Meet At The Tree! – Phish and Alpine Valley

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Jonesing For Jams – Phish and Jones Beach

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

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

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

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Children of the Cornfields – Phish and Deer Creek

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

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

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

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Old School Vibe in a New School Time – Phish and The Worcester Centrum

For our first indoor arena on the Venue Project we come to the wonderful Worcester Centrum, now known by its corporate moniker, The DCU Center. This venue holds sway not just for Phish but also for other music acts going all the way back to the first event here, a concert by none other than Frank Sinatra. Just to name a few, U2 had their first stadium show in the US here back in 1983, the Grateful Dead played twelve shows between 1983 and 1988 (before getting banned…), Boston had a nine night stand drawing over 100,000 big haired fans in 1987, Neil Diamond played a record 21 shows (Phish is closing in at 16!), and Dave Matthews apparently played some legendary pair of shows with Bela Fleck supporting in 1998. No matter what type of recreational past time you enjoy, there’s a good chance you can catch a version of it at the Centrum and musically that holds true as artists (and “artists”) of all kinds have played here over the years. For Phish fans in and around New England this place became one of the can’t miss venues on the touring circuit, usually good for at least a pair of shows in a place where the band played with ease and comfort while the crowd enjoyed the classically ‘dirty’ shakedown lot scene and general orneriness of interacting with the locals. In an effort to be transparent, I live about ten minutes from this venue and therefore hold it quite dearly. Expect fluffing.

 

Phish has played the Worcester Centrum sixteen times with the first show being the grand New Year’s Eve celebration from 12.31.1993 and the last to date being the second night of a pair on the Fall 2013 Tour. After that first time here the band has played at least two nights with the exception of their visit during the whirlwind Winter 2003 run including two highly memorable three night runs here over Thanksgiving weekends in 1997 and 1998.

 

Here is you www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Worcester Jams. Note that the famed Worcester Jim has entries for both the full thing as well as smaller chunks for each of the different sections of that epic in case you want a more manageable dose there.

 

12.31.1993  When your first time playing a venue is New Year’s Eve, you go big. Add on the fact that this was a band on the rise playing their first big time NYE Run (prior year’s runs were a much smaller affair) and you have the recipe for some serious heat which is exactly what the band brought that night. Coming off a lengthy break after a heavily front loaded year that saw a full, two legged spring tour (half of which we began this here blog by reviewing) followed by a summer with some H.O.R.D.E. sets mixed in with one of the famed months in the band’s history (August as if I have to mention it) Phish had made their way up the East Coast with a four show run that started in Washington, DC before three New England shows in New Haven, CT (their first in the big old Veterans Memorial Coliseum), Portland, ME (their second show here and first full show after a single set H.O.R.D.E. appearance in summer 1992), and here in Worcester culminated the year for the band. For each show of the run the stage was decorated to look like we the crowd were peering into a demented fish tank and that would make a lot more sense the next year when the band released their first – and only- music video ever for the big single off of Hoist, Down with Disease (more on that song in a bit). This is a very highly regarded show in the fanbase, one that many consider canon and for good reason. From the start of the show opening Llama you can hear the energy from both band and fans alike threatening to blow the roof off the room before they even get warmed up. Pretty much everything they play in this show is nailed though obviously some things stand out more than others like the crisp takes on Stash, Reba, and Lope in the 1st set or the raging Tweezer and Peaches tease-filled Ice and Possum from the 2nd set. The context there is that this run was the first set of shows the band had played since the passing of Frank Zappa a few weeks earlier, resulting in numerous Peaches teases throughout the shows as well as the song being played on three out of the four nights (there are other songs that got repeated in the run like Hood and Possum but that was more a factor of the limitations of their catalog at the time than anything). The third set is the template for how Phish would manage New Year’s shows in the future with a post Auld Lang Syne jam celebrating the new year as they open up into a jam-filled run of songs to ring in the proceedings. This night got brand spanking new music with the then unnamed but soon to be well loved Down With Disease jam (just the riffs, no lyrics, ma’am) which gave way to a smoking, tight Melt. The rest of the set is party time Phish culminating with a Hood that has long been a favorite of many a fan with some still considering it their finest pure, straight ahead version of the song ever. It is a perfect cap to this celebration and quite the jam to inaugurate this venue into Phish lore.

12.28.1995  Two years later Phish returned for more of that New Year’s Run goodness, this time playing the first two shows of the now traditional four night run before heading down to MSG for a pair of shows that were kinda pretty amazing. Warming up for that here in Worcester, the band came in hot on the heels of the legendary Fall 1995 Tour which peaked during its final month only a short nine days ahead of these shows. That results in a well polished band plying their trade rather than spending a show or two shaking off the rust. The fruits of that show from the start as they open with Melt for one of only nine times ever in the 312 performances of the song. The rest of the first set is just your typical for the time nailed fare with the fun of the PA going out during Rift being the only true notable somewhat unique feature because, c’mon, having Page sing the iconic “and silence contagious…” line at that moment is almost too convenient, eh? The second set, however, goes left in a hurry as after the Audience Chess Move they open with a dark, punishing Timber Ho! featuring a lot of big time Fish fills that slides into a raging Theme that Trey dominates. After some more evil Phish with Wilson>Buried Alive they drop into Tweezer which is in the vein of many of the classic Summer/Fall ’95 Tweezer jams which is to say that that shit is dark, yo. If you aren’t hip to the Fall ’95 jam template this is a good example of the mindfuckery we got nightly. There’s a bit in here that will be resolved in the next night’s show as Mike “practices” some of what goes down in the Bass Duet jam with his teacher Jim Stinnett but we’ll leave that for the next one down. Eventually this Tweezer morphs into a full segue to IDK where Fish takes up the trombone in the exhale of the set as they drop a late Uncle Pen and then we breathe deep again for a soaring yet also quite dissonant Slave closer. This is the type of show to kick off a NYE Run, Phish. Don’t forget that a few weeks from now…

12.29.1995  Night two on the 1995 run here in Worcester starts with a run of six songs strung together before the band takes a moment to rest. In there we get a compact Disease and one of those Taste That Surrounds that lived in the space between when Fog That Surrounds eventually became Taste. The Stash is really where things get going in earnest as they build tension with a staccato-filled jam that stays at home in the song but comes to a massive peak complete with a nice held note by Trey before they wrap around to the final round of ‘maybe so or maybe not’. The remainder of the set is raucous fun with Fluffhead and Llama before the a cappella Adeline closer cools things down a tad for intermission. Our second set starts with one of seven ever Makisupas, eventually dropping into a feedback-heavy, ambient-ish jam that melts into Page hitting the organ for the start of CTB. After that we get the always welcome second set Gin. This one is a rager from the start as Trey picks his path, navigating through the Gin theme as Page throws in his grand piano stylings. Almost suddenly, at around the 7:50 mark, Trey starts repeating a quick phrase that settles the band into a fast paced groove that Trey starts soloing over delicately. Fish is pounding away here as it evolves away from Gin into a recognizable tune, particularly if you had been around that Fall for, oh I don’t know, a certain Halloween performance? Once Trey plays the tell tale chords it is clear they are playing The Real Me to the delight of the fans. Trey’s worn out vocal cords from the prolonged tour are evident here but this rocks hard before they seamlessly come back to the Gin close which in turn segues right to a solid take on the classic McGrupp. Then, following a fun BBFCFM and as hinted to above Mike’s old bass instructor Jim Stinnett comes out for a bass jam that has some classical elements some may recognize. As the rest of the band rejoins Trey pushes it into La Grange and on to the end of set fun numbers. This show is known for the “Real Gin” but don’t sleep on the Stash and McGrupp here or that bass jam which is a unique sit-in to say the least.

11.28.1997  After skipping a visit in 1996 Phish returned for a Thanksgiving Weekend Run, giving us an excuse to dance off the holiday meal with three heaters in the ol’ sweatbox. A Curtain opener is always a good sign especially when the dance partner is a big time funky YEM. They forego the VJ for IDK and then tear through Maze as they do ahead of the piss break midset Farmhouse. The funk comes back in spades with our now defunct friend BEK (okay, sure, it’s now Moma but that’s not nearly the same is it?) and then the set concludes with one of three ever Theme>Rocky Top combos (a bit of an odd pairing if I do say so myself). This is a quality first set which was kind of the norm that tour but still only a taste of what they were about to throw down. First up is another set opening Timber Ho! which again delights with that dark magic. Next they go for the peaks with LxL which they follow up with a super peaky Slave that lands in Ghost. Now, Fall ’97 is a great tour for Ghost as they had settled into a comfortable way of attacking the jam after its debut that summer and this version is definitely a keeper. It is a clinic in cowfunk with everyone on board, compin’, clavin’, bassin’, and beatin’ into an infectious groove accented by a laser loop track. Trey resets the groove with a common comp phrase he employed back then (Mike’s *ting* shows his approval) and then they take off again as Trey alternates between lead and follow with Mike *ting*ing along as they drop into a sparse section that just begs to blow up for the final peak, which it does as Trey repeats the same, familiar lick over and over with ever increasing intensity and the band swells to the… ugh. really? so much potential for the release here and they drop into Johnny B. Goode. Oi. Not what I would have called there but then again I’m not exactly too handy with the musical creation thing like our friends up on stage, am I? Eh, after that hot set I’m not going to let a rocking fist pumper closer ruin it for me. Fun show, let’s do it again tomorrow.

11.29.1997  The middle night of a three night run that falls over a weekend generally means you get the SNS show here, one with a bunch of fun rockers and type I jams but not much in the way of otherworldly exploration. Well, that’s not where this one goes which should have been evident from the start of the Wedge opener considering it was only the 2nd ever show opening Wedge at the time (Great Went day two being the other) and still one of only five ever. Then there’s a punchy fun romp through Foam before the set slides into song mode for a few bustouts (TMWSIY>AM>TMWSIY after 67 shows and Sloth after 55) and caps with a slow burning, better than you remember Bowie. This is all appetizer though because what goes down next is still unmatched and probably will forever be so within the construct of a ‘traditional’ Phish set. Over the years, Phish has played the song Runaway Jim 377 times with versions ranging from the straight forward road song variety to longer, chugging jam vehicles that stretch well beyond the confines of the song structure (much like Jim’s wanderings…). On this night in Worcester Phish laid down the single longest single song jam ever with a Jim that comes in just a minute or three under the one hour mark. Now, depending on your favorite species of Phish jam this one may lose you in places but there really is something for everyone to be found in the “Jim Symphony” that moves through several distinct sections without ever falling apart. There are several teases, a full-on Paug jam, and more to be found here, enough that it may take repeated listens to fully grasp all that they packed into it. I know a couple of people who had that as their first show and let’s just say they were NOT prepared for that level of immersion into Phish. Perhaps sensing this unease, the band drifts into the start of Strange Design in the wake of The Jim then backed that up with a soul affirming Hood and eventually a mini bustout of Suzy (of all songs!) after 49 shows on the bench. Then for good measure there is a unique triple combo of Buffalo Bill, Moby Dick>Fire including Trey playing on The Song Remains the Same intro for the 435 show bustout in the middle there. This show is justifiably known for The Jim but giving it a full spin might surprise you with how complete it is even with that biggie in the middle.

11.30.1997  For the Sunday show capping this run before the quick turnaround to get down to Philly to sing the national anthem on Monday one could have excused the band if they wanted to play it safe after that big without a net type endeavor the night before. But that’s not what Phish does now is it? Again we get a rare opener with Guyute doing that for the first time ever here (and one of only four all time in 124 performances of the song). A not so standard Funky Bitch keeps em grooving next and then Wolfman’s in the three slot goes plaid in the best way. This is a second set hide-under-your-chair multi-themed thirty minute beast placed a mere twenty-five minutes into the show, well ahead of the schedule most of the trippers had planned for this evening. The jam heads into devilish territory with some Esther and Sanity lyric/music quotes before the band deftly throws a curveball in by seguing to the Elvis Presley classic Love Me, a Mike-sung tune we discussed back on the Fall ’98 tour. This is the last of the seven 1997 versions before it went unplayed until the following Fall and was eventually shelved. So as to not front load this show too much the band drops a hose-filled Stash in the two slot of the second set, taking the song out for a long, enjoyable ride before going unfinished into an arena-sized Free which is to say it rocks hard if not for a very long time. Without ever fully letting up on the sustain Trey then moves into soundscape building as the other players join in to create an ambient jam that feels more at home in 1999 or 2000 than here in the cowfunk days but I guess you gotta start somewhere. It provides a nice bridge to the slow build Piper that follows and something of a respite after that Stash->Free combo. After the expected Lope to close the set we get the one and only performance of Them Changes, the Buddy Miles tune from the album of the same name that also showed up on the Band of Gypsys album from the same year (1970). An interesting one off choice, it would be nice to hear why they played it then and never again.

11.27.1998  A year later the band was back again for another post-Turkey Time three pack of shows, ones that we have covered here previously. The first night is a quite well known show what with it being included in the first set of LivePhish releases. I won’t rehash my previous posts here (too much) but for this show the meat is definitely packed into the second set (even if the song Meat appeared in the first). The Reba and BOAF in the first are highlights but mainly serve to whet our appetite for the Dagwood set to come. If that reference is lost on you, go brush up on your Blondie cartoons a bit and maybe you’ll get it? Anyway, after Buried Alive the band drops a few rounds of Wipeout, the classic surf rock song by the Surfaris (get it???) that should not be confused with the oh-so-80s Beach Boys/Fat Boys joint of the same name. Bits of the 722 show bustout will pepper the set including in the middle of Weekapaug and to cap the Golgi encore but that’s not the only reason this set holds sway in the fanbase. The Chalkdust includes the debut and one time performance of the English Beat’s Mirror in the Bathroom and a return for Dog Log after its last appearance in the wake of The Riverport Gin amongst the frenetic shredding and boisterous energy from the band. Sanity and Buffalo Bill show up after the Chalkdust and then we get an almost-not-quite “traditional” Mike’s Groove since H2 comes back after a 68 show absence. Then following that Wipeout Paug fun they head out into the bliss of the type of ambient jam that Fall 1998 was known for before capping the set with a rousing Lope closer. We’ve talked about the uniqueness of seguefest shows before so I won’t dive back into that but let’s just say that this is definitely a case where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

11.28.1998  While this middle night was probably never going to live up to the legend of the one from the year before it holds its own as a solid if not great show that is a good example of what they were accomplishing that tour. The first set is anchored by (again!) the first ever Gumbo opener (only three ever there and the other two are in 3.0) which includes a nice if not extended jam, a compact but dangerous Disease, a crisp run through Foam, and a Melt that breeds hope for the second set to come. On paper this second set doesn’t look like a can’t miss winner but there’s a lot to be found here. The Wolfman’s>Timber Ho! combo has a dark, ambient vibe that Page counterpoints with bright piano fills and the Mule has some unique dueling including Mike putting the viking helmet on as he battles Fish but then the Caspian surprises with the power that the song can hold as Trey takes charge with his end solo. Then there’s a Crossroads bustout (64 shows) before a late set Tweezer that while not as expansive as we might want chugs through some interesting sections before suddenly ending for the Cavern closer. As I said above, this is not a ‘canon’ worthy show but there sure aren’t any low lights to worry about either.

11.29.1998  So then we have the final show of the 1998 Turkey Run which also happened to be the tour closer that Fall. For the third night in a row we have a first time opener, this time the Josh White ditty Paul and Silas complete with alternate lyrics to reference Paul Languedoc’s arrest the night before for not wanting to leave the hotel bar in a timely manner. This first set also has a soaring Theme and a unique LxL->Catapult->Kung>Maze section that delights the bustout junkies and setlist mavens. For the end of set the band welcomes Seth Yacavone (see the post on this show from the Fall ’98 reviews for more detail on him) for his song All The Pain Through the Years and the only ever cover of Layla. Those are fine enough but this isn’t the best sit-in ever even if they were giving some free pub to another Burlington dude. That said, Seth shreds so if you ever get the chance check his band out. In the second set there is a Simple that goes ambient but in a dark and dissonant way instead of the typical blissy bright feel and then peters out to Makisupa where we get more digs at the expense of Paul followed by the typical ambient dub mini-jam the song often gets. The Possum that follows goes fully into Wipeout before coming back and then we get one last airy vehicle with the late set Gin. This is a keeper and one that encapsulates the tour sound well before the band wraps things up with a powerful YEM and move into the encores. It is hard to say that any of the final two shows can live up to the fun and uniqueness of the first night of this run but in terms of open jamming this one is the big dog for the year at Worcester.

02.26.2003  During the post-Hiatus Winter 2003 Run Phish played the Centrum for the third to last show of that tour. After a telling tease of Call to Post at the outset they were off running into YEM for only the 11th ever show opening version of the song (and first since 1997) with the 12th (and last to date) occurring later that year at Shoreline. This is a bombastic version of the classic with the crowd erupting at several points to voice their approval for the return of the band to New England after Hiatus. Then the set takes on a “What I Did on Summer Vacation” vibe (not my line but I like it) as first we get the Mike/Leo Kottke tune Clone (which had you been listening closely was quoted by Trey in the YEM VJ), then later the TAB tune Drifting, Pork Tornado’s Blue Skies, and Vida Blue’s Final Flight with a really uplifting Roggae and big time funky Moma interspersed before a punchy Maze closer. If you aren’t familiar with these side project bands and/or songs, check out the Phish versions which are fun interpretations if perhaps not 100% faithful and then go spin the originals. Sadly none of these has ever graced the Phish stage again but it was a neat thing to hear the band mix these tunes in with some high quality ‘standard’ fare. The second set starts out with a long run through Stash, one that benefits from the 2.0 sound as they drop some gritty funk and Trey gets to some almost plinko space in his staccato playing. Next up is a far reaching Ghost that first meanders and then climbs to a powerful transition to Low Rider (after a mere 214 layoff) before shifting over to Makisupa where the keyword references a fire in the band’s hotel back in Cincy. The outro jam of this then pushes into Ya Mar and from there the set stays in a more song-based mode as they ride the high energy of the room. This is a unique show with the setlist debuts and a great example of the highs that 2.0 Phish could reach.

12.27.2010  It was then another seven and a half years before Phish would return to Worcester, partially due to that whole “breaking up” thing. Here we get the first two nights of the first five night NYE Run in the band’s history with the last three occurring down at MSG after one night off between the venues. This was the first show following the Halloween Little Feat throwdown in Atlantic City so it isn’t exactly surprising that there’s a bit of rustiness to be found here. On top of that, there was a full-on blizzard going down outside and Trey was battling a cold. All that said, this was still another fun night in the Centrum and being the first time the band had played here in 3.0 spirits were high amongst the faithful. The first set is very song heavy with only the lovely Roggae eclipsing the ten minute mark as the band mixed in the 54 show bustout of Cool It Down and the second/final version of the Mike tune What Things Seem mixed in with mainly common fare. The second set starts out promisingly enough with Mike’s which gets a 74 show bustout of Mound in the middle slot (only time that has ever happened) before they bring Paug around (so much for the hope of a set-spanning Groove, dude) and then trot out Farmhouse. Seven Below provides hope and delivers on that to a certain degree when Trey begins adding WTU? phrasing to the jam, eventually ending up there for a unique meshing of the two songs. Honestly, outside of the clever lyric change in Cavern to “take care of your boots” that’s about it for highlights in this one. Oh well, at least there’s more to come.

12.28.2010  Night two on this stop feels a lot more energetic which might be as much about the crowd being more comfortable as the band considering Trey’s voice is not in a good place for singing tonight. The first set gets a couple of bustouts in MMGAMOIO (56 shows) and She Caught the Katy (323 shows) which I still scratch my head about in wondering why that song then. Before we can answer that rhetorical question they blow up the room with a compact but boisterous Wolfman’s and then debut Pigtail which was then promptly shipped off to TAB tour until it came back twice this summer. The set ends with another debut, this time a curious choice due to Trey’s voice issues as the a cappella Birdwatcher (another song heard mostly with TAB after this time) gets its turn. Oh yeah, almost forgot. Trey uses a toy Sarah Palin thing to insert her soundbites into Alaska, amusing himself greatly and throwing a bunch of spunions into a wild head trip. Nice job, Trey. The second set chugs in with standard takes on Carini and BDT#L before an energetic BOTT (with the crutch Streets of Cairo tease thrown in) that segues nicely into LxL. Later in the set we have two more bustouts with Frankie Says (82 shows) and Albuquerque (60 shows) which precede a stunningly beautiful plinko-filled Hood that is the gem of this pair of shows. Listen for Page teasing the wonderful Spanish Harlem along with some other musical nods that may or may not be there depending on who you ask. The Bug closer and Shine A Light encore add some gravitas behind that Hood and we are outta here for the year.

06.07.2012  The Summer 2012 tour got started here in Worcester with a pair of shows that had the fanbase buzzing as the band was coming off a rather underwhelming NYE Run to end 2011 and following a Spring where Trey hit the symphony circuit and Mike did a little Euro run (including headlining Jam in the Dam VI). Hopes weren’t exactly high about the music the band had left us with last so no one really knew what to expect here. Perhaps in response to this, Phish came out with guns blazing, leaving those questions at the curb. It doesn’t hurt when you start the tour with Buried Alive>Jim>Torn & Frayed sequence, going from the old school darkness through a bright and fun Jim jam and onto a song with emotional impact and poignant, relevant lyrics like “the band is a bag of nerves on first nights”. After a few more energetic dance numbers we have a pair of bustouts surrounding Ocelot in the ultra rare Nothing (78 show gap and only six ever performances now) and Beauty of a Broken Heart (91 show gap). Then the set concludes with a somewhat different take on the Possum jam and Rocky Top, giving us little to no hint about what was to come after the break. Things get started with a Carini that goes to bliss territory pretty quickly, opening up into a lush, sway-friendly space where Page is layering in various effects on the keyboards and Mike and Trey are tinkling around, eventually building up to a transition point where Trey moves into Taste, one with a soaring Norwegian Wood tinged jam (I will never tire of how quickly we fans pick up on that sort of tease. You can hear the recognition within a note or two here). This is followed by yet another solid Ghost from this venue which tonight starts out with a patient groove that evolves through several sections before starting to lose steam when Mike takes charge and pushes it into Boogie On. Normally that would probably signal the move into fun time Phish where the jams are an afterthought but tonight they take Boogie out dancing as Trey plays an infectious lead and Mike employs the meatball filter to great effect. The crowd climbs on for the ride as they peak it out more than once before dropping back down to a funk groove and eventually segueing into the 102 show bustout of If I Could. You could excuse them for wrapping it up with a couple of rockers after that but a punchy Quinn, peaky Hood, Cavern, and a bit of Buried Alive reprise are still in store before the predictable Cup encore. This show is a very strong tour opener and definitely one that had us all beaming after the doubts that preceded.

06.08.2012  The second night follows the Worcester tradition of rare openers as Free gets its second ever appearance in the one slot (first one was only three shows prior on 12.29.2011 – and there have now been another four since this one) and then in the three slot fans finally got their wish for another go at jamming out the Ween classic Roses are Free. you know how I said you can hear the tease recognition in that Taste? Well, once the crowd realizes they are stretching out this Roses the place went WILD. This was clearly a conscious effort by the band that pays off for all as they settle into a playful groove where both Trey and Mike bring forward creative ideas before it drops out into Theme. The rest of the set is fine enough, I suppose, but that Roses is where the hat hangs, so to speak. The Julius has a bit of extra stank on it and the Gin peaks well in closing things up which is always appreciated. The second set starts out with a better-than-I-remembered Disease but it’s not one you will see thousand word essays written about any time soon, I would venture. Next up is Sand which doesn’t go too far into the typical jam but instead after a bit of plinko gets one of the more unique full segues ever accomplished by the band as they somehow move from the late 90s groove vehicle into a bluegrass cover in Nellie Kane. Dubbed the “Sandy Kane” by some it deserves a spin or two if only to hear this transition go down. The balance of the set is fine enough with the only Mike’s>Maki>Paug ever and a highly danceable 2001 in the penultimate slot but nothing really elevates in the second set.

10.25.2013  The following year Phish was back for another pair in the week leading up to their Fall Tour ending stop at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. This first set is decent with a nice Wolfman’s and the 109 show bustout of MMGAMOIO (last played here…) being the notable things to take away from it. This is not to say that nothing else is “good” here just that it is the type of good we expect from the band without it ever going past that mark. But the second set is a different story as they open with Waves, giving the song space in the second jam as they bring it up to a swelling peak that crashes into the start of Carini. Sorry about that ‘waves’ imagery there. It was just too easy. Anyway, the Carini is another solid one, this time staying in darker territory than the one from here last year in a more compact version that I felt should have continued longer rather than moving on to Caspian. Oh well. The BDT#L jam after that is nice in the oh-yeah-this-is-why-I-like-this-song way that often hits those who grumble about it being played mid second set and then we have another entry into the Worcester Ghost files. This one is playful and light as they change the lyrics to reference Fish’s son Jack. The jam dies out into Dirt and then after a straight forward Disease they head to end of set proceedings with a Sally>Cavern>Lope sequence. The encores are extended a bit tonight as they fit in four songs including Contact which if you listen to closely enough on the auds you might hear my wife loudly booing (kidding about hearing her, but she is NOT a fan of that song and has definitely booed it at shows… including this one). The first half of this second set is really strong but overall this is a bit of a standard-feeling show.

10.26.2013  The next night is a different story. Maybe it is me but something about this first set just speaks to the combined energy of the band and crowd making it a lot better than perhaps it should have been just looking at it on paper. Nothing here is a big jam highlight but everything pops from the Party Time opener on. There’s something to be said for a set when even in being ten songs long only has one almost slower song with Ride Captain Ride. The second set continues the trend though now with jams aplenty as they first take Drowned to several places including some Oye Como Va type phrasing, a Steam-like part, and a section that really feels a heck of a lot like Jimmy Cliff’s Sitting Here in Limbo. The Light that follows is brilliant as well, shining with melodic delight and hitting a section where Fish interjects “heys” in an obvious nod to the ‘hey hole‘ jam space they hit.Succinct runs through Sand, Theme, and Mike’s lead to the second ever No Quarter in the Groove sandwich slot (which is to say the placement is the second ever, not that it is the second ever performance of the song) as Paug caps the set in rocking fashion. During the Boogie encore someone joins Fish on the kit, eventually taking over for him as Fish moves to the side to watch. That person turns out to be legendary drummer (and Berklee School of Music professor) Kenwood Dennard who many in the Phish scene probably first became aware of from his appearance on the Maceo Parker tour staple album Life On Planet Groove which you probably heard a lot if you spent any time in the lots in the mid 90s. Kenwood stays on the kit for Possum and while I personally like this very different take on the drumline many were not quite so appreciative of it. So much for taking risks. This is definitely the better of the two from 2013 and might be the best of the 3.0 shows overall from this venue considering the deep jams and clear intent to just go for it from the start.

 

And now for the Tale Of The Tape!

Venue:  Worcester Centrum Centre (DCU Center)

No. of Shows:  sixteen

Intangibles:  geographic position draws fans from all over New England and the Tri-State area to the southwest, better acoustics and ease of access than similarly sized venues in Boston appeal to the band and fan alike, venue is one of the classic minor league hockey sheds where Phish made their name – and still has that feel, always has one of the wildest old school lot scenes around

Recurring Themes:  multi-night stands (only two single shows with six multi-nighters including two three-nighters in 97 & 98); unique openers (Funky Bitch is only repeat with several songs opening shows for one of few times ever), bustouts (almost every year there are at least a few minor and often major song bustouts, singular performances of songs (eight songs have been played here and nowhere else: All the Pain Through the Years, Blue Skies, Clone, Drifting, Final Flight, Layla, Mirror in the Bathroom, Them Changes), no Divided Sky or ACDC Bag (neither song has ever been played here), Ghost jams (every version they have played here has merit in some fashion), Possum and Stash (chances are, if you come to Worcester shows you’ll get one as each has been played in all but two of their stops in town)

Key Jams/Songs:  1993 – Stash, Reba, Lope, Tweezer, Ice, Possum, ALS>Disease Jam>Melt, Hood; 1995 – Melt, Timber Ho!>Theme, Tweezer->IDK, Slave, Stash, Gin->Real Me->Gin->McGrupp>BBFCFM>Bass Jam->La Grange; 1997 – YEM->IDK, BEK, Timber Ho!, LxL, Slave, Ghost, Foam, THE Jim, Hood, Funky Bitch, Wolfman’s, Stash->Free; 1998 – Ya Mar, Jim, Reba, entire 2nd Set of 11.27, Gumbo, Disease, Foam, Melt, Wolfman’s>Timber Ho!, Caspian>Crossroads, Tweezer, Theme, LxL->Catapult->Kung, Simple, Possum->Wipeout->Possum, Gin; 2003 – YEM>Clone, Roggae, Moma, Stash, Ghost->Low Rider->Maki->Ya Mar; 2010 – Roggae, Seven Below>WTU?, Wolfman’s, BOTT->LxL, Hood; 2012 – Jim>T&F, Possum, Carini->Taste>Ghost>Boogie>IIC, Hood, Roses are Free, Julius, Gin, Sand->Nellie Kane, 2001; 2013 – Waves>Carini, BDT#L>Ghost, Gin, Drowned>Light, Possum

PJJ Ratio:  Worcester comes in at a lower than expected but still solid 2.56 JPS rating (the average for all venues under consideration in this project is 2.47). Even my hometown bias can’t massage the numbers there.

Worcester has a long history and is rightfully considered one of the classic venues in Phish lore. A lot of that reputation is based on the shows from 1.0/2.0 as some of the sets in 3.0 haven’t exactly been all-timers. This is a place where the band and crowd are clearly comfortable which shows up in the loose feel to the playing and the general rowdiness of the fans both inside the venue and out in the streets that surround. While at the end of this the Centrum is definitely not going to place highly in the overall ranking of these venues it is a place we hold dear as much as for what it represents from the band’s past as what they continue to do when visiting. Some truly canonical stuff has gone down here including NYE 1993, The epic Jim, the Wipeout Set, and the “What I Did On Hiatus” set but that is really just the cream of a banner crop. Long live the Worcester lots!!