theory about this night but you just go ahead and listen to this Fuckerpants and come back with that theory, mister, and I’ll say you probably didn’t really listen to it. This is a Caspian that displays the power of what this song can be with Trey annihilating his end solo by playing a Hendrix-inspired clinic in shred. Caspian is not a song I go seeking but this is a version I would gladly spin again, though perhaps that also has something to do with the fact that they head right from the peak to a small bustout (64 shows) with the Robert Johnson song Crossroads (probably most famous as an Eric Clapton/Cream cover). Phish has some history of their own with the song as it was first teased as part of Harpua on 05.07.1993 before being fully debuted the following night during the tour closing show 05.08.1993 from Durham, NH. It popped up again four times in 1995 and three times in 1997 before the final (for now) version from this night in Worcester. It is a faithful cover of the blues standard with Trey taking a nice solo that he clearly is enjoying playing but otherwise it is mainly notable for the song chasers trying to tick this one off their personal checklists.

 

At this point in the show you have to think they will head to the closing numbers and they do in a way but the ‘false closer’ tonight just happens to be Tweezer (!). While perhaps not a massive version it does reach into the Fall ’98 bag to chug through the jam that progresses from straight up arena rock in the lyrical portion of the song straight down towards the ambient depths once more. I’m not kidding. As soon as they finish up the last refrain Trey drops down his tone, sets a siren loop and then he and Mike start to work over top, hugging the Tweezer theme while begging to go deeper. I will warn you that if you are watching the video at this stage the dude holding the camera is clearly more interested in dancing than in getting a good shot as it might as well be a POV cam. Not sure if he realizes this, but most people watching a video of the band don’t need nausea and headaches as a side effect. Trey screeches out a bunch of sustained notes here as they stretch for the peak, never fully resolving it as they instead turn back towards the deep end. Stuck in a bit of a search mode here Trey plays a ton of notes before dropping to full sustain and a loop or two as they look to be headed into the ambient world and WHOA WAIT. Just when things are really starting to potentially get interesting it inexplicably ends. Like just plain stops with Trey walking over to Mike and telling him the next song. And we get Cavern’d for the closer. Great. Then we have a rather uninspiring Sample>Reprise encore and we are out into the night. This is not to say the Reprise doesn’t rock but I have never liked pairing anything with Sample so it gets pulled down as well. Kind of a weird ending to an otherwise quite solid show.

 

This is an oft overlooked show sitting between the gem that is the Wipeout show and the tour closer that we will cover next. I think it is undervalued as a result and in listening to it this one plays out more in line with how the tour has gone than the one preceding (or the one following, honestly, but that’s for another post). That first set even on paper is quite strong and there is nothing in the playing that would cause you to downvalue it either unless you just really don’t like those songs for whatever reason. The Gumbo starts the jamming early and aside from the minor lull for a well played Albuquerque every song in that set is engaging music. The second set reads a bit oddly but again the playing is on point and there are some definite takeaway jams to be had here. I would have been quite happy with having seen this show and for takeaways I’ll point to Gumbo, Disease, Melt, Wolfman’s>Timber, Caspian>Crossroads, and Tweezer with add-ins being Foam and Moma. The Mule is a personal preference thing so you will either want to hear that or not and that’s your thing. In summing up it is hard to discount this show as being one of the stronger complete shows of the tour considering just how strong both sets are without one being noticeably good or bad. This show is a good sign of where the band was at this stage both on this tour and in their career arc and another I’d add to the ever-growing list of shows-you-could-spin-for-a-noob to give them a taste of what this band is all about. To me, that’s a sign that this show holds up quite nicely.

Hoping to Lighten The Tension – Worcester, MA 11.27.1998

Phish — Worcester Centrum Centre — Worcester, MA 11.27.1998

I  Funky Bitch, Ya Mar, Carini, Jim, Meat>Reba, Old Home Place, DST, Vultures, Circus, BOAF

II  Buried Alive>Wipe Out>CDT->Mirror in the Bathroom->CDT->Dog Log->CDT>Sanity>Buffalo Bill>Mike’s->H2>Weekapaug->Wipe Out->Weekapaug>Paug Reprise>Antelope

E  Wading, Golgi>Wipe Out

 

Ah, Worcester. City of Seven Hills. Wormtown. Heart of the Commonwealth and the City of Dreams. The Woo! We have mentioned how certain cities and venues seem to bring out the best in Phish and our scene and Worcester, MA is right up there with Hampton, New York City, The Gorge, Colorado, Chicago, and more as a place Phish just seems to feel at home. Over the years Phish has played this town 18 times, first back at the Clark University Pub on 01.19.1990. That’s a venue that I am pretty certain does not exist anymore. But from there they take things bigger first with a New Year’s Eve show on 12.31.1991 at the old Worcester Memorial Auditorium which is a really cool building with a storied history. This article gives a glimpse into this now closed venue. I can imagine that those murals would have been fun to check out with Phish as your soundtrack. After that the band didn’t play here for two full years as they again graced a Worcester stage at the famed Centrum (now DCU Center) that has been home to so many great concerts over the years.

 

Phish’s first appearance there on 12.31.1993 is a show that many point to as a tipping point for the band (and a great tape to give people new to the band to give them a clue of what this band is all about). That show got a radio broadcast and their are remastered soundboards in circulation which helped to make this a very widespread and popular recording… though the music itself really tells the tale with stellar versions of Reba, Tweezer, YEM, and Hood (some hold this as their favorite Hood ever) as well as the debut of the jam that would become Down With Disease to celebrate the new year. Since that night Phish has been back to this venue fifteen more times first for a pair of shows on the NYE 1995 Run on 12.28.1995 (home to a fantastic Tweezer and more) and 12.29.1995 (ever hear of The Real Gin? Yeah.) preceding the two epic shows at MSG, three Thanksgiving weekend gems in 1997 (11.28.1997 where the Ghost gets the love but don’t miss the YEM and pretty much the whole 2nd set, 11.29.1997 with the longest jam in band history for Runaway Jim, and 11.30.1997 with the big first set Wolfman’s and the Stash->Free>Jam->Piper), the three big time shows from around Thanksgiving 1998 that we will cover here, a single night on the Winter 2003 Run 02.26.2003 perhaps best known for the solo band tunes featured in the first frame but the jams here are big too, another pair of pre-MSG NYE Run shows in 2010 (12.27.2010 accompanied by an epic blizzard that influenced song choices and 12.28.2010 which begat the magnificent plinko funk Hood), the two Summer 2012 Tour opening shows (06.07.2012 with that amazing Carini->Taste>Ghost>Boogie>If I Could segment to start the 2nd set and 06.08.2012 with the return of the Roses jam, the Sandy Kane jam and more), and a pair of Fall 2013 shows on the path to Atlantic City for Halloween (10.25.2013 with the Waves>Carini and 10.26.2013 with its great 2nd set highlighted by Drowned>Light not to mention the Kenwood Dennard sit-in in the encore). Here’s a jams-only playlist over at our friends www.phishjustjams.com for you to peruse if this Worcester stuff sounds interesting. I didn’t even mention any of the 1998 highlights and already I am like 1,000 words into this write-up without touching a note of the show above. I suppose I should get to that…

 

All of that background sets the stage here for high expectations out of the fanbase. Perhaps that could have been on the band’s minds in kicking off their second Turkey Run of shows in as many years here (and the final run of shows on the tour too) but if it was they sure didn’t show it on stage. Instead we are treated to “one of those shows” where everything seems to come together to produce something bigger than the sum of its highly segmented setlist parts. Just take a look at that setlist up there. Seriously. Check it out. Remind you of anything? Like one of those epic seguefest shows all the setlist geeks are always squealing about? Well here we have one of the biggies in Phish history. This is canon. I’ll do my best to work through everything here but you really need to just spin this show to get an idea of how it all went down.

 

The first set is a bit more traditional, starting off with two covers in Funky Bitch and Ya Mar. The Funky Bitch is fun and gets the crowd into it but the Ya Mar is our first highlight as they add on a cool little jam (with a I Dream of Jeannie tease by Mike along the way). A short Carini is next with a streaker reference and then they kick into Runaway Jim. At this point the crowd is wondering if it will be like the hour long epic from last year. It is not. BUT it does have a nice little Jim Jam at the end which is worth the listen. Our sixth Meat of the tour is next and this one lacks the coda ambient jam but does go right into Reba which is a perfectly acceptable replacement. Reba gets a fight bell *ting* at the drop into the jam and then they build to a predictably good peak. Trey is on point throughout this one with everyone else along for the ride. Nothing revolutionary in this one but definitely a pretty, clean version. A breather for our bluegrass slot tonight brings The Old Home Place in for the first time since the Bridge Benefit shows before this tour then a quick Dogs Stole Things and our first Vultures of the Fall. There’s something about that song that always makes me think it might blow up into a jam but, alas, that has yet to occur. The pre-closer ballad slot gets Los Lobos’ When The Circus Comes and then they bring the set home with a soaring if straight forward Birds of a Feather. Judging from this first set you can tell they came to play but at this stage they have yet to really open it up or give us a hint of what might be to come in the 2nd set. Perhaps better that they saved that surprise…

 

So after braving the horror that used to be the Centrum bathrooms (seriously, there are some legendary stories about how bad it used to be here before the recent renovations helped… somewhat) you settle back in for the second set and they kick into the second Buried Alive of the tour. Always a good one to kick off a set, tonight it drops into a massive bustout (722 shows!) as they head into the surf rock classic Wipeout. That’s the Surfaris version but I might prefer the Beach Boys/Fat Boys take on it. Ah, the 80s where questionable musical collaborations and funny music videos shaped the world for generations to come… In the Phish world the playing of this song was once a band in joke to make fun of a mistake (i.e. a “wipe out” similar to when a surfer loses it while attempting to catch a tube, as they might say. I’m sure you had trouble figuring that out all by yourself). There are several teases of the song noted throughout the years and two times it actually made it to a setlist in 1991. It was a direct reference in the Vibe of Life portion of the Forbin’s narration on 11.17.1994 so when it came up for the first time again here in the early part of this set it was definitely a head scratching move to the fans. After this they crank into Chalkdust Torture which has a bit more Wipeout in it not to mention Mike playing the baseline to another song familiar to those who matured in the 80s, Mirror in the Bathroom, the wonderfully catchy ska radio hit by The Beat (known here in the U S of A as The English Beat because apparently we need more specificity in differentiating between British ska bands and not really memorable late 70s pop rock bands – apologies if you are big on stuff like this but then if you are what the heck are you doing reading a Phish nerd blog??). That Mike tease is foreshadowing because pretty soon thereafter as they jam CDT the band turns on a dime to start up the debut of Mirror in the Bathroom in earnest before heading back to CDT. Again, they jam the CDT theme before dropping into a bluesy space and adding a few lines from Dog Log in for good measure. This bleeds right back into CDT for a few bars and then we dive into Sanity followed by Buffalo Bill (first one in 75 shows) as the segues keep coming. Catch your breath for a sec because we are only half way home.

 

Buffalo Bill (one of my longest sought after tunes that I finally caught at Magnaball this summer!) heads into Mike’s Song and now you are thinking, “okay, here we go! just jam, maaaaaaan!” and they do for a bit with a second jam that goes ambient with some nice effects by Trey and Page, leading to a lovely full segue into the “bustout” of I Am Hydrogen (first in 68 shows so the judges say it counts). This is a nice interlude and then we head right into Weekapaug Groove for a triumphant jam that heads to the mountain top peak (with a Nellie Kane tease by Trey in here) before they pull off a full segue back to Wipe Out and then again back to Weekapaug. Things really start getting interesting here as they go double time in bringing this to the apparent close for the song before diving back in to reprise the song with another full Paug jam. Trey first starts to attack and then backs off to set a sustain note/loop as he and Mike then play leads over that note that pierces through in the background. Things get a bit darker here as the continue in this vein for a few minutes before transitioning out to the Run Like An Antelope closer. This Antelope starts out patiently with a somewhat extended primary jam before rising to that frenetic peak and insanity that make this such a great set closing tune. It isn’t the best or most exploratory version you will ever hear but it is a shreddy Lope so who’s complaining?

 

For the encores it is pretty much gravy at this stage so when they start up Wading in the Velvetta Cheese you just kinda shrug and start to collect your marbles that have someone been scattered all over your section by this set. Admittedly, Trey plays a nice enough solo so you decide to stick around to see if they drop a big energy tune afterwards. You get that with Golgi Apparatus not to mention a final dip into Wipeout so I guess it was worth it. Besides, the Dirty Woo shakedown scene will go long into the night so there’s no rush needed, my friend. The Nitrous Mafia will be waiting for you. Oh, and there is some funny banter between Trey and Fish to be found here if you like that sort of thing.

 

So how did we like this one? This, like most if not all of the other famed “seguefest” shows (such as 02.20.1993, 05.07.1994, 06.22.1994, 07.27.2014, and on) is a highly beloved show in the fanbase. It combines high energy, stop on a dime musical changes, top notch playing, a few nice jams, and all of the intangibles that make IT all part of the experience. Sure, there is no transcendent monster jam but this is a show that is fun to the core without worry about anything but being in the moment with it. The band is arguably at their best when they are the most un-serious, allowing themselves to take chances they might otherwise think better of. The result is that this show stands as the seventh best rated show ever on .net behind such gems as Big Cypress’s Millenium Set, the amazing middle day of this year’s Magnaball Festival, one of the best two set shows ever from Denver ’97, the mountaintop performance that was NYE 1995 at MSG, one of the best 2.0 shows from Nassau Coliseum, and the ridiculous Drum Logos show from the Japan 2000 tour. There is rightfully a LivePhish release of this one (LP06) and the auds out there are great too so do yourself a favor and spin this one top to bottom to find out what all the fuss is about. And if you like the video check out this for the full second set (with sbd audio). Eagle eyed fans will know that in the start to Weekapaug (around the 42:50 mark) Trey has one of his biggest “Poor Sue” moments….  Of course, as we must do, here are your takeaways for the show: Ya Mar, Jim, Reba, perhaps BOAF if you like em shreddy, and the entirety of the second set. Believe me, it is worth the time as it will also help you to make more sense of the rest of this weekend of shows if you hear this one first. Now go get that balloon, wook. You’ve earned it.

The Image Glistens Like A Gem – Albany, NY 11.25.1998

Phish — Knickerbocker Arena — Albany, NY 11.25.1998

I  PYITE>My Soul, Roggae, Bag, Lifeboy, Bowie, Sleep, Driver, GTBT

II  2001>Golgi, Drowned->Caspian>Piper, YEM, Been Caught Stealing>Llama

E  Something>Guyute, Free Bird

 

Once again we have a venue that has gone through several names in its sponsored history. I still refer to it at the Knick (you know, short for Knickerbocker?) but in 1997 the naming rights were sold and it became Pepsi Arena for about 10 years before that contract expired and the current one making it the Times-Union Center began. Perhaps a minor issue for some but there are lots of venues that have been subject to this sort of thing and keeping them all straight can get wonky when you have several Verizon venues for example that could be on a single tour. So we will continue to call some places by the names that made them great like Deer Creek, Great Woods, Pine Knob, Star Lake, and The Knick (amongst so many others). Because, honestly, having a concert album called “Dozin’ at the Pepsi Arena” just doesn’t ring quite as well as Dozin’ at the Knick, right? And we can use The Knick for Phish too because they had played the venue first when it had the original name back on 12.09.1995 with a show that includes a YEM that really shouldn’t need any introduction. They came back again for a pair of shows to cap the Fall ’97 Tour with two highlight-filled nights that I highly recommend you spinning once you are all caught up on your outstanding Fall ’98 homework. We’re getting close to Finals here, people, no time for slacking.

 

So here was Phish in the final run of shows for this Fall ’98 Tour stopping in for a single Wednesday night show on the way to Worcester. Which is not to say that Albany is on the way from New Haven to Worcester — far from it, in fact — but that this is the show between the now-demolished New Haven Coliseum one we covered quite recently and the three pack at the venerable Worcester Centrum (yes, yet another venue that now sports a corporate name…). There seems to be something of a carryover of the refreshed energy of the band from last night as they come out hot with a fiery combo of Punch You In The Eye>My Soul, two rocking numbers that while quite straight forward in the execution certainly do their part in getting everyone up and moving. A contemplative take on Roggae fills the three slot tonight and while still about what you would expect from this tune they are definitely quite comfortable with where to take it as the end jam gets to some beautifully ethereal space. Trey and Mike are on top here, offering up complimentary lines that take this version higher and higher. This is a song that has really grown on me in 3.0 as I think they really know now how to capture the emotional aspect of the song better now with that reflection back on their past but even in this first year of the song’s existence you can hear the foundation of what the song would eventually become.

 

Next it is back to sing along time for the cliche-filled, almost-musically-accurately-named Gamehendge classic AC/DC Bag, that sometimes shelved (recall that it sat waiting for 75 shows between 1991 and 1992 and then another 84 shows until popping up again in Spring 1993) and sometimes jammed tune about the mechanical executioner employed by Wilson. Tonight’s version would not match the jammery of the prior version in Chicago  but it does have a rocking outro jam that pretty well sends the crowd into a frenzy at the peak. We then catch our breath a bit with another of the better “power ballads” in the song book as Lifeboy hits the stage for only the second time in 1998 and for the final time until returning 133 shows later on 02.21.2003 in Cincinnati. This version has that cathartic build and resolution that makes the song so beloved in the fanbase and then we are on to our first real highlight of the show when — with a lengthy, loop and effect laden intro — David Bowie starts up to the joy of the crowd. This is not a total mindfuck version like something out of the song’s peak years in late 1994 and throughout 1995 (cuz, yeah, Orpheum and Providence  in Fall/Winter 1994 or any of a number of Summer 1995 versions like Lakewood, The Mann, Jones Beach, and Deer Creek) but the jam while somewhat linear does have a patient feel to it that is accented well with the loops Trey employs along the way. This one won’t make the Big List Of Best Bowies but in the moment it is a fun ride through a swirling bit of tension and release where Page and Trey dominate the action.

 

Now we get the unplugged part of the show as Trey straps on the acoustic for Sleep and Driver. While perhaps not the most exciting part of these shows, this interlude served its purpose well in providing a breather slot to “reset” things and to highlight a couple of the less jam-friendly tunes they had brought to the stage in recent months. This wasn’t something they did every show of the tour (like our friend the ubiquitous Big Ball Jam that was a part of practically every show there for a while) but usually when they did Driver or Sleep were one of the songs involved with the two appearing together in two shows on this tour not to mention two stand alone shows prior to tour (for their shared debut on 10.17.1998 as well as in the recording of the Sessions at West 54th performance on 10.20.1998) not to mention again during the NYE Run at MSG. Coming out of this pairing you would expect something big and raucous as we have to be getting close to setbreak, right? So Trey straps back on the ‘doc and warms up with a few casual strums before hitting those easily recognizable notes for Good Times Bad Times, one of the most reliable set/show closing cover rockers in the repertoire. The Led Zeppelin tune was debuted only 50 shows into Phish’s existence and since then has never gone longer than 66 without being played (with only two other gaps of 30 shows or longer). At 214 times played it is the most common cover song Phish plays with the caveat that I do not count HYHU because they have never played the song in its entirety and it solely exists here as a joke on Fish. A few songs are closing in fast (Ya Mar, Uncle Pen, 2001) but for now that place is safe. Tonight’s set ending version has a whirling, noisy, extended jam in the middle before the final return to the powerful chords that signify the close, making this the fourth longest version ever behind one from 1997 (they tended to play it a bit longer then when Trey was showing off his wonderful Hendrixxian chops in lieu of funking it up) and two from 2003. With that we are off to setbreak and tonight, maybe, you decided to take it a little easier after going big last night and hearing about it the whole two and a half hour drive up from New Haven so that means you are the one here rolling your eyes and making the trek out to the concourse to escape the raving mess that is your tour buddy Pauly the Tree. Sure, Pauly is a great guy who gives the best bear hugs to everyone he meets but he gave you so much shit last night that you are just waiting for the post show lot and hotel time to give it right back to him. Tonight is his night to be #1 just as last night was yours. The question then becomes who will be the “winner” in Worcester?

 

Eventually the setbreak ends your internal conflicts and scheming to bring us more Phish and out of the murk of the set’s start we get the languid funk of Phish’s delightful cover of Deodato’s take on Also Spake Zarathustra, or as we all know it “2001”. There are some debates as to when the peak for this song was, be it the cowfunk monsters of Fall 1997 or the more exploratory juggernauts of 1999 but I’d put 1998 right up there as by now they had the funk thing down and were starting to really tinker with this song. This version is not one I would put on the top of the heap but it has a great wah funk intro with Trey toying around on various lead lines throughout until a loop’d outro drops us into Golgi Apparatus. Wait what? Hang on. 2001 is a set starting tune that drops us into a big jam vehicle, right? RIGHT?? Ah ,well, they can’t all be winners so I guess we just have to deal with the fact that they doubled up on the energy building with the old tune about ticket stubs and cell structures (clearly as a nod to the tough ticket situation for those looking here preshow) before getting to the real meat of the matter here.

 

After Golgi we are dropped into the first Drowned since the first set one from 11.02.1998. This Albany version follows a similar pattern to that one in that the jam starts out as a high powered explosion of arena rock riffs as Page and Fish add to the cacophony of noise. However, instead of sliding into the groove space that took that Utah one ‘next level’ we get a less noisy but still rocking section where Trey sustains his notes in amping up the dissonant nature of the music before they bring it all down to a nice segue to Prince Caspian. The Caspian is pretty standard for Fall ’98 which means you get a lovely lyrical section followed by Trey just straight annihilating the end solo. You know, ho hum average guitar god stuff. Caspian bleeds right into the slow intro to Piper and, again, while nothing epic it shreds in the way those Fall ’98 Pipers did (excepting the Denver one which went much bigger) in a compact version that hits and runs in just over seven and a half minutes with close to half of that coming in the slow build intro.

 

Looking to perhaps stretch out a bit following this shredder, Trey starts up You Enjoy Myself which proceeds as it does with a nice though ambient-lacking pre-Nirvana section and then all the prog funk you could want in the balance of the song. Trey throws in a Super Bad tease along the way but overall this version isn’t very noteworthy.  The crowd pleasing cover of Been Caught Stealing ramps up next and is paired with Llama for a double closer punch and we are off to the encores. First up would be the final performance of The Beatles’ Something which is somewhat oddly followed up with Guyute. This rocks the joint the way Guyute tends to and then we are treated to my favorite a cappella cover, Free Bird. Kind of a weird three pack for the encore but whaddyagonnado. At the least it sends everyone out on a high note laughing at that Free Bird so there’s that.

 

I’m not really sure how to evaluate this one as a whole. There is no big standout jam (or three) to point to but to my ear the playing is perfectly fine throughout the show (though some of the reviews out there for this one on .net and in other places do not paint quite as rosy a picture about the show). The song choices and placement are a bit… interesting… what with number of ballad-y tunes in the first set and overall reliance on rockers in the place of true jam vehicles but that’s just quibbling at a certain point. The crowd seems to be really into it (though, honestly, when are they not?) and the band sounds like they are fully engaged so who are we to complain? Okay, sure, fine, maybe there’s a flub or three in Guyute and perhaps in a couple other places but whatever! We will just take our takeaways and move on to Worcester. And with that, your takeaways tonight are Bowie, Drowned->Caspian, and perhaps Roggae and maybe the GTBT if you are feeling gracious. Not a whole lot here but better than nothing. I am confident we will have a lot more to take away once we get to Worcester once we’ve wiped out the midweek malaise from this hump day affair.

And They’re Pushing Me Further From Shore – New Haven, CT 11.24.1998

Phish — New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum — New Haven, CT 11.24.1998

I  Disease, Moma>Ginseng, Stash, B&R, LxL, Sample, Tela, CDT

II  Ghost>Halley’s>Tweezer->Possum, Wading>Zero

E  Suzy>Reprise

 

Do you hear that? Come closer. Closer… Now you hear it? Yeah, that’s the collective exhale of a band moving on from a weekend with extremely high expectations back to the normal goings on of a midweek stop in the Phish-friendly climes of southern Connecticut. That is not to say that Hampton is not also Phish-friendly but that maybe just maybe the weight of the prior year’s performance in The Mothership influenced the band to the effect that what we got was two solid if not remarkable shows devoid of many “all star” jams (save the Simple, of course) as had occurred in 1997. I cannot verify the band’s mindset here some 18 years in the future, obviously, but all you have to do is listen to the very next show they performed in New Haven, CT and it sure seems pretty clear that they simply allowed this one to flow after having thrown a lot of songs out there over the prior two shows. The end result is a Tuesday night throw down where the playing is white hot, the jams come early and often, and there is nary a wasted moment in getting to the point of the endeavor.

 

In all the years since its debut — first as the celebratory New Year’s Jam on 12.31.1993 — Down with Disease has been played 250 times with only 19 of those being show openers (it has opened 74 2nd sets and one 3rd set for the Halloween 2010 show which featured the cover of Little Feat’s Waiting For Columbus). In most cases this song as show opener acts as a big energy burst to set the stage for bigger things to come. On this night the energy coming from the show opening Disease is big but so is the jam. This is not just a shred clinic even though that is on display here. This is a triumphant, patient, building jam that reaches its first peak to the elation of the crowd but just keeps going, eventually covering close to 14 minutes as it begs to blow the roof on the joint clear off just as things get going before finally coming around to the full Disease ending that is now so rare to hear. Oh, and lest we forget to mention it, Trey teased Stash a bit in the intro to that Disease. Keeping everyone on their toes, the band starts up Moma Dance after a brief pause, diving into the funk early in this show. They are really starting to put a little extra stank on this tune of late and this version fits that mold perfectly. There is nothing but deep groove going on here but, man, they hit that pocket hard. If you can’t get down to a version like this one then I’m not sure what to say because this is a clinic in Phish Funk. Trey is using the wah pedal to great effect in coloring the groove all while Mike and Fish hammer at that beat and Page comps along. It feels like a groove that could keep on going but they bring it down and head into Ginseng Sullivan for the three slot grassy tune on the evening.

 

After the brief interlude about the perils of being a valuable root scrounger trying to make his way back home we return to the jam for the Stash that Trey teased at the start of the set. Similar to the first two songs of the evening we stay firmly within the song itself but Trey plays an interesting staccato lead as they patiently work their way through the tension-building exercise that is Stash. Fish pounds us to the release of the peak and we are left with a third quality jam just four songs into the set. Now we get our first real breather tune with Brian & Robert but we are quickly back to it with Limb by Limb. I feel like I am beating the horse here but this is yet another solid jam that does not stray from the song but features Trey reaching high towards to peak. Here in the back half of the first set there has yet to be any one song that is going to make it on to some fan’s jamcharts but there is very little wasted either. Of course, as soon as we are able to turn and hug our neighbors to celebrate that LxL they start up Sample In A Jar to shut me up. Now, I’ve read some who say that Trey takes a “real solo” here but I don’t hear it and I will continue to maintain my position regarding this song because I am right and I have 278 examples to back me up here. Shit, even having Carl Perazzo sitting in doesn’t help and don’t try to tell me that one from Copenhagen 03.02.1997 counts either because a quick quote of Radiohead’s Creep isn’t gonna count here, bucko.

 

Moving on, we have a lovely Tela where Trey hits all the right notes in the end solo. This is what you want out of this song since even though it is like Sample in the fact that they never “jam” it here at least you have an interesting piece of music that is made better by the performance of it. As if to counterpoint the beauty of Tela they follow it by closing the set with a punishing, rocking take on Chalkdust Torture, one that will send you off to setbreak hooting and hollering about this band and how they came to melt faces before getting into a rambling almost incoherent rant about how THIS is Phish and THIS is them showing everyone why they are the best band on earth as you recap the highlights of the set for everyone in your section. Naturally, all of those people start to slowly back away as they understand the state of mind you are in and they make excuses about how they need to go get a beer or get some air — anything to escape the black hole that is this conversation — and eventually you are left standing there with your back to the stage as you continue to espouse on the wonder that is this set.

 

Hopefully it isn’t the house lights eventually going down again that snaps you out of it because that would probably mean your whole crew and everyone around you will have left to find somewhere else to dance for the second set to come. But hey, maybe that is what you needed to cleanse your mind a bit on this night so when they come back out and drop that telling loop to kick off Ghost it flips the switch and you shut the hell up for once and lose yourself in yet another high quality jam. Trey takes the helm here at the start, pushing a growly tone over the beat all while the loop persists and Page offers up some crunchy organ to augment Trey. Similar to the Disease that started the show, this one patiently builds with Trey holding his notes longer as Fish picks up the pace. Trey then takes things higher, teasing us with a lead line that gets more and more involved yet still stays true to its Ghost roots, building tension towards a release that hits more than one false peak along the path. Trey throws in some “Foxy Lady” style phrasing as this progresses and there is never a full release bliss peak as we get in many Ghosts but instead heads towards the typical outro space that this song begets. Page is on top here and Trey sets a new loop as they hit the breakdown and look to transition to the next song. Here’s a crappy old video of that one if you are so inclined where perhaps you can find the San Ho Zay and Psycho Killer teases that are hidden within. As a bit of an aside, if you have never read the wonderful Daily Ghost Project by lawnmemo you should go ahead and do that already. He does a fantastic job breaking down so much in those posts. He is also currently working through 2001 too if you like the Ghost stuff. Now back to the show…

 

The transition from Ghost gets us to Halley’s Comet which tonight does not include a jam but rather serves as the bridge to our next vehicle, Tweezer. The tempo here is a bit slower than “normal” at the start but as they enter the jam space Mike hits the fight bell multiple times (in time with the beat, no less) and then they head off into the ether. Mike takes the clear lead here, building a Tweezer-ish line that Trey picks up and elevates with some more growl tone. This evolves into a serious bit of groove that never really leaves Tweezer with Trey soloing on top, Page added flavors to complement him, and Mike and Fish pushing the groove to greater heights. This is the four-headed monster Phish where all of the players are contributing to the jam while no one is ever wanking out a big solo or anything. This is the type of Phish jam that in the moment has you doing your best dance moves, making knowing eye contact with perfect strangers who feel that connection and reflect it right back to you. Trey eventually brings us all home with some more growly, electro lead lines that bring us to a small bit of dark ambience before Trey kicks into the old school slow down ending to wrap it up. But before fully closing things out Trey stretches out the last note and then they ramp up to punch into the start of Possum. Even before the lyrics you can tell this version is a bit more than your standard Possum fare as Trey plays the slightly off key lead line from “Born on the Bayou” (last teased 11.13.1997 in Mike’s Song) in the intro. Once they get to the jam Trey plays around the Possum theme for a few minutes, offering up an almost staccato version of the normal Possum lead and then solos out of that as Page tinkles away with his own line on the baby grand. This all follows the typical pattern for Possum in getting to the peak but they extend it for several minutes with Trey alternately playing a direct lead and a dissonant “un- jam” (not really too unlike the “un-jams” that Possum enjoyed in Summer 2012) that serves to build tension towards the release peak where he comes back immediately to the Possum theme. It may not be the best Possum ever but it sure is more interesting than the swamp music normalcy of the song.

 

You could pretty well expect that here some 55 minutes into a set heavy on the jams they would play a bathroom break song next and they do with a serviceable Wading In The Velvet Sea that has a nice outro solo if that is your bag. This is followed by yet another fiery Character Zero on this tour which while pretty much what you expect rocks quite hard in capping this set. In coming out for the encore Phish had a bit of a surprise up their sleeves as they brought out an old friend to assist for the first Suzy Greenberg of this tour, not to mention the ensuing Tweezer Reprise. Everyone by now would have known who the Dude of Life is but might not have been prepared for him to give us some alternate lyrics to Suzy and Reprise. This offers some reason to check these versions out but otherwise it is just another brief visit from a vision of their past which included backing him for his album Crimes of the Mind (an album that offers us the music of Chalkdust Torture as backing to another song entirely amongst other “gems”). He is something of an acquired taste but you cannot deny his place in phishtory so there it is.

 

Perhaps I am over-fluffing this show due to its juxtaposition with the preceding Hampton run that didn’t exactly elevate this tour to greater heights. Again, I am not saying that the Hampton shows were bad by any means just that they may not have hit the extremely high expectations of the fanbase. This New Haven show is another type of Phish from the one we saw in Hampton, one that is more about taking songs to their logical conclusion by playing around the theme while searching for inspiration towards new music. Honestly, this show is heavy on what would be deemed “type I” jams but it is also showcasing the sound the band had developed in getting to this point on the tour. Being 18 shows into the tour with four to go (including the three night finale in Worcester) they were operating at full capacity. Outside of the Suzy every song in this show had been played within the preceding two weeks, showing that they were familiar with the material and willing to stretch their legs a bit. They also returned to the pattern of less-songs-played, back to the tour average of 9 first set songs after both Hampton shows had 13 song first sets (and below the tour average of 18.9 songs for the whole show by playing just 16 after nights of 22 and 23 in Hampton). All told, this one is a show that I will respin more frequently than those Hampton shows due to the interesting jams that go along with all of the other “standard” factors at play. Just putting together the takeaways proves that as we have Disease, Moma, Stash, LxL, Ghost, and Tweezer->Possum as definites and Suzy>Reprise for the unique offerings they are. I wish all my Tuesdays could be so fruitful. So to return to the question, am I being a bit to fluffy here? Yeah, sure, fine, but I’ll gladly wear that mantle for a show like this one.

Dancin’ The Night Away – Hampton, VA 11.21.1998

Phish — Hampton Coliseum — Hampton, VA 11.21.1998

I  Wilson>BBFCFM, Lawn Boy, Divided, Cry Baby Cry>Boogie On>NICU, DST, Nellie Kane, Foam, Wading, Guyute, Bold as Love

II  Sabotage>Mike’s>Simple>Wedge>Mango>Free->Ha Ha Ha->Free, Weekapaug

E  Tubthumping

The second night of this Hampton ’98 run starts out much like the first one in that we have a first set that offers up a lot of songs that are played well but without a whole lot of real jamming going on. That is oversimplifying it, of course, but looking at that setlist above produces thoughts of “jukebox Phish” jibes from the jaded vets. I would encourage you to spin it though because while being primarily song-based fare there are some fun bustouts, at least one nice jam, and some great energy out of the band. And that’s not even mentioning the more interesting second set.

Tonight they come out with a rocking pair of Wilson>BBFCFM, setting the stage with the big power chords and audience response of Wilson before the mini-bustout of one of the more uniquely disturbing songs in their repertoire, Big Black Furry Creature From Mars. There is a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ tease to be found here (by Mike) and Fish nods back to the night prior with a little ‘Getting Jiggy’ quote but otherwise this is the typically deranged tune that causes head banging and head scratching almost simultaneously. Next they bring it down for Lawn Boy and after Page’s crooning we get the Mike solo tonight. Divided Sky follows for a soaring version that invigorates the crowd greatly (with a 1:41 pause tonight for those keeping track which while far above the accepted average of 35.94 seconds as determined by The Divided Sky Pause Project is pretty well in line with the timing for the era). Another bustout comes in as they then play the Beatles’ classic Cry Baby Cry for the first time in 278 shows. This stands as the last ever version of the song which was played four times between its debut 10.31.1994 and this show here. Keeping things moving, they head right into Boogie On Reggae Woman for the first time this tour and finish up a little three pack by heading directly into NICU from there. After these two dance numbers they bring it back down for Dogs Stole Things and then we get our grassy tune in the bustout of Nellie Kane after 293 shows and close to four years on the shelf. I was witness to many of those 1994 versions having caught seven on Fall ’94 tour alone and perhaps for that reason it is nice to hear them play it again as it is one of my favorite of the bevy of bluegrass covers they do so well.

This brings us to Foam and this is a version I recommend seeking out if you are at all a fan of the tune originally known as “Marijuana Hot Chocolate”. Seriously. Listen to the banter between Fire and Alumni Blues on the 04.22.1988 tape if you don’t believe me as Trey gives the name and Mike plays the bassline that will eventually be Foam. Fun little bit of trivia to wow your stoner friends with, right there. Anyway, the song itself is not some big open jam or anything but Page takes a really nice solo before Trey comes in with a really nice bit of playing. It all has a little more juice to it than your typical Foam and for the first one of the tour it is quite well played. Continuing the see-saw nature of this set we come down for Wading In The Velvet Sea then back up for a run through the rocking Guyute suite before they punctuate the set with the deservedly loved cover Bold As Love. I’ve probably commented on this before but I really dig this song what with the evocative lyrics, swirling build, and overall psychedelic rocking nature of the tune. Considering the impact Jimi Hendrix clearly has had on Trey it is always surprising to me that they do not play more covers of his work though that is admittedly a daunting task to undertake so I suppose it might not be as surprising as I think. Either way, we are glad to have this one in the stable. And with that we are off to the break.

Keeping everyone on their toes, Phish comes back for the second set and gives us another cover, this time one debuted only that summer in The Beastie Boys Sabotage. This is a fun if a bit sloppy one but that’s pretty much in line with the song itself so the impact of the energy it offers up is what is important in this context. They would not play the song again after this until 3.0 so at the time it was pretty big to have this open up the set (it had previously been debuted in the encore at MPP on 08.08.1998 and as the third set open at Lemonwheel on 08.16.1998 and made its return after this night 318 shows later at the new Colorado home base for the band Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on 09.02.2011 to cap the “S” show in fine fashion). Trey sets up a loop at the end here and this keys them into Mike’s for the first real meaty jam vehicle of the show. By the time they get through the verses of the song Trey has more than one loop going and things get dark and menacing in a hurry here. Trey is playing around the Mike’s theme while Page whirls about on the organ and Fish and Mike lay down a punishing rhythm. They ride this demonic groove for a bit before wrapping up and heading into Simple, foregoing any thoughts of a second jam in the process. Not that anyone at that time really focused on the Mike’s 2nd Jam like they do these days but it was a lot more common then for sure.

And I don’t think anyone was complaining about it once this Simple got going. The jam here starts out in the typically blissy fashion, kind of plodding along towards more open waters. About halfway through things get a bit more ambient, never fully leaving Simple but providing an ethereal atmosphere to the bliss rock being played. This version is something of a culmination of the different aspects of their then-juvenile ambient jamming style, bringing the soundscape and more melodic elements together for a fully realized dip into something that is not-quite-Simple but still reminiscent of the song at the same time. By the time this one peters out with some colored accents by Page and then the transition to The Wedge you are left swaying and smiling, maybe even hugging your neighbors in acknowledgement for where that took you. Fair warning though, I wouldn’t go hugging your cubicle mate or the person next to you on the train if you are listening to this while commuting because they might not be on the same page as you. So then we keep it happy with the buoyant Wedge (a bit peppier than all of those slow Wedges from Spring ’93, huh?) and this is followed by another happy-time-party Phish tune in The Mango Song. Perhaps not a lineup of jam titans but this run of tunes should get you moving. A late set Free kicks in next and the hopes for another big jam arise once more only to be derailed after a little over a minute of crunchy rock they slide right into the first Ha Ha Ha of this tour. Maybe this is a nod to the shenanigans of the run and maybe it is a fakeout as if to say “you thought we were gonna jam this, didn’t you? HA HA HA!” I like to think it is the former but it could be the latter and in the end it doesn’t matter right, Bug fans? Yes, I know Bug wouldn’t be debuted for another seven months. Back off. I’m just using the lyrical reference, poindexter. Besides, the Ha Ha Ha is probably foreshadowing for the encore which we will get to shortly anyway. So they return to finish up Free (pretty much coming back exactly where they left) and then we get the anticipated Weekapaug Groove to wrap this set up. Mike hits the footbell in the intro and there’s a Mango Song tease by Trey as they bring the set to a high note in closing things up. For the encore they had one last trick up their sleeves in debuting yet another cover, Tubthumping, the Chumbawamba radio hit from 1997/98 that will get stuck in your head yet again because of this. Tom Marshall joins to help with the singing and Gears is back for the trumpet parts as they played a faithful cover of the song. Fish adds in one last ‘Getting Jiggy’ quote for good measure and we are off into the night to get ready for the trip up to New England and the final shows of this tour.

So what to make of this one? Again, this has the benefit of an official release (despite the protestations of the entitled who don’t think it is worthy of it) and so it is quite well known. The show (and run) are not known for the big jams as much as the overall vibe and the variety of playing styles on display with everything from rock to psych to bluegrass to loungy crooning to hip hop to pure Phish with more I haven’t even mentioned. This is not the high point of the tour but rather a celebratory stop along the way which showcases who Phish was in this time period (and continues to be, quite frankly). You may not like these shows in comparison to others and that is fine but you cannot deny that these shows are a great example of the band up there doing what they do best: playing the music they want in the way that works for them and bringing us all along for the ride. While there are no great videos out there from this run what is available plainly shows how much fun they were having and it is audible in the music as well. You will want to listen to the Foam, Mike’s>Simple, and Tubthumping (because it is pretty fun) at least but you would be forgiven for letting that whole second set run as it is a joyful reminder of the wonderful place Phish occupied in Fall 1998. The takeaways might be fewer than the shows that surround it but they are high quality all the same. Every once in a while you need an energy show or two to just go out there, rock the fuck out, party down with friends, and maybe cleanse the soul a bit in the process. So enjoy these for what they are and get ready to dive deep again as after two nights off to travel north Phish lays down an entirely different type of Phish show altogether…