Meet At The Tree! – Phish and Alpine Valley

Alpine Valley Music Theatre is located in East Troy, WI with relative proximity to the Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and Rockford markets. At one time the venue was part of the same complex as the adjacent Alpine Valley Resort which has golf, skiing, and other amenities but the two properties have since been split in terms of ownership with Live Nation now having control of the music venue. Considering the surrounding topography, it makes sense that this venue is known for the large hill that provides the slope of the venue with the lawn area even having a few notable trees that have become de facto meeting spots. The relatively steep grade of the hill here can prove challenging for those not sure of foot, be that of natural or induced variety. Since its opening in 1977 Alpine Valley has been a standard stop for large touring acts due to its large capacity and regionality with music acts of all genres gracing the stage of this 37,000+ seat venue over the past 40 years. Along with being one of the venues where The Grateful Dead played regularly (20 shows between 1980 and their ban following the 1989 shows) Alpine Valley is perhaps best known for the tragic helicopter crash on August 27th, 1990 that took the life of Stevie Ray Vaughn and four others including members of Eric Clapton’s management group when it crashed into the ski slope adjacent to the venue due to low visibility from fog in the area. With the rise of more local venues and the increase in festival touring in recent years Alpine Valley has struggled to attract the acts it once did resulting in the recent announcement that there will be no concert season at Alpine Valley in 2017. Since first appearing here in 1996 (at the time the largest crowd that Phish had ever performed for — until The Clifford Ball a week later, of course) Phish has played seventeen concerts on the hill including shows in eight consecutive summer tours from 1996 through 2009. In each visit from 2003 onward Phish has performed a pair of shows at each visit to this venue.

 

Every show that Phish has performed at Alpine Valley has been a standard two set show. All five shows prior to Hiatus were single night stops while all the twelve since have been pairs of shows spread over six different visits with the last shows to date having been in 2015. Every show here has occurred on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday with Saturday being the clear leader at eleven shows. Coincidentally, the last show here occurred one day short of nineteen years to the day following the first performance.

 

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Alpine Valley Jams.

 

Because we here at Lost In My Reflection love you all so much we are adding a couple of features to this post that should stick around unless the torches, pitchforks and stone throwing starts up again. For one, I’ll be listing each show’s setlist along with providing the link so that you can reference it as you read. Just know that I am not putting in all of the notes with teases and banter notes and stupid shit like “Disease was unfinished” or “Reba did not have whistling” or “Trey sang through the megaphone”. Second is a smaller change but one that should help with the overall readability of the site as I’ll be adding a ‘fold’ (just below!) since I write a lot of words and it can be off putting to see the massively long post in one fell swoop. Let me know if these help your enjoyment of my site and please keep the feedback coming!

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Children of the Cornfields – Phish and Deer Creek

Deer Creek Amphitheatre (I will not call it by one of the two subsequent corporate monikers) is located in Noblesville, IN, once a small town just northeast of Indianapolis but now fully part of that market due to the never-ending creep of urban sprawl. Once known for being surrounded by vast cornfields and not much else the area is replete with newish subdivisions, shopping malls, and more of the cookie cutter development that exploded upon our major metropolitan areas in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Deer Creek is a venue almost synonymous with Phish and summer tour. Starting in 1995 and continuing through Hiatus, The Break Up, and now here in 3.0 Phish has played this venue on most of the summer tours they have performed including every one from that first single nighter in 1995 through a pair in 2004 and then hitting four of eight here in the time since The Return. Over that time Phish has played twenty-three shows in the venue with Trey also bringing TAB here for three other performances (all during those pesky times when Phish kinda wasn’t a thing). This venue is not just notable for Phish as the Grateful Dead played fourteen shows here between the opening summer for the venue in 1989 and their fateful visit in 1995 when gatecrashers the first night overwhelmed the venue staff, resulting in one of the few show cancellations ever as the Dead were forced to cancel the second night. Keller Williams even wrote a song about that whole thing. Obviously, there are many other bands who have played here but this isn’t a blog about them now is it?

The twenty-three shows Phish has played at Deer Creek have all been part of a Summer Tour. Most visits to the venue have been multi-night stands though in 1995, 2009, and 2016 the band played only the one show. There are two three show stands here (2000, 2003) and all other visits have been two nights apiece. Oddly, even with this venue having the second most shows in ‘modern era’ Phish they have never played a Saturday night show at this venue. Every other day of the week has been played at least three times. That’s kinda weird for such a revered venue in the band’s history.

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Deer Creek Jams. Let’s get to getting…

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The Mothership Connection – Phish and Hampton Coliseum

Like many of these venues, the lore surrounding Hampton Coliseum and Phish is almost as big as the music the band has played here. While also used for pedestrian uses such as minor league sports, rodeos, trade shows, and the like this venue has become known as a can’t miss stop for many bands outside of Phish, most notably The Good Old Grateful Dead who played the same number of shows (18) as our band Phish in this room. After playing single night stops here in Fall 1995 and Fall 1996 Phish played a pair of shows that instantly became canon and the stuff of legend in the community. From there the aura grew as the year following they came back for another pair of shows released just before their visit in 1999 as the six disc Hampton Comes Alive which was the first full show concert album release by the band. Phish has also used this venue as part of their initial shows returning from both Hiatus and The Break Up which only served to further solidify this locale as one revered by both band and fans alike. As venues go, there aren’t many that can match up to this one in terms of both history and the quality of music performed which makes for a strong argument supporting this as one of the very best venues in all of phishtory.

 

Phish has played the Hampton Coliseum eighteen times starting in Fall 1995. They visited on each Fall Tour thereafter up through 1999 with 1997 and 1998 being two night stands. The 1999 pair of shows were the last show of Fall Tour prior to the celebration of the millennium at Big Cypress. In 2003 the band played a three night stand to cap the New Year’s Run Return from Hiatus shows that started with the New Year’s Eve show at Madison Square Garden. Then after a last single show here before The Break Up in 2004 they came back in 2009 with three in March 2009, signaling their triumphant reconnection with each other and we the fans. There has been one further three night stand in Hampton to start out the Fall 2013 tour after which they have yet to return.

 

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Hampton Jams. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty…

 

11.25.1995  Phish’s first time playing here was along the path of Fall 1995, only a few shows prior to the start of one of the most revered months in the band’s history. The show starts with Poor Heart which normally I wouldn’t really even bother to mention except that this show is known as the “Poor Heart” show since they end up playing the song three different times in three different ways. The first set is pretty average as even Bowie is a neutered version of what we came to expect in that time period when it was one of the major vehicles for open exploration by the band. There is one of the few Taste That Surrounds ever and some crisp if not inventive playing on display but overall there isn’t much here to spend your time with. The second set starts out with a menacing Timber Ho! that slides into a vocal jam that becomes Kung (their only pairing ever) and then Mike’s Song starts up where you just know the jam is about to go down. That is true in a certain sense as the jam starts out with a lot of potential but after several minutes of first jam darkness the band members start moving between instruments, giving us the first verifiable Rotation Jam in the band’s history. Now, these days we have become perhaps a bit too accustomed to instrument switching and such what with the Marimba Lumina jams and stuff but back then this was A VERY BIG DEAL since we had no frame of reference for it. It was a very unique thing for Phish to do and while perhaps not the best music they have ever created it is interesting to hear. They eventually return to their proper seats to wrap up the Mike’s and then we get a couple of acoustic grassy numbers and Strange Design before the Paug to close this Groove. The musical highlight of the show might be the soaring Hood that follows which while pretty typical for the time is a good example of that sort of Hood. After a quick a cappella HMB we get the bookend Poor Heart closer, this time the “Slow Heart” version. And just to keep the joke going, for the first encore we have a Slow Heart Reprise which is a joke in several ways considering when fans hear “reprise” they instantly think of the sped up amazingness that is Tweezer Reprise whereas this is an even slower take on Poor Heart than even the one that closed that second set. And on top of that, this makes three versions of the same song in one concert which goes against everything the setlist junkies hold dear. It doesn’t last too long though as they only sing a couple of lines from the song and then crank out Fire to wrap it up. This isn’t the best show from Fall ’95 by any means and clearly not the best from this venue but you have to start somewhere and I’d argue that it is easily a definite upwards trajectory from here.

10.25.1996  The next Fall the band returned to Hampton for another single show, this time on the front end of the tour in what I consider the first “leg” of this tour. I wrote about this one for the Fall ’96 reviews in case you haven’t read enough of my words yet. For reasons that remain unclear to me Phish decided to open with Ha Ha Ha for the first time ever (only other one ever occurred 06.30.2000) and then rips through a botchy Taste that recovers in the jam and one of those fun Maki->Maze pairings where the dubby outro jam from Maki sets a solid platform from which the Maze takes off. Later on in the set Trey banters a bit about how great the room is and how they love playing there and such before launching into a solid T&R filled Stash. Then to cap it we get a longer-than-typical Coil where Page really shines in his solo outro piano recital. The second frame begins with the first ever Tube>Caspian (yay?) and then moves into a bunch of songs with a mini bustout for TMWSIY>AM>TMWSIY along the way. Free gets some minikit love in a brief jam but the real highlight of this set/show is the big energy of Hood in the back half of the set. This is a very song-heavy show with not much in the way of individual highlights but that’s to be expected when nine songs get their tour debut and none of those are vehicles. The most striking thing about this show is how different things will be when the band returns in a little over a year.

11.21.1997  You know these fall ’97 shows, I know these Fall ’97 shows. You probably had one of those crisp early gen XLIIs of this one as soon as they hit the fanbase just like I did and just like me you probably wore it out in record time. Listening to this stuff after that Fall ’96 show here you begin to question your sanity because how the heck is this the same band one year later? Much has been written about that tour so I won’t belabor it too much so we’ll just all agree that the reputation of the band and this venue is founded on this pair of shows. Just to point out the striking difference, though, the band opens up with the first ever cover of the Rolling Stones’ Emotional Rescue, using it as a platform to craft a wide ranging thrill ride of a jam that stretched past sixteen minutes and includes cowfunk, looped bliss, and full band connection of the highest order. This is a deep second set jam opening the show, people. And just to prove the point that they mean business they drop from there into a menacing Melt that packs a mean psychedelic punch seemingly fitting for closing the set rather than sitting in the two hole keep-the-energy-going slot. The balance of this first set is song-focused with everything played well (including the humorous anti-drum solo in Lawn Boy) up through the set-ending (?) Caspian that never really ends as Trey sets a series of loops that go on  even after the band has left the stage until the house lights finally pop on… but of course that was after Trey again told The Lie. In this case I’ll gladly forgive the lie because when the band again hit the stage they dropped one of those magical four song sets that were now the norm on this tour after only four shows (each of the preceding shows but one had a four song set with 11.16.97 being the lone outlier with the ungodly FIVE whole songs in the second set). The opening Ghost may not peak hard or be notable to those creating the jam charts but it is very creative and somewhat surprisingly not a full on cowfunk jam as one would expect from the song particularly in that time. But then the band transitions to ACDC Bag for what is quite frankly one of the more unexpected jam explosions out of a song in the band’s history as up until this point the song was primarily a high energy sing along with a decent if brief outro jam that 100% of the time was type I even if extended. Here we get a version more than double the length of any one prior with sections that melt into each other seamlessly to the effect that it is hard to describe what “type” of jam this is above simply saying type II awesomeness. Then they execute a flawless segue into a patient, gradual build Slave before popping the energy off with a fun Cup closer and Guyute encore. This is all-timer canon Phish and we are still only in the first night of the run.

11.22.1997  After the gem they threw down the night before it was anyone’s guess what Phish might do on night two of this ’97 Run at Hampton. Sure, you could easily say they would destroy the venue once again as each of the prior shows on the tour matched that description but in what way would they accomplish it tonight? Well, first thing you do if you are Phish is open with a song that about 99% of the fanbase is psyched to hear any and every time they play it: Mike’s Song. They have only ever opened 21 shows shows with the song with this one being only the second in the ‘jam era’ after the one at the Paradiso earlier that year (and prior to that it was all the way back on 11.06.1990) which is pretty rare considering the song has now been performed 509 times. The band quickly settles into a comfortable groove here with Trey teasing BEK and playing around the Mike’s theme, hinting at the drop into a second jam that never materializes as the jam gradually resolves down towards the transition to I Am Hydrogen. Following a funky breakdown in Paug they give us another rare placement with one of only 26 ever first set Hoods. Admittedly, in that era it was a tad more frequent than now but still not exactly what you expected when you entered the venue. This one is good enough to cap a second set much less sit in the four slot of a first set but then again this tour did a lot to upset our preconceived notions about placement and song choice. After a masterful run to the peak in Hood they finish off the set with a couple of the ballads and the double closer punch of Frankenstein>Isabella, two closers that I’ll never tire of hearing the band perform. So then they come out for the second set and some fans up front try their best to get the band to finally bustout Destiny Unbound by singing the first lines of the song only to have Trey not hear it correctly and give us some pretty hilarious banter. And then they start up Halley’s Comet, another song like Bag that up until this night was never known as a jam vehicle. Well, that changed in a BIG way here, my friends. Watch this great video of it and in particular pay heed to the moment when Trey tells Mike to “stay on F” which basically keeps this thing rolling as they head into uncharted territory for an amazing cowfunk excursion. Our expectations for Halley’s have never been the same after this night. They back this up with a funk-laden Tweezer that has several BEK teases, which they then play because why not as they head to the end set proceedings. I mean, c’mon, they’d already played three songs now so clearly it was over. Tonight actually gets five songs as they run through a nascent Piper and close with a bombastic Lope followed by a Bouncin>Reprise encore. As with the night before we have another canon-worthy show on our hands. Combining the two you get one of the most revered tour stops ever and even more so when grouped with the third show from the weekend down the road a bit in Winston-Salem which is part of the boxset commemorating this weekend (and might include some of the most unique jamming of the weekend which is saying a lot). This two show stand is the foundation upon which the reputation of Phish and this venue began and the point of comparison for every show that followed. Fair or unfair, that’s how good this music is.

11.20.1998  It is understandable after what occurred here the year before that fans would have extremely high hopes for what the band might do upon returning the following Fall. Hampton was no longer a “sure, why not” venue to hit it was MUST SEE PHISH ATTEND AT ALL COSTS. That set a pretty pretty pretty high bar for this run but you know how expectations and Phish fans go…  As you would expect, I wrote about this one during the Fall ’98 project. The show begins with a bit of a tongue in cheek nod back to last year as they debut another “classic” rock song, running through a couple of rounds of Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll Part II, the song you knew best from mid 90s sporting events and commercials. A brief Tube leads to one of the bigger bustouts in the band’s history as they bring back The Mighty Quinn for the first time in 1,155 shows (!). Later in the set there is a nice Meat>Stash combo with a Fikus tease in the Stash and a bit of ambient transition in the Meat outro jam and further on a lovely Roggae and eventually a biggish if not overly long Melt closer. The second set starts with a largely type I Gin that builds towards a great release peak. There’s an Axilla here with the Axilla II ending and later on Fish Fun Time gives us another debut and one time performance with the Will Smith banger Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It which after the HYHU return leads to another quite uplifting Hood from here in Hampton. Carl ‘Gears’ Gerhard comes out for the Cavern encore to blow trumpet and then we are off to wait for the next show. Considering that this show and its younger by a day brother got released as the Hampton Comes Alive boxset it is clear that the band and a goodly portion of the fanbase are big fans of these shows but when compared to the ones from the prior year you end up with a conversation that never ends about what constitutes good Phish. This show is an example of a song-based party vibe show where the jams are resultant rather than the impetus of the fun and debuts/bustouts are part of the equation. I always end up undervaluing this show for some reason but then realize I enjoy it again on respin.

11.21.1998  Back for more fun (read what I wrote previously here), Phish stuck with the party vibe for night two by filling the first set with a bunch of crowd favorite songs before stretching things out a bit in the second frame as is their habit. The first set starts out with a crowd-appreciated Wilson>BBFCFM pairing as Fish inserts a bit of his Gettin’ Jiggy vocal into the BBFCFM and Mike teases the Leave It to Beaver theme. Later they bustout Cry Baby Cry for the first time in 278 shows with Nellie Kane popping in for the first time after 293 shows a bit later. Between those there is a very well played Foam amongst the standard fare that populates the balance of the set. Look, I’m not gonna sugar coat it. This is a SNS show for at least the first set. Everything is fun and played well but outside of the few moments in the Foam jam and those bustouts there isn’t much to say about it. That changes pretty quickly in the second set though as they first open with Sabotage (third ever of five total and last of 1.0) followed by cranking into Mike’s Song. This one is not as big as the ’97 version but gets to some interesting jam space before heading to Simple sans second jam. Simple may have had its best year ever in 1996 but don’t tell this version that because it is just plain pretty music. From there the Groove extends through to the end of the set after the band strings together a few tun time numbers and throw Ha Ha Ha in the place where the Free jam should be before closing the set and the Groove with an energetic Paug. As their last joke of this run the band debuts a one time cover of the Chumbawamba song Tubthumping, a tune you had a hard time avoiding around that time if you were the type of person to listen to the radio or frequent a certain type of dance club. Tom Marshall takes the verses for the singing and Gears is back to assist with the trumpet. Fish throws in some Gettin’ Jiggy words and the band has fun with this one in capping the run. And so ends the 1998 stop at Hampton, one that had lofty expectations perhaps not met but appealing enough to warrant that official release. The pair is a reasonable snapshot of where the band was at this point in the bigger picture while perhaps lacking the deeper thing that was more evident on releases like A Live One.

12.17.1999  For the 1999 pair of shows at Hampton Phish visited at the end of the Fall Tour (or perhaps more accurately the December Tour considering there was an earyl Fall run from September into October) and only eleven days before the start of Big Cypress, something that was kind of a big deal for the band and fans alike. These two shows would be the last chance anyone would have to hear the band before that to perhaps try to figure out what to expect as if they would foreshadow it at all. With this renewed anticipation – and on the heels of the Hampton Comes Alive release from just before the late fall Tour started – the band opens up here with a patiently building Piper that works well with the palpable energy even if it never really takes off to any new or interesting places. The seat continues with some of the interesting setlist calls we expect from 1999 as they mix old and new, fast and slow together for a fairly uneven result. The Jibboo here is extended with the looped out jam you would anticipate from the song and PYITE has good, well, punch to it but outside of the knowing nod to the upcoming NYE festival with the “filter out the everglades” line in WITS there isn’t too much of note here. The second set starts out with a BOAF that briefly strays from normalcy and then Moma Dance which drops into a sparse, Page-led, effects-filled jam that is wholly independent of the song but serves as the transition to and intro of Bug. That cathartic number is followed by the final of the ignominious performances of Jennifer Dances which is really not nearly as bad as everyone always makes it out to be. Perhaps sensing they need to bring everyone back from the restrooms for the end of the set, the band starts into a somewhat slowed down Melt. The band heads into a mesmerizing take on the Melt theme, showcasing that millennial sound as they mix in the glitchy effects and loops for a jam that feels ready to either explode or fall apart at any moment. The band keeps it together and comes around to close with Zero followed by a three song encore and hopes for more from the Saturday night show.

12.18.1999  When Phish opens the show with a song that is typically seen as a set two vehicle or closer it is typically a good sign. And when that opener is an eighteen minute plus Hood, well, that’s even better.  The jam here starts out bright and airy and proceeds in a linear fashion as they slowly work towards the peak. There is a solid payoff here and then they play one of the eight ever covers of Jimmy Smith’s Back at the Chicken Shack, a perfectly fine song if a bit of an odd one for Phish to have had in their repertoire. It fills the JJLC/Funky Bitch bluesy rock cover slot, I suppose.  A 68 show bustout of Dog Log dedicated to Tom Marshall  (1st since the one we mentioned back in Worcester) precedes Tube where Trey sets the loops and hits the mini-keyboard for a bit as Mike thumps out a big bassline. There is a lot of similarity here to what they were doing in the previous night’s Melt or perhaps in the famed 2001 from 09.29.1999 amongst other jams from this tour. After a few more tour staples they cap it with a big YEM closer, bookending the set with two songs that total more than 40 minutes of the time spent on stage. Trey takes his biggest lead of the show yet here, showcasing one of the iconic lciks that often permeates the song and to me sounds a heck of a lot like his song Quantegy which will get its lone live performance in just a couple of weeks following this night. The second set starts with one of those big 1999 2001s, all stretched out and funky. Tonight’s features some teasing of Peter Frampton’s Do You Feel Like We Do, complete with Trey giving a nod to “Bob Mayonnaise” on the keyboards. This is typically humorous Phish, of course, but also a nod to the Hampton Comes Alive album release. They move into Sand, another song that had a great year in 1999 for one of the four “big” versions of the song to come from that initial season with Phish for the song. This is the sort of jam that you could bottle up and sell as “99 Phish” and the wooks would buy it in bulk simply for the privilege of it being offered. The balance of the set is pretty stock as they run through a quick Mike’s Groove in the end after playing Horse>Silent, Possum though there is another 68 show bustout for the Buffalo Bill that was last seen in that same show as Dog Log above. This is the better show of the pair from 1999 with some interesting highlights if perhaps still a bit less than might have been desired though admittedly that’s about what shows were at this stage: big jams interspersed between sometimes head scratch worthy song choices with little of the composed mastery numbers on display.

01.02.2003  Due to the whole Hiatus thing Phish wouldn’t keep their streak of consecutive years played here alive as they next returned for a three night run following the first shows back from Hiatus at MSG. This was a different band than the last time they visited with new material on display and a different tonality, particularly from Trey, from their prior visits – not to mention that whole thing of coming off the longest break they had ever taken. This shift is on display from the start as they open with an extended Chalkdust, jamming the song in a festive manner befitting of the holiday run within which it sits (considering that the NYE was the first show followed by these three starting two days later it isn’t much of a stretch to call this the de facto NYE Run for that year). The jams continue with a multi-phased Gin that includes some of the signature 2.0 growl tone from Trey and then after a quick joke about “Tom Hanks” once again joining them on stage (this is a reference to that 12.31.2002 show) they run through Ice on their way to a playful BOTT. This is followed by the debut of Round Room which is fitting for this room which is indeed round. After that the set goes into mostly song mode with a shortish Stash being a little upward blip before the Zero you saw coming back at MSG two days ago. Oh, and here’s full set video from that first frame. The second set opens with another debut, this time 46 Days, which goes far beyond the song we had just been introduced to a couple of weeks prior when the album came out. The signature 2.0 Trey tone is on display in a big way here as he growls through the main type I jam and out into dark, ambient waters. The band moves through several phases over the course of the song, eventually finishing with a strong CYHMK-type jam that peters out into the transition to Simple, leaving the main song unfinished. Later on a strong LxL falls into the debut of another Round Room tune, Thunderhead, which has some inventive soloing by Trey in the back end jam prior to that song’s crash into Lope. Following a predictable Cavern closer the band debuts the fourth song of the night for the encore in Mexican Cousin, a tune that is either a love it or hate it type of proposition for many a fan. Where the first show back at MSG had the energy and excitement of the Return and NYE balled up into one giant release of energy this show offers the freshness of new material and the emerging evolution of the band’s sound in 2003. The highlights here are telling in the direction they go and bode well for the balance of the run.

01.03.2003  Since the band didn’t break it out for that MSG Return show by this third show into the year the fanbase was starting to wonder when that first Tweezer would drop. Sure enough, Phish opened up night two here with the anthem and while perhaps not the life-changing version some may have wanted there is a lot to like in this compact, type I version. It gets the room moving and settles everyone in so that when they drop into the Theme that follows there is a nice roar of approval for the first one of 2.0. Two songs later is the debut of Pebbles and Marbles, here showing off a very nice bit of jamming, something the song has lacked in 3.0 versions (and most of the 2.0 versions to be fair). The five song first set concludes with YEM but not before they restart it after a train wreck start to the composed section. Listen for some interesting VJ antics. A rocking BOAF starts the second set and then the band drops into Wolfman’s that really needs to be heard – and preferably quite loud if you can manage that. You’ll dance hard to the infectious funk groove but just hang on because this one goes nookular in the back half before they move onto a particularly fun Makisupa which nods to Hampton with keywords including “Waffle House” and “Hooters” which if you have ever been to this venue you know to be two of the more visible/notable places to grab a pre or post show bite near the venue (and surrounding hotels). After a fun if uneventful Axilla>Free pairing they debut another Round Room tune with All of These Dreams and then close the set with a bit of instrument switching in Possum that sees Page on Trey’s guitar, Trey on Mike’s bass, and Mike on Fish’s Cracklin’ Rosie cymbals. Not exactly the rotation jam from the 1995 show here but fun for the band to be playing around up there. The encore’s Contact does actually have a bit of an extended jam but that doesn’t mean my wife wouldn’t have booed at it anyway.

01.04.2003  For the third night here and last of this Return/NYE Run the band comes out gunning with a fiery Llama and a fun Boogie followed a particularly emotive Roggae before they bring back the energy for hot Maze. Another Round Room debut fills the midset cool down slot as Anything But Me hits the stage for the first time. Following a few more fun numbers they end with a solid Melt, one that feels like it could have gone on for a bit longer. This show already feels more like a celebratory Saturday night affair than the prior two and that carries over into the second set as oh yeah wait I almost forgot! Here is the video for both the first and second sets of this one. So the second set starts out with Rock and Roll which gets a shortish jam before they move into a stock Mike’s Song. The bridge tune tonight is Mountains in the Mist (a song I didn’t really grow to appreciate enough until probably the Festival 8 acoustic set) and then they punch into a Paug, taking it out for a ride in what will eventually be the most open jam of the night. There’s a dark aspect to this one which makes more sense when they transition into WTU? for a haunting version. Disease gives promise of more improv but instead gets dropped for a full segue to FEFY which is nice but not exactly the big, open, set-defining jam many came for here. Following this ballad they close with the second ever (and final to date) 2001 2nd set closer which while fairly standard goes get some ‘thanks’ banter by Trey in the end before he, Page, and Mike each take a turn at the “big rock ending” thing. Then they wrap up the run with the eleventh debut (all from Round Room, leaving just Mock Song unsung for now from that album) in Friday. Not exactly the biggest punctuation mark to cap the run. Oh well. Still a fun show if perhaps not as jam-worthy as the nights preceding it.

08.09.2004  About a year and a half later Phish came back to Hampton, this time in the final run-up towards what was then purported to be the FINAL SHOWS EVER at The Festival Which Shall Not Be Named. Here is video of both sets. As with the 2003 run, this show opens up with the jammed out pairing of Chalkdust>Gin, tonight stretching past the forty-minute mark in total. Chalkdust starts out with big time energy and then settles into the loose, melodic ambient jamming that typified 2.0 and 2004 in particular. Instead of petering out they build the jam back up and slam back into the Chalkdust theme to wrap up the song and head off to Gin. At the time there weren’t many big, open explorations of Chalkdust as points of reference so for quite some time (like, that whole long wait thing we had not too long after this show) this was rightfully considered one of the best Chalkdusts the band had ever played along with the likes of the one here a year ago, the one from IT 08.03.2003 and the one from Camden on 07.10.1999 (though most would agree that the best era for the song in terms of open jamming has been here in 3.0 considering the number of big versions we have enjoyed in recent years. The Gin that follows this is quite impressive on its own (and even more so when you pair it with the Chalkdust) as the band slowly meanders towards the first peak which they hit around the ten minute mark. They are not nearly done yet though as they drop into a chunky groove where Trey and Page throw around ideas to see what might have promise. The pace quickens and the intensity strengthens as they head to another peak, now fully outside of Gin and kind of reminiscent of Llama at points, but before they hit it they turn to dissonant, searching playing. Trey starts strumming something almost recognizable and then everyone tries their best to be the first to shout out JIM! as they head into the classic tale of thieving dog gone astray. After an interesting bit of jamming they wrap this for a full-on, in your face raging WOTC, giving the jam room to breath even in staying within the structure of the song. Then after a quick Loving Cup another five song first set is in the books here in Hampton. Now, if you were around in 2004 or even have just gone back to spin those shows you have probably noticed that they can be a bit… uneven. Like, there will be big jams followed by odd sections of multiple ballads or entire sets where the band seemed to wander about without much sense of direction or cohesion. There are a few reasons you can probably come up with for this sort of thing happening which we won’t get into here but I bring it up to say that this second set is perhaps one of the biggest head scratching sets there is after all that jamming they did in the first. All of These Dreams isn’t the energetic set opener you came for, the LxL is okay at best, Lifeboy feels misplaced here, Crowd Control works best as a knowing nod opener for gate crash type shows (or ones with too much security influence), this Seven below goes nowhere in almost hitting 15 minutes, Stash feels thrown in and uninspired before they bail for NICU, and then Bug>Contact>Zero is just a set closing bunch of energy tunes. It takes until the encore Bowie for them to take any chances which pay off for me in the move towards deep dissonant waters but others may disagree. I know there are many for whom this was the last Phish they might ever hear if they weren’t heading north afterwards for Great Woods, Camden, and TFWSNBN and that’s a disappointing thought. But unfortunately it was a sign of times.

03.06.2009  I could – and have – write many many words on the emotions and significance that surrounded the 2009 Return shows by Phish here in Hampton. And many much better writers than I have done so as well so I’ll just assume that by being here reading this you already have a certain level of understanding for just how major this was in our little world. Suffice it to say that this was perhaps THE hardest ticket ever for Phish and the excitement and anticipation for the shows was understandably off the charts as everyone made their way back here almost five years since the band’s last visit in the wind down of 2.0. Knowing that the band was coming off of the longest stretch of not playing together since forming way back when I don’t think anyone expected them to come out super polished and ready to jam which may have been related to the fact that we were all just so excited to have our band back together and seemingly healthy once again. The band that we had last heard was quite frankly a mess no matter how hard you try to justify the sloppy playing and questionable decisions with comments of “yeah but they played some amazing jams brah!” Heck, by the time of that show above this one they weren’t even attempting to play many of their more complicated composed numbers, opting for the ones that were more straight forward in structure and required little practice if any since they weren’t doing that anymore. So when the band came out on stage and started up Fluffhead of all songs we knew that this time things were going to be different. Everyone (bands and fans alike) had aged a bit and hopefully matured as well though that might still be something of a work in progress… Anyway, this night was THE RETURN and it was all about reconnecting with the band and our fellow fans, so the music is something of an afterthought in terms of overt analysis. The collective release packed into that “OH YEAH!” line from Fluffhead was catharsis of the highest order and just what so many of us needed, the band included it would seem. After pretty well nailing that Fluff (a song that was notably benched for the entirety of 2.0) they proceeded to run through fairly standard versions of a TON of songs, packing a whopping 28 tunes into the two sets and encore. Songs from all eras were on the table with the first set including mostly songs from the early to mid 90s (except for that Farmhouse I suppose). Nothing here is musically “special” except in the sense that we never thought we would hear the band play these tunes again. For the second set they opened by debuting the now loved/hated BDT#L and following it up with concise versions of several notable second set standards. The Tweezer->Taste is nice, the Possum rocks, First Tube>Hood is a fun shot of energy, and the Waste>YEM works well as a cap to the set. Then after the bouncy triple encore of Grind, Bouncin’, Cup it was over and Phish was back! There might not be a show that can eclipse the feelings associated with the optimism that comes from knowing that.

03.07.2009  The second night of the Return (and I think it is notable that the band chose to play here again after using this venue as part of their return from Hiatus back in 2003) was a bit more relaxed now that the band had a show under their belts and the feelings had returned for all that THIS was where we were supposed to be. Again, they packed a large number of songs into this show (27 in total) as the first set included another 15 songs just like the night before. A punchy BOTT>Jim opened things up and save for a pretty cringe-worthy run through Melt the rest of the set kept the vibe fun and free though didn’t dive into much in the way of open jamming. They debuted the Page tune Beauty of a Broken Heart along the way and that one would stay in the rotation for the balance of the year before becoming a once-a-tour-if-you-are-lucky song. Other fun stuff here includes a nice bit of Page in Ice and the huge eruption for the Lope peak closer. The second set starts out with a solid RnR that gets to some nice blissy melodic space (something to get used to with the many RnR 2nd set openers from this year) before seguing into a solid LxL. The Ghost that follows has a little proto-plinko jam before heading off to Piper which in turn gives way to BOAF. The rest of the set is all fun stuff with a straight forward Mike’s Groove leading to the expected Zero closer before they encore with ADITL. As I mentioned above this show is a bit more relaxed with all involved probably a tad more comfortable after the nervous energy of the first night had dissipated. It probably isn’t one you are going to go back and spin a lot but you might want to revisit the RnR and Ghost.

03.08.2009  So then the third and final night of The Return came and with it the bittersweet thoughts of “what next?” since at that time we really didn’t know where this was all headed. But Phish being Phish they had other ideas, opening with Sanity for only the second time ever (10.31.1996 being the other) and setting the tone somewhat for the evening. Perhpas doubly so considering one of the big “globe” light thingies up on the ceiling burst right when Trey sang the “I don’t care if the world explodes” line which was a bit of a ‘whoa’ moment in house. A fun if short Gin precedes the debut of Undermind and then a bunch of songs later they debut the one time cover of the George Jones tune She Thinks I Still Care, a fairly odd choice for a one-off tune but maybe not so much considering it is a Mike sung tune. Five more songs later they close with Frankenstein which for the first time features Page on the keytar once owned by James Brown. The second set starts off with what will end up being the biggest takeaway jam of this run in Disease as they (again) head into melodic blissy proto-plinko realms for a soul satisfying jam that winds down into the start of Seven below. Later on there is a quite fun Twist that while type I should get you moving pretty well before they segue into 2001 and Moma for a triple header of dance fun. The expected Slave closer caps this second set and then a four song encore including the Reprise they left hanging from night one wraps it up. The band played an almost unheard of 30 songs in this one (making that 85 total for the three shows) but again, this is celebration Phish. Any thoughts of critique are not really relevant. While this and the two shows preceding don’t have the jam highlights of other shows (or venues…) the impact of this run is so important that it factors into the overall picture for this venue.

10.18.2013  Four years into 3.0 Phish again returned to Hampton and again for a three night run (here’s your video for set 1 and set 2). Anticipation was high once more with a big rush on tickets initially just feeding the perceived demand for the shows to come. In the end that anticipation was a bit overwrought as there were ticket trees to be found here for the brave souls who traveled sans tickets. And looking back these shows had a big hill to climb considering the history with this venue and the fact that these were the first shows of the Fall Tour coming off a pretty well received Summer Tour which made for one of the dreaded “over expectation’d” runs a definite possibility. This first show of the tour ended up being oversold but underattended (that’s one of the verses of Undermind, right?) which is generally the perfect scenario for the band to come out and say “got ya” by throwing down a master class performance. Except when it isn’t. So even though the started strong with a nice run of Wolfman’s, Jim, Mound, Chalkdust and played a fine enough first set in total, there just isn’t much there there. Sure, Stash goes sideways for a bit and WOTC peaks nicely but even the song selection feels safe. Maybe it was just the band warming up after the layoff since Dick’s. Who knows. After the break they did add some gusto, first opening with a groovy Twist that drops to ambient transition space for the move to Free and backing that cruncher up with yet another lovely Roggae (maybe it is me, but that song sure has come into its own in 3.0) . After running through Sparkle and Cavern they start into Carini which by this time had become a pretty reliable place for jamming in 3.0. Tonight would be no different as they take the jam through several phases seamlessly as if planned, combining edgy darkness, bliss rock peaking, a funky breakdown and more into what stands as one of the big highlights from the entire tour. By the time they bail out for BDT#L you don’t even care it is that good. The balance of the show is just filler by comparison but not in a detrimental way. This ends up being a fine enough tour/run opener with that one massive highlight upon which it hangs its hat.

10.19.2013  The Saturday night show (set 1, set 2 videos) from this run turns up the heat a bit considering they open with the highly danceable triple play of Gin, Moma, Tube before taking a breath for FEFY. The Gin is a straight forward peak hunter and Moma gets bouncy a bit before they throw in a nice little funk jamlet for the Tube. Maybe the bigger Saturday night crowd had something to do with it or maybe the muse just hit them a little harder that night. Either way, this first set is a nice one if you like to hear the band hitting on all cylinders even if the songs stay mainly in the box. Case in point, the Mike’s Groove to end the set looks like another stock run on paper but has some quite nice playing particularly by Page in the Paug. The second set gets the jamming going from the outset as they stretch Ghost out with a long, somewhat whale-y but dance-y groove jam that rises high and stays there to the delight of the crowd. I was a bit surprised to see that this was only the second 2nd set opening Ghost of 3.0 (at the time; there have been two since). It is a much better jam than I recalled and kind of surprising that it doesn’t get more love. They drop into Disease and you just know this is gonna blow up except that it doesn’t and they forego anything of a real jam here to head into Steam which is fine I suppose. It’s too bad because they really had something going with the serene space they drop into there. Oh well, Steam it is. And this one is a little more interesting than the typical one considering after a dirty bent note jam that’ll cause you to make weird, contorted faces Trey hops over to join Fish on the kit and Mike bangs away at the fight bell while also playing bass with drumsticks and his drill. This is all around the 33:00 minute mark of that set 2 video I linked above. Little did we know how frequent it would become for Trey to want to go all Rhythm Devils on us… From here the set goes into cruise control as they string together Caspian>Boogie>Theme>Wedge and then Silent>Hood to cap the set, giving us yet another satisfying Hood here at The Mothership (listen for a bit of callback to the Plinko Hood stylings from Worcester 2010). And then for good measure another Quinn as encore nodding back to its return from the Where Are They Now? files here several years later. There might not be a massive center-piece takeaway jam here but this is a very fun show to respin.

10.20.2013  Our final (for now!) show at Hampton was one of those mythical Sunday Nighters and here the “rule” held true as it is one that people still speak of in that way we do about the shows that pack the biggest punch. (Here’s the videos for set 1 and set 2). Looking at the first set’s list you might be saying “what the heck is he doing saying this was a big night?” and sure, that’s valid, but the playing is on point here three shows into the tour and capping this run. They throw four big energy songs together to start with BOTT being the peak moment of that group. Even the Roses feels like it might stretch a bit but instead gets Sample’d (wtf, man?) before a mini-bustout for Ginseng Sullivan (39 show gap). Rousing takes on 46 Days, Divided, and Bold As Love send everyone to the concourse smiling and jonesing for more which is all we want, right? The glory of this show is found in the second frame though as after a 47 show bustout for Paul & Silas in honor of some dudes dressed in Where’s Waldo garb causing Trey to think they were wearing prison outfits so ha ha oh well thanks for the bustout, Trey (he banters about it at the start of the set 2 video). But that’s just window dressing because the Tweezer that follows is where type II dreams are made. It starts out dark and demonic and eventually winds around to an ambient exploration that perfectly resolves into the start of Golden Age. The jam that emerges from this GA is a funky throwdown that counterpoints the darkness of the Tweezer jam with bright dance party playing by the band and then heads into ambient space though this time with a different feel entirely from what came out of Tweezer (I love when they do that). From here it really feels that they are working towards a move into 2001 but instead they ramp up to Piper for an energy boost. They head into the jam here and you start to hear something… a bit… familiar which isn’t uncommon but then WAIT! Are they? (they are) They can’t be! (they can) Holy crap they have moved into the debut of the BTO classic Takin’ Care of Business! What the phunk?! The place explodes with recognition and everything is peachy in joyland as they romp through the cover before dropping back into more of that ambient goo to set up the transition into that 2001 you thought you heard earlier. Trey has added his emerging mastery of the echoplex to the mix here which is something I’ve really loved about the addition of that little tool to his arsenal and this 2001 pushes the energy in the room even higher if that is at all possible. Then just when you think they will head for set ending energy rocker territory they drop into Sand for a compact but powerful run through the vampy millennial number before punctuating the set with the Slave peak we expected. A fitting ADITL>Reprise encore later and we are on the road with another Hampton run in the books. This was the first peak of a tour that ended up being very strong and has since left us all waiting for that next announcement of their return to this wonderful room.

 

Tale of the Tapes

Venue:  Hampton Coliseum (nee, Hampton Roads Coliseum)

No. of Shows:  eighteen

Intangibles:  Mid-Atlantic locale allows for extremely large regional draw capturing both the Northeast and Southeast with Midwest access not bad either; all GA format makes it a special place since you can end up anywhere once you get inside; great sound for this type of room (some might say it has perfect “slapback”); mythos surrounding the venue carried over from Dead tour where it became a must-hit venue; wild and wooly lot scene adds to the overall experience and similarly local hotels and other places have become part of the story of seeing shows here; timing of shows played here has been key considering they used this venue as part of return shows from both Hiatus and The Break Up; it’s called The Mothership for a reason, dude

Recurring Themes:  multi-night stands (only three single shows with six multi-nighters including three three-nighters in 2003, 2009, and 2013); Hood and Mike’s Groove – seven of the nine times the band has played here have included a Hood and a Mike’s Groove (though not necessarily the same seven); Phish has only played the same first set opener here twice (Chalkdust); only three songs have repeated as second set opener (BOAF, Ghost, RnR); jamming is the norm here as it has become a place known as one the band feels comfortable stretching out and creating new, wonderful music in the moment; reunion shows – as mentioned above the band has used this venue for returns from both Hiatus and The Break Up; instrument switching – the first rotation jam occurred here in 1995 and they also played with their friend’s toys in 2003 and 203; as hard as a ticket as it can be to procure for shows here they have never played Golgi at Hampton; other ‘common’ songs never played here include Fee, Lizards, Buried Alive, and DaaM; popular one time covers aren’t uncommon here as they have debuted five songs that were only ever played on that night (Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It, RnR Part II, She Thinks I Still Care, TCOB, Tubthumping; overall eighteen songs have been debuted at Hampton including the ones mentioned in the prior note, most of the Round Room album, BDT#L, Undermind, and BOABH

Key Jams/Songs:  1995 – Timber Ho!>Kung, Mike’s Song->Rotation Jam->Mike’s Song and the various Poor Hearts if you are into that sort of thing; 1996 – Makisupa->Maze, Stash, Hood; 1997 – Emotional Rescue->Melt, Ghost>Bag->Slave, Mike’s Groove, Hood, Halley’s>Tweezer>BEK; 1998 – Gin, Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It, Hood, Mike’s>Simple, Tubthumping; 1999 – Jibboo, BOAF>Moma>Jam, Melt, Hood, YEM, 2001>Sand; 2003 – Chalkdust>Gin, BOTT, 46 Days, P&M, Wolfman’s>Makisupa, Possum instrument switching, Contact, Roggae, Paug>WTU?, 2001; 2004 – CDT, Gin, WOTC, Seven Below (kinda); 2009 – Fluffhead, Tweezer->Taste, BOTT, Ice, RnR>LxL, Sanity, Disease, Twist->2001; 2013 – Twist, Roggae, Carini, Ghost, Steam, Hood, BOTT, Tweezer->GA->Piper->TCOB>2001

PJJ Ratio:  Hampton surprisingly has a lower than average 2.17 JPS rating (the average for all venues under consideration in this project is 2.47). This is likely a result of somewhat tame shows in 1996 and 1997 not to mention the song focus of 2009 and the extended night runs of 2003 and 2013 ‘requiring’ more songs to fill the time

 

There is no denying the magic that exists in this room. Hampton is a storied venue for good reason but some of that is based on the intangible factors as much as the music itself. The role this venue has played in the band’s history cannot be discounted as it is a place the band is clearly comfortable playing and one where fans feel free to be themselves. From a purely analytical perspective this venue is surprisingly not as reliable for producing top level Phish shows but when the non-concrete factors are layered on top something special is revealed. As with every show there are thousands of different experiences that tell the story of what is going down. So when so many of these varied opinions all agree that something special is occurring it cannot be questioned. This is a bucket list venue for all fans of Phish, one that needs to be experienced in person to be fully appreciated and understood. Long live The Mothership!

 

Tales of the Giant Iguana – Phish and Red Rocks

The first venue to (randomly) come up in our review of the best venues in all of the band’s history is Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO, arguably one of the most beautiful venues in the United States. This natural amphitheatre is part of 640 acres of parkland with trails and other sites besides the music venue to entertain those who visit. Opening in 1941, it has since been designated a National Historic Landmark and is characterized by the iconic dual 300+ foot monoliths that project upwards on either side of the venue, providing that amazing sound and allowing for 9,525 people to have a fantastic view of the band on stage as well as the surrounding area including the Denver skyline off in the distance. This is the type of venue that elevates the concert experience not only literally (elevation here is 6,450 feet above sea level) but also spiritually as for reasons that are obvious once you get into this wonderful place both musicians and fans tend to bring their “A” game most of the time. That ‘venue magic’ is evident in many of the shows that Phish has played here and is part of why seeing shows at this venue became a necessity for those able and willing to make the trek across the great divide.

Phish has played Red Rocks a total of thirteen times with the first appearance being a Friday night in the middle of one of the legendary months in the band’s history and the final appearance to date being the capstone show of the four night run in the comeback summer of 2009. In between they have played two night stands in 1994 and 1995 as well as a four night stand on the brief US portion of the summer tour leading up to The Clifford Ball. There have also been several non-Phish visits to this storied venue including five TAB shows, one Mike & Leo Kottke show, a YMSB with Fish show, and one sit-in by Mike during a Gov’t Mule show. But we’re here for the Phish!

Since we are starting a new thing here let’s talk a bit about what this will look like. Rather than give a full recap of every show at a venue I will be listing off each one, cherry-picking notable highlights and identifying the potentially iconic jams that each show birthed. From there we can debate how this stacks up against the other venues on the list.

Before I dive in forthwith, here is a playlist of all of the Red Rocks jams over the years from our friends at www.phishjustjams.com

08.20.1993  Opening with Divided Sky to nod to the rainstorms that passed through the area pre-show is a nice touch but following it with a mythos-building Harpua tale immediately takes this show next level. Trey espouses his adoration for the venue before even getting to the Giant Iguana Red Rocks origin story which is one I highly recommend listening to if you don’t already know it. The rest of the first set progresses as most did in that era with crisp renditions of each song including some solid Page work in Ice,  a nice acoustic Ginseng Sullivan dedicated to Brad Sands, and the final “slow” Wedge before it got shelved and reworked (returning 135 shows later just before another show detailed further down this page). The Antelope to cap the set is a wild psychedelic ride that departs the song for a bit before coming back to the big ending we know and love. The second set is full of highlights including a patient early set Slave, a frenzied and fast-paced Melt, and a YEM->Purple Rain that includes Mimi Fishman joining her son on the vac. This show is not the best from that legendary month but is a great example of what Phish was in this time as they began the move out of the ‘speed jazz’ era.

06.10.1994  The next year Phish returned for a pair of shows, again hitting the weekend with the first night falling on Friday as the second show of the summer tour after opening up in Salt Lake City on Thursday. Even in being only ten months since their last visit here it is clear that this is a different version of this band. The release of Hoist in March coupled with the spring tour supporting that release has brought out a ferocious side to their playing, a style that builds off of the speed jazz of 1993 but now includes the machine gun shred and regular dips into more open, psychedelic waters. This first night only offers us inklings of that as they are getting into this new tour but still has some interesting aspects such as the nod to the Iguana Tale in the intro to The Lizards (a song that almost never includes banter like this), a bunch of teases, an entertaining Fish Fun Time segment for I Wanna Be Like You, and a compact yet powerful Tweezer that resolves nicely into Lifeboy. When looking at this 1994 Red Rocks pair the second night is the one everyone points to (for reasons that will be obvious shortly) but this show also has most of those elements that made 1994 Phish so intoxicating for we fans.

06.11.1994  Now relaxed and comfortable in their surroundings, Phish came out for the second night of the pair with a show that is anything but a “Saturday Night Special”. By that I mean it is not just a rock-it-out jukebox set but instead is often held up as a paragon of what Phish could be in this era. Some have called this a “perfect” Phish show which might be hyperbole but the argument for it is pretty compelling. The first set is all go for broke rock highlighted by a wonderful YEM and a short but peaky Stash to close the set. Then the second frame is more of the same with Antelope and Fluffhead cranking the energy up before they blow the metaphorical roof off in a nasty take on Melt and a Maze that gets strong solos from both Page and Trey. There’s also a 332 show bustout for Frankenstein just for good measure. This may not have as many open jams as fans these days want/expect but it still holds as the type of show that you can give to a friend who doesn’t know the band to provide a glimpse into this world of ours.

06.09.1995  Almost a year to the day Phish came back for their third visit to Red Rocks and second straight year playing two shows. Once again the band was working through newer material, this time working on many of the songs that would end up on Billy Breathes when that album was released more than a year later. Again this show fell in the early part of tour as this pair was preceded by only the tour opener in Boise and one in Salt Lake City ahead of these weekend shows. After a one year gap Divided Sky returns to Red Rocks and the first set includes three of those newer tunes in Strange Design, Theme, and Taste (but not the final version of that song). The set is capped by a quite peaky Antelope and then they come out firing with another second set Melt that goes sideways in that wonderful way. Bowie is the dark vehicle that carries this set in the first version of perhaps the best tour for the song overall. As with 1994 this first night is a bit of setup more than the peak of the pair but being summer 1995 it pops with the energy and swagger that the band had on display throughout that year.

06.10.1995  There’s something to be said for a show that starts out with Trey pointing out his grandfather in the crowd before starting up Makisupa Policeman. It pretty much tells you how comfortable they were in their position as the rising stars of Jamlandia, particularly when that Maki keyword is “4:20. Dank” and the crowd goes wild before they dropped from a soupy outro jam into a power packed Llama. Here again we also get another solid mid first set YEM which evolves into a vocal HYHU segue to Fish Fun Time for the final version of Lonesome Cowboy Bill before it would return on Halloween in 1998. The second set is another rager with a Maze opener and a massive Mike’s Groove that eats up more than 35 minutes from the 22+ minute Mike’s through the CYHMK-tinged Paug. This Mike’s is the sort that 1.0ers are always on about when the younger fans wonder why this song is held so highly by older fans and lives up to the billing in all its dissonant glory. For good measure this set is graced with the debut of ADITL in the encore. Between this show and the second night the prior year you can see why fans at this time had come to regard shows at Red Rocks as can’t miss certainties.

08.04.1996  Following their first “real” tour of Europe in the early part of the summer of 1996 Phish returned to the US for nine shows leading up to the first big end of summer festival at the Clifford Ball in Plattsburgh, NY. Four of these nine shows were at Red Rocks and the hype surrounding them was unparalleled in the fanbase due to several factors including but not limited to the demise of the Grateful Dead, the explosion of Phish in the wake of 1995, and a limited US touring schedule for the summer of 1996. Once again hitting here in the early stages of tour after stopping in Utah first, the band comes out strong and rides the energy of the crowd. You can almost feel it listening back on the tape as the band and fans connect to elevate the music beyond the objective criteria one might set. This first set gets a lot of the fist-pumping anthems with the Chalkdust opener, Guyute, a really high spirited Melt, Sloth, Maze, and the Loving Cup closer. Then after a punchy Bag 2nd set opener they lay down a lovely Reba (just watch out for the super abrupt ending!) and take Bowie out for a ride. Page also breaks out his “new toy” theremin for a brief debut of the Theme from Star Trek in the encore. This show is a fun one for the start of the run, the first non-NYE time four show run at one venue, and an odd first night Sunday show taboot taboot.

08.05.1996  The second night in 1996 feels in retrospect like a Clifford Ball primer show with its solid if unremarkable first set and a second set that showcases a couple of different sides of the band in that time period. It also is a pretty typical show for 1996 in general. Starting out with 2001 (which happened in a show at every Red Rocks run except 1995) the band then goes into what will eventually stand up as the best Disease of the year (even including some of those wonderful ones from that Fall tour). This is an atypical take on the song in this era but moves through several phases (including Trey on minikit) before seguing into a wild Ice that you really should spin as it is pretty unique. They come up for air in Halley’s but dive deep here as well until Page surfaces with Somewhere Over the Rainbow on theremin. Following the oddly placed mini-stage acoustic set (including the debut of Talk… yay?) and the a cappella Amazing Grace they wrap up with another strong Mike’s Groove. This one is perhaps not as lauded as the one from the year prior but still will get you moving and grooving. Another thing of note with this show is that it includes one of the first example of fans actively trying to get the crowd en masse to “interact” with the band on our terms as flyers were handed out in the lots to try to initiate a few new responses by the crowd to what the band was doing, akin to the Secret Language responses that the band had employed for several years by this time. One of these ideas was for fans to sit down during the pause in Divided Sky which apparently worked to enough effect on this night to be noticeable above just a few folks getting winded from the lack of oxygen and needing to catch their breath. That one didn’t stick but one from the next night sure has…

08.06.1996  By the third night of this 1996 run Phish and its fans had pretty well overrun the small town of Morrison. A contributing factor was the large number of ticketless fans who descended (or perhaps ascended if we want to get technical with the altitude here) upon the area and did not exactly cooperate fully with local law enforcement. There are several stories out there about what really went down but the impact would be felt for more than a decade (more on that later). The band clearly knew what was going on as they opened with Makisupa and then altered the keyword to the first set closing Lope to be “21 year old Phish Fan Marco Esquandolas” which is a direct reference to a quote from a local newspaper from an oh so clever fan. In between that Trey threw in a U2 (and 07.25.1988 Icculus that made it to the Electra release of Junta) reference by saying  “This is Red Rocks. This is the Edge,” in the Rift break section (you know, the part right after the “…slipped off the edge” line), and they played a straight but solid Simple along with everything else. The second set is carried by a strong Tweezer that includes a jam on Norwegian Wood (Trey is very much in charge in this Tweezer) but then the set turns towards the more humorous side of the band as they romp through BBFCFM and then nod to the rainy night with Fish Fun Time for Purple Rain. But with the next song, Harry Hood, the fans joined the band to add “Hood!” in response to the standard “Harry!” line in the song, spurred on by that flyer that circulated and forever changing the song once these tapes got out and spread to the wider fanbase. You may love it but I personally long for the days when the song did not include that crowd feedback. Call me crotchety or whatever but that’s one of my few “back in my day!” things with this band so yeah.

08.07.1996  The final night of the four in 1996 continued the trend with another solid first set as they took Stash out for a DEG-tinged jam, thanked a recent medal-winning Olympian in the crowd, and brought out Colorado native Tim O’Brien for a few songs to end the set (all debuts). I still cannot figure out why they didn’t play Nellie Kane with him but whatever. If you like mando-music this is good stuff for you. The second set starts off with a very engaging Jim that somehow morphs into a full Gypsy Queen jam before coming back to Jim and eventually dropping into a crunchy Free where Trey hits the minikit for a bit. Next up is storytime for another iteration of the Iguana tale (that makes three references in four years), a Life On Mars? that was both topical to current events and nodded back to the tale in Forbin>Mockingbird, and eventually a very nice YEM in the latter part of the set. This show is one of those celebration cappers to a solid run where it is as much about the feel in the room as the music they lay down. The scene was in full bloom at these shows and was about to take another major leap forward with the first true Phish-only festival about ten days away. Though no one knew it at the time this would be the last time Phish would/could play this venue for more than a decade as the poor interactions between fans and local officials made it such that the venue “banned” the band for what we could only assume was forever.

07.30.2009  Time has a funny way of softening people’s views on things, of course, so when Phish returned after The Long Wait and started announcing plans for their summer tour there were rumors that perhaps we had all grown up enough to be allowed back to Red Rocks. Those rumors became reality and Phish came back for another four night run in starting up the second leg of the inaugural summer tour of 3.0. It was difficult to figure out what we might get musically but anticipation was high and tickets were as difficult to come by as any perhaps save the reunion shows at Hampton earlier that year. This was a venue that Phish had ostensibly outgrown in the years since their last visit which played into the demand (and is definitely part of why they have not returned here since, preferring the big crowd and easy venue logistics of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park). Nodding to past shows here they opened with Divided Sky, giving everyone the chance to reconnect with this magical place during The Pause. This opening set is pretty safe as they go but the Stash goes out for a walk even with Trey working out some whale tone in there. The second set is anchored by a fun Ghost>Wolfman’s pairing and the second set closing Bowie is a rocking good time but overall this is a pretty tame Phish show. That is understandable considering it is the first show in more than a month following the Leg One closer at Alpine and 2009 was mainly about everyone reconnecting.

07.31.2009  The second night found the band seemingly more in their element as they got to jamming pretty quickly with the third song Gin. Unfortunately, the energy built by the opening threepack of Jim, Chalkdust, and Gin was deflated when they dropped Time Turns Elastic in the four hole, resulting in a mass departure for the restrooms. The weather played a role in this one as well when the band started up Water In The Sky with rain starting to fall and eventually leading to a wild open jam in Melt during the windy downpour that felt in the moment like the band was ‘playing the storm’. After an extended break to wait out the storm they came back with an on-the-nose Drowned that gets to some quiet space before a nice segue into C&P gets the crowd and band bouncing again. As in the first set they don’t capitalize on the energy as they head into the then new Joy before pulling the yo-yo string again to crank into a much appreciated Tweezer. Unfortunately the ripcord is here too as they bail for BDT#L (let me tell you, it is really weird to be writing about these newer songs after so many posts about shows from eighteen or more years ago!). Pulling the string again they run through a raucous Fluffhead->Piper->ADITL segment to end the set and then after the encores we are left wet and weary and eager for more. There are more good moments here that I recalled but this show suffers from the yo-yo effect that disrupts any cohesiveness.

08.01.2009  By the third night of any run both band and crowd are now fully present and that holds true for this show. The second song in is the return of The Curtain (With) which while only having had a gap of 21 shows waited almost five years to be played again after the absolute trainwreck version from The Festival Which Shall Not Be Named. It was particularly fulfilling to see Trey nail this. Mound was a little bustout (83 shows) and then a fun Jibboo preceded Trey joking about the band using only hand signals to indicate what song would be next (something they continued throughout the set), followed by the high energy PYITE, Guyute section before they started up the end run with a punchy Tube that was big on Page with Trey bending his notes to accent the clav. Antelope punches through for another solid Red Rocks version and then the double whammy 2nd set opening pairing of RnR>Disease got the jams going for real. The RnR has some stop/start action and the Disease includes LA Woman teases which is always nice. There’s an Esther bustout here (89 shows) and a quite heavy feeling Dirt which led to a fun Hood that included teases of both Dirt and Free. This show felt like the one where we were all finally comfortable in the surroundings and musically I think that holds true. The music here has been vastly surpassed in the intervening years since The Return but there are some great connected moments to be found in some of these jams.

08.02.2009  For the final night of this 2009 run the band played things very loose, even opening with the first Roses Are Free of the comeback and then playing a spirited if somewhat disjointed set of music from all over their history. The second set is the gem of this run starting from the jammed out Boogie On opener and working through YEM which dove directly into Undermind when Bill Freaking Kreutzmann came out to join Fish on a second kit. Billy K stayed on for the rest of the set which included a Drums segment that segued into Seven Below, a fantastically groovy 2001, and a quite interesting Waves before the Zero closer. A triple encore put the icing on this one and wrapped up the final Red Rocks show to date. Similar to the night before, the band really found connection in this set and unlike many times when a guest sits in did not lose anything for it. It added another chapter to the ever growing shared mythology of Phish and The Dead while allowing for some creative music as well.

So those are the shows and the base synopsis for each night the band has played this venue. What then is the tale of the tape?

Venue:  Red Rocks Amphitheatre

No. of Shows:  thirteen

Intangibles:  unique, beautiful venue in Phish-friendly Colorado with great acoustics. band has long appreciation for the venue. small(er) capacity adds to mystique in it being a hard ticket to get but worth it if you go. added mythos with band getting banned after 1996 run. classic lot scene with multiple lots and entry points.

Recurring Themes:  Trey wove tales of the giant iguana into almost every run in 1.0, adding to it and updating with topical references. Every visit has Antelope, Melt, Coil, and Yem. Rain.

Key Jams/Songs:  1993 – Harpua, Antelope, Slave, Melt, YEM->Purple Rain, slow Wedge; 1994 – Tweezer, YEM, Stash, Melt; 1995 – Antelope, Melt, Bowie, Makisupa->Llama, YEM, Mike’s Groove; 1996 – Melt, Maze, Reba, Bowie, Disease, Ice, Halley’s->SOTR, Mike’s Song, Tweezer, Hood, Stash, Jim->Gypsy Queen->Jim>Free, Forbin’s>Mockingbird, YEM; 2009 – Stash, Ghost>Wolfman’s, Melt, Drowned>C&P, Tweezer, Curtain (With), Tube, RnR>Disease, Hood, Boogie, YEM->Undermind->Drums->Seven Below>2001>Waves

PJJ Ratio:  2.00 (Please see the Shoreline post for details on this)

 

While I have a hard time believing that Red Rocks will win this competition, it is clearly a venue that holds some great history for the band and fans alike. I must admit that I used to live a short five miles from this venue and grew to love it even more with each show (Phish or otherwise) that I saw there. There is something magic in those rocks, something that you cannot fully explain but once you’ve been there you understand. That magic reflects in the experiences people have and in the music that gets played. It is the type of venue that you remember fondly even after the music fades away.

Where this venue ranks in the overall list is still to be determined. For now let’s enjoy the music that was created in the cradle of the Giant Iguana. What is your favorite memory of Phish at Red Rocks?

Waiting, Calculating – Puzzling Our Visit to Fall 1996

Okay, let’s have some fun and do a little contest thingy. I’m kind of obsessed with crossword puzzles and phish (not necessarily in that order) and I thought it would be fun to bring the two together. Note that there are old threads on .net and other places where fans have made puzzles before so this isn’t exactly new ground being covered, just my take on the idea. All of the clues for this puzzle can be figured out if you have been following along on the Fall 1996 Tour and most even without that.

 

So here’s the contest.

 

  1. Download and print out the Fall96Crossword and clues.
  2. Complete the puzzle.
  3. By the deadline (more on that below), email me your completed puzzle.
  4. I will then pick one winner at random out of all 100% correct entries as the winner

 

The prize for this little game? A gift certificate redeemable at http://www.livephish.com for one Lossless Download of the show of your choice. That’s nearly a $13 retail value! If you want the HD version the upcharge is on you, bub. I’m already giving you the lossless you should be spinning anyway.

 

The deadline for submissions will be August 25th at 11:59pm Eastern Daylight time. That way I can have the winner announced and awarded prior to the next scheduled Phish shows in case that individual wants to grab one of them. Please email your completed entry to me at typeiiijpd at the gmail place.

 

UPDATE: Apparently I cannot spell certain people’s names correctly as the answer for 51 Down is the more common but incorrect spelling of that person’s name. The correct answer would be five letters which won’t fit in that three letter slot so if you think you know it but it will not fit there’s your reason. I have it incorrect. And if it fits for you, well, that probably means you have been spelling it incorrectly all these years.

 

The downloadable versions are linked above but here is the grid and clues for reference

Fall96Crossword

crossword clues text_Page_1

crossword clues text_Page_2

Okay, got all that? Now get to it!!

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours – My Final Fall 1996 Takeaways

Well, it has been a long and winding road to get here but today we finally get to the wrapping it up bit for our journey through the Phish Fall 1996 Tour. I have really enjoyed this entire thing and have gained an even bigger appreciation than I already had for this tour and year – and let’s face it, I was already a champion for it to begin with. We Phish fans like to throw around superlatives and proclamations about what era/year/tour/show/set/jam/run of notes is TEH BEST EVAR!!!! which gets to a whole ranking of art thing that is really not what I am about. That’s not to say that certain shows or songs don’t have versions that speak to us more directly (or more simply: that get our rocks off as hard). Personally, I find that getting too wrapped up in that way of thinking misses the point  though I understand the desire (need?) to do so. Avoiding all the obstacles that terrorize my view, I will instead give you a bit of where I am with this tour after putting in the considerable amount of time it has taken to get us here today. So without further ado, here are my personal thoughts and takeaways from this wonderfully entertaining run of thirty-five shows numbered here for list purposes but in no way ordered or ranked…

 

  1. While perhaps not as defined as other years, the prevailing sound and feel to 1996 and the Fall Tour in particular is unmistakable. This is a band in full control of their art doing what they do best while also working towards what will be perhaps the biggest evolution in their sound.
  2. If I had to give a name to the style of jamming Phish employs most regularly during this tour it would be “Percussive Groove” which is a term I have thrown into several posts. This type of jamming can but does not always include Trey hopping on the mini-kit.
  3. In this time period Phish was very open to having guests join them on stage, something they have been open about not wanting as much here and now. It doesn’t always work but sometimes it comes together in big ways resulting in unique takes on the music we know and love. And then sometimes it becomes something even more influential…
  4. The impact of Karl Perazzo’s “mini tour” with the band cannot be overstated. That first show in Tallahassee includes what I consider to be the first proto-cowfunk jam in Mike’s Song and by Coral Sky you can hear the excitement in their playing as they toy with this new found groove-based jamming. Obviously the practice and performance of Remain In Light is integral to this similar to how each Halloween album seems to fit with where the band is at that time and where they are headed.
  5. Speaking of Halloween, others have written about how covering the Talking Heads can be argued to be the most important of the costumes Phish has worn over the years in how it changed their sound. I definitely agree with this notion and all you have to do is listen to how this tour progresses to start nodding your head in support of that observation. Heck, they even as much as confirm it when talking to David Byrne himself.
  6. I’m not going to lie, I had a difficult time trimming the takeaways list down into a more manageable yet still pretty large final list. Some of this might be related to my personal preferences but I think it also speaks to just how well the band was playing throughout this tour.
  7. There is a pretty interesting argument to be made that parallels between 1996 and 2016 can be drawn. Huge high point the year prior, perceived slip “backwards” by some/many in the fanbase, notion that work on album has detracted from band’s live performances… which year am I referring to???
  8. Though I am not a ranker I do have some thoughts on end of tour awards. So here goes:
    1. My pick for Jam of the Tour goes to The Rupp Gin (11.07.1996). This multi-phased beast stands the test of time and combines all of the elements of the band in one wide-ranging piece of music.
    2. The song of the Tour is Simple. Each of the ten versions played has something worthwhile to take away (though you will see below that I did not include every one). I am very comfortable saying that this was the best tour for Simple in the band’s history. It really isn’t even close.
    3. Like Simple, a few other songs had notable highs for this tour. Disease, Hood, Reba, Mike’s, Tweezer, and even stuff like Ya Mar have multiple versions that are well worth your time. While the open psych jamming of 1995 is mostly missing on this tour where they take these songs is quite engaging and indicative of the larger points above regarding the band’s development and progression.
    4. The show of the Tour is a bit tougher to unravel. The easy answers are 10.31 (Atlanta) and 12.06 (Las Vegas) but depending on your favorite flavor of Phish I could understand arguments made for others like 11.02 (Coral Sky) or another of the PerazzoPhish shows, 11.07 (Rupp), or possibly even something like 11.15 (Kansas City) or 11.16 (Omaha). In the end you simply cannot deny the three sets of wonderful music they created on 10.31. As much as I laud 12.06 as a personal favorite that Halloween show stands out above the rest.
    5. Best sit-in of the tour is easy due to the PerazzoPhish thing but in terms of best sit-in song performance it has to be the Crosseyed from Coral Sky. I’m choosing that over perhaps one of my favorite one time covers they have ever done, The Great Curve, which should tell you something about what I think of that C&P.
    6. Biggest “holy crap I cannot believe what they just did” moment of the tour is The Note in the Omaha Hood. Just a shade under three minutes of Trey holding the sustain, egging the crowd on while the rest of the band goes off and elevates the thing to a ridiculous energy level. It might not be the objective ‘best’ Hood of the tour in a strong tour for the song but holy hell if you don’t get amped by that I’m not sure what to say.
    7. The runner up to The Note might be the wild ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ YEM from Kansas City. It wasn’t the first time they had done something like that in YEM but the way it develops explodes into that funkified dance party might just make you start laughing uncontrollably.
    8. Best bustout of the tour is All Along The Watchtower with Buddy Miles and Merl Saunders not just for the song but for the great version they played with those esteemed guests. As a reminder, do yourself the favor of watching the backstage videos that have popped up from that night. They are easily found on YouTube.
    9. Funniest on stage thing from the tour is a bit tougher to nail down simply because of the variances in what each person finds humorous. The entirety of the Harpua suite in Vegas tops the list for me but you might prefer the Fish stumbling through Bike in Lexington bit or the Mule->Catapult->Mule zaniness and that is perfectly okay.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s get to the final playlist that you might have espied over there in the sidebar player.

 

I mentioned in my initial post about takeaways that I had pulled 176 tracks out as either ‘tier I’ or ‘tier II’ highlights from all of the shows for the tour. Well, as I started to go back through it I added in two more tracks to the list so it grew to 178. With this list in hand I went back and listened to every song on it again, taking notes along the way and bucketing songs into “yes” “no” and “maybe” for inclusion (or not) in the final list. After the first pass I still had 150+ tracks at either “yes” or “maybe” so I went back and cut it further to the list you will find below which comprises the 109 tracks that I feel are worthy of inclusion.

 

Before moving on I’ll just give the typical disclaimer that given 99 Phish fans there would be 99 different lists because we all listen to the same shows but hear the music differently based on where we come from, how that shapes us as listeners, and where we are in that moment. There should be no judgement of a person’s personal take on the music and no proclamations of certainty with respect to this art as both reactions serve nothing but the selfish aims of the judge and/or proclaimer. Trying to make objective claims about the subjective is fruitless and undermines our ability to find connection with others in discussing this wonderful music. You may not agree with what I value in this art and I may not agree with you but the fact that we are both engaged by it should be the basis for finding ways to engage with each other.

 

Okay, we good? Here’s my list with the scribblings I put for each just so you can see some of how I got to where I am on these.

fall 96 takeaways_Page_1fall 96 takeaways_Page_2fall 96 takeaways_Page_3

It’s a big list, I won’t lie. And there are several songs for which I included multiple versions for one reason or another. But this list to me gives you a good glimpse of what Fall 1996 Phish was all about from the big jams to the sit-ins to the bustouts to the crisply played standard stuff and beyond. If you are interested in listening to this outside of the player on this site I have uploaded it for you to take away yourself. Note please that I have included my spreadsheet of the culling for your referral and potential amusement in getting into my head on this. The two files break down such that PH.Fall96.Final.1.zip has everything through Sat. Louis (and includes the spreadsheet) while PH.Fall96.Final.2.zip has the rest of the tour starting in Omaha. All of the tracks here are mp3 auds from the sources on The Spreadsheet but if you like what you hear and are itching for sbds there are a few shows from this tour available for purchase at www.livephish.com, namely 10.31.1996, 11.02.1996, 11.07.96, and 12.06.1996. If you do grab the mp3 files linked here please note that there are a couple with id tagging errors due to where I pulled them from. This includes the two tracks from 11.03.1996 Gainesville not having any band/album info included and the 11.16.1996 Kansas City tracks being tagged as Nashville, TN for some reason.

 

Fall 1996 1 (Lake Placid through St. Louis)

Fall 1996 2 (Omaha through Las Vegas)

 

So there you have it! I’d love to hear what others took away from this tour so please feel welcome to comment here as I am certain that my musings on this tour are far from the only opinions out there.

 

I have one last Fall 1996 thing to post once I have it ready but that’s for another day. I’ll tease you by saying it is contest with a real live prize and everything but in order to win you will need to know your stuff about this tour. Start studying!

All The Times I Raise My Cup – The Fall 1996 Tour Stats

One of the complete Phish nerd things that I love about this band is how detailed we are able to get in breaking down their tours, shows, sets, songs, and more. To some people this is not something they even think about with Phish as they enjoy the music in the moment and move on to whatever is the next thing along the path of their life. But for some of us the deep dives into the minutiae of bustouts, setlist construction, gap charts, opener/closer/encore trends, and more is exciting in its own way. And with the assistance of wonderful fan-made tools like Phish Stats or My Numberline figuring out how many times you saw them on Mondays, for example, is now so much simpler (note that both of those resources are best used in conjunction with a completed show attendance profile at phish.net). These tools are also great for breaking down the nitty gritty that make up the patterns and trends of the band over the course of a particular tour. Some will tell you that this type of analysis is missing out on the point with Phish but I’d argue that for me it has fostered an even deeper awe and appreciation for what it is that they do. When you consider that the band has now played something like 1,568 shows (give or take) there is wonder to be found in the details of it all. We all know that this is a band that seemingly likes to do the unexpected but the more you get into it the more it becomes clear that there are methods to the seeming madness. It may not be how every fan enjoys their Phish but for me it is another layer to peel back on this weird onion we cannot stop following.

 

So let’s get to gettin’, eh?

 

As mentioned in previous posts, this tour was made up of 35 shows over the course of 51 days. I’ve mentioned the vast distance this tour covered in that time with the band, crew, and touring fans covering a ridiculous 13,000 miles. That’s over 250 miles per day which works out to an average of about four hours of driving for each day of this tour. With only one venue seeing a two night stand (MSG) and a few big long hauls in there (KC to Spokane being the biggest single trek) it is a good thing that gas prices were so low in the U S of A at that time (though it should be noted that by the Fall gas prices were up close to 15% over where they were when the year started). But we don’t worry about the mileage we are putting on the VW bus or Subaru wagon or trusty old mom mobile we borrowed that we rely on to make our way around the country when following this band. It is just a part of the bigger thing, ain’t it? There is no set pattern to what nights the band played along the Fall 1996 path or at least a lot less rhyme and reason to it as we see today with the multi-night stands, 3-4 show weekend runs, and regular off days on the typical midweek lesser-attended nights like Mondays and Tuesdays. Sure, Friday and Saturday each got seven shows to tie for the lead but Wednesday of all nights sits alone in second with six. The majority of the shows occurred in November (19) but that’s more a matter of when the tour dates fell since it started midway through October and only went a few days into December. The shows took place in 21 states and one Canadian province with just over half being in the Eastern time zone. As stated above, New York and MSG is the only repeat venue for the tour – a tour that has fifteen venues unique to it.

 

The band played 707 total songs which means you had to travel about 18 miles for every song performed. I’m really going to run that distance traveled thing into the ground here if I keep this up. Those 707 songs included 141 unique tunes with each song averaging almost five performances for the tour and 34 being singular performances. The tour average for songs played was 20.0 each night which falls somewhere in the middle of the averages for that though higher than the full year average for 1996 (18). In terms of most frequently played songs, we kept track as we went so it isn’t much of a surprise to see Taste (19 shows) and Zero (18) way ahead of the pack here as the next highest played is thirteen for CTB, CDT, and Sample. The Top Ten is rounded out by the five song tie up for sixth place at twelve times: Disease, Sparkle, Steep, Swept Away, and YEM. With three songs having been played eleven times (Caspian, Theme, Waste) and a whopping nine having been played ten times (Bouncin’, Free, Julius, Poor Heart, Reba, Simple, Stash, Suzy, Train Song) that gives us 22 songs that were played ten or more times this tour. That obviously skews the averages for frequency.

 

Openers, closers, and encores were a lot tougher to gauge though as only three songs opened more than two shows: CDT (4), Jim (4), and MFMF (3). Similarly, only four songs closed first sets that often: Zero (5), Lope (4), Bowie (3), and Frankenstein (3). Second sets were not much different either as only three songs opened second sets more than twice: 2001 (5), Disease (3), and Wilson (3); second set closers were also quite scattered with only three over the two time threshold: Hood (4), Paug (4), and HMB (3). For encores, removing the cut up Harpua from Vegas that shows up as number one (I know it is a small glitch but it annoys me that the song count is correct on ihoz and .net for songs like this but not for the opener/closer/encore slotting) there are only five songs that fell here more than twice:  Waste (4), Fire (3), Funky Bitch (3), GTBT (3), and Julius (3). In terms of those weird setlist oddities we have a few including I Am Hydrogen (330 total performances), My Sweet One (242), Landlady (210), Oh Kee Pa (214), and DaaM (147) all NOT appearing the whole tour. Of those songs only Dinner and a Movie has been played in less than 10% of all Phish shows and even that one is pretty close at just under 9.5%. The then recently released Billy Breathes tracks make up the entirety of the ‘overplayed’ list as the band was obviously featuring these new tunes and new arrangements of older ones — with the exception of Free (cuz it just gets played a lot), Talk (thankfully), and Bliss (which has still never been performed live). Thirteen songs played on this tour have at least 50% of their total performances here as the Halloween debut of Remain In Light brought Born Under Punches, Houses in Motion, Listening Wind, Seen and Not Seen, The Great Curve, and The Overload for their only appearances and Once in a Lifetime for what was its singular appearance until the not-quite-nailed-but-greatly-appreciated bustout of it on 09.06.2015 as part of the meaningful “THANK YOU” encore. Others in this group include the singular debut covers of I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart and Wildwood Weed in Vegas, Mean Mr. Mustard during the M Set (and as a hilarious intro for the Jon Popper sit-in), and Midnight on the Highway (the Tim O’Brien cover to nod to their fun with the border patrol in canada) as well as the last time they have played All Along The Watchtower and the first time they would play We’re An American Band. Tied to this ‘50%’ stat there were 16 songs debuted this tour including all of the tracks on  Remain in Light, Swept Away, Steep, The Star Spangled Banner, Mean Mr. Mustard, We’re An American Band, Midnight On The Highway, and those two from Vegas.

 

Even with the relative frequency of some of the songs played this tour there were many notable gaps broken as Phish mixed in bustouts of tunes along the way. The covers of All Along the Watchtower at MSG and Sweet Emotion (jam) in Seattle came in at the top with 227 and 237 shows respectively. Other ones over the 110 show gap mark include Axilla (170) and ATR (107) in Champaign, Sparks (173) in Daly City, Peaches (144) in Los Angeles, the Vibe of Life (148) in Kansas City, and Ginseng Sullivan (103) at MSG. Phish also threw in some more ‘minor’ bustouts along the way with the 50+ show group including JJLC (76) on Halloween, Wedge (70) with Perazzo in Tallahassee, Bold as Love (67) for Jimi’s birthday in Seattle, Catapult (57) and Carolina (64) in North Charleston, Demand (64) as one of the few highlights of that Ames show, and La Grange (56) and Kung (55) as part of that wild second set from Omaha. Not a bad tour for the bustouts unless you compare it to, say, Summer 2016 which was just chock full of some massive ones.

 

Lastly, this tour was a good one for those who like to see people sit in with Phish. That is not necessarily something we expect these days particularly considering the band’s openness about wanting to keep it just the four of them. All told there are XXX shows where at least one person joined the band for a song with a total of XXX songs that have guest musicians lending a hand. Those sit-ins include:

10.22.1996  The Freakapaug, Watchtower – circus dancers and Mimi Fishman adding to the visual element with costumes and improv dancing for a wild Paug and then legends Buddy Miles and Merl Saunders come out for a wonderful All Along the Watchtower

10.23.1996 Entire 2nd set plus encore – Bob Gullotti on a 2nd drum kit

10.29.1996 Entire show – Karl Perazzo debuts on percussion for, well, the entire thing

10.31.1996 Entire 2nd and 3rd sets plus encore – Karl Perazzo on percussion, Dave Grippo on saxaphone, Gary Gazaway (El Buho) on trumpet)

11.02.1996 Entire show – Karl Perazzo continues his Phish run on percussion throughout with the exception of the Adeline closer

11.03.1996 Entire show – Karl Perazzo’s run as the fifth member of the band ends with another full show sit-in

11.15.1996 Paug, Funky Bitch – old friend of the band Jon Popper lends some of his trademarked harmonica to the closer and encore

11.18.1996 Back half of 2nd set plus encore – Gary Gazaway (El Buho) comes back for another go on Tweezer, HMB, Reprise, Llama, and the JBG encore

11.30.1996 Two songs in the 1st and the back half of 2nd set plus encore – John McEuen comes out for a couple of bluegrass numbers in the first set (OHP, Uncle Pen), Peter Apfelbaum joins for Timber Ho!>Taste, and Funky Bitch, and then both play on the Amazing Grace (jam) closer and Possum encore

12.06.1996 Encore – In the midst of a Vegas-sized Harpua tale Les Claypool and Larry LaLonde of Primus, the Yodeling Cowgirls, and several Elvii make this encore one for the ages

I’m certain there are more ways to break down this tour statistically but for our purposes that gets about to the root of it all. I know this isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to Phish (let’s just say my wife’s eyes immediately roll into the back of her head when I start in with the stats stuff) but I find it interesting and think that it all helps to paint a better picture of what went down.

 

Next up are our “superlatives” and the list/download of all the final takeaways from this unheralded yet quite fantastic tour. Time to give the calculators and spreadsheets a little rest…