The Circus Is The Place for Me – Identifying the Top Tier Venues

Now that I have said I’m going to do this Venue Project thing I suppose I should get to finalizing the criteria for inclusion and letting you know where this is all headed. From there we can begin the process of working through each venue’s shows to make this art compete to determine which venue is the BEST PHISH PLACE EVAR!!

 

After a lengthy culling of the setlist files to pull together all of the variously named venues into one list I have a firm grasp on the probably-mostly-but-perhaps-not-entirely accurate number of times that the band has played each venue over the years. With that in hand I need to set some criteria for inclusion of consideration, otherwise I’ll be here listening and ranking for the next few years (if it only takes that long…).

 

  1. Number of Shows Played at Venue – this is the primary criteria of inclusion. While there may be (and are) numerous venues where Phish has played 1, 2, 4, even 6 good-to-great shows that still leaves us with a list of more than 50 venues to work through here. In the interest of keeping this thing manageable as well as to look a bit at the why behind the reasons they keep going back to the same places year after year I have set the minimum confirmed  appearances by Phish at twelve*. I say Phish because there are several venues that have seen TAB, GRAB, or other band member bands play them. This is not about them. C’mon now.
  2. More on the Number of Shows Thing – Any venue that has a significant number of unknown or partial setlists was downgraded due to uncertainty. For this reason you will not see classic venues such as Hunt’s, The Haunt, Gallagher’s, Slade Hall, or even The Front or Nectar’s on the list for consideration. The next numerical will get into more about why these venues and others like them did not make this list. The other “negative” count factor against some venues was the type of performance played as there are those opener sets for Santana and the H.O.R.D.E fest single setters that generally didn’t bring much in the way of actual jamming. The above alone did not disqualify any one venue but it factors into the conversation.
  3. Timing of Performances – We all came to Phish at various points in their career but I think I can safely say that most of us continue to be obsessed with this band because of the music they create each night. This creativity is most evident in the various jamming styles that they employ and how they approach the music. The type of show that gets LEGENDARY status from the fanbase does so due to the playing of the band or perhaps a particularly flowing/unique setlist. With that in mind, I place a lot more weight on the shows that have occurred since August 1993 (though some would probably just start with 1994) as that is generally accepted as one of the big touchpoint moments for Phish in going from a tight, precision-based group of musical weirdos to one that would invent on the fly.

 

*We can debate this all you want. I went back and forth on this number a lot and in the end it is a good number to use for reasons that will become evident as we progress here.

 

So how do those main criteria impact our list? Obviously, the first criteria related to number of Phish shows at the venue is the most integral to how we proceed. As I looked at the list, it became clear that I would have to set the bar somewhat high so as to not be working through this project for more time than it really needs. Before factoring in the secondary criteria the the numbers are big, like 103 venues with four or more shows or 63 venues with six or more. When you get to this level you start to see some of the venues we know and love drop out (like the Rosemont Horizon, Providence Civic Center and more) but when you compare those to places that have seen upwards of 20 shows they simply cannot compete even if every one of those 4-5 shows is one we love. That’s just math, people.

 

Then once one adds in the secondary criteria related to the type of performance played at the venue as well as whether we even have a setlist to validate the number, the potential inclusions for our list shrinks significantly. After eliminating hallowed early venues including The Front (55 shows but 20 lack setlists) and Nectar’s (43 listed, 20 without setlists) and factoring in the two-sets rule (#3 above) we have 30 venues with 7+ shows, 21 venues with 10+ shows, and 15 venues with 12+ shows. Taking a glance at where this puts us, we have:

venuecount

That’s a pretty fun list but also a bit longer than I want to dive into so where do we draw the line? I said twelve shows above and I think that the venues included in that fifteen can reasonably be argued to be the ‘cream of the crop’ when it comes to Phishy venues even if only based on half-remembrances and anecdotal experience. But this is nothing if not a democracy so if there is a valid argument to be made for including the ‘next tier’ (i.e. locations with 10 or more shows) then we can do that. For the time being, however, I’m going forward with the top fifteen on that list above which includes these storied venues:

 

Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY

Deer Creek Music Center in Noblesville, IN (other names for this venue include Verizon Wireless Music Center and the current corporate moniker Klipsch Music Center)

Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY

Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO

Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, VA

Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts in Mansfield, MA (other names for this venue include Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts, Comcast Center, and the current corporate moniker Xfinity Center)

Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI

Worcester Centrum in Worcester, MA (other names for this venue include the Centrum in Worcester, Worcester’s Centrum Centre, and the current corporate moniker DCU Center)

Gorge Amphitheatre in George, WA

Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD

Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA

Jones Beach Amphitheater in Wantagh, NY

Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, CA

American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL

 

Clicking on any of those venue names will take you to the phish.net page for the venue so that you can see what shows have occurred there to start your homework. I’m going to keep you on your toes as to which venue we will (re)visit first. For now, what I want to know is whether there is a compelling argument to expand the list to some of the ones that just missed the cut here or ones I removed for one reason or another.

 

With The Right Device You Can Make A Pattern Grow – The Venue Project

For a while there has been a smaller project that I have wanted to take on, one that seems to get hinted at and asked about in the various Phish social media circles though I have yet to see a full breakdown of the idea in any one place. It is a notion that flows into many conversations that you hear about the band with broad statements like “they always play hot shows at Deer Creek” or “I cannot wait to get back to the Mothership” or “hands down, Dick’s is the best venue for Phish these days and they always slay it there” and the like being so common as to become part of the band’s folklore. But just how true are those statements?

 

In order to figure out a somewhat reasonable answer to this question I propose to take a look back at the venues where Phish has played most frequently and put together some form of summary/breakdown of the music that the band played to see if there really is a connection between the setting and the music as we often think. This endeavor will require some heavy lifting first in breaking down all of the various names both corporate and otherwise to figure out the correct number of times played at a particular place and then diving in headlong to try to make some sense of the history there. We will go about setting some criteria in a bit but some of the considerations that I am thinking about include:

  • setting a minimum number of times played as a baseline – this will obviously exclude some of the fantastic “one timer” venues and places where they might’ve only played a couple of shows but if we don’t cut it somewhere it will end up being a full history and a highly subjective undertaking at that
  • evaluating the music played – this is about as subjective as it can get but at a certain level all of this is so we will try to look at the relative “quantity of quality” in the performances including possibly using outside resources like PJJ to see how others have “valued” the music therein
  • special venues – while I could be swayed by a persuasive argument (nudge nudge, wink wink) otherwise my inclination is to keep festival settings out of the conversation though to be honest most will not qualify for the minimum number of shows if it ends up where I think it will
  • the venue-specific factors – what about a venue contributes to the whole experience? This could include acoustics, proximity of band to crowd and sightlines, slapback, whether they have good nachos or just that goopy fake cheese bullshit, and the like. While perhaps not as important on the surface, these factors can and do contribute to the overall experience.
  • intangibles – this is the stuff people point to that has no objective basis but has become part of the story. Stuff like the prevailing vibe of the crowd in a room, the hype surrounding the shows and venue itself, how hard a ticket might be to acquire, etc. There is some bleed between these factors and the venue-specific ones.

I’m not really looking to get too granular with it such that the overall intent is lost in the details so obviously the primary focus will be the music played. I think this can be a fun little project before heading into another full tour review and also so that I’m not overlapping my way back posts with the new stuff coming out on Fall Tour in just a few weeks. I’ll have another, more detailed post to set about establishing the criteria and putting together the list of venues in consideration but until then let me know what you think in the comments.

 

What is your pick for Phish’s best played venue throughout their history?

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours – My Final Fall 1996 Takeaways

Well, it has been a long and winding road to get here but today we finally get to the wrapping it up bit for our journey through the Phish Fall 1996 Tour. I have really enjoyed this entire thing and have gained an even bigger appreciation than I already had for this tour and year – and let’s face it, I was already a champion for it to begin with. We Phish fans like to throw around superlatives and proclamations about what era/year/tour/show/set/jam/run of notes is TEH BEST EVAR!!!! which gets to a whole ranking of art thing that is really not what I am about. That’s not to say that certain shows or songs don’t have versions that speak to us more directly (or more simply: that get our rocks off as hard). Personally, I find that getting too wrapped up in that way of thinking misses the point  though I understand the desire (need?) to do so. Avoiding all the obstacles that terrorize my view, I will instead give you a bit of where I am with this tour after putting in the considerable amount of time it has taken to get us here today. So without further ado, here are my personal thoughts and takeaways from this wonderfully entertaining run of thirty-five shows numbered here for list purposes but in no way ordered or ranked…

 

  1. While perhaps not as defined as other years, the prevailing sound and feel to 1996 and the Fall Tour in particular is unmistakable. This is a band in full control of their art doing what they do best while also working towards what will be perhaps the biggest evolution in their sound.
  2. If I had to give a name to the style of jamming Phish employs most regularly during this tour it would be “Percussive Groove” which is a term I have thrown into several posts. This type of jamming can but does not always include Trey hopping on the mini-kit.
  3. In this time period Phish was very open to having guests join them on stage, something they have been open about not wanting as much here and now. It doesn’t always work but sometimes it comes together in big ways resulting in unique takes on the music we know and love. And then sometimes it becomes something even more influential…
  4. The impact of Karl Perazzo’s “mini tour” with the band cannot be overstated. That first show in Tallahassee includes what I consider to be the first proto-cowfunk jam in Mike’s Song and by Coral Sky you can hear the excitement in their playing as they toy with this new found groove-based jamming. Obviously the practice and performance of Remain In Light is integral to this similar to how each Halloween album seems to fit with where the band is at that time and where they are headed.
  5. Speaking of Halloween, others have written about how covering the Talking Heads can be argued to be the most important of the costumes Phish has worn over the years in how it changed their sound. I definitely agree with this notion and all you have to do is listen to how this tour progresses to start nodding your head in support of that observation. Heck, they even as much as confirm it when talking to David Byrne himself.
  6. I’m not going to lie, I had a difficult time trimming the takeaways list down into a more manageable yet still pretty large final list. Some of this might be related to my personal preferences but I think it also speaks to just how well the band was playing throughout this tour.
  7. There is a pretty interesting argument to be made that parallels between 1996 and 2016 can be drawn. Huge high point the year prior, perceived slip “backwards” by some/many in the fanbase, notion that work on album has detracted from band’s live performances… which year am I referring to???
  8. Though I am not a ranker I do have some thoughts on end of tour awards. So here goes:
    1. My pick for Jam of the Tour goes to The Rupp Gin (11.07.1996). This multi-phased beast stands the test of time and combines all of the elements of the band in one wide-ranging piece of music.
    2. The song of the Tour is Simple. Each of the ten versions played has something worthwhile to take away (though you will see below that I did not include every one). I am very comfortable saying that this was the best tour for Simple in the band’s history. It really isn’t even close.
    3. Like Simple, a few other songs had notable highs for this tour. Disease, Hood, Reba, Mike’s, Tweezer, and even stuff like Ya Mar have multiple versions that are well worth your time. While the open psych jamming of 1995 is mostly missing on this tour where they take these songs is quite engaging and indicative of the larger points above regarding the band’s development and progression.
    4. The show of the Tour is a bit tougher to unravel. The easy answers are 10.31 (Atlanta) and 12.06 (Las Vegas) but depending on your favorite flavor of Phish I could understand arguments made for others like 11.02 (Coral Sky) or another of the PerazzoPhish shows, 11.07 (Rupp), or possibly even something like 11.15 (Kansas City) or 11.16 (Omaha). In the end you simply cannot deny the three sets of wonderful music they created on 10.31. As much as I laud 12.06 as a personal favorite that Halloween show stands out above the rest.
    5. Best sit-in of the tour is easy due to the PerazzoPhish thing but in terms of best sit-in song performance it has to be the Crosseyed from Coral Sky. I’m choosing that over perhaps one of my favorite one time covers they have ever done, The Great Curve, which should tell you something about what I think of that C&P.
    6. Biggest “holy crap I cannot believe what they just did” moment of the tour is The Note in the Omaha Hood. Just a shade under three minutes of Trey holding the sustain, egging the crowd on while the rest of the band goes off and elevates the thing to a ridiculous energy level. It might not be the objective ‘best’ Hood of the tour in a strong tour for the song but holy hell if you don’t get amped by that I’m not sure what to say.
    7. The runner up to The Note might be the wild ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ YEM from Kansas City. It wasn’t the first time they had done something like that in YEM but the way it develops explodes into that funkified dance party might just make you start laughing uncontrollably.
    8. Best bustout of the tour is All Along The Watchtower with Buddy Miles and Merl Saunders not just for the song but for the great version they played with those esteemed guests. As a reminder, do yourself the favor of watching the backstage videos that have popped up from that night. They are easily found on YouTube.
    9. Funniest on stage thing from the tour is a bit tougher to nail down simply because of the variances in what each person finds humorous. The entirety of the Harpua suite in Vegas tops the list for me but you might prefer the Fish stumbling through Bike in Lexington bit or the Mule->Catapult->Mule zaniness and that is perfectly okay.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s get to the final playlist that you might have espied over there in the sidebar player.

 

I mentioned in my initial post about takeaways that I had pulled 176 tracks out as either ‘tier I’ or ‘tier II’ highlights from all of the shows for the tour. Well, as I started to go back through it I added in two more tracks to the list so it grew to 178. With this list in hand I went back and listened to every song on it again, taking notes along the way and bucketing songs into “yes” “no” and “maybe” for inclusion (or not) in the final list. After the first pass I still had 150+ tracks at either “yes” or “maybe” so I went back and cut it further to the list you will find below which comprises the 109 tracks that I feel are worthy of inclusion.

 

Before moving on I’ll just give the typical disclaimer that given 99 Phish fans there would be 99 different lists because we all listen to the same shows but hear the music differently based on where we come from, how that shapes us as listeners, and where we are in that moment. There should be no judgement of a person’s personal take on the music and no proclamations of certainty with respect to this art as both reactions serve nothing but the selfish aims of the judge and/or proclaimer. Trying to make objective claims about the subjective is fruitless and undermines our ability to find connection with others in discussing this wonderful music. You may not agree with what I value in this art and I may not agree with you but the fact that we are both engaged by it should be the basis for finding ways to engage with each other.

 

Okay, we good? Here’s my list with the scribblings I put for each just so you can see some of how I got to where I am on these.

fall 96 takeaways_Page_1fall 96 takeaways_Page_2fall 96 takeaways_Page_3

It’s a big list, I won’t lie. And there are several songs for which I included multiple versions for one reason or another. But this list to me gives you a good glimpse of what Fall 1996 Phish was all about from the big jams to the sit-ins to the bustouts to the crisply played standard stuff and beyond. If you are interested in listening to this outside of the player on this site I have uploaded it for you to take away yourself. Note please that I have included my spreadsheet of the culling for your referral and potential amusement in getting into my head on this. The two files break down such that PH.Fall96.Final.1.zip has everything through Sat. Louis (and includes the spreadsheet) while PH.Fall96.Final.2.zip has the rest of the tour starting in Omaha. All of the tracks here are mp3 auds from the sources on The Spreadsheet but if you like what you hear and are itching for sbds there are a few shows from this tour available for purchase at www.livephish.com, namely 10.31.1996, 11.02.1996, 11.07.96, and 12.06.1996. If you do grab the mp3 files linked here please note that there are a couple with id tagging errors due to where I pulled them from. This includes the two tracks from 11.03.1996 Gainesville not having any band/album info included and the 11.16.1996 Kansas City tracks being tagged as Nashville, TN for some reason.

 

Fall 1996 1 (Lake Placid through St. Louis)

Fall 1996 2 (Omaha through Las Vegas)

 

So there you have it! I’d love to hear what others took away from this tour so please feel welcome to comment here as I am certain that my musings on this tour are far from the only opinions out there.

 

I have one last Fall 1996 thing to post once I have it ready but that’s for another day. I’ll tease you by saying it is contest with a real live prize and everything but in order to win you will need to know your stuff about this tour. Start studying!

And We Play Bebop in the Band – Las Vegas, NV 12.06.1996

Phish — The Aladdin Theatre — Las Vegas, NV 12.06.1996

I  Wilson>Peaches>Poor Heart>2001>Llama, YEM, CTB>Disease>Frankenstein

II  Julius, Sparkle>Mike’s>Simple>Hood>Paug, Adeline, GTBT

E  Harpua->Wildwood Weed->Harpua->I Want to Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart->Harpua->Suspicious Minds->Harpua, Suzy

The final show of a tour is something of a culmination, an opportunity to revel in everything that has come before it, and a chance to reflect back on how we have gotten here just a mere month or two since starting out. It is also a grand celebration and the last time to throw down with several thousand of your best friends knowing that you won’t have this opportunity to dance to Phish music for some time after this night. Musically, these shows can either be very fulfilling with jams galore and perhaps a few knowing nods to what developed over the tour or sometimes the last show can be more of a party where the music is secondary to the celebration. Neither one is bad by any means and with the variety of people who attend shows (particularly these days…) what might not work for one fan could be the best possible show for another. But if you add in a destination like, oh, I don’t know, LAS VEGAS to the equation? Well, my friend, you have the ingredients for one of those nights when everything just seems to come together perfectly.

 

This was the first time that Phish had played Las Vegas since… hang on. Wait. This can’t be… They really hadn’t ever played in Las Vegas before this night? Really?? Huh. That just can’t be, can it? It can? Okay, well, um… I guess we will have to move right into talking about the show then.

 

This is weird. I don’t know what to do without a couple hundred words full of links about shows gone by. Just roll with it? Well, if I say so…

 

This show along with being the tour ender and first time in Las Vegas for the band is the singular time they played at the Aladdin Theater, a venue now called the The AXIS (would that Phish could play Bold as Love there but we’re too big for this room now…). It is located in the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino though back in 1996 it was, somewhat obviously, named the Aladdin Resort & Casino. These things change a lot in that town as we know. Future visits to the city that birthed countless bad decisions would be at the much larger Thomas & Mack Center (the home to UNLV basketball amongst other arena-sized events) and lately the MGM Grand Garden Arena but those are for another time. Today we tackle this wonderfully Phishy night that saw the band and fans celebrating the end to another top notch Fall with some of the over-the-top lunacy that only a place like Las Vegas can beckon.

 

Before we get too far, let’s give you a few places to check out this show outside of the somewhat muddy auds on the typical streaming sites. First and foremost is the spotify of the ‘standard edition’ release of the show. I swear the ‘limited edition’ used to be on there but I’m not finding it anymore. You can also purchase the standard release at Dry Goods, naturally. The aforementioned Limited Release came with a DVD with video of the show from the 2001 through the end which is high quality stuff if you can find it as well as a CD called “Road to Vegas” that had several tracks from the tour leading up to that night:  11.09.1996 Melt, 11.03.1996 Tweezer, 11.07.1996 Gin, 11.18.1996 Simple, and 11.30.1996 Amazing Grace>Amazing Grace jam. All of those are things we have highlighted here along the path of this tour. There’s a less-than-awesome rip of the video on YouTube if you want to at least see what is up with all that went down but I would recommend seeking out the higher quality version if you can find it (I once saw it as an On Demand offering on Fios about five years ago which made for a fun surprise viewing).

 

Okay, I think that gets us where we want to be here.

Everybody ready? Show cued up and volume cranked? Let’s do it!

 

The band comes out with purpose, dropping into the crowd-pleasing Gamehendge rocker Wilson to warm up and get the crowd involved from the start. They crank right though this one (the sixth of tour) and drop into the second Peaches en Regalia of the tour (joining the nod to FZ in his hometown of LA a few nights prior). This one is clean and mean as they have clearly been practicing it and leads into Poor Heart for our typical third song first set bluegrass romp. Continuing the string they extend the outro here into a bit of spacey murk where Trey is pulling, Mike is pushing, and Page plinks around on the effects until Fish snaps the beat and we are into 2001! Not a song you expect to here mid first set, from the start there’s a swagger here that has been building over the past few versions this tour. Trey comes in with the Superbad beat, plays some searching lines above the groove. They patiently sit in this pocket until after the five minute mark when they finally get to the first ‘refrain’, dropping back into an infectious funk groove. Trey is plucking out staccato rhythm lines as the dance party goes big time and then after the final ‘refrain’ they go back to some noisy, distorted murk that erupts into Llama. Trey is on point here, shredding the hell out of this fast paced version (Page has a really fast run through his organ solo too) as they tempt the fans to keep up with non-stop action here five songs into the set. After a minuscule stop to allow everyone to catch their breath they start up You Enjoy Myself, yet another oddly placed vehicle here in the middle of the first set. By now you have to be thinking “holy crap, they are really going for it tonight” which might be one of the more obvious notions your expanded head has ever thrown at you at a show. This YEM starts out with beautifully played Pre and Nirvana sections before they swell up towards the collective release and start to the lyrical section and move to the tramps/jam section(s). Once through the tramps Trey starts playing the funk comp chords you will really get to know and love if you dive headlong into the ’97 cowfunk, allowing Page to do his thing on the organ. After a bit Trey shifts to lead, starting way down with sparse runs of notes featuring elongated tones as fish metronomes behind him. They almost get to a stop-start jam but then Mike hits the fight bell and Trey starts his climb, toying around that typical YEM thematic lead before elevating into a rocking full band jam. Trey is laying waste to it while Fish pounds down and just before they hit the inevitable peak Trey lets his guitar fade out with distortion and heads to the minikit. As he and Fish play Rhythm Devils Mike takes charge on bass, keeping this non-stop dance anthem going hard. After a couple of minutes here they head into the VJ which normally I wouldn’t pay too much heed in this space but it is one of my favorites being the “Donuts I Love Donuts” VJ which is catchy and fun and just perfectly phishy all at once.

 

Now we get our first real breather of the night with NOPE! Instead of letting up they go into Cars Trucks Buses for the thirteenth time this tour (tied for third most overall…). This stays close to form with Page taking charge and playing brightly until the move into Down With Disease. Another oft played tune this tour, Disease stays at home within structure but pops with that massive type I energetic feel as Trey trills above the chugging groove pocket. There is benefit in having played this song so much over the course of the tour as this version is clean and nailed in the way that only a song you play frequently can be. It is almost an auto-pilot jam it feels so effortless. After bringing it back around to the traditional Disease close that we so rarely get these days they put an exclamation point on the set with a raucous Frankenstein. Trey gives us The Lie and then it is off to figure out how many hands of blackjack you can get in during the setbreak while concurrently arguing with your friends about how many shows this tour even have second sets as good as that first one was. Honestly, if you saw that setlist for a second frame here in 3.0 you’d be pretty excited to hear it, wouldn’t you? It’s okay. You can admit it. This is a safe place. There there now. It’s going to be aaaaaaallllll right. Now go get me some nachos.

 

You back yet? Okay, so after a lot of high-fiving and caterwauling and whatnot about how fantastic that first set was you settle into your spot for this final set of Phish before the few weeks’ break leading up to the New Year’s Run starting in Philly. You are kind of expecting a big Tweezer here seeing that they played Mike’s the other night and it had been a few since the last Tweezer but once the lights drop all that speculating goes by the wayside as Trey starts in with the recognizable “doo-doo-do-duh” that gives us Julius. I’ve said it before this tour and it holds true here as well: Trey really really can shred the shit out of Julius. This high energy, rollicking second set opener just continues the celebration of the tour they started from note one in the first set and along with the Sparkle that follows fits the bill in getting everyone back into the right headspace to get to the dancing for the remainder of the show. The Sparkle (non-FMS, of course) butts up against the start of our first real vehicle which surprisingly ends up being Mike’s Song considering what we mentioned just above. Thankfully, they were pretty good at jamming this song back then so even though it might not have gone next level like the one from San Diedo or even St. Louis (or Knoxville… or Tallahassee… they are all in the sidebar playlist there…) it gets a bit dark in the jam as Trey toys around the theme with Page and Mike eventually following him as they start to break down out of Mike’s, coming back to it with a repeated “siren” two note phrase by Trey that drips with musical tension. Knowing that the drop into the transition is just waiting to happen. There is no overt move into a second jam tonight as they play in this frenetic space for several minutes, pulsing in and around the Mike’s Song theme before Trey finally brings it up to the major key peak and move into… Simple! Well, of course. This has been the Simple Tour now hasn’t it? Well, for the capstone version of the tour they go for it big time, seemingly picking up where another version of this jam left off. Trey shines in the early, type I section, peeling off beautiful lines. The band connects and drops down to a quieter, slower pace around the seven minute mark with Page’s piano matching Trey in the beauty department. All are involved at this point and it feels like it could slip into nothingness or continue on in this way forever as you hug yourself, swaying with closed eyes and feeling the cool breeze of the air conditioning fans brushing against your face, the ever present smile you brought with you beaming forth like  the best CK5 light show there is. A few minutes of this loveliness later Trey begins to speed up his lead, interjecting new ideas into the groove and the band follows as they begin to build towards some kind of transition or end peak. But then Trey hits on a dirty groove, the band joins him and we are into another phase altogether. This is the true move out of Simple proper but still evokes Simple in some sense. After only a minute or so of this Trey moves again, this time more back to Simple than away but still in a new, fresh direction. Fish changes the beat as we move past the sixteen minute mark and they hit on a percussive groove as it starts to all break down with Page being the one continuing the melody. After one last Trey lead idea that Page matches it is clear this has now run its course, evidenced by Fish adding some soft, all but incomprehensible lyric to it and the band resolves to move on. Fish hits the start of Harry Hood and your smile widens even more (you really are going to have some tired cheeks after this night) as they play in the ‘reggae’ intro. Trey hits a couple of whistle wahs, Mike hits the fight bell and then as they get into the song proper Trey hits some more toys on his mini-kit as we get to the lyrics. Once to the jam this Hood elevates like all the great ones do, first with Page tinkling the electric piano keys in that way that gets all the hairs on your neck standing at attention as Trey patiently works on that slow-build crescendo. Within only a few moments you are right back in that blissful space that Simple begat, feeling all the love there could possibly be flowing down over you in bits of musical joy. Suddenly you notice that as Trey is building again with Mike adding his flair and Page lifting it higher the syncopated groove is intertwining all around you. We are off to the run at the peak now but still a ways to go before getting there so you open your eyes and realize the entire room is just as lost in this as you are, causing you to whoop out in spontaneous joy. They keep building the tension until finally Trey erupts over the rest of the band, taking the reins of this before it spins out of control, and riding it into the glorious end peak resolution this song hangs its hat on. In recognition of a jam well done Mike nails the fight bell a few times and then kicks off the Weekapaug Groove beat as Trey’s final guitar line continues to sustain in the fading distance. At this point it is all almost too much but you came here to get down and getting down is exactly what this Paug will make you do. They set up a funk pocket with Page toying on the organ first and then Trey comes in with an almost-but-not-quite 3rd Stone From The Sun tease but instead kicks it over to Page for a big piano-heavy jam with Fish just pounding away in the back and Mike dropping big behind. Trey sets a loop and joins Fish on percussion for a bit until he soars up over the groove with those tell tale Trey leads. Suddenly he kicks the band into a stop/start jam where everyone is going NUTS somehow divergent but still in the same direction. They bring it all the way down to ‘pin drop’ space (pretty sure you can even hear Fish say “yeah” on the SBDs) before EXPLODING into the final run at the Paug peak. This is pure glory Phish at this point where seemingly everything they do blows the room up and you can hear that the band and crowd know it even on the tape. As they come to a close here you realize you haven’t stopped moving in about seventy minutes so it’s a good thing for you that they come up for air in the wake of this Paug. Here, finally, Phish realizes that they along with the crowd might need a sip of water or at least a few deep breaths so they come to the front of the stage for an un-mic’d Sweet Adeline (which is pretty much not captured on the tapes, of course). Then, to bring this set home they crank into a shreddy Good Times Bad Times, a perfectly fitting capper to a big time night of music. Man, what a set. What a show! Any encore they do here is just gravy, am I right?

 

Heh. Hehehe. HAHAHAHAHA!!

 

Yeah, “gravy”. Sure. That’s all it is…

 

Okay, if you don’t know this about me, I have another little project that I started a bunch of years back that kinda totally completely petered out as I had a lot of other things biding for my time like a new kid, new job, etc. etc. Anyway, I have a now-long-not-updated blog called Me and Harpua where I was going to go through every Harpua ever played to dissect that wonderfully odd second class Gamehendge storytime tune about our pal Jimmy, his cat Poster the Nutbag, and that fat sweaty bulldog Harpua. Suffice it to say, I am a huge fan of the song and I have been lucky enough to have caught it seven times over the years but STILL NOT ONCE in 3.0 dang it! So you can imagine that when I talked to friends who were at this Vegas show and saw it pop up on the setlists at rec.music.phish I was geeked and intrigued to hear what this version entailed. The prior version had been left unfinished at The Clifford Ball due to a bit of a technical malfunction with the stunt they were trying to employ (a story for another time, perhaps…) and while the various versions aren’t tied together in any conceivable way it still was something I and others really wanted to find out about after this show. So when you hear Trey come out and welcome Larry LaLonde and old friend Les Claypool to the stage at the start of the encore and then they sing that oh so wonderful “oom pa pa oom pa pa oom pa paaaaa” intro line to Harpua the squee factor goes to eleven in a hurry. From the start, something here is… different… but unless you know a bit about music you might not realize that it is because they are playing the song in 4/4 time instead of its typical, somewhat odd 7/4 time. The addition of Larry’s jangly guitar is a neat add-on here but it is clear Trey is thrown off in singing to this different beat. They work through that (and honestly, this song is not about hitting every note as much as it is in getting to the story) and then while playing that same Harpua melody Les does his talking jive thing based on an old song called Wildwood Weed by Don Bowman (here’s a take by Jim Stafford). The lyrics fit right in as you will see and kind of set the mood for all that we don’t yet know is to come. They pop right back into Harpua at the start of storytime and Trey gets to the telling, beginning to weave the tale of the next chapter in the world of our pal Jimmy. I won’t go into full detail here as if you aren’t familiar it really is a story that deserves your time but the main gist is that Jimmy is on his way to Las Vegas and things go sideways as they tend to do for him. As the tale progresses Jimmy sets camp for the night and he and Poster end up singing (nay, yodeling!) a song by the campfire which cues some folks to come out to help the band play that song, I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart, a classic country yodeling yarn by Patsy Montana. Tonight it is performed by The Yodeling Cowgirls (naturally) with Phish, Larry, Les, and our newish friend John McEuen helping them out. After that fun interlude Trey gets back to the story and Jimmy’s journey to Vegas, resulting in him running into a pack of Elvii. So as one would expect, three Elvis impersonators come to the stage and along with Fish decked out in his own Elvis cape which we last saw on 10.29.1996 back in Tallahassee. Trey goes to Fish’s kit and we get Suspicious Minds because what else would they play here, this one a particularly memorable version – particularly considering it still stands as the last time they have played it to date. This stands to be a battle between “Jimmy” (i.e. Fish) and the other Elvii to allow him to enter the city, which he does, and then Trey continues on with his tale of Jimmy’s quest to make a lot of money in Vegas only to have our antagonist show up, moving the story on to the fight and resolution phase. After finishing this up they pop right into Suzy Greenberg and EVERYONE comes back to the stage for the party. So that’s Phish, Larry LaLonde, Les Claypool, John McEuen, the Elvii, the Yodeling Cowgirls (dancing), and just for good measure the actor Courtney Gains who you might know from Children of the Corn or another classic 80s flick hops on Trey’s minikit as well. The Suzy stretches out and then at some point on of the Elvii starts interjecting Suzie Q, the Credence Clearwater Revival tune, and the band catches on and they play that out until the big finish. Yes, that is the end to the show, finally, and what an ending it is. There are some pretty memorable encores that this band has played over the years but very few can match this one. And just like that the show and tour are over and all that is left is the hugging and reveling in what just went down before scattering off into the harsh light of the Las Vegas night.

 

I know that as soon as I write this someone will have an opposing view but for my money there really isn’t a tour ending show that can top this one. It has a bit of everything that we love about Phish from the tight, energetic playing to the open jamming to the antics to the mythos and storytelling and more. The band is in celebration mode but not in a fashion that detracts from the music which is as good as you could want in this context. Both sets and the encore are worthy of your time and energy in the listening, giving us a good summary of where this tour has come from and brought us to in the end. There are five songs in this show that were played way back in the opener from Lake Placid and every one has so much more to offer than those versions from just under two months ago. More than that, the jams in this show pull together a lot of the ideas that have been percolating over that time, none more so than this Simple. Some will make the quite reasonable argument that the Memphis Simple from 11.18.1996 is the top version of the tour but this Vegas one feels like they are writing the end of tour essay on “How Simple Grew Up During Fall Tour 1996” that no one bothered to assign them. The Hood has a similar feel as does the Down with Disease where all of these are perhaps not the best singular version of each song from the tour but do quite well in representing the Fall 1996 vibe and sound. I’ll have more to say about that vibe/sound in the summary posts to follow. For now let’s get to the takeaways from this night which are many. The first tier are 2001, YEM, Disease, Julius, the whole Mike’s>Simple>Hood>Paug sequence, and the entirety of the encore suite Harpua->Wildwood Weed->Harpua->I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart->Harpua->Suspicious Minds->Harpua->Suzy. Second tier? Well, let’s just say that everything worth plucking out here is top notch and you really should just spin the whole thing since the songs I left out there are all worthy of second tier status at worst. Call this fluffing, sure, but note that this is not a show I attended so there’s no attendance bias at play so that’s just me finding this show to be so very very good. This tour has provided us with a quite lengthy list of potential top notch takeaways to get through and this show doesn’t happen without all that brought us here. I love this show and have spun it probably as much as any other show  Phish has played. It is a great one to give people who like to say 1996 is the lull between 1995 and 1997 as it has a lot of the elements that make those two years so great all in one place. So if you haven’t been listening along while reading or are perhaps not familiar with this show, go do yourself a favor and spin this one loud. You will not be disappointed.

Seven Years On…

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Inside Me A Voice Was Repeating This Phrase – Pittsburgh, PA 10.18.1996

Phish — Civic Arena — Pittsburgh, PA 10.18.1996

I  Jim, Guelah, Old Home Place, CTB, Stash, Strange Design, Divided, Billy Breathes, Taste, Sample

II  Suzy>Maze, YEM, Reba, Waste, Hood

E  Julius

 

Continuing their opening run for the Fall 1996 Tour in Pittsburgh, PA, Phish hit the stage for the third time in as many nights (with one more to go in this string before a Sunday night off to get ready for MSG). This was the second time the band had played this venue after a quite decent one on the Fall 1995 Tour (check out the Stash, Reba, and Gin!). The band’s history with The Burgh goes way back with the band first visiting venues in this fine post-industrial city as early as 11.30.1992 — a show with the first ever non-whistle-ending Reba (it’s a good one too!) and one of the few Secret Language Instructions ever — at the Metropol, a smallish music venue that closed in 2002. Then there’s the one time stop to the now-defunct IC Light Amphitheater (one of the more hilarious product sponsor venue names I’ve ever seen because seriously what is Iron City Light doing sponsoring a music venue?? and which is now the site of a soccer stadium project) on 07.18.1993 which has a really fun Antelope that includes jams on Heartbreaker and Brother. Next would be the one time stop at the AJ Palumbo Center on the campus of Duquesne University on 10.09.1994 for the show best known for the ALO Squirming Coil it contains. As an aside here, I saw shows at this venue on two nights of that weekend: first on Friday for Dave Matthews Band opening for hometown heroes Rusted Root (and there was NO ONE in the venue for the DMB set as this was well before their departure from playing real jam music and hitting the big time) and then on Sunday for the Phish from Vermont who also drew a smaller crowd here than Rusted Root. Still one of the stranger music weekends of my life in that regard. Okay, back to the recaps. This Fall 1996 show would end up being the last time that the band has played in Pittsburgh itself as they have since moved on to the wonderful outdoor venue to the west in Burgettstown that seems to have a new sponsor every time they come back (but will always be Star Lake Amphitheatre to me…). I won’t go too deep into detail on that classic venue as they have now played seven shows there since their awesome debut at the venue on 08.13.1997 but if you have never checked out any of the shows here first slap yourself because what the heck, man, but then go do it. You will not be disappointed!

 

Clearly, the band has a pretty good track record in this part of Pennsylvania. And maybe if you just looked at the setlist from this 10.18.1996 you might think this one is the “off year” but just look at that second set. LOOK AT IT!! THAT’S A SIX SONG SET IN AN ERA WHEN THEY REALLY DIDN’T DO THAT!! Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to get all riled up there. Ahem. Anyway, the setlist here is a tad deceiving as it doesn’t have a bunch of cool segues or many things to indicate that this is anything more than a Friday night fun time in downtown P’Burgh. And let’s be honest, it isn’t a show that is making any short lists for the year but there’s a lot to be found in this one…

 

We get rocking right from the start with our first Runaway Jim of the tour which while not overly extended has a nice jam to get us up and moving. Next we get our old pal “Two Slot Guelah” which is a fun one and not a song you ever really hear anyone complain about (because why would they?) before they bring back the bluegrass three hole tune for The Old Home Place. This is one of those songs you never really go in saying “hey, I’d love if they played Old Home Place tonight” but you still end up singing along to the playful number. Cars Trucks Buses starts up next for our first repeat of the tour (there will be more tonight…) and this one is as punchy as you could want for a version that stays totally in bounds. You really can’t go wrong with that tune. It just begs you to dance to it. Now we are on to Stash and I will admit that the first time I listened to this version it didn’t do much for me but upon relisten I really liked what Trey had to offer in this one. It is not an epic 94/95 Stash but there is some real solid T&R development as he throws ideas around in getting to the peak. It really lacks in only being 11+ minutes as I would have liked more of what they had going there. Keeping with the tour debuts (excepting CTB) we get Strange Design, that sentimental tune that was left off the Billy Breathes album but did come out as a b-side to Free in a version that is different than how they play it live (this is the only Phish single I ever purchased and I did that only to get this version). Here it is a nice breather after the Stash.

 

Trey brings the energy right back up by starting into Divided Sky and while pretty much what you expect out of this well loved staple there does seem to be a little bit of extra sauce being put on particularly by Trey who takes a quite soaring solo that has some DEG-like hints right near the peak. Billy Breathes gives us our second tour repeat and another (groan) breather tune but right after this somewhat shaky version we go into Taste. This one is nice enough with a decent bit of soloing from both Page and Trey but I couldn’t get past Fish coming in a tad early at the peak so it isn’t one I’ll be spinning very often. They cap the set with our third tour repeat in a row, Sample in a Jar, and you know how I feel about that song so let’s just move along. Overall this set feels like a lot of table setting without much payoff though the Stash and Divided were quite good. Here in the early stages of this tour it is not surprising that they are both playing a lot of songs and also focusing on the Billy Breathes material. Everything is played well enough but I definitely recall sitting there at the break wondering whether we’d be getting anything more meaty after the lights went back down. I mean, I like side orders as much as the next guy but give me that big juicy burger of a jam to sink my teeth into, please. Anyone else hungry?

 

Now, part of why we go is because of that unknown regarding what they will play – and how – so it isn’t like anyone was going to leave at setbreak before finding out what they had in store. Of course, maybe your mom was picking you up and she was waiting out front and you really did have to go right then but this was in the age before cell phones were prevalent so you can just make her wait a bit and then explain it off by saying you had no idea what time it was (probably a good idea to take off your watch before using that argument though, momma’s boy). And realistically, the set starts off innocently enough with Suzy Greenberg coming by to get the kids dancing. Nothing too special to see there. But then that heads right into Maze which starts off in the way it does before diving deep into a dark and twisted version that just blows up once Page hits the organ. He and Trey trade quite stellar solos with both riding the dark wave through to the end. This is a wonderful version of the song and while not ‘type II’ in any way gets out there. I’d gladly put this one up there in the higher echelons for Maze. Not content to rest on that the band immediately drops into You Enjoy Myself for a really fun romp through the most frequently played song in the catalog. Things are going along well enough and then in the back part of his jam Trey drops a few “Do You Feel Like We Do?” quotes, sending the crowd into a tizzy. This energy carries over to the D&B section to follow and even into the VJ which has a bit more cheering than your standard one. This is not a world class YEM to rival the best of the best but it is a solid version with that well placed nod to Mr. Frampton. Sticking with the jam vehicles, our gal Reba is up next and this one’s a real beaut, Clark. Trey works his lead lines out with an almost tension-building precision as Page lays down some fantastic complimentary bits on the piano. This all heads to the predictable Reba peak but the getting there is quite lovely. I’m a bit surprised at how lightly regarded this version is by those who rank this sort of thing as if we got a Reba like this these days people wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks. Maybe in two weeks they’ll surprise me? Considering that this is the next version following one of the all-timers from The Clifford Ball it is nice to hear them reach for the apex once again. The counterpoint to this type of Reba will come in only a few shows when they go dark with it but this one is all about the major key peak build. 94/95 may be the Our quick breather tune tonight is Waste (second of tour and fifth repeated song from that first show of the tour) and it is fine enough but really is just fodder on the way to our Harry Hood closer. As with the other notable tunes played here tonight it isn’t a top of the heap version but it serves quite well as our closer with a lovely bit of playing by Trey to be found here. Interestingly enough, we are seeing a pattern here where a lot of these songs that they are playing well but perhaps not spectacularly here in the early part of the tour will end up having top tier, arty rankin-worthy versions by the time we get to Vegas. Gin, Hood, Reba, Simple, and other songs all get the workout in this tour. While these early tour versions don’t necessarily hint at what is to come they are solid enough that you can’t help but notice (with the benefit of hindsight, of course) that bigger things are on the horizon. That is perhaps a bit revisionist but, hey, we are allowed that kind of latitude here 19 years on from this night. I don’t know, maybe I’m just reaching. Whatever. Anyway, the encore tonight is Julius and I mentioned this on twitter the other day but pretty much all of the versions of Julius from this time period have some unreal playing by Trey. He simply shreds this one to bits and sends us off into the night shaking our heads, wagging our fingers in the air, and praising the power of Phish. It’s a nice exclamation point on a quite solid show, definitely the best show of these opening three of the tour.

 

As you can probably tell, I really like this show, particularly the second set. Yes, I was there (my first of the tour and last until a wonderful six show run I got a few weeks later) so that influences my opinion but even still you can tell there is something going on here in terms of band/crowd connection that just didn’t elevate in those first two shows. It helps when the band does their part by bringing great playing, energy, and song choice together but the crowd is as much a part of it as anything. I’m not going to dive into that big pool right now but suffice it to say I maintain that this show was aided by a receptive crowd who was willing to reflect the energy back to the band. Those are the nights that end up being the most memorable in my book. So with that your takeaways tonight are Maze, YEM, and Reba (for first tier stuff) with Divided, Hood, Stash and Julius being your next tier and Jim the ‘throw in’ play. The playlist will be updated to include all of those (sans Jim). Next we shuffle off to Buffalo for another night with more to show than what the setlist tells us…

Always Take The Best Parts Back – Fall 98’s Second Tier

Now that we have had some time to digest the “top tier” from Fall ’98, let’s dive a bit deeper into the “quite solid but perhaps not all-timer” musical selections from that month of touring. As with the prime list, I will be presenting these chronologically so as to avoid any implications with regards to ranking of the art.

 

Before we get there, I updated the prior post to include a download link for the Tier One Playlist. Here it is again for your use. Just keep in mind that the link will expire on or about 12.15.2015…

 

Okay, so the songs. Some of these could easily be in the discussion for the top tier but since I had to draw the line somewhere they got left out. Others are fine enough and probably quite memorable if you were there for them live but in terms of the long-lasting and overall respinability they are not quite there. And I totally defend the creation of the word ‘respinability’ as it makes complete sense in the context of our discussion. Somebody call up the Oxford folks.

 

For the most part the songs included here are either more straightforward versions of songs that were included in Tier One or perhaps just didn’t quite elevate for me to that top echelon. There are also a few fun one-offs and other interesting things that perhaps only suit my fancy in which case feel free to simply skip over that stuff if you want.

 

In order to allow one to see how these work in addition to the first list I am adding them to the playlist for the embedded player rather than removing that (plus that list is a wonderful one to spin so I didn’t want to just remove it without warning…). If you want to start from the beginning of this list it will begin at track 52 with the LA Llama, following the Worcester Gin in the playlist.

 

So without further delay, here we go! I really hope you like Ghost, Bowie, and LxL…

 

Llama  Los Angeles, CA (10.29.1998)

McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters  Los Angeles, CA (10.29.1998)

David Bowie Los Angeles, CA (10.29.1998)

Run Like an Antelope  Las Vegas, NV (10.30.1998)

Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley->Chalkdust Torture  Las Vegas, NV (10.31.1998)

Mike’s Song->Frankie Says>Weekapaug Groove  Las Vegas, NV (10.31.1998)

Rock and Roll  Las Vegas, NV (10.31.1998)

New Age  Las Vegas, NV (10.31.1998)

Oh! Sweet Nuthin’  Las Vegas, NV (10.31.1998)

Limb by Limb  West Valley City, UT (11.02.1998)

Bathtub Gin>Ya Mar  Denver, CO (11.04.1998)

Piper->2001  Denver, CO (11.04.1998)

Simple->Prince Caspian>Fluffhead  Madison, WI (11.06.1998)

Reba  Chicago, IL (11.07.1998)

Taste  Chicago, IL (11.08.1998)

Stash  Chicago, IL (11.08.1998)

Rock and Roll  Chicago, IL  (11.08.1998)

Free  Chicago, IL  (11.09.1998)

You Enjoy Myself  Chicago, IL (11.09.1998)

Theme From The Bottom  Grand Rapids, MI (11.11.1998)

Birds of a Feather  Grand Rapids, MI (11.11.1998)

Limb by Limb  Grand Rapids, MI (11.11.1998)

Ghost  Grand Rapids, MI (11.11.1998)

It’s Ice>Cars Trucks Buses  Cleveland, OH (11.13.1998)

Run Like an Antelope  Cleveland, OH (11.13.1998)

Down With Disease  Cleveland, OH  (11.13.1998)

Birds of a Feather  Cleveland, OH (11.13.1998)

Reba  Cincinnati, OH (11.14.1998)

David Bowie  Cincinnati, OH (11.14.1998)

So Lonely  Cincinnati, OH (11.14.1998)

Ghost  Murfreesboro, TN (11.15.1998)

Scent of a Mule  Murfreesboro, TN (11.15.1998)

Limb by Limb  Murfreesboro, TN (11.15.1998)

Wading in the Velvet Sea>Loving Cup>Weekapaug Groove  Murfreesboro, TN (11.15.1998)

David Bowie  Greenville, SC (11.18.1998)

Slave to the Traffic Light  Greenville, SC (11.18.1998)

Maze  Winston-Salem, NC (11.19.1998)

2001>Rock and Roll->Taste  Winston-Salem, NC (11.19.1998)

Gumbo->Chalkdust Torture  Winston-Salem, NC (11.19.1998)

Roggae  Hampton, VA (11.20.1998)

Split Open and Melt  Hampton, VA (11.20.1998)

Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It  Hampton, VA (11.20.1998)

Foam  Hampton, VA (11.21.1998)

Tubthumping  Hampton, VA (11.21.1998)

Moma Dance  New Haven, CT (11.24.1998)

Stash  New Haven, CT (11.24.1998)

Limb by Limb  New Haven, CT (11.24.1998)

Ghost  New Haven, CT (11.24.1998)

David Bowie  Albany, NY (11.25.1998)

Drowned->Prince Caspian  Albany, NY (11.25.1998)

Roggae  Albany, NY (11.25.1998)

Good Times Bad Times  Albany, NY (11.25.1998)

Ya Mar  Worcester, MA (11.27.1998)

Runaway Jim  Worcester, MA (11.27.1998)

Reba  Worcester, MA (11.27.1998)

Birds of a Feather  Worcester, MA (11.27.1998)

Gumbo  Worcester, MA (11.28.1998)

Down With Disease  Worcester, MA (11.28.1998)

Split Open and Melt  Worcester, MA (11.28.1998)

Prince Caspian>Crossroads  Worcester, MA (11.28.1998)

Tweezer  Worcester, MA (11.28.1998)

Theme From The Bottom  Worcester, MA (11.29.1998)

Possum  Worcester, MA (11.29.1998)

You Enjoy Myself  Worcester, MA (11.29.1998)

 

If your math is good you will recognize that this is another 78 songs added to the list. Which is great. But now if you still need more Fall ’98 in your life perhaps you should just go ahead and listen to the full shows…

 

Here is the link for the DLs for this list.

 

There should be two .zips in that there thingy. Should expire on 12.16.2015

 

 

And with this, I will draw my review of Fall 1998 Phish Tour to a close. Get your listens in and start your homework because our next project will be…

 

FALL 1996!

 

 

All That I Would Ever Need – The Top of the Proverbial Fall ’98 Heap

The spreadsheet I posted the other day includes ~170 songs that I had identified over the course of this Fall 98 tour as being of some level of merit. We aren’t going to spend time on each and every one considering that some inclusions are more “that was neat” than really awesome music stuff. Instead, I want to focus on the top tier jams today. These are the ones you either know by name or have memorized due to spinning them numerous times. They represent the Fall 98 sound the best and tell the story of what occurred over the course of those 22 shows over the course of 31 days, covering just under 5,000 miles in a pretty well planned out fashion crossing from west to east between Southern California and New England.

tourmap

Honestly, when looking at some of the questionable routing choices the band’s tour managers have made over the years this is a pretty straight forward one. I still have a hard time understanding why so many people on tour took that right turn in Sulphurdale, UT to head east to Colorado considering there were days between shows and SLC is not that far out of the way but the concerns about police and other hassles were almost assuredly the main factor there. But that’s a discussion for another time. Now, let’s get to the hits!

 

In order to avoid any concerns of ranking (outside of my little tiered system that we are just getting into here) I am presenting these chronologically. Feel free to put them into whatever order your brain needs in order to understand their relative greatness. In many cases there are songs that are listed here that realistically are not the best versions of the songs but work in this context due to being part of a string of segued together tunes, generally paired with a top notch version. So I guess you could say that this endeavor seeks to categorize the best segments of music from the tour since – just as one example – there is no way I’d leave out the NICU between Tweezer and the unique jam into Caspian from 10.30.1998 even though the NICU itself is rather unremarkable. All told we end up with a playlist of 51 songs (including segues and whatnot) from the Greek Reba through the Worcester Gin. There are many many other songs that could be included here so have at it in the comments to let me know where I went wrong (considering that the entire tour is about 440 songs played that 11.5% inclusion rate I hit here isn’t so bad…). This sets us up for at least three tiers of ‘takeaways’. The top of the heap is handled today with the strong-but-perhaps-not-all-timer ‘mid tier’ to follow and finally the interesting inclusions that make some of these sets truly unique (such as fun covers and the like). With all of that said, let’s get this show on the road!

 

Oh wait. Almost forgot…

 

Take a look over to the left sidebar. You might need to scroll down past the other stuff you haven’t been paying attention to but there is now a lovely little music player with the playlist below ready for you to enjoy. If you listen to this you will have a pretty darn good feel for what we got over the course of that tour. You can also pick and choose what you want to spin if you don’t have the 11+ hours it will take you to get through it all in one sitting. Have fun!

 

Reba->Walk Away->Simple  Los Angeles, CA (10.29.1998)

Stash->Manteca->Tweezer->NICU->Jam->Prince Caspian Las Vegas, NV (10.30.1998)

Lonesome Cowboy Bill>I Found A Reason Las Vegas, NV (10.31.1998)

Wolfman’s Brother->Piper Las Vegas, NV (10.31.1998)

Tube->Drowned->Jesus Just Left Chicago West Valley City, UT (11.02.1998)

You Enjoy Myself  West Valley City, UT (11.02.1998)

Frankie Says->David Bowie  Denver, CO (11.04.1998)

Split Open and Melt  Madison, WI (11.06.1998)

Mike’s Song  Chicago, IL (11.07.1998)

ACDC Bag->Ghost  Chicago, IL (11.07.1998)

Down With Disease>Piper  Chicago, IL (11.08.1998)

Bathtub Gin  Chicago, IL (11.09.1998)

Gumbo  Grand Rapids, MI (11.11.1998)

Halley’s Comet Grand Rapids, MI (11.11.1998)

Wolfman’s Brother->Mind Left Body  Cleveland, OH (11.13.1998)

Meat>Harry Hood  Cleveland, OH (11.13.1998)

Tweezer>Moma Dance  Cincinnati, OH (11.14.1998)

Stash  Murfreesboro, TN (11.15.1998)

Wolfman’s Brother->The Lizards Greenville, SC (11.18.1998)

Ghost Winston-Salem, NC (11.19.1998)

Bathtub Gin Hampton, VA (11.20.1998)

Mike’s Song>Simple Hampton, VA (11.21.1998)

Down With Disease New Haven, CT (11.24.1998)

Tweezer->Possum New Haven, CT (11.24.1998)

Weekapaug Groove->Wipeout->Weekapaug Groove Worcester, MA (11.27.1998)

Wolfman’s Brother>Timber (Jerry) Worcester, MA (11.28.1998)

Limb by Limb->Catapult->Kung Worcester, MA (11.29.1998)

Simple Worcester, MA (11.29.1998)

Bathtub Gin Worcester, MA (11.29.1998)

 

So start dissecting because after this we can dive into the next tier of songs as well…

 

UPDATE:  Here is a link to a DL of the playlist (mp3, auds from phish.in) if you are so inclined. It is a temporary link so it will expire one week from today, on or about 12.15.2015.

Don’t You See Anything That You’d Like To Try?

Fall 98 Takeaways

You see that little spreadsheet above? That’s the tracking for our takeaways from this here Fall 1998 Phish Tour. This is the raw data from the end of each post where I identify what songs are potentially worthy of the highlight reel, based on a highly scientific set of criteria that is all subject to my personal and quite subjective preferences. The songs highlighted in yellow are the ones I throw in as “add ons”. Any time you see a segue notation (> or ->) that denotes that the song following it here is part of the sequence. There ends up being a lot of songs here to work through but this is what we do as scarily obsessive fans. I do not expect that another person’s list would be the same as mine but then they aren’t the guy writing this blog now are they?

 

Over the next few posts I will be taking these “takeaway jams” and categorizing them a bit, perhaps tiering them in some fashion. The goal here is really to revel in the wonderful music, not to offer anything that could be mistaken as ranking art. For simplification and ease of digestion it becomes more expedient to break them into groups but that is more convenience than anything. That said, there are some versions of songs here that are “next level” Phish and as such we will focus on them more than the relatively straight forward or otherwise not srs bns epcot level jams. If you feel that there is anything that I have missed here, leave it in the comments. That way we can all point and laugh at whoever puts forth the proposition that there should be more Wadings in the list (just as an example, of course…).

 

 

Like Water That Drips From Above – Worcester, MA 11.29.1998

Phish — Worcester Centrum Centre — Worcester, MA 11.29.1998

I  P&S, Axilla>Theme, Sparkle>Horn>LxL->Catapult->Kung>Maze, All The Pain Through The Years, Layla

II  Roses>Simple, Makisupa, Possum->Wipeout->Possum, Gin, YEM

E  Roggae, Hello My Baby

 

Tour ending shows, particularly Fall Tour closers, have a reputation as being pretty hot throwdowns where anything goes. Part of it is the band giving us one final thank you for yet another great tour. Seriously, outside of maybe the first Euro Tour in 1996 (which has its highlight moments…) has there ever really been a “bad” tour? Sure, there are those who will say some of the 2.0 tours were a bit rough but that’s more a combination of disparate factors than a comment on the music. In a way, the tour finale acts as a summary essay on the tour that just occurred while possibly looking forward towards what is to come. For Fall Tours that means you have the chance to wrap up the entire year with a nice Phishy bow before the celebration that will be the impending New Year’s Run.

 

Look back all the way to 1992 and you have the pair of shows in Canada that capped the Fall (both at venues called The Spectrum, oddly enough) and there’s the tight playing that would beget the Speed Jazz era that blossomed in 1993. There is no Fall Tour in 1993 since the year is front loaded with a 70+ show spring tour and a big summer but that final show from The Greek on 08.28.1993 you get the culmination of the 93 sound with some aspects of the more open psych to come. Fall 1994 ends in Santa Monica with a show opened by the Dave matthews Band that includes a fantastic Stash, the Simple you have memorized from A Live One, a call back to the Beatles cover set earlier that fall, and the debut of one of my favorite songs they have only ever played twice, Chalkdust Torture Reprise. The epic Fall 95 tour concludes just a scant eleven days before the NYE Run with a wonderfully boisterous show from Lake Placid that puts the exclamation point on the big arena psych rock sound so prevalent that year (and that Tweezer->Reprise is straight awesome). The 1996 Fall Tour ending show from Las Vegas should need no introduction but it too pulls together the massive psych and budding funk that made this tour so impressive in its variety while giving hints of the much much bigger things to come not to mention including a great Harpua encore that brought some friends to the stage to help out. Albany’s tour ender for Fall 97 might not be the biggest show on the tour where Phish destroyed America but the cowfunk is in full effect for this dance party show. I’ll skip 1998 since we are about to discuss that in detail but 1999 from the Mothership is a great example of the junction between the funk and ambience that was at the forefront throughout 1999 while also showing the budding Millennial Sound that would be explored in more greater depth at Big Cypress and beyond. From here it gets a bit more difficult to use these shows as boiler plates for the band as first you get Hiatus in 2000 then the start of less frequent touring during 2.0 followed by The Long Wait and finally the enigma that is 3.0. By that I mean that I think since we are still in the midst of it we are trying to determine what this period of Phish means in the larger context of the band’s legacy and potential future so understanding the impact of developments within the band’s sound is not as easy to do as when we look back ten or more years. There is also the fact that what Fall Tours we have had in 3.0 have been much shorter than in prior years meaning that any theories developed based on the music played therein suffers from lack of data. The important thing, I believe, is that Phish is still together and creating meaningful music which reminds me that I am getting really sidetracked here and need to get back to the matter at hand… eventually.

 

Along with being something of a celebratory culmination of the tour that preceded it there is something a bit melancholy about a tour ending show. It means the party is ending and it is time to get back to “real life”. It means there is no new Phish to look forward to, at least until you make the annual pilgrimage to whatever big arena or reservation they happen to be playing for the New Year’s Run to come. It also means parting ways with new friends and old perhaps after several weeks spent traveling and running into the same people over and over both on the lots and in those random moments in the hotels, rest stops, and other places we tend to frequent on tour. For these reasons the tour ender brings with it emotions of all kinds and offers one last chance to lose ourselves in the music before the stark white fluorescence of life gets in the way of the rainbows of our mind. Here in 1998 there is a bit of all of the above going on as we get a show that looks back while pushing things forward in certain ways as well.

 

Your first sign that things are a tad different here in the tour closer is the opening Paul and Silas, a song we grew quite familiar with in Spring ’93. This marks only the second one of the tour (and the second all year taboot taboot after its 115 show bustout in Chicago) and tonight the lyrics are a bit different as Trey adds a bit about Paul Languedoc‘s legal troubles from the night previous. Apparently the then soundman for the band (and luthier of the wonderful guitars that Trey uses and Mike used to) was arrested for failure to vacate a hotel bar in a timely manner the night before so Trey decided to give him some shit about it. Not knowing the reference, most of the fanbase would have been content with the bluegrass song opening a show for the first time but if you listen carefully he alters the lyrics in reference. Next is the more traditional opener Axilla which rocks along before giving way to our first opportunity to stretch out a bit for Theme From The Bottom. Both Trey and Mike are on fire here with Trey leading the band to a soaring peak all while Mike offers up some quite interesting bass work. A frenzied romp through Sparkle keeps the energy high as they almostbutnotquite lose it at the end before going into Horn for the second time this tour. This one is almost clean in the execution and then we head back to the heights for Limb By Limb. The jam here is mostly straight forward in that lovely LxL way that elevates to a big peak but instead of breaking down to the octopus Fish drum clinic outro they stay on the repeating line and hit an almost calypso groove. As you are zoning out to this beautiful music your eyes close and then you snap them back open once you realize that Mike is singing Catapult over this smile-inducing groove, busting out the song after its last appearance in the Fall Tour ending show from Albany 67 shows ago on 12.13.1997 in the midst of a big Weekapaug jam. After getting through the verses Mike voices his approval with several footbell *tings* in time with the beat before Trey comes in over that groove to start up the Kung chant (the only other time these two songs have been paired was in reverse as the coda to the Jim->Vibration of Life->Kung->Catapult sequence in a show best known for the epic sustained note crowd/band peak of Harry Hood). The groove is maintained as the backing music here which ramps up a bit following the intonation as Trey starts up a repeating lick to complement the polyrhythm of Mike and Fish and eventually they all give way to a transitional loop that Trey sets. Fish then comes with the high hat to get us into Bowie… or maybe Maze. Maybe that was more a thing people confused back in the day and I am really only joking because clearly Bowie goes “sika sika sika” while Maze goes “tske tske tske”. I mean, c’mon. It is sooooo obvious. Anyway, they dive into Maze and shred the shit out of it as they are wont to do with a Shafty tease in there for those looking.

 

From here the set takes a bit of a left turn as Trey introduces a guest who probably would not have been overly familiar to anyone who didn’t live at that time in Vermont (and honestly he is still not really very well known outside of the VT music world). Being that they all lived in Vermont at this point it is not surprising that they bring out Seth Yacovone to play on a couple of songs to end this set, though the very fact of bringing out a guest at all is perhaps the most surprising bit here. If you are not familiar with him, Seth has his own eponymously named band that is more on the hard bluesy side of improv rock with Seth being the guitar player for the power trio. Their first brush with Phish was when Trey met Seth at a guitar workshop. This was followed by Seth’s band being asked to play the lots at The Clifford Ball before eventually joining Phish for this appearance. Trey would end up sitting in with Seth and his band during Hiatus on the majority of the second set from 02.07.2002. Seth has also shared the stage with TAB during the famed Vermont Easter Jam show that saw all four members of Phish eventually have the stage to themselves for a few songs as well as an Amfibian show less than two weeks later where Mike also participated. But here in Worcester they had him up for the two songs to end the first set, first his composition All The Pain Through The Years and the only Phish performance of the Derek and the Dominoes classic Layla. The first song is straight up blues rock with Seth leading on vocals and lead guitar while the band lets him shine, Trey taking his solo turn as well and adding a quick Layla tease which would have been a good precursor of the next song if anyone was able to make that connection in the moment. Layla is pretty well by the numbers to the original you know so well with Trey and Seth trading off on the signature licks of the tune. Neither song elevates to anything otherworldly but it is an interesting sit-in all the same to once again confirm that in the end Phish is just better when we get the four playing without interference by other players. There are definitely some guests who work quite well with Phish (Bela Fleck, MMW, Santana, most of the various bluegrass luminaries who have joined them, and others) but the ones that work best are all world class musicians known for their ability to improvise. This is not to speak ill of Mr. Yacovone’s playing abilities as he is an accomplished player in his own right and perhaps it has something to do with the song choices but this sit-in falls a bit flat for me. The Layla in particular just doesn’t have much replay value considering it is a song everyone already knows every note to and this version does nothing to move the song forward. In the end this sit-in ends up being yet another geeky footnote in the band’s history rather than something we cherish for its greatness. And in closing the set with these two songs it provides a bit of fun but doesn’t exactly give the punch you might expect for the end to the penultimate set of this fine tour.

 

While you are still debating the merits of that sit-in with your friends the lights come down to get us moving into the second set. Tonight our opener is Roses Are Free, one of only three times they have opened the second set with the Ween tune with the others being the epic Island Tour version and the Desert Sky version from 10.01.2000 (there are also two show opening Roses out there in the 07.25.1998 one from Austin, TX and the 08.02.2009 one from the final show of that wonderful four night run at Red Rocks). Unfortunately, as with all but a scant few amazing versions there is no jam here as they instead start up Simple. There is promise here as Simple has been a consistently strong song on this tour and tonight is no different as from the start of the jam it is clear they mean to take this one for a ride. It stats out with some exploration around the Simple groove with Trey trying out different ideas along the way. Eventually they break down to a more sparse space leading to a searching jam that feels like transitional space but eventually settles into a hard edged, dissonant, and noisy adventure in distortion. This is a different type of ambient jamming than we have seen on this tour, relying more on the powerfully discordant drawn out notes from Trey to open up the portal to a darker sense of ambience instead of the generally blissy nature of the ambient texturing that Phish typically employs. Some may not be fans of this sort of music but it is very encouraging to hear them explore the other side to this ambient sound. The jam seemingly resolves itself into nothingness and they start into the second (this seems to be something of a theme tonight…) Makisupa Policeman of the tour. Tonight’s keyword is another nod to Paul’s arrest as Trey says, “hey Paul, can you pass me the soap?” to the confused delight of the crowd. There is a bit of drippy, loop’d “dub” to follow which is pretty darn cool if you like your music trippy and then they come back to wrap the song up.

 

When they next start up Possum you start thinking that they are probably just going to go high energy rock Phish on us for the rest of the set but when Trey lays down a final nod to Wipeout in the early part of the jam here you realize that maybe the fun isn’t quite over. This Possum is pretty much what you expect but the jolt of that quick run through Wipeout almost blows the roof off the building when the crowd pushes that energy back to the stage. Once returning to Possum they work it down to a whisper before coming back up to the typical Possum peak as Trey throws in some almost DEG phrasing along the way. Following this they could have gone any of a dozen directions but we are treated with a late second set Bathtub Gin, something not really too common. There are a good number of solid second set Gins but the song generally shows up in the first half of the set which is a bit odd considering that it is so often a first set closer. Well, tonight we get one of those late 2nd set versions and this one first starts out with a raging Gin jam that stays close to the main theme while chugging forth on the patient climb up towards the peak. But that peak never fully releases. Instead, Trey drops out to allow Page to offer up colorful fills before they all drop down to the lower register and head into another ambient jam this one more in the contemplative realm than the Simple jam earlier in this set. Over the next five minutes or so they move through a few different themes, the most engaging being a Mike-led segment that Trey accents with singular notes and Page drapes in spacey effects all while Fish keeps that beat going. This evolves into a sweet little groove pocket that feels like it is about to explode into a big time bliss jam buuuuuuuuut instead they pull back and move on to start up You Enjoy Myself.

 

This YEM might not end up being your favorite one even from this tour but as the set closer to the final night of Fall Tour you could do a heck of a lot worse. The funk is prevalent in this one early and often even without an end D&B section as Mike and Fish push the pocket higher and higher. Fish in particular is driving the bus in this one with a drum line that is hard to not just get up and dance to as the other players ride this rising wave to bring the room to collective release. Mike is in agreement of the merits of this one as he throws in a bunch of fightbell *tings* throughout. Trey chimes in with some Superbad similar to the one from Albany. This is a great dance party version of a song that brings the room to that final peak you know everyone was looking for having gotten several jams on the night that teased at the release and just built the tension up towards this moment. After the VJ we are on to the encores and, fittingly, we have a more subdued pair with another soulful take on Roggae before they end with one last a cappella song in Hello My Baby. From here we are left to the hugging before one last trip through Shakedown to capitalize on all of those “end of tour” deals the vendors were assuredly offering. I’m sure the nitrous mafia was really gracious in that regard.

 

Tour ending shows are somewhat difficult to evaluate as you get a bit of everything. There’s the emotional aspects at hand, the “tour summary” feel in certain places, and the overall celebratory feeling of being there for the end of it all. The band always offers up their big thanks to the fans and the crowd is giving it right back to them so in that sense the music sometimes gets elevated by everything contributing to it. This is not always the case, of course, but thankfully on this night it all seems to come together pretty well in providing us with a balanced show that has so many of the elements that make a Phish show great. I’m not saying this is an all-timer show but there is a unique setlist construction, a decent at worst sit-in, some bustouts, a bunch of solid jams, a bit of inside-joke humor, and several nods to the tour gone by. It is clear they had a great time on this tour and this show is a joyful example of that. There isn’t even a single ballad to mess with the flow of the sets. It might not have the highest highs or include everyone’s favorite tunes but it works in its role here as the tour finale. So with that all that is left is the takeaways from the night which tonight are rather a lot. There’s Theme, LxL->Catapult->Kung, Simple, Possum->Wipeout->Possum, Gin, and perhaps YEM with the Seth Yacovone sit-in stuff being interesting at least for a listen. All told, yet another fun night with this band called Phish.

 

On a final note, as I have mentioned in previous posts I will be doing a bit of summarizing for this tour over the next few posts. With Thanksgiving coming up I will probably get to that next week. So enjoy the holiday and give thanks that we are able to devote so much time and energy to this wonderfully oddball band we obsess over way too much. And thank you for joining me on this tour.