At Least You Won’t Die Wondering — Boise, ID — 09.14.1999

At Least You Won’t Die Wondering — Boise, ID — 09.14.1999

In between the four show Northwest Run that opened Fall Tour and the four in California that would follow Phish stopped off in Idaho for their second ever show in the Gem State, the first since having played here on the Fall 1995 tour, and the last show to date in this oddly shaped kinda of also northwestern state but not usually talked about in that way unless by geographers and who listens to those map people anyway? The point is this was an outlier show that a lot of people didn’t bothering making the side trip for for the sake of about 450 miles of driving. You would think that after the prior Fall and that big time “you snooze you lose” gotcha show on 11.02.1998 folks would’ve gotten the message but alas, such was not the case. It wasn’t nearly as empty as that night but also not exactly a sellout by any means either. Judging from just the setlist you could have possibly have been forgiven for deciding to hang with your friends and recharge in the Bay Area ahead of Shoreline. But you would have been wrong, oh so very wrong…

Phish — Boise State University Pavilion — Boise, ID — 09.14.1999

I Chalkdust, Sloth, Curtain>Waste, Cup>WTU?, Wading>Farmhouse, Nellie Kane, Taste, Rocky Top

II Peaches>Bag>Gumbo, Disease>Frankenstein

E Simple, HMB

Notes Out On Sandpaper

–161 show bustout of Peaches En Regalia

–show has been released officially by LivePhish and it sounds awesome

The Central Theme

Wasting no time to let everyone stretch their quads and get limbered up for the show Phish starts out with the contained rawk of a typically strong Chalkdust Torture. I say typically because this version is pretty “typical” of what the song was in this era, mainly used for the energy boost and as a means of Trey-led shred. This version fits that bill perfectly, getting the place moving and setting the tone for the night to come. The Sloth continues the grimy fun as the first of four straight tour debuts and already you can tell there is some swagger coming from the stage tonight. Being a band that loves to prove everyone wrong you can imagine the backstage conversation around showing once again that people should’ve made the trip. That doesn’t really come to the surface just yet as we have a ways to go but still putting The Curtain in the three hole and ending up with that trio of tunes to open is definitely sending a message. For the maybe like three other people like me who care about this sort of thing, this is the only time those three songs have been played in sequence and only nine times have they ever even been played in the same show.

Maybe you are like me and back before the (With) part of the Curtain suite returned every time the band started up The Curtain you got giddy starting to wonder what song they would drop into immediately following. Maybe you aren’t. And that’s okay. But this is clearly not the place for you if those sorts of things aren’t at least interesting to you cuz it is kind of my schtick I suppose. Anyway, when that Curtain drops into Waste, well, let’s just say that is not the whizz bang jump one expects there. Normally The Curtain leads to something with a punch, perhaps a vehicle or something full of energy. Sure, there are a few ballad drops here and there but that’s not really the “norm” for the song. Who am I kidding though. Phish does what they want when they want. So if we are getting the first Waste of the tour out of Curtain than so be it. This remains the only time that these two songs have been paired thusly and the Waste is perfectly fine as our first breather in the four slot.

Not to worry though as the Loving Cup that follows is a pretty dang fun one. Going back to the Waste choice, the placement of this Cup is not typical either. There are only 25 (out of 137 total) performances of Loving Cup where it is not a set opener, closer, or part of an encore. And some of those are unique such as being part of the Exile set on 10.31.2009. But hey you gotta get the people moving, right? Following this fourth tour debut in a row they bleed into the second What’s The Use? of this young tour, again putting it in the odd-to-me mid-first set slot (though the math shows a little under 1/3 of the time this is a first set song). Sadly, this will be our last chance to wonder at what the use actually might be until next year so enjoy it while you can. Wading>Farmhouse is not a pairing you love to see on a setlist but it kind of works here even though at this stage in the set you have to be wondering if they are going to jam anything tonight at all.

My intel on this show from folks I know in attendance is that after the four shows to start people were just plain worn out even with that off night to make it over here from western Oregon. So maybe the pace of this first set wasn’t helping things. Could it have been purposeful trolling by the band like “hey let’s take it easy on them and let folks mellow out a bit”? I think probably not because you can clearly hear the band is engaged and playing well just not songs that are typically the pick-me-up variety so far. But never fear, the end of set is near! Nellie Kane is the grassy-sing-a-long to wake us up then a tight run through Taste clears the cobwebs even further. The set closes with Rocky Top, another wake-em-up grass tune that gets everyone moving just in time for the break. Classic. On paper this one may have you scratching your head and asking why this show of all those out there has gotten an official release. Yes the playing is solid and most of the tunes are firsts for the tour but there is a decided lack of jamming here. There is, however, a reason that Phish plays two sets every night.

Now I’ve heard stories about people being so tired and unenthused by that first set that they actually left at the break. I’ve never done anything like that and in fact would have been quite happy to camp out in the upper seats sitting if need be rather than risk missing IT which on this night is exactly what would have happened. Before we get too far, here’s video of the second set of this show which I hadn’t seen until recently but which will give you some great context on how this all went down. After a little bit of band convo they roll into the 161 show bustout of Peaches En Regalia, that wonderful Frank Zappa tune that still stands somehow as the lone Zappa tune that Phish has covered (well, except for all of those jams and songs that heavily lean on Zappa-ism-ness-itude). Bustout out of the way, they drop into the first ACDC Bag of the tour for what is assuredly just a secondary opener, right? Hahahahahahahahaha yeah no.

The song itself goes along as it does but after a relatively short “normal jam” where you would expect the rave up to close to arrive the band makes a subtle shift into a Mike-led section. I adore this whole part particularly if you watch Trey on the video as he is just completely wrapped up in what Mike is doing, playing off of the changes Mike makes. Page and Fish are vamping along as Trey stretches out with these searing, moaning notes. They sit in this pocket for several minutes until it feels like it is about to all fall apart into the standard ambient outro business but then Trey’s guitar starts eating notes and you can tell they are far from done here. Now they are searching, waiting for someone to assert with the big move to a new idea. Trey finds a melodic idea that Fish follows and now we are into a new but related section where Trey is still fixated on Mike but now more assertively driving the movement. Trey is soaring now with extended notes that feel so familiar but are wholly unique (a feeling we get a lot with this guy, eh?).

Suddenly, or at least what seems to be quite sudden, the pace and energy has increased and they move into a full-on swagger funk jam. The band is fully connected here in the type of funk that 1999 produces, not the campy/vamp cowfunk of 1997 but something a bit more refined. Page takes the forefront here on the piano as the rest of the band grooves along, eventually moving to organ as Trey heads to set loops and color against Page’s big fills. This section is top tier Phish porn that begs you to get up and start dancing. Trey and Fish orchestrate a couple of stop/starts to mess with everyone as the loop wails away. This is the type of tension building you could expect in this era outside of the typical areas like Stash or Bowie. Trey drops out from vamping along to add soundscape on his keyboard rig while Mike and Fish keep everyone rooted and moving (as much as one can in this kind of musical space).  The effects take over and at this stage it is hard to tell who is producing what sounds. Some may find this sort of jamming boring or pointless which, ok, whatever, I get that viewpoint I guess. Personally I love the ambient soundscape they craft here. It provides the bridge out of where they had gotten without feeling forced or contrived and makes the transition to the next song seamless.

Even if that wasn’t your favorite way to exit that jam your wait is short lived as Gumbo cranks in to the approval of the folks in attendance. The jam goes funk in a hurry with Mike pushing it into Another One Bites The Dust before they settle into a more “traditional” straight up funk jam. Page heads to the clav to accent the dance party as Fish interjects little vocal bits you could miss if you aren’t paying very close attention. The rhythm section drops out for Page and Trey to vamp coming back in at the perfect moment like some DJ’s big moment. The jam screeches to a halt for the shift to the intro for Down With Disease which after all that funk feels like an odd call so late in the set. And here I have to again chuckle at the graphics at this video including the big puffy lettered song titles. Goes to show how far video editing has come over the years I suppose.

Here in the future we have become accustomed to Disease being a set-carrying vehicle most of the time (and oh my gosh does that song open a lot of second sets these days). Back in 1999 you were just as likely to get a compact shredder than for the song to stretch beyond its boundaries. Tonight’s version is the former template, never leaving structure but elevating to a blistering pace and almost blowing the roof off the place with the bouncy energy it brings. Trey is straight up wailing on this one, just slaying the entire jam with note after note of shred. Not content to let that be it we get the first Frankenstein of tour as closer here, showcasing Page’s mastering of the Edgar Winters classic’s big keyboarding (though obviously this was well before he owned the James Brown keytar). Fish gets weird too, interjecting some lyrics from ‘One Of These Days’, one of those Pink Floyd songs it feels like they should have teased more than they have (there is just this one and another quote in the Carini on 08.10.2010). A quick Simple and Hello My Baby make up the encore and that will do it for the evening.

The ACDC Bag is worth the price of admission alone but top to bottom this is a completely solid show. At the end of this run through Fall 1999 I think you will find that this show sits somewhere in the middle but it is a great release that really clued a lot of people in to what this tour is all about. Now go rest up because we have a double header coming next.

Take Your Laser Beams Away

There is a very good chance you know this show already. Even if you have never spun the full show most fans would be hard pressed to not know of the Boise Bag. The funny thing is that for what is known widely as an all-time great show the singular highlights are not exactly overflowing. The ones below are absolutely ones you will want to spin though.

Loving Cup

ACDC Bag>

Gumbo

Down With Disease

Frankly you could skip the Cup but it really is a notch above most of the other versions you will hear. But once you start that Bag just let ‘er rip.

This Happens Once Again

The California portion of the tour starts next with the two-fer from Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountainview. I have touched on this venue (and these shows) before in The Venue Project as it is one that Phish has a solid history with over many years. Get ready for our first sit-ins of the tour, some big time dark jamming, and more. No official releases on these so prep with the aud of your choice.

As Much As Once Before — Portland Meadows — 09.12.1999

As Much As Once Before — Portland Meadows — 09.12.1999

To finish up the first full “weekend” of shows (assuming you, like me, back in this time would have considered a Thursday night part of your weekend because c’mon who did any real work on Fridays in their 20s? Wait. You did?) Phish left the lovely scenic views of the Columbia River Gorge and continued south and west to Portland for their second year in a row playing outdoors at Portland Meadows, the now defunct and deconstructed former racetrack/concert venue/betting parlor/digital casino (don’t worry, gamblers, there is a new poker room and money taking site a few miles away with the same name). That US Summer Tour 1998 opener got an official LivePhish release and I’m here today to tell you that this 1999 show deserves the same treatment. Until that happens, along with the regularly circulating not-quite-great auds out there we do have a very nicely done remaster, done by the formerly quite prolific Kenny Powers (this and many more of his remasters can also be found via www.phishspreadsheet.com in the ‘Remasters’ tab of all places) and if you like videos there is a random upload of the BOTT from this show on youtube though I haven’t been able to locate anything else from this show which is odd… ok let’s get to it!

Phish – Portland Meadows – Portland, OR — 09.12.1999

I First Tube, Poor Heart, Mozambique, Gin, BOTT, MMGAMOIO, Frankie Says, BOAF, Lawn Boy, Possum

II Ghost>Jim>Roggae, 2001>YEM

E Theme

Notes Out On Sandpaper

–first Frankie Says of the year

The Central Theme

Showing that they really really like the song already, Phish opened with First Tube, its first time as opener but already the third performance of the song early on in this tour. It isn’t entirely uncommon for newly minted songs to be played a lot in their earlier tours with the band (like the “Every Venue Gets a Fuego” from Summer 2014 by example) but this might be getting a bit excessive already. Stay tuned I suppose. Poor Heart gets the classic second song bluegrass nod (listen for Trey almost falling into Yakety Sax) and then we are back to the new tunes for the second take on Mozambique by Phish. This one is a bit tighter and definitely shorter but gets us where we need it to… which is the drop into Bathtub Gin. So far this tour the first half of first sets have been pretty tame as the band has strung together mostly warm up songs and a few Limb By Limbs before settling in and opening things up a bit. Well tonight that changes a bit.

Dripping through the composed section and verses, this Gin starts off slowly paced and oozing with Trey and Page comping around the Gin motif. Trey eventually hits on a new riff which the band follows and they begin to stretch into a dance groove. Trey uses singular notes to set up the next move, continuing to move up the register and altering to a new, repetitive riff. He starts to peak it but backs off a bit and instead builds tension by not resolving before adding a drone loop and then soloing off of that. You can still hear the basis of Gin in the back but they are soaring now as Trey throws more ideas into the mix, false-peaking it several more times over the next few minutes and playing repeated riffs that hint to a big time release. Trey’s playing gets faster here as he reprises the Gin theme and drops back down into what feels like the song’s close after only about 12min of playing (and with no true release having been provided). Suddenly he goes back to the quick runs of notes, throwing it to our first peak and repeating that phrase multiple times before again seeming to head to the finish. But hand on, folks, because the gears shift again and now the whole band is rising up as Trey takes full charge and Mike (well, at least what you can hear of him in this mix) starts dropping big notes all over as Trey takes it nuclear to the full peak. Then for what feels like forever (but what is really only like two minutes) Trey is winding down as Mike pounds away and eventually they crawl back to the Gin close, leaving the crowd in post coital disarray, as the last underlying loop that Trey set continues to whirl around.

Now being Phish we all have our personal preferences when it comes to preferred jamming styles and what the “best” versions of songs are. And that is all part of the game. So when I tell you this Gin is easily one of my favorite versions of the fabled tune I say that with no intention of diminishing what others prefer. Just in the context of Gin you can go a few different directions for what you want to hear. Maybe you like the wide openness of The Riverport or the hose-to-the-max awesomeness of The Went Gin or the sideways improvisational wizardry of Winston-Salem 97 or something I haven’t even mentioned. Gin has gone through a lot of phases in its life and 1999 is a particular vintage that I, for one, appreciate greatly. And of that vintage this Portland one is my exact cup of tea. I have lost count how many times I have spun this Gin. But it still isn’t close to getting anywhere near old for me.

As that last loop wound down Fish kicks up the BOTT beat and we are back to first set fun time fare. Nothing too crazy here and soon enough we are into the second bluegrass number, another personal favorite in the cover of Jimmy Dale Gilmore’s My Mind’s Got A Mind Of Its Own. If you didn’t know better it would be easy to think the lyrics of this one were Mike-penned which I suppose works since he sings it. Immediately following we get the year’s first Frankie Says which is a fairly hard turn stylistically away from the shuffle beats of BOTT and the countrified grassiness of MMGAMOIO. Frankie Says gives us our first taste of lysergic intent in this show with some looped out fun in the back end, but not too much because you are still not yet to the uncomfortable setbreak convos and overly bright lights making you regret that doubling. Rest assured Phish knows and will “take care of you” as soon as the break ends. BOAF snaps us back with those infectious breakbeats with Lawn Boy giving us the only true breather of the set ahead of a typically fun Possum closer.

Coming out of the awkwardness that setbreak often seems to be you would be quite right to belt out a few “awwww yeahs!” as the lights drop and Trey sets that telltale loop (you know, the one he never does anymore?) that lets us know Ghost is a coming. I have to say I was pretty surprised to discover that out of the 182 total performances of this vehicle only 17 have been 2nd set openers (and seven of those have come in 3.0). However, in 1999 it was somewhat of a thing as four of the thirteen played are in that slot and frankly all four are well worth your time. And this one? Yeah, this one is a doozy. Go check out the heaps of praise @lawnmemo throws on this Ghost. He gets it. Frankly, I’m not going to be able to improve upon his breakdown. Heck this image alone is worth reading the whole thing.

What I will say is that this jam GOES PLACES. LOTS of places. It starts with the pre-verse loops and never lets up for close to 30 minutes. You get the Phish funk. You get some power rock. You get a big satisfying peak. You get the darkness and weird (BIG TIME). Shit, you even get one of the canonical Trey riffs best known from the 05.22.2000 Ghost for a bit (check the 16min mark here). Over the course of this jam there is something for everyone. But to be clear, this one goes to deep, DEEP psychedelic places that may not be your filet of Phish. For many of us, this is the type of completely connected musical conversation we seek from this band and why getting it is so amazing when it happens – because it doesn’t always happen. This Ghost has sections you can’t NOT dance to and sections where you fear the world is collapsing in on you. It is relentless and magical. And I love every second of it.

By the time they wind down into the warped close of Ghost you are definitely in need of something to bring you back to some semblance of normalcy. Runaway Jim fills that void, chugging along brightly but without much to speak of outside of the normal end solo bits. Roggae gets the breather slot and works well enough in that role. Immediately following Trey cranks up the loops and effects and we are off into outer space once more as the band works towards 2001. This pre-jam part is better than the 2001 itself, honestly, and you will see it tracked as “Spacey Jam” on some tapes (and I have included that part in the playlist from this show). Following the Deodato funk cover You Enjoy Myself starts up and once again the soundscape-building aspect of the then current playing is on display both in the pre-nirvana and main jam segments. After a solid if not top shelf main jam Trey hints at Johnny B Goode as they transition to what ends up being a loop-laden though abbreviated D&B section. As the song often does this closes the set and show. For the encore tonight we get Theme From The Bottom which is very rare in that slot having only encored eight times out of the 164 total performances for the song. That alone is worthwhile but then when you hear Trey reprise one of the main licks that informed the Gin jam (listen at 5:20 in Theme for the first go at it) it takes this one next level even for a compact get-them-on-their-way encore performance. And with that we are on the road again, albeit now with a night off to make the 400+ mile journey east for that outlier before the start of the California/Southwest portion of the tour.

Take Your Laser Beams Away

Here in the 4th night of the tour the band is fully gelling. Fans would be forgiven for being pretty tired at this stage considering they had already driven more than 500 miles for this first weekend of shows. But the payoff is worth it! Along with many other shows this tour you can start it at the opener and let it run and be perfectly happy. But knowing how we fans are, here are the songs I would recommend you spend the most time and energy with from Portland:

Bathtub Gin

Ghost

‘Spacey Jam’ pre-2001

YEM

Theme From The Bottom

I recommend spinning this show top to bottom or at least those highlights above but definitely the Gin and Ghost if nothing else. Me saying more about those two songs would probably cause even fewer people to spend time reading this blog so let’s just say I consider these to be two of my favorite pieces of Phish improv from this whole tour and we are only four shows in so that should tell you something right there.

This Happens Once Again

Next we will hop over to Idaho for that very well known sleeper show stop that added so many miles to the routing for many fans. Hopefully you weren’t one of those who thought better than to do the drive and missed out on one of THOSE nights… Prep yourself with the official release of this classic night from Boise!

Where They Hoped I’d Be — The Gorge — 09.10-11.1999

Where They Hoped I’d Be — The Gorge — 09.10-11.1999

Today we play two! In the interest of moving things along and keeping my sanity, for any multi-show run I will do a single post covering both shows. This will apply to nine venues in total (The Gorge, Shoreline, Nassau, Albany, Cincinnati, CCCC, The Spectrum, Hampton, and of course Big Cypress). The posts will be longer but hey they weren’t exactly short to begin with…

Oh yeah and I covered these two shows a bit when I was doing the Venue Project thing (you know, before The Baker’s Dozen came along and pretty much ended any debate about which venue was the best for Phish*) so if you would like to read that please go here.

*Look I know the sample size is a big part of why MSG takes top billing for many people but the simple fact is when you have played a venue like that as many times as this band has and with as high of a hit rate as those shows seem to have you really are never going to be able to put together a reasonable enough argument that another place is a “better venue” for Phish.

Phish – The Gorge Amphitheatre – George, WA — 09.10.1999

I Farmhouse, First Tube, Twist, Divided, Ginseng, Carini, WTU?>WIGRIC

II Disease>Moma>Piper, Fee, Jibboo, Saw It Again, Melt>Cavern>Bowie

E Coil

Notes Out On Sandpaper

–debuts of Will It Go Round In Circles and Gotta Jibboo

The Central Theme

The first weekend of Fall Tour found Phish at The Gorge, easily one of the favorite venues of fans around the country, particularly those who have been able to make it to that beautiful place (me not yet included). This was the third year in a row that they stopped here, each time for a pair of shows as one does when the comings and goings to the place take as much commitment of time and energy as this one does. This is a ‘bucket list’ type venue and for the most part Phish has played highly regarded shows here, though in some sense it is difficult to separate the music from the experience which may result in an attendance bias amplification effect as a result. But that’s more for the other project. This one is about the music for the most part.

Starting off with a Farmhouse opener is… not exactly the way to prove the point about how awesome shows are here but hey that was a thing in 1999 as four times (including three on this tour) out of the nineteen performances of the song it came in as show opener. That out of the way we get the second ever run at First Tube, tonight a bit beefier and definitely befitting of the shadow opener slotting. Now we get to the fairly-standard-for-the-era run of songs that fill the bulk of this settling-into-the-scene first set. Twist is fun but mostly jamless and then Divided predictably gets the sunset slot. Notable here is that The Pause is quite long as even after Trey signals the return after 1:16 Fish waits another 1:30 before “answering” so you get a full 2:46 of Pause here which is neat. Ginseng Sullivan gets the bluegrass tune nod and then a crunchy yet contained Carini (which along with the Twist earlier has some solid use of the Note Eater 5000 by Trey) precedes the always-a-head-scratcher freestanding first set What’s The Use?. This is only the sixth ever performance of the song and the third standalone first set version (really only the 07.09.1999 version from MPP out of Free fits the ‘cool down’ slot many of us prefer for the song). Perhaps it was a callout for the next song played like “hey, what’s the use, let’s go ahead and debut this bad ass cover song that we really should have played more than just twice because c’mon who doesn’t want to hear this one?” though I am skeptical that was the intent. But hey at least we got the debut of Will It Go Round In Circles as the closer here. File that song in the long list of ones that should have stayed in the rotation. Perhaps even more today than then this song fits the vibe of a Phish show extremely well. The song lives on as a TAB staple though so I guess we can be happy it hasn’t fully disappeared.

After the break they opened with Down With Disease, a song that I’m not sure I could ever tire of though I am certain someone out there feels triggered by that statement so hello to whoever that poor soul might be. Though the song has now become one of the most reliable vehicles for open exploration in the catalog, at this time you really never knew if it would be a big ol’ set-carrying version or one of the tighter, shred-heavy, energy bursts along the way. Tonight is a little bit of both to be fair. But probably more contained than open. Basically, this one isn’t a setlist highlight but it surely doesn’t detract in any way either. While we are here, I will note that this one has the first example of something that if you know me at all you are probably already rolling your eyes about me bringing up here. Yes, my friends, this Disease has a nascent take on The Lick, a roughly 15 note descending phrase usually initiated by Trey that pops up all over the place throughout the years (well, mainly in particular songs like Disease and Gin and Ghost but yeah). This one comes in at 5:05 (aud) and is not the fully formed version it has become but it is there and like most in Diseases it signifies the drop into the jam proper. Consider this your forewarning that we are likely to find more of these as we go along.

Now warmed back up, the set moves along as Disease falls into Moma (nice but nothing too special here) and continues with a Piper that never really gets going before they bail out for the old ending. Fee starts up which at this point was becoming more of a rarity (and in 1999 was always done sans megaphone). This is the 2nd of three versions for the year but that doesn’t mean it would go quietly as the good thing about its rarity in this era was that typically the ending would stretch into harmonic ambient space. Now this one doesn’t go nearly as big as the one from 07.08.1999 in Virginia Beach (that one is the GOAT after all) but for a couple of minutes we do get to close our eyes and smile at the lovely tinkering going on up there on stage. Once Fee ends Trey sets a new loop, one that we now all know and (for the most part) love but here a new thing as they drop into the debut of Gotta Jibboo which up til now had been only heard in the TAB iterations to date. It got a LOT of workout on the May tour, being played in 10/12 shows so if you had any knowledge of those shows you probably knew this one was coming eventually. While fun and bouncy this one never launches and the result is solid but a bit underwhelming with the context of those 14-18min versions from TAB tour. Don’t worry though. More to come with this song a bit later on this tour.

Saw It Again cranks us back to the stuff we all knew, continuing the see saw feel of this set as they move between the shredders and the dance tunes. This leads to Split Open and Melt which is always welcome in the 4th quarter. To be frank, this is not a version you will hear folks singing the praises of but there’s nothing wrong with sitting in that syrupy groove for a while and just looking around for a bit, maaaaan. The pace is relaxed and particularly so once Fish drops down to more subdued playing, letting Trey build layers of sound within the Melt template. There is a lot of potential in this jam that never pays off though as I respin this yet again I guess my main gripe is I want more of it. Sit in that space for 10-15min and you never know what might go down. But here it feels like just as they are starting to get comfortable someone brings the Melt beat back and they start to work towards the close instead. Could be Mike but might have been Fish. Oh well. Buy the ticket take the ride. We don’t get to decide. I will give Trey credit though. He keeps that return going for a couple of minutes instead of cleanly wrapping it up and moving on to Cavern where, as par for course, the lyrics are botched. Still with considerable time to go here the Cavern is a fake out closer and instead they start up Bowie for what many hope will be the defining song of the set.

Well… see.. here’s the thing about Bowie in this time. Sure there are some nicely stretched out versions but we are well past the peak of jamming for this song (I put it as Fall 94 through Summer 95, ymmv). This does not mean good stuff isn’t going on here! Far from it! But let’s not go in thinking this will be some 30min monster. I mean this one is only 21min long (yes aud track times are over 25min bu that’s the encore break crowd noise for the final 4min) so clearly that is laughable! All kidding aside, I do like this Bowie. In true pre-millennial fashion the intro is VERY extended with loops and synths and full soundscape building to be found. Outside of the telltale high hat hits by Fish you would be hard pressed to know this is even Bowie for almost eight full minutes (and that without any teases, secret language, or other shenanigans). In the right (or wrong) headspace this Bowie intro could take you to some pretty weird places. At one point Fish really messes with your head by playing the “clock” sounds from the studio version of Maze (or at least what sounds like them) and then the band all drops out one by one, ostensibly to reset for the start of Bowie itself. Once in the “traditional” jam things get pretty standard though I would stick with it as the entirety of this Bowie is worth the time. Squirming Coil is the encore tonight which is nice enough. I’ll save the takeaways for the end of the post so we can do both shows at once.

Phish – The Gorge Amphitheatre – George, WA — 09.11.1999

I Tube>Funky Bitch>LxL, DST, PYITE, Billy Breathes, Heavy Things, Guyute>Free

II Wolfman’s->Sand, Meatstick->Maze, Caspian>Hood

E Circus

Notes Out On Sandpaper

–debuts of Heavy Things and Sand

The Central Theme

You might want to check out the full video for this show unearthed by the folks doing wonderful work over at PHArchive on YouTube. Really great to see this video circulate. Just be ready for some nausea-inducing optics at the start and frankly throughout the entire thing. Maybe double up that bonine hitter before pressing play. Oh and the bros chatting and looking at lot art at the end are great.

Following what I am certain was yet another crazy fun night and day spent in the campgrounds and by the Columbia River Phish opened up the second night at the Gorge with the high energy triple play of Tube>Funky Bitch>LxL. Tube is super short (even by today’s standards) but gets a quick loop-funk jam and an addictive Trey riff before they head to the Son Seals cover. The pace here is a bit slower than most versions of the Funky Bitch but I assure you no one was complaining at the extended soloing from Page and Trey. Limb By Limb represents the second song repeated so far this tour (First Tube being the first the prior night) and much like that one they seem to have a lot more to say in the second take this run. Not in terms of length as this one is about a minute shorter but it just feels more direct. Maybe I am just latching onto the Trey tease of Long Tall Glasses too much, I don’t know. I love how he just arrives there and goes with it and then his trill section later will bend your knees in a good way. The mid set gets a Dogs Stole Things (already becoming a rarity just three years into its life) and a fiery Punch You In The Eye. I love this song as an opener particularly with the extended intro but even here it rocks hard. I mean what’s not to love about a version that chugs along for over three minutes, building up tension as it goes, before we get to the lyrics?

Now it is time for a cool down and Billy Breathes fills that role nicely. This sets up another TAB-song-making-its-debut for Heavy Things, a song which has become more at home here than with TAB (which is not always the case obviously). I’m certain we all know what to expect with this one so let’s just move along. Now we have Guyute, another repeat already on the tour and one that goes against those complaints about the lack of compositional songs that people love to throw around about this era. But we aren’t here to dwell on that so let’s talk about the set closing Free instead. 1999 is a pretty dang food year for this song even if the jamcharts aren’t overflowing with versions from this year. It is kind of surprising they only played the song 13 times that year considering how much I like em all. The jam extends as Mike drops bombs and Trey gets his glitchy shred on, playing those backwards notes like they are going out of style. This is a filter that got a ton of use in this period and while it comes back from time to time at no point was it ever used as frequently as this era. Trey shoves a bunch of notes together as they work back to the song’s close, leaving the crowd wanting for more as they take setbreak.

Phish hit the stage for the second set with purpose, cranking into Wolfman’s Brother and really stepping on the gas from the get go. I always take it as a god sign when Trey is scat-riffing over his guitar line as they drop into it. The jam starts out as rocking wah funk but shifts through a few phases as they stretch it out. Trey hints at DEG at one point followed by a tension-filled section that counterpoints the deep pocket groove the other three have going. They move out into more pronounced wah funk that drops into big soundscape layering over the groove as Trey futzes with all the pedals at his disposal. Still in Wolfman’s but also some place else entirely, this jam is basically a template example for the power of what 1999 Phish could be, all four members playing with more swagger than a pimp on Shakedown. Almost suddenly the groove drops to ambience, snapping you out of that groove trance as Trey adds some keyboard tinkering to go along with his sustained tones. Trey goes shredster for a bit, sets a loop, and then communicates the change to Mike and Fish who crank into the debut of Sand! If ever there was a TAB song destined for Phish this is IT.

Folks who weren’t up on their setlists were likely looking around for some form of confirmation of what was going on especially since this one stretches over 18min (and still is in the top ten longest versions ever).  This is a slow burn Sand which primarily showcases Trey over the groove of the base song (something Mike would very quickly get away from as I am sure he got bored quickly considering his penchant for not sticking to the same bassline for very long). Here I will borrow from my venue project post to say that “this version is a Trey clinic as Mike lays down the static bassline, Fish rides rhythm alongside, and Page toys with accents and effects. Over the course of this 18” minute version Trey patiently offers up great idea, some which stick and other that don’t take…” As they move through the jam the intensity builds and builds with Trey going full Jimi and doing his I’m-so-amped-I-can’t-jam-stand-still dance the whole time. As debut versions go, this one is up there on the list with a select few songs. Yes, they would go on to play bigger versions even on this tour once the rest of the band caught up with Trey on how to approach it, but there is no denying the power of this original, interstellar dance-a-thon take on the vehicle. Mike even throws out a few fight bell hits in approval afterwards. He knows.

They follow that up with the tour debut of Meatstick, the first since their visit to Japan but here still without the Japanese lyrics we would come to know and love (for some). The outro jam drips directly into Maze which somehow accomplishes being both heavy shred and mellow at the same time (well, at least as far as Maze goes). I suppose that is another facet of 1999 playing as even with the soupiness of the layered sounds there was the ability to blow heads open as they always had. Maze starts with some loops and then gets to business as Trey uses distortion to great effect. Next – and believe me I am as shocked as you are to be saying this – is a very strong Prince Caspian which vacillates between overly tender playing and powerful soloing. And then we get a masterful Harry Hood with that wonderfully dreamy bliss playing followed by a series of false endings. Listen for some backwards note play by Trey in the intro too. When The Circus Comes To Town, a personal favorite cover for Phish in the non-jammed realm, encores tonight and now everyone needs to pack up for the quick turn to get over to Portland for the next night’s show, the fourth in four nights!

Take Your Laser Beams Away

These two shows found the band comfortable and loose with highlight jams popping up all over. Some of these will not make the final rankings but are worth your time if you go picking. The first night feels more like a tour opener than the actual tour opener was with the dips into open space being less pronounced and a decided focus being paid to the song side of things. But then the second night is Phish in their fully comfortable form. This is not unusual for multi-night stops at a venue where one night will be clearly more connected and flowing. While I love some of what we heard in the first two shows it is this third one where we are starting to get a good idea of what this tour will become. It is a good example to give someone who is not up on their 1999 Phish for them to hear the broad range of what the band was doing during this time. But if you do that, let them know this is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We got a lot more awesome coming shortly…

Will It Go Round In Circles

Disease

Fee

Melt

Bowie

Tube>

Funky Bitch>

LxL

Free

Wolfman’s->

Sand

Maze

Caspian>

Hood

I recommend checking them all out but please spend time on Bowie, Free, Wolfman’s->Sand, and Hood. Those are the goods. The player in the sidebar has you covered!

This Happens Once Again

Next we will hop over to Oregon for a show I love through and through but one that has not gotten much “official” love. Well, okay the big centerpiece jam is out there now but I’ll continue lobbying for the full show release…

Credit Or Debt — Vancouver, BC — 09.09.1999

Credit Or Debt — Vancouver, BC — 09.09.1999

Phish — GM Place — Vancouver, BC — 09.09.1999

I Mozambique, Axilla>LxL, Horn, Guyute, Chalkdust, BATCS, Stash, IDK, Zero

II BOAF, Ha Ha Ha>Ghost, Inlaw, First Tube, Tweezer, Bug, YEM, HMB

E Sample>Golgi>Reprise

Notes Out On Sandpaper

–debuts of Mozambique, Inlaw Josie Wales (Trey on acoustic), and First Tube

–first performance of Ha Ha Ha in 1999 (don’t worry, these won’t be too big of a thing – I just find it interesting particularly in Fall tours to see what songs are finally getting played for the first time that year)

The Central Theme

First of all, apologies on formatting here. They completely changed the architecture of post building and it is taking me more work than I want to get it to my familiar look and feel. So yeah. Sorry about that. We will get it all figured out.

Following the summer tour’s end in the Midwest in late July and that visit to Japan the week after, Phish arrived in the Pacific Northwest for their first visit to Vancouver since their stop at the Pacific Coliseum on the Fall 1996 Tour. The tour would start indoors here before several outdoor shows taking advantage of the mostly mild late summer/early fall temperatures along the way. But indoor Phish is a thing a lot of us love dearly so getting the tour rolling at a hockey shed (albeit a bigger, newer one than most of those they had laid waste to over the years) adds to the excitement and anticipation. This was the only time Phish has played what is now known as Rogers Center which at the time was just a year old and named GM Place. It also, unfortunately, is the last time the band has played in Vancouver, something they should get to fixing once we are back to seeing shows the way we are used to doing.

Tour openers can be funny things as with a blank slate you really have no idea what to expect. The entirety of the songbook is available and more than any other time the decisions on what to play are at the mercy of whatever Trey and the rest of the band are feeling. Sometimes we get the high energy shot of a well loved classic song but sometimes, like this night, they come out with a song they have never played, setting tone for not just this show but what is to come further along by not falling into the habit of the familiar. While I am certain the majority of fans probably weren’t completely familiar with the song when it dropped you cannot say that Mozambique was the last thing we could expect here. The song was now more than sixteen months old having debuted (as Free Thought – with lyrics! Or maybe it was Third Tube per phish.com?) back in the 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes show on 04.17.1998 not to mention the five times the song was played on Trey Tour in May. This first Phish version is a tad loose but serves its purpose and shakes the rust for the secondary Axilla opener that truly wakes the room up.

Axilla runs right into the first potential for some musical conversation and Limb By Limb provides it as Trey shines in his first real solo of the tour. This third song stretches a bit as they drop into a tranquil space, Trey soaring and noodling about over the rhythm section ahead of a short but typical Fish ending. Horn then starts up a run of familiar tunes with a chunky but contained Chalkdust and then Guyute proves that the composed tune chops are doing just fine, thank you for asking. Now we get a song that I still wonder about because while I get that it is a nice way to showcase Page on the Hammond Back At The Chicken Shack has never really connected for me. The song is fine enough it just feels like setlist filler. I cannot think of any version that makes me want to spin it more than just on the way through a show. There are only three more versions following this one so apparently the band felt the same way I suppose.

Perhaps the band felt this wasn’t cutting it either because the Stash that ensues is perhaps the best one of the year at least in my estimation. We will get to the other one worth mentioning in a few weeks as overall 1999 is not the strongest year for the song. Fully limbered following LxL and more, the drop here is effortless and reflective of the then current approach to jamming. Instead of the frenzied push/pull of dissonant tension/release this version is a slow burner. Trey uses the wah to great effect in setting the tone as he quietly tinkers around, playing wobbly lines that counterpoint the bevy of ideas Mike throws out. You know that feeling when you get into a hot tub and it feels good but then your friend turns it up and a bit later all of a sudden you are like “holy shit this is fucking hot!”? Well maybe you don’t but I do and that’s exactly the feeling I get from this jam. Trey is bending notes all over the place, building tension in a very different way than we are used to from this song. Some may say he is whaling here but if you consider that a negative thing then maybe this isn’t the type of Phish for your ears. All but unnoticeable for the first part of the jam, Page comes in with textured synth hits as they build up towards the release we all are seeking. Trey isn’t having it though. Instead he runs out a bunch of tightly grouped notes and eases back towards ending Stash, fluffing the crowd and taunting us as they never resolve it.

Fish gets the spotlight for I Didn’t Know following some fan service banter by Trey where he thanks the crowd for welcoming them to Canada and introduces “Vahjonna Fishman” who on this night is sporting a bandana in honor of the sushi place they clearly visited the night before (TOJO!). In the litany of names the man has been called over the years, this is one makes me chuckle more than most though that may just be my teenager sense of humor shining through. Character Zero gets the closer nod (of course) and while pretty standard Trey does bend and extend, building off the tension of the unrequited Stash and releasing all over the crowd ahead of the “quick break” that was likely not as quick as the singer would lead the gullible to believe.

The second set starts with Birds Of A Feather, one of four times the song did that in its thirteen appearances for the year. It is a good choice here though unfortunately unlike many of the massive versions from the summer tour this one stays in the box without much fanfare to note. Now I’m not sure if that is why the next song is Ha Ha Ha but I have a hunch it could be related. Seriously, when 2/3 of the prior six versions stretched well outside the song you have to wonder why this one got cut short. Who knows with this band though? Those confused thoughts are quickly assuaged when the Ghost loops start and the dance party cranks up in earnest. This time period is a good one if you like big Ghost jams especially the heavily layered, looped out, chugging grooves that typify the overall sound of the era. Similar to the Stash this one starts out smoldering and inbounds as Mike leads the way. Trey toys around with several ideas including an all but recognizable descending line and then some brighter let’s-head-to-the-peak phrases which the crowd appreciates greatly. On that note, really nice feedback loop with the crowd on this night in general which I expect is the excitement of first night of tour combined with the friendly nature of the local folk. Just when you think Trey is going to blast into overdrive they downshift, settling into a secondary groove before the patient return to close the song. Yet again, we are left without a big release. But that’s okay.

Trey picks up the acoustic guitar and debuts The Inlaw Josie Wales which had already gotten seven performances in the acoustic solo first sets from the May tour. This lovely tune has lived on in the solo format but we haven’t heard it at a Phish show since Hiatus and honestly I’m okay with that as it really works best as a solo guitar piece in my opinion. Hopping back to the electric Trey and the band drop into the debut of First Tube, another song first heard in that 04.17.1998 show and quickly becoming a staple on the solo side as well. Compared to what the song has become this version feels pretty tame but hey it was a new song to them so that makes sense. This one will be heard from A LOT as we progress to the point where people got sick of its frequency for a while there.

Maybe that First Tube ended the 3rd quarter or perhaps it opened the 4th but either way it sets everyone up for Tweezer. Things start out drippy and languid, that Tweezer funk pulling everyone in. Call it more tension building or whatever but they sit in the pocket for what seems like forever until things go sideways in that wonderful way. There are hints of other big Tweezers from this year in this jam but it is its own thing as well. The groove roils on with Trey and Page throwing out ideas above, reminding you once again that this is exactly why you put in all of the time/money/energy to And remember how they haven’t really payed off most of the jams so far in this show? Well, wait no more! This Tweezer EXPLODES into a glorious peak and that’s not even the end of it all. The denouement drones on for several minutes of pre-millennial space, never returning to Tweezer before finally fizzling out into nothing and the start of Bug.

Some folks groan at the thought of Bug but these 1999 versions really capture the song well. I like to think Bug is something of a late 90s take on the power ballad format that we all knew and loved/hated from the hairbands of the 80s but with the flourish that only Phish could provide. No matter what your feelings are for Bug this one works well in the aftermath of that Tweezer, slowly building up from the murk that brought us here. Still with time to burn in the set, Phish then drops into You Enjoy Myself, here a mostly “standard” version for the time period. Of note, the pre-nirvana section falls into more of that ambient soundscape space as Trey lets his notes linger and moan out ahead of the classic song proper. There is also a bit of groove to be found in the main jam but nothing more than a vamp fest outside of Mike’s playing… but the crowd sure digs it. Hello My Baby gets the mic’d but a cappella closer slot and then we are onto the encore. Nothing special here as it goes Sample>Golgi>Reprise but the fist pumpers were assuredly doing their thing throughout. Now time to pack up for the overnight drive of nearly 300 miles to The Gorge…

Take Your Laser Beams Away

A quick note here that as I did for my Fall 1998 and Fall 1996 tour reviews I will be updating the site’s music player as we go with all of the “takeaway” tunes I note in this section of each post. Most times these will be the songs with the jams but often other notable things like sit-ins, unique versions, or one offs that I feel are worth including. Keep checking the “I Love The Shiny Music” area in the left hand sidebar for updates.

Being a tour opener sometimes the highlights can be sparse and other times they can be plentiful. Tonight we get a decent number of takeaways (and I’m not even including any of the debuts!).

Limb By Limb

Stash

Ghost

Tweezer

YEM

I recommend checking them all out but please spend time on Stash, Ghost, and Tweezer if you have to mind your time. As tour openers go I feel this show is very strong, particularly that second set.

This Happens Once Again

Next up are the pair of shows from The Gorge, the third trip there in as many years and the last visit until 2.0. Get stretched for the long jams!

And You May Ask Yourself

Well, how *DID* we get here?

 

For many fans, 1999 is a heavy, heavy year.

 

Take that line however it works best for you because there are several ways to interpret that and all are true. It may have been your first opportunity to really go big and hit a large run or full tour of shows. It may have been when you started to see the fraying at the edges both on stage and off. Possibly you connected with the layered textures of music you heard and dove deep into introspection or something a bit less… positive. Maybe this was the year when you saw how big it all had become and it caused you to shy away — or perhaps that drew you in more fully. These are but a few of the thousands of perspectives on what Phish was in 1999. So how did it all come to this?

 

By the time Phish got to 1999 they had become the biggest touring entity in all of rock music, something you can read about from far better writers in many other places. If you are here reading this I expect you probably have a good baseline of what got us here so I won’t waste your time on too much of that. Maybe a little though.

 

In the eleven years before this they had played 1036 shows (~94/yr), peaking at 150 way back in 1990 and playing the fewest at 71 just before in 1998. Even before 1998 the trend to play fewer shows had begun, most definitely the direct result of playing larger venues and having fully arrived as a national touring act that charted some songs and albums along the way. Phish had also pioneered the modern festival, setting the blueprint for Bonnaroo and beyond with The Clifford Ball, The Great Went, and Lemonwheel but also even earlier with their homespun events. Fandom thrived on the nascent internet as tapes spread wide and the word of mouth continued to sow wonder in the minds of a generation of seekers. It felt like whatever they could imagine they could pull off which made it quite inviting to the thousands of curious people looking to be there when it went down. Clearly, Phish was a THING now, a fixture of our culture but one that was always left to exist on the fringe of mainstream popularity.

 

Even with that relative obscurity the Phish machine was chugging along and they had more time on their hands due to less time spent on the road. This allowed for more time spent doing non Phish creative things (The Story Of The Ghost had been released just that past Fall) and each member of Phish filled their time in their own fashion. Mike played a couple of shows with Jamie Masefield and Doug Perkins, Page played some very important shows in April (along with Trey), Fish played shows with the two bands he always bounced between (Jazz Mandolin Project and Pork Tornado), and Trey played the first shows of what has now been a 20+ year side band with the core of Russ Lawton and Tony Markellis. Out of the recording sessions for TSOTG came The Siket Disc, released online in July after being edited by Page earlier in the year. All this at a time when they had gotten so big but still they kept creating.

 

And then came Summer Tour. Phish played 20 shows in 13 states (and one in Canada) over 27 days including Camp Oswego, that summer’s festival. Along the way they debuted thirteen songs including a new batch of mostly one off covers, a few of the Siket tunes (MLT, WTU? The Happy Whip And Dung Song), and a couple that would later end up on the Farmhouse album (BOTT, Bug, MITM). As with most tours there were bustouts and big jams and scensters and complainers and antics and setlist trends and a new Trey toy and complaining about the complainers and all that fun stuff. Perhaps this year the complainers had gotten more numerous or at least louder but there were signs that this wasn’t the tightly practiced band of yore. Without going into it all too much I’ll just point out that while the compositions waned in frequency and precision the era of the extended open jam had begun in earnest. And while nailing those intricate compositions is something that brought a lot of us to Phish it is the prospect of the new that keeps bringing us back. 

 

Whatever your thoughts are on the Summer Tour it was over in under a month and before we knew it there would be more shows to catch. But first… after three straight summers playing some shows ahead of the US tour Phish chose this year to make their first visit to Japan for the Fuji Rock Festival. During this trip they played seven sets over three days, not repeating a song and taking several out for long jams. Combining this run with the Summer and layering in all of those side projects before that, you can start to see that things were set up nicely for Phish as they got going for the Fall. The band was connected, in a period of high creativity, and – after a month at home recharging – well rested. Add in some more new songs, Trey’s mini keyboard tinkerings, and the lead up to probably the greatest single achievement in the band’s history and we have a lot to look forward to here.

 

So with that I leave you to do your homework. I’m not saying you have to go spin the whole May ’99 TAB run (but you could if you want) or skim your way through the summer tour (might not be a bad idea…) or really dive deep with Japan 99 (actually…) or even that you should revisit the April Phil & Phriends shows (okay this you should do). But all of those things plus the Siket Disc surely won’t hurt. Knowing we all are pressed for time these days, I do think you may want to run that 09.09.1999 show top to bottom.  Because in a few days we get this bus rolling for real.

 

Waiting, Calculating – Puzzling Our Visit to Fall 1996

Okay, let’s have some fun and do a little contest thingy. I’m kind of obsessed with crossword puzzles and phish (not necessarily in that order) and I thought it would be fun to bring the two together. Note that there are old threads on .net and other places where fans have made puzzles before so this isn’t exactly new ground being covered, just my take on the idea. All of the clues for this puzzle can be figured out if you have been following along on the Fall 1996 Tour and most even without that.

 

So here’s the contest.

 

  1. Download and print out the Fall96Crossword and clues.
  2. Complete the puzzle.
  3. By the deadline (more on that below), email me your completed puzzle.
  4. I will then pick one winner at random out of all 100% correct entries as the winner

 

The prize for this little game? A gift certificate redeemable at http://www.livephish.com for one Lossless Download of the show of your choice. That’s nearly a $13 retail value! If you want the HD version the upcharge is on you, bub. I’m already giving you the lossless you should be spinning anyway.

 

The deadline for submissions will be August 25th at 11:59pm Eastern Daylight time. That way I can have the winner announced and awarded prior to the next scheduled Phish shows in case that individual wants to grab one of them. Please email your completed entry to me at typeiiijpd at the gmail place.

 

UPDATE: Apparently I cannot spell certain people’s names correctly as the answer for 51 Down is the more common but incorrect spelling of that person’s name. The correct answer would be five letters which won’t fit in that three letter slot so if you think you know it but it will not fit there’s your reason. I have it incorrect. And if it fits for you, well, that probably means you have been spelling it incorrectly all these years.

 

The downloadable versions are linked above but here is the grid and clues for reference

Fall96Crossword

crossword clues text_Page_1

crossword clues text_Page_2

Okay, got all that? Now get to it!!

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.

Where Palm Trees Dipped – San Diego, CA 12.04.1996

Phish — Sports Arena — San Diego, CA 12.04.1996

I  MFMF, CDT, Horn, Uncle Pen, Timber Ho!>Sample, Train Song, Guyute, Zero, Lizards, Bowie

II  Ha Ha Ha>Mike’s>Caspian>Sparkle>PYITE, LoM?, Reba, Lawn Boy, Paug

E  JJLC

 

After their one night in Arizona Phish returned to California for two nights, one technically being considered an “off night” followed by a show in San Diego. The off night was spent singing the Star Spangled Banner for the LA Lakers vs. Seattle Supersonics game that Trey mentioned in introducing their performance of the song back in Seattle on 11.27.1996. That game, played at the Great Western Forum was one by the home team 110 to 106 over the eventual division champion Supersonics in that rookie year for Kobe Bryant and the first season that Shaquille O’Neal played for the Lakers. Then after that off day fun Phish went a little further south to play their fifth ever show in the San Diego area. The first visit to the area was kind of delayed by about two years if you were one to pore over the details of the old Phish Newsletters as there was a “TBA San Diego Area” date for April 14, 1992 listed in the March/April 1992 version. Thankfully the drought ended on 05.14.1994 at Montezuma Hall on the campus of San Diego State University surely quelling the concerns of those far Southern Californians and the masses of transplanted trustafarian surfer types who contributed to the sustained growth of the region in that time period. The show is a fun one with a nice Reba, a Mike’s that gets a bit dirty and shreddy, and just the all-around solid play of the time period. The wait for the band’s return would not be long after that as they came back to play a two night run at Spreckels Theatre on 12.07.1994 and 12.08.1994. The first night might jog your memory a bit as it includes the version of YEM from A Live One but do also check out the Melt because that one is fantastic and the Jim gets a little Gypsy Queen love. The second night goes deeper with a Maki->Maze opener, a wildly funky Simple->Catapult->Simple->Lizards (yes, I said funky about a ’94 show), a crazed Possum, a big beautiful Reba, and a frenzied Bowie being the highlights. A little less than a year later they played at the Summer Pops stage at the Embarcadero Center on 09.28.1995, the second show on that Fall ’95 Tour and one that is well played if pretty short on the jams… not unlike the tour opener we just got from St. Paul. The next visit would be for this show sitting on the other end of a Fall Tour which was played as the second to last show of the tour. But you already knew that.

 

For the third time this tour and the fifth in 1996 as a whole Phish opens the show with My Friend, My Friend. This is the third show opening version of the tour (which I always seem to over explain so we’ll forego that today) and one that goes as you would expect in leading up to that evil peak. Next they run through the shred clinic of Chalkdust Torture which gives us a bit of double opener energy as Trey slays this tight version. They pull up a bit for an early Horn (which I feel usually gets played in the back half of a first set after the first potential vehicle but that could just be me projecting that) that is played finely enough before we get the bluegrass song for the set in Uncle Pen. After Pen they start into Timber Ho! to give us our first real taste of the jam on the night. As with pretty much every Timber Ho! this one stays within the song and doesn’t stretch for too long but Trey does twist things a bit in his solo before the final verse/refrain, giving us a bit of dark jam jerky to gnaw on as we wait for the main courses to come. Unfortunately, they go from this to Sample and then follow that with Train Song, kind of killing the darker vibe they had been setting with the bulk of the songs up to this point. A rocking take on the Guyute suite brings us back a bit and satisfies the howling fist pumpers who almost have their heads pop off when they crunch into Character Zero after that Guyute. You have to admit that playing the song as much as they did on this tour wasn’t a bad thing for the song because by this point they are straight crushing it with Trey toying around all over the fretboard and the rest of the band keeping stride. After the rock out Trey starts up our fifth Lizards of the tour which they run through quite well before Fish hits the tell tale intro to a set closing David Bowie. As with most of the Bowies on this tour this one burns hot and deep, coming in under the radar but laying waste to all it touches. It isn’t a massive one but it churns and roils with tension building goodness and pays off with a satisfying peak before Trey slips in The Lie before leaving the stage.

 

You fill the setbreak time by wandering around this old venue, learning about how it once was supposed to host the GOP National Convention (1972) only to have the GOP move their thing to Miami with short notice (kinda not surprised there), played home base for several middling sports league teams (like ABA and WHL franchises), and hosted the numerous music luminaries who have graced the stage of the venue over the years. The venue has now succumbed to the Naming Rights Bingo game like so many others but still trucks on as a viable option for tours to come (but let’s not kid ourselves; Phish ain’t coming back here unless they somehow start doing very big tours again and that’s a pipe dream). Before you know it your friends shuttle you back to your spot and the lights drop and the band cranks into the second Ha Ha Ha of the tour. In your head you are wondering why this song now because the song is often the telling finger-to-the-side-of-the-nose winking nod to something tongue in cheek they have done before this but then you remember they opened Hampton with it and just give into the quick run through this to wait and see what they drop into in its wake. That would be Mike’s Song which is never not welcome to most of us, particular back in this era of extended open jams and fully developed second jams in the song. From the drop out of the lyrics Trey is in charge, playing around the Mike’s theme as the rest of the band builds up the chunking groove. Trey shifts to some funk rhythm chords and adds in the wah as Page comps on the organ. After a minute or so of this dance party music Trey re-initiates his lead and gets into some staccato-like playing before taking things to a higher plane. He moves back and forth between these two modes for a bit before we hit the power chords that signal the move either into the second jam or out into the next song. Second jam it is tonight! Trey goes low and menacing and starts setting loops as he moves over to the mini-kit for a bit of double drums action with Fish. He keeps the loops gong as he moves back to the guitar, playing these big wah’d out lines and feeling around the groove pocket as Fish goes nuts on the kit. At about the 13:00 mark they shift modes again and Trey is in lead in the higher end again, noodling towards the end bit which they kind of slam into rather than taking their time. This is one of those big, dark, groovy Mike’s jams that implores you to dance, never fully leaving Mike’s but also something different at the same time. It’s a definite keeper. Next up is one of only two ever times Prince Caspian has followed Mike’s song (the other being 07.29.2014) and while largely what you’d expect they do seem to draw out the ‘plinky’ section towards the end before the big jarring chord shift. I guess that is something of note. After a quick run through Sparkle they keep moving with Punch You In The Eye. Trey yells out some kind of affirmation and then Fish adds in another bit of ‘Get Up Offa That Thang’ like he did a few shows ago. They nail this one with Trey hitting everything cleanly in the Landlady section before moving on to our sixth Life On Mars? of the tour. After running through four solid if un-jammed tunes they start up Reba, working through the composed section effortlessly. The jam starts out quiet and in a patient way with Trey tinkering around and Page mirroring him as Mike throws in some creative ideas of his own. Now, the .net Reba doc calls this one “thoroughly average” which I suppose is true in some sense (don’t get me started on the overly complicated rating system employed there) as they stay in form the whole way but if that is the average then I’m happy to just ask for average Rebas in the future. I would have been quite satisfied with this one live, particularly as this relatively late stage in the show. Fish hits the telltale run to wrap it up and then they stop on a dime sans whistling for Trey to give a bit of banter/thanks to the caterers  since they wouldn’t be joining them in Las Vegas for the tour closer. Two of them get to dance on stage with Trey (!!!) while Page croons out Lawn Boy and then we are off into the Weekapaug Groove closer you knew was coming. Trey starts out with heavy wah before they even hit the first recognizable bit of the song and then we are off into happy fun dance party land. Trey takes a creative approach to the main riff, altering it slightly as he solos and plays ALL THE NOTES. He seems to pull up a bit towards the end, first giving thanks to the crowd and then blowing up the final peak but I assure you no one would have been complaining at that stage. When they come back out for the encore Trey has more thanks to give and then they lope into Jesus Just Left Chicago (mike giving a *ting* of approval right at the start), still the last time the song has been used as an encore in its 80 appearances. Page lights this one up and then Trey tears the place down as the band closes out yet another quite fine show in the end run of this tour.

 

Here we have another example of the big Fall 1996 sound they have developed over the course of this tour with pretty close to all of their various styles on display from tight shred and intricate composition to open groove jamming and smile-inducing dance party anthems. The band is so connected at this stage that it really doesn’t matter what they play because everything comes off the way it feels like it should and the creative ideas they are sharing never feel forced or out of place. I admittedly was only truly familiar with the Mike’s Song from this show before going back to spin it after so many years but I was happily surprised at the overall high quality of it (and having an available soundboard in circulation sure doesn’t hurt). Mike’s and JJLC are the clear tier one takeaways with Reba and Bowie coming in just under that but don’t mistake the lack of takeaways for a lack of quality. I’m pretty much just saving up for that tour ender at this point ::wink wink:: So one show to go now and chances are it won’t get posted until next week what with new Phish competing for ear time and the holiday weekend upcoming. Plus this one will be a biggie considering the bigness of what goes down there (he says without wanting to drop any massive spoilers). But fear not because I’m not losing steam here, just making sure I give this last one its rightful due before we get to the recappin’, jam rankin’, and movin’ on to the next project thing…

 

Thanks as always for following along…

 

With Meaningless Excitement – Phoenix, AZ 12.02.1996

Phish — America West Arena — Phoenix, AZ 12.02.1996

I  Rocky Top>Bag, Bouncin’, YEM, IDK, Theme, Gumbo, Julius

II  Ya Mar, Divided, Wolfman’s>Taste>Free, Mule, Hood, Adeline

E  Fire

 

Now flying fast in the final week of the tour Phish moved on to Phoenix, AZ for their fourth show in as many days. If you are keeping track at home that is over 850 miles of travel with no off days for the longer slogs. Not their craziest routing ever (heck, it even make sense geographically) but that’s a lot of miles for the band, crew, and fans alike. Personally, had I been on this leg of the tour I would have filled my time with looking back at the setlists gone by from the Valley of the Sun which are a bit fewer than I would have expected but still bring some punch with them. The first visit to the area was on 10.23.1991 for a show at Chuy’s in Tempe (of course it is now closed, what would you expect?. It is about as average of a setlist from that time period as you could expect as the average song gap is only 2.04 shows, something that looks weird even just seeing it on paper – and notably only four songs have gaps longer than 2 shows in Destiny Unbound (4 shows and somewhat ironic considering how long the gap would get after a performance a few weeks later on 11.15.1991 in Charlottesville, VA), Mango Song (7 shows), Possum (3 shows), and Take the A Train (6 shows) with many songs even having been played at the prior show a few days earlier on 10.19.1991 out in Santa Cruz. That’s not the sort of gap Phish shows have. This is not a show I have heard as it isn’t exactly the most widely traded show ever (if at all…) and it is probably best remembered as being the first time Brad Sands worked (in a volunteer capacity) for the band, starting a long and fruitful relationship with the band. The following Spring they returned to Tempe to play on 04.13.1992 at After the Goldrush (another Mill Avenue venue now long gone). There’s some fun teasing here including the then quite popular Smells Like Teen Spirit in a few places not to mention Secret Language and the other loose, fun stuff you got in those bar band goes big type of shows. This is another show that benefits from the up front Mike in the mix similar to other shows on that run. On 03.16.1993 they moved up to the larger Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix which we covered here almost a year ago. Even if you go back to that I’ll reiterate my recommendation that you spin the Tweezer->Sweet Emotion->Tweezer->Gin (this was the first of the three Sweet Emotion jams that also includes The Bomb Factory and the Seattle show from earlier in this Fall 1996 tour) and perhaps the Esther>SL Instructions>Esther if only because it is the last known time they have done that and I am pretty sure it will never happen again unless they rediscover their love for that some time soon and then feel the need to bring us back up to speed. But don’t hold your breath there. Spring of 1994 brought the band to Hayden Square back over in Tempe for one on 05.13.1994 that sees our first big time jamming in the Phoenix area. The Ice is menacing, Stash goes sideways a bit, Slave is a beaut, there’s a fun second set Melt, McGrupp has some extra sauce, and then YEM is a tease-filled beast that even gets a little MLB tease action. Later in the year on 12.09.1994 the band was at the Mesa Amphitheatre in Mesa (obviously) to play an outdoor show in December which is something you just don’t normally get to do when you are a band from Vermont. This show has jams a plenty including the wonderful “Force Theme” Lope that also gets the alternate “suck the deer shit from this side of the hole” lyrics but then it is the Slave-like Tweezer jam that takes this show to the next level. Please go listen to that. Finally, on 10.11.1995 Phish was in Chandler at the Compto Terrace Amphitheater which was demolished in 2010. This show has an atypical Divided, a bluesy Possum that borrows from ‘You Don’t Love Me’ and has some other teases like DEG and JBG, a rocking Gin, a big Mike’s that ends up in McGrupp and a few other fun segues like the move from Paug to Llama. Oh, and there’s that tease-y Suzy withthe segue into the 197 show bustout of Crossroads which is nice too. Now on to our regularly scheduled program…

 

Phish opens the show in a way that has only ever happened three times and at the time of this show only once previously waaaaaaaay back on 05.02.1991. Yup, that’s a Rocky Top opener which is not exactly where we are used to hearing this cover tune considering that 110 of the 195 performances have been encores. And because I know you care about this level of minutiae, the break down for the song is 110 encore slottings, 40 second setters (2 being openers), 38 first setters, and 7 third set playings (one opener). That’s probably more than has been written about that song on a Phish blog perhaps ever though I haven’t exactly fact checked that statement. Rocky Top butts up into ACDC Bag for a bit of a double opener pairing. This Bag stretches a bit as previous versions have with Trey drawing out the end solo but never leaving the known structure of the song’s progression. That sort of thing is about a year away (insert winky emoticon here). After Bouncin’ ‘Round the Room for a bit we get a bit of a surprise in our third first set You Enjoy Myself of the tour (joining MSG and Halloween). Honestly, I forgot we were up to three already so maybe the surprise is all mine. This unexpected (to me!) treat is fairly straight forward in terms of the jamming as they don’t take it to funklandia tonight. That’s not to say there isn’t any there there though because Trey rips through his solo and then the D&B section gets raucous with Trey on the mini-kit for some extra percussion love to accompany Mike’s bass aerobics. It’s a fun version that won’t make the end of tour list but definitely worked in the context of this set. From the VJ they head into I Didn’t Know complete with intro to “The one and only little, round, donut, Tasmanian devil, beast boy himself…” along with more fun digs at Fish before the vac solo. Next up is another solid Theme From The Bottom and then a romp through Gumbo sans Mapleleaf Rag ending which seems to have only been a two-time thing, sadly. The set wraps up with a fun Julius where Trey gets his guitar god on for a bit and we are left with yet another ‘fifteen minute’ lie to stew about until the lights drop once more.

 

As the lights drop, were you in the vicinity of the tapers you would have heard an odd chant by a small group of fans who thought that shouting out “Poster Nutbag!” in unison would somehow influence the band to play Harpua. They were incorrect in that and the band starts up Ya Mar instead. This carries over the fun vibe that they fostered in the first set and ends up being a pretty captivating version. With Page and Trey both taking meaningful solos this one ends up on the longer side of the Ya Mar graph (excepting the few jammed departures into open waters). It is about as strong a version that stays fully in bounds as you could want and just shows how well they are playing here at the tail end of this tour. Next up is Divided Sky (1:13 pause tonight and apologies for that crappy video if you happen to click it because it is clearly an upper deck side stage pull) which gets a bit of extra sauce in the post-pause jam as Fish is going nuts on the kit behind Trey’s lead. Wolfman’s Brother gets its seventh performance of the tour next, a stat that surprises me as I would have said it had definitely been played more frequently than that. This one is short but peppy with Fish’s beats adding flair to the piano Page plays and then we head right into the start of our tour staple, Taste. I expect that if you are not the biggest fan of Taste that this tour hasn’t been your favorite considering the song has a 1.74 gap rating (or a strong 0.576 batting average if you choose to look at the stats that way) having been played now 19 times in just 33 shows. That’s like YEM in the early days or something. Unfortunately for you, oh Taste Hater, they are playing the song quite well as they head into the end of the year and on to what I believe to be the best year for the song, 1997. Tonight’s is pure Trey on display as he beckons the song to go higher and higher with big runs of notes, eventually peaking the song and bringing it back around to the close with flawless ease. They don’t come up for air and drop into Free for what you hope might be the open, set-carrying jam we have been waiting for here but instead it is a well played though somewhat unadventurous run through the song with Trey spending most of his time over on the mini-kit and playing with his guitar loops to add to the percussive jam as Page leads the way, eventually settling into the return for the last volley of lyrics. There is video out there of this Free which is mislabeled as 12.29.1996 so you get a good chance to see the mini-kit fun if you haven’t watched any vides from this tour yet. After a rote Scent Of A Mule they kick into what is assuredly the set closing Harry Hood, raising hopes for something that might take this set and show above the largely ‘okay’ level so far. There is a brief whistle wah and some other mini-kit effects by Trey before the first run through the lyrics and then the jam starts out in a subdued manner as Trey noodles around the Hood theme. They hit a serene space, floating through the jam to where it almost feels like it might just whisper away into nothing. They push through and Trey raises up towards the peak, not hitting the crazy sustain like Omaha or anything but instead riding the lead and paying off this longer than expected version. Not content to end it there they sing a quick Sweet Adeline a cappella closer and then come back for the encore with a ripping cover of Fire to send the elated off into the night.

 

Considering where we are at this stage of tour this very jam-lite show is a bit of a head scratcher. As expected it is all quite well played and the band is clearly connected and connecting with the crowd but they don’t even bother with any song that in this era could/would go further out. There are a couple of interesting setlist calls like that mid first set YEM but this would not have been a show many people would be talking about to their friends when asked what they liked from the tour. Granted, this is the fourth show in as many nights and we have already covered the travel involved so perhaps they just weren’t feeling it to go deep. You could say that they are keeping things “safe” here but I’m not so sure that is what this is as much as just what they were feeling on this night. Were this your first show it would be a good introduction to the band without putting you in any uncomfortable spots. The setlist, while not having anything we haven’t already heard this tour — in fact just three songs here have ‘only’ been played three times (Rocky Top, IDK, Adeline) — still feels fresh due to some atypical placements. And I could once again go on about energy and whatnot but I think you get the picture. For a Monday show on the backside of four in a row there really shouldn’t be much complaint here. Takeaways are a bit light, naturally, but we do get that strong Ya Mar, Taste, and Hood for the first tier with the Divided and Free being solid second teamers. Two shows to go here and while I didn’t hit my arbitrary goal of finishing up this tour prior to the new summer tour starting we will be there soon enough. Next stop, San Diego!