The House That Bill Built – Phish and Shoreline

In the mid 1980s Bill Graham worked with the city of Mountain View, CA to develop a new outdoor venue to serve the Bay Area live music fanbase. Located in the aptly named Shoreline Park, what resulted is now known as Shoreline Amphitheater, a (now) LiveNation venue that has become a common venue for various artists to visit when coming to this area. With an overall capacity of 22,500 and its large, sprawling lawn area the venue works quite well for Phish as they are able to routinely (almost if not fully) fill it up with eager fans. Add in the subtle architectural design nod to the Dead’s classic Steal Your face logo and you have a venue seemingly built with fans like us in mind. Don’t believe me? Check out this image, brah.

shorelinestealie

I know, right? RIGHT?!?

Phish’s history with this venue stretches back to a time when they were not a big enough draw to play here, instead acting as opener for Santana at their first appearance in the Summer of 1992. Eventually, as the fanbase continued to expand Phish could sell out this place for more than one night which resulted in the relatively high number of shows we can now enjoy from Shoreline. And while the band has played other places in the area over the years they tend to come back here every few years or so which will hopefully continue for many years to come.

Phish has played a total of fourteen times at Shoreline Amphitheatre with a span between the first and last covering some 23 years, a feat that is not matched by very many venues we will look at in this project – if any others at all.

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for The Shoreline Jams.

08.29.1992 The first time Phish graced the stage at Shoreline they did so as opener for Santana. As such they only had time to play a five song set but managed to show off the brand of high energy speed jazz they were just starting to develop at the time in that 45 minute slot. It is a good example of how tight they were as a band back then, not yet into wide open explorations but instead focused on destroying minds nightly with intricate compositions and positively shredded takes on songs like Maze. That Maze and the YEM with its nod to Santana in an Oye Como Va tease (not to mention an Under Pressure ‘tease’ in the VJ) are the highlights from this brief bit of Phish. The band also sat in with Santana on this night but if there are tapes of it I have yet to find them.

09.30.1995  On their second visit Phish played here for the fourth show of the Fall 1995 Tour that would become legendary over the course of fifty-four performances. These days we are lucky if they play that many shows each year (spoiler alert! they haven’t played even 52 shows in a year since 2000 and never more than 50 in all of 3.0) let alone over the course of 81 days. Between the time they played a single set here in 1992 and this show a LOT had changed in Phishlandia but the root of it all was still founded on the music. The first set is highlighted by the explanation of the Band/Crowd Chess Match (with the music of White Rabbit as background), a fast paced run through Reba, and a typically out there Antelope along with a bunch of set list standards including the first I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome of the year (acoustic of course). The second set starts with a punchy Jim and one of the few performances of Fog That Surrounds, the reworked version of the song Taste which would eventually be turned into the final Taste we know today once they hit the studio for the Billy Breathes sessions. There aren’t any big jams in this set but the Mike’s hits some wonderful dark space before dissolving into Keyboard Army which was thought to have been a relic of Fall 1995 until it was busted out as part of the THANK YOU encore at Dick’s last year. This is a nice change to the normal Mike’s Groove middle part and one I wouldn’t mind hearing them tackle again. Speaking of songs I wouldn’t mind hearing again, after a raucous Weekapaug we get Fish Fun Time for the debut of Suspicious Minds and the lighted cape that went along with it. This is a decent show that’ll clue you in on a bit of what 1995 was but it lacks the big open jams that started to typify the best from that year so stick to the highlights unless you are a completist.

07.31.1997 Summer 1997 covered a lot of mileage even if you don’t count the European leg though why you would do that to yourself I just don’t know. The US portion of the tour started in Virginia and was out here in only a week before again working east towards our first time in Limestone, ME less than a month later. By the time they played this eighth show of the US leg the cowfunk was evident all over the place from the Ghost opener on through the end of show. The patient pocket of the Ghost gives way to a big time rock peak and then segues to a real live jammed Ya Mar (okay, it isn’t quite the IT version or even the Gorge ’98 one but still…). After DST the band works out a blistering LxL and then following a nice Dirt>Maze combo they bustout Glide after 50 shows on the bench. Coming back to the newer numbers they rip through Saw It Again and then cap the set with a big time YEM that has a mesmerizing full band jam that supersedes any need for the D&B section before they head to VJ land and end the set. The second starts out with a random Lynyrd Skynyrd tease (Sweet Home Alabama) before the band starts up a wonderful Jim that chugs along for over 23 minutes. In there you get some straight forward Jim jammery, a quiet blissful section, some power rocking groove, and a prolonged set up to the full segue into Circus. Following solid takes on Vultures and McGrupp they rock out Mike’s Song, pushing the first jam into some rocking funk territory and then bringing it down to a quieter space, eventually ramping back up towards a bit of a forced transition to H2. The ensuing Paug jam covers a lot of ground even with a funk section that feels a bit forced though the end peak is a good payoff for this set. Right before the end peak (with CYHMK phrasing) Trey gives some thanks and nods to Jerry Garcia’s birthday coming up the next day. Then there’s the Cinnamon Girl encore which would be the last time that they have played the song to date, unfortunately. This is a show that probably gets overshadowed by others on that tour so if you, like me, were not as aware of it as others I would recommend you remedy that by spinning it forthwith.

07.19.1998  The next year saw the band play another single show for the summer tour though not the only show here that year as we will discuss in a bit. This one starts out with a funky Moma, a bluegrass slot Beauty of My Dreams cover, effing Sample, and Guyute before the real fireworks start. If Phish still (routinely) played first set Ghosts like the one in this show the world would be a better place full of understanding and compa… okay, maybe not quite that. But this is a damn good Ghost so go spin it. This (and arguably the preceding Guyute) kicks off an end of set sequence that really elevates with LxL peaking then dropping unfinished into Roggae, setting up the second straight first set closing YEM for this venue. This one isn’t quite to the heights of the 1997 version but Mike teases Things That Make You Go Hmmm, something he started to do a lot around this time. Trey rides the wah funk as Mike leads the way in a version that is oh so cowfunky. Phish then came out for the second set by playing a shreddy yet wah’d out Llama and following it up with a Wolfman’s that almost gets to Manteca space. After a quick run through Piper Trey blasts into Tweezer which quickly drops into a sparse funk jam that feels so comfortable and inviting that when they shift into JJLC it would be quite jarring were it not for the laid back feel of that transition. After the blues break we get McGrupp, another song carried over from the last time they played here. The difference tonight is that this one gets a ’98 style jam complete with ambient outro. It starts with Page seeming to go down the Coil end solo route until bringing in the rhythm and melody of McGrupp which the band adds to in coming to the normal end for McGrupp but then instead of going into something new they stay in the idyllic space of this Trey-led section, hinting at McGrupp along the way before putting together a nice segue into the set closing shredder of a Disease before the Possum>Reprise encore. Take this show and the one from the previous year as a pair and you are shown how much changed with the band’s sound in just one year’s time. You can get a similar understanding of that by spinning the Ventura box set as that covers the two shows adjacent to these ones from Shoreline.

10.17.1998  Three months after their summer tour visit Phish was back at Shoreline for two sets as one of the headliners for that year’s Bridge School Benefit Concert organized as always by Neil and Pegi Young. This was an all acoustic affair  and the last fully acoustic sets by Phish until the amazing day set on 11.01.2009 at Festival 8. Being acoustic the vibe is a lot different than a “regular” set of Phish but still has a lot of the elements that make us come back time and again albeit packaged in a slightly more non-phan ears manner. And hey! There’s some great video of the set for you to enjoy too! They get right to it with a Carolina a cappella opener (64 show bustout) before debuting two new songs in Sleep and Never. Sleep is one fans will know from the Farmhouse album as well as the sporadic times it has graced setlists (current gap is 190 shows…) but Never disappeared almost completely before resurfacing a few times on TAB tour over the years and then getting reworked and released on the 2015 Paper Wheels album (and yes, it was included on Trampled By Lambs and Pecked by the Dove but so were a lot of half-formed things…). After a fun take on Possum they went busting out again with I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome (195 shows) and then the big 338 show bustout of their unique (and beloved!) a cappella version of Free Bird. Driver got its debut next and then after a mournful Wading Neil Young FINALLY came out to help with a beautiful version of Hood that segues into the only Phish performance of Neil’s classic Helpless (with Neil on vocals, of course). The highlight of the set is definitely that Hood>Helpless but the uniqueness of this set’s format is something that elevates it all to a higher level. I don’t see Phish ever doing an MTV Unplugged sort of thing (particularly since that show is gone, right? I have no idea. I haven’t watched MTV in years) but this is perhaps the next best thing.

10.18.1998  For the second night at the Bridge School Benefit Phish came out with a similar structure in mind by opening with the a cappella Hello My Baby. Oh wait, here’s the full set video for you first. Anyway, after HMB they serenaded the crowd with Billy Breathes, run through an oddly compelling stripped down version of Piper (about a third of it is the slow build intro we never get anymore), and then played a breezy version of Roggae. The midset gets three well known covers in the Phish world: Loving Cup, Albuquerque, and Old Home Place. Each of these fills a different space in our musical conscience ranging from the fun romp of Cup to the wistfulness of Neil Young’s lyrical tale in Albuquerque to the pining bluegrass of OHP. Changing gears again we get the unique styling of our tale of the ugly pig Guyute (a world debut on acoustic guitar!) which kind of acts as a closer to the Phish-only portion of this set with Brian and Robert being the low key “encore” (stay with me here…) before the guests come out to help the band close the night’s proceedings. First out is Canadian musician Sarah McLachlan who you younger fans may know as much for her tear jerking SPCA tv spots as for her music considering she has faded a bit from the mainstream pop scene though I’d recommend checking out her stuff. She joins on guitar and vocals for the Cat Stevens tune Sad Lisa which was on his highly lauded Tea For The Tillerman album. Neil and Kevin Hearns from the Barenaked Ladies then join in (that’s three Canadian musicians up there now for those keeping count) for a cover of Ian and Sylvia’s folk ballad Four Strong Winds before they all close with a stirring rendition of Bob Dylan and The Band’s I Shall Be Released, capping the night with three debuts that have yet to be played by Phish again. All told this is another quality night of music with Phish even if not what we would expect from our jam heroes. It is a nice change of pace and definitely supports a great cause – and along with their Farm Aid appearance about two weeks prior was probably part of why Neil supposedly asked Phish to be his backing band for a tour, something which obviously never happened but could have been quite amazing indeed.

09.16.1999  The early part of the Fall 1999 tour brought Phish back to Shoreline for a pair of shows. Quite frankly, looking at this first one in comparison to some of the shows that surround it on this tour it is a bit surprising as even with pattern of some odd setlist choices and sometimes shaky play on composed tunes Fall ’99 first sets were typically good for at least one big jam or two. This set lacks any of that really as the focus is on songs with a surprising fourteen played this night. Even more surprising than that though was the massive bustout that came about midway through the set with first performance of Little Feat’s take on Allen Toussaint’s On Your Way Down in 1,006 shows. This song reminds me of old tinny bar room show tapes with Page on the electric piano and Trey shredding the solo while patrons clink glasses and shout their conversations in the background and some of that is here but their performance has more emotion behind it after over ten years gone by. It seems to fit the band better than it did when they were young and still on the way up, you know? The change in the band over time is also quite evident with the set closing Lope which instead of being the frenzied psychedelic shredder of their youth becomes a mellow groove template showcasing the emerging Millennial Sound. That feel permeates the second set from the gooey 2001 opener (not quite the biggest or best from that year, but it gives a good taste of what ’99 2001s were all about) and carries over into the Mike’s Song that follows. There is no shift to second jam in this one as Trey solos above the menacing music the rest of the band pushes the song forward and then they transition to one of the more spacy H2’s you might ever hear. The ensuing Paug starts out white hot with Trey in attack mode before they settle into another murky groove, toying around the Paug theme for several minutes as Trey solos above before they bring it around to the big close. A MitM breather brings us to another solid LxL from this venue and then after the closing Caspian>Julius they came back out for the encore with friend Warren Haynes in tow to help on their cover of Misty Mountain Hop, the second performance of the song that year (of four ever, all in 1999).

09.17.1999  The following night Phish opened up with one of the five ever Phish versions of Trey’s instrumental Mozambique which found a more permanent home on TAB tour after this Fall. I’ve always been a fan of both versions but there is something about the stripped down aspect of the Phish version with Page taking the horn section’s line that really works for me. Too bad it hasn’t come back to the big show. They keep the energy going with Guyute and another slinky first set Ghost before Page croons for Lawn Boy. The rest of the set is fairly standard stuff for the time period including a solid old school double closer pairing of Bowie and Coil. The second starts with a Jim that is good but doesn’t push through to the stratosphere like its older brother from the 1997 show here. A vampy, kind of static second ever Sand is next which dissolves into the slow build intro for Piper. This one starts out with a white hot jam as the band pushes the pace until almost suddenly they drop into a murky space jam full of loops and patient playing. In retrospect it almost feels like they were setting up the impending Roggae with that as the song flows effortlessly out of the wake of the Piper end jam for yet another patient take on the tune. Next up is YEM which has the ’99 vibe flowing big time and then, hang on! Why are there three tramps?!? And is that? IT IS! (Don’t mind the horrible camera work there…) Phil Phreaking Lesh comes out to join the fun, first playing at doing the tramps thing before quickly (and wisely) hopping down and then contributes to an electric jam where Trey is all over but still gives space to the two bass masters as they do bass battle in lieu of the B&D and VJ sections of the song tonight. Phil sticks around for a big bass take on Wolfman’s, one of the songs he played with Trey and Page during those phenomenal Phil and Phriends shows from The Warfield in April of this same year (with recently released full show video of 04.15.1999 and 04.16.1999 AND 04.17.1999 you now have no excuse to be fully up to date on these magical shows even if you didn’t have a good excuse prior). This Wolfman’s is pure ’99 styling with an unresolved jam that peters out into the intro of the classic Cold Rain and Snow that Phil leads on vocals. There’s a bit of the video for that up on the youtubes too but again it isn’t exactly “proshot” stuff. The jam here is fairly linear but gets to some fun peaking and no matter what it is Phil Lesh playing with Phish so yeah. Oh and that’s a debut by the way. And just to cap it off they encore with another debut of a Dead tune, Viola Lee Blues, a song that Trey straight up destroyed with Phil in the spring. Here it gets a solid jam complete with a breakdown section in the middle that is more Phish than Dead before coming back to a more traditional close. This is one of the more successful sit-ins you will hear with Phish and we aren’t done with that sort of thing yet…

10.06.2000  If you were around in 1.0, particularly in the latter stages of it, you had to know that by the time we got to 2000 the edges were fraying in a big way such that in the Spring of that year the band announced they would be going on Hiatus after the Fall Tour. This created a lot of stress for the touring set as they would now not have certainty about where they would be spending their summers, falls, new year’s holidays, and other times of the year as Phish saw fit to tour. The shows along that fall Tour in 200 were therefore some of the tougher tickets of that era and in many cases people were going hard considering these might be the last Phish shows they would ever see. With the context of the looming Hiatus it is a tad surprising that this show is as “light” as it is… or perhaps it isn’t that surprising. Since these are the last four sets Phish would be leaving us with it makes sense that the focus is somewhat on playing a wide selection of songs for all to enjoy rather than just going deep with jams or something. The upside is “yay! moar songz!!” but the downside is that it comes off as a bit of a jukebox show. The first set has a decent Stash and hot versions of Maze and Lope but none of those are top notch keeper versions you will be spinning any time soon. The second set is more of the same, with nothing played poorly or out of place but something a bit missing from the typical flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants openness of the band playing without a net (foreshadowing pun intended). The Disease feels like it could stretch but instead dies out into the (admittedly very much appreciated) second to last ever Spock’s Brain (for now! we can dream!) which is then followed by the last Inlaw Josie Wales to date on the Phish stage (the song lived on with TAB and more recently with Trey’s symphonic gigs in 3.0). The one jam highlight in the midst of all the songs played in this set is a loopy, grooving Sand that provides the dance party many came to join which ends with a scorching peak run by Trey but then the set falls back into song mode once more. I’m a sucker for Bold As Love though so I’ll forgive them since they closed with that Jimi classic. Tonight’s encore holds another surprise similar to the one from the year before as Bobby Short Shorts himself trots out to join Phish for the only time ever! It is a bit head scratching that for one of their supposed final two shows (at the time) they bring out a guest but considering it is an OG member of the Grateful Dead I suppose we can forgive it. First up is Bobby leading on the Marty Robbins classic that he has pretty well made his own over the years, El Paso. Listen for Trey’s playful teasing of Antelope as he is getting in tune with Bobby at the start. Next up is an odd choice with the rocking Chalkdust that seems to confound good ol’ Bobby as he just kind of strums along considering the challenge of keeping pace with one of Phish’s more rocking tunes. They extend the middle type I jam a bit with Bobby there but otherwise it is a fairly straight forward take on the tune. Bobby heads up the singing duties on the verses for the final song, West LA Fadeaway, which to me is another interesting choice considering that was a Jerry sung Dead tune but whatever. Trey has some nice soloing here and then we are off into the night. This show is definitely one where the focus is on playing a lot of songs as if to recap their career a bit up to that point so perhaps not one you will spin often but that sand is fun and the Bobby sit-in is unique at the very least.

10.07.2000  The second night and final show of 1.0 (or the main part of Phase 1 maybe? I guess it depends if you ask Trey or the fans…) feels more like a celebration than a funeral and is probably a better overall representation of what a Phish shows is than the one that preceded it. The opening sequence of First Tube>Mike’s>H2>Paug is perhaps not top shelf worthy stuff but a lot of fun nonetheless. The Mike’s in particular is a fiery little beast even if it doesn’t ever get to a second jam or stray from the song itself. There’s a solid Gin in the back half of the set too which is not surprising considering how strong the Gins of that time were. The second set starts with a fairly straight forward Twist and then Trey hops on the keyboard to glitch the intro build for 2001 which gets to a big dance-a-thon space before peaking out and heading into Tweezer. This final Tweezer of the era stays in the dance party vein like the 2001 before it, providing a solid send off for the song. They shift to a repetivie, rocking electro mode in the back half and it feels like it could go on in this vein for quite some time but instead they go to the old slow ending. Oh well. The balance of the set is fine enough with a T&R filled Bowie in the penultimate slot and then the almost too obvious YEM encore gives everyone a last bit of that Phish crack before the house lights come up and the Stones’ This May Be The Last Time plays as the crowd cheers for the crew and tears and hugs are shared by all. It was a very bittersweet time to be a fan as our one certain thing – that Phish would come to your town and lay waste to all the bad vibes and shit that permeated life outside of those venues – was now uncertain. Hiatus sucked, man. Thankfully it was fairly short lived!

07.09.2003  When Phish came back in 2003 (2.0 yo) we got that New Year’s Run that was more after the new year than before, an early tour in February, and then a Summer Tour that ended with the wonderfully out there IT Festival followed by those 20th Anniversary shows and the Miami New Year’s Run. Shoreline got a pair of shows at the front end of that Summer tour and when the band opened with YEM it was a nifty nod back to how they had closed 1.0 here. This one goes unfinished as they segue into a beautiful but short Simple but the pairing from the outset shows the jamming is here in spades. The five song set closes with a big time type II Gin so yeah. If you are a fan of the wide open jamming potential of 2.0 this is one for you. If you aren’t sure, try it on for size. It’s a big’un. There’s more in the second set too with the center piece Piper being the groove animal before a lovely Twist->SaSS combo and the Mike’s Groove to cap the set. The Paug has a fun jam too if you are up for some funky rock out dancing. Shows from this time period may not be everyone’s cup of tea but you really can’t deny that they were playing loose and open here. There’s some of the sloppiness in the composed stuff but that is easily overshadowed by where they take things here.

07.10.2003  The second night oddly opens up with the second (and final ever for Phish) Spices which segues into Waves and that is really only notable as the other appearance for the song a few days earlier went Waves, Spices. Outside of it being an odd opener choice it fits with the vibe of the times and would be a nice song to hear them tackle once again. Waves gives way to our gal Reba and she packs a lot into a short time frame tonight. Towards the end of the set Moma goes mellow funk, eventually seguing to the Lope closer which caps the six song set. The second set is kind of shockingly jam lite as outside of the DEG fun in Divided (it is a really good version) and an odd start to Free there isn’t much depth here. The closer Disease is a straight forward rocker version and 2.0 jam darlings like Seven Below come in on the short, “single length” end of the timing scale. I suppose it just shows you never really know what you might get with Phish. Like maybe that would be the last time you could see the band play here for another six years…

08.05.2009  Which brings us to 3.0 and the first show back here on the West Coast, sandwiched between the four at Red Rocks and the pair at The Gorge which we have already covered. Expectations were pretty high for this one since it had been so long since Phish had graced the region with their music but seeing how this was still the band ramping back up after so long away it isn’t really a surprise that the show is pretty stock in the grand scheme of things. The first set is anchored by Divided and TTE and gets a rote Bowie closer so nothing special there. They find some space in stretching out Disease, providing the one jam highlight for the night and then later bustout Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ for the first time since its Halloween debut way back on 10.31.1998 (225 show gap) but the Cities->Maze never elevates and the ending Mike’s Groove is straight up average stuff. Call it a factor of the time period or whatever but this show isn’t a real keeper outside of that Disease.

07.24.2015  But wait! Don’t discount the 3.0 performances here out of hand just yet! Just last year, in the beginning stages of what would become a quite memorable tour where the band found some amazing space – and a few new jam tricks and templates – en route to a show that feels like a throwback in its freshness. Okay, sure, fine, opening with The Line isn’t what I mean here but after that the show starts to move in a decidedly upward direction such that by the time we get to the Reba everyone is nodding along and saying “yeah!” a lot and figuring out that just maybe this band knows what they are doing after all. But even with that and the crunchy 46 Days closer one could have been excused for not being fully prepared for the set to come. Starting with the second ever Blaze On the band takes it out for a space walk, stretching beyond the confines of the bouncy tune on their way to a segue into Twist. After some inbounds jamming there they head for the stratosphere, peaking it with a soul cleansing bliss run before coming back down to segue into a captivating Light. Three songs in here we are in rare territory in 3.0 what with everything getting the treatment from the band. There is a breather for Joy next and then they take Hood out for a soaring version before the end set Cavern and obligatory Zero encore. There is a lot going on here in this set as they are just starting to unpack a new sound that overtook this tour in the wake of Trey’s time working with those Dead dudes for the Fare Thee Well shows earlier that summer. The impact is striking, quite frankly. Here we get the new(er) echoplex and mutron influenced stylings by Trey to complement the strong play of Page and Mike and the steady beat of Fish. This set holds up quite well to what was to come later that year (not to mention those that came before at this venue…) while still only being an inkling of where they would take us. It is definitely in the conversation of best shows at this storied venue.

And now, the tale of the tape for this classic tour stop…

Venue:  Shoreline Amphitheater

No. of Shows:  fourteen

Intangibles:  like-minded inspiration and design fits with the Phish scene, all but annual tour stop through the band’s peak years, well located venue serves the greater Bay Area region well, while always a hot ticket this is a venue where you are likely to get shut out due to its size, West Coast vibe permeates.

Recurring Themes:  Mike’s Groove and YEM are most common with six each in nine separate years here. Every show here has had a unique opening song. Ten songs have been debuted and only ever played here (for that one appearance). Overall, thirteen songs have been debuted at this venue. Sit-ins are more common than most venues with three including both shows in 1999 and the first night of 2000.

Key Jams/Songs:  1992 – Maze, YEM; 1995 – Lope, Mike’s>Keyboard Army>Paug; 1997 – Ghost>Ya Mar, LxL, Maze, YEM, Jim, Mike’s, Melt; 1998 – Ghost, LxL, YEM, Llama, Tweezer, McGrupp, Hood>Helpless, Free Bird, Guyute, I Shall Be Released; 1999 – OYWD, Lope, 2001>Mike’s>H2>Paug, Misty Mountain Hop, Ghost, Jim, Sand, Piper, YEM, Wolfman’s>CR&S, Viola Lee; 2000 – Sand, El Paso, West LA Fadeaway, Gin, 2001>Tweezer, YEM; 2003 – Simple, Gin, Piper, Twist->SaSS, Paug, Spices->Waves>Reba, Moma, Divided; 2009 – Disease; 2015 – Reba, Blaze One>Twist>Light, Hood

PJJ Ratio:  I am adding a new qualifier for each venue (check back to the Gorge and Red Rocks posts for the updates there) using our friends over at PJJ’s data to show another person’s perspective for takeaway jams from each venue. This ratio takes the number of jams on their site for each venue divided by the total number of shows played to arrive at a jams per show played ratio. Shoreline comes in at a low 1.50 JPS rating (the average for all venues under consideration in this project is 2.48)

While perhaps a classic venue in many senses this venue lacks overall in comparison to other venues, mainly due to subjective factors and qualifications regarding the music played here. That said, this was a consistent stop on tours throughout the band’s rise and main peak until the band opted for other Bay Area locales that we will be covering soon. There are some wonderful highs from this venue and something great to take away from each night played even if it ends up not “winning” the prize here.

Wide Open Views and That Laid Back Sound – Phish and The Gorge

The next venue for us to visit is another outdoor beauty, The Gorge Amphitheatre in George, WA. This is a much larger venue than Red Rocks with a 27,500 person capacity, making it more of a hallowed venue due to location and the band’s reputation to throw down great shows here instead of for it being a difficult ticket to see the band. Situated in the amazing Columbia River Gorge about 130 miles west of Spokane and some 150 miles east of Seattle, The Gorge was originally supposed to be a vineyard before eventually becoming the storied concert venue it is today. Those who have been know that few places can match the grandeur of the overlooking view one gets of the river valley that acts as a natural backdrop to the band playing, a backdrop that included an “open” back to the stage for many years until the venue added a black screen behind the stage to assist in the projection of lights and other visuals. The beauty of the area owes itself to the Missoula Floods which occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, carving the walls of the valley that had been forming for millennia into the form that we mainly see today. It is a place that seems to inspire a unique mode of playing for Phish, a mellow mood of sorts that comes through clearly even on the tapes of shows from here. Being the destination venue that it is the band has always played at least two shows here which also contributes to that relaxed feel as the crowd and band are able to settle into their surroundings and enjoy being away from reality for a bit. In a way, this gives shows here a bit of a festy vibe or at least more of one than your typical two show stand at [insert corporate name here] amphitheater.

It wasn’t until the Summer Tour in 1997 that Phish first played The Gorge but since then they have landed in George eight times with each visit being a pair of shows. Some quick math tells that totals sixteen shows. To date, no member of Phish has played at The Gorge without the rest of the band, unlike most of the venues we find in this project.

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for The Gorge Jams.

08.02.1997  By the time Phish arrived at The Gorge in 1997 they were well into the US portion of the tour and about to make their way back east for the first of the Limestone, ME festivals, The Great Went. From the first notes of this one you can tell they are taking everything in here and playing with the laid back feel that will come to typify shows from this venue. The band opened with a solid Theme From the Bottom in a strong year for the song, hit the Ginseng for the 2nd song bluegrass slot, and then dive into the then new vehicle Ghost. There are others that soar more highly than this one but it has the swagger and groove that any good version should particularly once Trey hits on the Who-Knows-on-speed theme in the back half. After playing another of the new tunes (Dogs Stole Things) they played the first of the sunset Divideds that will become the norm for this venue as the years go by, building a lovely jam out of the reflective moment that is The Pause. The funk returns in a stretched out Wolfman’s (one of those songs that really took off once the funk entered the equation) and then they capped the set with a plodding Melt where Trey repeats a riff for much of the jam before exploding into a flurry of notes in the return to the song’s form. The second set starts off with a bit of a nod to the last time they had been in the region for the Fall 96 show we talked about here previously as they go big in Disease->Tweezer->JBG and almost get to the same type of Diseezer motif with the tease of Disease in the tail end of the Tweezer jam before the move to JBG. The other notable highlight here is the “lights out” Hood encore where Trey asks CK5 to turn off the lights so they can enjoy the “outdoor vibe”. This is a solid show for their first night ever at The Gorge.

08.03.1997  On the second night Phish came out hot from the start, opening with a punchy Gin that drops into an inventive Foam that goes well beyond the norm for the song. Next is the debut and one time performance of Samson Variation before the set turns song-y and towards the bluesy side of things. Twist->JJLC is an interesting combo with the Twist being a bit more rocking blues than normal and the JJLC carrying that vibe forward. They keep this feel going with the swinging Julius second set opener before a short but sweet Simple and a peaky Fluffhead. The singular performance of Lifeboy is next leading to a fantastic, peaked out Taste that really is the highlight of this set before they fill the end run with typical crowd pleasing fare. For a Sunday show this one feels a bit odd in that it is a tad all over the place and somewhat out of the mode that the Summer 97 shows went. It isn’t an off night by any means but it isn’t exactly peak Phish either.

07.16.1998 The next year the band returned but this time at the start of the US portion of the Summer Tour having only played the famed Portland Meadows show on American soil prior to this one. The first set is a pretty mellow affair as Phish goes, starting with a Coil opener (at the time the fourth ever Coil opener – there has been one other since in Telluride on 08.10.2010) to perhaps reference the sunset (do I need to point out the lyrical reference? I’m going with no). A third song Stash is a bit underrated as they do some nice T&R construction but it is the Reba that really sets the tone for the set in earnest. If you didn’t already know where I’m going here, this is a subdued, let’s-all-take-a-look-around type of Reba jam in the “mellow” vein that permeates this venue. Page’s organ fills accent Trey’s wah’d out comping carry us through until they shift into a higher gear with Mike pushing the pace until all fade out except for Fish as they drop into the transition to FEFY. They back that up with Circus which while fitting the vibe makes for a pretty low key back half of the set. They punch up the Antelope closer though and come back after the break with another 2nd set opening Julius to get everyone moving. A swanky Moma follows before a short Piper and Axilla lead to Bowie which is somehow kind of mellow even with its typically frenzied end tension. The band then cranks into a Tube that gets a funky ambient outro jam before giving way to the Slave closer. I’m not sure how to take the Sample encore here but we have another night at the venue so no harm no foul. The vibe in this show is a bit overwhelming in its mellowness, particularly in the first set but the highs are quite good.

07.17.1998  Often when Phish plays more than one night at a venue it can take a set or three to really get into the groove there and this can be compounded further when they are in the early stages of the tour. Well, my friends, this second show in the 1998 run at The Gorge is where they hit their stride bigtime. As a sign of the impending awesome to come the band opened with Makisupa, one of only seven confirmed times the song has opened a show (two of those were mentioned in the Red Rocks post). This is still the last time that they have opened with it. After a short loopy ambient jam they play the fun summertime vibe number Ya Mar, drawing out the end with a breezy jam that begs you to smile. The Gumbo that follows is Manteca funk (which is fairly common with the 98 Gumbos) before Trey finishes it up with a nice bit of soloing. Now it is time for the annual Divided Sky sunset performance and this one is no slouch as after The Pause they go big time. Divided is kind of one of those songs you might not go looking for at a show but always seems to deliver. That might just be my old school way of thinking but I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone talk ill of the song. And if they did about this version I might have to question their motivations… ANYWAY after a breather for Waste>MMGAMOIO they close strong with My Soul. Now, you should probably already know this second set but just in case you don’t please do yourself the favor of cuing that up and cranking it. It only has one of the biggest (and the longest!) 2001s ever, a huge Mike’s Song with a second jam that eventually goes somewhat ambient, replacing the need for a filler tune and punching right into Weekapaug Groove. This one has it all what with the Mike-led funk, full quote of Taste by Trey in the middle, and a powerful end jam that never resolves back to the lyrics but instead slams into the Zero closer. Yup, that’s a four song set, friends. All killer no filler style too. The PYITE>Rocky Top is just gravy in the encore, quite frankly. This is to me the best show the band has played at The Gorge and it is a crime that there has yet to be an official release from it. We should start a petition.

09.10.1999  For their third visit here Phish was again coming in at the early stage of the Fall Tour having just started out on 9.9.99 (numbers are cool!) up in British Columbia. I’m not a huge fan of a Farmhouse opener so I guess it is good that four of the seven times they have done it were in 1999 but that one from this past summer scares me that they might think it is a good idea again. Thankfully it didn’t set the tone for the show though as First Tube cranks in with the “secondary” opener slot. This set is more typical of what we have come to expect from first sets in latter day Phish with a couple of non-jammed vehicles (Twist, Carini), the expected sunset Divided, a bluegrass tune, a head scratcher with the oddly placed WTU?, and then a fun debut closer (Will It Go Round In Circles which unfortunately only got one more performance a couple of weeks later in Tucson on 09.21.1999. The second set opening Disease is one of the contained, shreddy type I versions and then the set gets a bit uneven as they play a standard Moma and a seemingly truncated Piper leading up to a megaphone-less Fee (with outro jam!) that bleeds into the loopy debut of Gotta Jibboo (for Phish, of course. It had already been around for TAB at this point). The evil energy of Saw It Again picks the pace up but then they go into mellow mode for a downright slow Melt. It isn’t bad, it just doesn’t really go anywhere. The same can be said for the Bowie closer which takes almost ten minutes to get through the intro and that is without any teases, SL, or other antics adding to the time. It just has that overly patient let’s-get-ambient-no-matter-what feel and thus never really feels like it can top out. Capping it with a Coil encore doesn’t alter the mood here and we are out into the night kind of wondering what happened there. Truthfully this is more the norm for Fall 99 shows than the outlier but in comparison to some of the other shows we have heard here the difference in “intent” (god, I hate using that word in the context of Phish) is quite clear.

09.11.1999  For the Saturday night show of this 1999 pair Phish came out swinging with Tube>Funky Bitch>LxL to get everyone up and moving. Trey has a brief but melodic lead in the Tube Things see-saw a bit from there with DST and Billy Breathes keeping things grounded sandwiched around PYITE and then leading to the set ending Guyute>Free segment. This Free gets pretty crunchy for a bit, stretching past the “normal” length of the song but don’t be fooled by the timing on most pulls of this one as there is at least a minute of post set crowd noise in there. So maybe not quite the fifth longest version ever that it appears to be. Trey gets that glitchy guitar thing going here that is often found in jams from 1999 which is kind of a love it or hate it thing for some fans. Personally, I love it but I am a big fan of that era so there’s that. As with 1997 this second show gets a bit of the Wolfman’s funk but tonight the second set opening version is also tinged with the developing Millennial Sound as they layer washes of sound on top of the groove. This gives way to loops and those play-every-note-in-one-second fills Trey got so comfortable with in that era as they set up the transition to… the Phish debut of Sand! Now a quite familiar vehicle, prior to this night (and tour) the song had only shown up in TAB shows, primarily that May 1999 Tour. This version is a Trey clinic as Mike lays down the static bassline, Fish rides rhythm alongside and Page toys with accents and effects. Over the course of this 18+ minute version Trey patiently offers up several great ideas, some which stick and others that don’t take (that final Jimi-like lead is freaking great before they return to the main Sand riff). This is up there in the pantheon of great debut versions of songs (e.g. The Amsterdam Carini) but really just scratches the surface of where the song could go once the rest of the band caught up with Trey on it. But that doesn’t take anything away from this highly dance-able interstellar version! A run through Meatstick brings us back to earth a bit and then we get a somehow both shreddy and mellow Maze. Then following a real live actually engaging Prince Caspian and then a peaky, blissful Hood closer (with several false endings) before the Circus encore. This is probably the “better” of the two shows from this stand and the second set in particular holds up quite well for enthusiasts of the era.

07.12.2003  Okay, now we are really getting pretty removed from my writing comfort zone as I believe this marks the first 2.0 show that I will have written about more than simply in passing. Bear with me, folks. Well, the band helps out from the start, playing a soaring Taste opener before dipping into the then new material with Mexican Cousin and running through a fine enough Stash, NICU, and Heavy Things. Then we get the debut of Mock Song (only version they would play until the festy-themed bustout at Magnaball in 2015) and Army of One (previously only played at Vida Blue shows earlier that year) before ripping into a demonic, openly jammed Maze closer. It’s one you will want to hear if you are a Maze fan. Just remember that you will in fact get out of the maze and you should be fine. Second set starts out with a chugging type I Piper that swirls and grooves for about fifteen minutes featuring a lot of that gnarly, uncompressed Trey 2.0 tone before dissolving into the debut of Two Versions of Me which almost got backed up with the 2nd ever Secret Smile if you listen closely to the sbds of this one. Thankfully they chose to instead dive into Tweezer (unless you are a big Secret Smile fan in which case I’ll say go listen to 07.15.2003 if you want those two songs paired, sir). Trey plays the melodic part of Free before it kind of falls apart into a loose, dirty return to Tweezer. It isn’t the prettiest finish to Tweezer ever but you get some of that with 2003 Phish. They ease up for DST and WITS but then it is back to the deep end for a late set Ghost! This is a monster of a Ghost which you should go read about in more depth. Let’s just say this is the type of jam that jam chasers point to when decrying the ripcording and other stuff that sometimes creeps into Phish sets. Oh and let’s just go ahead and back that ridiculous dance party Ghost with a solid Bowie closer, mm’kay? So by the time the Frankenstein>Reprise encore hits you are just laughing at the power this band can wield. This was about a week into that summer’s tour so the band was warmed up and pretty well in form so you get a good snapshot of what they laid down in those shows here. 2003 has some positively other worldly jams intermingled with head scratching song choices, particularly with that set of ballad-y numbers they debuted that summer. You take the good with the rest though…

07.13.2003  For the Sunday night capper to this 2003 pair Phish started out with good old Runaway Jim which gets some extension including a bit of almost-but-not-quite Seven Below jamming. They follow this with the third ever Scents And Subtle Sounds (with intro!), playing it pretty straight at least in comparison to some of the massive ones from later this tour (not to mention the epic soundcheck version from before the next show in Utah). After romping through Axilla and Carini and playing the mini bustout for DFB they play what will be the last version of Round Room until its 140 show bustout during the first set of the wonderful 01.01.2011 show and it gets the 2.0 ambient outro jam treatment too which is a nice (one time) treat. Halley’s Comet is next with some Mike on electric bagpipes action in the end before they run through Guyute (also with some Mike electric bagpipery) and then a rousing run through YEM caps the set. The second set starts off fine enough with a rocking Llama and a funky Wolfman’s that dives into the 60 show bustout of JJLC but it is the Seven Below that follows where this set gets its legs. They go super deep in this one, jumping off into the ether such that by about the twelve minute mark you might have one or four of those “what song is this?” moments. At the start of the deepery Trey throws in a Third Stone from the Sun tease and then they proceed to build back up, eventually ending with a quick run through the main theme of the song. It isn’t the most connected Phish you will ever hear but there is a willingness to take the risk that is greatly appreciated. The show finishes strongly with Hood and Chalkdust before a First Tube encore and then we are left to wait for six years until the band would come back here again.

08.07.2009  When Phish returned after The Long Wait there were varying opinions about whether they would be able to recapture the jam magic that had been their currency with the fans for so many years. Heck, I guess you could say there were those who had been saying such things since like 1994 but whatever on all that. There had been hints of it sprinkled throughout the first leg of the Summer Tour that year but it still felt like they were searching for the connection that made it all work so well. After warming up the second leg of the tour with the four shows at Red Rocks and then playing a one off show at Shoreline (which we will get to…) Phish came back to The Gorge for a pair. Maybe it was something about being back in another familiar place but something seemed to click that weekend and the jams started flowing freely. The show opening Disease was a type I surprise considering they had just played a decent open ended one in the middle of the second set at Shoreline but it set the tone for how the evening would go. A fun midset call-and-response jam in Possum between Trey and Page livened up the crowd and offset the “another possum?” thoughts from those who had been keeping track of such stats. During this set they played the first P&M of 3.0 and then in the penultimate slot for the set the first Sally since that same 08.12.2004 show, taking the Robert Palmer cover to type II depths that this song simply doesn’t typically go. It is a quality jam that holds up so check that one out for sure. The Stash that precedes it also takes a noble leap at going sideways but really just stays in the T&R mode for the most part. The second set has an engaging calypso jam in Light before they nail the segue to Taste and then later on there is a Gin that some still hold as the most creative of 3.0 even though it is pretty well drenched in whale tone. Followed by a lovely Hood closer it is quite nice to hear the band willing to take risks again here at a place where that has definitely been their modus operandi.

08.08.2009  For the second night of this pair Phish started out by dusting off Mango Song for the first time in 3.0 and then after a quick Chalkdust debuted the Mike and Leo Kottke tune Middle of the Road which would be played one more time that summer before getting shelved. The rest of the first set is pretty underwhelming as the midset Tweezer never takes off and only the energy of the set closing Zero>Lope pairing makes any waves. The second set starts out quite strong with a loping RnR jam that hints at some FOTM phrasing before peaking and moving into Makisupa which has its own interest considering Trey and Mike switch instruments to give us a different sort jam (that actually kind of works). The set turns song-y from there as they play a standard YEM surrounded by a bunch of setlist fodder and then rock out the encore with GTBT>Reprise. This is definitely the lesser of the two from the 2009 run but has a great highlight in that RnR->Maki sequence.

08.05.2011 Two year on from the last visit Phish returned for another pair at The Gorge to start out the second leg of the summer tour following the one month break after Superball. The first set is basically a warm up the jukebox grouping of songs but the Taste>Roggae pairing here is a beauty that deserves your time. That set tricks us into complacency though as after the break and a set opening BDT#L the band starts up RnR and takes it out into a completely unique space, dropping into dark waters as Page hops on the theremin (something that was well received in the several times he did it in 2011) and Mike throwing in massive bass bomb brown notes. Many thought it was going into FOTM but instead you will get Meatstick and like it. They keep it flowing with a big time Boogie On out of the Meatstick jam and then kind of fizzle to the end of set with some questionable placements for Farmhouse and SoL. This RnR jam was something of a revelation at the time, another step up in the jamming department for the band as they had seemed to plateau a bit in this touring year. But by the time the summer had ended there were several great jams to look back on including the one here that started the run.

08.06.2011  The next night got a bit of the second show slump thing as the first set is mainly a collection of decent songs played reasonably well. The Wolfman’s Brother hints at more to come with some Heartbreaker teases but other than that there’s not much of note in this set. Then they come out hot with a Chalkdust second set opener that butts up against Tweezer which is where the real heat starts to rise. The jam goes from white hot shreddery to spacecamp soundscape and then out to Caspian and eventually a nice Sand before coming back to Tweezer. After a few other solid numbers like BOAF and Golden Age>Reba they cap the set with a tease-filled Lope closer and then a Suzy>Sanity>Reprise encore. This show is honestly a bit flat compared to most from this venue which is not to say it is bad in any way but that it lacks by comparison to some very big brothers.

07.26.2013  Once more, Phish kept to their play-it-every-two-years mode in 3.0, coming back to The Gorge in July 2013 for another pair of Friday/Saturday shows. This first night kind of feels like a Saturday Night Rock Out what with the high energy opening quad of Bag>Timber Ho, Wolfman’s, Funky Bitch and then following a nice Happy Birthday shoutout to CK5 they drop into the fist-pumper-pleasing Wilson. Trey stops during the blat boom pause to talk about wanting everyone to chant “Wilson” at Seahawks games and sports a fan made Wilson “jersey” which would eventually result in it being discussed in an official NFL film segment. The second set starts out with a far ranging C&P that kicks off a set filled with tons of teases and the fun looseness that comes when this band is relaxed and comfortable with their surroundings. Listen for a quite well played Waves, a Mango with a bit of outro jammery and a ‘moon jammed’ Zero closer where the band gets a bit howl-y once CK5 turns down the lights. It may not be the best show ever here but the energy from it comes through loud and clear on the tapes. Oh yeah, there’s a 156 show bustout of Secret Smile here too if you like that sort of thing.

07.27.2013  The second night in 2013 also has a pretty standard first set though it does get one of the four performances of Architect (as opener no less!) and the debut of the Mike tune Say Something along with an 87 show bustout of After Midnight to close in honor of the passing of its writer and one time opener for Phish, J.J. Cale. The second set starts with a short-ish but underrated Disease that segues into a fun Undermind that saw Fish hit the marimba lumina (before that was really a “thing”). Light also has a nice if abbreviated jam and on the whole you really cannot complain about a setlist like this one where aside from some possible jukebox-ing is all songs with great payoff. This show doesn’t have the big highlights of some of the others from The Gorge but is a solid set particularly for Summer 2013 which is viewed by some as a bit of a dip before they ramped things up again that Fall.

07.15.2016  And now we get to this summer’s entry and the final pair of shows at this venue. After a much discussed and somewhat jam-lite East Coast leg of the tour Phish had a few days off to make it west for this pair of shows. The first night had many wondering what band they would get out west so when they opened with Tweezer (even a contained one) you knew they were saying “ok, let’s get back to business” in a way. Shedding the distractions of the early summer (i.e. finishing work on the new album, Bernie, etc.) they played a solid if unremarkable first set including the debut of the now loved humorous Fish tune Ass Handed and the 155 show bustout of Old Home Place (perhaps a nice nod to being back in this great place after a three year absence?). The second set starts with another solid C&P from this venue (with an interestingly placed Under Pressure tease considering the general tenor of the fanbase at this point) and then a subtle yet powerful WTU?. From there things turn into something of a tease fest as the NMINML has heavy C&P quotes, Stash gets both C&P and WTU? teases, Ghost gets full band instrument switching and C&P and NMINML teases, Chalkdust gets C&P, WTU? and NMINML teases, 2001 gets C&P and NMINML quotes, Cavern gets C&P and WTU? teases, and the encore Wilson has some Makisupa in it. It is a fun, flowing set of the sort that works quite well in person but sometimes doesn’t hold up as well on tape even though in this case I’d say the energy and impact of the music works even after the fact. It was a bit of a beacon for some who though the sky was falling and another sign for others who see this as The End Times but somewhere between those two viewpoints is a third where this was yet another awesome night at The Gorge with Phish.

07.16.2016  The second night in 2016 is definitely a bit of a Saturday Night Special with the focus seeming to be on high energy rockers at the expense of big jams. I always love a Buried Alive opener so that’s nice and then there are solid versions of 555 and Sand before a rousing Gin closer. The second set feels like an extension of the first in that there is a lot of good playing going on but very few attempts to stretch anything too far beyond its normal limit. The BOAF is interesting and Wingsuit peaks well and the Mike’s is a different sort of jam than typical for the song but I’m not really here to laud the descending runs Trey plays in farmhouse, you know? This show lacks anything of a major centerpiece jam which (as always) doesn’t mean that those there didn’t have a great time but that it feels like a step backwards after the inventiveness of the prior evening’s show. Thankfully for us every night with Phish gives us something a little different so I guess we will just have to see what that next one from this wonderful venue provides.

Let’s see the tale of the tape for this venerable tour stop…

Venue:  The Gorge Amphitheatre

No. of Shows:  sixteen

Intangibles:  unique, beautiful venue with amazing views of the natural splendor of the Columbia River Gorge and an open, all-GA atmosphere. band seems to enjoy playing here as shows from the eight separate pairs of shows performed. on site camping and other close by amenities make it a relaxing destination for Phish. something about the vibe here always comes off as laid back and relaxed, showing up in the music performed which tends to include patient takes on the songs.

Recurring Themes:  Divided Sky sunset jams (ok, only three times but they are all great), Wolfman’s Brother (only song played seven out of the eight visits), Hood jams often with the “lights out”

Key Jams/Songs:  1997 – Theme, Ghost, Divided, Wolfman’s, Disease->Tweezer, Hood, Gin, Foam, LxL, Julius, Taste; 1998 – Reba>Fefy>Circus, Julius, Moma, Bowie, Tube, Ya Mar, Gumbo, Divided, 2001, Mike’s>Paug; 1999 – Fee>Jibboo, Melt, Free, Wolfman’s->Sand, Meatstick->Maze, Caspian, Hood; 2003 – Taste, Maze, Piper, Tweezer, Ghost, Round Room, Wolfman’s, Seven Below; 2009 – Sally, Light->Taste, Gin>Hood, RnR->Makisupa; 2011 – Taste>Roggae, RnR->Meatstick->Boogie, Tweezer>Caspian>Sand->Tweezer; 2013 – Wolfman’s, C&P, Waves, Mango, Disease->Undermind>Light->Sally; 2016 – C&P>WTU?>NMINML, Ghost->Chalkdust, 555, Gin, BOAF, Wingsuit, Mike’s

PJJ Ratio:  2.50 (please see the Shoreline post for details on this)

This venue presents a pretty solid case for one with a high number of jams per capita. Phish always seems at home when they play here and each run has something we end up discussing for a while afterwards. For my money you cannot beat that second set on 07.17.1998 but having been here eight different times over several eras Phish at The Gorge offers something for everyone.

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?

Seven Years On…

I think I share the view of most of us when I say that my life would be a lot different if Phish had not gotten back together in March of 2009. I was never comfortable with how it all ended in 2004 (spending the night on that highway and then getting turned away without ever having gotten within 25 miles of the venue didn’t help but I’m not here to dredge up that particular set of feelings or all of the circumstances that caused it to end in that way for me…) so I was left in an odd place having lost one of the things I loved to do most in my life. Now, I didn’t exactly sit around wallowing in misery as at the time I was quite busy with l-i-v-i-n’ but it did leave a hole. Granted, by the time that all happened I had moved on a bit from the singular obsession that was my life with Phish from about 1993 to 1999 as Hiatus showed us all that this wasn’t permanent and was going to end eventually. I guess we all just didn’t expect (i.e. want) it to end the way it had.

 

We all endured The Long Wait in our own ways and that is not what this post is supposed to be about but I will say that for me it was an opportunity to broaden my musical horizons a bit looking both forward to newer forms of music I had then yet to explore while also going back to music that I loved from even before my many years with Phish. Some of us used this time to get serious about careers, family, personal growth, and other endeavors. Some of us used it to get clean. Whatever you did during those four plus years I hope that like me it gave you a more full appreciation for what having Phish in your meant for you.

 

When that announcement video for the comeback dropped on 10.01.2008 it was a something I never expected to happen. I had moved on and expected that the only Phish I would have in my future was already in the past. Here was this band that I had devoted so much time and energy to coming back from the dead and offering the chance for redemption, both for them and the fans. This wasn’t Trey playing a tour in his newly found sobriety (though those Fall 2008 shows were pretty fun…) or two band members being in the same room for a night or something, this was PHISH! And they were coming back! Pretty much immediately I knew that I needed to be there to see the return and to reconnect with the scene I had been a part of for so many years.

 

Luckily for me, my wife is also a fan of Phish. Well, maybe not always lucky due to it complicating the ease of finding tickets or deciding on a whim to drive five hours to catch a single show but at least she gets it. Being a few years younger than me her start with the band was a bit later than mine (my first couple of shows were as a teen in 1990, hers were also as a teen but in 1995) and we never knew each other in either of our prime show going days but we have triangulated a pretty large number of shows that we both have attended which is fun when you think about how close we were to meeting but never having that occur. It really makes you realize how small one’s circle within the greater Phish world can be. I bring this up to say that obviously we would both be trying to go which meant securing a pair of tickets for each night to what would easily be the toughest Phish tickets ever.

 

You may be wondering why I am writing this here on March 7th instead of yesterday which is the day that marks the triumphant return for the band. It is relevant for me because I missed that first show though honestly it really doesn’t change anything for me having caught #2 instead of #1. You see, along with everyone else we tried to do mail order (fail!), we tried to do the general onsale (fail!), and we scoured the then unsophisticated online ticket resources in search of our pair. At that stage I was not active online on any of the Phish community sites that had developed over the early years of the internet so I didn’t have those connections to go to to try to make it happen. And even though we didn’t yet have kids in our life we were not in a financial position to shell out the many-times-face-value asking prices of the hundreds of people scalping tickets to these shows. We tried to get creative, putting up craigslists posts about how we were huge phans (yes, we probably used the dreaded ‘ph’ too. ugh) and we really wanted to go and blah blah blah but so did everyone else. I even bought the Clifford Ball DVD set early when they had that raffle for a pair of tickets to the shows and entered some of the more questionable ebay and craigslist raffles to increase our odds hoping that might be a way to hit on getting our pair. The real gut-punching part of it was that my best friends had hit big time in the lottery, scoring a pair for all three nights which just made it more depressing that they would be able to go and we wouldn’t be able to share this together as we had so many other adventures around the world. And so at a certain point in the months leading up to the show I resigned myself to the fact that this probably wasn’t going to happen. We live in New England and with the shows about 600 miles to the southwest the prospect of driving down there ticketless to fight it out with all the other people from the region (and country, honestly) looking to do the exact same thing wasn’t exactly looking too enticing. It appeared that I would miss out on this epic event just as I had missed Big Cypress (friends bailed on me a month before the trip was to happen and I wasn’t about to drive almost 1,300 miles alone) and Coventry (already covered, won’t go into the gory details) making this just one more big Phish event I had not been able to experience in person and in the moment.

 

And here is where it gets fun. We continued to work the secondary market to try to get tickets, giving ourselves a cap on what we would spend above face in order to make it happen. My friends also worked hard for us, looking at anything and everything with pretty constant text traffic going on between us as we worked the system of the time. My wife went all in here, emailing and calling dozens of people who had posted anything remotely promising to try to get some tickets. Finally we had a bit of luck as there was someone local who had tickets due to being an old friend of Trey’s from high school or something but who couldn’t go to all three shows because it would probably have caused a divorce with his wife so he had a pair for the final night that he was willing to part with. Okay, that’s a start! We can build from there. Now being able to focus on two nights instead of three we doubled down our efforts aaaaaaand struck out. Royally. Like it seemed that every avenue had closed and being only a couple of weeks prior to the shows the already dry well had gone over to dust. This was depressing. For only the last show it didn’t really make too much sense to make the massive trek (even if I had done similar things in years past).

 

Then something happened that I will never forget and never be able to fully express my appreciation for to the people who did it. My friends traded their pair of tickets for the first night to get a pair of tickets for the second night to get us in the building. I still can’t believe it writing these words seven years on. They had given up seeing the return for us so that the four of us could share the weekend together. This was (and is) one of the most selfless things I had ever had happen to me. I was so incredulous that I asked my friend over and over whether he really wanted to do that and his answer every single time was a simple “yes”. Now that I think back on what they did for us it speaks not only about the very close friendship that I have shared with these wonderful people for now more than 23 years but also to what this whole community really can be for us. Yes, in a lot of ways this Phish obsession of ours is a largely selfish (or at least self-centered) thing as we spend thousands of dollars and spend so much time trying to get to shows at the risk of potentially alienating loved ones, derailing careers, and other not-so-forward-looking behaviors but at the root of it (get ready for the cheesy lyrical reference!) it only works when we are ‘sharing in the groove’ and not when we are only thinking of ourselves.

 

This really opened up a big thing for me personally as I guess up until that point I had primarily looked at Phish as an escape from my life rather than an integral influence on it. For most of my time in 1.0 traveling all over to catch shows I had almost been embarrassed to share that information with my coworkers and non-fan friends (family understood well as both of my older brothers had steeped me in the Dead tradition at an early age and our parents were open to our excursions as part of our life experience), instead ‘hiding’ it under half-truth descriptions of my trips or simply deflecting to other conversation. But here was the touch point for me in really bringing home the point that the shared experience had greater impact than something wholly individual. Conceptually it was something I already had bought into – particularly with these friends who I had traveled through Europe with amongst many other very memorable times over our life together – but in the Phish context I had never really put all of that together in this way. Sure, I had had many moments of losing myself in the sea of people that make up the Phish crowd (I had a particularly introspective moment atop the hill at the Clifford Ball but that is a story for another time) but never had it coalesced that I was anything more than just another ticket holding fan who was really into this weird band.

 

So we followed the lines headed south, picking our friends up along the way, and arriving in Hampton about the time the band was coming out for their encore on 03.06.2009 and made our way to our hotel to get settled for the two shows to come. We first hit the lots during the day of that second show and all of those feelings returned once more as we exhaled our normal lives once more and breathed in this new life for Phish. When the band came out and opened up with Back On The Train  (oddly enough that video is filed from pretty close to where we had camped out that night) it was yet another example that the band was connected with us as that was pretty well the perfect sort of opener for me in that moment. The balance of those two shows were invigorating in a way I had forgotten Phish could be and left me wanting more in that way you all know. Our band was back!

 

Wishing to keep that going in some way I now looked outward to find connection with the like-minded folk I had missed so much without ever realizing it. And with that my Phish internet life began, first in lurking dribs and drabs and then eventually as a contributing commenter, and eventually leading to you reading this today. So many things have happened for me in the years since Phish has returned that it is hard to imagine my life now without that as part of the story. Thankfully, with the current state of the band being as positive as it is I don’t have to imagine that. My life is enriched by Phish and the exposure it has given me to all of these amazing people who follow them just as I do. These days at shows I find myself observing all of those connections that occur between seemingly disparate people who this band has brought together and that does almost as much to fill my cup as the music. Almost. I jest, but that aspect of the Phish experience is something I cherish now more than ever and what I take forward with me when the show is over. It influences my mood, my attitude, and my outlook and helps me to work to find connection wherever I can in all aspects of my life. And that? That is really what IT is really all about…