Feeeeel The Heat – Phish and American Airlines Arena

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming!

After so many years playing Holiday Runs in the Northeast with that one quite memorable stop in South Florida for Big Cypress, Phish decided that for their 2003 NYE Run they would play at the then relatively new American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL. A welcome change from the high cost hustle and bustle of New York City in late December, Miami offered up a new venue, new sights, and perhaps most enticingly warmth in a time of year we had grown accustomed to bundling up before and after sweating our asses off in the arenas of Boston and New York. The venue is home to the NBA’s Miami Heat but also has a rich history with music acts beginning on its opening night December 31, 1999 with local legend Gloria Estefan ringing in the new year while Phish played not that far away in the Everglades. Many many more have played the venue since with Phish stopping by for four night runs each of the three times they have visited the venue. And just recently an anecdote by the Dude of Life (aka Steve Pollak) on Tom Marshall’s enlightening podcast Under the Scales provides the connection we lacked for just why Phish started playing here. Apparently when Trey and Steve were both in high school at Taft Trey would stay up late playing music loudly and Eric, the guy who lived in the room below him, is (was?) now the President of AA Arena (not entirely sure on the actual position and such but the anecdote is around the 11:30 mark of the podcast linked above) and asked Trey to bring the band down to his arena which they did and now continue to do in rotation with MSG. And here twelve NYE Run shows later from the venue I think we would all agree that that connection opened the door for this venue to be considered as one of the most storied in the band’s history.

The twelve shows that Phish has played at this venue have all been as part of New Year’s Eve Runs with four played in 2003, four in 2009, and four for the 2014 Run which extended into 2015. The 2003 and 2009 runs fit the traditional format with the first show on the 28th and running through the big highlight three setter on the 31st while that 2014 run started on the 3st with the three subsequent shows falling on January 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of 2015. This wasn’t the first time the calendar influenced the sequencing of shows for a Holiday Run as for the 2002-2003 Run coming back from Hiatus which we just covered for the Hampton post had the same date layout. While it is unclear if and when the band might return to this venue if they stick to the not-quite-a-pattern it’ll probably be in 2019 or 2020 assuming they are still playing shows at that stage.

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Miami Jams. Now on to the shows!

12.28.2003  2003 was a confusing time to be a fan. Yes, we had our band back and yes they were playing with a new, unique template of sound but other aspects weren’t quite the same. Like, what song do you think would make the most sense for opening a Holiday Run in a new-to-us venue far from their typically Northeastern winter stomping grounds? If you guessed a sprawling, psychedelic Bowie, well, you either cheated or should go lay some money down in Vegas or some other place that allows gambling. I mean, it was only the 10th Bowie opener ever at the time (12 now total in 470 performances of the song) and not exactly the quick shot of energy opener you expect in that slot. But it set a certain tone for the run, that’s for certain. And if you recall, a snippet from this jam was used for the the teaser video in advance of the band’s return here in 2009. Oh hey, here’s a video playlist of what I think includes the whole show, cut into bite-sized tracks like YT used to force us to ingest. Now the opener you expected comes next (Sample) and then we are back to the jamming for a third song Tweezer (this is the type of expected unexpectedness that shows in 2.0 could produce). This is a patient Type I version where Trey takes the lead and doesn’t let up, crafting soulful lines and playfully prodding us to rise and fall with him until the jam naturally resolves into a fade out ending with no return to Tweezer. A couple of songs later they drop Frankie Says that ‘gets the treatment’ as the kids like to say with one of those ambient goo jams that coalesce into something better than they start out to be as the band swells towards an almost peak before winding out into the start of Llama. And while perhaps not the precise shred of your dad’s Llama this one has girth as Page plays an entertaining bit of that electric organ thing and Trey plays a not quite standard part in his turn at the lead. The set wraps up with the lyrically botched Fish Fun Time tune Love You (maybe playing more than once ever 50ish shows would prevent such botching but probably not though I will say the lyrics he makes up here are pretty funny) and then Reprise which is another surprise considering that out of the 271 times the song has been performed only 18 are first set versions (that’s a low 6.6% for those accounting at home). The second set starts off with Jibboo and rather than doing its normal thing of being a funk siren loop’d workout this one gets pretty rocking (and rolling) before they come back to finish the song. Next up is Suzy and you are expecting a fun time party song setting up the next deep dive vehicle only to have Suzy become that deep dive. Now, there are varying opinions on this jam and its relative merits as a piece of music considering it basically becomes a one man showcase of hard edged guitar playing while the rest of the band follows along. Some will say this is a great example of Trey just letting loose and going for it – something he doesn’t really do all that often – and that is a fair take assuming you are one who values a bit of guitar wankery every now and again. Others will say it is nothing but guitar wankery with Trey showing off at the expense of full band cohesion/exploration and that is also a fair take if you are more into the dance party connect-the-dots type of jam template. Personally, I think it leans more towards the latter viewpoint than the former but at the same time I see the beauty in it as a unique move by the band and know that had I seen it in person my view on it would assuredly be different. The raging guitar swirl eventually subsides into a loop’d bit of ambient transition and sets up the move to Theme. Much like the first two forays in jam from this set this Theme is more rock out on the way to the (almost) peak than blissy groove clinic as Trey again takes a quite meaningful lead and the rest of the band rides along. A nod to their last visit to South Florida is next with WITS (to the delight of the knowing crowd) and then Friday sets up the set closing Hood which has more of that rocking energy and swagger on the way to the end peak. A Monkey>Cup encore seals the deal and we have our first one in the books for Miami. This is an interesting show in a lot of ways, highlighting a lot of the “good” of 2.0 with some uniqueness in the prevailing mode(s) of jamming and the ever welcome fresh take on setlist construction. It also is something of an outlier as 12.28 shows go where typically the vibe is one of warming up and reconnecting with the next couple of nights being the meat in terms of musicality. An odd factor may be that this is also a Sunday show which as we know has its own axioms though I think that is less of it than simply the band and more specifically Trey really going for it from the start of the run.

12.29.2003  Night two of this run (videos here for set one and two) starts out with another odd but appreciated opener placement as we get just the fifth ever (and last to date of 157 total performances) Piper show opener. The one prior to this was the first tune played after Hiatus so perhaps a nod there even if not overtly intentional by the band. After an ‘On Broadway’ tease they slow build it, heading out into fast moving, loose jam befitting of an opening slot. This is not the most ‘connected’ Phish you will ever here but the raw energy of it is infectious and by the time they get to the Reprise-ish peak in the last few minutes you are hooting and hollering and backslapping everyone around you (don’t worry, it happens to the best of us). They circle back around to Piper again with another round of the lyrics and follow it up with a fun Foam before slotting our first true ballad of the run third with Anything But Me. The second peak of the set comes with the LxL that follows and really by second peak I mean second, third, and fourth peaks as this one (arithmetic on that might not be accurate and may be subject to hyperbole) goes for the rafters before coming back to earth. Wolfman’s is next and suitably funky with a tease of FZ’s Apostrophe thrown in for good measure. And then the old school Poor Heart>Cavern pairing ends the first set proceedings for one of 18 times in their shared history (and one of six times that combo closed a set). RnR opens up the next frame with promise but just as the jam is about to get interesting they move into Twist. Now, some say they hear a quote of FZ’s Dinah Moe Humm but I’ve spun this version more times than it deserves and I am not catching it. Whatever. Anyway, outside of that mythical quote this Twist is mainly a pass through on the way to a fun Boogie On which almostnotquite gets a jam of its own – one that is pretty reminiscent of what came out of Boogie in Worcester 2012. Next up is Ghost and while perhaps not the best one ever this jam is really creative, not just sticking to the wah funk comp-a-thon but instead weaving an inventive thread on their way to a full segue to Free. In Free they get super crunchy with Trey growling out his lead and Mike playing a particularly dirty bit of slap bass as the two go back and forth for a couple of minutes. Trey’s 2.0 growl is on full display here and it is wonderful. The growl carries over to the Divided Sky that follows which is always an interesting thing to hear considering the signature soaring tone by Trey for this song generally invokes the wide open sky and whatnot. It is a nice departure, honestly. There’s a lengthy pause tonight (2:27!) which amps the crowd up even before Trey tears apart the end solo and then following this they shred an extended GTBT to close out the set.  Then oddly we get a double encore as the band plays Waste, leaves the stage, and then comes back for Coil to the delight of those in the room. It isn’t common for Phish to do that (and kind of odd here considering it isn’t like this show was the greatest one they ever played) but a neat surprise when it does occur.

12.30.2003  Night three of this run is where things really get… interesting. First up is Wilson which gets left unfinished as they segue to Sand right before the “blap boom” section. There’s a ‘War Pigs’ tease in that Wilson which may have been but probably wasn’t played to honor Earl “Wilson” Hindman of Home Improvement fame who died that day. Sand is high energy and hard hitting here in its 45 show bustout (which is a head scratcher seeing how that’s the song’s longest gap since debut and smack in the middle of the period where the song kinda made the most sense in terms of the band’s playing style. Oddly enough, the next longest gap for the song – 40 shows – also ended here in 2009). As they move into the jam Trey is playing something almost recognizable which continues to form until it dawns into a full segue to the 72 show bustout of Shafty, here played with a bit more edge than typical. After a quick run through this setlist rarity they bounce into NICU (complete with a Shafty tease) and then continue the bustouts with a 200 show whopper in Weigh. Then they get to the funking with Cities (dropping Sand teases in there) which somewhat surprisingly segues to Mule. Then a fairly standard Gin gets completely away from the song as they tease the Steely Dan tune Show Biz Kids and a little After Midnight before shifting into a full segue for 2001. Trey plays the Gin melody in the initial build of 2001 then noodles around as they hit the first peak. After that it is a full-on teasefest with Sand, Auld Lang Syne, and more at play. But what you know this version for is the move to the P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up) jam (with lyrics) in the back half which almost blows the roof off the place. Little did the fans know as the set concluded that this wasn’t just a fun bit of teasing… The second set starts out with Tube which initially hits the funk pocket (Trey also plays a very familiar descending melody just after the three minute mark but I can’t place it) and then they hit a stop-start breakdown section as Trey takes over the lead and moves away from Tube into open waters. They ebb and flow with this jam, eventually leaving the groove behind and setting up a transition to… something… but what? Oh Shit. What the heck? I know that melody. They aren’t, are they? Yup, they are now into a drone’d take on The Doors’ LA Woman, the classic rock staple you definitely blasted more than once at full volume with the windows down as you raced along whatever the local back road was that you and your friends chose for joyriding on bored, hot summer nights in your youth. Not just a single verse riff on the tune, the band sticks with it and then dives into what could have been a quite lengthy groove exploration but for the fact that they blast into BOAF instead. There’s a solid jam here with full LA Woman phrasing/quoting before they kind of slam back to the end of BOAF without singing the final refrain, instead heading back to LA Woman for the ‘Mr Mojo Rising’ section. It’s the good kind of sloppy if that makes sense. Now they head into Makisupa and instead of the typical wink-with-forefinger-touching-the-side-of-the-nose weed keyword reference Trey banters about how they were going to bring back ‘Touch Me’, the Doors tune they used to do with Fish singing and the GCH supporting but lacking horns they decided to just bring out George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars instead which ends up being fine with everyone there based on the reaction of the crowd. Starting with the Maki rhythm, they open up a medley of P-Funk classics including Butt-A-Butt, Get Low, Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucka), P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up), and One Nation Under Groove before P-Funk departs and our band is back playing Makisupa (where Fish get a single a cappella line from Touch Me for good measure) which ends with Fish on vac alone on stage before the entire band departs. So yeah. THAT happened. As with many of the sit-ins the band has had especially in later years some love this while others do not so it is an interesting insight into where someone is/was with the band to hear their thoughts on this bit. If anything, the stories about the back stage antics from this night are more legendary than the music the collaboration produced. I mentioned the band left the stage after that Makisupa but that wasn’t the end of the set. We still have a quite beautiful set closing Disease that is in opposition to the music that precedes it in this set considering the delicate feel of it as opposed to the raw energy and loose playing of everything leading up to it. Then after a tease-y Contact (LA Woman, P-Funk) and a shaky WMGGW we are done with only that looming triple set NYE show to come. A product of many factors, this show is a ton of fun that deserves a listen. Hopefully some day video will surface of it as well.

12.31.2003  What do you do to top a show like that one just above? Sure, it isn’t a pure display of jam heroics but it is the sort of show that ends up being quite memorable to those there due to the setlist hijinks, big time sit-in, teases, and everything else. And maybe topping it isn’t ever the goal because each show is its own time and place where comparison falls flat. But being Phish it wasn’t like the band was just going to roll over and play a ho hum concert on one of the biggest days in the Phish calendar (videos here – fair warning: those are hand held in the first few rows and what they lack in sound quality and stability they make up for with proximity and crowd energy). First, they start out by finishing off that Wilson from last night, coming in with the “Blap Boom!” line and final shreddy bit before moving into Mike’s Song for what is the “real” opener here. This Mike’s and the Hydrogen that follows are pretty stock but the Paug brings in the tease fun once more first for Auld Lang Syne then for Jungle Boogie (???) and in the return to the end Divided Sky as well. The balance of the set is mainly feel good energy stuff like Moma>Guyute and YEM (listen for a vamp on Cities for a few bars in Moma and a brief ALS tease in the YEM pre-jam build) before they close the set with something that feels like it should have happened more than once by now: First Tube>Tube. Admittedly, it is only the close of the Tube left unfinished last night but still (and yes, I know they did a Tube, First Tube pairing for 06.07.2009 in Camden) it feels like this should happen more often. And just because, the First Tube has more ALS teasing which isn’t exactly a mind blowing thing here on the one day a year people sing the song anyway. Typical of NYE gigs this feels like a warm up set with much much more still to come. And that much more comes quickly as the second set starts off with a wide ranging Stash that covers a lot of ground over its 23+ minutes including a bit that flirts with MLB. The range of 2.0 jamming is on full display here. The rest of this set is fine enough with a peaky type I run through Seven Below (I’m a sucker for that jam) into Lawn Boy and then they throw in a unique Chalkdust->Slave>Chalkdust capper before leaving for that last break of 2003. The first Chalkdust has a crunchy ALS quote then quickly moves to the Slave transition and then right on the heels of the final note of Slave they drop right back into the Chalkdust end jam which caps with the Trey Feedback Jedi antics. Set three kicks off with a debut cover of that Jungle Boogie that Trey teased in the first set which is where the prank starts in earnest. First, Fish’s kit slides to the side of the stage and a car (an old Mini Cooper) is lowered down in its place. The car door opens and first a football player (for back of a better descriptor), marching band, and cheerleader/dancers emerge one by one as if out of a tiny clown car. The band joins in to play with Phish (the drumline breakdown is pretty fun) and then the football player dude (he’s wearing an Eddie George Titans jersey which might have some significance that I don’t know about) counts us down to midnight. After ALS the band and marching band (which turns out to be the Miami Palmetto HS band) take on the debut of Iron Man for an instrumental take on the Black Sabbath classic before the marching band departs by way of the crowd. It is brief but hilarious and typically inventive by Phish for their annual New Year’s prank. And then with balloons still being popped the band chugs right into Jim, settling us back into a Phish show properly with another wide ranging yet completely different jam than Stash and continuing the tradition of a sizable jam coming out of the NYE proceedings. This jam ebbs and flows between quiet/subdued playing and big time rock out, pushing the boundaries of agreeable dissonance at points and then shifting once more. It feels like this one runs out of ideas with a couple of minutes to go but they chug on and eventually land in Simple which leads to a nice if a bit noodly Reba. Then we get some Fish Fun Time first for IDK and then for another fun debut with Fish on vac for the Dirk Diggler anthem ‘Feel The Heat’ which you would know from Boogie Nights and nowhere else. Trey and Page tease David Bowie’s Fame and then in the HYHU to follow there are more antics around Fish and his heat. A rousing Lope closer and Frankenstein closer later and this run is done. This is a good example of what NYE shows tend to be which is more celebration and party vibe than hetty deep dive jamming. We will have more to discuss in this area as we go ahead.

12.28.2009  In the magical year of The Return Phish threw out the template of playing MSG yet again (possibly due to one Mariah Carey already having the venue booked and maybe related to having played three nights at MSG earlier in December) and came back to Miami for the first shows in Florida of 3.0. Being the first NYE Run shows of the era, expectations were noticeably high in the fanbase as people openly wondered what they would do to match or even top the last visit here. A tall order to be certain but Phish phans are nothing if not bursting with optimism. But framing that within the context of the year that was in 2009 it was more likely that we would get shows heavy on the reconnection vibe where songs take precedence over open jams. So it isn’t much of a surprise that this first show while well played feels like a warm up what with its song-heavy setlist. To the surprise of absolutely no one Sample opens the run but then after NICU we get a 110 show bustout of My Soul followed by the 64 show bustout of Roggae (a lovely version taboot) both of which had last been played prior to The Return. Next is the relatively new (to the stage anyway) Undermind which is fun in the sense that they were still figuring out how to approach the song here in its sixth ever performance. Later on there is a tension-filled Stash that stays at home in the song but resolves nicely and then “the last vacuum solo of the decade” per Trey in IDK tips their hand a tad about setlist construction over the next few nights. After a BOABH, Possum closing sequence they come out for the second set with Mike’s, amping up the crowd before diving into the then new jam vehicle Light for a fun but mainly straight forward run through the song and outro jam before they return to the Groove for H2 and Paug. Then we get a double dip of Purgatory tunes with Alaska and BDT#L before a humorous Makisupa introduces us to the concept of “Mike’s House” which we would get a lot more of come 2011 (not sure why 2010 wasn’t full of “House” references) and which is a bit of foreshadowing about who would end up being the run’s MVP of the band. This bleeds nicely into a Hood that while essentially just one long run to the satisfying peak does so quite nicely. Then the show concludes with predictable takes on Contact>Zero and the First Tube encore and we are left to wait for the next night’s goings on. This is a perfectly okay show but not one you will find yourself spinning and praising much.

12.29.2009  If the first night of a NYE Run is largely warm-up and reconnection after a break then the second night often results in shit going down. There are debates about which date between the 29th and 30th (or second and third shows if you prefer) of a NYE Run are the best for good reason. And pretty much every year right after the 28th show ends everyone starts talking about how great the next night will be by comparison. It’s another one of those Phish Axioms, I suppose. You wouldn’t know it from the Golgi opener or even from the second song Maze which while ripping is nothing special but then the set starts to take shape. A contemplative Driver leads to one of those rare performances of The Connection (a highly underrated song if my blog name and twitter profile say anything about my thought on the matter) and then to a compact but funky version of Wolfman’s. They stay type I for the somewhat whale-y Ocelot that follows and then play a solid version of our gal Reba before busting out Access Me for the first time in 54 shows which makes it the first of 3.0 similar to the era debuts of the first night’s first set. Concise versions of Divided (1:20 pause) and Cavern (with botched lyrics naturally) close the set but you can tell there’s a bit more punch in the band tonight already. First up is a rocking KDF that has a bit more stank than most of those early versions, getting things moving which gives way to Tweezer to the delight of the crowd. This is arguably the best Tweezer of 2009 and still ranks as one of the better versions of the song for all of 3.0 (well, top twenty-ish anyway). At the drop they move into Manteca-ish playing almost immediately with Fish interjecting vocal punctuation as Trey and Page layer in effects and Mike takes charge on bass. They sit in this pocket for the majority of the jam as Mike leads the way and eventually downshift to a transition point, almost coming into a new pocket but instead moving into Caspian. Oh well. After a nice peak in that though they go back to dance party mode for Gotta Jibboo which loops along nicely until meld it with Wilson, playing that song in full before coming back to close Jibboo in one of the more unique mashups of their songs you could conjure up. This is followed by a particularly soaring Heavy Things, a version that would never be on anyone’s big list of highlights but one that hits that happy love beams radiating out into everything type of space. I might be a tad biased there considering I have a very poignant memory of dancing with my then baby girl in our kitchen while this blared loudly and she giggled at me but still. It’s a solid version in that wait-until-after-the-lyrics-cuz-the-jam-is-actually-pretty-okay way that some songs have (looking at you BDT#L). Anyway, next up is the end run of the set with 2001>Slave finishing off the never-a-full-stop set before the Monkey>Reprise encore you just won five bucks off your buddy on in one of those easiest ever bets. This show is definitely more connected than the one that preceded it and yeah, maybe it still isn’t up to the level of the 2003 visit here but this was a new time and a new way of approaching the NYE Run for all of us so we’ll give it a pass on that front.

12.30.2009  Night three here starts out with yet another bustout (hang on here cuz the bustouts come fast and furious in this set) with Soul Shakedown Party coming in off a 64 show absence back to 2.0. The song is a solid way to open a show which makes sense considering six of the ten ever performances of it have opened a show (with another one being a second set opener). It might not be a sure fire sign of a killer show like, say, a My Soul opener but it certainly sets the mood nicely. A punchy Jim gets us dancing a bit hard and then JJLC comes in for the 90 show bustout with its bluesy stylings. Next there is a curious debut as the band plays the old Gene Autry song Dixie Cannonball, a head-scratcher of a play until we learn why it slid in here tomorrow night. STFTFP amps things up and then they come with another bustout for the first Corinna in 100 shows, ending the second longest gap (at the time – current gap is 169) for the song at another South Florida NYE Run (longest gap of 1096 shows was broken at Big Cypress). WTU? somewhat fittingly gets a 74 show gap broken next with the odd stand alone first set placement that has actually been more typical than its favored spot as jam vehicle landing pad. Then they up the game with a 236 show bustout of Tela, the debut of the Phish original Gone which really feels like a song that never got its due considering this performance and the one the next year in New York on 12.31.2010 are the only versions of it live ever. Rocky Top (86 shows) closes out the bustout parade for this set and then a rocking Chalkdust and a Bowie that kinda almost not quite hits a Reprise build in lieu of the typical T&R ends the set. Quite a lot to write about a set that is largely jam-lite but bustouts are fun for some. The second set starts out with an almost bustout as they play the first Sand in 40 shows since that big one on 06.07.2009 – which is the only one between here and its last performance also at this venue back in 2003 as mentioned above. This stretches out a bit but stays in Sand land throughout as Trey scratches that whale’s belly and the rest of the band punches that groove ticket. Next up is a satisfying run through The Curtain (With) which precedes yet another bustout, this time the 54 show gap ender for Lifeboy. Then, right when you expect a big time jam vehicle to finally show up the band starts into BOTT and you realize this is probably going to just end up being a jukebox set until… waitjustaminute… they are taking this bad boy out for a ride! The jam starts out in BOTT mode but then Mike moves us into totally open waters, even causing Fish to drop the shuffle beat completely as they create new music here. Trey and Page come in to aid for a melodic, mantra-like section which Trey solos over as Fish adds in a new beat. Trey hits on an idea as the band builds, goes away from it for a bit of trill, and then comes back to it as they head for the bliss peak to the delight of all in the room. They take a breather for Wading in the wake of this BOTT and then we get Fish Fun Time for hey wait a sec! They said the last vac solo of the decade was last night! What gives?? Well the cow comes home after Fish sings Love You (65 show bustout because of course) as instead of doing the honors himself they bring up a fan who does a pretty admirable job under the circumstances and gets to take the vac home with him as a souvenir as well. Fun stuff. After Free they close the set with what will eventually be called The Boogalope as they first play Boogie On then head to Lope only to tease/quote Boogie On a bunch in a fun run up to the end. Then a keytar-aided Frankenstein encores and we are left waiting excitedly for the New Year’s show to come. On top of all of the bustouts there is that big time BOTT jam here which in combination might push this show up above the others preceding it from this run.

12.31.2009  And then there was New Year’s. First sets on this date always feel like everyone is sitting on their hands a bit, riding that nervous energy trying to figure out what the prank will be and feeling all the feelings of the year coming to a close. Personally, I can think of no better way of turning the calendar over than spending it with these people and this band. It might not be the tightest night of playing but what could be better than ringing in the new year with Phish instead of dealing with the amateur hour night that is NYE for most people. Plus you get to see what the latest prank will be, right? So tonight they use the on the nose lyrics of Bag to open things up (name me another song with as many cliched lines as that one) and then head to 46 Days for more rocking fun. The Everglades throwback nod is next with WITS followed up by a contained Gin and an energetic PYITE>Moma, Guyute triple header before the bustout parade begins once more with three in a row for Swept Away>Steep and Demand (145, 145, and 392 shows respectively). Demand drops into a nice if safe Seven Below and then after Lawn Boy with Mike rightfully taking the solo (he is the top badass this run after all) they close with a punchy Julius. The second set starts out with enthusiastic if not exploratory takes on four segued songs for  RnR>Piper>Simple>Theme with the Piper probably being the adrenaline peak of that run. A nod to that year’s Halloween comes next with Shine A Light and then we have what will end up being one of the best jams of the run with Ghost->NO2 (which of course is a big bustout at 219 shows). The Ghost is a clinic in Mike-led awesome as right after the verses end he starts directing traffic. The rest of the band follows along with Page and Trey offering up ideas as they slowly climb the ladder towards a massive release peak. But that never happens as they artfully shift to a more diminished mode, seemingly moving to transition but sitting there as Trey plays around the groove Mike and Fish have set. You can almost feel it coming and then there it is, a full move into an ALS bliss jam that melts into ambience and becomes the foundation for that NO2 bustout. A quick romp through Suzy punctuates the set and then we wait for them to come on just before midnight. When they return (definitely not just fifteen minutes later) they start up the new dance anthem Party Time which fittingly gets a bit of extension in getting us to the countdown and move into ALS. The post ALS jam this year is Disease in a bit of a throwback move which stays in bounds but brings great energy with it before the band drops out and all that can be heard is Trey’s lasting loop. What you didn’t see if you weren’t there or haven’t watched the scattered videos of from this whole sequence is that a giant mirrorball was lowered from the rafters to the stage in conjunction with the countdown. In this ambient space Fish opens up a door on the ball, climbs in, and then is apparently inserted into a cannon (inside the ball of course) that was wheeled out as well. The cannon is fired, shooting the Fish Disco Ball across the venue and seemingly through the roof (if the spot light and helicopter sounds are to be believed). Fish has left the building! Now does that cover of Dixie Cannonball make sense?!? Well, that’s all fine and dandy but now there is no one to play drums so Trey brings up a woman named Sarah from Pittsburgh who says she’s been playing drums for about six months. Trey asks her what song she wants to play, she says Fluffhead, and then she heads to the kit to start it up. Somewhere in there Fish returns dressed in the same outfit as her and wearing a wig matching her hair and then plays the rest of the set as “Sarah”. The highlight here is probably the YEM which is quite fun. For the end of set bows Sarah replaces “Sarah” with the rest of the band, completing the joke. They encore with the debut of Blue Moon (on the day of an actual blue moon no less) as background music while they thanks the crew (itself something of a “once in a blue moon” moment) and then finish up with the Cup exclamation point you probably knew was coming. Oh, and the gag continued outside the venue as the “landing” spot for Fish’s mirrorball is in front of the venue, on top of a car with VT plates with a sign in the window saying it had been driven from Vermont fueled by maple syrup, as the car oozed out maple syrup and smoke. Funny stuff, guys. Is this the best NYE show ever? No, definitely not even close but it is a really fun one and a great return to the tradition by the band. That Ghost will keep you well entertained though.

12.31.2014 Phish returned to Miami for another NYE Run to cap 2014 a few weeks following a Fall Tour that had a lot of people scratching their heads until they finally seemed to connect just before the end run for Halloween in Las Vegas that gave us the wonderful Thrilling, Chilling album “cover” and more. Coming into this run there was some consternation within the fanbase about whether we’d get the let’s-just-practice-on-stage band from the early part of the Fall or something closer to the band that was hitting its stride just as the tour ended. Honestly, one of the biggest questions was where if anywhere would the new songs from Halloween facotr into the sets. Added to all of this was the question of how this run would go considering the NYE show was the first of the run instead of the typical-but-not-always last show being on New Year’s Eve. That sequencing has only happened one other time as we mentioned in the Hampton write-up when discussing the end of Hiatus on 12.31.2002 at MSG with the three shows that followed in Virginia (though with a gap day for the travel in that run). This causes the first set of NYE to act as warm up for the band and crowd alike which is fine, I suppose, but also kind of sets a tone for what we can expect in getting started. Oh hey! What a surprise! They opened with Sample! Yeah, so really the only song of note in this first set is the Wolfman’s which stays at home but gets a solid Clav and effects workout by Page as the band and crowd first connect on something. The balance of the set is all songs that were tour staples at the time with the longest gap being eight shows for Bouncin’ and Train Song. The set closing ASIHTOS is decent enough but kind of stock when it comes down to it. For the second set they fit half as many songs into roughly the same amount of time, giving us a bevy of jams to sink our teeth into along the way. After a frenzied, compact BOAF they head off into Ghost, first swanking through the funky type I jam and then building to that sweet bliss run you and everyone else in the crowd knew was coming. Rather than peak it and head for the next tune (I mean, yeah, they peak it but not in that finale sort of way) they settle back into a bit of Ghost groove, winding down to what seems to be the full stop ending of the song. But then Trey solos over it and the band climbs to what might be… another… nope, they move to transition, feeling around, setting dials, messing with effects, and eventually arriving in Theme of all places. This is only the second time the two songs have been paired (08.15.2010 the other in this order with no such luck for Theme>Ghost) so at the very least you know we will be getting another peak run which is nice. They quickly enter the solo with Trey playing soulful lines in a version that feels like it’ll wrap up in a normal fashion but then they hit the “from the bottom, from the top…” vocal round bit and Page comes in with that same synth sound that accented the Wolfman’s jam and they hit on a stop/start jam that gets the crowd woo-ing as they tend to do. The groove here is just filthy as Page plays with his effects and Trey rides rhythm as they hint at transition (Trey is clearly playing Cities at one point, The Birds at another) but Mike goes big, amping up the crowd and pushing the groove and hitting the fight bell repeatedly as they shift towards that Cities Trey foreshadowed earlier. As they make the move Page triggers the first sample of The Birds and the now iconic “THEY ATTACK!” voice joins the Cities groove as they execute a flawless segue into the beloved Talking Heads cover. After a bit of a rough go in the lyrical section they go right out into a funky jam with Trey playing some almost Plinko tones as Mike and Page lay on the effects-laden notes in a big way. They shift to a not quite Manteca bit (.net says there’s a tease there, I’m not sure) for a short time that gives way to familiar bliss transition space which here extends for longer than typical, almost coming up to peak run of its own before Trey opts out for a move to Chalkdust. Okay, sure, why not? They romp through a fun but standard version of this and then to close the set we have the first Thrilling, Chilling song performed in full after that 10.31.2014 show with Martian Monster. Page is liberal with the samples in this slinky version which also features Trey playing some quite crunchy leads as they patiently work towards the big finish. Mike throws down a ridiculous meatball filter’d note as Trey sets loops and it all kind of dissipates into a somewhat anti-climactic end for the set. Not in a bad way, just that typically sets end with a big release, you know? Okay, so now it’s NYE Gag time and the band comes out front to start, meaning we are getting something a cappella which is a surprise for a NYE set off the bat. The song is the debut of the old spiritual Dem Bones which they perform well enough before giving way to Fish on vac but something isn’t quite right as he appears to get the vac stuck on his mouth. They stop to figure things out and Trey, Mike and Page banter about what to do, eventually deciding to change the flow from “suck to blow” the words of which then getting repeated and pitch shifted numerous times as an explosion rings out and the room goes dark. When the lights return a giant Fish balloon has been sent up to the rafters as the band throws in a couple more “suck to blow!” cries and the countdown for New Year’s proceeds. At midnight the standard balloon drop and ALS is done and Fish is back at the kit (naturally) as the joke has now been played. The post ALS jam choice is our second Halloween tune, The Dogs, which is accompanied by some Floydish piercing laser lights by CK5 as they rage through this one before dropping right into Tweezer. Now we’re talking! This one is straight up love beams and smiles glory jamming that even gets a bit close to a Reprise finish before they bring it down to transition out but even in being somewhat linear it is such feel good music you won’t care a bit. The next run of songs continues the feel good vibe as they run through Simple (with some nice Mike action in a short version), LxL (where Trey soars in another not lengthy take), Bug (for the power ballad pay off), and then BDT#L (with the ever present aw-hell-oh-wait-this-jam-is-pretty-good-after-all slot). The set wraps with more fun time sing along dancing fun but nothing really of note musically (except maybe for the MM vocal quote in the Julius closer banter?) which is not out of line with what we generally expect from the post-NYE jam part of these third sets. As NYE shows go, this one is pretty solid though that first set is a definite warmup lap before they really got started.

01.01.2015 Now settled in and with the NYE thing out of the way, Phish was able to get down to business for the rest of the run and as a kick start to what would eventually end up being a quite spectacular year for the band in 2015. After a pinner Tube opener and a fun Gumbo we get a rare third song placement for Bowie which is unexpected kinda like how jamming this song in any meaningful way is unexpected these days. Page does the crooner thing for Lawn Boy with Mike giving us a pretty darn good solo if you like those in there and then the balance of the set pushes through a bunch of songs on its way to the somewhat predictable Gin closer. The Undermind here is fun and the Gin has some nice trill-y tension building right before the peak but there’s no real meat here. Speaking of no meat, the second set starts off encouragingly enough with an enticing Twist>Piper pairing but once you see the track times and spin them you figure out quickly they are straight forward versions of both tunes that could stand a few more sets in the gym instead of preening up there flexing their tight but small muscles. Unfortunately, this is pretty much the story of this set as the only music really worth your time in the whole of it is the biggish Winterqueen ending and that pretty much says all you need to hear about this one. Look, it was a quick turnaround after the NYE show and everyone is clearly tired, band and fans alike. I mean, how much do you get done on New Year’s Day after raging it late night for the holiday? Let’s just chalk this one up to being the “hangover” show after NYE and move on.

01.02.2015 Now waking from the groggy hangover of the previous night, the band and fans return for night three with visions of sugar plum jam fairies dancing their curly-cued dance in their heads. The fifth ever Free opener provides hope even in staying contained and a wiggle-worthy Moma ups the dance factor before butting up against a punchy crowd-pleaser of a take on Possum finishes off the opening trifecta. Roggae gives us a bit of that soaring beauty and then the play a Stash that might be in the conversation for one of the shortest ever which gets you wondering whether this is just going to be another mailed in show like the night before. The rest of the set is more of the same sort of thing we’ve been dealing with for three full sets now as they run out a bunch of songs common to first sets at the time, only really giving any space to the end of Coil where Page, as usual, shines brightly in his spotlit role. I can only imagine what people were thinking at the break here but thankfully someone or something woke up the band because when they came back out they threw down all the mustard (yeah, it’s a mixed metaphor, what of it?). For the 45th time ever at the time they opened the second set with Mike’s Song (now at 46 of 510 times the song has been played). The jam here is not the longest you’ve ever heard but Trey employs the echo and delay to great effect as Mike and Fish romp around, at times almost getting to a stop/start jam before they bring it round to close. The meat of the Groove tonight is 46 Days, the lone time this has ever been the only song sandwiched between the two classics. They jam briefly here with more Trey effects, a darkened edge, and a touch of Manteca-ish fun but then move over to Paug where the real fireworks go off. Page starts things off in a funky way, punishing the clav and getting the crowd all aflutter. They settle into what seems to be the Paug end jam with Trey soloing around the theme and just when you think that end chorus is coming in they hit a brief stop/start section that brings out the woos, naturally (I tend to think this occurred a lot in this time period as a way to potentially reset the jam and not necessarily to get the woos going overtly though it is an obvious result). Page keys the trigger for the “They Attack!” sample a few times as they drop into a loopy, effect-driven jam and Trey moves to the marimba lumina as Page solos and they search for direction. Mike puts down the bass and take up Trey’s ‘Doc (Page ostensibly plays the basslines), playing a lot of notes (ironic for him) while implementing the delay pedal, resulting in a very creative jam unlike post you’ll hear from this song. Trey eventually comes back to the ‘Doc, messing with the loops a bit but then bringing it home to the end of the song. Good stuff all around. After a solid if uneventful run through Fuego they peak Slave, dance it up for 2001, and roar in the WOTC closer, finally capping the show with that age old Monkey>Rocky Top combo you didn’t realize has happened as many times as it has (second only to Monkey>Reprise for Monkey encore combos). The second set here is a very solid one with that above average Mike’s Groove, particularly the Paug jam. But overall the show is still a bit uneven what with that flat first set.

01.03.2015  The final night of this run starts out in unique fashion as they pop in with a Maze opener for only the 11th time ever in the 305 times the song has been performed (it still has yet to open another show). After this brief but shreddy jolt they back it up with Bag in its comfortable two slot (I’m not crunching the data on this, Poindexter, but anecdotally it sure seems to drop into a lot of sets in this slot) and then they go a bit bigger with Divided Sky in the three hole. This is a nice enough version (1:24 pause) but nothing special and then we get a run of songs that could only drop this way in a first set with Cavern>Mule (uh, okay), Plasma (love this no matter where), DtaD (better than it gets credit for), WitS (because, of course! we are in Florida after all!), Melt (just really doesn’t go anywhere), and Zero (hey, there’s a shocker!). A fine enough warm up set but not exactly the banger we were looking for in setting up the final set for the next six months. Harrumph. So they come out for the start of the second set, drop that looming STFTFP and then head into Disease which was also just ripe for the picking. By now you are starting to check out on this run (or maybe finishing up the entirety of your stash before catching that plane tomorrow…) so you aren’t expecting much above the stock good/great Disease jam we’ve come to know and love in 3.0. Trey toys around with that thematic riff he loves for Disease (around the 6:00 mark or so), signalling the intention to go out (at least that’s how I like to interpret it). Trey tries out several ideas here (several you might recognize), trilling at one point before they drop into a clav-led groove pocket that almost immediately breaks down, making you think they are transitioning but really just setting up the next pocket. Page and Mike take charge here as Trey adds rhythm flavoring (there’s a song he is oh so close to playing but I cannot figure out what it is) and then Mike signals another shift with a big Ice-9 note. The band catches a new theme, building towards some hot bliss action. Mike brings out the drill which gets Trey and Page in line for that run and you can feel it building. Trey flirts with something that sounds like Simple but ends up becoming more of a Manteca vibe as the crowd eggs them on and the hose opens wide. This ends up being a false peak as they drop back down with Trey reprising his soaring lead with more subdued chords which Page catches and plays as well. They shift to a glitchy, looped bit of electronic chatter and then Trey hits the telltale chords which moves us into Light. The jam here is not wide in breadth like the Disease that preceded it but there is a nice syncopated section in the back half that benefits greatly from some big time Mike contribution as Page goes clav’ing for dollars once more. Trey tries to initiate more stop/start but instead they move on to Sneakin’ Sally. There is a brief VJ but then they move into a Trey/Fish led build (almost harkening back to that thematic riff that I keep harping on). Again, they don’t quite peak it but drop down to a transition move, this time coming up into Sand. This jam is all swagger as Page romps around and Trey plays with the lead but it ends up being more of a stepping stone than a vehicle of its own as they wrap it up and head into Hood after a few minutes. After the nice Hood peak (along with a HBD tease from Trey and an ALS tease by Mike) we get a Suzy closer – complete with more “They Attack!” sampling – and then the fitting GTBT encore sends everyone off into the warm Miami night. To be perfectly fair, this last set kind of saved this run which started out hot, lagged in the middle, and seemed destined to fizzle out entirely until that Disease took things to a higher level. It’s a good way to cap the run and gets everyone itching for their next visit to South Florida (which seems to be every 5-6 years at this rate).

Tale of the Tapes

Venue:  American Airlines Arena

No. of Shows:  twelve

Intangibles:  Every show played here has been on a NYE Run so if that holds you know you are getting a run of four shows to settle in with; South Florida provides the seasonal warmth and laid back vibe enticing to even the most ardent defender of Northeastern Winter Phish; while enticing, location is not easily accesible for large swaths of the fanbase making for an easier ticket hunt than other NYE Run locales (like say… MSG?); room has solid acoustics and the venue is seemingly easy to navigate in terms of in/out/security/etc.; band and crowd foster the connection this venue has to perhaps the greatest thing Phish has ever accomplished (if you think anything other than Big Cypress I’m curious why) with nods back to it every time they play here

Recurring Themes:  As mentioned, every show here has been part of a four night stand for the NYE Run; song debuts: the band has debuted nine songs ( LA Woman, P-Funk Medley, Jungle Boogie, Iron Man, Feel The Heat, Dixie Cannonball, Gone, Blue Moon, and Dem Bones) in the twelve shows here which is a high percentage if you remove album cover sets from the equation; also of note, six of those nine songs have only been played the one time; though the sample size is relatively low there are several very common songs never played here with Fee, Ice, MSO, Rift, Sparkle, and Lizards being the most obvious; somewhat a product of the timing of when these shows occurred, the first two visits here are punctuated with several big bustouts though the last run lacked that aspect; with four show runs the band runs through a good portion of the normal catalog such that if you catch a run here you almost assured to catch the following songs (all which have been played every time the band has visited the venue: Bag, 2001, ALS (NYE Run skew), Gin, Bouncin’, Cavern, Chalkdust, Bowie, Divided, Disease, Free, Ghost, Hood, HYHU, Lawn Boy, Mike’s, Piper, Poor Heart, RnR, Lope, Sample (sorry), Sand, Simple, Slave, Monkey, Stash, Suzy, Moma, Coil, Theme, Tube, Tweezer, Reprise, WitS (duh), Paug, Wilson, and Wolfman’s

Key Jams/Songs:  2003 – Bowie, Tweezer, Frankie Says, Jibboo, Suzy->Jam>Theme, Hood, Piper, LxL, Boogie->Ghost->Free, Divided, Gin->2001, Tube->LA Woman>BOAF>LA Woman->Maki->P-Funk Medley>Maki, Disease, Paug, Stash, Seven Below, Chalkdust->Slave>Chalkdust, Jungle Boogie>ALS>Iron Man>Jim, Reba, IDK>Feel The Heat>HYHU; 2009 – Roggae, Maki, Hood, Reba, Tweezer, Jibboo->Wilson->Jibboo, Heavy Things (shut up!), Corinna, Bowie, BOTT, Boog-A-Lope, Ghost->NO2, Party Time>ALS>Disease, YEM; 2014/15 – Wolfman’s, ASIHTOS, Ghost->Theme->Cities, Martian Monster, Tweezer, Gin, Roggae, Mike’s>46 Days>Paug, Disease>Light->Sally>Sand

PJJ Ratio:  Miami comes in at a healthy 2.67 JPS rating (the average for all venues under consideration in this project is 2.47). That figure is interesting as I expected it to be front loaded towards the 2.0 era shows but the guys at PJJ are big on the last run with 17 of the 32 jam tracks they culled coming from those four shows.

Miami gains points from the fact that it has always been a Holiday Run tour stop. That means in the twelve shows here there are three extra sets of music as compares to a venue with potentially more shows but no three setters. The fact that the band has only played four night runs here factors in since we know from experience that the band seems to perform well when they are relaxed and comfortable, something that is a natural result from not having to travel between shows and get accustomed to a new room each night or two. These factors also artifically inflate the value of this venue to a certain extent because NYE Runs are always seen as “special” what with the prospect of three set shows, the Gag, and such. This may not be one of the top venues overall for Phish in the end but you would do pretty well for yourself by making the trip to enjoy shows here and lounge on the area beaches during the day. That alone might make the trip worthwhile considering the time of year they always drop by!

21 thoughts on “Feeeeel The Heat – Phish and American Airlines Arena

  1. This space is getting hot

    Oh hey hi. When the cat’s away the mice will play.

    So yeah…Dicks pretty pls & thx.

    Like

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