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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The Mothership Connection – Phish and Hampton Coliseum

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tale of the Tapes

Venue:  Hampton Coliseum (nee, Hampton Roads Coliseum)

No. of Shows:  eighteen

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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!!

 

It All Runs Together – Phish and Merriweather Post Pavilion

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Time now for the Tale Of The Tape!

Venue:  Merriweather Post Pavilion

No. of Shows:  fifteen

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

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

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

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

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

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.