The Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts opened for the 1986 concert season with great regional access to many of the major population center in this part of New England being approximately 40 miles from Boston, Providence, Worcester, and Cape Cod. Situated between I-495, I-95 and the town of Mansfield the venue has reasonably strong regional access and even with newer venues having been built in the intervening years draws a consistently high level of performing group each summer. At opening the venue held approximately 12,000 people which was expanded to 19,000 in 1994 with further enhancements improving the access and comfort level for patrons. One challenge that still remains (and will forever be a problem at this venue) is the bottleneck parking situation where the majority of fans are parked around the back side of the venue and thus forced to wait out extremely long lines do get to the one main exit from the center. This is not always a bad thing for the Phish crowd who love to hang out and recreate before and after the show but when the band leaves the stage at just after 11pm and you are still waiting to get out at 1:30am it is safe to say there is a bit of a problem. Since debuting here with a single set opening performance for Santana in 1992 the band has played a total of seventeen shows with performances in all three of the main eras of the band’s history.
After that Santana single setter every show at Great Woods has been a two set performance as part of that year’s summer tour. 1992 and 1993 were single night stops and then the next five times the band came here was for a two night stand. Oddly, Tuesday holds the high mark for most days played at this venue with seven as the next two highest combined (Friday at 3 and Saturday at 4) total to that amount together. There has never been a Sunday night show (or a Thursday one for that matter) which should not be skipped per the axiom.
Oh, hi there! Miss me? Well, life moves pretty fast and all that. And then Summer Tour comes and that whole new Phish thing gets in the way of worrying about shows from twenty or more years prior. But we are back! And I have another site update to add! I’m going to add a link to the stream of each show on phish.in for your use if you so choose. Note that this provides a good, quick way to spin each show but in most cases those are auds unless a soundboard copy leaked at some point or it was recorded by patch which would only be relevant in the old shows. Many of the shows reviewed here, particularly the ones since LivePhish was created and the band starting releasing full tours of shows, are available in remastered soundboard glory elsewhere. Join me below the fold…
I ATR, Possum, Ice>Sparkle, Stash, Coil>Jim
Phish first graced the stage of Great Woods for a single set opening slot during their time with Santana in the Summer of 1992. This is about what you’d expect with straight forward runs through setlist staples and everyone on their best behavior so as to not confuse the people only there for the headliner. First up is ATR, that lovely instrumental still waiting to be played again here a full 650 shows since its last performance. Possum gives Trey his first chance to show off a bit, playing those inviting lead lines that can make Possum your favorite song ever in the moment but really aren’t anything more than riffs in the common blues parlance. Page takes the spotlight for Ice and then they speed through Sparkle before a compact but tension filled take on Stash sets up the end of set run. That starts with Coil where Page again is on display and then finishes off with a rocking Jim that might have converted a few of the early birds who wanted to make sure no one stole their seat before Santana came to stage. This brand of Phish is interesting in a time capsule sort of way but this isn’t the type of tape you’ll keep in your car at all times.
I Llama, Horn, Nellie Kane>Divided, Guelah, Rift, Stash, Mango>Bouncin’, Coil
II 2001>Melt, Fluffhead>Maze, Glide>Sparkle>Mike’s>Yerushalayim Shel Zahav>Paug, Purple Rain>HYHU, Daniel Saw the Stone>GTBT
E Golgi, Free Bird
Phish returned to Great Woods the very next summer to headline for the first time. From the start you can here how amped they are to grace this stage, practically a hometown venue gig for Mike considering he grew up in the greater area, as they rage into the shreddy Llama opener. Here in Summer ’93 the Rift tunes were polished and featured and tonight the first example of that is a letter perfect run through Horn. Following this is our first taste of something you’ll get a lot of in this show which is to say that Phish was playing a slew of new to them covers throughout this tour. The initial entry in that vein here is the Tim O’Brien tune Nellie Kane which we first caught wind of back in the Spring but that was now becoming a staple with this being the third performance of the song this summer (and fourth overall) including being played on back to back nights after they performed it the previous evening at Jones Beach. After this entry into the third-song-first-set-bluegrass-slot they start into a fast paced take on Divided Sky (a quick 37 second pause tonight) and then regale us with that classic tale of spiders and flies, Guelah Papyrus. Following a pinpoint take on Rift they give us the first real improv of the evening with a straight evil bit of T&R jamming in Stash. They are playing so fast you might think the tape is pitch shifted like those old tapes you left on your car’s dashboard in the hot summer sun, warping them to almost Chipmunk-ian levels of high pitch. While Trey is obviously the lead on this I recommend listening to Mike here and throughout this show. He is really on top of his game in this one. Stash is followed by a 150 show bustout of The Mango Song, a gap break that was huge at the time considering how tight the rotation had become at this time. This heads right into Bouncin’ and then Page finishes off the set on stage alone for his Coil solo after which he tells the crowd they will be taking a short break as if anyone is going to believe that!
Set two starts much in the same way as most second sets in summer 1993 which is to say that they open with 2001, something that occurred ten straight times following the debut earlier in the tour at The Mann (this Great Woods show was the seventh in that run) and overall in 45 of its first 46 performances (with the outlier being the Sugarbush show in 1994 where it was used as part of the Harpua story). As it was a ‘set up’ tune in these days it generally preceded something a bit bigger which tonight came in the form of a ferocious attack-heavy run through Melt where they pack a TON of improv and T&R into a compact nine-ish minute version. The come down from this Melt is Fluffhead which should tell you just how crazed that Melt was. After a boisterous run through that song they drop into another shredster, Maze, where Trey again shows off his youthful chops, inserting some bits of 2001 along the way. Glide then kicks off the midset and is followed by Sparkle before they head into Mike’s for the centerpiece jamming of the set. This Mike’s Song has a shortish first jam but then they drop into a more mellow space where Trey plays sustained lines and Mike punctuates Fish’s beats with big bassy fills. Then on a dime the band turns and ramps it up to the Mike’s close where they head into another new tune for this tour, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, a lovely Hebrew song penned by Naomi Shemer in 1967 that has had notoriety since being released due to connections to the Six Day War as well as being part of the soundtrack to the film Schindler’s List which would be released later in this same year. Phish took this song and made it their own in arranging it for a cappella use, eventually using it fittingly as the resolution to the Demand>Melt jam suite on the Hoist album. Here it provides the calm between storms with the Paug that starts up in its wake beginning as a raging bit of Phish before they drop down to a boogie section and then ramp back up for a big time Paug finish. Fish comes to the front for the fourth ever Purple Rain (yup, debuted earlier this tour, also at that fun Mann show) and then following the HYHU return music they play the third ever Daniel Saw The Stone which was also debuted earlier in the tour. There’s a bit of extra stank on this one as Trey gives thanks and they return for a big time finish, making you think this will be the closer but instead we get a rocking GTBT to cap the set. They then encore with Golgi and the fifth ever a cappella version of Free Bird which had debuted along with Daniel and the now long lost Leprechaun at that Weedsport, NY tour opener nine days previous. This is very solid Summer ’93 Phish a full week before they really started to take things to the next level in that famed month of August.
I Llama->NO2>Lizards>Tela>Wilson>Bag>Forbin’s>Mockingbird>The Sloth>McGrupp>Divided
II Rift>Sample, Reba, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav->Frankenstein->YEM, Julius>Golgi
E Nellie Kane>Cavern
1994 saw Phish come back again to Great Woods and this time for a pair of shows in the midst of yet another big band-on-the-rise summer tour. And wouldn’t you know it they decided to open the first night with Llama again but this time instead of that song mainly being a bit of shred to shake out the cobwebs it ends up becoming the launchpad to start a set long journey to Gamehendge, the last ever full Gamehendge set that the band has played. That’s a pretty big deal and was probably even more so back then when we were a bit closer to the whole mythology of Gamehendge sets and such. The interesting thing is that with how rare they are (four TOTAL in the band’s history) to have them do two such sets within the span of only a couple of weeks (the previous one was 06.24.1994 in West Virginia as part of the “GameHoist” show that saw the band do Gamehendge for set one and the entirety of the Hoist album for set two) is quite surprising. So at the tail end of Llama Trey sets a recognizable loop that one would only really know if you had a copy of The White Tape at your disposal back then which was not exactly a sure bet since that tape while in circulation wasn’t traded as freely as other stuff the band had done to date. That loop is the start of NO2, an old tune that finally was performed live for the first time coincidentally at the show from Cleveland the day following the GameHoist shindig (perhaps as warmup for this event??). That loop will return throughout the set as Trey narrates, further cementing that this trip into the saga was dentist-drug-induced madness. As Mike intones the dentist’s calming words Trey starts narrating, bringing our hero Col. Forbin into it all as his nitrous-induced haze opens the corridor to Gamehendge, kicking off the tale in earnest. I won’t go through the entirety of what is told here as I think there is great merit in hearing it for yourself but suffice it to say there is narration of the majority of the saga interwoven throughout the set. Eventually they get to the more ancillary tunes in the Gamehendge suite as Trey tells the tale of the lonely shepherd outside of the city gates lamenting the impact of the struggle on his flock in the tune McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters before they close the set with a fitting Divided Sky (with a 56 second pause tonight). This is the type of Phish relic that might not be for everyone (and that alone is probably part of why we have yet to hear another full Gamehendge set) but it is important Phish to hear if only to gain added context to this odd songs about this mythical place. I go back and forth about whether I’d want to hear them try to tackle this sort of thing again and most days I convince myself I’m happy with the wider array of music styles and improv they employ now but then I spin this again and I want it to happen so badly when I am in attendance. Ah, the struggle of the Phish fan…
After having Gamehendge as the first set you have to then wonder what the heck the band might do in the “main” set of the show once the sun has departed. Well, if you picked “they will slay” on the parlay that night you would’ve done pretty well for yourself. First up is a fast run through Rift and then Sample before our gal Reba swings through, bringing with her some Manteca-ish phrasing ahead of a beautiful bit of Trey-led peak run playing by the band. In lieu of whistling (yes, I am mentioning it obliquely) they start into Yerushalayim Shel Zahav which bridges us to It’s Ice. After some interesting work in the dark territory (particularly by Mike) Trey starts up Stash and this is a version you probably already know by heart considering it made the cut for inclusion on A Live One, the seminal live album released in 1995 full of live cuts culled from shows in 1994. There are bigger, badder versions of the song even from the same tour but that doesn’t make this one any less good. It’s a clinic in T&R construction. So then you’d think they would take a bit of a breather but you’d be wrong as instead start up a midset YEM. And after a strong run through the composed bits they crank into the jam where Trey catches on to a lick that becomes a full move into Frankenstein which they destroy before coming back for a (quick) B&D (with Mike teasing Frankenstein) and VJ sections of YEM. This is thrill ride Phish, folks. For good measure they cap the set with a swinging Julius and Golgi before encoring with Nellie Kane>Cavern. Not too shabby a show there, Phish. And we have another one to go from this run!
I Jim, Foam, Gumbo>Maze, Guelah, Mule, Disease>Horse>Silent>Lope
II 2001>Melt, Fluffhead, Poor Heart>Tweezer->Lifeboy>Sparkle>BBJ, Hood, Suzy
How do you follow up a classic show like the first one from this visit to Great Woods in 1994? Well, being Phish it isn’t like they aspire to match another show they just go out and do what they do. So you open with a classic Jim, Foam combo, nailing both tunes and amping up the crowd in the process. Then following Gumbo they go to shredlandia for a boisterous Maze and then fill the midset with Guelah and Mule. Disease kicks off the second quarter of the show with one of those fiery yet contained versions of the song. Trey is out front, playing within the Disease context but soloing like a mad man over it and before you know it they have come back to the close and moved on to Horse>Silent. This breath sets up the massive dissonant shred of the set closing Antelope as the band alternates between playing Lope and going somewhere else entirely. Trey even throws in a ‘Call to Post’ tease in the initial build, hinting at his anxiousness to just get going already with it. If you wonder what the buzz for Lope is all about, this is the sort of version that gave it its reputation. There’s a whole lotta great T&R going on in there. Trey doesn’t even have the heart to tell The Lie, instead just saying they will be taking a break and will be back for more.
When they come out for the second set those who had been here for the show in 1993 must have been getting a bit of the deja vu as they do something you almost never see. The first three songs, 2001>Melt, Fluffhead match what they did here last year though obviously not in a note-for-note way. In fact, the Melt they drop in this set is of the holy-shit-this-is-ridiculous level Phish to the point where the band members are shouting and yelling at various points as they move through the jam. Summer ’94 has a bunch of big Melts like this one so get out there and dive into them. The Fluffhead that follows while rocking in its own right almost feels like a come down tune after that Melt. Poor Heart kind of resets the meter and then they use it to start a string of nonstop playing that includes a fun Tweezer heavy on the tension building (with some bits that sound a lot like the famed Bomb Factory Tweezer) with a full segue to Lifeboy (by far the most common pairing for Lifeboy as 17 of the 53 performances have come out of a Tweezer) and then on to Sparkle and BBJ. A nice Hood and Suzy finish off the set and then they encore with Monkey>Reprise to finish up this pair of shows. While the first night probably has more staying power due to the Gamehendge set and such this one is no slouch either. There’s no super high high but there’s no low points either. It’s all just top quality Phish.
I Bag>Mule, Horn, Taste, Wedge, Lizards, Mound, Fee->Lope
II 2001>Possum>Ha Ha Ha>TMWSIY>Avenu Malkenu>Mike’s>Contact>Paug, Amazing Grace, Coil
E HYHU>Cracklin’ Rosie>HYHU, Golgi
Just shy of a year later Phish returned to Great Woods for another pair of shows over an early summer weekend. Bag opens the proceedings, something the song has done 58 of its 308 times being played. After rocking through all of those cliches they drop into a surprisingly early in the show Mule, one that is perhaps more visually appealing than anything what with Trey playing guitar with his teeth and Page using face and feet to get the job done. Neat. A small bustout (38 shows) of Horn is next and then they run through a string of crowd pleasing if not exploratory numbers including the original version of Taste (last one before being shelved for a year to be reworked*), The Wedge, The Lizards, and Mound. A megaphone-aided Fee sets up the Lope closer which tonight gets the rare “suck the deer shit from this side of the hole” before Trey ends the set with The Lie, stating they would be back in “14 minutes and 61 seconds”. They would not.
For the third year in a row here they start a second set with 2001,setting up the move to Possum with the then quick run through the Deodato version of the Strauss classic. There’s a touch of DEG in this Possum but otherwise it is the typical southern blues rock style of play before they head into the then new Fish tune Ha Ha Ha. This is a set up, of course, as the song usually indicates some sort of chicanery by the band which tonight is the tease of another Gamehendge set what with the TMWSIY they play next following a 40 show gap for the song. Instead of opening the portal again they go for the common pairing with Avenu Malkenu and the return to Man Who. Next is Mike’s Song which goes big time with strong first and second jams the latter of which heads into darkly dissonant territory before getting as ambient as they could in ’95. Mike then tricks up the Contact baseline, Trey joins, and they are off to singing about tires and cars and roads and stuff. Paug finishes the suite with a bit of funky fun (again, as close to that as they could come in ’95) as they stretch well beyond the confines of the song. Concluding Paug they hop out front for a mic’d bit of a cappella for Amazing Grace and then Page serenades us with a lovely Coil closer. Still with a bit of time to burn we get Fish Fun Time in the encore with Cracklin’ Rosie being tonight’s featured vac backdrop (a song Fish says is about ‘a lonely man singing to his inflatable love doll’ before a Golgi really ends the proceedings. This is a solid if not mind-blowing show, one that gives an inkling of what Summer ’95 brought us but perhaps a bit contained for my personal tastes in the era.
*The song got play in the Fall as ‘The Fog That Surrounds’ but was again reworked to eventually become the version of Taste we now know during the Billy Breathes sessions
I Ya Mar, Llama, IIC>ATR, Ice>Caspian>Melt, Bouncin’>Chalkdust
II Wilson>Maze, Theme, Uncle Pen, Stash>Strange Design, Acoustic Army, Hood, Suzy
E Funky Bitch
Night two in 1995 starts off with a song seemingly made for summer tour and the loose vibe of dancing outdoors, Ya Mar. While it lacks the left turn open jamming that the song could foster only a few years from this night it is an extended party mix version that would fit well on that mixtape you were making for your best girl at the time. The secondary opener is a typically shredded Llama which gives way to If I Could, tonight with the extended Trey intro bit, something they have only done a couple of times. This bleeds right into All Things Reconsidered, this the final version for over a year and the sixth last ever as it has yet to return to the stage since 1997. It’s Ice gets nice and weird following this as Page directs traffic and Mike and Fish use alternate means to create sound, Fish with the obvious use of the vac and Mike picking up the electric drill that has become more than just a weird thing to have sitting around here in 3.0 what with its role in creating that piercing tone he gets in Wingsuit and other songs. Following a quickish Caspian they start into Melt, a song that was all but 100% reliable for some supremely out there jamming in this time period. Tonight’s version is a great example of that as the band takes their time in stretching out the madness with some percussive jamming that ups the tension as they tease the release over and over. If you don’t like this Melt you probably aren’t a fan of this era in the band’s history or of Melt in general. It is a great example to point to for those wondering what made this song great back in the day. Bouncin’ counterpoints the demonic darkness of that jam with its brightness and then they cap the set with a suitably fiery run through Chalkdust before telling The Lie and then giving everyone a break to catch their wits.
Wilson kicks off the second frame and leads right to Maze for a seriously raging bit of Trey shred (which, like Melt, is about what you’d expect of the song at this point). Trey gets to that massive, swirling cacophony that he implemented in many of the big shred jams we all love so much, driving the jam to dizzying heights as he goes. This is backed up by more on point playing in Theme where Trey leads the band to a great release peak (yes, Theme was pretty awesome at this point too). Following Uncle Pen (bit of a rough start but they recover well enough) they give us the first real vehicle of the set in Stash, a song that has quite the strong history when placed in the second set. Tonight’s version pushes that dissonant T&R to menacing heights before transitioning to something a bit more jazzy as they set up the eventual move to Strange Design for the cool down. Next up is Acoustic Army which is followed by a patient build Hood that predictably goes big to the peak (I’m sensing a theme in this set…) and then they give the dance partiers their due with a fun Suzy closer complete with some classic rock teases. Then for the encore Trey thanks everyone as this is the last show before the pair to close the tour up at Sugarbush, dedicating the Funky Bitch to all the folks who have been traveling along with them (and who apparently requested the song a lot back then for some reason). This show might not have the unique highlights of some of the others from this venue but in terms of the music played you can’t go wrong with this one with jams aplenty and great takes on pretty much everything they decided to play that night.
I Foreplay/Long Time>Disease, BOTT, WTU?, Melt, WITS>Zero
II Twist>Moma>Makisupa>Bowie, Lizards, Guyute
It would take another four years for Phish to return to Great Woods, and in classic fashion they came back with some panache, opening with a bustout of a cover that is both appropriate for the area as well as signaling the return to this venue. That song, of course, is Foreplay/Longtime by Boston and here we get the first (and last to date not counting the Baker’s Dozen mashup fun) ever non-acoustic take on the song by Phish as they delight the crowd with the novelty and then go out and play it quite well. This butts right up against the secondary opener Disease which gets both an energetic type I first jam and then a more fitting millennial-esque bit of jam soup before they come back around to the end of the song and final chorus (something we very rarely get these days). Following stock takes on ’99 setlist staples BOTT and WTU? (not a fan of the free standing first set WTU?s personally as I prefer it as a resolution to big open jams but your mileage may vary) we get yet another solid Melt in this venue. It isn’t the wild abandon of the one from 94 or the percussive tension of the 95 version but it’ll get you where you need to go. Water in the Sky gets the closer set up slot and they take the back end jam out for a bit of a ride. This is actually in the top ten longest WITS ever which is not exactly saying much but there is a bit more to be found than in your standard version. Further to that, this is the next performance of the song following the singular version in the jamchart for the song so perhaps they were just feeling it a bit more that week? Zero caps the set and Trey gives a bit of thanks and clever names to his bandmates but foregoes The Lie this time.
The band comes out for the second set and takes their time getting moving as they go full slow intro to Twist (typical of the times). This one stays mainly in bounds but has a nice bit of focused improv as they swell towards a peak that never fully materializes. They seemed poised to go deep with this one but instead they pull up for the standard close and move to Moma Dance. Moma gets the crowd moving with that languid Phish funk and then we are off into Makisupa (“Stink Kind” keyword) where they patiently work through the dubby outro jam. Patience seems to be a theme with this set so far. Next up is one of the more patient songs the band has in terms of jamming — assuming your idea of patience is the sometimes agonizing anticipation of a big-time tension building exercise. Mike throws a bit of the Shafty bassline in as the jam gets going and then over the course of the next twelve minutes or so the band follows the T&R path, not really fully breaking free from the song but inviting the crowd along for a wonderful bit of full band interplay in the Bowie mode. It’s the kind of jam where you can close your eyes and easily get lost in the intricacies of the music being played. The Lizards provides the fun counterpoint to this cerebral excursion and then Guyute puts the exclamation point on the set with its exuberant prog anthemic release. Sure there are a few flubs along the way with it but who really cares about that? Trey then introduces the crowd to the knowledge that it is Mike “Soft G” Gordon (Mike Jordan, Air Jordan…) as he does band intros on the way out. A fun Rock and Roll encore finishes off the night’s music and then it is off to discuss this one while getting ready for night two. Interestingly, the only real Type II jamming in this show comes in the first set but even without it the second frame flows well and makes for a good bit of Phish. I doubt many will spin that set often but it’s not a bad one to give to your curious friend for some “approachable” second set Phish.
I NICU, Curtain>Halley’s->Roses->NO2, Lawn Boy, Reba>Carini>Funky Bitch
II Wolfman’s>Piper, Bug>MITM, Lope>Possum
E Tuesday’s Gone
The second night of this return to Great Woods opens with a bouncy NICU that gets an extended ending before the band starts up into The Curtain. After a faithful rendering of the song Mike begins Halley’s with the vocal doo-wap (these days I have retrained myself to listen for ‘With’ so it is a tad jarring to hear this transition even as normal as it once was). Halley’s continues the first set open jamming theme as they take it to some dark territory before Trey begins to soar, almost getting to a Disease riff along the way. This continues for a bit before they pull off a nifty full transition to Roses are Free to the delight of the Ween fans and other scenesters. Then the song chasers get their turn to cheer as the band trots out NO2 (after another nice full transition) for the first time in 356 shows (!!!), with that one from 07.16.1994 being the only one to exist between this one and the other one from Great Woods mentioned above. Unlike any of the prior versions this one gets the serene instrumental outro. Following a typical reading of Lawn Boy (though with a bit of Page piano soloing for once) we get the other vehicle of the set as our gal Reba stops by for her almost-too-predictable third to last song of the set slotting. Now, Reba jams while almost always wonderful in their way can be a bit similar if you spin a bunch of them in succession. But this one? Well, I’ll just say that there’s a lot to love about a Reba jam where the band just patiently sits in the groove, never seeming rushed or in a hurry to move on from the greatness they have found. This is the type of Reba I pine most for. And then, almost as if to wake everyone from the hypnosis, instead of the typical Fish signal to head to the close Trey cranks into a raucous Carini, startling the eyes-closed spinners out of their trance. Funky Bitch closes the set and then we wait. Oh those waits…
When Phish comes out for the second set (eventually) they waste little time getting down to business, opening up from Wolfman’s Brother into a spacious, laid back millennial groove clinic. If you are the sort of person who finds these chugging, droning, soundscape jaunts boring this is definitely not the jam for you but if you are that person (like me) who appreciates this style of Phish then you will be taken in by the sonic exploration that unfolds over the next fifteen minutes or so. Eventually, this jam heads to blissy ambience as it runs its course and Trey moves to the slow build intro of Piper, offering up a version of the song that doesn’t really go very far but at least resets the tone for those who got a tad lost there. A nice Bug>MitM pairing fills the midset and then a rocking Antelope (complete with a shout out to Dave of “looks too much like Dave” fame) brings us to the Possum closer. This one wouldn’t be notable but for the second dude playing a Languedoc guitar up there and that dude is none other than the only other at least somewhat widely known user of said guitars, Scott Murawski — then of Max Creek fame but now also better known to the Phish scene as Mike’s song writing partner and bandmate in MGB. It is pretty easy to tell who is who on the ‘Docs here but also a bit weird to hear them sort of dueling about. Scott sticks around for the encore as the band bookends the pair of shows here with another well known classic rock tune, tonight the debut and one time performance of Lynyrd Skynrd’s ‘mournful’ and just-a-bit-on-the-nose-for-this-night song Tuesday’s Gone (yes, this was a Tuesday show. NEVER MISS A TUESDAY SHOW!!! AMIRIGHT??!?!). Okay, I’ll admit I actually dig this reading of the song as faithful to the original as it is and I’d be perfectly fine with it coming back again if only to break up the new “thing” where Trey plays his TAB tune Tuesday on Tuesdays. We aren’t exactly at Grateful Dead doing One More Saturday Night every Saturday or Samson & Delilah every Sunday night yet but it could become a thing and we need to shut that shit down, people.
Where were we? Oh yeah, end of the ’99 run at Great Woods. Okay so this is a solid but not great mid summer outing with a couple of legit highlight jams in Halley’s, Reba, and Wolfman’s and some other stuff to keep the song chasers and sing-along-ers happy. At this stage we are still firmly in the “the band always plays well at Great Woods” territory. For now.
I Roadrunner>Moma, Rift, B&R, Vultures, Horn>Beauty of My Dreams>Ya Mar, Stash
The late Summer/early Fall tour in 2000 again brought Phish to Great Woods for a pair of shows, a mere month ahead of what would become known in our world as Hiatus. As I started writing this section I realized I wasn’t sure if we even had confirmation that Hiatus was coming at the end of this tour and so I asked Twitter and we eventually figured out that the band had probably made the decision some time during the first leg of summer considering it was flat out asked about in interviews with Entertainment Weekly that were published alongside a cover piece in early August. Many say they knew in the summer but I don’t have that memory, probably because I only caught, well, zero shows that tour what with the whole moving across country in the wrong direction as relates to Phish tour thing (my only shows that year were later on in September after this pair). So at these shows it would have been clear that many knew these were their last shows for who knew what length of time but at the same time not everyone was in the know. That sets it up for a bit of a weird vibe I’d think. And in some ways the music confirms that.
Continuing something of a loose tradition and giving a nod to the state in which these shows were performed the band opened with the one time cover of the Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ 1972 classic Roadrunner. Along with later (2013) having a bill introduced to the state Congress to be named the official rock song of the Commonwealth the song has obvious lyrical references to the state including the repeated phrase “I’m in love with Massachusetts” which on this night brought out big cheers from the Great Woods crowd. The cover fits well with Phish as it is loosely based on the Velvet Underground song Sister Ray, perhaps the most psychedelic tune in their catalog (which is saying a lot) and one that could stretch upwards of fifteen or even thirty minutes when performed live. Hearing Phish play Roadrunner two years on from the epic Halloween performance of VU’s Loaded works as homage to both bands as well as a nod to one of the early places where Phish first found root with fans as they began adventuring outside of Vermont. They play the song pretty much straight (with some nods by Trey to Phish folk from the state) and drop into the all but expected second song Moma Dance, moving from chugging two chord rock to their brand of funk while keeping everyone up and moving. Following a decent run through Rift everyone catches their breath during Brian & Robert (listen for the lady doing ASL signs up on stage!) and then a fun Vultures brings the tone back to the rocking side of things. Horn kicks off a three song run with Beauty of My Dreams in the middle and a bouncy, somewhat extended Ya Mar finishing it off (we will excuse the pretty bad attempt and coordinated crowd clapping in that bouncy jam) before a surprisingly good Stash ends this set with a lot of that T&R goodness.
Similar to the Ya Mar in the first set, the Chalkdust Torture that kicks off the second is extended and feels like it could go outside of the song but instead just rages with intensity before they pull up and head into Twist. There is some good but brief jamming here but then they go to Piper for what will be the jam anchor of this set. Or maybe it’s a balloon since an anchor would pull it down while a balloon would take it to another level? I don’t know. These metaphors get a bit confusing at times. Whatever it is, this jam starts out with frenzied abandon but after a few minutes they settle into a Mike-led groove that’ll have you making weird faces and dancing like you are Elaine from Seinfeld. Trey plays around with the effects and loops a bit as Page tinkles about above the groove Mike and Fish are laying down and somehow twenty plus minutes later they simply arrive in WTU? (after some non-groove sonic exploration in the final couple of minutes). This is the WTU? to point to when your friends say “yeah, sure, but they’ve never jammed it, bruh” as Mike leads the band out for a bit of non_WTU? flavorings before they dive into the set closing YEM. There’s a nice bit of groove jamming in this one with Mike going liquid on the bass and then they rock out the GTBT encore to end the night. The Piper is the big highlight from this one but overall this is a middling show even for that run up to Hiatus.
I Wolfman’s, Mule, My Soul, Ginseng, First Tube>Divided, Wilson
II Disease>Heavy Things>Melt, HYHU>Bike>HYHU, 2001>Mike’s>H2>Paug
Our second night from Great Woods in 2000 (and coincidentally the second year in a row to be a Monday/Tuesday pairing) starts out with what is, frankly, a pretty tame first set. Yes, the Wolfman’s opener is playful fun but really goes nowhere new, Mule does what Mule does, My Soul is its typical self, Ginseng breaks up the pattern for standard bluegrass fare, First Tube doesn’t even really peak that hard (cuz a mid first version is a bit of a throw in, right?) and only the Divided has anything notable with its longer-than-typical 2:16 pause before the predictable Wilson closer. Would I have fun in the venue? Heck yeah I would’ve but that doesn’t mean I’m making more of this set that it is. With all that in mind let’s just move to the second frame.
Perhaps the intent was to save up for this one because it sure feels that way from the get go. Disease cranks in (not exactly surprisingly) and similar to Piper the night before rages through the early Type I jam before they settle into a Mike/Fish groove clinic with Trey and Page providing all the colors. This is not to say the two jams sound anything alike – far from it in fact – but the pattern of entry is similar. Fish is more in control of the pace here, laying down fills and other drummer stuff I do not know the name of to accent the millennial groove they fall into. After some spacecamp Trey comes with the power chords, almost feeling like some Frampton tune before circling back to the Disease finish. This bumps into Heavy Things which feels oddly placed particularly once they drop into Melt next. While not a mind blowing version I like this one for what it is as Trey and Mike both noodle about over that odd time signature. Now we get a somewhat rare for the times Fish Fun Time segment for Bike (with band intros!) and then 2001 kicks off the fourth quarter with a pinner version. Mike’s Groove will finish the set but don’t go rushing through it. While there’s no second jam and the first looks on paper to be pretty short there’s a lot packed into it. Paug is typically punchy to close following Hydrogen and then Page serenades with the nice Coil encore.
I hate to say it but I think these two shows from 2000 are the inflection point where Great Woods begins its slide into mediocrity. As I always feel the need to provide a disclaimer to statements like that, I know not all would agree (and clearly with every curve there are outliers around the average) but objectively (or as much as we can state that when dealing with the subjective nature of this art) I cannot see anyone comparing these shows to the ones that came before it and being able to put together a plausible argument as to their superiority. I personally find the 2004 shows here to be much better but overall I still feel like this pair signaled the end of the “can’t miss” reputation this venue once had. Don’t get me started on the 3.0 outings here. Ah, heck. That’s coming below, isn’t it?
I Bag, Heavy Things, PYITE>Wolfman’s, Theme, BOAF
II Mike’s>H2>Paug, ASIHTOS->Piper->Makisupa, DFB, Hood
For the first visit post Hiatus after not playing here in 2003 Phish again gets a midweek pair. First up is AC/DC Bag and right from the drop after the cliche lyrics they take off into a jam that goes well beyond the song as Trey employs that uncompressed 2.0 tone that seems to be so divisive amongst fans (I love it, others? not so much!). I’d take a jam like this to open pretty much every show, thank you very much. After Heavy Things and PYITE they get back to the jamming again with Wolfman’s, not really leaving the song but definitely taking it for a longer ride than normal. Theme oddly fills the cooldown role in its wake and then they take off again for a set closing BOAF that bookends the set with another wide ranging jam that really feels more like a mid second set journey than a first set closing punctuation mark (but it does provide that… eventually). Please do yourself the favor of spinning this for a classic example of the deep dives the band could and would take in this era with no regard for the ‘typical’ placements to which we had become accustomed over the years.
Mike’s Groove kicks off the second set and after a largely uneventful Mike’s>H2 the Paug gets going as they draw out the song with some percussive/vocal jamming antics. Then they come around for the traditional close to the song and drop to half speed to complete this pretty unique version of the old school classic. Trey then relates the origins of the song and how it is based on ‘Oh What A Night‘ (they did a bit of this explaining origins stuff on this “last tour ever” before The BreakUp/The Long Wait) before introducing ASIHTOS. This version is so short it is almost jarring when they immediately jump to Piper following the final refrain (and it still stands as the shortest pre-3.0 version with only the debut from earlier that year from Brooklyn being even close at just under seven minutes long. Piper gets a bit more love but stays wholly in bounds before they make a quick move out for Makisupa. The keyword tonight is “poured myself a tall glass of cool soy milk” and there is no outro jam as you start to realize this is a jukebox set — something we came to know a lot more of once 3.0 began. Dog Faced Boy provides the fifth song on the night to be the first version played in 2004 (Heavy Things, PYITE, Theme, Makisupa, and DFB) and outside of the song chasing set none of those really do much. To add to the misery Friday follows DFB… okay, perhaps misery is too strong a word here but c’mon, that song just doesn’t have a good placement in any Phish set ever. So they go with the kick save Hood closer but even that feels like they just wanted to get off the stage. And then they encore with Possum sans traditional opening so by the time you are walking out of the venue you are scratching your head and wondering what the hell just happened in that second set. The first set showed such promise and then that? Ah the joys of seeing the band in their final week of shows ahead of Coventry… so many questionable choices… by everyone involved…
I Divided, Suzy->Disease->Caspian>Mule->Tears of a Clown>Mule, Mexican Cousin
II Lope>2001>Golgi>Waves>Tweezer->HYHU>Terrapin>HYHU, Drums->Timber Ho!>Sample
One way to get a show going and to make sure everyone is invested is to open with a song no one expects, such as one of your big compositional numbers like Divided Sky which hadn’t opened a show since eight years prior (08.13.1996) and even today has only opened nineteen times (this was the 17th). The pause tonight is brief at only 1:03 and then they give the fans what they want with Suzy (seriously listen to the crowd erupt on the auds from this one when Suzy starts), segueing that right into a first set Disease which is surprising in its own right. Oh yeah, Trey calls out a snare drum solo for Fish which lasts exactly 7.8 seconds (give or take). They go afield from the song quickly as Page and Mike direct traffic though this isn’t a jam that I find overly interesting when spinning more than once. Instead of coming back to Disease they segue out to a pretty decent Caspian and that gives way to Mule where things get a bit interesting. Instead of going right to the klezmer duel they start up a debut cover, Tears of a Clown, the Smokey Robinson Motown classic. The only problem is none of the band members know the words so eventually Trey gets a woman to come up on stage to sing it (they drop the tempo down for her) and while she knows the words it is clear she is not a professional singer. After that bit of karaoke they finish off Mule and then close this quite short set (just over an hour) with Mexican Cousin. So there’s that.
Continuing the non-traditional openers thing they choose Run Like An Antelope for the first time since that doozy from 07.16.1994 with this being at the time only the sixth ever set (doesn’t matter which one) to open with Lope (there are now ten). This is a very unique Lope as they never pull out of the jam for the ‘Rye Rye Rocco’ section and we never get the telltale “set the gearshift…” lyrics. The jam moves instead to quieter space and eventually they move on to 2001. This starts a string of a whole lotta not much through the balance of the set with the possible exception of Waves which is played quite well though without much of a jam to speak of following the composed section. But even that is longer than the subsequent Tweezer which gets sidetracked by another Fish Fun Time (and that just as Trey is starting a Reprise build that never materializes) as they get to HYHU before Trey and Fish swap spots on stage. As they make the transition Trey jokes about not needing his guitar anymore which is expectedly not very well received by the crowd. After Terrapin Trey asks the crowd whether Fish’s interludes make or destroy the show and then Page and Mike offer their opinions. Probably should have covered this ground a few years earlier, guys. Then, carrying the no-guitar joke further Trey talks about wanting to start a song with a double drums solo so he and Fish do just that before the band moves into Timber Ho!. Then they give another bit of middle fingering by closing with Sample ahead of the ‘sure, fine, whatever’ Bouncin’>Reprise encore.
Look, I realize this are two of the three final shows leading up to Coventry (and don’t even get me started on that routing as we went from here, down to Camden, and then all the way back up to Vermont for that shitshow AFTER the trek up here from Hampton… I guess I went there myself OOPS!) but these shows really feel disjointed. I still think there is overall some better stuff to take away than the 2000 ones but I would not fault you if you felt otherwise because these are just not shows you will end up spinning much outside of a couple of the bigger first set (!) jams. These feel like what they are: shows that needed to happen to ‘say goodbye’ to the venue but not much else needs to be said. Surely everything would be better in 3.0 right?!?
I STFTFP, Nothing, BOTT, Golgi, Sparkle>Jibboo, Lawn Boy, Let Me Lie, Taste, Makisupa, Caspian
II Seven Below, Fluffhead, Mule, Heavy Things, Hood>Possum, Bug
Five years later we were just waking up from The Long Wait, reconnecting both with the band and our long lost scene with a renewed optimism — and perhaps a bit more mature perspective. The eighth show back from not being a band anymore came to Great Woods and much like the Jones Beach shows that preceded this one we had Phish back on stage but perhaps not quite up to their old shakes just yet. The crowd was definitely back in full force (for the party at least) and if nothing else what could be better than seeing these guys grace the stage of one of the venues where they made their name once upon a time? Don’t answer that.
The second ever STFTFP kicks off a song heavy first set which not just for this early in 2009 but also overall has some fresh songs included like the third ever Nothing (love that tune), the debut of Let Me Lie (uh… sure), and the first first set Makisupa since Deer Creek 1999 (and only one of 3.0 through Summer 2017). Nothing, Golgi, Sparkle, Jibboo, and Makisupa all made their 3.0 debuts here though only Sparkle’s return was after more than 17 shows (at 31). Along the way there is a fun, rocking BOTT (a song that fared well right out of the gate in 3.0 with its straight ahead style lending itself well to the band’s reconnection) and a dance-y Jibboo that gets the place moving before the immediate deflation for Lawn Boy crooning. But aside from that it is just a collection of eleven songs played decently.
After the break they open with a whale-heavy take on Seven Below as Trey bends a lot of notes above that wonderfully odd groove over the course of the next several minutes. Fluffhead gets its second appearance of 3.0 following the triumphant opening it gave the proceedings in Hampton which really brings to crowd up and into it here. Mule and Heavy Things bridge us to the fourth quarter which starts with Hood, continues with a pugnaciously jammed Possum and then closes with the release of Bug. Contact and Julius fill the encore slots and there really isn’t much else to say about this one. It’s just another night on the path as we all got used to being around each other again and that’s not either a bad or good statement; it simply was what it was.
I Lit O Bit, Camel Walk, Possum, Divided, Dirt>Sample, KDF, Dr. Gabel, Lope
II Mike’s>H2>Paug, Sneakin’ Sally->Light->46 Days, LxL, Golgi>Slave, Cup
E First Tube
Summer 2010 was definitely a bit more of the ‘normal’ sort of Phish touring though musically still not quite what most would say is top notch stuff by the band. There are definitely moments of pure connection but also significant stretches of average at best performance. This stop at Great Woods definitely falls in firmly in the latter category. But before we get to more of that we get a one time debut cover opener of Lit O Bit, the Rita Clarke and the Naturals number that I really feel should have stayed in the rotation for more than just this one night. This tour and specifically the first leg had a lot of one time songs like this (Look Out Cleveland, Cold Water, Idea, Lit O Bit, Dr. Gabel, The Rover, Free Man In Paris, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Killing In The Name) and saw the debuts of several other songs (originals and covers) that have stuck around (Show of Life, Instant Karma!, I Am The Walrus, Summer Of ’89, Halfway To The Moon) not to mention several huge bustouts, most notably the Fuck Your Face one later on in the tour. Some of these worked better than others and here in this set you have an example of each.
Following that opener they ran through Camel Walk, Possum (now with more whale!), Divided (1:24 pause tonight), Dirt, Sample, and a rocking KDF before finally debuting that second song, Dr. Gabel. Now, we as fans are pretty darned accepting of almost everything the band tries out — at least at first — but this is a good example of one that just never had a chance. I’ll let you go listen to it yourself… Okay, back now? Yeah, I KNOW, RIGHT??? Wooooeeee, that’s a clunker. No doubting why it got left behind in 2010. The Antelope closer brings us back a bit but not sure what saves from Dr. Gabel, honestly.
Our second set opens with one of those compact, doesn’t really go anywhere, full of whale Mike’s Grooves, somehow starting and completing in about 20 minutes (which used to be about the average length for Mike’s on its own). Sneakin’ Sally gets to a bit of some plinko fun before a quick move to Light. There’s a bit of jamming here but TREYDHD takes over and we go to 46 Days instead of the band taking it deep. Now fully in song mode they run through LxL, Golgi, Slave, and Cup to end the set which means this one has more songs than the first frame, something that really shouldn’t ever happen in my book unless that first set is a jam-crazy affair like 11.17.1997 and yes I am fully aware that that is about as high a bar as one could set for a first set. Oh yeah there’s a First Tube encore to end the night. Yay.
I Llama, Moma>Possum, Cities, Instant Karma!, Bowie, Rhymes, Divided, STFTFP
II BOTT>RnR>Mango, Bug, P&M, Halley’s>Meatstick>Lope
The following year brought us here again, making it three straight years at the start of 3.0 for the band at Great Woods. By now we were all pretty settled into what this new era was about (or so we thought until the great re-awakenings in later years) so expectations were fairly managed overall. The first set plays out relatively uneventfully with fun but unchallenging takes on Llama, Moma, and Possum getting things going before a slinky bit of Cities funk has everyone wishing they would just keep it rolling. Instead we get the second ever Instant Karma! (56 show gap and btw, is the exclamation point really necessary there?) followed by a somewhat questionably place Bowie. It’s played just fine but no new ground is covered at all. Next up is one of my favorite one time covers ever, the Al Green classic Rhymes, which has a home on MGB tour (be patient with the nausea-inducing camera work and long intro. it’s there) but somehow never made the full transition to Phish even after this night. After Rhymes Trey plays a fantastic solo in Divided (1:32 pause) and then to the delight of the new school chompers STFTFP closes the set. I distinctly recall someone near me yelling out “YEAH BOI! NOICE!” as it started. To be fair, it is a particularly solid version especially for the time period. Good times.
Set two begins with BOTT with its chugging fun but really gets going with the Rock and Roll to follow. Immediately following the song proper they head out with Mike dropping these big bad bass notes (for the sake of the children we here at LostInMyReflection will no longer refer to them by their traditional, more aggressive moniker) keying the full departure from the song. I have a distinct memory of saying to myself right about then that this was “new music” which it is. Trey hits on a riff that he repeats a few times before Mike pushes him elsewhere and for the next few minutes they are in the soup, trying out different ideas and pushing away from any semblance of groove as they go. Mike hits the fight bell and they move into some transition space and pop out into Mango Song to the delight of the song chasing faithful. A suitably powerful Bug follows and then a mini bustout for Pebbles and Marbles, the tune I somehow always seem to think is Walls of the Cave until I sing the lyrics to myself. So annoying how my brain is stuck that way. Anyway, the fourth quarter that follows is pretty much all happy-fun-time-dance-and-sing-along fun with a bouncy Halley’s leading to a crowd pleasing Meatstick and capped with a Lope closer (with some Meatstick teasery in the intro). Suzy is the predictable encore, naturally, with Meatstick teases.
This show is a step up from the prior two years here but short of the Divided and RnR isn’t even really up to snuff with the rest of the tour that summer.
I STFTFP, Fuego, BOTT, HttM, Wedge, 555, Stash, Bouncin’, BOAF, Wingsuit
II Mike’s>Simple>Free, WAN>Ghost->Paug, Hood, Cavern
Three years later the Summer tour began here a week after they had played the David Letterman show for the last time prior to his retirement and roughly two and a half months following a headlining appearance at the New Orleans Jazzfest. That Letterman appearance coincided with the release of the album Fuego, the initial version of which had ‘premiered’ as Wingsuit when it was the costume set at Halloween on 10.31.2013. Whatever your opinion of that risky move, the songs were here to stay and combined with the Joy songs from 2009 there is a significant amount of 3.0 in the music played on this night. This starts with the STFTFP opener, continues with Fuego, and then following a stock run through BOTT with a fine enough version of Halfway To The Moon. Following The Wedge 555 gets that going again with its raunchy funk and then they (finally) go to the old school with a short but tension-y Stash (along with a neat move to major key build later on Trey somehow ends up on a tease of the theme to The Munsters which is kinda neat but also kinda WTF-y if we are being honest) and a typical Bouncin’. BOAF keeps the energy up and then they close with another newer tune, Wingsuit, giving us a clean 50% hit on songs in this set having debuted in 3.0. As tour opening sets go this one is not bad by any means but there isn’t a whole lot of meat to sink your teeth into if you go looking for a big time set to spin.
After the break things get a bit older as they open with Mike’s Song and then stretch out the groove by placing four songs before the expected Weekapaug. Things are mostly of the ho-hum variety here with not much jamming as they string together Simple and Free and then deflate the energy a bit with Waiting All Night (after what seemed like forever between songs as well) but then the Ghost comes in with one of those quick and to the point runs for the peak before the execution of a well done full segue to Paug. I wish they had paid off the build but oh well. Now seemingly fully engaged the band heads into Hood. If you recall, in Fall 2013 they really started to push the envelope of taking Hood out for type II journies culminating with the HollyHood (that’s the name, right? totally forget what portmanteau we settled on for that one…) which was a twenty-two minute journey that went quite far beyond the parameters of the song. While the band played the song in New Orleans it is this one where they again went searching — almost from the immediate outset of the jam too — and that search produced some great results as follow a dark path before eventually climbing to the heights and paying off the song with the triumphant Hood ending. It is a top notch version of a well loved song and some would opine after this show that it “saved” the night (a type of analysis I tend to ignore but that’s me). Cavern closes and Julius encores and that’ll do it for this one, an improvement on the last few at this venue but not quite to the same level as the first group of shows here.
I Party Time>46 Days, Poor Heart, The Dogs, Gin, FEFY, HMPAY, Strange Design, Fuego, Cities, Space Oddity
II Ghost>Light>Wolfman’s, Chalkdust, Saw It Again>BOTT>Slave
E I Am the Walrus
The last show the band has played here to date went down in the middle of a 25 show tour that wound around the country and left a lot of people scratching their heads about what had happened between the phenomenal NYE Run that ended the wonderful year of 2015 and the start of this run. This show is a pretty good example of the dichotomy apparent as many say it is a horror show performance while others (mostly who were there) will point out the many highs to be found within the music. The truth (as always) is somewhere in between.
The festivities start with a punchy run through Party Time that drops right into a fierce but contained 46 Days. Then after the bluegrass slot Poor Heart and throw-in The Dogs we get the first bit of exploration with a standard good Bathtub Gin that showcases that solid type I jamming this band is pretty darned okay at after so many years of practice. It is effortless playing with all members contributing where appropriate as they bring it to one of those satisfying Gin peaks you know like the back of your hand. Getting there Trey toys around with some well worn melodies but that just keeps them from getting to the release that much sooner as Fish has pushed the pace to breakneck speed. Fast Enough for You (62 show gap) is the breath catcher to follow (kind of ironically considering that finish to Gin) and then they crank into the newer Mike song How Many People Are You? which to me is a song they could and should play more often than they do. The second (of two) bustout of the night comes in another song I’ll always welcome, Strange Design, and then they head into a somewhat oddly placed late first set Fuego. It works here and the band plays it well and this is where the show gets to that point where folks will diverge in their thinking on how the night went.
Cities starts up and it feels like we are setting up for a good one but then Trey breaks a guitar string (and kinda messes up the lyrics as a result) and guitar tech Brian Brown comes out and Trey stops to give him his rightful praise and then after they get through the verses and such he tinkers about for a short bit then puts down the guitar and heads over to the marimba lumina to join Fish on percussion. Now, if you know anything about that summer tour you will know that many people got a bit fed up at the number of ‘drums’ jams that emerged as Trey hit the marimba lumina A LOT and often Mike and Page would come over for the party too. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I’d argue it actually works pretty decently here especially since Mike goes and plays Trey’s guitar and they play some fairly experimental stuff for sounds coming out of a Cities jam. Your mileage, as always, may vary so take this one for whatever you want it to be. Personally, having experienced it from about ten rows behind the pit down low I found it quite engaging. But that doesn’t mean I respin it very often. Then they close the set with the a cappella rendering of Space Oddity that had debuted earlier in the tour to the delight of the crowd.
After a lot of explanations around questions of “what the fuck happened?” to friends not quite as close to the proceedings during set break everyone settled in for what we all hoped would be an upward extension of that willingness to experiment as the band came out for the second set. Ghost gets it going with a dirty groove that starts out dark and then emerges into a bright bit of playing before Mike unleashes one of those MASSIVE meatball filter’d notes onto the crowd, vibrating everyone in attendance to their collective cores. After a bit more noodling they move out for Light and hoo boy is this one a doozy. After a funny mix up of the lyrics Trey is on track and the band enters the jam locked and loaded. After several minutes of meaningful searching Trey starts playing the same phrase over and over, almost begging for the woos but instead they shift to another space before the band catches onto another woo-inducing beat, this time giving in to the crowd. This goes on for a short while and Trey breaks out with a new melody, dark and brooding but also with a hint of the brightness to come. They hint back at the woo section but don’t return as they catch a dirty bit of groove which gives way to some spacy transitional music. I recall thinking “they could easily start up Money For Nothing here and it would make complete sense but that doesn’t happen and Wolfman’s Brother does. After the normal song part they start up a bit of vocal scat and then the PA (and most of the lights) cut out. That was a bit startling. And then after playing un-mic’d for a bit the band left the stage for what seemed like forever as they corrected the electrical problem (which many speculated was due to the new LED screens overwhelming the old venue’s system but that’s only rumor as far as I know), eventually coming back on approximately ten minutes after departing.
A contained rip through Chalkdust opened up the ”third set” but it still took a few minutes for the sound to come back in full. Saw It Again (with a well placed Thrilling Chilling scream sample) kept the place rocking but it was clear that the power/sound issues had deflated the metaphorical balloon of awesome that the first half of this set had been. Now fully in song mode and staring down the venue curfew they ran through BOTT (Trey plays some pretty cool sounds in the jam here, using the delay and other filters to wonderful effect) and then closed with a fine enough Slave. The I Am the Walrus encore was big and powerful (and gave the crowd one more chance to woo) but felt a bit tacked on after the fourth quarter problems. In all honesty though, if you spin from Gin through Wolfman’s from this show you have yourself a quite good 100 minutes or so of music from a tour that many do not hold very highly. And the Ghost>Light section in particular is the band playing fully connected and loose which is all we could ever want from them.
Tale of The Tapes
Venue: Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts (aka XFinity Center and before that The Comcast Center and before that The Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts)
Number of Shows: seventeen
Intangibles: Relatively local ‘hometown’ show for the band, particularly Mike who grew up not too far away. This was one of the first of the big outdoor sheds that Phish was able to sell well consistently which contributed to them playing here yearly in the mid 90s. The place itself is nothing special and is probably more known for the annoyances than anything (horrible parking situation, spotty sound in areas, the weird uncovered pavilion seating area that took out half of the lawn in recent years, the early curfew due to being smack dab in the middle of a residential area… I could go on) but at least for a few years there if you saw Phish was playing Great Woods you knew you had to try to get here if you could
Recurring Themes: As mentioned above, Phish has played a statistically high percentage of their shows here on Tuesdays which is probably only notable considering the band nodded to it with their one time cover of Tuesday’s Gone on one of those nights here eighteen years ago. Three of the five shows in 3.0 have been on Tuesdays which might be telling in its own right now that I think about it… The most common songs to hear at Great Woods at Possum (7 times out of 12 different years with shows played here) and Divided, Golgi, Mike’s Song, Antelope, Stash, and Weekapaug Groove which all have been played six times. If you like to hear songs that they might not ever play again this is a good place for it as Tuesday’s Gone, Lit O Bit, Dr. Gabel, Rhymes, Tears of a Clown, Roadrunner, and Foreplay/Longtime (well, the full electric version that is) have all only ever been played here and for that one time. A total of seven songs have debuted at Great Woods with the first six of the list in the previous sentence being joined bu Let Me Lie in that area. Llama is the most common opener but even that has only happened three times and similarly Antelope has closed the most first sets at three. 2001 is the most common second set opener (again with 3) and has interestingly been paired with Melt to follow for two of the five times that has happened ever. Second set closers and encores are almost all unique with Suzy being the only song to close more than one second set and Golgi, Julius, and Reprise holding that distinction for encores. Prior to 3.0 if you heard Melt here you could expect it to be a good one. Don’t expect them to play that song here now as they have yet to do it in five appearances.
Key Jams/Songs: 1992 — Jim; 1993 — Stash, Melt, pretty much everything Mike plays; 1994 — entire first set of 7.8.1994 cuz Gamehendge!, Reba, Yerushalayim Shev Zahav->Frankenstein->YEM, Disease, Antelope, Melt, Tweezer->Lifeboy; 1995 — Mike’s>Contact>Paug, If I Could, Ice, Melt, Maze, Theme, Stash, Hood; 1999 — Foreplay/Longtime>Disease, Melt, Water In The Sky, Makisupa>Bowie, Curtain>Halley’s->Roses->NO2, Reba, Wolfman’s, Possum, Tuesday’s Gone; 2000 — Roadrunner, Ya Mar, Chalkdust, Piper>WTU?>YEM, Disease, Mike’s; 2004 — Bag, Wolfman’s, BOAF, Paug, Disease->Caspian, Lope, Waves, Fish Fun Time (it’s funny, c’mon); 2009 — Jibboo, maybe Seven Below?; 2010 — Lit O Bit, Sneakin’ Sally; 2011 — Rhymes, Divided, RnR; 2014 — Stash, Ghost->Paug, Hood (!!); 2016 — Gin, Cities, Ghost>Light, BOTT
PJJ Ratio: Great Woods has an expectedly lower than average 1.60 JPS rating (the average for all venues under consideration in this project is 2.47 but note that this has yet to be updated to reflect the onslaught of awesome that was this summer’s Baker’s Dozen shows at MSG or the Dick’s Run which should combine to raise the average). This stems mainly from having the earlier shows prior to the Jam Era and then that dearth of high level playing that plagued the venue from about 2000 through 2014. Considering these factors it makes sense why this venue has been as jam-starved as it has been.
The reputation of Great Woods over the years was always that it was a great place to see Phish and a venue where they always played well. And if you look at the first half of their history here (and the timing of when such statements were made) it holds true as everything up through the pair in 1999 holds up quite well. But whether it is band fatigue, crowd changes, or something else there is now something missing from the Phish Great Woods equation. Granted, some of this can be attributed to when these shows occurred as every 3.0 show has come towards the start of a tour as a one off stop between here and elsewhere. I have been lucky enough to catch a fair number of shows at this venue as it sits a mere thirty minutes from my home but even attendance bias cannot bring this one up to the heights. When it comes down to it this venue is now known more due to the frequency of playing than anything else as its seventeen shows to date put it in the top half of the venues considered here. There are definitely more than a few historic things that have gone done here and that should not be discounted but on a rational level there is no way that Great Woods should be considered one of the top venues for Phish when compared to the field. And that’s okay.