Some Good Parts… – Phish and Great Woods

The Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts opened for the 1986 concert season with great regional access to many of the major population center in this part of New England being approximately 40 miles from Boston, Providence, Worcester, and Cape Cod. Situated between I-495, I-95 and the town of Mansfield the venue has reasonably strong regional access and even with newer venues having been built in the intervening years draws a consistently high level of performing group each summer. At opening the venue held approximately 12,000 people which was expanded to 19,000 in 1994 with further enhancements improving the access and comfort level for patrons. One challenge that still remains (and will forever be a problem at this venue) is the bottleneck parking situation where the majority of fans are parked around the back side of the venue and thus forced to wait out extremely long lines do get to the one main exit from the center. This is not always a bad thing for the Phish crowd who love to hang out and recreate before and after the show but when the band leaves the stage at just after 11pm and you are still waiting to get out at 1:30am it is safe to say there is a bit of a problem. Since debuting here with a single set opening performance for Santana in 1992 the band has played a total of seventeen shows with performances in all three of the main eras of the band’s history.

 

After that Santana single setter every show at Great Woods has been a two set performance as part of that year’s summer tour. 1992 and 1993 were single night stops and then the next five times the band came here was for a two night stand. Oddly, Tuesday holds the high mark for most days played at this venue with seven as the next two highest combined (Friday at 3 and Saturday at 4) total to that amount together. There has never been a Sunday night show (or a Thursday one for that matter) which should not be skipped per the axiom.

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Great Woods Jams.

 

Oh, hi there! Miss me? Well, life moves pretty fast and all that. And then Summer Tour comes and that whole new Phish thing gets in the way of worrying about shows from twenty or more years prior. But we are back! And I have another site update to add! I’m going to add a link to the stream of each show on phish.in for your use if you so choose. Note that this provides a good, quick way to spin each show but in most cases those are auds unless a soundboard copy leaked at some point or it was recorded by patch which would only be relevant in the old shows. Many of the shows reviewed here, particularly the ones since LivePhish was created and the band starting releasing full tours of shows, are available in remastered soundboard glory elsewhere. Join me below the fold…

Continue reading “Some Good Parts… – Phish and Great Woods”

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!

Continue reading “Meet At The Tree! – Phish and Alpine Valley”

Jonesing For Jams – Phish and Jones Beach

Jones Beach Theater is located on the shores of Long Island Sound in Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, NY. This outdoor amphitheater is one of two “large” outdoor venues in the Greater New York City area with the Garden State Arts Center being the other one, located on the opposite side of the city. With a capacity of approximately 15,000 people this venue attracts a wide variety of performers and has been a mainstay of the summer season since opening in 1952. There have been several updates and additions to the venue over the years including a smaller “theater” setting that seats approximately 5,000 people but that venue is not one where Phish has performed. In 2012 the venue was inundated with water from the storm surge related to Hurricane Sandy resulting in a $20M project to repair the theater in advance of the 2013 season. Phish has played here in two of the three main eras of their career with the majority of the performances occurring since The Return in 2009.

The fourteen shows Phish has played at Jones Beach have all been in the summer months with the first two in 1992 being single set performances on other tours (i.e. not as part of a Phish Summer Tour). The initial performance took place as headliner for the H.O.R.D.E. tour while the second was a set opening for Santana later that same month. All subsequent performances have been Phish-only two set shows with single night visits in 1993, 1994, and 2013 and multi-night stands in 1995, 2009 (3 nights), 2010, and 2012. While Friday is the most common day for Phish to play here with five such shows all other days of the week except for Monday and Saturday have witnessed Phish on this stage. Coincidentally, the first and last performances here both occurred on July 12th.

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Jones Beach Jams. Not the biggest list but there are some doozies in there.

Continue reading “Jonesing For Jams – Phish and Jones Beach”

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…

Continue reading “Children of the Cornfields – Phish and Deer Creek”

Feeeeel The Heat – Phish and American Airlines Arena

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming!

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

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

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

Continue reading “Feeeeel The Heat – Phish and American Airlines Arena”

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!

 

It All Runs Together – Phish and Merriweather Post Pavilion

The 1960s were a time of developing and acting on big ideas in many ways. For some it was opening up to self expression and not simply following the path of others before them resulting in the massive social, cultural, political, and artistic shifts that typify the era. Without diving into some kind of essay about wow, the 60’s, maaaaaan let’s just agree that a lot happened back then. One thing to occur was the creation of the planned community of Columbia, MD by the Rouse brothers, notable real estate developers whose big idea included the design and construction of a familiar venue to Phish and music fans in general, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Seated in the midst of the 40-acre Symphony Woods on land once part of a slave plantation and named after heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post, the venue was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, probably better known for buildings like The Guggenheim, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dancing House, and many other visually memorable and aesthetically striking structures. Originally meant to be the summer home for the National Symphony Orchestra once that organization went bankrupt the booking net widened to include political rallies and even that godforsaken rock and roll music. There have been a couple of bans on “rock music acts” here over the years due to some gate crashing and whatnot but here almost 50 years since its opening (you have to think they have some fun stuff planned to celebrate that next year) it has become one of the more frequent tour stops for Phish particularly in 3.0.

 

The band has played Merriweather Post Pavilion fifteen times starting with a single setter in the summer of 1992 and extending all the way up through a two night stand in 2015. As hinted at above 11 of those 15 have come since The Return in 2009 including two night stands for each of the last five times they have visited.

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Merriweather Post Pavilion Jams. Note that there are a couple of jams from other Columbias sprinkled in there (SC, MO). Don’t let that confuse you. It is just how the filters work on PJJ. Plus you get that ridic Funky Bitch jam from 11.22.1994 so no complaining!

 

07.17.1992  Sometimes it is better that there are no tapes of a show. For this first appearance by Phish at MPP that is the case as the band battled through sound issues and an overall lackluster performance in their first set opening for Santana after leaving the H.O.R.D.E tour behind. The reviews you can find of this one range from bad to worse with the one in the Companion by Timer being pretty eye-rolling in many ways. Hey, I was at this show too and while it wasn’t the best set of Phish I caught even that year you don’t see me hassling the drummer about whether this meant they had sold out. MOVING ON…

08.08.1998  The first full show of Phish waited another six years for whatever reason but they came back with fire (perhaps to atone? probably not but fun to speculate for them). The fun starts in earnest with the third song Sneakin’ Sally which gets a big funky outro jam that ends up in Guyute. Following a subdued Fikus, Farmhouse pairing they ramp it up for Possum and then debut a song that would later show up as part of that year’s Halloween costume, the Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane. This has always been a favorite song of mine so to hear Phish play it (with some added gusto by Trey in his solo) was just amazing at the time. The second set starts out with one of two ever Cavern openers (notably, there are only 13 total set opening Caverns – 10 1sts, 2 2nds, 1 3rd) which came after one of only five Wedge show openers ever (of nine set opening versions ever – 5 1sts, 4 2nds). That’s actually probably the least exciting part of this set though. The 2001 that follows is a clinic in ’98 Phish funk and big Trey leads with some fantastic stuff by Mike for good measure in the back half. They pause the dance party for a nice Tela and then drive into a patient, grooving Piper that stretches out in a wonderful way before we get Fish Fun Time for one of the four performances of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing that all fell in that year. The set concludes with one of those soaring 98 Hoods which gets a bit of extension in the jam before they debut a seemingly out of left field cover of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage to the crazed delight of the fans in attendance. This is a triumphant return to the venue for the band with jams all over and the band at a peak. It is definitely a keeper.

07.09.1999  The following summer Phish returned again for a single show, opening up with an on point but contained LxL before kind of sleep walking through the majority of the first set that came after. It isn’t a bad set but there’s not much there there until you get to the set closing Jim which chugs through a rocking type I jam and gives hope for the second set yet to come. Coming out with what seems like a bit more purpose they rock through PYITE (with one of those good ol’ Super bad teases) before dropping into a gooey Free>WTU? that is oh so 1999 in the playing. After a Sofi-aided Meatstick (it was the summer of that dance craze which swept the nation, after all) the band starts into Mike’s Song. From the start you can tell they intend to stay in this Mike’s space for a bit and the resulting jam has the feel of an old school T&R jam as it slowly builds as they groove through several minutes of engaging music. As the release forms Trey is hinting at something… ah! there it is! Sweet Emotion quotes come in and the band peaks out the song and moves into Twist for the only time that combo has ever occurred. They don’t go far out like in the preceding Mike’s but Page manages a Spooky tease in there and then we get a fun Paug that nods to the impending solicitation by the band to help break the record for coordinated dancing by quoting Macarena. There is also a Meatstick tease in the encore Hood which while not as big as the one from the previous year is a solid capper to a good Summer ’99 show all the same.

09.17.2000  A couple of weeks before those final 1.0 shows at Shoreline we just covered Phish was back at MPP for their fourth show – and last until after The Return. If your younger phriends ever ask you what the heck The Millennial Sound was this show would be a good one to offer up as an example. First up is the ultra rare Guyute opener (one of four ever) to get the fist pumping and rocking out going. Later there is an underrated Gin (2000 was a good year for the song so in comparison to others around it maybe not the best but definitely a fun one), a bunch of mainly standard for the time takes on songs, and the second version of The Curtain (With) that tour following its ginormous gap stretching back to 1988. The second set on this night is all killer no filler stuff from the Rock and Roll opener through the Free closer including a unique take on Theme that segues into the 40 show bustout of Dog Log and a Mango Song that stretches into deep groove jam full of effects before ending up in that aforementioned Free. There are definitely more complete shows from that time period but the entirety of the second set is worth your time.

08.15.2009  Upon returning to MPP during the first summer tour back in action Phish opened up with a direct nod to the challenges the fanbase has had at this venue over the years by playing the first 3.0 version of the Undermind tune Crowd Control. The constant presence of police helicopters over the lots here and the seemingly militaristic control the security sometimes implements have made for some baaaaad experiences for many a fan over the years. Part of that could be a residual from the venue’s past with regards to rock bands here or it could be a Phish thing but either way it brought out the quirky almost-feels-like-a-protest-anthem ditty for us. The rest of the set is a song-based affair with thirteen played but it is notable that several of these were first timers for 3.0 including that opener, Sloth (57 show gap), Axilla (30 shows), and Ha Ha Ha (69 shows). And that Fish-penned tune preceded the debut of another, the now fairly loved Party Time.  The second set is a bit underwhelming (the Tweezer goes nowhere) but there is a standout 46 Days that even listening back sounds like it could be plucked from a show a little more recent than the rusty days of that tour. You probably won’t go spinning this one in full so grab the 46 Days and let’s move on.

06.26.2010  The next summer would be the first two night run at MPP which has been the case for every visit since. Again, we get that Crowd Control opener (not played between the two shows) and a largely meh first set that is mainly notable for the debut and one time cover of the Neutral Milk Hotel song In An Aeroplane Over The Sea. This was during that tour when every show (almost) had a one off cover by the band kind of like Summer ’98 where that was a thing too. The Phish version is nice enough but never stuck around after this night. Our second set starts off with a strong RnR which was an oft used vehicle in that time period, often alternating 2nd set opening slots with Disease. Later on a promising Tweezer got Horse’d (another trend that was a “thing” that summer) and then the set drifted off into a string of closers lumped together. This too is a show where you’ll pluck the RnR and maybe the Tweezer out before going elsewhere.

06.27.2010  On night two Phish was perhaps a bit more relaxed as they come out with a fun bustout of the instrument-switching, self-referential-lyrics-having Walfredo to open the night. Mainly a relic of the Europe ’97 February run, this was the first since the final run of 1.0 some 131 shows prior. There’s a nod to the venue in the early stanzas as they recollect the namesake of the song, Santana percussionist Walfredo Reyes, Jr., eating crab backstage at that first performance here in 1992 but other than that is is just another quirky rarity people like to pine for more than anything. Another bustout is next with Bob Marley’s Mellow Mood popping in for the first time in 89 shows before the set settles into another bunch of songs that don’t raise any eyebrows due to rarity or unique playing. The second set is one that was talked about quite a lot in the wake of this night as from the end of the Meatstick->Saw It Again combo the band got mighty playful, slipping in several teases amongst a seguefest type of run of songs. Piper has some Saw It Again in it and then Ghost gets more (and a San Ho Zay quote for good measure) before evolving into a had to have been planned debut of the Stones’ classic Jumpin’ Jack Flash which then morphed back to Saw It Again. The ensuing Contact has more Saw It Again and then the set closing YEM goes for broke with Saw It Again, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Meatstick, Surfin’ Bird and Daniel Saw the Stone teases before one final Saw It Again nod in the encore Fire. These are the type of sets that are so much fun in the moment but sometimes don’t hold up quite so well on tape. Here some of that energy translates but mainly as a fun relic of a loose and fun night with our musical heroes.

06.11.2011  Just about a week short of a year later Phish was back again for another pair here, this time foregoing the Crowd Control opener for that Daniel Saw the Stone which was teased the year prior. That’s a 137 show gap ended for those keeping score at home. Again, the balance of the first set is pretty average though they did flirt with extending Roses Are Free  but that would have to wait for the wonderful excursion in the second show of the tour in Worcester on 06.08.2012. The second set here has thirteen songs which tells you a bit about how deep they didn’t go on anything and that’s in a set that includes a Tweezer (Horse’d again!), Waves (no end jam), RnR, Piper, and 2001. I was at this one and while a fun night definitely not anywhere close to one of my favorite shows even of the ones I attended just that year.

06.12.2011  Fitting the pattern with these two night stands here, the second night has a bit more to offer. First up are a couple of bustouts with one of the best old school openers there is, Buried Alive, coming in after a 46 show gap followed by a 141 show bustout of the VU song Lonesome Cowboy Bill. The rest of the set is pretty predictable as the band runs through a total of twelve songs on their way to the inevitable Zero closer. This is not to say that the band isn’t engaged, just that this is shaping up to be a Saturday Night Special rocker energy show which can be extremely fun when there even if it fell on a Sunday. They just don’t translate as well to tape. That energy is on full display during the C&P in the two slot of the second set where they never leave the song but peak the crap out of it before dripping into the start of Steam. Later Light is just about to start getting out there at the end of its main jam but instead we get The Wedge. Look, let’s put it this way: when the Alaska in this set is the third longest song and longer than Hood you aren’t exactly in jamlandia. The triple encore Sanity>Maki>First Tube feels like a bit of a makeup call when you really think about it considering all that didn’t go down in the second set there. Oh well. They can’t all be heaters…

07.13.2013  After taking 2012 off from MPP Phish returned for Summer 2013 with a first set that while still a tad on the stock side does have a couple of bustouts (Destiny after 61 shows; HttM after 49) and a few jamlets. I like this Taste even with the somewhat whale-y tone from Trey (which carries over into HttM) but the set ending Melt is probably the best highlight from this set. There’s a lot of bent tone dissonance here as Trey rides the back of that whale hard. There is never that feeling of oh-no-this-might-fly-right-off-the-tracks that makes the best Melts what they are but they stick the landing and everyone is safe to fight another day. The second set opening Disease starts off with some solid Trey Trill similar to what you’d hear in a Waves jam before they dive into open waters, Trey bending notes as Page tickles through to a beautifully sparse space. They hang here for a few minutes as each member tries out a new idea or two before Trey strums a few telling chords and we get a real live completed Disease! Those are actually pretty rare these days as the song is typically the launch pad into something else, going unfinished approximately 72.8% of the time (that stat is totally made up but probably not far off these days…). There’s a fun, peaky mid-set Hood here with some subtle teases of BOAF, Dog Log, and Divided along the way and then we get the second ever Architect before a set closing Mike’s>Simple>Paug where the Simple rocks out with melody that almost feels like the Disease return phrasing before the real closer in Paug. Fun show but still in that SNS vein.

07.14.2013  Night two here is a Sunday which brings out the well worn and not necessarily valid chants of “never miss a Sunday show!” from those attending. Hey, it’s said for a reason but there are definitely more than a few examples where this ‘axiom’ does not hold true (I’ll have more on this venue and days of the week in the stats at the end). Thankfully this one is not a big miss. After some table setting in the first set first half the band goes for it in a Stash that is a definite keeper. Yes, there’s the typical T&R here but there is also a section of lovely melodic playing as they build not to mention some chunkier, funkier bits along the path. It is definitely one of the more engaging takes on the song in 3.0. Next up is Mule which goes about as HOLD UP! What is this new toy Fish is playing?? Yep, this is the first ever use of the marimba lumina that we have grown so accustomed to hearing Fish (and Trey) play in 2016. It was quite the novelty in this song that summer. Who knew it would become Trey’s new mini-kit/keyboard rig? This is followed up by a punchy Ice>Tube>Lope end of set sequence as the band plays their most complete first set here since at least the start of 3.0. Golden Age starts off the second set and even if it doesn’t stray far from form there’s a nifty Third Stone From The Sun tease in there. After a jamless Twist and a WYSIWYG BDT#L they head into Light for the expected highlight vehicle of the set. Those expectations are met as this jam goes type II in a hurry with the band connecting on several mind meld ideas including a bit of hey hole type throwback playing and even a stop/start bit that avoids the full blown woo flu. This is a nonstop version that’ll get you up and moving. Mike comes in with the laser tone as they head into Boogie and then keep it rocking for Julius but the set closing YEM is more of what you want as there’s a decent if un-peaked jam and more tease fun with a quote of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (long time contender for one of the best songs with an annoyingly long name). This show holds the second night MPP being better rule as true once more with some very good jam highlights taboot.

07.26.2014  And now for the pair from 2014 where the infusion of the Wingsuit/Fuego tunes is seenas six of the ten songs from the album showing up in these two shows. The first night has a standard 3.0 first set with the one highlight being a lovely Roggae where Trey and Mike both interject thoughtful guitar lines. The second set cranks in with a raging Carini that only gets to the major peak in the final minutes which is really just a set up for the transition to Ghost. This Ghost starts out patiently and then Trey shifts into a lead mode, first playing a repeated phrase of chords that feel like they should be a tease but once you put that thought out of your head you realize it is just a happy times feel good music. Instead of peaking it out Trey shifts into another phase and the band follows into a face paced groove section full of Trey effects and Page synth lines until they drop out into Steam. The set continues without a lag as they pass through Mango, Monica, Light (with a couple of all too brief moments of full band connection), and 2001 on their way to a soaring Hood that caps the set. In a tour that was pretty uneven between the extremely high bar set at Randall’s Island and some of the lows elsewhere this set holds up as a beacon of what that tour could be when the band was comfortable and communicating.

07.27.2014  With another Sunday show to be played at MPP you have to start thinking about whether the axiom will hold considering this venue has a bit of an up and down history with Sunday shows. What they gave us though is one of those shows that transcends the day of the week to become one of the ones people talk of fondly years afterwards. You aren’t going to find any singular jam highlights in this one though the first set does have solid if not epic versions of Sand and YEM. The second starts off innocently enough with Wilson (as if anything related to that foul despot could be innocent) before they blast into Tweezer, eliciting cheers from the crowd about what could be. But when they hit the jam section Trey strums a few chords and Fish changes the beat and we are off into BOTT?! After a verse they drop back into Tweezer for a few bars then back to BOTT THEN back to Tweezer where the jam pays off, complete with some Manteca by Page and then they drop into one of those newer tunes, Waiting All Night. After a verse or two of Free the band comes back to Tweezer, then off to Simple (with a Magilla tease in there), then back to Tweezer, then into the start of Free. A quick verse or so of that and then we get our first big bustout with Catapult (206 show gap) which heads into a nice Slave. This segues into Disease which while not as long as most versions these days does get to a synth-heavy space in the end as they work towards the full segue to NICU. There’s a teeny tiny end jamlet here that is perhaps not as memorable as the one from 12.14.1995 and really is more bridge to the HYHU that follows but keeps the seguefest going all the same. So guess what that means! Yup, Fish Fun Time and I wonder what he’ll ‘sing’ tonight… oh, hang on a sec. Is this? What the… hey, they are playing the divisive Jennifer Dances! With Fish singing this goes about as well as one would expect and is a perfect Phish troll of those who were pining for the song to come back into play (this was only the fourth ever version and following a 352 show gap). Then after the HYHU to close Fish Fun Time (with a vocal quote of Jenny D by Fish) they start up another rarity with I Been Around, the B-side Page tune (it’s on the Party Time album of seconds from the Joy sessions) which had only been played three times before and not for 149 shows prior to this second set closing version, complete with the band walking off stage in lockstep together. The Boogie>Reprise encore is a nice capper on a wild and fun set. This is pretty much the definition of a seguefest and a great example of the benefits of adhering to the Sunday Axiom.

08.15.2015  In the end of Summer Tour run-up to the wonderful MagnaBall festival Phish played another Sat/Sun pair here, coming in hot off the run of shows leading up to this one. The Simple opener again gets a Magilla tease in a first set full of fun what with the bustouts (Glide and McGrupp both at 53 shows not to mention another three with 24 show gaps: Buried Alive, BBFCFM and YPC) and a fun acronym sandwich for BBFCFM>YPC>BBFCFM not to mention the obscure Gaktoidler reference in Lope (that’s from the 1996 Phishbill). The band is loose and having a good time which is always nice to see, particularly when you are looking forward to the second set to come. After a Halley’s opener they get right to business with a multi-phased 46 Days jam that goes from dark and menacing to light and bright before ending up in the power ballad Bug. This peaks well and then they hit Steam which gets WTU? in the middle which is always a welcome thing though here it replaces any real jam from Steam. The segues keep coming as they go into Piper, taking the song down into a low groove before bringing it up to a big peak and then heading into Tweezer. Hopes are high for this one in this late set slot but instead the band creates another sandwich (must’ve been Page’s turn to write the setlist) by going into NO2 after a 202 show gap (and for only the then sixth time ever). Okay, there’s a crunchy groove with loops getting there but still, there’s no big Tweezer jam here (but we were well rewarded a few days later so…). After a big WOTC closer we get more fun Phish as they talk up Page’s “all time favorite song” Sleeping Monkey which also gets quoted in the expected Reprise to follow. It can be argued that this is a more memorable show than the seguefest a year prior since there is some real live engaging jamming going on above the moves between songs but both definitely have a you-kinda-had-to-be-there vibe that doesn’t fully translate on tape. No matter what this was a grand way to start their weekend at MPP in 2015.

08.16.2015  The next night the band kept the fun going, first teasing that Sleeping Monkey before the show and then eventually quoting it in the YEM VJ at the end of the second set. In between there are a couple of bustouts that are not as big as the ones from the night before or night 2 in 2014 but still worth mentioning (Nothing – 139 shows; Shine A Light – 91 shows) as well as a few solid jams and an overall well played if not otherwordly show. NMINML gets that mutron funk workout, Stash is another solid T&R build version though well below the one from the year prior, and Bowie actually gets more than the standard take we have become accustomed to in 3.0 just to mention the first set bangers. The second frame is a tad song heavy in a way as eight songs that could almost all vie for vehicle status (save Shine A Light) compete for minutes resulting in none of them every really taking off. Sure, there’s nice bits in the Disease as Trey plays a thematic riff that popped into several jams that summer and Light has potential with the echo’d out jam but just as that is getting interesting they move into an unjammed Twist. Oh, and there’s a nice wobbly echo’d Sally before that YEM (which has a nice jam too) so check that one out. But these jamlets don’t elevate this show above what it is. This is a SNS on a Sunday, unfortunately. It’s tough when your older brother is better than you but so it goes.

 

Time now for the Tale Of The Tape!

Venue:  Merriweather Post Pavilion

No. of Shows:  fifteen

Intangibles:  good fanbase reach being situated in Mid-Atlantic has made it a consistent two night tour stop (in 3.0), woodsy setting and grass lots make for a fun day pre-show, big crazy lawn can be a ton of fun though you’ll want the pav for better sound and sightlines, you get to see helicopters?

Recurring Themes:  two night stands (five such in 3.0); weekend shows as Phish has only ever played here Friday (2 times), Saturday (7 times), and Sunday (6 times – which is a lot comparatively); band likes to play Hood (6 total) here not to mention BDT#L, Free, Stash, Tweezer, and Reprise all which have five appearances; Crowd Control openers (2), SEGUEFESTS!!

Key Jams/Songs:  1992 – no tapes!; 1998 – Sally, Sweet Jane (debut), 2001, Piper, Hood, Sabotage (debut); 1999 – Jim, Free>WTU?, Mike’s->Twist>Paug; 2000 – Gin, Curtain (With), RnR>Theme->Dog Log>Mango; 2009 – Tweezer, 46 Days, Party Time (debut); 2010 – IAAOTS (debut), RnR, Tweezer, Saw It Again seguefest set; 2011 – yeah, so… I got nothing here… maybe the Tweezer, RnR, Piper, C&P, and Light? that’s what PJJ has…; 2013 – Melt, Disease, Hood, Simple, Stash, Mule, Ice, Golden Age, Light; 2014 – Roggae, Carini->Ghost, Hood, Tweezer seguefest set; 2015 – Roggae, 46 Days, Steam>WTU?>Steam, Piper, Tweezer->NO2->Tweezer, Monkey->Reprise fun; Stash Bowie, Disease, Sally

PJJ Ratio:  MPP comes in at a solid 3.00 JPS rating (the average for all venues under consideration in this project is 2.48). Not the best but a better than average showing for this venue.

Merriweather has some 1.0 history including some of the best jams that have been produced here but it is really the 3.0 shows that have given it its reputation. There are frequently Sunday shows here which fans love and outside of a few underwhelming sets the crowd and band connect well in this place. Throw on a couple of “legendary” seguefest sets and this venue is one that fans try to hit if they can swing it. The feel here is a bit of the South but more of the Northeast, contributing to a buzzing vibe and energy feedback loop that can make seeing shows here a quite memorable experience. Just don’t linger in the lots lest the copters getcha!