Like many of these venues, the lore surrounding Hampton Coliseum and Phish is almost as big as the music the band has played here. While also used for pedestrian uses such as minor league sports, rodeos, trade shows, and the like this venue has become known as a can’t miss stop for many bands outside of Phish, most notably The Good Old Grateful Dead who played the same number of shows (18) as our band Phish in this room. After playing single night stops here in Fall 1995 and Fall 1996 Phish played a pair of shows that instantly became canon and the stuff of legend in the community. From there the aura grew as the year following they came back for another pair of shows released just before their visit in 1999 as the six disc Hampton Comes Alive which was the first full show concert album release by the band. Phish has also used this venue as part of their initial shows returning from both Hiatus and The Break Up which only served to further solidify this locale as one revered by both band and fans alike. As venues go, there aren’t many that can match up to this one in terms of both history and the quality of music performed which makes for a strong argument supporting this as one of the very best venues in all of phishtory.
Phish has played the Hampton Coliseum eighteen times starting in Fall 1995. They visited on each Fall Tour thereafter up through 1999 with 1997 and 1998 being two night stands. The 1999 pair of shows were the last show of Fall Tour prior to the celebration of the millennium at Big Cypress. In 2003 the band played a three night stand to cap the New Year’s Run Return from Hiatus shows that started with the New Year’s Eve show at Madison Square Garden. Then after a last single show here before The Break Up in 2004 they came back in 2009 with three in March 2009, signaling their triumphant reconnection with each other and we the fans. There has been one further three night stand in Hampton to start out the Fall 2013 tour after which they have yet to return.
11.25.1995 Phish’s first time playing here was along the path of Fall 1995, only a few shows prior to the start of one of the most revered months in the band’s history. The show starts with Poor Heart which normally I wouldn’t really even bother to mention except that this show is known as the “Poor Heart” show since they end up playing the song three different times in three different ways. The first set is pretty average as even Bowie is a neutered version of what we came to expect in that time period when it was one of the major vehicles for open exploration by the band. There is one of the few Taste That Surrounds ever and some crisp if not inventive playing on display but overall there isn’t much here to spend your time with. The second set starts out with a menacing Timber Ho! that slides into a vocal jam that becomes Kung (their only pairing ever) and then Mike’s Song starts up where you just know the jam is about to go down. That is true in a certain sense as the jam starts out with a lot of potential but after several minutes of first jam darkness the band members start moving between instruments, giving us the first verifiable Rotation Jam in the band’s history. Now, these days we have become perhaps a bit too accustomed to instrument switching and such what with the Marimba Lumina jams and stuff but back then this was A VERY BIG DEAL since we had no frame of reference for it. It was a very unique thing for Phish to do and while perhaps not the best music they have ever created it is interesting to hear. They eventually return to their proper seats to wrap up the Mike’s and then we get a couple of acoustic grassy numbers and Strange Design before the Paug to close this Groove. The musical highlight of the show might be the soaring Hood that follows which while pretty typical for the time is a good example of that sort of Hood. After a quick a cappella HMB we get the bookend Poor Heart closer, this time the “Slow Heart” version. And just to keep the joke going, for the first encore we have a Slow Heart Reprise which is a joke in several ways considering when fans hear “reprise” they instantly think of the sped up amazingness that is Tweezer Reprise whereas this is an even slower take on Poor Heart than even the one that closed that second set. And on top of that, this makes three versions of the same song in one concert which goes against everything the setlist junkies hold dear. It doesn’t last too long though as they only sing a couple of lines from the song and then crank out Fire to wrap it up. This isn’t the best show from Fall ’95 by any means and clearly not the best from this venue but you have to start somewhere and I’d argue that it is easily a definite upwards trajectory from here.
10.25.1996 The next Fall the band returned to Hampton for another single show, this time on the front end of the tour in what I consider the first “leg” of this tour. I wrote about this one for the Fall ’96 reviews in case you haven’t read enough of my words yet. For reasons that remain unclear to me Phish decided to open with Ha Ha Ha for the first time ever (only other one ever occurred 06.30.2000) and then rips through a botchy Taste that recovers in the jam and one of those fun Maki->Maze pairings where the dubby outro jam from Maki sets a solid platform from which the Maze takes off. Later on in the set Trey banters a bit about how great the room is and how they love playing there and such before launching into a solid T&R filled Stash. Then to cap it we get a longer-than-typical Coil where Page really shines in his solo outro piano recital. The second frame begins with the first ever Tube>Caspian (yay?) and then moves into a bunch of songs with a mini bustout for TMWSIY>AM>TMWSIY along the way. Free gets some minikit love in a brief jam but the real highlight of this set/show is the big energy of Hood in the back half of the set. This is a very song-heavy show with not much in the way of individual highlights but that’s to be expected when nine songs get their tour debut and none of those are vehicles. The most striking thing about this show is how different things will be when the band returns in a little over a year.
11.21.1997 You know these fall ’97 shows, I know these Fall ’97 shows. You probably had one of those crisp early gen XLIIs of this one as soon as they hit the fanbase just like I did and just like me you probably wore it out in record time. Listening to this stuff after that Fall ’96 show here you begin to question your sanity because how the heck is this the same band one year later? Much has been written about that tour so I won’t belabor it too much so we’ll just all agree that the reputation of the band and this venue is founded on this pair of shows. Just to point out the striking difference, though, the band opens up with the first ever cover of the Rolling Stones’ Emotional Rescue, using it as a platform to craft a wide ranging thrill ride of a jam that stretched past sixteen minutes and includes cowfunk, looped bliss, and full band connection of the highest order. This is a deep second set jam opening the show, people. And just to prove the point that they mean business they drop from there into a menacing Melt that packs a mean psychedelic punch seemingly fitting for closing the set rather than sitting in the two hole keep-the-energy-going slot. The balance of this first set is song-focused with everything played well (including the humorous anti-drum solo in Lawn Boy) up through the set-ending (?) Caspian that never really ends as Trey sets a series of loops that go on even after the band has left the stage until the house lights finally pop on… but of course that was after Trey again told The Lie. In this case I’ll gladly forgive the lie because when the band again hit the stage they dropped one of those magical four song sets that were now the norm on this tour after only four shows (each of the preceding shows but one had a four song set with 11.16.97 being the lone outlier with the ungodly FIVE whole songs in the second set). The opening Ghost may not peak hard or be notable to those creating the jam charts but it is very creative and somewhat surprisingly not a full on cowfunk jam as one would expect from the song particularly in that time. But then the band transitions to ACDC Bag for what is quite frankly one of the more unexpected jam explosions out of a song in the band’s history as up until this point the song was primarily a high energy sing along with a decent if brief outro jam that 100% of the time was type I even if extended. Here we get a version more than double the length of any one prior with sections that melt into each other seamlessly to the effect that it is hard to describe what “type” of jam this is above simply saying type II awesomeness. Then they execute a flawless segue into a patient, gradual build Slave before popping the energy off with a fun Cup closer and Guyute encore. This is all-timer canon Phish and we are still only in the first night of the run.
11.22.1997 After the gem they threw down the night before it was anyone’s guess what Phish might do on night two of this ’97 Run at Hampton. Sure, you could easily say they would destroy the venue once again as each of the prior shows on the tour matched that description but in what way would they accomplish it tonight? Well, first thing you do if you are Phish is open with a song that about 99% of the fanbase is psyched to hear any and every time they play it: Mike’s Song. They have only ever opened 21 shows shows with the song with this one being only the second in the ‘jam era’ after the one at the Paradiso earlier that year (and prior to that it was all the way back on 11.06.1990) which is pretty rare considering the song has now been performed 509 times. The band quickly settles into a comfortable groove here with Trey teasing BEK and playing around the Mike’s theme, hinting at the drop into a second jam that never materializes as the jam gradually resolves down towards the transition to I Am Hydrogen. Following a funky breakdown in Paug they give us another rare placement with one of only 26 ever first set Hoods. Admittedly, in that era it was a tad more frequent than now but still not exactly what you expected when you entered the venue. This one is good enough to cap a second set much less sit in the four slot of a first set but then again this tour did a lot to upset our preconceived notions about placement and song choice. After a masterful run to the peak in Hood they finish off the set with a couple of the ballads and the double closer punch of Frankenstein>Isabella, two closers that I’ll never tire of hearing the band perform. So then they come out for the second set and some fans up front try their best to get the band to finally bustout Destiny Unbound by singing the first lines of the song only to have Trey not hear it correctly and give us some pretty hilarious banter. And then they start up Halley’s Comet, another song like Bag that up until this night was never known as a jam vehicle. Well, that changed in a BIG way here, my friends. Watch this great video of it and in particular pay heed to the moment when Trey tells Mike to “stay on F” which basically keeps this thing rolling as they head into uncharted territory for an amazing cowfunk excursion. Our expectations for Halley’s have never been the same after this night. They back this up with a funk-laden Tweezer that has several BEK teases, which they then play because why not as they head to the end set proceedings. I mean, c’mon, they’d already played three songs now so clearly it was over. Tonight actually gets five songs as they run through a nascent Piper and close with a bombastic Lope followed by a Bouncin>Reprise encore. As with the night before we have another canon-worthy show on our hands. Combining the two you get one of the most revered tour stops ever and even more so when grouped with the third show from the weekend down the road a bit in Winston-Salem which is part of the boxset commemorating this weekend (and might include some of the most unique jamming of the weekend which is saying a lot). This two show stand is the foundation upon which the reputation of Phish and this venue began and the point of comparison for every show that followed. Fair or unfair, that’s how good this music is.
11.20.1998 It is understandable after what occurred here the year before that fans would have extremely high hopes for what the band might do upon returning the following Fall. Hampton was no longer a “sure, why not” venue to hit it was MUST SEE PHISH ATTEND AT ALL COSTS. That set a pretty pretty pretty high bar for this run but you know how expectations and Phish fans go… As you would expect, I wrote about this one during the Fall ’98 project. The show begins with a bit of a tongue in cheek nod back to last year as they debut another “classic” rock song, running through a couple of rounds of Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll Part II, the song you knew best from mid 90s sporting events and commercials. A brief Tube leads to one of the bigger bustouts in the band’s history as they bring back The Mighty Quinn for the first time in 1,155 shows (!). Later in the set there is a nice Meat>Stash combo with a Fikus tease in the Stash and a bit of ambient transition in the Meat outro jam and further on a lovely Roggae and eventually a biggish if not overly long Melt closer. The second set starts with a largely type I Gin that builds towards a great release peak. There’s an Axilla here with the Axilla II ending and later on Fish Fun Time gives us another debut and one time performance with the Will Smith banger Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It which after the HYHU return leads to another quite uplifting Hood from here in Hampton. Carl ‘Gears’ Gerhard comes out for the Cavern encore to blow trumpet and then we are off to wait for the next show. Considering that this show and its younger by a day brother got released as the Hampton Comes Alive boxset it is clear that the band and a goodly portion of the fanbase are big fans of these shows but when compared to the ones from the prior year you end up with a conversation that never ends about what constitutes good Phish. This show is an example of a song-based party vibe show where the jams are resultant rather than the impetus of the fun and debuts/bustouts are part of the equation. I always end up undervaluing this show for some reason but then realize I enjoy it again on respin.
11.21.1998 Back for more fun (read what I wrote previously here), Phish stuck with the party vibe for night two by filling the first set with a bunch of crowd favorite songs before stretching things out a bit in the second frame as is their habit. The first set starts out with a crowd-appreciated Wilson>BBFCFM pairing as Fish inserts a bit of his Gettin’ Jiggy vocal into the BBFCFM and Mike teases the Leave It to Beaver theme. Later they bustout Cry Baby Cry for the first time in 278 shows with Nellie Kane popping in for the first time after 293 shows a bit later. Between those there is a very well played Foam amongst the standard fare that populates the balance of the set. Look, I’m not gonna sugar coat it. This is a SNS show for at least the first set. Everything is fun and played well but outside of the few moments in the Foam jam and those bustouts there isn’t much to say about it. That changes pretty quickly in the second set though as they first open with Sabotage (third ever of five total and last of 1.0) followed by cranking into Mike’s Song. This one is not as big as the ’97 version but gets to some interesting jam space before heading to Simple sans second jam. Simple may have had its best year ever in 1996 but don’t tell this version that because it is just plain pretty music. From there the Groove extends through to the end of the set after the band strings together a few tun time numbers and throw Ha Ha Ha in the place where the Free jam should be before closing the set and the Groove with an energetic Paug. As their last joke of this run the band debuts a one time cover of the Chumbawamba song Tubthumping, a tune you had a hard time avoiding around that time if you were the type of person to listen to the radio or frequent a certain type of dance club. Tom Marshall takes the verses for the singing and Gears is back to assist with the trumpet. Fish throws in some Gettin’ Jiggy words and the band has fun with this one in capping the run. And so ends the 1998 stop at Hampton, one that had lofty expectations perhaps not met but appealing enough to warrant that official release. The pair is a reasonable snapshot of where the band was at this point in the bigger picture while perhaps lacking the deeper thing that was more evident on releases like A Live One.
12.17.1999 For the 1999 pair of shows at Hampton Phish visited at the end of the Fall Tour (or perhaps more accurately the December Tour considering there was an earyl Fall run from September into October) and only eleven days before the start of Big Cypress, something that was kind of a big deal for the band and fans alike. These two shows would be the last chance anyone would have to hear the band before that to perhaps try to figure out what to expect as if they would foreshadow it at all. With this renewed anticipation – and on the heels of the Hampton Comes Alive release from just before the late fall Tour started – the band opens up here with a patiently building Piper that works well with the palpable energy even if it never really takes off to any new or interesting places. The seat continues with some of the interesting setlist calls we expect from 1999 as they mix old and new, fast and slow together for a fairly uneven result. The Jibboo here is extended with the looped out jam you would anticipate from the song and PYITE has good, well, punch to it but outside of the knowing nod to the upcoming NYE festival with the “filter out the everglades” line in WITS there isn’t too much of note here. The second set starts out with a BOAF that briefly strays from normalcy and then Moma Dance which drops into a sparse, Page-led, effects-filled jam that is wholly independent of the song but serves as the transition to and intro of Bug. That cathartic number is followed by the final of the ignominious performances of Jennifer Dances which is really not nearly as bad as everyone always makes it out to be. Perhaps sensing they need to bring everyone back from the restrooms for the end of the set, the band starts into a somewhat slowed down Melt. The band heads into a mesmerizing take on the Melt theme, showcasing that millennial sound as they mix in the glitchy effects and loops for a jam that feels ready to either explode or fall apart at any moment. The band keeps it together and comes around to close with Zero followed by a three song encore and hopes for more from the Saturday night show.
12.18.1999 When Phish opens the show with a song that is typically seen as a set two vehicle or closer it is typically a good sign. And when that opener is an eighteen minute plus Hood, well, that’s even better. The jam here starts out bright and airy and proceeds in a linear fashion as they slowly work towards the peak. There is a solid payoff here and then they play one of the eight ever covers of Jimmy Smith’s Back at the Chicken Shack, a perfectly fine song if a bit of an odd one for Phish to have had in their repertoire. It fills the JJLC/Funky Bitch bluesy rock cover slot, I suppose. A 68 show bustout of Dog Log dedicated to Tom Marshall (1st since the one we mentioned back in Worcester) precedes Tube where Trey sets the loops and hits the mini-keyboard for a bit as Mike thumps out a big bassline. There is a lot of similarity here to what they were doing in the previous night’s Melt or perhaps in the famed 2001 from 09.29.1999 amongst other jams from this tour. After a few more tour staples they cap it with a big YEM closer, bookending the set with two songs that total more than 40 minutes of the time spent on stage. Trey takes his biggest lead of the show yet here, showcasing one of the iconic lciks that often permeates the song and to me sounds a heck of a lot like his song Quantegy which will get its lone live performance in just a couple of weeks following this night. The second set starts with one of those big 1999 2001s, all stretched out and funky. Tonight’s features some teasing of Peter Frampton’s Do You Feel Like We Do, complete with Trey giving a nod to “Bob Mayonnaise” on the keyboards. This is typically humorous Phish, of course, but also a nod to the Hampton Comes Alive album release. They move into Sand, another song that had a great year in 1999 for one of the four “big” versions of the song to come from that initial season with Phish for the song. This is the sort of jam that you could bottle up and sell as “99 Phish” and the wooks would buy it in bulk simply for the privilege of it being offered. The balance of the set is pretty stock as they run through a quick Mike’s Groove in the end after playing Horse>Silent, Possum though there is another 68 show bustout for the Buffalo Bill that was last seen in that same show as Dog Log above. This is the better show of the pair from 1999 with some interesting highlights if perhaps still a bit less than might have been desired though admittedly that’s about what shows were at this stage: big jams interspersed between sometimes head scratch worthy song choices with little of the composed mastery numbers on display.
01.02.2003 Due to the whole Hiatus thing Phish wouldn’t keep their streak of consecutive years played here alive as they next returned for a three night run following the first shows back from Hiatus at MSG. This was a different band than the last time they visited with new material on display and a different tonality, particularly from Trey, from their prior visits – not to mention that whole thing of coming off the longest break they had ever taken. This shift is on display from the start as they open with an extended Chalkdust, jamming the song in a festive manner befitting of the holiday run within which it sits (considering that the NYE was the first show followed by these three starting two days later it isn’t much of a stretch to call this the de facto NYE Run for that year). The jams continue with a multi-phased Gin that includes some of the signature 2.0 growl tone from Trey and then after a quick joke about “Tom Hanks” once again joining them on stage (this is a reference to that 12.31.2002 show) they run through Ice on their way to a playful BOTT. This is followed by the debut of Round Room which is fitting for this room which is indeed round. After that the set goes into mostly song mode with a shortish Stash being a little upward blip before the Zero you saw coming back at MSG two days ago. Oh, and here’s full set video from that first frame. The second set opens with another debut, this time 46 Days, which goes far beyond the song we had just been introduced to a couple of weeks prior when the album came out. The signature 2.0 Trey tone is on display in a big way here as he growls through the main type I jam and out into dark, ambient waters. The band moves through several phases over the course of the song, eventually finishing with a strong CYHMK-type jam that peters out into the transition to Simple, leaving the main song unfinished. Later on a strong LxL falls into the debut of another Round Room tune, Thunderhead, which has some inventive soloing by Trey in the back end jam prior to that song’s crash into Lope. Following a predictable Cavern closer the band debuts the fourth song of the night for the encore in Mexican Cousin, a tune that is either a love it or hate it type of proposition for many a fan. Where the first show back at MSG had the energy and excitement of the Return and NYE balled up into one giant release of energy this show offers the freshness of new material and the emerging evolution of the band’s sound in 2003. The highlights here are telling in the direction they go and bode well for the balance of the run.
01.03.2003 Since the band didn’t break it out for that MSG Return show by this third show into the year the fanbase was starting to wonder when that first Tweezer would drop. Sure enough, Phish opened up night two here with the anthem and while perhaps not the life-changing version some may have wanted there is a lot to like in this compact, type I version. It gets the room moving and settles everyone in so that when they drop into the Theme that follows there is a nice roar of approval for the first one of 2.0. Two songs later is the debut of Pebbles and Marbles, here showing off a very nice bit of jamming, something the song has lacked in 3.0 versions (and most of the 2.0 versions to be fair). The five song first set concludes with YEM but not before they restart it after a train wreck start to the composed section. Listen for some interesting VJ antics. A rocking BOAF starts the second set and then the band drops into Wolfman’s that really needs to be heard – and preferably quite loud if you can manage that. You’ll dance hard to the infectious funk groove but just hang on because this one goes nookular in the back half before they move onto a particularly fun Makisupa which nods to Hampton with keywords including “Waffle House” and “Hooters” which if you have ever been to this venue you know to be two of the more visible/notable places to grab a pre or post show bite near the venue (and surrounding hotels). After a fun if uneventful Axilla>Free pairing they debut another Round Room tune with All of These Dreams and then close the set with a bit of instrument switching in Possum that sees Page on Trey’s guitar, Trey on Mike’s bass, and Mike on Fish’s Cracklin’ Rosie cymbals. Not exactly the rotation jam from the 1995 show here but fun for the band to be playing around up there. The encore’s Contact does actually have a bit of an extended jam but that doesn’t mean my wife wouldn’t have booed at it anyway.
01.04.2003 For the third night here and last of this Return/NYE Run the band comes out gunning with a fiery Llama and a fun Boogie followed a particularly emotive Roggae before they bring back the energy for hot Maze. Another Round Room debut fills the midset cool down slot as Anything But Me hits the stage for the first time. Following a few more fun numbers they end with a solid Melt, one that feels like it could have gone on for a bit longer. This show already feels more like a celebratory Saturday night affair than the prior two and that carries over into the second set as oh yeah wait I almost forgot! Here is the video for both the first and second sets of this one. So the second set starts out with Rock and Roll which gets a shortish jam before they move into a stock Mike’s Song. The bridge tune tonight is Mountains in the Mist (a song I didn’t really grow to appreciate enough until probably the Festival 8 acoustic set) and then they punch into a Paug, taking it out for a ride in what will eventually be the most open jam of the night. There’s a dark aspect to this one which makes more sense when they transition into WTU? for a haunting version. Disease gives promise of more improv but instead gets dropped for a full segue to FEFY which is nice but not exactly the big, open, set-defining jam many came for here. Following this ballad they close with the second ever (and final to date) 2001 2nd set closer which while fairly standard goes get some ‘thanks’ banter by Trey in the end before he, Page, and Mike each take a turn at the “big rock ending” thing. Then they wrap up the run with the eleventh debut (all from Round Room, leaving just Mock Song unsung for now from that album) in Friday. Not exactly the biggest punctuation mark to cap the run. Oh well. Still a fun show if perhaps not as jam-worthy as the nights preceding it.
08.09.2004 About a year and a half later Phish came back to Hampton, this time in the final run-up towards what was then purported to be the FINAL SHOWS EVER at The Festival Which Shall Not Be Named. Here is video of both sets. As with the 2003 run, this show opens up with the jammed out pairing of Chalkdust>Gin, tonight stretching past the forty-minute mark in total. Chalkdust starts out with big time energy and then settles into the loose, melodic ambient jamming that typified 2.0 and 2004 in particular. Instead of petering out they build the jam back up and slam back into the Chalkdust theme to wrap up the song and head off to Gin. At the time there weren’t many big, open explorations of Chalkdust as points of reference so for quite some time (like, that whole long wait thing we had not too long after this show) this was rightfully considered one of the best Chalkdusts the band had ever played along with the likes of the one here a year ago, the one from IT 08.03.2003 and the one from Camden on 07.10.1999 (though most would agree that the best era for the song in terms of open jamming has been here in 3.0 considering the number of big versions we have enjoyed in recent years. The Gin that follows this is quite impressive on its own (and even more so when you pair it with the Chalkdust) as the band slowly meanders towards the first peak which they hit around the ten minute mark. They are not nearly done yet though as they drop into a chunky groove where Trey and Page throw around ideas to see what might have promise. The pace quickens and the intensity strengthens as they head to another peak, now fully outside of Gin and kind of reminiscent of Llama at points, but before they hit it they turn to dissonant, searching playing. Trey starts strumming something almost recognizable and then everyone tries their best to be the first to shout out JIM! as they head into the classic tale of thieving dog gone astray. After an interesting bit of jamming they wrap this for a full-on, in your face raging WOTC, giving the jam room to breath even in staying within the structure of the song. Then after a quick Loving Cup another five song first set is in the books here in Hampton. Now, if you were around in 2004 or even have just gone back to spin those shows you have probably noticed that they can be a bit… uneven. Like, there will be big jams followed by odd sections of multiple ballads or entire sets where the band seemed to wander about without much sense of direction or cohesion. There are a few reasons you can probably come up with for this sort of thing happening which we won’t get into here but I bring it up to say that this second set is perhaps one of the biggest head scratching sets there is after all that jamming they did in the first. All of These Dreams isn’t the energetic set opener you came for, the LxL is okay at best, Lifeboy feels misplaced here, Crowd Control works best as a knowing nod opener for gate crash type shows (or ones with too much security influence), this Seven below goes nowhere in almost hitting 15 minutes, Stash feels thrown in and uninspired before they bail for NICU, and then Bug>Contact>Zero is just a set closing bunch of energy tunes. It takes until the encore Bowie for them to take any chances which pay off for me in the move towards deep dissonant waters but others may disagree. I know there are many for whom this was the last Phish they might ever hear if they weren’t heading north afterwards for Great Woods, Camden, and TFWSNBN and that’s a disappointing thought. But unfortunately it was a sign of times.
03.06.2009 I could – and have – write many many words on the emotions and significance that surrounded the 2009 Return shows by Phish here in Hampton. And many much better writers than I have done so as well so I’ll just assume that by being here reading this you already have a certain level of understanding for just how major this was in our little world. Suffice it to say that this was perhaps THE hardest ticket ever for Phish and the excitement and anticipation for the shows was understandably off the charts as everyone made their way back here almost five years since the band’s last visit in the wind down of 2.0. Knowing that the band was coming off of the longest stretch of not playing together since forming way back when I don’t think anyone expected them to come out super polished and ready to jam which may have been related to the fact that we were all just so excited to have our band back together and seemingly healthy once again. The band that we had last heard was quite frankly a mess no matter how hard you try to justify the sloppy playing and questionable decisions with comments of “yeah but they played some amazing jams brah!” Heck, by the time of that show above this one they weren’t even attempting to play many of their more complicated composed numbers, opting for the ones that were more straight forward in structure and required little practice if any since they weren’t doing that anymore. So when the band came out on stage and started up Fluffhead of all songs we knew that this time things were going to be different. Everyone (bands and fans alike) had aged a bit and hopefully matured as well though that might still be something of a work in progress… Anyway, this night was THE RETURN and it was all about reconnecting with the band and our fellow fans, so the music is something of an afterthought in terms of overt analysis. The collective release packed into that “OH YEAH!” line from Fluffhead was catharsis of the highest order and just what so many of us needed, the band included it would seem. After pretty well nailing that Fluff (a song that was notably benched for the entirety of 2.0) they proceeded to run through fairly standard versions of a TON of songs, packing a whopping 28 tunes into the two sets and encore. Songs from all eras were on the table with the first set including mostly songs from the early to mid 90s (except for that Farmhouse I suppose). Nothing here is musically “special” except in the sense that we never thought we would hear the band play these tunes again. For the second set they opened by debuting the now loved/hated BDT#L and following it up with concise versions of several notable second set standards. The Tweezer->Taste is nice, the Possum rocks, First Tube>Hood is a fun shot of energy, and the Waste>YEM works well as a cap to the set. Then after the bouncy triple encore of Grind, Bouncin’, Cup it was over and Phish was back! There might not be a show that can eclipse the feelings associated with the optimism that comes from knowing that.
03.07.2009 The second night of the Return (and I think it is notable that the band chose to play here again after using this venue as part of their return from Hiatus back in 2003) was a bit more relaxed now that the band had a show under their belts and the feelings had returned for all that THIS was where we were supposed to be. Again, they packed a large number of songs into this show (27 in total) as the first set included another 15 songs just like the night before. A punchy BOTT>Jim opened things up and save for a pretty cringe-worthy run through Melt the rest of the set kept the vibe fun and free though didn’t dive into much in the way of open jamming. They debuted the Page tune Beauty of a Broken Heart along the way and that one would stay in the rotation for the balance of the year before becoming a once-a-tour-if-you-are-lucky song. Other fun stuff here includes a nice bit of Page in Ice and the huge eruption for the Lope peak closer. The second set starts out with a solid RnR that gets to some nice blissy melodic space (something to get used to with the many RnR 2nd set openers from this year) before seguing into a solid LxL. The Ghost that follows has a little proto-plinko jam before heading off to Piper which in turn gives way to BOAF. The rest of the set is all fun stuff with a straight forward Mike’s Groove leading to the expected Zero closer before they encore with ADITL. As I mentioned above this show is a bit more relaxed with all involved probably a tad more comfortable after the nervous energy of the first night had dissipated. It probably isn’t one you are going to go back and spin a lot but you might want to revisit the RnR and Ghost.
03.08.2009 So then the third and final night of The Return came and with it the bittersweet thoughts of “what next?” since at that time we really didn’t know where this was all headed. But Phish being Phish they had other ideas, opening with Sanity for only the second time ever (10.31.1996 being the other) and setting the tone somewhat for the evening. Perhpas doubly so considering one of the big “globe” light thingies up on the ceiling burst right when Trey sang the “I don’t care if the world explodes” line which was a bit of a ‘whoa’ moment in house. A fun if short Gin precedes the debut of Undermind and then a bunch of songs later they debut the one time cover of the George Jones tune She Thinks I Still Care, a fairly odd choice for a one-off tune but maybe not so much considering it is a Mike sung tune. Five more songs later they close with Frankenstein which for the first time features Page on the keytar once owned by James Brown. The second set starts off with what will end up being the biggest takeaway jam of this run in Disease as they (again) head into melodic blissy proto-plinko realms for a soul satisfying jam that winds down into the start of Seven below. Later on there is a quite fun Twist that while type I should get you moving pretty well before they segue into 2001 and Moma for a triple header of dance fun. The expected Slave closer caps this second set and then a four song encore including the Reprise they left hanging from night one wraps it up. The band played an almost unheard of 30 songs in this one (making that 85 total for the three shows) but again, this is celebration Phish. Any thoughts of critique are not really relevant. While this and the two shows preceding don’t have the jam highlights of other shows (or venues…) the impact of this run is so important that it factors into the overall picture for this venue.
10.18.2013 Four years into 3.0 Phish again returned to Hampton and again for a three night run (here’s your video for set 1 and set 2). Anticipation was high once more with a big rush on tickets initially just feeding the perceived demand for the shows to come. In the end that anticipation was a bit overwrought as there were ticket trees to be found here for the brave souls who traveled sans tickets. And looking back these shows had a big hill to climb considering the history with this venue and the fact that these were the first shows of the Fall Tour coming off a pretty well received Summer Tour which made for one of the dreaded “over expectation’d” runs a definite possibility. This first show of the tour ended up being oversold but underattended (that’s one of the verses of Undermind, right?) which is generally the perfect scenario for the band to come out and say “got ya” by throwing down a master class performance. Except when it isn’t. So even though the started strong with a nice run of Wolfman’s, Jim, Mound, Chalkdust and played a fine enough first set in total, there just isn’t much there there. Sure, Stash goes sideways for a bit and WOTC peaks nicely but even the song selection feels safe. Maybe it was just the band warming up after the layoff since Dick’s. Who knows. After the break they did add some gusto, first opening with a groovy Twist that drops to ambient transition space for the move to Free and backing that cruncher up with yet another lovely Roggae (maybe it is me, but that song sure has come into its own in 3.0) . After running through Sparkle and Cavern they start into Carini which by this time had become a pretty reliable place for jamming in 3.0. Tonight would be no different as they take the jam through several phases seamlessly as if planned, combining edgy darkness, bliss rock peaking, a funky breakdown and more into what stands as one of the big highlights from the entire tour. By the time they bail out for BDT#L you don’t even care it is that good. The balance of the show is just filler by comparison but not in a detrimental way. This ends up being a fine enough tour/run opener with that one massive highlight upon which it hangs its hat.
10.19.2013 The Saturday night show (set 1, set 2 videos) from this run turns up the heat a bit considering they open with the highly danceable triple play of Gin, Moma, Tube before taking a breath for FEFY. The Gin is a straight forward peak hunter and Moma gets bouncy a bit before they throw in a nice little funk jamlet for the Tube. Maybe the bigger Saturday night crowd had something to do with it or maybe the muse just hit them a little harder that night. Either way, this first set is a nice one if you like to hear the band hitting on all cylinders even if the songs stay mainly in the box. Case in point, the Mike’s Groove to end the set looks like another stock run on paper but has some quite nice playing particularly by Page in the Paug. The second set gets the jamming going from the outset as they stretch Ghost out with a long, somewhat whale-y but dance-y groove jam that rises high and stays there to the delight of the crowd. I was a bit surprised to see that this was only the second 2nd set opening Ghost of 3.0 (at the time; there have been two since). It is a much better jam than I recalled and kind of surprising that it doesn’t get more love. They drop into Disease and you just know this is gonna blow up except that it doesn’t and they forego anything of a real jam here to head into Steam which is fine I suppose. It’s too bad because they really had something going with the serene space they drop into there. Oh well, Steam it is. And this one is a little more interesting than the typical one considering after a dirty bent note jam that’ll cause you to make weird, contorted faces Trey hops over to join Fish on the kit and Mike bangs away at the fight bell while also playing bass with drumsticks and his drill. This is all around the 33:00 minute mark of that set 2 video I linked above. Little did we know how frequent it would become for Trey to want to go all Rhythm Devils on us… From here the set goes into cruise control as they string together Caspian>Boogie>Theme>Wedge and then Silent>Hood to cap the set, giving us yet another satisfying Hood here at The Mothership (listen for a bit of callback to the Plinko Hood stylings from Worcester 2010). And then for good measure another Quinn as encore nodding back to its return from the Where Are They Now? files here several years later. There might not be a massive center-piece takeaway jam here but this is a very fun show to respin.
10.20.2013 Our final (for now!) show at Hampton was one of those mythical Sunday Nighters and here the “rule” held true as it is one that people still speak of in that way we do about the shows that pack the biggest punch. (Here’s the videos for set 1 and set 2). Looking at the first set’s list you might be saying “what the heck is he doing saying this was a big night?” and sure, that’s valid, but the playing is on point here three shows into the tour and capping this run. They throw four big energy songs together to start with BOTT being the peak moment of that group. Even the Roses feels like it might stretch a bit but instead gets Sample’d (wtf, man?) before a mini-bustout for Ginseng Sullivan (39 show gap). Rousing takes on 46 Days, Divided, and Bold As Love send everyone to the concourse smiling and jonesing for more which is all we want, right? The glory of this show is found in the second frame though as after a 47 show bustout for Paul & Silas in honor of some dudes dressed in Where’s Waldo garb causing Trey to think they were wearing prison outfits so ha ha oh well thanks for the bustout, Trey (he banters about it at the start of the set 2 video). But that’s just window dressing because the Tweezer that follows is where type II dreams are made. It starts out dark and demonic and eventually winds around to an ambient exploration that perfectly resolves into the start of Golden Age. The jam that emerges from this GA is a funky throwdown that counterpoints the darkness of the Tweezer jam with bright dance party playing by the band and then heads into ambient space though this time with a different feel entirely from what came out of Tweezer (I love when they do that). From here it really feels that they are working towards a move into 2001 but instead they ramp up to Piper for an energy boost. They head into the jam here and you start to hear something… a bit… familiar which isn’t uncommon but then WAIT! Are they? (they are) They can’t be! (they can) Holy crap they have moved into the debut of the BTO classic Takin’ Care of Business! What the phunk?! The place explodes with recognition and everything is peachy in joyland as they romp through the cover before dropping back into more of that ambient goo to set up the transition into that 2001 you thought you heard earlier. Trey has added his emerging mastery of the echoplex to the mix here which is something I’ve really loved about the addition of that little tool to his arsenal and this 2001 pushes the energy in the room even higher if that is at all possible. Then just when you think they will head for set ending energy rocker territory they drop into Sand for a compact but powerful run through the vampy millennial number before punctuating the set with the Slave peak we expected. A fitting ADITL>Reprise encore later and we are on the road with another Hampton run in the books. This was the first peak of a tour that ended up being very strong and has since left us all waiting for that next announcement of their return to this wonderful room.
Tale of the Tapes
Venue: Hampton Coliseum (nee, Hampton Roads Coliseum)
No. of Shows: eighteen
Intangibles: Mid-Atlantic locale allows for extremely large regional draw capturing both the Northeast and Southeast with Midwest access not bad either; all GA format makes it a special place since you can end up anywhere once you get inside; great sound for this type of room (some might say it has perfect “slapback”); mythos surrounding the venue carried over from Dead tour where it became a must-hit venue; wild and wooly lot scene adds to the overall experience and similarly local hotels and other places have become part of the story of seeing shows here; timing of shows played here has been key considering they used this venue as part of return shows from both Hiatus and The Break Up; it’s called The Mothership for a reason, dude
Recurring Themes: multi-night stands (only three single shows with six multi-nighters including three three-nighters in 2003, 2009, and 2013); Hood and Mike’s Groove – seven of the nine times the band has played here have included a Hood and a Mike’s Groove (though not necessarily the same seven); Phish has only played the same first set opener here twice (Chalkdust); only three songs have repeated as second set opener (BOAF, Ghost, RnR); jamming is the norm here as it has become a place known as one the band feels comfortable stretching out and creating new, wonderful music in the moment; reunion shows – as mentioned above the band has used this venue for returns from both Hiatus and The Break Up; instrument switching – the first rotation jam occurred here in 1995 and they also played with their friend’s toys in 2003 and 203; as hard as a ticket as it can be to procure for shows here they have never played Golgi at Hampton; other ‘common’ songs never played here include Fee, Lizards, Buried Alive, and DaaM; popular one time covers aren’t uncommon here as they have debuted five songs that were only ever played on that night (Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It, RnR Part II, She Thinks I Still Care, TCOB, Tubthumping; overall eighteen songs have been debuted at Hampton including the ones mentioned in the prior note, most of the Round Room album, BDT#L, Undermind, and BOABH
Key Jams/Songs: 1995 – Timber Ho!>Kung, Mike’s Song->Rotation Jam->Mike’s Song and the various Poor Hearts if you are into that sort of thing; 1996 – Makisupa->Maze, Stash, Hood; 1997 – Emotional Rescue->Melt, Ghost>Bag->Slave, Mike’s Groove, Hood, Halley’s>Tweezer>BEK; 1998 – Gin, Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It, Hood, Mike’s>Simple, Tubthumping; 1999 – Jibboo, BOAF>Moma>Jam, Melt, Hood, YEM, 2001>Sand; 2003 – Chalkdust>Gin, BOTT, 46 Days, P&M, Wolfman’s>Makisupa, Possum instrument switching, Contact, Roggae, Paug>WTU?, 2001; 2004 – CDT, Gin, WOTC, Seven Below (kinda); 2009 – Fluffhead, Tweezer->Taste, BOTT, Ice, RnR>LxL, Sanity, Disease, Twist->2001; 2013 – Twist, Roggae, Carini, Ghost, Steam, Hood, BOTT, Tweezer->GA->Piper->TCOB>2001
PJJ Ratio: Hampton surprisingly has a lower than average 2.17 JPS rating (the average for all venues under consideration in this project is 2.47). This is likely a result of somewhat tame shows in 1996 and 1997 not to mention the song focus of 2009 and the extended night runs of 2003 and 2013 ‘requiring’ more songs to fill the time
There is no denying the magic that exists in this room. Hampton is a storied venue for good reason but some of that is based on the intangible factors as much as the music itself. The role this venue has played in the band’s history cannot be discounted as it is a place the band is clearly comfortable playing and one where fans feel free to be themselves. From a purely analytical perspective this venue is surprisingly not as reliable for producing top level Phish shows but when the non-concrete factors are layered on top something special is revealed. As with every show there are thousands of different experiences that tell the story of what is going down. So when so many of these varied opinions all agree that something special is occurring it cannot be questioned. This is a bucket list venue for all fans of Phish, one that needs to be experienced in person to be fully appreciated and understood. Long live The Mothership!