An Overly Deep Dive into the History and Development of ‘McGrupp and The Watchful Hosemasters’ OR “How I Try to Get More McGrupp Jams Put on PJJ”

Every once in a while it is fun to take a song and really go deep with it, listening to every version that Phish has ever performed in order. Some may find this type of exercise pointless, tiring, ridiculous, boring, or even insane (or more probably a combination of all of the above and more)  but to me it offers a great way to track the development and progression of a song over the years as the band has worked through it and altered its course. There are some songs where this can get old pretty fast, particularly when the variation comes only in the few bars of Type I improv that come out of an otherwise standard performance for the tune but in many cases the song as debuted once upon a time has changed significantly over the course of time, sometimes adding or removing parts and other times becoming something entirely new along the way. One song that has had a fairly intriguing evolution (well, to me at least) is McGrupp And The Watchful Hosemasters (for the sake of brevity following this reference the song will be shown by its shorthand fan name ‘McGrupp‘), a song with a long history, connection to the Gamehendge saga, and just enough performances to make this little exercise worthwhile without becoming tedious.

 

In full disclosure, I will admit that some of my motivation in going down this path was in looking for the song on the wonderful resource that is www.phishjustjams.com I was shocked to discover they had only picked out a minuscule THREE performances of the song for inclusion in the jam files. Now, while the song is definitely not a big, open-jammed juggernaut I maintain that that list needs to be expanded a bit even if they don’t agree (hi, Verno!) with all that I write about the song’s jam and its 114 known performances, not to mention the four versions of the song as Skippy The Wonder Mouse (hereafter referred to as “Skippy”) before the name change and lyrical overwrite. Part of the complication here stems from the PJJ mission statement apparently forbids inclusion of anything pre 1993 and while I respect that and the reasoning behind it I will absolutely be focusing a lot on the progressions made with McGrupp in the years prior to that if for no other reason than 63 of the 114 versions of the song (plus those 4 Skippys!) occurred prior to 1993. To ignore all of that here would kind of defeat the purpose and really conflict my obsessive nature, people.

 

So where to start. Well, the first thing you should do is check out the Song History on phish.net which goes into a lot of the detail about how the song came to be (and check the brief Skippy Song History too since you are visiting .net). You might also want to take a gander at the Jamchart for the song as others have gone down this road before in their own way so if you find my nerdiness to be lacking check out someone else’s! Really cannot say enough about how privileged we are to have phish.net and other resources to help feed these obsessions of ours. Support them however you can!

 

With all of that out of the way let’s dive in! Fair warning, as I haven’t written much of late you can probably expect this one to be lengthy. I have some pent up prose to use here, people.

Continue reading “An Overly Deep Dive into the History and Development of ‘McGrupp and The Watchful Hosemasters’ OR “How I Try to Get More McGrupp Jams Put on PJJ””

Taste – BYE – 1997

Once upon a time, some friends and I started throwing around big questions like “what is the best year ever (BYE) for song X?” this was a few years ago but for many of the entries that answer hasn’t changed. One of the ones I did was for a song I hold near and dear, Taste. While never a set carrying vehicle (well, hang on we will get to THAT) the song has always been one that could take you (me) elsewhere in a hurry as they stretched the boundaries of the song and folded in some interesting recurring themes along the way. Below is what I wrote then with the caveat that it doesn’t call forth the true best ever version of the song from the Baker’s Dozen on 08.02.2017 as that had yet to occur at the time. Even still, that one stellar type II version doesn’t change the reality that the song had its best year in 1997.

 

Enjoy!

 

I humbly submit for my first entry to the “BYE” (Best Year Ever) files that 1997 was the peak year for the largely ‘Type I’ vehicle, Taste.

While this song has remained mainly in the box over the course of its history (including its interluding incarnations as ‘The Fog that Surrounds’ and then ‘The Taste that Surrounds’ before the final arrangement we know as ‘Taste’) the song includes an outro solo that usually involves Trey and Page leading call with alternating solos, generally ending with a peaked guitar charge before the return to the ending run.

The initial incarnation of Taste didn’t ever diverge from form per se and was wholly a first set tune in the ten times it appeared but in the next version (with different lyrics that had Fish out front) that Fall (’95) the band began to work more through the soloing from both Trey and Page for the first eight versions of the tour. Eventually this became “Taste That Surrounds” in a way that merged the two prior versions together and we started to approach what would eventually become the Taste we know today (but not quite yet!). There would be fourteen takes on “Tasty Fog” along the way of Fall ’95 with not much to speak of jamming-wise before it again got slightly re-worked during the Billy Breathes sessions to become the final version we have today.

So that gives us Taste and you could almost say it debuted 07.03.96, sort of, with Carlos and Perazzo joining in because why not. That first one is extended with the sit-in from Carlos due to traded licks from the two guitarists but is a bit loose in all honesty.

10.27.96 is the first occurrence of a Norwegian Wood tease in Taste (which becomes somewhat of a thing for this song at times)

Later on in ’96 Perazzo would be back again during the RiL run (10.29/11.02) which adds some nice flair with the added percussion but these are otherwise typical versions.

11.30.96 has Peter Apfelbaum on tenor sax for a very nice extended version

12.02.96 gets a major peak to close and really hints at where this is headed in ’97

 

which brings us to where I am leading with all of this…

 

Early in 1997 the band headed off to Europe for what would be the first of several defining tours that shaped the sound of the band going forward. This one brought forth several new songs and the seeds to the new sound. During the February run there wasn’t a particular Taste that BLEW UP but they were all nailed and based on the overall playing of the band at the time it was simply a matter of time. This was never a song that would succumb to the cowfunk so it would evolve in another direction: bigger solos and larger peaks.

The song would eventually get played 30 times in 1997 (easily its biggest year) and it shows why. They really were playing it well each time out with some versions hitting the stratosphere like…

06.22.97 Trey leans heavily on Norwegian Wood here (show opener)

07.03.97 big use of the wah effect to great… effect

07.09.97 Page dominates this one

07.22.97 another Page powered one, the storm plays the band

08.03.97 oh so very peaky! wide open west coast version

08.09.97 frenetic is the word I choose here

11.26.97 just go spin this. seriously.

12.30.97 the stellar capper to a year’s worth of Taste.

I skipped some (okay MANY), obviously, as to highlight all would be a bit much. tThe point is that pretty much every time they played the tune in ’97 they struck gold even when just getting from one big jam to another (such as in 02.17.97 Disease->Carini->Taste->Disease).

And so that I do not end things here, the song has had a life after this peak in different ways. The best versions from ’98 stretch things out a bit more while perhaps not reaching the same highs as those in ’97. Good examples are 04.04.98 (Island Tour of course) and 12.28.98.

As one would expect, 1999 things get even more stretched out, leading to versions that topped 12 minutes (for a song that started at 6-7 minutes initially) culminating in an almost Type II take from Rochester on 12.05.99 that deserves a listen for its uniqueness in this manner.

The millennium brought a relaxed feel to this song that took some of the energy out of the bag which kind of deflated it a bit, unfortunately, and to my mind the 2000 versions suffer somewhat as a result. That ‘mellow groove’ doesn’t always match with the feel of a song that has such a syncopated rhythm and it could come off as hit-or-miss at times as a result. The same can be said of the 2003 versions to my ear as well but others may disagree. There are definitely those who will defend the merits of versions such as 02.25.03 with that growly tone.

And as for anything from 3.0, well, there simply are not enough top shelf versions to point to in order to make a case that the song has had any sort of resurgence let alone a peak of any sort. The best version by far is the one from Worcester 06.07.12 with our friend Norwegian Wood rearing its head yet again as part of a masterful segment of music in that set but that alone does not carry enough weight to outshine the greatness the song showed throughout its Best Year Ever in 1997.

I rest my case.

Nothing I Can Say To Make It Stop

So you have probably noticed my lack of posts of late and you may have been wondering what that is all about. Or maybe you haven’t and that is fine too. But it is so and as such I should probably address what is going on with this here blog.

 

In short, I have decided to suspend the #venueproject until further notice. As I got closer to the chronicling of the last few big venues in the band’s history it became clear that this was a fruitless endeavor as the answer was already set even before Phish decided to play seventeen freaking shows in the same year at the one that was already head and shoulders above the rest, Madison Square Garden. Heck, those seventeen shows alone would make MSG almost the most played venue on their own and judging from the quality of the thirteen shows we have already experienced there this year there simply is no argument that could be made for any other venue besides MSG as being the king of all Phishy environs.

 

Will I return to finish up with BGCA, DSGP, SPAC, and MSG? I’d like to think so. Actually, make that yes. I will eventually. But I have other things I’d like to dive into such as more full tour deep dives. I’m very interested lately in the evolution of the band’s sound and jamming styles over the course of a tour and I’d like to investigate that more in depth. So that’s what I’m going to do. More on this after the NYE Run but let’s make 2018 a big year for Phish nerdery!

Some Good Parts… – Phish and Great Woods

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Interpretations on 12.31.2016, Set III

I’d like to step aside from the Venue Project for a minute to get some of the innumerable thoughts down that have been swimming through my head since walking out of Madison Square Garden after the NYE show a couple of days ago. I have debated with myself about whether I should post this because, well, it could be taken in a few different ways depending on your approach and it definitely opens me up to the type of criticism that tends to divide our scene rather than bring it together. But you know what? I don’t care. If nothing else I want to flush this stuff out so that I can process it, take what I need from it, and move forward. Not sharing that seems to me to be the wrong way to go about starting that course of action.

 

Before I start this I feel like I should make a few disclaimers. First and foremost, I am not musically trained, can barely play an instrument, and do not have the vocabulary to speak to the specifics of the music that Phish plays. I am but a simple fan who has spent countless hours listening to this band and following them around the country to the extent that it is as much a part of my life as anything else I hold dear. This passion is why I write about the band and even without the formal knowledge that would undoubtedly make my posts more worthwhile I am comfortable with where I am in the stratosphere of our scene. What I do have is a background in liberal arts having read, dissected, discussed, and argued many of the great works of Western literature and art with people much more intelligent than I could ever pretend to be. This background and my obsessively analytical way of approaching my takes on Phish are my utility belt and crutch at the same time but at the very least I think that provides a bit of context about how I am looking at the Gag that Phish performed this past New Year’s Eve.

 

Unlike most of my posts, this will not be a full show/run deep dive through the minutiae of the show(s) but instead some thoughts on how I personally interpreted the art that Phish created for us with the spectacle of Petrichor and the set that unfolded in its wake. I am also not looking to turn this into a lit crit piece so outside of quoting some Phish lyrical content I won’t be trying to relate this to any Big Themes in the world of art and literature. Heck, I’m not even going to touch on the visual reference points that to me seem almost obvious (looking at you, Rene Magritte and Giuseppe Maiorana, amongst others…). I’m already making some fairly large leaps and assumptions so no need to dig a deeper hole for those who might deride this.

 

One of the things I often say about Phish shows is that ‘we all attend the same concert but experience a different show’. I state this again here to drive home the point that I have no insider information and no expectation that my words and thoughts on the matter hold any more weight or truth than the perspective of someone else. As much as we try to let go of it all, each time we see the band we bring everything in our lives leading up to that moment with us. It is unavoidable. And at a show our individual experience is shaped by the moments we have with the music, the people around us, and everything else that carves out the memories that we take away from being in that place at that time. All of that contributes to how we engage with the experience and influences our personal reactions to what occurred (or didn’t depending on what set of expectations one has). What may be a life-changing, mind-expanding journey for me might be the worst show ever for someone else and vice versa with many thousand varied experiences falling somewhere in between or around those poles. For me, the truth to be found in seeing shows is a personal one and not something universal that will apply to those around me. Heck, it might not even apply to the folks you shared the experience with directly in the moment. In my mind, that makes it all the more interesting to discuss since by doing so we can learn more about the experience from another perspective.

 

I know that this may simply be a personal reflection that doesn’t resonate with anyone else and reflects only the journey I traveled that night. It is not meant to be seen as anything but that. If you want to read such a thing, please be my guest. I am not looking for validation or hetty points or whatever. We all have times at shows where everything makes sense whether it be in the beauty of a Hood Jam or connecting through dance with a stranger or something else entirely. This is how the set unfolded for me. If it isn’t your bag, so be it.

 

I was lucky enough to be able to attend all four shows on this latest MSG run and experienced each night from the Floor taboot. That alone puts this run into memorable territory for me personally but even further I was sharing it with a bevy of long time and newer friends including my wife, her sister and boyfriend (who I also consider a dear friend), two of my oldest best friends (who are married), and one of my newer friends in Phish not to mention the numerous wonderful individuals I have been lucky enough to meet over the years at shows, on the internet, and in person who all contribute to this wonderful thing we all share. Each night seemed to build on the prior one with themes emerging as we went along including the a cappella openers, second set mashup jam fun, bustouts, and more. By the time we got to New Year’s Eve there was a palpable buzz of anticipation as everyone waited to find out what the band had in store for this year’s big finish to the year. If I wanted to I could probably scratch together a pretty loose argument for a theory on the theme for the entirety of the run but my main goal here is in approaching the Petrichor production (and to an extent the balance of the third set) as that is to me the most overt example of Trey and the rest of the band building an artistic theme from this run.

 

At the start of the third set the stage set up had been augmented not just by length as Trey discussed in setting up the wonderful walkabout by Page and Mike for Lawnboy in the first frame but also by adding a full percussionist’s rig as well as three mike stands for what was assuredly going to be a horn section. There may have been more added but that was about the extent of what was visible to us at the back of the floor. When the musicians all walked out on stage Phish was joined by the TAB horns (James Casey, Jennifer Hartswick, and Natalie Cressman) along with Andres Forero (percussionist, of Hamilton fame) and (unseen until later when Trey pointed him out) Jeff Tanski on keys and other “symphonic” sounds. As the band started into the quiet beginning of the orchestral piece the crowd listened intently, producing a pregnant silence not too dissimilar from the awe we all felt during the Magnaball WTU?. This was different though as the anticipation for how the gag would unfold was building as the band moved through the structured piece into the more upbeat phrasing that first introduces the horns.

 

If you watch the video (and I HIGHLY recommend that you do, many times over) you can see the incredible smile on Trey’s face as this thing that he has worked on for so long is finally unfolding. That smile is evident throughout and really shows how happy Trey was to share this with all of us. They bounce into the first set of lyrics, introducing the main theme conceptually with the repeated phrase of “and the rain came down and washed it all away” as the crowd begins get into the groove being built. The song passes into the ‘pre-storm’ guitar-led segment and sixteen persons dressed in black suits with black bowler hats atop their heads and black masks shrouding their faces walk to the front of stage as Page plays the melodic interlude on the baby grand. In the moment my immediate thought was that these were the ‘no men’ referenced in the song No Man In No Man’s Land. As these ‘no men’ (that really works on many levels) form a line across the stage rain begins to fall, reflecting the lights and cascading as sheets onto the dancers, band, and rail riders alike. The dancers move with the music and take out black umbrellas, coming together to form one protected whole before separating with one dancer having taken off his mask at center stage. He then performs a series of tricks with umbrellas, juggling them and balancing one on his nose as the storm proceeds. He is playing in the rain without a care for the nuisance of being wet, something we all did as children (and that hopefully some of us still continue to do today).

 

The music shifts as Trey plays descending notes that seem to signal alarm and our lone known man is grabbed by the No Men who re-mask him, robbing him of his individuality and returning him to anonymity as one of the No Men grabs his umbrella and breaks it before throwing it aside. Another individual shows herself, flashing her brilliant red hair as she is tossed and accosted by the No Men, eventually being re-masked as well. A third No Man briefly shows his individuality but is quickly subsumed by the group and returned to the normalcy that they endeavor to maintain. The music here is building to the transition point where our next set of lyrics will come in and as this happens the dancers create a pyramid of uniformity around another one who has gone “individual”, flipping him upside down and shaking him before he escapes just as Trey sings the line “and the clouds will open and the seas will rise.” This individual then leads the No Men through a coordinated routine that includes each person “picking him/herself up by the collar” amongst other evocative moves (all while Trey sings and beams that wonderful smile behind them). After Trey sings the “when there’s no more future and no more past we’ll be on our way back home at last” lines the dancers slowly come back together at center stage but this time something is different. While the rain still falls, none of them is engaged in keeping the status quo but rather they are all distracted by a group of white/lit umbrellas that are slowly descending from the ceiling. As these new umbrellas come to rest just above the outstretched hands of the No Men they all shed their masks to reveal their individuality.

 

The band is playing the hopeful main theme now as the white umbrellas rise and fall into various patterns above the dancers. The band begins to sing the refrain “and the rain, and the rain came down” as the dancers leave the stage in a way not too dissimilar from how people passing on a busy city street would pass by each other, almost bothered by the nuisance of interaction. The umbrellas are moving through coordinated orientations, appearing almost as if they were jellyfish swimming and forming shapes such as an infinity symbol or a double helix with an array of colors and other lighting fills highlighting each one in turn as Trey takes the soaring lead and the rest of the band swells. At this point the rain is all but stopped, having accomplished its role of cleansing the No Men of their anonymity. As the song comes to its end the dancers return to the front of stage and we are nearing midnight Trey says “well, it is never too soon to get out of 2016 so…” and begins the countdown (a full 2-3 minutes early) to the expected Auld Lang Syne. The umbrellas are lit as a rainbow now and Trey says “aw, what the fuck!” laughingly acknowledging his early timing as they hit New Year’s and the ceiling (sky?) opens up and drops a massive deluge of balloons and other stuff upon us. It takes a second of recognition but most of the balloons are inflated cats and dogs such that it was literally raining cats and dogs on us. There are even cat/dog noises accompanying the deluge which also includes small foam raindrop-shaped stress ball thingies, confetti, big bouncy balloons, and so much more. By the time they finished up ALS the entire stage and floor area was overflowing such that we were up to our necks in cats, dogs, and whatnot. The No Men – though unmasked – oddly stand motionless with sullen faces but then Trey counts off the start to Suzy and they turn away from the crowd before throwing down their black suits and emerging in bright yellow outfits and with faces beaming, befitting the raucous abandon of the celebratory jam.

 

It is pure mayhem at this stage as they find spaces to dance and the band plays amidst the masses of balloons (with the various techs trying in vain to clear scene). Everyone is acting individually now with the dancers playing around and getting into the spirit of the old anthem about that free spirited gal no man can tame. The band jams along for a bit with the horns and added percussion adding that punch to the song that horns always do with Suzy. As it ends Trey never fully stops playing but starts in with the rhythm line for NMINML and we are off again into another dance party. The dancers and such have departed but the party ain’t over by a long shot. This song choice is very purposeful to me once you start to read into the lyrics:

how far have we fallen, how far can we go?
how far will we fall, if there’s nothing below
you stand on a rock, suspended in air
emblazoned with sunlight keenly aware
that we’ve broken free, something has changed
a tear in the fabric, some tiles rearranged

we are the no men in no man’s land
we are the no men in no man’s land
darkness the one thing we all understand
we are the no men in no man’s land
we are the no men in no man’s land

and the truth will rise above, and fiction fall beneath
although the lies may bite, the truth has all the teeth
you see us as a window, you’re happy that we’re here
exposed to all the elements, while inside all is clear

but if you hold a mirror, and you turn it to one side
the depth you see within at first, will find a place to hide
we are the no men in no man’s land

the loss of all motion, the absence of sound
when there’s no sun to circle around
we are the no men in no man’s land

Something has changed here. No longer are we under the weight of the storm that was 2016. In coming into the new year we are able to shed the “friction” and “lies” that dragged us all down which if you want to take as an overt political statement I’d be hard pressed to argue against. But even on a simpler level this song represents the move from conforming to being ourselves, understanding the darkness but not letting it define us.

 

Petrichor was the metaphor for that personal revelation and Suzy is the example of what freedom can look like (albeit under the guise of a person so different as to be seen as needing professional help). NMINML then punctuates the message of looking inward to become our best outward selves. But it doesn’t stop there. The next tune, Breath & Burning, is one that many probably audibly groaned to hear the band play in that spot but just listen to the lyrics and it fits the theme:

Breath and Burning
We are made of sand
Slowly turning
At the waves command
And what does it matter
If the nightmares all came true?
The black clouds that scattered across
The sky so there’s nothing left we can do
Let’s celebrate while the hurricane
Throws salt and water into the room
The canary died
The healer lied
The yellow fields disappeared too soon
Mid-air voltage blooms and grows
Unstoppable, it’s instant heat
And as sinners plea on bended knee
We’ll be dancing here for days
Breath and Burning
We are made of sand
Slowly turning At the waves command
And what does it matter
That the end’s in sight?
We’re not going gently
We’re gonna rage with Page at the dying of the light!
The sudden unexpected fate
Of sunken ships
Was our future path
Your string of beads did nothing to
Prepare for you what was sure to pass
Shadow wheels in shipping lanes
The angry winds blew straight from hell
And the tortoise pulls his head inside his shell
Breath and Burning
We are made of sand
Slowly turning
At the waves command
And what does it matter?
It’ll be over soon
Our heads on a platter
So lets spin in the light of the moon
We’ve still got the light of the moon
We’ll dance in the light of the moon
Breath and Burning
Breath and Burning
Breath and Burning
Breath and Burning

This song speaks to hope and not allowing the many negative outside factors alter who we are and how we act. At a certain point, you cannot change or influence those around you. But you can change how you approach your interactions with others and more importantly how you approach YOU. As cheesy as the line is, there is hope in the idea: “and what does it matter that the end’s in sight? we’re gonna rage with Page at the dying of the light.” When the shit hits the fan would you rather be complaining about the stench or making the best of a bad situation?

 

At this point I have probably lost most people. I get that and have to reinforce that this is the interpretation that I took from the show in the moment and upon reflection after the fact. Song choice and thematic intent are messy subjects when it comes to Phish because as I mentioned above we are all coming at this from vastly different sets of experience. It is more than likely that this is not the true intention of what Trey was looking to do when crafting this project. But I like to think that he’d be open to this type of investigation. Let’s get back to it. Don’t worry, I’m almost done…

 

After Breath & Burning the band counts off another song with a high groan potential for the fanbase. Tide Turns has always felt like more of a TAB type of tune to most and based on the performances of it and the music it offers I can easily see that argument being made. But here in the context of this set the lyrics take on a slightly different meaning than how I had originally read them when first hearing the song. I have been talking about not losing yourself in the anonymity of conformity in our culture which is mentioned in the first stanza and continued throughout the song:

When you’re lost in the darkness
And the lonliness cuts so deep
When every breath is suffereing
And you’re longing for sleep
You don’t have to be alone
I’ve still got a kind word to spare
I’ve still have an ear to listen
I’ve got time

I’ll wait with you till the tide turns
Yes I will
I’ll wait with you till the tide turns
I’ll wait with you till the tide turns
Till the tide turns…

When the wolf is at your door
And the mirror holds your nightmare
There’s no need to hide your tears
If it’s too much for you to bear
You don’t have to be alone
I’ll still always be here for you
Together we can make it through
We’ve got time, yes we do

I’ll wait with you till the tide turns
Yes I will
I’ll wait with you till the tide turns
I’ll wait with you till the tide turns
Till the tide turns…

You don’t have to be alone
I’ll still always be here for you
Together we can make it through
We’ve got time, yes we do

I’ll wait with you till the tide turns
Yes I will
I’ll wait with you till the tide turns
I’ll wait with you till the tide turns
Till the tide turns…

This is a song about not only finding yourself but of offering connection for those who need it. The message is clear. You do not have to be alone in all of this. Even as we are “slowly turning at the waves’ command” (from B&B) the narrator is offering to be there, offering hope to the individual in this personal struggle. This could apply to so many circumstances in our lives. How many of us have wanted to take that risky step into the unknown but were afraid to do so? How much easier was it to do such a thing when there was someone there to help you, support you, and guide you through that transition? In a sea of No Men we seek connection with individuals, something that our little community fosters but that is less prevalent in the wider world of our culture(s). Perhaps the message is not just to find the support you need but to be the one there to give it when you see the need in others as well because “together we can make it through.”

 

When they started up the next song, 555, along with really being excited that we’d get to hear this song with horns I found myself paying closer attention to the lyrics than I had before:

They’re tyin’ a blindfold cross my eyes
I rest my face down
Skidding on switchbacks near the sides
Gonna try to bust out

Get up, jump out, don’t wait, gotta get away
Hop off, roll down, spring up, live another day

Sprint on cobblestones past the tracks
They kept my money, and my water
Don’t wanna run ‘cuz I want it back
But I know I really ought to

If I don’t break away clean
I might stray from the scene
Make an escape when it arrives:
The 555

They bought my soul for a pile of cash
Everybody else got paid out
They’re closing in I gotta dash
I gotta find a way out

Hop off, roll down, spring up, live another day
Get up, jump out, don’t wait

If I don’t break away clean
I might stray from the scene
Make an escape when it arrives:
The 555

In our context this song speaks to the struggle of breaking free from “them” and weighing the frustration of being able to “break away clean” else one escapes/leaves this “scene” entirely. That is, we often find ourselves struggling to be individuals who still desire to be able fit into a group or community which can cause some to “get up, jump out, don’t wait, gotta get away, hop off, roll down, spring up, live another day” by removing themselves from participation in such community. We constantly push and pull between wanting to be individuals and wanting to be accepted within the greater whole.

 

Interestingly, the next song is not one I would have thought would fit this theme but once I took a closer look at the lyrics it fits perfectly after 555. Up through now we have seen the struggle to brush off the negativity of outside influences with the goal of allowing one to remain an individual followed by songs of hope and connection and then one about struggling with all of that. So when Ocelot started up I thought that perhaps the theme was complete only to find relevance in the words sung:

Ocelot! Ocelot!
Where have you gone?
Morning is over
and noon slouches on

Your stripes could all fade
in the poisonous day
When you see the sunlight
move out of the way

You prance with the beasts
who parade every night
And silently slouch
through the forest by light
Don’t be the only one left on the block
Come hide in the herd
and float with the flock

Ocelot! Ocelot!
Where are you now?
You never listen to me anyhow
You wandered and ambled
you walked, now you run
Knowing you’ll bake
like a snake in the sun
You prance with the beasts
you parade every night
And silently slouch
through the forest twilight

Don’t be the only one left on the block
Come hide in the heard
and float with the flock

You prance with the beasts
you parade every night
And silently slouch
through the forest twilight

Don’t be the only one left on the block
Come hide in the heard
and float with the flock

Ocelot! Ocelot!
Where have you gone?
(Won’t you come out to play?)
Ocelot! Ocelot!
Where have you gone?
(Won’t you come out to play?)
Ocelot! Ocelot!
Where have you gone?
(Won’t you come out to play?)

Hey what do you know? Another song about finding connection but maintaining individuality! Granted, the connection is loosening now and I wouldn’t fault anyone for telling me this one is a stretch. But how many times have you wanted to feel included when you were somehow left out? Sure, it feels great to be your own person but sometimes you want to be able to blend in and “float with the flock”. This song brings that home by pointing out that no matter how bright your individual “spots” are sometimes it is fun to simply “come out and play.”

 

The set then closes with the instrumental shot of energy that is First Tube, a song that may not have any of the overtones that I am connecting here. Then again, perhaps it does. Early versions of the song as performed by that short-lived early incarnation of Trey’s solo projects ‘8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes’ included Heloise Williams repeating the phrase “free thought” over and over. No man is an individual without free thought. Something to ponder. It’s a very loose connection but I think it offers up a closure point for the theme I am looking at here. Plus getting a Phish First Tube with TAB horns was a nice treat even if they didn’t take this (or really any) of the songs too far afield.

 

The idea of catharsis is often bandied about when discussing Phish’s music, particularly singular jams but often when looking at the arc of a particular set or show, for example with a well placed Slave or Hood that caps a deep dive set by bringing us all back into the light. I find it to be an overused term for the most part but I can attest that with this set that I experienced it in the moment. The tale that Trey wove brought forth a lot of emotional weight for me, weight that I was able to purge in the joy of that First Tube closer. Heck, even the Loving Cup encore helped in that regard what with the wonderful feeling that comes from belting out “what a beautiful buzz!!” at the top of your lungs with 19,000 other people. Phish generally ends their sets and shows in a manner that allows for such release. That is perhaps one of the things that many of us chase more than anything: that feeling of being able to lose yourself in the music, letting all the worry and weight of life slide away if even for only a few moments, and connecting with those who surround you. On this night, to me, the message was clear.

 

If you have read this far, I appreciate it. It seems that each year our dissections of Phish’s NYE Gags get more and more divisive as we have more points of comparison to relate them to. Was this set as compelling as the Hourglass NMINML jam from 2015? Musically, no way. I have been fortunate enough to see Phish on NYE several times and each time I know that there is more to what they are doing than a simple collection of songs being played. It is natural for one to want to find connection to the music just as we yearn for connection with other people. We want to be able to relate these experiences to what we know and understand or perhaps to foster questions about that which we do not comprehend. I know that my experience this year and in years past is different from what others got from the show. And I am probably reading more into this than ever intended by Trey and the band. But the very fact that this music can foster such thoughts in us is encouraging because it gives evidence to something that Mike Gordon once wrote to me on a postcard many many years ago after I sent in a letter to the band (the exact substance of which I have long since forgotten).

What you have written is far beyond the realm of a compliment. It’s an indication that the deeper thing – that deeper thing – is happening. Thanx so much.

Mike Gordon (Phish)

Art is defined by interpretation. Without context, real or projected, there is no meaning to it. To me that causes it to lose intrinsic value. We tend to shy away from this sort of perspective on the art that Phish creates or perhaps many of us do not view it in that construct. I am not here to say why that is. All I can do is reflect on what this music did for me and caused me to feel. At the root that is the goal, right? My interpretation is a product of what I observed visually, aurally, and physically along with the concepts I had swirling around my in head looking for external meaning or import. Phish provided the story and for that I thank them. I have found value in the experience that they gave me by way of their art.

 

 

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!!

 

The House That Bill Built – Phish and Shoreline

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

shorelinestealie

I know, right? RIGHT?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Venue:  Shoreline Amphitheater

No. of Shows:  fourteen

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

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

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

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

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