What's it like to pull an all-nighter with 80,000 of your closest friends? What happens when you try to drive a hot dog through that same crowd? Can you say "Cheesecake!" like you're pissed? Will the band play an encore?
In episode 4, we answer these questions and more. We also explore the lasting impressions of the legendary midnight-to-sunrise experience.
[Phish.net user Tommy Whittaker, @Quidley, organized the line of Phish fans, all of whom were ultimately let into the show, outside the Met last week. He shares his story and gratitude below. - ed.]
The Phish phenomenon has been a constant in my life since October 29, 1995. Over the 161 shows I have attended, with the Met being 160, somehow I have managed to have tickets to all but four shows prior to my arrival. The last time I showed up to a show without a ticket was Virginia Beach on August 9, 1998, which was the third anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing. Oddly enough, I was traveling with my favorite Phish buddy, Henry, aka “Bring it on home jam.” We arrived two or three songs into the first set, assuming we would only be able to hear the show from outside. Much like the feeling at the Met, we thought, "no way we are getting in." Out of nowhere, the “Virginia Beach Saint” miracled us tickets in the 8th row, center. We thanked him profusely, started running to the show, and before we knew it, we were wide-eyed seeing the only "Terrapin Station" Phish has played to date.
At this point the reader may ask, what the hell does this have to do with the Met show? For me, two things: first, my favorite road buddy “Bring it on home jam” had decided to use his vacation days for the Met and Pittsburg. Second, the anxiety and blind faith of two 25 year loyal followers meeting up to attempt the impossible. Both of us, up to the day of the show, had exhausted all available channels to get tickets to no avail.
Here we are fellow phans, on December 3, 2019, and I have taken a cab into the city and arrived at the Met at 1:30 pm. The scene is pretty loose with people steadily arriving all day who were either on the Sirius/Phish friends and family list, or those lucky enough to win a package. There were a handful of one finger in the air fans hanging at the back of the package winner’s line hoping to score their spot with a variety of good trades, including four floors for New Years, and up to $1,000 cash. I roamed around for a few minutes before catching wind of an “unofficial” sign up sheet for people hoping to get a miracle from Sirius.
[Recap is courtesy of user TwiceBitten, Nick Williams (@deepthoughtsjp on Instagram). Please remember that recaps are written by VOLUNTEER FANS. Their views are entirely their own and are not necessarily shared by anyone who volunteers to work on Phish.net. There is no such thing as an "official" dot net recap of a show. -Ed.]
Phish fans are not exactly a homogenous bunch and I find the differences in the fanbase generally line up with geography. Fans in the Northeast are the most persnickety. They are capable of providing enormous amounts of energy, but they are also prone to talking over slow songs, smoking cigs indoors, and groaning and shit-talking the show while the music is playing. Fans on the West Coast are a lot more easy going. There is room to move in the GA section, the crowd is more evenly divided gender-wise and in general they are the most pleasant audience to be around. Still, West Coasters lack the fire and grit when it comes to giving energy back to the band, and we all know the band feeds on that and uses it to complete the circuit.
The Mountain West fanbase is somewhat harder to pin down, seeing as they’ve only played Dick’s over the last nine years, and it’s a real melting pot of fans from all over the country. Speaking of cannabis, I will say that the audience in Colorado can also be a bit unresponsive, maybe due to the strong legal weed, but also possibly due to the vibes dissipating slightly in the large open air venue. Fans from the Midwest are a rowdy bunch, more willing to display enormous amounts of energy without discrimination, but also willing to talk over slow songs like their Northeast counterparts. I think the term “blind unfocused rage” works well to describe them.
[We would like to thank user Suzy Barros for recapping last night's show.]
Being a relatively new resident of SC I was especially excited when the Charleston shows got announced as a 3 night run at the end of this fun unexpected Island toury 2019 revamp replete with wildly controversial Sirius XM “OH MY GOD PHISH IS SELLING OUT WHAT WILL WE DO” gig. I thought all of the shows thus far had had lots of good playing and fun song selection (especially once it was figured out that there would be no repeats). The drawback of no repeats being of course that you have, say your "Ghost" which I enjoyed the hell out of as a Nassau opener and thought it had a really lovely bliss jam thrown in there but now there won’t be any 18-minute dark mind expanding/exploding "Ghost" to look forward to. The other drawback being (and you can call this a drawback or a plus depending on what songs are played I guess) but it makes for an even more schizophrenic than usual setlist as in tonight’s situation. With Phish you just gotta take what they give you and hope for the best.
[We would like to thank user Josh Martin for recapping last night's show.]
Seasons greetings, everyone, from Charleston, where your favorite band kicked off the first of three nights of music. There are a lot of memorable tours in the Phish catalog, but there are only a handful of historic ones. Right at the top of the list are Falls ‘95, ‘97, and ‘13, and with some distance ‘18 may make the list as well. There’s something about this time of year that lends itself to scorching shows. Heck man, tonight was the 22nd anniversary of one of the greatest shows EVAR.
In episode 3, we emerge from the traffic jam, and we are officially on Big Cypress. We hear Trey and Tom reflect on cruising Big Cypress, and talk to Jon Fishman, Brad Sands, John Paluska and lots of fans about their experiences on site. And we start to get to the music. There's music!
[We would like to thank user Aaron Presuhn for recapping last night's show.]
On a cold Wednesday night, The Phish from Vermont returned to The Petersen Events Center, University of Pittsburgh campus. Contrast tonight’s weather with the last time they played here in 2017...when it was about 95 degrees. Walking up that damn hill in searing midday heat after drinking a Founder’s KBS was no fun. That show happened to fall on my birthday, and it was a heater to go along with the weather. I was excited to see how tonight shook out!
Ah yes, Long Island. The New Jersey that nobody talks about. The land of sports cars smashed into trees with smoke slowly rising from them and no driver or passengers to be found. The only island you can visit where you'll see a housewife driving a fat Benz with a vanity plate that reads XANAX. Long Island, where you can advertise that you're driving on Xanax with no recourse.
Which naturally leads us to Long Island's prodigal son: Billy Joel. Many of us in the Phish community know of Mr. Joel's real and/or exaggerated and/or entirely fictional rivalry with Phish (for hogging MSG every New Year's Eve despite being a "second rate cover band"); but what y'all might've missed is that Mr. Joel already had a longstanding rivalry with Long Island for requiring that he drive his sports cars "safely" and "on the road." For when I was in high school Mr. Joel wrecked his third hot rod in two years when he swerved off the road, over the curb, across the lawn, and into a sleeping old man's living room. And while this sleeping old man was probably the only Long Islander who didn't double as a Billy Joel fan (a Piano Fan?), when the police arrived on the scene, the officers were quite starstruck. Harkening back to moments ago when we were discussing a brazen use of Xanax while operating heavy machinery: despite driving directly into someone's house, Mr. Joel was not given a breathalyzer test.
So what was going to happen to us tonight? Would a fuming Billy Joel drive through the center of Shakedown? And more importantly, was Phish going to mow down our psyches and egos with some searing, soaring, and face melting hetty jams?
What's it like to build a city for 75,000 fans from scratch? Why did people sit in traffic for 18 hours waiting to get into Big Cypress? And were there actually alligators? In episode two, Jesse Jarnow takes listeners through the planning and fan arrival to Big Cypress. They hear from Trey, Fish, John Paluska, Brad Sands, Tom Marshall, Jefferson Waful and others.
In episode one of After Midnight, Jesse Jarnow brings in new interviews with Trey, Fishman, Paluska and others to help answer the following questions: Why did 75,000 Phish fans endure an 18-hour traffic jam to see Phish in the Everglades? Why did Phish make 75,000 fans endure a massive traffic jam to see them? What were Phish doing in Florida in the first place?
A preview of After Midnight, an original Osiris podcast celebrating the 20th anniversary of Phish’s Big Cypress festival. Listen to the trailer here. And subscribe today on the show page. This five-episode series, hosted and narrated by Jesse Jarnow, will include interviews with Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, John Paluska, Brad Sands, Beth Montouri-Rowles and many other people who played a key role in making this amazing festival happen.
We wanted to make sure you’ve heard about Long May They Run, a new music documentary podcast series from C13Originals, hosted and written by Dean Budnick, editor of Relix (and a veteran Phish fan). The first season of the podcast is about Phish, which is appropriate, because the podcast’s intent is to discuss iconic touring bands who have had a lasting impact on music culture and the music industry. You can listen to the first several episodes of the podcast here on Apple Podcasts: http://bit.ly/LMTRPodcast.
And here is an audio preview clip of the next episode that debuts tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, featuring Trey discussing the improvisational comedy communication concept of "Yes, and---":
He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. -- Proverbs 10:4
Note #1: “Idle Days” is the number of days from the last pre-Dick’s show to the first night of Dick’s. In 2019, it was 47 days from Alpine N3 to Dick’s N1.
Note #2: The average three-night rating for 2019 is based on about 425 reviewers for each show. The value used in this graph (3.967) is likely to change a bit as more people provide a rating.
With the cancellation of camping at Dick’s 2019, and an initial announcement that vending would not be allowed, there was uncertainty about whether the Dick’s lots would live up to their reputation as some of the finest in the land. While there was no official “Shakedown Alley,” there were plenty of people peddling their wares on the first night. Unsurprisingly, that meant there was a solid flea market popping off by night two.
We drove to the venue about 4 PM and entered the parking lots with zero delays. We parked the car and hit the pavement to sling some of my hand-painted sunglasses (shameless plug for Instagram @nice_shades). There was much more of a central Shakedown area, but still nothing like previous years, so we roamed around instead of posting up. We managed to stop by the phish.net “Official Meat-Up” hosted by @DaleCooper just in time to hug some friends and get in the group pic. My girlfriend Esther (who went to her first show Friday) was not going to be in the picture but at the last minute she was joyously invited to partake by a bunch of people she’d just met. We even said her name as we took the pic. Welcome to the family, babe.
As the sun faded into the mountains in the West, there was something electric in the air. After a couple hours of sweating bullets, and tired of chasing shade, we decided to head into the venue about 6:30. It had been a hot day with highs in the triple digits by some accounts, and sometimes that is enough to drain the energy from the crowd, if not the band as well. This was not to be one of those nights.
[we'd like to thank Josh Cohron, @cohron1, for recapping last night's show - ed.]
A lot of Phish thinking these days seems to revolve around, “What’s next?”
Since the end of the final notes of the THANK YOU Encore at Dick’s in 2015, questions arose about how the band could possibly top 2015’s Summer Tour. Would, or even could, this era of Phish ever reach the heights of that almost-universally-loved tour? An up-and-down 2016, which probably relied too heavily on Big Boat material, was followed by the signature run of this era: The Baker’s Dozen.
The same, natural questions were had by fans of Phish after the Dozen ended: Where does the band go from here? The first thing they did was play a monster show Friday night at Dick’s.
[Thanks again to longtime blog contributor, @paulj - ed.]
Over its long career, Phish have played over 1,500 shows in hundreds of different venues, yet there is a relatively short list of venues that are on nearly every fan’s must visit list. Madison Square Garden, Hampton, and the Gorge have been special Phish venues since the 1.0 era. During 3.0, it’s pretty clear that the MGM and Dick’s offer experiences that are likely to reward any fan making the effort.
Most of these bucket list venues offer something much more than a Phish show: MSG and MGM are suffused with the craziness of NYC and Las Vegas, respectively, and the Gorge is home to…the GORGE.
But Dick’s Sporting Goods Park? Seriously? A soccer stadium located atop a Superfund site in an industrial area adjacent to an oil refinery—which is also a Superfund site? (They don’t call it Commerce City for nothing.)
It's been fifteen years since the shows at Coventry, billed to be Phish's last shows. Long-time fan Chris Pepino of True Form Pictures created a documentary film about Coventry and Phish fans traveling to it, We Enjoy Yourself, in 2004. It screened at the New Jersey Film Festival back in 2009, even winning Best Documentary at the festival that year. The complete film is now streaming live for free at weenjoyyourself.com.
If you've never listened to the music of Coventry, don't be shy.Those who attended the shows that weekend will never forget them; and this post partly explains why, and why there are a lot of good reasons to listen to the shows, warts and all.
[Thank you user @Waxbanks, Wally Holland, for offering your thoughts on Between Me and My Mind, the documentary about Trey. Wally is the author of A Live One, a book in the 33 1/3 series by Bloomsbury about Phish's double-live album of the same name. As always, the thoughts expressed by guest authors on this blog are not necessarily shared by any of the many volunteers on Phish.net. -Ed.]
The documentary film Between Me and My Mind is conventionally structured: Trey Anastasio begins initial work on his "longform" solo project Ghosts of the Forest at The Barn while planning and prepping for the Baker’s Dozen and NYE 2017 with the other members of Phish; along the way we see him in staged 1-on-1 conversations with his wife, daughters, mother, and father. It’s an ordinary slice-of-working-life story about a recently sober 50something looking back on his life and finding inspiration to move ahead with more personal work. For Phish/Trey fans, and for anyone moved by tales of gifted people entering their autumn years, it will offer intense if familiar pleasures.
It being about Trey, though, it’ll also be a little strange.
And infectiously joyful. And idiosyncratically beautiful.
There is no release without tension.
[We would like to thank Doug Kaplan user @MrDougDoug (@hausumountain on Twitter) for recapping last night's Alpine show. Please note that the opinions expressed by a recapper on this site are not necessarily shared by any volunteer who works on phish.net. -Ed.]
Well here we are again, team. Another night at Alpine Valley: a venue that whenever I return to it, it feels like the venue’s farewell run. Surprisingly and delightfully, things have been roughly 42069% smoother than the last several runs I’ve attended, and it seems to me like the venue’s star may be rising again. Who knows y’all, maybe LiveNation finally sympathized with us, after all of the complaint emails after Bon Iver destroyed the galaxy? It’s certainly much more preferable for me when the band plays a hometown show in Chicago proper, but hey… renting a lake house with eleven of your best buds in the world is a pretty excellent way to spend a weekend.
[Thank you Brad Krompf (@bradkrompf) for recapping last night's show at the Mohegan Sun. Please note that the opinions expressed by a recapper for a show on this blog are not necessarily those of any volunteer who works on Phish.net. We are all fans with varying opinions, just like you. -Ed]
It was about 7:30pm and we found ourselves in a ridiculously long line of relaxed people, coming in from a long day at the pool, gambling, or a number of other similarly incredible ways to spend a random Wednesday. I’m not certain if Mohegan N1 had an overwhelming amount of flow, but the entire “weekend” (which is what it felt like) had enough overflow to make up for it. Perhaps that overflow would spill into the arena tonight. Proudly donning my Hartford Whalers t-shirt, I was more patient waddling through the security line than I would’ve guessed. We had good friends around us, and despite growing up in Connecticut for my entire childhood, last night was the first time in at least 15 years I had slept there.
We got past security around 8:10 and ran when we heard the opening notes of “Buried Alive.” Without question the Phish from Vermont came to party and so did the crowd.
[Thank you @aisincl (Andrew Sinclair) for recapping last night's show in Boston, MA. Please note that the opinions expressed by a recapper for a show on this blog are not necessarily those of any volunteer who works on Phish.net. We are all fans with varying opinions, just like you. -Ed]
Seems that Most Events Aren’t Planned. Tonight once again reminded us to Surrender to the Flow, as the Phish from Vermont played an absolute heater of a show, in a unique environment (39,000 capacity shrine to Baseball) and with some unique meteorological ingredients.
[Thank you @jmart (Josh Martin) for recapping last night's show in Boston, MA -Ed.]
It’s your old pal Marty. First thing's first: I've been instructed to be explicit about the fact that this is a couch tour recap, so, you know, Caveat Emptor, etc. Onward.
When last we spoke, I was busy drooling over that Charlotte 6/21 show. Guess what? I’ve listened to the whole thing at least three times since then and to my ear it still stands up as the show of the tour and “Runaway Jim” the jam of the tour. More on those distinctions in a second.
After Charlotte we were treated to six solid shows from Merriweather, Bangor, and Camden, each with its own individual moments (the "Simple" from the first night of Bangor1 and the "Mercury" from Camden1 definitely belong in the conversation of notable jams.) Reports from the run at Camden varied wildly, with some folks saying the second night was a true heater to others saying it was one of the worst Phish shows in years. As with all things, the truth is probably somewhere in between.
Back at SPAC for night two and the last show of the 2019 summer tour run in Saratoga Springs. Weather pretty much the same as the previous night, high 80ºs, hazy sun, if a bit more humid and less breezy than Tuesday. Unlike night one, we got into the venue about an hour or so earlier so we could check out SPAC’s continually improving food and beverage selections (the former cheerless fencedâ€‘in, dirtâ€‘grounded “beer garden” quarantine zone being thankfully but a bad memory) and hang out in the picnic area at the back of the lawn to sit down, eat, drink and hang a while with some other random newfound tour friends.
With the exception of MSG (60 shows) and Dick’s (27 shows), SPAC (22 shows) is Phish’s most played venue (other than Burlington’s Nectar’s and The Front, neither played since 1991). Kat and I have been to 21 SPAC shows, missing only the first, 7/27/1992, when Phish did a short set opening for Santana. That was before we first got on the Phish bus in the spring and summer of the following year. Last night’s show was our 122nd show, give or take, since 1993.
[Thank you Dianna Hank user @Dianna_2Ns for recapping last night's show in Camden, NJ. -Ed.]
Several times over the course of my Phish-seeing career, the band has played a show that the vast majority of the fanbase has lost their collective (pebbles and) marbles over that I thought was just ok/good. Last night was one of those shows.
[We would like to thank Jeremy Willinger, @Jeremy8698, for recapping last night's show. Please note that the opinions expressed by a recapper for a show on this blog are not necessarily those of any volunteer who works on Phish.net. We are all fans with varying opinions, just like you. -Ed]
Let’s assume that when Noah built the ark, assembled the animals and launched the ship, it was a fairly wet and humid period. The animals came, on four legs, trudging through the thick, heavy air to reach salvation. The contemporary version took place in the gorgeous (?) confines of Camden, New Jersey, as wooks, bros, fans, phans and vets, walked two by two into the BB&T Pavillion amidst a greying sky and a rising temperature.
[Thank you William "Billy" Stark user @mikebomb24 for recapping last night's show in Bangor, Maine. -Ed.]
I had high hopes for Bangor night two. Summer tour has been relatively hot to date and Night one brought big jams in the “Down With Disease”, and “Simple.” I was certainly not alone in having a transcendent experience during the Type II “Limb by Limb”. On top of that Bangor seemed to be the perfect place to see a Phish show. The Northeastern Wookery was felt deeply, and tickets were almost too easy to come by with people miracling pits on lot. Driving deep into central Maine was certainly a treat, and as the pines multiplied in abundance and the Atlantic Ocean came into sight I experienced a tremendous amount of gratitude for Jonathan Fishman. The band could have profited more in a bigger venue elsewhere, but Fishmans dedication to his northern tribe is demonstrably deep. The music of phish feels at home in the north country, returning to the crucible of ice, snow, and forests in which it was originally forged in Vermont.
[Thank you Ben Harder user @BennyHa_Ha_Ha for recapping last night's show in Bangor, Maine. -Ed.]
Well it’s been a minute for me, and it’s been even longer than that for ME. My first show, at 15, was 12/11/95 at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, and since that barn burner---which included Warren Haynes on both “Funky Bitch” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and even some Elvis homage (for the last venue he was set to play) in the form of a “Suspicious Minds”---I’ve attended a number of shows each year that the band has toured. My run came to an end on 12/31/17, after which I went zero (0) for 2018. Wudn’t pretty, wudn’t preferable, but I suspect that a number of you in the Old Guard know what it means to have to sit out a tour or more to give a child your undivided love and attention. But boy does the passion abide. Perhaps even more so than when I was taking multiple night runs for granted. I listened to every note of 2018 during my hiatus, and once I got beyond the butthurt and the self-pity (and believe me, I delved deep), I just had to marvel at a show like 10/26/18. Dick’s, the New Year’s run, Mexico, they were all gravy.
CD: Thank you so much for the 11/22/97 "Halley's Comet" "Anatomy of a Jam" film, it was very inspiring to watch, not just for many volunteers of phish.net but even for Jon Fishman, as you've seen from his post on Facebook about it. When did you begin writing and composing "Anatomy of a Jam" pieces and what inspired you to create them?
A: Thank you for the kind words! I’m truly blown away by the positive response and support from the Phish community.
[We would like to thank Cotter, the youngest fan ever to recap a show for this blog, for recapping last night's MPP2 show. -Ed.]
Phish means more to me than nearly any other aspect of my life, so the months leading up to any given show are filled with anticipation. I imagine I’m not alone in this sentiment, but my point of view may be different. Being a diehard Phish fan in high school is one hell of an experience. Be it the incessant checking of this very site in class, or even explaining to people that "no, I’m not in love with a water-dwelling animal, but instead with the magic four middle-aged rock stars produce." This leads to some pretty obnoxious scorns, but shows like last night make it worth it. The 40-minute drive north was chalk full of questions by my family on setlist predictions and song meanings, but that’s really not a problem, as I’ll proudly flaunt whatever knowledge such an obsession leads to. Now to the music.
[This recap is courtesy of Aaron Presuhn (@presuhn). Please note that the opinions expressed in blog posts like this one are not necessarily shared by any of the volunteers who work on Phish.net. -Ed.]
Merriweather Post Pavilion. It’s kinda my home venue. I live closer to Star Lake in Burgettstown, but the Phish have ignored that shed for a while now (please come back!). Haven’t missed an MPP show since my first one there in 2000. Quite a few fun shows here!
I went in expecting a downpour because, you know, all it’s done for the past month in the northeast is rain. But we ended up having a beautiful, sunny day. It really felt like summer for the first time this year. Parking was weird, and the police presence was more than I remember from last year. There are assigned lots now, but everyone seems to ignore them. My lot was blocked off anyway, so we just drove around until finding something open.
[Recap is courtesy of user @jsauce, Josh Martin. Apologies to him and to you that this recap was belatedly posted. Once again, please note that the opinions offered in this recap are not necessarily shared by any of the volunteers on this site. -Ed.]
Greetings and salutations from Charlotte, North Carolina: Place of my birth, my first show (11/19/95), and of course, tonight’s show.
A word about PNC (neé Blockbuster) Pavilion: it’s about as generic a venue as you can imagine. Sprawling outdoor shed located way outside the city limits, convenient to absolutely no one, huge gravel parking lot, very interested police presence, broiling summer sun, etc. Imagine the late 90’s shed circuit: your Polarises, your Lakewoods, your Walnut Creeks. You get the point.
AND YET, for some reason known only to them, Phish have chosen this particular venue to unload the magic time and again over the years. For proof, and for sake of brevity, I offer Only one example: the massive, world shattering “Harry Hood”>”David Bowie” second set pairing from 7/25/03, which remains to me the quintessential 2.0 jam and one of the finest jams of their career. If you haven’t heard it, I strongly recommend taking a second to give it a spin.
[Recap of last night's show courtesy of user TwiceBitten, Nick Williams. Note that the opinions expressed by a recapper of a show on this blog are not necessarily shared by any volunteer who works on Phish.net, and there is no "official" Phish.net "take" of a show. We rely on volunteer fans like you to recap shows. -Ed.]
Blossom is perhaps the most beautiful traditional “shed” in the country. “The venue is located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and is administered by the Cleveland Orchestra’s non profit organization,” I told my wife as we exited the highway and made our way towards the T.A.Z. Driving through a beautiful river valley to see Phish is a far cry from your usual trek through suburban sprawl. We arrived at a back entrance to the venue only to find it blocked by a Police barricade. I got out to ask the cop directions and he informed me that I was in luck because he was about to “open this b*tch right up.” Score. We quickly found our way in and were waltzing through security before we knew it.
[We would like to thank Alaina Stamatis, user @farmhose (@fad_albert on twitter and instagram), for recapping last night's show. Please note that the opinions expressed by a recapper for a show on this blog are not necessarily those of any volunteer who works on Phish.net. We are all fans with varying opinions, just like you. -Ed.]
When the border agent asked us what our plans were for our trip into Canada, we probably should have just lied to him. It wouldn't have made a difference, however, because we have 57 stickers on our car, including but not limited to an oversized Stealie with two dancing bears on the hood. At the time of our border crossing, we were also, for lack of a better term, dressed like wooks.
"We're seeing a concert."
"Who are you here to see?" the border agent asked in the most serious tone one can conjure while still having a Canadian accent.
"Phish, man, greatest show on earth! If you have the night off you should-"
A couple SWAT-team-type bros in skin-tight black uniforms approached. This was not my bachelorette party and these were definitely not strippers. They dismantled the car. Luckily (intentionally) we brought nothing of interest. "Enjoy the concert, guys."
[Recap/review of last night's Bonnaroo show is courtesy of Michael Ayers, user @yhgtbfkm. Note that there was no recap/review posted to the blog about Roo1's show, because no one attending the show volunteered to recap it, and there wasn't a webcast of it either, and we decided not to recap it based simply on the LivePhish recording. -Ed.]
Ahh, Bonnaroo. The perennial jam band festival that’s not really a jam band festival anymore.
I’ve had the pleasure of only attending Bonnaroo once, back in 2005. I saw a slew of amazing sets that weekend, including Benevento Russo Duo with Mike Gordon (a show you should definitely check out if you haven’t), Keller Williams, Jurassic 5 and Dave Matthews Band (laugh all you want, it was my first time seeing them and I really enjoyed it). That’s the nice part about festivals like this, it gives you the opportunity to see acts in the same place that you normally wouldn’t.
After the St Louis shows, I texted a good friend of mine who was on the fence about driving up to Camden to see them. I said, “Dude, I might be biased, but they are already playing lights out. You can’t miss seeing them in Camden.” I thought both nights in St Louis were spectacular. I will admit, the second night in particular will always be near and dear to my heart because of what transpired during the setbreak and how set two started out. I felt like there was little rust in the St. Louis shows (which you sometimes can’t say for tour openers), which made me both excited for the two nights at Bonnaroo and disappointed that I was not attending them.
So what will the boys have in store for us for Sunday down in Manchester? Will they bust out something they haven’t played in years (looking at you, "Free Bird")? Will Bo Bice and Trey share the stage again? (Spoiler alert: they did not, thank god.) Everyone is familiar with the old adage “Never Miss A Sunday Show,” would that apply to tonight as well? Let’s find out.
[Would like to thank user @KipMat Matt Schrag for recapping St. Louis for the blog. Be advised that the opinions offered in a "recap" of a show (or in any post) on Phish.net's blog are not necessarily shared by any of the other many volunteers who work on the site. We would appreciate it if you correct anyone out there ignorant enough to suggest that the "recap" of a show on this site is in any way, shape, or form an "official" view of the show by Phish.net. There is no such thing, and no such thing has ever existed at any time at all whatsoever. Thank you. -Ed.]
I had initially volunteered to write just one show recap for the Blog, but was asked by Phish.net to provide recaps for both nights of the tour-opening St. Louis run. Several well-meaning folks read my recap of last night’s show, and felt that it was lacking, or simply not what they were expecting.
This site is one of several sources on the internet for day-after recaps of Phish shows. These recaps are traditionally linear in form, in that they provide a rundown of the setlist, start to finish, with commentary on each song. I do not prefer this style for two reasons: fluff, and formula. A recap doesn’t have to include an opinion on every single song. Even though sentiments like “I love 'Roggae' it’s one of my 50 favorite Phish songs!” or “I wish I could hear 'Bouncing Around The Room' at every show!” are pleasing and help spread good vibes, they don’t pique my interest. And because recaps are essentially newspaper-style journalism, the writing tends to fall back on tired conventions to fill space. "Song A featured X, then segued into song B which featured Y," or "Phish often does ______ during a show, and tonight was no exception." I acknowledge that there’s an audience for this kind of journalism; I just find it bland.
So let’s talk about last night’s show! @EvenCarlSagan disagrees with me, but I thought the first set was weak sauce up through “We Have Come To Outlive Our Brains.” Everything up until that point struck me as safe, by-the-numbers Phish, while a noticeable portion of the audience was out on the concourse watching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on the mounted flat-screen tv’s. Nothing from the stage seemed “off," but the music just wasn’t happening for me. The ice was broken by Trey’s acknowledgement of blowing the repeat of the chorus of “WACTOOB” by hamming it up and asking the audience to sing along. The band’s performance seemed to refocus after the flub, and the rest of the set was a distinct improvement to my ears. Of course, the news that the St. Louis Blues had won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history had spread during “Run Like An Antelope," and New Jersey Devils fan Chris Kuroda (pictured here in 1989) was gracious enough to shine bright blue and gold lights on the audience, using the Blues’ team colors to acknowledge the occasion.
[Would like to thank user @KipMat Matt Schrag for recapping St. Louis for the blog. Be advised that the opinions offered in a "recap" of a show (or in any post) on Phish.net's blog are not necessarily shared by any of the other many volunteers who work on the site. We would appreciate it if you correct anyone out there ignorant enough to suggest that the "recap" of a show on this site is in any way, shape, or form an "official" view of the show by Phish.net. There is no such thing, and no such thing has ever existed at any time at all whatsoever. Thank you. -Ed.]
“Phish, with a P-H?”
The hotel Valet Attendant both looked and talked like famous twin brother Seth Galifianakis [url: https://youtu.be/sMFwNrAAsDs] - it was uncanny.
“That’s right, they’re the band playing at Chaifetz Arena tonight and tomorrow night.” I braced myself mentally for the inevitable follow-up question.
“What do they sound like?”
“Well, they’re an improvisational rock band…”
“OK, so not Country, then.”
I nodded in affirmation. This is usually the point when the conversation topic is switched, so I was caught slightly off guard by the Attendant’s next question.
“Who’s the opening act?”
“Actually, there’s no opening act, Phish plays the whole show, usually about three hours.”
“Three hours? And no opening act? Who even does that anymore?”
I used to be poorly skilled at recognizing rhetorical questions, and in the past I would have tried to name other jam bands the Attendant likely wouldn’t recognize. Instead, I smiled broadly and said, “I know, right?” and wished him well.
[Courtesy of Josh Martin, user @jmart. -Ed.]
How to approach the Trey Anastasio Band's second (and tour closing) show at the Tabernacle in Atlanta?
1. Consider this exchange with a fellow serious phish head a few weeks before the occasion: Me: "So I scored some tickets to go see Trey band at the Tabernacle down in Atlanta in a few weeks." Friend: "Well, there's nothing in that sentence I like."
Really? Seems kind of harsh. I mean, Atlanta isn't my favorite city either [note: I have revised that opinion based on this trip], but the Tabernacle is VERY cool, and Trey band has some good stuff going for it, right? Most importantly a guitarist named Trey, whom you've probably dreamed of meeting several dozen times and have probably seen in concert many more times than that. BUT ALSO, nice vocal harmonies, dense percussion, and propulsive rhythm and horn sections that power new songs and substantively change the sound of familiar songs. Is this a good thing? I'm not sure. I guess the listener gets to decide that, but I would prefer to think that change is a good thing, especially with something as familiar to all of us as large swaths of the Phish catalog.
[Alex Grosby, user @grozphan, was responsible for the wonderful "Below The Moss Forgotten" exhibit at the first Phish academic conference at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR, in May 2019. -Ed.]
Phish fans love to gather. We come together in familiar and unfamiliar spaces and create our own world summer after summer, the occasional fall, and of course over New Year’s. A number of years ago, as I was working on my Business degree, I came up with an idea. Why don’t we have a place to gather outside of touring schedules? Sure, we could gather at Nectar’s and reminisce over gravy fries or hang in the parking lot at Hampton without a show, but it’s not a space to call our own. This was the first spark when the concept of a Phish museum entered my brain, and I went to work on throwing ideas together. That was the genesis of my organizational name, “The Phishsonian Institute.” I worked on a logo and wrestled with what to do now?. I started reviewing shows, and then realized that wasn’t right. I’m now working on comprehensive venue histories a little bit. But a goal has always been to tell Phish’s story. What happened next solidified the need to take charge of our own public history.
A very creatively written take on the "Phish Studies" conference that took place in May 2019 in Corvallis, Oregon, has been published by the Corvallis local paper, the Gazette-Times: "Floating with the flock: Three days among the faithful at the first Phish Studies Conference." We hope you find it worth your time to read, even though you must pause your ad-blocker.
[This is the second essay that Phish.Net user @thephunkydrb has published on Phish.net. He previously published a meditation on time and experience tied to the Baker’s Dozen “Tube,” which you can read here. -Ed.]
By Jnan A. Blau
I’ve just come back from one of the coolest, most stimulating and invigorating, and definitely one of the most “far out” (to quote Mr. Bill Kreutzman, via Mr. Benjy Eisen) experiences of my life. Late last Monday night, I got back home to San Luis Obispo, California from Corvallis, Oregon. I had to rise and shine the next day, no time at all to transition from Phishiness to so-called real life—a direct, rather abrupt segue (a rip cord if there ever was one!) into a full day of teaching in university classrooms. I was, and still am, kind of exhausted. But, I’ve had a secret smile the size of Mt. Icculus plastered across my face and tattooed on my heart ever since. This because I am back from Phish Studies, the first-ever academic conference dedicated to our favorite topic/subject/phenomenon.
This, unlikely as it may seem, is my conference review for all you dot-netters, you denizens of the Phishverse, you members of one of the most lovely and inspiring communities going.
(Could this be the world’s first conference review?!)
Wilson Ramos has been walking up to bat to the tune of Wilson by Phish for quite a while now. The chords are strummed and the crowd screams Wilson, announcing time for one of the more feared hitting catchers to come to the plate. Sadly, that has not been the case this year. ...
Ryan Gibbs has a cogent essay about Vampire Weekend's new album, connections to Phish, and online chatter about it.
Your time is near, the mission’s clear, but it’s later than you think. The inaugural Phish Studies conference will take place at Oregon State University this weekend. The three-day event is unprecedented. There have been classes about other bands. There have been conferences focused on other bands. There has never been a stand-alone conference devoted to a single band with this level of community integration and collaboration. You’ve never seen this side of Phish. The conference has been a dream of ours for a long time. Don’t miss out on your only chance to be at the first-ever Phish Studies conference held on a college campus. Help shape the future of the growing field, redefine what is possible in the Academy, and take part in history as it unfolds. You will always remember where you were.
Oregon State University will host the first-ever Phish Studies academic conference, showcasing research about Phish, its fans, and culture. The three-day event will take place on May 17-19, 2019, in OSU’s Memorial Union. More than 50 presentations from scholars from more than 20 states and Canada will present at the conference. In addition to academic presentations, the conference will feature a number of special events, including art exhibits, community panels, a concert, and a documentary film screening.
[Recap courtesy of user @Franklin, thank you Jeremy! -Ed.]
In the twenty months since the Baker’s Dozen, I’ve realized that what I appreciate most about Trey is that his leadership is grounded in loyalty more than ego. As much as I love, say, Bruce Springsteen, his singular vision is what drives the E Street Band. Trey isn’t like that – his loyalty to Phish and to the audience is what drives his music. This time, even when we’re under the banner of Trey Anastasio’s Ghosts of the Forest and it is clearly a singular vision running the show, loyalty is still at the center of the evening. His loyalty to his friend Chris, as he detailed in heart-wrenching detail in a recent Rolling Stone interview, is what led to Ghosts of the Forest. And our loyalty to Trey is what led us to drive all the way up to Maine to see a band that, until 8:15pm last night, didn’t yet exist.
Oregon State University will host the first Phish Studies academic conference in Corvallis, Oregon on May 17-19, 2019. The conference will showcase research about Phish, its fans, and culture. A wide variety of disciplinary approaches will be represented, featuring scholars from across the country.
There are a number of ways that you can support the conference and growing field of Phish Studies:
[Thank you @Gr8phul for this report from the rail! -Ed.]
After what I thought was a mostly lackluster first night, outside of the stellar bustouts, I decided to take my chances and get a bracelet to see if I could get on the rail. Night one I chose to be directly in front of Kuroda. While the view of CK's lights and the mix were exceptional, there was far too much talking around me. So after getting a wrist band for the line, I was beyond excited that I was number five in line. I was able to procure a spot on the rail right in front of Mike.
[Recap courtesy of dot net user @ObviousFool. Thank you! -Ed.]
Somewhere between the poolside daiquiris and the beachside margaritas, we realize that we might need a little down time before the show. We retreat to our suite for a soak in the hot tub and a doobie while we plan our evening. This does not suck.
We decide to go in shortly after doors to take in the surroundings, and get our bearings---and for the massive taco buffet, which also does not suck. After a day of eating at buffets that wouldn’t even make it at the Circus Circus Reno, we are grateful for the delectable sustenance.
Before we make our way forward into the crowd, the skies open up briefly and douse us in warm rain; not enough to soak, but just enough to cool us down. We ditch our flip flops by a palm tree and walk barefoot through the sand, proclaiming, once again, that this does not suck. And as the sun sinks into the western sky, a warm breeze comes in over the ocean, the lights go down, and the Phish take the stage.
It's time for the 2018 version of the annual Phish.net Jam of the Year (JOTY) competition! The seeding is done and the bracket is ready; this year, the four regions are named after the members of Kasvot Växt. The Horst region begins this week.
The first four weeks will have eight matchups each (sixteen songs), while subsequent weeks will have four matchups or fewer, with the Jam of the Year decided by April. Voting will take place in the Phish.net forum in dedicated weekly "***Official*** JOTY" threads, like this one for the first round. Just post your favorites for each head-to-head matchup in the thread for that round, and the dedicated JOTY staff will tally everything up. Each round's winners will be announced in the following round's announcement. Voting for the first round closes at 5 pm ET, Monday, February 11th, 2019, but you may vote for a later round even if you missed an earlier round.
You can find the first round match-ups and bracket after the jump.
[Phish.net and the Mockingbird Foundation would like to thank Matt Laurence (@mattynabib) for this blog post and his tireless work to resurrect the video he recorded at Amy's Farm in 1991, brought to you free of charge and in its highest quality. - @ucpete]
I know we are entering a period of Phish limbo until Riviera Maya and the Mike and Trey tours, so to kick 2019 off right, here (at long last) are all three sets of Amy's Farm in video form. Enjoy - limitations and all - and may 2019 be a significantly better year for all of us!
As with so many of you, I was hooked on Phish well before they threw the free party of the decade up in Auburn, ME, over half my life ago. For me it all started well before 1991, before I even properly woke to the joys of Phish.
I was SUPPOSED to see Phish several times in the 1980s. In the spring of 1987 I was to take a road trip to Vermont with some friends with a UVM connection to see the boys at Nectar's; it was called off due to something that - at the time - seemed more important. I was supposed to see them again at “The Big Gig,” their first big Boston show at The Paradise in January of 1989, but my friend’s car was frozen into the ice in his driveway. I planned to see them yet again in early 1990 at some Boston area show, but that time we went outside to find that my car had been STOLEN, a pile of glass and skid marks sitting where it had been. It wasn’t looking good for Phish.
My ship finally came in on September 20, 1990, when I successfully attended my first show at the Somerville Theater. From that point on it was full-steam ahead (as much as possible for someone working full time). I was back the next night with my lousy little taping rig, then continued to catch them as often as I could for the next several years, taping where possible, and eventually gaining access to a couple of camcorders.
Lugging those cameras and tripods around was a little more effort than I thought was worth it for most enclosed shows, however, so I only did it once or twice during the legendary Horn Tour of 1991. One of those times was the Arrowhead Ranch weekend.
Last year at the stroke of midnight, during the first few seconds of 2018, and the very earliest notes of “Free,” I immediately caught a whiff of an unmistakable scent, similar to mothballs on fire; that’s right, I’m talking about DMT. I looked over and discovered that a hippie goddess with sparkling dreads and a hemp cotton dress had laced her joint with the spirit molecule. She passed the deemster doobie to a guy with floor-length dreads, legendary in his own right, but eternalized in that moment: for as he hit the DMT joint at the very genesis of 2018, he attempted to stomp on one of the balloons that had just landed in front of him, but instead he slipped on it and fell on his ass.
This year I convinced my husband @twicebitten that we should enter the venue earlier and secure a closer spot on the floor, that somehow it would be less chaotic. Outside the rain really sucked (tonight) and it was sad to see the little hunched over wookies soaked, simultaneously attempting to get miracle’d and sell more doses. Inside the scene was all glitz and glamour: flappers, prom dresses, barefoot guy giving out gummy bears, silver balloons ready to drop, Phish jocks in their chic athletic wear, young bros in bathrobes, the faux monk in his hotel sheet tunic, and the kids whose shirts spell out ICCULUS.
[phish.net welcomes and thanks guest writer, Jeremy Willinger, for the recap of 12/30/18 - ed]
At the intersection of two Phish-y tropes, the band delivered a show for the (golden) ages. The knowledge of never missing a Sunday show, with the many standout shows played on 12/30 in past years (2016, just to name one), was a recipe that made the stars align.
[phish.net welcomes and thanks guest writer, Robert Ker, for the recap of 12/29/18 - ed]
[phish.net welcomes and thanks guest writer, Andrew Sinclair/@aisincl, for the recap of 12/28/18 - ed]
As the rain subsided and the nearby Queens power generator explosion (CK5 dress rehearsal?) was subdued, we all made our way to 33rd and 7th to kickstart the final run of 2018. Compared to the last few freezing years around MSG during the holidays, it was a welcome warmth and buzz that permeated the neighborhood. Tonight’s show felt like a montage for the entire year, combining stellar, patient tunes with hyper-speed jamming, delivered through thoughtful song selections and dedication to vocals. The Phish from Vermont are playing with vigor and continue to flex their muscles. Night 1. Thanks to Jon R and his family for the primo seating spot at center court, in between the two levels. Lots of room to get down on Rage-side, now we just need some audio.
In an unprecedented collaboration between an academic journal and the live music community, Phish.net, the Philosophy School of Phish, and the Public Philosophy Journal (PPJ) are soliciting abstracts for essays about the improvisational rock band Phish, its music, and fans. Selected papers that successfully complete the PPJ’s Formative Peer Review process will be published in a special issue of the Public Philosophy Journal, co-edited by Dr. Stephanie Jenkins (Oregon State University, assistant professor of Philosophy) and Charlie Dirksen (Mockingbird Foundation, Vice President and Associate Counsel).
Contributors may submit abstracts on any topic of philosophical significance related to the Phish phenomenon. Proposed essays should explore philosophical questions, problems, concepts, themes, or historical figures through connections to the music and fan culture of Phish. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
Perhaps there are no Phish dates more closely aligned than November 1 and January 1. Both have received scant performances - 5 for 11/1, 3 for 1/1 - and both follow the two most celebrated holidays in the Phish calendar: Halloween & New Year’s Eve, respectfully. Yet the similarities all but end there. While New Year’s Day has been treated as a moment for pause and reflection before moving onwards and into a new year, November 1 has historically allowed the band a moment to collect the new sounds and ideas they’d been secretly brewing up over the last few months, and share them freely with the entire fanbase. One needs only to think of the stunning “Light” from 11/1/09 that displayed the band’s renewed trust and dedication to their own creative future, or the regal peak of “Twist” from 11/1/13 that seemed to signal their elation over debuting an entire album’s worth of new material the previous night, or the “Light -> Dogs -> Lengthwise” from 11/1/14 that contained all the raucous energy and zany Phish nonsense from the previous night’s Chilling Thrilling set to hear how fascinating this night can be and how important it is to their annual development.
It was with all this in mind that I settled into the MGM Grand Garden Arena for my 70th Phish show, first in November, and 5th in Sin City. Following the bizarre mind-fuck that was the Kasvot Växt set - seriously, they crafted an entire non-band’s history to throw their fanbase off and live debut their 3rd new album in 5 years - I had a feeling the band was going to approach November 1, 2018 with an outsized portion of creativity and stress-free jamming. For the most part, I was correct.
Having heard the rumor that Fishman had been spotted wearing a T-shirt by an obscure-ish (but real) band called “The Residents” and having seen a screen-shot of a text with him and someone else alluding to the fact last night's cover would be an obscure album from 1981, I knew it could be a remote possibility, being Phish and all, but it still seemed a bit far-fetched. So many other (slightly) more plausible rumors were being floated and when the anticipation had reached an absolute fever pitch and doors opened we got our first glimpses of the Phishbill. The album would be i rokk by the band Kasvot Växt. An aside here - I was at the Wingsuit Halloween show when speculation was super high for The Allman Brothers Band's Eat A Peach, which I was mega excited about. I sat in my seat and read the Phishbill and immediately started laughing. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but the Phishbills are written in the most bizarre, stilted way where everything about it, especially the quotes from the band, made it seem like a total joke. Which is the exact same vibe that I got from THIS Phishbill, making it more likely to me that it may in fact be true. Also, I was sober this time around, and reading the Phishbill a few times before the show started, it did seem pretty plausible??
Anyway, speculation and rumors and much internet sleuthing were all happening in a major way, but it all finally came to an end as the lights went down and we went into the first “extremely uneven” set of the night. I love a fast opener like ‘“Buried Alive” (nice call Russ); it’s got the ability to whip the crowd into a frenzy right from the get-go. "Buried" has always conveyed this dissonant sense of chaotic unpredictability to me, and this version didn’t disappoint.
[We would like to thank Rob Mitchum for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]
Recapping the show before Halloween is a sucker’s bet. The narrative of any fall tour with a costume set capper inevitably becomes defined by whatever Phish chooses to do with that holiday show. Like a well-constructed mystery novel, once you know the twist ending, it’s rewarding to go back and spot the clues you missed your first time through. But any speculation about the 31st I make today will almost certainly have an expiration date of, oh, 72 hours or so.
They say you should never miss a Sunday show, and while I wholeheartedly agree that you should miss as little Phish as possible, I think in recent years I’ve come to realize that Friday has been delivering at an equally high level as the Lord’s Day. I’d say we should leave Tuesday out of this just in case anyone reading decides to start going to weekday Phish shows when they should be at work or school or whatever. Come to think of it, seems to me that this band plays pretty darn well on any day that ends in "day." Feel free to click the links above to make the determination for yourself. Can there really be only one and where does that leave us anyway? In a relatively-old-school, all-blue, wooden-ceilinged venue just outside of Chicago on Friday 10/26/18 it would seem.
Would Phish continue the T.G.I.F. trend by delivering an all-out banger? Would Phish’s first run of indoor Chicago shows in seven years be enough of a spark to blow the whole fireworks factory sky high? Would it be one of those shows that satisfies the whole fan base, from the rail riders who waited all day just to give Trey a very special note, to the wooks on the back of the floor who just want to spin and flail with as few impedances as possible?
Back in 2016 I was hanging out in the park next to Ascend Amphitheater during the day before the Phish show. It seemed like the only place in Nashville where you could charge your phone and buy weed from a homeless person. I met someone named Fish Taco (F-I-S-H T-A-C-O tattooed on his knuckles) who promised to find us some grass. As we waited long hours with him for his dusty connection to arrive, I became skeptical of anything he had to say. He bragged that beautiful women buy him fifths of whiskey and cuddle in hammocks with him, and I struggled to mask my disbelief.
“Man, you should have been here at 7 this morning,” Fish Taco announced. “This big tour bus drove through the park, pulled up right over there. And Bob Weir poked his head out the window and said, ‘Hey, kid!’”
The weed, the whiskey, the women had all seemed fabricated. But deep down I knew that if anybody was going to call Fish Taco a “kid,” it would be Bob Weir. And as we all know, Fish Taco rewarded my faith in him with a surprise appearance from Bobby that night!
[Thank you to user @Jsauce, Josh Martin, for the recap. -Ed.]
Greetings from Hampton, everybody. Glad to be back with you all. Truth: I listened to a lot of Phish last summer. I hit the live phish app pipe so hard I thought my brain was going to bleed. A break was in order and a break was had. It was nice to come back to tour feeling hungry for the music.
[Thank you to user Aaron Presuhn for stepping up and recapping last night's show. -Ed.]
Fall tour. Indoors, dark, intimate, a completely different vibe than outdoor summer Phish. It was a chilly day, but the Times Union Center was HOT. Night one was amazing, and it set the tone for what I thought to be a great, well-played set of shows.
[Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, an ordinarily reliable, clear-headed member of our team, and both a trusted and highly esteemed colleague, had so much deleterious fun at this fall's tour opener in Albany that he was mentally and physically unable to "recap" the show for this website. We therefore respectfully request that YOU "recap" the show in the Comments section below, but only if you attended it, lest you offend the more sensitive among us who believe a recap lacks credibility if the recapper is recapping based strictly on listening to a recording or viewing a webcast. -Ed.]
[we'd like to thank Paul Jakus, @paulj, for his second deep dive into the statistice of Phish. - ed.]
Phish fans are famously obsessive about the band, and the setlists on .net reflect that obsession. Setlists on Phish.net are not simply a list of songs played; instead we are provided with a wealth of information about debuts, bustouts, narrations, and even notation denoting two types of segues. All of this information tries to characterize what happened at a concert (far more than just listing a bunch of songs) with the goal of pointing us to shows of particular interest.
But does this additional information have value? Does knowing the number of “->” segues, or that a song hasn’t been played in over 100 shows, truly correlate with how fans of the band perceive the quality of a given show? Can we look at an intriguing setlist from 10 or 15 years ago (or look at today’s setlists a decade from now) and use its content to determine whether or not to listen to the show? That is, do the elements of a Phish setlist relate to how we, the members of Phish.net, rate Phish shows?
[Recap of last night’s show courtesy of longtime Mockingbird Foundation contributor, jaded vet, and serial ranker @chopaganda.]
Before we begin, I want to thank Steve Paolini for offering me his traditional Sunday Dick’s recap. Steve was one of many fans who thought Curveball would actually happen and missed this year’s Dick’s run in lieu of it. Sucker.
There are two ways we can look at last night’s show. On the one hand, it was incredibly fun, high-energy, and packed with moments that remind us why we love Phish. On the other hand, it was a big step back from Friday night and a somewhat tepid way to end a Summer tour following the cancelation of Curveball.
If we were to break down the Summer 2018 shows into tiers*****, it would look something like this:
Tier 1: Dicks1
Tier 2: Alpharetta1
Tier 3: Gorge3, Alpharetta2, Camden1, Merriweather2, Dicks3
Tier 4: San Francisco1, Alpharetta3, Forum1, Camden2, Dicks2
Tier 5: Gorge1, San Francisco2, Austin, Raleigh, Merriweather1
Tier 6: Tahoe1, Tahoe2, Gorge2, Forum2
*****This is specifically looking at the music that ends up on the recordings. It is not a ranking of good times and crowds going wild (e.g. even though Alpharetta night three was obviously one of the most fun shows of Summer, it’s also one of the weaker shows of Summer in terms of improv and flubs).
So which parts of last night's show (Sunday Dick's) elevated it to Tier 3?
[Recap of last night's show is courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Jenkins. -Ed.]
Seven years ago today, Phish played their first show at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado.
Do you know what happened then?
My 2011 Dick’s experience was very different than my still unfolding 2018 experience. Since Thursday evening, when I read the JamBase flashback describing how phans responded to the “S show,” I’ve been asking myself “What changed?” and “How did I get here?” It is impossible for me to write a recap of last night’s show without telling you about my “then” and “now” Dick’s experiences, because the ways the venue, community, and my self have transformed over the course of eight Dick’s runs have intimately affected my experience of last night’s show.
[Thanks to Brian Crossen, @TypeIIIJPD, for sharing his thoughts on the recent Curveball cancellation and some optimism for what lies ahead - ed.]
As I sit here a few scant days after returning from the Festival That Wasn’t™ (Curventry, Covenball, Lemonadewheel, The Great Wasn’t, Knuckleball, No Ball… whatever you want to call it we sure know how to coin a phrase, huh?) the full weight of what we missed out on continues to weigh on me. The stage was set for another fantastic weekend of music as Phish came in humming after a solid summer tour and the entire community was poised to practically explode with anticipatory excitement at the prospect of another weekend at Watkins Glen. Alas, what we ended up with was decidedly NOT that as many others have documented over the past week. But this post is not about that. Instead, my focus is on looking forward while also reflecting back in an effort to offer perspective on what our long history with this wonderful band can provide at this time.
I, like many many others, am a survivor of both Phish festival weather-related failures. And when I call Coventry a “failure” I mean that personally as much as anything. Without rehashing my own ‘tragic’ tale of woe in never getting close enough to even attempt to walk in to that festival let’s just say that the experience definitely altered my relationship with Phish for several years. Here some fourteen years later we find ourselves in a similar position where the choice to be made is whether to allow this experience to send us back down those dark paths or to go another direction. In the immediate moments after learning of the Curveball cancellation I was transported back to that car on I-91 as Mike came on the Bunny to give us that fateful news, turning some fans into thru-hikers and others such as myself into dejected folks wandering around New England to try to find some other form of closure for the whole thing (spoiler alert: there was no good closure to be found anywhere).
[Some words from Andrew Sinclair, user @aisincl, who was supposed to recap Curveball's third show for this blog. -Ed.]
Of course it is cloudy, windy and rainy on this Sunday morning. Of course Junior’s Donuts in Margate City, NJ would be serving Coconut, Red Velvet and Twist donuts on yet another 2018 weekend interrupted by Mother Nature.
Emotions are a very interesting thing. I credit Pixar for taking a real risk by tackling emotions when it created Inside Out. We got to know Anger, Sadness, Joy, Disgust and Fear and their involvement in our minds and lives. This weekend certainly brought out all of these characters for some 40,000+ of us. As I did some digging on emotions for this piece, I became focused on the “deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” This entire weekend, last few years of Phandom and total relationship with The Phish from Vermont can be summed up by the bit on relationships with others.
[The following is courtesy of Ryan Harrell. THANK YOU RYAN! -Ed.]
About a year ago, I was enjoying one of the Live Bait releases and began thinking about the somewhat disembodied nature of this series, in which live performances from different years and eras are removed from their context and assembled in a way that simulates a long live set. This effectively presents a broad range of Phish’s archives, for which we are all grateful, but it necessarily loses any sense of the chronology or historical context of a given song in doing so.
Also around this time, I noticed .net users on the forum discussing years and eras of the band underserved by official releases of full shows. As I recall, 1999 and 2000 were particularly high on that list, and I began wondering how much soundboard-quality audio from these years existed in a form let than a full show, but at least one song. Far from simply being a nerdy thought exercise, which it definitely was, I also realized how awesome a playlist from a particular year or tour would be with this data collected and compiled chronologically. Okay, so it still sounds nerdy.
[Recap is courtesy of user @SmilerControl, Brandy Davis. -Ed.]
Phish returned to Columbia, Maryland, last night for a traditional Saturday/Sunday two-night run at Merriweather Post Pavillion, a celebrated venue that the band started headlining 20 years ago (1998-08-08, well worth a nostalgic listen). MPP has made some significant changes in the three years since Phish last visited. Most are improvements, including a raised pavilion roof for better sight lines from the lawn, and a renovated parking infrastructure that made getting in and out a bit easier. Many fans are saddened, however, by the trading-in of field and forest for a more corporate-park vibe. Tailgating was still on, though, even in the new “Lot 2” parking garage that’s only a short walk from the gate. Despite its corporate feel, the venue seems to have done much to accommodate the Phish community and our shenanigans, and even named one of their new streets “Divided Sky Drive” in the band’s honor.
[Thanks to Josh Martin (@JSAUCE) for recapping Raleigh for the blog. -Ed.]
Greetings, everyone. Jsauce, of the Gorge 2 review, here to give you the lowdown on last night's proceedings in Raleigh.
When Phish goes on tour, I pay a lot of attention and I’m sure there are many, many people besides myself who’ve listened to every note of this tour this far. We care. That’s great. An inevitable consequence of caring is that people are going to disagree. That’s also great. That’s how lively debate happens. However, I can’t help but get a little down when I read the comments section underneath the .net reviews. Maybe it’s always been this way and I just never noticed, but it seems as though it’s gotten way more, you know, PERSONAL all of a sudden. Go back and read the comments on the review of 8/5. Half the people seem to think it was one of the heaters of the tour (my votes would be for 7/20 or 8/3) while the other half seem to think the show was flub city bordering on unprofessional. Am I wrong for thinking that opinions seem to be skewing to one direction or the other in a way they didn’t before? Maybe so, maybe not. More on that later.
[Many thanks to Ryan Harrell for recapping Camden2 for the site. -Ed.]
The BB&T Pavilion in Camden, New Jersey, is storied not for its architecture or aesthetic, but rather for the high quality of shows Phish has brought to its stage over the years. This was my first run at this venue, and what struck me the most was the great sound quality one could find at almost any place on its large lawn. In particular, the drums and bass guitar sounded noticeably crisp and tight. I wondered if the individual band members have any venue-specific knowledge about how their instruments carry out to the crowd. While I have no idea if they have such knowledge, given the strong, confident performances by Mike and Fish last night, it wouldn't surprise me if they did.
[Thanks very much to Dianna Hank for writing the recap of last night's show. -Ed.]
East Coast tour continued last night with yet another hot and humid show at Camden’s BB&T Pavilion. Phish opened with this year’s debut of “Crowd Control,” perhaps acknowledging all the "fools" staying on the hill who were about to get poured on by the incoming storm. Next up, synth-funk Page stepped up to bat to lead the band in a concise--albeit solid--“No Men In No Man's Land” groove, with Mike playing a heavy supporting role. In fact, this entire show saw Trey taking a bit of a back seat to this fiery Page/Mike combo, and some really incredible things were able to happen because of that. So thank you for that, Trey.
[The following was submitted to the Phish.net Support Team from a User, "Sweet Caroline," who explicitly requested it be posted as a "rebuttal," presumably to the Alpharetta3 recap. -Ed.]
[Thanks to Brandy Davis, @smilercontrol, for recapping last night's show for the blog. -Ed.]
As I am sure you have heard by now, Phish started the east coast leg of the 2018 Summer Tour hot in Hotlanta on Friday night, leaving fans greatly satisfied, but also wondering what kind of Saturday night throw-down could top it. Before the show last night (the second of three shows at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre At Encore Park in Alpharetta, Georgia), fans basked in the afterglow of greatness, and Shakedown and the lot surrounding the venue were full of suspense and a definitive party vibe. The tailgating game was strong in the afternoon, with fans new and old coming together to celebrate a successful start to a historically great weekend for the Phish from Vermont.
[We'd like to thank Dianna Hank, @Dianna_2Ns, for recapping last night's show - ed.]
Last night at the hot and humid Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta, GA, Phish threw down an absolute scorcher of a show -- one that most fans will probably agree (Imagine? Phish fans agreeing on something??) is the show of the summer thus far.
Being my first time seeing “Southern” Phish (excluding Miami & New Orleans, because those aren’t really the South I’m talking about), I was unsure of what to expect from the whole experience. I knew from prior tours that, more often than not, the band seems to bring a certain special something to their 3-night runs down in Georgia, which is why I wanted to cross this trip off my list in the first place.Arriving on lot was a bit of a cluster, with long lines of traffic being directed into lots by disinterested high school kids in neon shirts who clearly had already had it up to here with this Grade A wookery the band had brought to town -- and this was just the first night! After parking, we wandered over to Shakedown and I quickly remembered what Summer Phish felt like in the pre-Baker’s Dozen years. The smell of pesto grilled cheese and veggie burritos frying up on flat top griddles wafted by as competing stereos blasted The Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” and the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime.” Friends from all over the country bumped into each other and stopped to hug, causing sweaty, dusty wook traffic jams. Folks ambled by with pin boards and koozies, slanging their wares in hopes to pay for those insanely overpriced beers inside the venue. I felt the feeling I forgot. This is what New York City Summer Phish was missing.
[we'd like to thank Willie Orbison, @twelvethousandmotherfker, for writing this recap for the blog - ed.]
When you think about the fact that this Soul Planet of ours has been around for about four and a half billion years, it’s nothing short of a gosh darn miracle that we’re living in the time of Phish. This wasn’t – and won’t always be – the case. So, perhaps it’s important to remember on nights like this, while we sift and scrutinize, that Phish shows aren’t inevitable. They don’t just happen. They are precious and rare events that deserve to be celebrated for the simple fact that they occur. We could have been living in the time of the ancient Egyptians. Or in the Dark Ages. Or in some future hellscape where the only music is made by computers.
Instead, we’re here. Now. And Phish is on tour. And that is a wonderful thing.
[Thank you, Josh Martin, @Jsauce, for this recap of last night's show. -Ed.]
Greetings from the Gorge, everyone. Jsauce here. Long time listener, first time reviewer. I love the writing on here and I’m honored to be doing the .net review for Gorge2.
[Recap courtesy of Pete "PhanArt" Mason. -Ed.]
The hot and windy mid-Washington Gorge Amphitheater slowly welcomed Phish fans to their first ever three-night run, home to legendary Phish runs going back 21 years. With eager families and first timers dotting the hill and posing for the obligatory "We have arrived" photo, the return to the Gorge was met with plenty of buzz as the first weekend of the tour got underway.
[The following is offered by dot net user Kylie, @Kyphi, for your consideration as the Summer Tour begins. She is an east coast gal and UVM alum, who moved out West for both work and play. She enjoys live music, travel, and exceptional food in the presence of good company. You can find her on lot this summer with a Heady Topper in hand. Be advised that the following reflects her views, and not necessarily those of Phish.net, or anyone who has ever volunteered for Phish.net over the course of Phish history. Thank you! -charlie]
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: PHISH summer tour. By now, your PTBMs have safely found their way to your mailbox and it’s likely you’ve been rapid-fire chatting logistics with friends for weeks as the days draw closer.
We’re all here eagerly visualizing what’s to come. Full summer tour — dead ahead.
It seems unbelievable, but in 2018 Phish will embark on their tenth year of touring since returning from their breakup. Following last year’s Baker’s Dozen run, many speculated that we may have reached the peak of Phish “3.0.”
Setting aside one rain-shortened concert (7/19/2013), there have been 358 shows since March 6, 2009. The average show rating on Phish.net was 3.944 (out of 5), but the lowest-rated event was Grand Prairie’s 2.377 (10/25/16). If Phish reached “bottom” as recently as 2016, have they really been getting better since their return? We can use show ratings on Phish.net to test this hypothesis, but let’s start by getting a few caveats out of the way.
Ratings on Phish .net are unlikely to be representative of the population of Phish fans as a whole. First, I suspect that .netters are among the most enthusiastic members of an already rabid fanbase. This may bias show ratings up or down--frankly, the hyper-critical nature of .netters means the direction of bias is not clear, but some sort of bias could be present. Second, not every .netter rates every show and I’m guessing that most of us are more likely to rate shows we’ve attended or watched on live video. This is, of course, the attendance bias effect discussed so often on .net. If attendance motivates a person to rate a show, then ratings on Phish.net will be biased upward. Third, a hot show on a current tour will sometimes zoom to the top of the all-time list, only to drop lower as more people provide a ratings weeks, months, or even years later. This “recency bias” results in higher ratings for recent shows relative to those from long ago. Fourth, the number of users on .net has been growing in recent years; if new .netters differ from long-time .netters (having, say, less familiarity with Phish performances from years past), then ratings from 2017 may not be comparable to those of 2009. Finally, the data reveal a “herd effect” for outstanding shows: more people will rate a great show than will rate poorly received show. We’ll be using the average rating for shows, though, so it’s not clear that the herd effect will bias a show rating. These caveats mean that our statistical analysis applies only to those of us on .net, and does not necessarily represent the broader population of Phish fans. That said, let’s take a look at the data.
The first academic conference highlighting research in the interdisciplinary field of Phish Studies will take place on July 21, 2018, at 1pm in the Gorge Amphitheater Campground. The event is hosted by Oregon State University’s School of History, Philosophy, and Religion.
An exciting lineup of scholars from across the country will present their research to OSU students attending the Philosophy School of Phish field trip to Phish’s three-night run at the Gorge Amphitheater. The conference will also be open to the public.
For more information, or to request accommodation for disability, contact conference organizer, Dr. Stephanie Jenkins (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Welcome back to “From The Tapers’ Section,” Part 2B. @wforwumbo here with another matrix of a 2017 show: Red Velvet night, 7/23/17.
Of all Baker’s Dozen shows to remaster, I curate 7/23/17 here for a number of reasons - the biggest of which is that it’s the Baker’s Dozen show I feel is the most under-discussed given the material contained within the show. It is the first show of the year that appreciates how special 2017 would eventually become; walking out of the venue that evening, this show destroyed my expectations for what Phish is capable of performing. To my ear, it is a precursor to what would come the next two nights of the run (though hindsight is always 20/20). Red Velvet night is also the first show that presents the 2017 jamming style in a fully-realized form, both in the “How Many People Are You” and “Wolfman’s Brother” > “Twist” > “Waves”; but more on that shortly.
Welcome to the 331st edition of Phish.Net's Mystery Jam Monday, the fourth and most difficult of June. The winner will receive an MP3 download code courtesy of our friends at LivePhish.com / Nugs.Net. To win, be the first person to identify the songs and dates of the four mystery clips. Each person gets one guess to start – if no one answers correctly in the first 24 hours, a hint will be posted. After the hint, everyone gets one more guess before Wednesday at 10 AM PT / 1 PM ET. Good luck!
[Note - MJM host @ucpete is still unavailable. In his absence, we once again welcome MJM Hall of Fame member @wforwumbo, who has put together a fun puzzle for you to solve. Please direct any correspondence for this week's MJM to @wforwumbo.]
Answer: Congratulations to @jimsleftear, who correctly identified the four clips, the Waves from 6/28/12, David Bowie from 6/19/95, Scents & Subtle Sounds from 7/23/03, and the Halley's Comet from 8/3/98, after figuring out that the hint, the John Deere Company logo, suggested versions from the outdoor venue in Noblesville, IN, which at one time was affectionately known as Deer Creek. This win marks the second consecutive for @jimsleftear, and his sixth overall, leaving him just one victory shy of elevation to the MJM Hall of Champions and Emeritus status (as well as forced retirement). Will he make it three in a row? Thanks again to @wforwumbo for selecting this week's theme and versions.
Welcome to the 330th edition of Phish.Net's Mystery Jam Monday, the third of June. The winner will receive an MP3 download code courtesy of our friends at LivePhish.com / Nugs.Net. To win, be the first person to identify the songs and dates of the three mystery clips. Each person gets one guess to start – if no one answers correctly in the first 24 hours, a hint will be posted. After the hint, everyone gets one more guess before Wednesday at 10 AM PT / 1 PM ET. Good luck!
[Note - MJM host @ucpete is unavailable due to a family emergency. In his absence, we wecome back MJM Hall of Fame member @wforwumbo, who has cooked up some tantalizing and tasty treats for you to ponder. Please direct any correspondence for this week's MJM to @wforwumbo.]
Hint: No hint needed.
Answer: Congrats to @jimsleftear on his fifth MJM win! The great sinister ear of Jim avoided the red herring of “jams from 8/14”, instead correctly figuring out the theme of “jams from shows immediately preceding festivals” in the form of the 8/14/97 Harry Hood, 8/14/96 Runaway Jim, and the 8/12/04 Scents & Subtle Sounds. Be sure to tune in next week where the puzzles reset in difficulty with a fresh month that also brings summer tour with it!
[be sure to check out part 1 of this series if you missed it, and click the tape icon at the end of this post to see a listing of each part as the series rolls along – @ucpete]
Welcome back, everyone! @wforwumbo here with the second edition of From the Tapers’ Section, and it’s a two part installment. Part 2A, 12/30/17, is here today for your listening pleasure; part 2B will follow in two weeks (Friday, June 22nd). Rather than focus this edition on cleaning up an older tape in need of overhaul, I opted for a slightly different approach this time: I took two already fantastic recordings and made a matrix recording from them. To make a matrix, one combines multiple source recordings to create an experience that draws from aspects of each original source. Referring to and inspired by Dan Healy’s days mixing the Grateful Dead, a matrix usually has a soundboard for one its sources; but this week’s From the Tapers' Section doesn’t, as sharing a matrix recording that includes the LivePhish source is both against Phish’s open taping policy and counter to the purpose of this blog series. Let’s all embrace the AUD fully, shall we?
12/30/17 is a slightly different breed of Phish: it’s got deep jams in both sets, and the band hammers away all evening in an attempt to create as good a show as possible, taking very few breaks for air. The entire performance is fluid and cohesive, with a solid narrative and high energy between band and audience. Given the historical significance of December 30th over the past quarter century, those of us in attendance were hoping for another all-timer; amazingly, Phish was able to match and eventually surpass our lofty expectations.
@wforwumbo applies machine learning to binaural hearing theory, and is putting the finishing touches on his doctorate in architectural acoustics this summer. His research focuses on the effects that a room has on performed music and how we perceive sound in space – he does so by building computational models that simulate and extend human hearing. He is also a classically-trained musician and an electrical engineer with a keen interest in digital audio signal processing; he designs and implements filters and transforms to manipulate audio, which he brings to his studio production and mixing engineering work. His obsession with audio doesn’t end there though, as he has recently ventured into the tapers’ section to record live music. Thankfully for us at Phish.net HQ, @wforwumbo is a huge fan of Phish and Phish.net, and has begun contributing to the site, both working to expand and improve the Jam Charts and helping to craft (and remix!) Mystery Jam Monday puzzles. Today, he will kick off a new regular blog series, “From the Tapers’ Section,” wherein he will draw from several different parts of his massive toolkit to not only bring Phish fans brand new mixes of audience recordings from classic Phish shows, but he’ll also share both his deep technical knowledge and discerning musical perspectives of the shows and the recordings thereof. - @ucpete
Drawing from my experience as both a live taper and a studio production engineer, I frequently manipulate my back catalog of live Phish tapes to my personal preference on reference listening systems. I have spent lots of time working with studio tools; it’s a labor of love, always trying to craft and sculpt sound - to let the tape get out of the way between me and the music. I do want to make one thing explicitly clear here: I am not the definitive voice. I am not touting that these are the “correct” way to listen to shows. I’m not even claiming that these will be preferable to your current tape of a show. Because at the end of the day, the sole rule of “good” audio is that only YOU can decide what sounds best. In fact, that’s the most important bit of advice I give to everyone when they ask me about audio: trust your ears. My tastes may not be the same as yours, and that’s okay - there’s plenty of room for all of us in the fan base.
Now with that being said, one intent of this taping series is to encourage the distribution and usage of audience-recorded tapes (“AUDs”). Tape trading has an incredibly rich and storied history, and is a large part of why many of us are into Phish. One of my favorite endeavors in digging through my catalog of tapes is comparing two different recordings and correlating their strengths and weaknesses to my personal preferences. This furthers my taping and production work by thinking about how to capture and manipulate sound, including the layouts, techniques, and gear that I use. To me, it’s lots of fun to think about and understand the intricacies of a given microphone and preamp, the recording location inside of a venue, or what experience I want from a tape (immersion? stereo image? frequency balance? more Mike? etc.). This blog series is in part an attempt to share my notes and thoughts on specific tapes to highlight different aspects of a show that you might not have heard before.
[Fyi. You do NOT have to be a student in order to register for this class. It's open to all. -charlie]
Now you can READ THE BOOK and take the field trip!
For the fifth summer in a row, Dr. Stephanie Jenkins will teach the “Philosophy School of Phish” course—more formally called the “Philosophy of Art and Music”—via Oregon State University’s Ecampus program. Using the band as a case study, the course focuses on themes about the nature and significance of art and music. As part of their required course work, students attend three Phish concerts—in person or via webcast—and conduct philosophical interviews with artists from the Phish community. Learning about theories of art and music experientially helps students actively engage with the philosophical content and learn more about the Phish community.
[Post is courtesy of dot net user @dmg924.]
Beyond the Pond is a bi-weekly podcast in which Brian Brinkman (@sufferingjuke on Twitter) and David Goldstein (@daveg924 on Twitter) use the music of Phish as a gateway to introduce the listener to many other bands, the vast majority of which are not jambands. An episode generally begins with a deep dive into a designated portion of Phish improvisation, and then can spin off to any variety of musical themes and other acts, the overarching purpose being introducing the listener to as many new and different bands as possible.
ICYMI: HQ Trivia's Scott Rogowsky is a Phish fan, and relix has an article about his work and Phish memories here. Notably, Scott's first show was Nassau 2/28/2003, inarguably among the greatest shows in Phish history (and there have been a lot of excellent shows at the Coliseum).
[Michael Hamad (@MikeHamad on dot net and Twitter), who you may know for his "setlist schematics" (including a recent one for UM's latest album), offers the following for your consideration. -charlie]
I get frustrated when Phish jams sound like other Phish jams. I crave the unknown. It’s where I’m at. I’m supremely jaded.
This feeling came over me most recently on Dec. 30, 2017, during the 28-minute-long “Down With Disease.” Let me walk you through it.
[Post is courtesy of dot net user @swittersdc.]
Well, that was quite a run, huh? On this episode of HF Pod, we break down the incredible 4 nights of Phish at MSG. We also included our live podcast we recorded at American Beauty on 12.29, as part of the PhanArt show.
[After covering hundreds of hockey and basketball events at and for Madison Square Garden over the past two decades, Emmy Award winning writer, David Kolb has officially crossed over to cover his other love, music -- more precisely, Phish! The native New Yorker, who was first introduced to Phish in the 90's by his long-lost Bear Stearns co-worker, Frank "Chip" Tolve, won his Emmy for his coverage of the New York Rangers' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014.]
The challenge following-up the universally recognized epic 12/30 show loomed large, yet seemed to be no problem, when the show kicked off with a bit of a surprise. Trey opened blasting out the first bar of "Carini," while letting out a smile, restoring any energy that might have been lost overnight. It was a quick way to let us know, the night, would be no letdown!
Unlike the previous shows during this New Year’s run, my perspective changed from my incredible G.A. floor position -- several feet from the stage, to row 17 of section 118, helping gain perspective of what was about to unfold. The first three shows were outstanding, particularly Saturday’s wonder.
Following two strong shows on 12/28 and 12/29, Phish climbed on stage on Saturday, December 30 with an opportunity to elevate the 2017 New Year’s Eve Run to a rare status. Most years, the band needs a night or two to settle into the NYE run, thus producing a show or two that’s of a lesser quality than the best of the run. Think: 12/28/97, 12/27/10, 12/29/12, and 12/29/16. It’s often understandable that there will be a “dud” in the run, seeing as the band is focusing all their energy on four shows in the middle of winter, when their main approach is across month-long tours.
What made 2017’s NYE Run different, heading into 12/30, is that both 12/28 and 12/29 had produced spectacular jams in “No Men In No Men’s Land,” “Twist,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” “Ghost,” and “Split Open & Melt,” as well as solid micro jams in songs like “Tube,” “Your Pet Cat,” “Everything’s Right,” “Blaze On,” and “I Always Wanted It This Way.” The song selection had been inspired for the most part, and the overall flow of each show had been purposeful. Halfway through the run, the band had failed to produce a dud, and were poised to bring MSG to its knees, rightfully honoring their banner hanging in the rafters.
[This post is courtesy of Phish.net user @swittersdc – ed.]
Ever used CashorTrade? Ever wanted to hear the perspective on how it was built, how it’s growing, and how they’re dealing with more demand than ever? Then please check out this week’s episode of the Helping Friendly Podcast, where we interview Brando of CashorTrade and talk to him about all of this and more—including his own Phish journey.
We appreciate you listening, and you can review and subscribe to the Helping Friendly Podcast on iTunes, or listen through the player below. The HF Pod team is me, @mdphunk, @rowjimmy and @brad10s. Thanks for your support!
Welcome to the 305th edition of Phish.Net's Mystery Jam Monday, the most difficult of December and the final MJM of 2017! The winner will receive an MP3 download code courtesy of our friends at LivePhish.com / Nugs.Net. To win, be the first person to identify the song and date of the three mystery clips, which are connected by two completely unrelated themes – one around which I crafted the puzzle, another I noticed after the fact, neither of which need be identified to answer correctly (though as usual, it usually helps). Each person gets one guess to start – if no one guesses correctly, I will post a hint on Tuesday around 10 AM PT / 1 PM ET, after which each person gets one more guess before I reveal the correct answer on Wednesday. Good luck!
Note: As mentioned (and flub'd) in the MJM304 wrap and in today's preamble, this is the final MJM of 2017. I was curious when the last time the MJM took a break, and really didn't grasp how long the streak has been till just now: today's MJM makes 80 consecutive Mondays with a puzzle. With the various tournaments and different flavored contests in between, we’ve listened to 225+ jams during the streak – and that's just since June of last year! An entire spreadsheet of LivePhish codes has been won by you all, in addition to copies of TPCs 1-3, posters, etc. – this all despite the increasing difficulty of the puzzles (the blog has only won six times in the past year and a half). I’m not entirely sure where I'm going with this, but I really appreciate this small but thriving jam-nerd community in our corner of the internet, and I wanted to wish everyone the happiest of holidays. We’ve all earned next week’s MJM off. To those headed to MSG – have a blast! The MJM will return on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018. – pete
Hint: Apologies for the delay – the MJM will be extended by two hours (if needed) until 12 PM PT / 3 PM ET tomorrow.
Updated: I'm in a giving mood and it's feeling a little stump-y out there, so I'll clarify the hint a little more.
The songs in these clips have been played in succession at least once. And at most once.
Answer: Another 'W' for Wumbo indeed – that's four in a row and six since August for @wforwumbo! Impressive; most impressive. As mentioned in the comments, this week's puzzle was jams from songs that form the "Leo Trio," i.e. the songs during which you're most likely to hear Trey say "Play it Leo!". There weren't many options for "NICU" and "Rocky Top" (especially the latter), but I was able to piece together a tricky final puzzle of the year. But with my giving mood and the extra hinting, it was no match for @wforwumbo, who correclty identified the 12/1/94 "NICU," the 12/13/97 "Ya Mar" (here's my SBD copy from the third Super Ball FTA broadcast), and the 12/15/99 "Rocky Top." Only after I had made the Leo Trio MJM did I notice that I had selected three December jams. Funny how that worked out... Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year! See you next year...
Dr. Stephanie Jenkins of Philosophy School of Phish fame was recently interviewed by Engaged Philosophy, click here to read it.
Unfamiliar with the Philosophy School of Phish? Check it out.
[This post is courtesy of Phish.net user @swittersdc – ed.]
The team at the HF Pod couldn't let the 20th anniversary of the Fall '97 tour pass us by without spending a bit of time reflecting on the shows. This week on the podcast, we revisit the Philly shows from that historic tour, from 12/2 and 12/3. We play decent chunks of both shows, and reflect on what was, maybe, the best tour Phish has ever played.
What do you think? Weigh in via the comments section below!
We appreciate you listening, and you can review and subscribe to the Helping Friendly Podcast on iTunes, or listen through the player below. The HF Pod team is me, @mdphunk, @rowjimmy and @brad10s. Thanks for your support!
Trying out a thing here on Phish.net. A new, occasional series of essays/posts from phans who are either in academia or have an intellectual bent.
While Phish was broken up, some fans used the time to go to grad school. There are plenty of fields where a die-hard Phish fan might find an academic home. In addition to more established fields like ethnomusicology, popular music study and media studies, did you know there is now a field of study (interdisciplinary in nature) known as fandom studies? (You can check out the fairly new Journal of Fandom Studies online.) There’s even a term, “aca-fan” (it’s clunky, to be sure), used to describe fans (of, really, anything) who are also in academia.
This essay is from Jnan Blau (self-professed aca-phan). He’s a tenured professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, in the Communication Studies Department. He got his Master’s and Ph.D. at Southern Illinois University, specializing in performance studies and intercultural communication, and actually wrote his doctoral dissertation on Phish and what he terms “the Phish phenomenon.” In a nutshell, he theorizes the hell out of Phish and phan culture, articulating how and why what they do onstage is so special and powerful, and how this radiates into the audience to become a thriving culture that mirrors and extends what Phish accomplishes through their music. Jnan is one of the first to publish about Phish in peer-reviewed academic journals - check out some of these papers here. This piece was written recently (in, according to him, a flash of inspiration), and his first impulse was to share it with us. We do hope you’ll check it out and enjoy it.
Kelly Morris (@BirdsWerds), the creator of the "More" video, has released a beautiful new video, inspired by "Rise / Come Together." If you would like to support her work (e.g., by helping cover the cost of removing the "Adobe Stock" watermark from this film), please visit https://www.gofundme.com/risecometogether.
[Fan Keith Eaton, @Midcoaster, is contributing a piece to the blog for the first time. He first became obsessed with music when, in 1979, he sat in a darkened theater and watched Apocalypse Now. Nothing was ever quite the same after that opening sequence.]
After 30 years, I have to honestly ask myself, "Is this devotion?" That word, devotion, sort of goes against everything that I thought was irreverent in me all these years. Sort of. I mean, devotion is a weird thing. Many Americans marry but don't even want to acknowledge devotion, as it sort of conjures demeaning levels of servitude despite horrid conditions. (We opt for divorce rather than weathering the storm more often than not.)
30 years of fandom, though, whoa. But it's never that. It's never a straight line. There was no sense of devotion during my irreverent (or so I thought) late-1980s self. There was this cool band that I saw, Phish, and they were nice dudes. They were dudes with whom I could talk about music when their set was done, slathering on my love praises for the SST and Touch and Go labels, even though I looked every part the slavishly devoted Deadhead. Let me explain.
[Post is courtesy of phish.net user @swittersdc. - Ed.]
The “turning points” in Phish history. What comes to mind? What’s on your list? On this week’s episode of the Helping Friendly Podcast, the crew is joined by the great @waxbanks to discuss these moments throughout the history of the band. As you probably know, Wally (@waxbanks) is the author of two Phish books, one on A Live One and one about Fall 1997. Wally brings a really unique and smart perspective, and this episode is a great example of that. This is Part 1; Part 2 will be up next week. We appreciate you listening, and you can review and subscribe to the Helping Friendly Podcast on iTunes, or listen through the player below. The HF Pod team is me, @mdphunk, @rowjimmy and @brad10s. Thanks for your support!
JamBase is posting reflections about every fall tour 1997 show, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of one Phish's most celebrated, legendary tours.
Many of the tour's show reflections will be authored by Mockingbird Foundation and Phish.net fans, including those who have recapped shows on this blog (e.g., @Icculus authored the first of the series, about the tour's opener on 11/13/97). If you enjoy the series, please consider donating to The Mockingbird Foundation, whose volunteers operate this site. Thank you.
[Post is courtesy of dot net user @swittersdc.]
The new episode of Helping Friendly Podcast features a conversation with the co-hosts of Beyond the Pond, a podcast that takes Phish improv and branches way out into all kinds of music. We talk about our Phish journeys, and lots of musical inspiration. Hope you enjoy. You can subscribe to the Helping Friendly Podcast on iTunes, or listen through the player below. The HF Pod team is me, mdphunk, rowjimmy and brad10s. Thanks for your support!
[More thoughts from new fan Ashley Ertle.]
They say music speaks to your soul. I never personally experienced it until Phish.
[Post is from Phish.net user @swittersdc – ed.]
This week, the Helping Friendly Podcast is back with a very special interview with Katy Tur. As most of you know, she's known for her Phish banter on air, and probably better known as the host of MSNBC Live, which airs every weekday afternoon at 2 PM ET. She also sits in on MTP Daily and other NBC news programs.
We had a great conversation with Katy, that ranged from her favorite Phish tunes to a history of her fandom, and to her book, which comes out today, September 12, Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History. Order it now!
[Post is courtesy of dot net user @swittersdc.]
There’s a new episode of the Helping Friendly Podcast up this week, where we recapped the Phish run at Dick’s. We also did Quick Hits for the first 2 nights, which you can check out in the player below. We have two fan recaps and play some tunes through the audience recordings, which sounded really good.
[Please welcome new user @JerrysMissingFinger, Ean Ward, who sent us the following.]
Hey Phish.net, thought you might enjoy this. I am what tends to be a younger fan these days at age twenty. On Sunday night at Dick's, I was only able to attend the show alone, and was pretty stoked for what would be show #6 for me. While sitting down to relax before the show, I started chatting with the guy next to me about the run of shows.
[Thank you to Dr. Stephanie Jenkins for this recap, and to her friend Yaron Marcus for the fabulous photography.]
This year’s Philosophy School of Phish concluded in late August. For the fourth summer in a row, I’ve had the privilege of teaching this course, offered through Oregon State University’s Ecampus program. During this session, I introduced fifteen non- (or not yet-) phans to our favorite band through an eight-week survey of the philosophy of art and music. Witnessing student’s reactions to their first Phish shows and answering their questions about what Dr. Jnan Blau has termed the “Phish phenomenon” helps me to remember what it’s like to be a Phish neophyte and gain some reflective distance on what it means to be a phan of Phish.
In preparation for writing this recap, I’ve been reflecting on the significance of Phish’s annual Labor Day tradition. Without question, Dick’s is my favorite spot for seeing Phish; it’s the only venue for which I’ve had the honor of attending every show. Each year, the stadium has been blessed with numerous unanticipated song placements, contenders for “best of” versions (such as the 9/1/2012 “Light”, 8/31/2012 “Undermind,” 8/29/14 “Simple,” 9/2/2011 “Slave,” and many more), top-notch jamming, and creative setlist pranks. Over the course of seven years, Dick’s has acquired a mysterious, otherworldly atmosphere that evades linguistic description. It’s certainly not the only sacred site for Phish phans; Madison Square Garden, Watkins Glen, and, of course, Big Cypress, for example, carry their own mystical charm and historic weight. What is so special about Dick’s? Why does my annual journey to Commerce City feel like a pilgrimage?
[Recap courtesy of Pete Hoherd, user @FunkyCFunkyDo.]
If you haven’t already peeked at the setlist from last night’s show, good. If you have, who can blame you. If you have, but haven’t listened to the show, having only been able to restrain your jaw from gravity’s (read: Phish’s) best efforts to detach it from your body, please read on, as this may well serve as a review and medical advice.
[The following is written by user @Ertle_Turtle.]
One early summer morning, I awoke to a man I did not know standing over me while I slept. As a single mother to two small children, the trauma I experienced from having an intruder in my home while all three of us were sleeping soundly is one I do not wish on my worst enemy. Thankfully, we are all safe.
[We'd like to thank Paul Jakus (@paulj) for this guest installment on "Reba"'s absence at Dick's – ed.]
In 2011, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park became a venue of lore almost instantaneously, a place where Phish’s Greatest Hits appear in unconventional set placements with spectacular jamming. Except, curiously, "Reba." The lack of a Dick’s "Reba" was a topic of discussion going into last year’s run, and it seemed quite unusual when, once again, it was not played. Maybe so, but then again, maybe not.
Since 2011, "Reba" has been played 33 times in 254 shows, or about once every 7.7 shows. "Reba" has taken long vacations before—a couple of double-digit gaps in 1997, and again in 1999 when she had a 25 show gap—and she’s just come off the longest gap to date: 31 shows between July 23, 2016 and July 21, 2017. Given these long gaps, is "Reba"’s absence from Dick’s really all that odd?
[A relatively new Phish fan, Sal Orsino, who first saw Phish at MSG on January 2, 2016, was so inspired by the Baker's Dozen, and by the ten shows he's now seen, to write this piece, which is his answer to the question, "What do the Baker's Dozen shows mean to the community?" Sal is a senior computer science student at Montclair State University in New Jersey. If Phish has inspired you and you're interested in writing something for the dot net blog, email it to charlie at phish dot net. While there is no guarantee it'll be posted to the blog, you'll always be able to post it in the Forum, of course (and we encourage you to continue posting about the greatness of the run there). Thank you, Sal.]
The Baker’s Dozen has ended. We return to our normal lives for those who took off work for the whole run, and for those that didn’t our work week has become that much less exciting without five, absolutely jaw-dropping concerts to attend each week. But that matters not, because we know what just happened this past month. We felt what happened this month, and we lived at these shows. These shows weren’t just a stunt done by the band to give out free doughnuts, or to confuse the hell out of all those outside of the Phish community. While those were simply added bonuses, this run of shows meant so, so much more than that to the band, to the phans, and more importantly, to the community that connects us, and them.
[Post is courtesy of dot net user @swittersdc.]
Today, the team at the Helping Friendly Podcast released a Baker’s Dozen wrap up episode, featuring an interview with Tom Marshall from the live event we hosted in New York on Saturday, July 29.
We also recorded conversations with three fans who had been to all 13 shows. They gave us their perspectives on the entire run. We also played a few tracks from the run as well. It was a fun episode to record!
Katie B., user @phtreehuggr, was interviewed by Bstow early this year in connection with her donations through Bstow to The Mockingbird Foundation, the all-volunteer-run 501(c)(3) organization that runs this site. Bstow is an easy way you can donate what would be the spare change on your purchases (e.g., 30 cents on a charge of $20.70 to your credit or debit card) to a particular non-profit. Check out her interview.
We greatly appreciate Katie's ongoing donations to Mockingbird, as well as those of you who are subscription donors, of course. We encourage those of you who have yet to donate to the Foundation to do so in any way you can manage. Thank you!
[Post is courtesy of dot net user @swittersdc.]
The team at the Helping Friendly Podcast (mdphunk, rowjimmy and brad10s) and I were hard at work throughout the Baker’s Dozen, doing a Quick Hit podcast recap of every show the day after. We also included guests who were there as often as possible. We also did a Quick Hit on the 5 shows before Baker’s Dozen.
You can listen to them all through the player below (click the icon with the three lines to see all the episodes), but here are some highlights:
[The recap of the final Baker’s Dozen show is brought to you by James Palatini / @TheBull288]
There are rare occasions in life that we truly appreciate as we experience them. More often than not, only after a significant amount of time has passed, are we able to take a step back and realize how fortunate we were. The Baker’s Dozen is, and was, the former in spades.
Quickly in this run, it became impossible to ignore the fact that we were living something incredibly special. Tonight, our collective Baker’s Dozen journey with notes of Will There Be Repeats? (No) > Will I Get A Donut? (Debatable) > Will Jam-Filled Donut Night Be Jam-Filled? (Yes) > Will I FINALLY Get “Izabella”? (Yes x2) concluded with a joy-filled finale on Night 13 on “Phish Day,” dubbed as such per mayoral decree in New York City.
There was a palpable celebratory energy in The Garden tonight – an energy I’ve never felt at any Phish show before. We’re always happy attend a show with 20,000 of our closest friends, there’s always anticipation before a show, etc., but this felt different. This energy was akin to Game 4 of a Stanley Cup Final, when you’re at home and you’re leading the series 3-0, or leading the World Series-clincher by five runs heading into the ninth inning – victory is a forgone conclusion. Phish had won 12 straight at The Garden – and we knew we were in store for one final victory.
[The penultimate recap of the Baker’s Dozen is brought to you by one of Canada’s finest, Andrew Rose / @andrewrose]
“Only at the largest concert in the world can you get away with playing a song like that.” A younger Trey Anastasio jokingly offered these remarks on the last day of the last millennium, following a 25-minute, love-supreme-laden “Split Open and Melt -> Catapult.” To this day I’m still not sure if he meant the brief “Catapult” proper, or the miraculous jam over which its handful of absurd lyrics were laid. But no matter, both were true and still are. The irony of course being that such a big stage would be the last place you could attempt such a thing. The show in Big Cypress was the biggest concert in the world that night, and the fact that this silly band from Vermont was able to pull that off, and on its own terms, yielding music and spectacle at once absurd, but also a pinnacle of collective improvisation, was quite the achievement. Eighteen years and a standard dozen donuts later, is it safe to say Phish is about to wrap up a cohesive offering that more than matches it? That in its sheer scope surpasses it? Could we repurpose that cheeky line of Trey’s for 2017, the middle finger to the haters and doubters, and say “only at the largest string of concerts in the world can you get away with not repeating a single song like that.” I don’t think there’s another band in the world right now that could do two nights at Madison Square Garden and not repeat a song, let alone thirteen. (And I haven’t even touched on how consistently great these shows have been, by just about any metric.) So before I recap the band’s penultimate offering, and as we get ready for the finale, I’d like to take a step back and offer a deep acknowledging bow to this latest achievement. This sure has been fun. Am I right?
[Recap courtesy of Jon Zinter, user @Zimmerman.]
The final weekend of Phish’s historic 13-show residency at Madison Square Garden is upon us, and it all feels like a blur. It doesn’t help that the band has been playing monster shows with a level of consistency that’s downright unprecedented for this era of the band’s history. “3.0” usually made it pretty easy to separate the best from the rest, but this residency has made choosing your favorite show more akin to choosing your favorite donut variety. Even the “weakest” show of the Baker’s Dozen (whichever one THAT is) would have been considered a top show of last summer’s tour. Having a room to themselves to work with for so many consecutive shows has been great for the band, and seemingly has only deepened their well of creativity. They know just how this building’s bones quiver.
[Recap of last night's show courtesy of Nathan Tobey, user @IcculusFTW.]
Check phone for donut announcement Tweet.
HOLES. What could it meannnnn!?
Will they play “In A Hole” for real this time? Would that be too obvious? But weren’t “Harpua” and “Cinnamon Girl” obvious? Wait, does anyone but me care if they play “In A Hole?”
Also, those donuts look super tasty. Ah, what this triumphant run does to our minds.
“Baker’s Dozen” – taken together with the astonishing mini-run that led up to it -- has produced one of the most consistently thrilling runs in the band’s 34 year history. Just when Americans seem to be losing faith in, well, nearly everything – the world apart of Phish is exactly the opposite. Night after night, a band that – by any normal standard of band longevity should have long since become a nostalgia act -- is giving us new reasons to believe. And yes, last night, on August 2, 2017, they did it again.
Phish.net welcomes Tim Kelleher - @timkell - to recap Night 7 of the Baker's Dozen.
We’ve made it through a good number of donuts, and here on night seven of The Baker’s Dozen our long anticipated cinnamon donut gets the call - Cinnamon Glazed to be precise. There’s been so much great music so far, I’m no longer the least bit anxious about whether we will see a good show each night. These are going to be good. And we will be happy. This much I know.
[We would like to thank Brandy Davis, @smilercontrol, for writing this recap.]
All of the hype of the jam-filled donut show, which brought more fingers to the brisk summer air in front of MSG than I have seen since any ol' sold out Dick's Saturday night, was not in vain, as we all by now know of what occurred inside New York's grand arena on Tuesday night. But what of the sister show to follow? Destined to be in the shadows (or so I thought), the chatter leading up to Wednesday night was a bit deflated; or perhaps there just wasn't enough infinity in the universe to bask in the radioactive glow of one night, while simultaneously over-speculating about the next. Not to say there was no speculation... a white-powdered donut theme was sure to drag the word "cocaine" across the lips of even the most straight-edge fans. As for myself, I was hanging on the clue of "traditional," hoping we'd get an old-school set of songs from the 80's. Junta, anyone?
However, as show time approached, you could feel the energy build in the space around the Garden. "It's a great time to be a Phish fan." The old adage is as appropriate as ever, and everyone outside of MSG last night was feeling it. There was an unusual, yet perfect, combination of excitement from the night before, and reasonable expectations for the night ahead. That is a great headspace to take Phishing. The absolutely perfect weather and plentitude of tickets for everyone who wanted (to pay for) them didn't hurt, either. The crowds were thick, colorful, and all smiles at the Garden stoop pre-game last night. Lets go inside, shall we?
[Recap courtesy of user @Dmg924, Dave Goldstein.]
Let me let you in on a little bit of my creative process. Generally, when I write a recap such as this, I’ll have the first two introductory paragraphs written in advance; this saves valuable time and allows me to focus on the show details more fully. In anticipation of recapping the July 25, 2017 Phish show, I wrote two paragraphs on Monday detailing the “very good” first weekend of Baker’s Dozen, discussing the doughnut flavor gimmick, and stating how a random Tuesday night in New York City feels like bonus Phish. You know, quaintly setting the stage.
I tossed those two paragraphs out because they’re worthless now; this is being written an hour after the encore. Time will ultimately tell how 7/25/17 rates in the pantheon, but let us not mince any words here. I feel confident stating it is easily the best two set Phish show since 8/12/15 from Philadelphia, easily a Top 10 show of Phish 3.0, and if we’re being as hyperbolic as possible, one of maybe three Phish shows of the past five years that you can credibly discuss in the same breath as 8/31/12 and not be thought of as a hapless fluffer. The doughnut flavor was “JAM FILLED;” it turned out to be little more than an afterthought that the jam in question happened to be raspberry (though to be fair, “Raspberry Beret” was the first song on the p.a. post-show).
[Recap of last night's show is courtesy of Matt Burnham, user @therealburnham.]
It's not a stretch to say that the expectations coming into the Summer of 2017 were a bit mixed. Once the Baker's Dozen shows and the tour were announced, the ruminations immediately began that playing 13 shows in one venue would throw everything off. That the shows leading up to the MSG run would be warm-ups. Tours in 3.0 have had a bit of a lag in getting on track. And although the band can usually find that high gear eventually, sometimes it can take some time to get there. Thankfully, the Northerly Run showed that that they were ready for the challenge. And although those shows were not perfect (and what shows really are?), the highlights seen in the "Everything's Right," "No Men in No Man's Land," "Simple," "Scents and Subtle Sounds," and "Carini" at the very least showed that the band was up for the challenge, and ready to try to hit the ground running.
[The Artist Interview Project was directed by (and this post is written by) Dr. Stephanie Jenkins, Assistant Professor of the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion of Oregon State University, Phish.net user @askesis.]
The latest round of artist interviews, conducted by Philosophy School of Phish students, are available online! Read interviews with your favorite artists from the Phish community about art, philosophy, and music. The most recently featured artists include:
The latest episode of Tom Marshall's Under the Scales podcast features co-editor Phillip Zerbo going behind the scenes of The Phish Companion v3! Tune in with Tom and Phillip to find out how 30 years of Phish history fit into 900 pages @ http://underthescales.com/the-phish-companion/.
[This recap is courtesy of Phish.net contributor, Jeff Goldberg (user @Jeff_Goldberg.]. -charlie]
Every once in a great while, an artist announces an upcoming event or two that triggers an immediate “must see” knee-jerk response from the deepest realms of its fan base. In the world of Phishdom, events like Big Cypress, The Clifford Ball, The Hampton Reunion shows, and the Red Rocks shows are legendary examples of such. The heart-pumping excitement which surged through my music-loving veins when I read that Trey Anastasio was planning on playing three solo acoustic shows in the Northeast reminded me of those aforementioned days of yore: the days when the mere idea of missing such a revered event would cause enough cognitive dissonance that a solid night’s rest would potentially become a challenge until the conundrum had been resolved.
The opportunity to enjoy a rare treat had been presented to the music fans of the world: getting to see Trey play an entire show armed with nothing but his acoustic guitar, his voice, and a few clever tricks up his sleeve.
It was only a few months ago when I was waxing poetic about palm trees swaying placidly over Sleep Train Amphitheater on July 23rd. Phish delivered a complete show that night, a show at which one can throw a proverbial dart with your eyes closed and confidently exclaim "BULLSEYE" before the dart finds its mark – a show that the palm trees seemed to acknowledge with gentle acceptance personified by waving fronds, as they have more important issues to deal with than silly bar games. Far removed from the warm, soft, summer breeze and tropical flora – well, for some at least – mired across the country in a deep freeze, we looked onward at our television and computer screens, margaritas and cervezas firmly, and ironically, coldly, in hand, hoping to be warmed by what Phish might deliver on Sunday. I found myself in the same situation as most of you, looking for warmth via the glow of the screen. The closest thing we have to a palm tree here in Portland, OR is the fluorescent pink and lime green hues of the The Palms Motel sign buried somewhere in the snow in north Portland. ::shudders:: A far cry from Chula Vista, and an even further cry from those running their toes in the sandy beaches in Mexico – beaches adorned with real palm trees. Real sunshine. Real warmth. Suddenly I have the urge to purchase The Palms Motel sign – maybe it'll give me a tan if I stand close enough.
Seeing Phish live in concert is a pinnacle life experience, no matter the show, quite honestly. Nothing beats the in-the-moment energy, enthusiasm, and raw electricity the band and fan symbiotically produce. In fact, as I write this the hairs on my body stand at attention as a wave of electricity flows through them, enough to power that neon The Palms Motel sign for at least six and a half seconds. Enough to get me that much closer to Mexico. But alas, a fool's errand. Because here I am stuck in Portland, OR, where, I kid you not, a state of emergency has been declared because of the snow and ice. No amount of inert gases could've transported me to where I really wanted to be. So, fellow lamenter, I offer you this review with as much diligence, integrity, and warmth that one can offer from their couch with sub-zero temperatures lurking outside; but reader beware: no matter how tall we make our margarita, nor how spicy the enchilada, nothing compares to being there, in that corner of time and space, at a Phish show. But I will do my best to take you there. Better crank up the heater and start mixing that second batch now.
An excerpt of The Phish Companion, 3rd Edition by Noah Cole
On the first night, Friday, the band soundchecked as a few hundred people waded in the ocean in front of the resort. The gates opened and we were greeted by waiters in tuxedos with trays of margaritas and beer and surprisingly decent food – the “all-inclusive” experience might not have included WiFi or room service at many places, but it did include food and drinks in the venue.
It was hot and humid as Phish took the stage, amidst elaborately decorated palm trees (Fish yarn bombs), sand sculptures, and “Page Side Rage Side” temporarily renamed “Page Side Wave Side” due to the proximity to the Caribbean. A predictable – but perfect choice given the setting – “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” opened this first Mexico Phish show, and gave CK5 his first chance to show the extra lights that lit the ocean. Standard versions of “My Soul,” “Martian Monster,” and “Ya Mar” were followed by a sing-along “Halley’s Comet” and “Fuego.”
Early attempts were made at keeping fans out of the water, but eventually there were dozens of fans wading in the waters, so “The Wedge” was an appropriate choice as the band returned to the water motif established at the beginning of the set. “The Wedge” lyrics had been in my head all day, as many of us lazed away the afternoon bobbing on the surface of the warm and wonderful sea.
[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome back guest contributor Matt Burnham for this recap. - lbc]
New Year’s Eve is a strange holiday. It’s an event that holds special significance for many and can indicate a time for rebirth. But mostly it seems like a large to-do which, for the most part, can be a let down. The novelty of staying up until midnight really only holds until you're twelve. And unless you’re married or in a long term relationship, as time ticks closer to midnight, searching the room for that guy or girl you’re looking to meet up with at midnight doesn’t always work out in your favor either. Resolutions on a whole are made that everyone knows aren’t going to make it to Valentine’s Day. The event on a whole can outweigh the meaning behind it. A good way to avoid this, as most of you all probably know, is to go to see live music on New Year’s Eve. Less stress, less mess. For this reviewer, I didn’t get the chance to do this but I was able to couch tour New Year’s Eve, so although there is really no substitute for being there, this is about as close you can get. Plus, as LivePhish loves to indicate, I get to watch it back on demand after the show which seems like a strange selling point but helps in the writing of these reviews.
[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome back guest contributor David Goldstein for this recap. - lbc]
Irrespective of your political affiliation, can we all agree that the two months since Phish last played a rock show have been, to put it neutrally, interesting? This goes double for New York City residents, most of whom are still coming to grips with the fact that Trump Tower, once synonymous with a lousy restaurant for unimaginative tourists, has since been transformed into an impenetrable fortress of intrigue. And in a case of unintended consequences only rivaled by Faith No More inadvertently enabling Limp Bizkit and Korn, Twitter, once used predominantly for celebrity gossip and ranking jambands into tiers, could now be partially responsible for launching a new nuclear arms race. The Chicago Cubs also won the World Series.
What I’m obliquely trying to say here is, more than any time in recent history, GOOD GOD could we all use a Phish show right about now. And few numbers in Phishstory spark the imagination as much as 12/28. Everything is on the table, anything feels possible, and we get to do THIS four nights in a row in a city in which Trey Anastasio can relax in his own bed. Expectations are rightfully though the roof given the stunning quality of the recent four night Las Vegas run, in addition to the fact that night one of the Garden holiday shows has resulted in some goodies in the recent past; in particular the “Little Drummer Boy” inflected “Wolfman’s Brother” from 12/28/12, the monstrous “Tweezer” that occurred forty minutes later, and on 12/28/13, the best version of “Steam” played to that date - a Fishman scream-fest anchoring an otherwise average show. The energy in the city was palpable within a five-block radius of Madison Square Garden; let’s see what the boys have in store.
[Editor's Note: The following is from user swittersdc of the Helping Friendly Podcast.]
We at the Helping Friendly Podcast had the privilege of interviewing Marco Walsh, Board President of The Mockingbird Foundation and a prominent member of the Phish.Net community, who's given countless hours of his time over the years. You can access the interview here.
This interview gave us the chance to talk in depth about the history of the site and the Foundation, while hearing about the incredible work that all the volunteers have done for 20+ years. We touch on the evolution of the website, the community’s relationship with the band, and of course, the Phish Companion. Hey, it's the holidays! Pick one up for a friend or loved one.
Marco also shares memories from his first show, 4.17.92 at the Warfield in San Francisco. We talk a bit about that tour and that show, and we play a few tracks from that night. A great memory for Marco and a good show to revisit.
If you haven’t listened to our podcast, we hope you give it a shot! We regularly combine the music of Phish with interesting guests from in and around the scene. You can find us on iTunes and Twitter. We’re looking forward to many more collaborations with this team.
Also, there's a contest! The Mockingbird Foundation donated one copy of the book as well as a really cool poster. All you have to do is share this post with your friends on Facebook and/or Twitter using #MbirdHFPod, and we'll pick two random winners (one for the book and one for the poster) on Monday, December 5.
#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. We can't think of a better group to embody this sentiment than the Phish community. Today only, every donation made to The Mockingbird Foundation through our Give the Gift of Music fundraising page will receive a thank you gift based on the giving level. There are 10 thank you gifts at varying levels! All donations over $40 receive a copy of The Phish Companion. Here are a few ways you can give the gift of music (see below for the rest!):
The third night of the run, and the penultimate show of Fall tour. It's the night before Halloween and Phish is on a hot streak. Following a pair of well received shows here in Las Vegas, the crowd turned out in high spirits, many dressed in costume, and when Phish came out to spin again, the entire table got paid.
Continuing the trend of previous nights, they opened with another song from 2014's Chilling, Thrilling Halloween set, "The Dogs." The heavy rock sound got the audience moving, and set the stage nicely for an early performance of "Ghost." Trey's newer, thicker, guitar tone met Page's funky keys for a hard, bluesy intro. The jam is patient and compact, peaking and fading out before eleven minutes pass. Play that in the second set, and folks complain about length, but in the first, it's a hot warmup.
[Editor's Note: Please welcome guest recapper Sven Jorgensen, whose brain --running on fumes after days deprived of sleep and oxygen-- is in a time zone that does not exist. -CD.]
IT is impossible to please everyone all the time. But Phish, as an ensemble of elder jambandsmen, seems to please their fans most of the time. And last night's gig at the weirdly intimate, yet 17k capacity, MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas was no exception.
The second night of the four-night Cirque du Phish, that culminates Monday evening in a Halloween extravaganza, could have been a subdued, through-the-motions, crucible of patience, a comparatively vapid night of rest for the band and fans. It was not. It flowned balls.
[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome back guest contributor David Goldstein for this recap. - lbc]
When individuals recap Phish concerts, or any live music experience for that matter, sometimes there’s a tendency to focus on intangibles that don’t necessarily come across on a soundboard recording. Some of these include the weather, size and make of the venue, or even “the energy in the room,” commonly invoked to somehow justify lackluster song selection or poor playing, as in “yeah, I know they played “The Line,” “Number Line,” and “Friday” all in the second set, but you had to experience the energy in the room, maaaan.”
All of which is to say that I happen to be reviewing Phish’s Friday night Las Vegas show from the cozy confines of my living room couch, so intangibles are essentially limited to the quality of the IPAs and salinity of the bottomless bowl of Chex mix I (and two friends) consumed while watching it. The sightlines are courtesy of my 42 inch Samsung in conjunction with Apple TV, I can actually hear the show from the (short!) bathroom line, and the role of Chris Kuroda is relegated to a handheld strobe light / mirror ball hybrid that my two-year old accurately refers to as her “disco party.” This recap will focus entirely on the musical performance itself, which given Las Vegas’s several distractions and detrimental effect on one’s memory, may not be such a bad thing.
[Please join us in welcoming guest recapper Matt Burnham, @TheRealBurnham. -CD]
It's hard to identify where to begin. Phish played the back end of a two night run in Grand Prairie, Texas, last night and anticipation was running high. The band's output this tour has been very high and although Monday's show was a bit disjointed at times, it was still executed well. Additionally, this show would be the final warm-up for the four night Vegas Run starting on the 28th. With what felt like a nervous energy, the band stepped up and delivered a first set that was exemplary.
[Please welcome guest recapper Rob Mitchum, @PhishCrit. -CD]
For most of 3.0, my working theory for understanding Phish has been one of retracing the steps of their history. There’s even a solid nerdy ph- pun for it: “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” the biological hypothesis that developing embryos recreate the evolution of their ancestors. To be a little less pretentious, the idea is that Phish, since their 2009 comeback, had to reenact their 90s climb from cult bar band to giant-venue superstars, like a stroke patient re-learning how to speak. The awkward part was having to go through this rehabilitation in full public view, playing from the start in the arenas, amphitheatres, and festival fields they’d left behind when they called it quits.
Nevertheless, heroically, they got there somewhere between the Tahoe Tweezer and Magnaball, reclaiming their prior role as the big-stage experimenters we knew and loved. The tricky part is what to do next, when the familiar path they were following ran out. Add in the fact that -- artificial ticket scarcity to the contrary -- they are past their commercial peak as concert draws, and the next chapter of Phish becomes even harder to conceive, one of playing to a loyal-as-ever but aging and often smaller audience.
[Editor's Note: Please welcome professional musician Hunter Sholar, user @Guyute1976, who offers this recap of last night’s show. -CD]
I can’t start writing this blog post without giving a little background about myself and how I became a Phish fan. I’m a late bloomer with this band. I went to Northwestern University and was a Horn Performance Major, and I was surrounded by so many talented musicians with eclectic musical tastes. Some of my closest friends, including Drew Hitz (who many of you know), were diehard Phanatics, but during my undergrad years (1995-1999), I didn’t relate to them, somehow. Nope, I waited until the band had broken up, and then fell hook, line and sinker for them in the summer of 2005, and saw my first show on 3/8/2009 at the Hampton Coliseum. I missed the live pre-Phish 3.0 era, but thanks to their immense catalog of live shows, I’ve had plenty of time to do my research and play catch-up.
Wednesday 10/19/2016 marked my 29th show, and it was significant on so many levels – I’ll get to that in a minute. Since seeing my first show, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Trey. I’m a member of The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, where I play the Horn, and I actually met him after one of my symphony concerts at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center a few years ago, just a few blocks away from Ascend Amphitheater. Our mutual friend, Don Hart (composer/arranger who orchestrates Trey’s orchestral music), brought him in while the band was in town recording Wingsuit. Why is this significant, you might ask? Don and his family were attending the Ascend shows, and this was perhaps part of the reason our guys really stepped it up both nights.
[Editor's Note: We welcome Craig Hillwig back for this recap. –CD]
Phish returned to Nashville last night for the first of two shows at the still sparkling-new Ascend Amphitheater, a 6,800 capacity open air venue along the banks of the Cumberland River. That Phish is back in Nashville is wholly unsurprising, given that much of Phish’s 2016 release Big Boat was recorded in several local studios. It also seems to be a popular stop among fans with its combination of authentic southern cuisine and honky tonk night life. Luckily for us, the weather was perfect with ample sunshine, temperatures in the mid-80s, and a comfortable breeze. We settled in at Puckett’s to pre-game with some bourbon, brew and ‘que.
[This recap, like last night's, is also courtesy of dot net user Zach Stearns (@StepIntoTheZeezer).]
Always nice on a second night of a run, having settled in and gained a little more familiarity with the the city, the venue, the lot, etc. Hope the band feels similarly.
I'm pretty sure I've gained 20 pounds since arriving Friday morning, as all I've done in the waking hours is eat and drink. Will night two of tour bring the heat and help me shed some of this newfound weight? This story and more to come.
[This recap is courtesy of Zach Stearns (@StepIntoTheZeezer), a NYC area phan whose girlfriend thinks he would leave her for Trey. Zach loves "Tweezer" and has been told he has nice scruff and a great head of hair. -lbc]
Welcome to fall tour everyone! I'd like to start this off with a PSA to all the people who enjoy talking at shows-any shows: Please don't do that. Go outside. Thank you.
This was my first time to Charleston and things seem pretty great so far. Beautiful scenery, amazing food, so far, and the venue doesn't seem to have a bad seat. Let's take a look at things phishy.
Everyone has lots of questions heading into this run. And by everyone, I mean me. Will there be horns? Will the band make any hints at the Halloween album? How will the new songs that haven't been played yet be received by the crowd? How will "Petrichor" translate live? Will Trey wear expensive clothing? Only one way to find out...
[This guest recap is courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Jenkins, who teaches the "Philosophy School of Phish" and other courses at Oregon State University. Special thanks to Yaron Marcus for his feedback on this recap and for the photos! -charlie]
On the second of three sold-out nights at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Phish springboarded off the energy from night one to deliver an overall excellent show last night. It featured a number of tight, energetic jams, an unexpected opener, and a contender for the best first set of the summer. While the setlist did not contain any bust-outs or heavily-chased songs, Phish laid down a memorable, polished show that highlights the versatility of the band with the perfect balance of beautiful, reflective peaks and dark, sublime rock.
Hey Phish fans! It's me, The Book! Phish takes the stage at LOCKN' this weekend—with a free stream! Psyched? You bet I am! The kind folks who created me at The Mockingbird Foundation and phish.net ran a photo contest to celebrate my birth. Imagine, fans taking pictures of little ol' me! I'm only a little more than two months old, and already it feels like I've been everywhere!
What a summer it has been already! When you think summer—aside from Phish tour—you think the beach! My favorite beach visit this summer was to Morocco! Check out this shot of me from @YomeNetSan, who won third place in the contest! #ReadTheBook! It will save your life!
Today is the 25th anniversary of Amy's Farm! Check out this article from JamBase, Looking Back At Phish’s Amy’s Farm Festival 25 Years Later featuring a reminiscence from our own David "ZZYZX" Steinberg!
Here is the original feature from The Phish Companion 3rd Edition. #ReadTheBook!
My good friend and Mockingbird Foundation board member Elayne sherpa’d me up here in her backpack, and I can’t think of a better place to shout the news about phish.net’s exciting new contest...
[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome guest contributor Pete Hoherd (@FunkyCFunkyDo) for this recap.]
Palm fronds shrugged effortlessly at us on our final approach into the venue. Swaying peacefully, purposefully, their silent grace showed us more life lessons than a year’s worth of living – some years at least. Listen to the silent trees. The dry grass on the rolling hills knew what the trees knew – rhythmically dancing in the same breeze as if they knew no other way of life. The music hadn’t started yet, but the harmony had. It was all around us, on the wind and under water, a subtle, relaxed energy, softly speaking to us. All it took was a moment away from your phone, your beer, even your best friend, to look around and feel that mellow mood unifying. All it took was that moment to know that something special was on the wind this night.
Photo © Derek Gregory
Located upon the shores of Onondaga Lake in Geddes N.Y., Lakeview Amphitheater, an extension of the Empire Expo Center (home to the Great New York State Fair) is situated six miles northeast of Syracuse. Constructed upon a superfund site, the venue, which opened in September of 2015, is wide and expansive (the grounds boast a capacity of 17,500) and affords striking, panoramic views of the water and the surrounding hillsides.
For all its natural beauty, however, the site is subject to scrutiny. The immediate grounds purportedly rest upon somewhere between one- and two-feet of new soil and grass. Unfortunately, hazards abound. Because the land is still undergoing "remediation," concert-goers are advised to avoid not just drinking the water, but to avoid the water, as in, generally. So while it may be okay to go "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley," county officials recommend that fans avoid entering the site’s surrounding bush.
Photo by @raidcehlalred
[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome guest contributor David Goldstein for this recap.]
For individuals of a heady persuasion, the Summer of 1995 was a morass of mixed emotions, to say the least. Uniformly excellent Phish concerts dovetailed with uniformly awful Grateful Dead ones; the now infamous “tour from hell” that culminated in the only possible way it could have. But for the rock starved kids of Connecticut, 1995 was also notable for another type of live music milestone; The Meadows Music Theatre in Hartford was officially open for business. Epic drives to outdoor sheds in New Jersey or Massachusetts were no longer entirely necessary; now Nutmeg State high schoolers had a parking lot of their very own in which to get into Zima-fueled fist fights before Dave Matthews shows. I was 16 years old at the time and felt like I spent every weekend there camped out on the lawn catching up on the classic rock cannon; The Allman Brothers, Santana, Doobies, Steve Miller Band, and every post-Jerry incarnation of The Dead imaginable, including the first Furtherfest, which left me permanently scarred because not only did I watch the entire show next to a hippie mom intent on sharing bowls with her 9-year-old son, but Mickey Hart “rapped” Fire on the Mountain.
[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome friend of the site and taper of many a Phish video,@LazyLightning55 for this recap.]
Last night, Phish made their return to the lovely city of Portland, Maine after a seven year absence, for their seventh show at the arena formerly known as the Cumberland County Civic Center. A small crew of us took in the sounds from dead center on the floor in what'd be the 20th row if there were seats.
“Grind” kicks off the festivities as I’m asked whose birthday it is. Maybe one of Fish’s 12 kids? I don't know. Always nice to hear, though and, of course, impressed to see how high these guys can REALLY count. “Cars Trucks Buses” makes its yearly appearance in a setlist, as Page’s lead gets the crowd grooving. “Blaze On” follows and is solid - Garry now has the sound dialed in, and Trey seems very happy onstage and has fun with it. Next up is “Yarmouth Road,” which whose namesake exists in basically half the towns and streets in New England, so is apropos at any venue northeast of New York City.
Photo © Derek Gregory
By Craig Hillwig
Phish closed out their three-night run at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center with their 20th show at this historic outdoor venue. There are few places as lovely as downtown Saratoga Springs on a summer weekend, with its eclectic mix of boutique shops, gourmet restaurants, and seedy looking motor lodges. And when Phish is in town, the hilarious intermingling of fans with the wedding parties, family reunions and church gatherings that typically frequent this tony Upstate New York vacation spot always makes me wonder why on earth they would ever invite us back.
Ample sunshine and comfortable breezes set the stage for a lazy Sunday, as we rallied for a New Orleans style brunch at Hattie’s with old friends and new. The perfect weather also made for a vibrant lot scene, with fans in high (and, unlike Friday, dry) spirits. We pulled with ease into the Gideon Putnam lot, where more old friends greeted us with open arms and open coolers. Tailgating under the shade of the tall trees, our anticipation grew as regaled each other with lore of legendary Sunday shows of yesteryear. And then came the show.
[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome Mockingbird Foundation Board Member Matt Sexauer for this recap.]
If you weren’t able to make it to Saratoga, were unavailable to couch tour the webcast, or you were way back on the SPAC lawn, here’s the recap of what you missed for Phish’s second outing of their semi-annual 3-night July 4th holiday SPAC run.
The show opened with a well-performed “Crowd Control." Across social media this tune seemed inevitable to open a show and now was the time. Was it because of Fish’s Bernie donuts? Was it due to the slightly delayed start time to help herd the audience into the venue? Either way, excitement was high, as this tune has served as an omen of a raging show in the past. Listen to this version for Trey’s prowess in melodious soloing.
"Divided Sky" - Photo © Derek Gregory
[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome guest contributor Dianna Hank for this recap.]
Last night at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA, Phish decided to show up to their own tour. Now, I’m not saying that there haven’t been good parts of the last 4 shows, it’s just that there hasn’t felt like there was that much cohesiveness between the band members, or flow to setlists. There are certainly things to take away from those shows and jams I will listen to again, but last night was the complete package.
Photo by 215music
Hi, everybody. TPC3 here to tell you how my summer is going.
I will say my biggest milestone of the summer so far is that I was, like, born. It's good to be out of the womb and into the world but the indignity of the pink safety seat was a bit much to abide. Fortunately, I grew up fast.
Image by Patrick Jordan
So you’re publishing a book? What is it?
It’s a bound volume full of pages with words and images and charts. But that’s not important right now.
They still have those?
Believe it or not, something like 300,000 new books go into print and over 2 billion books are sold in the U.S. every year.
Wow, that’s a lot!
Indeed. But if you like Phish, this book is the book for you. Total needle-in-a-haystack scenario.
OK, so seriously, what is it?
The first two editions of The Phish Companion (published in 2000 and 2004) were the best sources of comprehensive information about Phish. “Encyclopedical” was a word that had to be invented and dictionarialized just to describe them.
Anyway, if you’re a fan "of a certain age,” there is a pretty good chance you own one or both editions, or at least have seen one at your friend’s house, quite possibly while “dropping off the kids at the pool.” They were about the size of phone books, filled with setlists, text, and charts, all in tiny black-and-white print. The second one has a sea of bros on the cover. A brocean, if you will.
Today's recap was written by guest blogger and Phish.net user Pete Burgess (@AlbanyYEM)
Tour openers have a certain transformative effect. There are no patterns established yet, no momentum gained or lost, and no acclimation to the normalcy of Phish being on tour. In this rebirth, there is a lightness in letting oneself go from the standards of what has come before and the norms of what one might expect, or perhaps sometimes even feel that one is owed. The joy is in the strangeness. It is a powerful feeling to be swept back into a self that is a little more naïve, a little freer from self-imposed restrictions, and a little more open to that simple joy.
Photo by Rene Huemer via Phish From the Road © Phish
These are my thoughts on the experience of being at this show, but of course a review needs to delve into more than just that aspect. But it is worth bearing in mind as we go through tour with our own analytical tendencies. That said, this was probably the strangest Phish show I’ve been to. From a critical perspective, that strangeness was both positive and negative. The oddness actually worked nicely in this unusual yet slightly understated first set. I have to confess that I did not identify "Pigtail" whatsoever, but the “I’m conscious again” refrain certainly fits the theme of awakening to the possibilities of the new tour.
[Editor's Note, SP] – For the third consecutive year, the phish.net working group has set out to rank the top ten shows of the year (with MSG - but not Mexico - being included as part of the 2015 "year" despite bleeding into 2016). I think we’re past the part where we talk about the merits of ranking shows. We are past that, right? Ok, good!
Just how good was 2015? Summer tour sits alongside fall ‘13, as the consensus choices for best tours of 3.0, (though fall ‘13 was a mere twelve shows, albeit twelve incredibly strong shows). It's been argued that Magnaball is one of the greatest Phish festivals ever… at least the best since IT or, for those of you with 2.0 animus, Big Cypress. Similarly, setting aside fall ‘13, you probably have to go back to summer ‘03 to find a tour as strong as summer ‘15 and, for the 2.0 haters, maybe summer ‘99? Is that even possible? Phish just wrapped up their 32nd year and they're still playing shows that can be mentioned in the same breath as those from their “prime?” Yes, it's a good time to be a Phish fan. Generous numbers of webcasts make it possible for fans to experience growing numbers of shows in real time. The band just wrapped up a dream run on the freaking beach in Mexico. Most importantly, the music is as great as ever. Fellow Phish fans, the state of our union is strong!
And now, we rank. Much like last year, we had a clear top four (and, unlike last year, a unanimous #1). After the top four, things got a little more muddled. All of these shows feature at least one tentpole jam; but it seemed like shows with the strongest jams and best supporting cast in the second set had weakest first sets (and vice-versa). Before we start, though, a word about shows #11-14. MSG4 1/2/16, MPP1 8/15/15, Magna3 8/23/15 and Alpine2 8/9/15 are all stellar shows. In fact, looking back to 2014, it wouldn’t be surprising if each of these shows would have found a home in that year’s top ten. Alas, hard decisions had to be made. So enough with the participation trophies and let’s move onto the Best of 2015...
The brand new Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville had been open less than a week when Phish performed there in early August. Reports were that the venue was very intimate (only 6,800 capacity), had phenomenal acoustics (it was designed primarily as the summer home for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra) and had incredible views of the Nashville skyline and the famous bridges over the Cumberland River. Both the venue and Phish's performance exceeded all expectations.
The first set was well played, but the reason this show made our top ten list is because of the “Mike's Groove” in the second set. Backstage before the show, Trey was reminded of the second jam in “Mike's Song” and asked if he wanted to "break Twitter tonight" by playing it for the first time in 15 years. Trey responded with a smile and said "I'd love to," and the rest is history.
“Mike’s Song” – 8/4/15, Nashville, TN (video via LazyLightning55a)
The stellar “Mike's Song” is followed by one of the better version of “Piper” in 3.0. That was followed by the only “Crosseyed and Painless” of 2015 which segued masterfully into a phenomenal “Weekapaug Groove.” Within the first two minutes this “Weekapaug” featured “Crosseyed” teases, as well as Trey uncharacteristically slowing the whole thing way down while laughing through the lyrics. This laid back dance party eventually gave way to a full blown type II heavy metal section that set the place off. This fourteen-minute version closed with the triumphant return of the “Weekapaug” theme featuring more “Crosseyed” teases and a “Slave” encore to end the show.
Coming 20 years after the famous Mud Island “Tweezer,” this show proved the old Phish adage that you should never miss a weekday show in Tennessee next to a river.
When we are ranking Phish performances, we all have our own criteria for what makes a given show great. My criteria are pretty straightforward. If I was there, it is automatically going to be considered one of the best shows ever! I feel that first sets are just as important as second sets. I like when Phish plays songs that I like. I like when they play those songs really well. I enjoy when they drop unexpected teases in strange new places. I love when they remind me why they are the world’s most accomplished cover band. “Tweezer” and its glorious “Reprise” is the greatest thing that happened in the history of rock and roll. Any “Tweezer”... all the “Tweezers”... and their respective “Reprises” are life-affirming experiences. I really dislike Phish playing shitty bluegrass. Given these ranking criteria, you can better understand my overrating of the 2015 gig at Blossom – I had it as the #2 show of the year on my ballot. However, without this highly subjective grade inflation, the most impactful show of the year (and I wasn’t even there) likely wouldn’t even have made the top ten for 2015, thereby rendering this exercise essentially worthless. Seriously, this show changed the course of history, people!
The opening sequence of “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” through “Roses are Free” is just about as solid a start to a first set as you could expect. “ASIHTOS” is absolutely manhandled by Fishman, Page drops a “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” vibe all over it, and Trey’s solo ties a nice “Slipknot!” on the running rigging. Fishman’s techno-triphammer assault continues through “My Sweet One” which is keyed by some tasty Page funky-tonk. The already high energy level is ramped up into the crunchy flange fest of “Wilson.” Love the tone there, Trey. With “Timber (Jerry)” we are now at four consecutive songs I like that have been played really well. This set is crackling with life so far. I love Ween. I was sad when Ween broke up. This performance of “Roses are Free” though itself fairly pedestrian helped to get the band back together! Thereby making this the most impactful Phish show of the year… regardless of what follows.
It is therefore fitting that the trio of songs that ensue inarguably represent the low point of the show. “Rift” in particular is a total Trey’n wreck, but if you ignore the flubby fingers and concentrate on the sick beats from Fish you will get through it. “Ginseng Sullivan” is a personal nightmare… but over soon enough. Yes, I love this show even though it contains Phish playing a shitty bluegrass song. “Moma Dance” is unfairly but almost universally reviled in certain fan echo chambers. However, this “Moma” is atypically slow and funky with a mild “Tweeprise” flavor. and considering the version that was recently played in Mexico may represent the inflection point in the trajectory of both the song and the first set of this show. “Wingsuit” soars skyward with a patient Floydian fire, “It’s Ice” brings a funky “For The Love of Money” tease, and “Bathtub Gin” has a volcanic peak to send us into halftime with a comfortable lead.
”It’s Ice” – 8/7/15, Cuyahoga Falls, OH (video via Bobby Scharff)
The second set of this show does not let up on the gas, ever. Solid song selection and flow from start to finish. When the mid-set “breather” slot is occupied by “Makisupa Policeman.” you know The Boys took the stage looking to kick some ass. The “Chalk Dust Torture” opener is pumped and jacked and the jam eventually veers down the road to “Paradise City.” With the recent announcement of the Axl and Slash reconciliation, this obviously helped to get the band back together! Thereby making this the most impactful Phish show of the year… regardless of what follows. Naturally, what follows is the best “Tweezer” of the year. Dark, angry, yet melodious. Picture Slipknot playing “Fuck Your Face” while Lexy Panterra twerks in front of the Fountains of Bellagio. Fully satisfied already, the rest of the show is pure gravy. “Lizards” is not perfect… but who cares… it is a treasured gift every time it appears. “Makisupa” reveals that Trey likes to don a cape while he hits the strawberry bubble gum goop he puts in his vape. “Ghost” is another Fishman drum clinic. He is unquestionably the recipient of my 2015 MVP vote. “Harry Hood” goes all Rutherford the Brave’s “Energy Guide” and ignites the smouldering “Tweezer Reprise” set closer. Having flipped the order on a typical “Good Times Bad Times” > “Tweeprise” encore, the “GTBT” proves to be the shreddiest of the two songs on this particular evening, and Fishman once again serves notice that if Page, Plant, and Jones ever want to get the band back together! He is more than capable of taking Bonzo’s throne behind the kit.
M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P!
Beloved Phish shows come in three forms: those that have bustouts, those that have great jams, and those that have antics. The final Dick's show of 2015 started out with the former – the first stand-alone performance of “The Landlady” since 1994. While parts of the song are played in the middle of “Punch You in the Eye,” this is song is a common stats clogger for many – I have received many a complaint to have that song removed from their most commonly played but not seen list – and while the song isn't played well, it served as a sign that this show might not be business as usual.
While the rest of the first set is interesting with an unusual mid set “Seven Below” > “Caspian,” “Saw it Again” randomly popping up in the middle, and a rare “Birdwatcher” towards the end, the second set is where things start to cook. “Down with Disease” goes into a euphoric jam, one of those beautiful jams where a theme gets developed and builds. While nothing else in the set touches that peak, the glory of that moment seemed to infect the rest of the evening. Everything else is played with just a little extra energy. The jams are short, but they’re all joyous, one of these sets that is perfect for a run, or that first nice day of spring.
”Once in a Lifetime” – 9/6/15, Commerce City, CO (video via LazyLightning55a)
Due to a late start and a long set break, Phish were bumping the curfew when the encore started. So when they started up the “Tweezer Reprise,” everyone figured the show was over. However, the band didn’t leave the stage; instead there was an Ooom Pah Pah. “Harpua” is always a fan favorite, but this one was especially fun, one that weaved in and out rare songs (including two that hadn’t been played since the mid-‘90s) and ending with a one time cover of “United We Stand,” as Trey talked about how much he appreciated the scene we have built. When the news started to circulate that this encore was spelling out “THANK YOU,” there was nothing but stunned smiles to be seen.
This isn’t a Phish show for those who prefer the dark psychedelic nights. Rather, this is a concert of the light, one that works to remind us that the world is indeed filled with amazing moments. You’re welcome, Trey. You’re quite welcome.
An obligatory “Sample” opener feels obligatory. “Free” opens up a bit (but only a bit) more than usual, with a chill little jam featuring some great interplay between Mike and Trey. “Simple” includes some fun fills by Trey, and the classic MSG cheer at the skyscraper line and then the short jam morphs into “Back on the Train.” A long discussion between songs leads to “Waiting All Night,” a great song off Fuego, but not exactly a dance party. “555” has some vocal detractors, of which I am sometimes one, but this version brings a little extra in a dark type-I jam. “Roggae” follows, and a raging solo by Trey made this the highlight of the first set. “Dogs” and “46 Days” close out a fun, but completely ordinary first set.
There was a time when a set two opening “Chalk Dust” would be a mere prelude to the real jamming vehicle to follow. But not anymore – what an amazing time to be alive! Interestingly this jam starts out with a descending phrase from Trey that seemed like the tune might end up being a straightforward type-I version, but instead quickly launches into a driving funky jam. Trey latches onto a hunk of melody that is close to but not quite “Third Stone from the Sun.” This is no mere Trey wankfest, though, but a jam where you could listen four times in a row, focusing on each band member, because they were each at the absolute top of their games. The jam progresses through several distinct sections, with Trey’s guitar tone going from porno funk to mutron to distorted hard rock, Page switching from clavinet to piano, and Mike dropping meatballs to the great joy of the 20,000 in the house. Towards the end of the jam, the band heads into a triumphant major key section before following some delay loop noise on a slide into “Ghost.”
This first half of the “Ghost” sandwich is notable only for its short length, leaving the crowd to think “that’s it?” and then “what the heck is this?” as the debut of “Can’t Always Listen” played out. A simple AAB 12 bar blues, with some heartfelt nods to Grateful Dead riffs, “Can’t Always Listen” will hopefully find a happier home in a setlist, as opposed to its slightly jarring debut. The “Ghost” reprise contains some more interesting jamming, and a silky segue into a straightforward but uptempo “Waves.” As the chill spacey “Waves” outro fades out, the opening notes of “Bathtub Gin” take its place. And what a “Gin” – an ecstatic, breathtaking hose jam that nearly reaches Great Went heights. A surprising fourth quarter “Mike’s Song” is next, with only a single jam, yet a good enough one to get the entire arena bouncing, which perhaps led to the unusually placed “Bouncing Around the Room.” At the show I figured on a standard but fun “Weekapaug” to close the set. It certainly starts off that way, but then an uptempo tease then segue into “What’s The Use?” happens. The dynamic range on this “WTU” is just astounding – and for a rock band playing in the world's greatest arena it is otherworldly. The quiet part will give you chills, and the crescendo will blow your mind. I’m so happy to have this song back in regular rotation. The resolution on the final chord and launch back into “Weekapaug” is epic. The “Zero” encore gets a zero from me, but after that second set, they were playing with house money.
”Weekapaug Groove” -> “What’s the Use?” -> “Weekapaug Groove” – 12/30/15, New York, NY (video via Phish)
Given the strength of the second set, why isn't this show ranked higher? First sets matter, and even though I pointed out a couple interesting parts, there is really nothing there to truly recommend. And while the awesome moments in the second set were indeed awesome, they don't quite reach the rarefied air of some of the jams in the shows ranked above this one. But if you love set two and think it was one of the best sets of the year, I won't argue.
Never let it be said that the jaded vets of phish.net are unable to see beyond superficial setlist deficiencies, like the fact that this consistently stellar show opens with a generic "Prince Caspian" and closes with an unremarkable "Character Zero." Forget about it; if that kind of thing bothers you, just hit the skip button and start with song number two, 2015's Rookie of the Year "No Men in No Man's Land." This show doesn't quite hit the peaks of our top four, but there is barely a down moment in the three hours between the Prince sinking below the waves and the inevitable arrival of the Man Mulcahy. It's so consistently productive that one breathless recapper temporarily lost his mind and anointed it the best Phish show since Big Cypress or something.
Comparisons aside, there's a lot to love here. Some members of our panel rejected the glorious, patient, "Manteca"-flavored "Kill Devil Falls" as a true, set-making tent-pole jam, but while it might never achieve the soul-vibrating peak of the Magnaball "Bathtub Gin" or "Tweezerpants," it still spits hot fire for 20 solid minutes. (For my nickel, Jon Fishman can play that "Manteca" beat all damn night.) But whatever, this second set can't stop and won't stop. "KDF" finally yields to 2015's longest and most productive exploration of 2014's Rookie of the Year, "Martian Monster," providing further proof that, when Phish switches instruments, that usually means it's a good show. No flies on the ensuing "Twist," either, which segues into a good, exploratory "Back on the Train" and then into an unusual (and above-average) fourth-quarter "Reba."
“Martian Monster” – 7/31/15, Atlanta, GA (video via LazyLightning55a)
If you want to argue that 2015 was the best year of the band's 3.0 era, the best support for that position would be the return of productive first sets and the high percentage of all-action, no-letup fourth quarters. This raging Friday night in humid north Georgia could be your Exhibit A on both scores. Nobody talks about it anymore in light of the stunning Magnaball and very good MSG versions, but this was the night when the band finally remembered how to chug unself-consciously from the jug of "Bathtub Gin." Never before in 230-some performances had Phish closed a second set with "Gin," and this one brings arena-rock thunder worthy of a vintage "Antelope" or "Bowie." Likewise, the first set's three-hole gives us a wonderful "Ghost" that shreds its way into your heart and closes with a hot old-school "Mike's Groove." Until the band reviews, practices, and nails the charts for the "Mike's Song" second jam in F major that @tweezer is currently preparing, the end of the first set is probably the best place for this warhorse. The "Mike's" intro turns what could have been a tempo battle between Trey and Fish into a hilarious, stop-time quasi-reggae fakeout that is quintessential Phish, and the concluding jam is intense and steamy. Even normally standard tunes like "The Moma Dance" acquit themselves well. It may not have mustered the height quite cracked our top five, but it was as wide as anything we heard from Phish in 2015.
The 7/24/15 Shoreline show is a remarkable and yet curious gig – it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. As was the case with the show ranked immediately below, here was a show that opened with “The Line” and closed with “Character Zero” yet still made the 2015 top ten! Obviously a lot of great music must have happened in the middle, though it didn’t happen early. The first set was plagued by a lack of flow and uninspired play, with nothing to recommend for subsequent listening outside of the “Reba,” and even that is a stretch. Even songs that usually sparkle (“Undermind”) or that were stretched out a bit (“Kill Devil Falls,” “46 Days”) fell flat.
When the band opened the second set with only the second performance of the then-brand new “Blaze On,” there was little hint that the situation would quickly improve. But improve it most certainly did, and in a hurry. After dispensing with the song proper, the jam out of “Blaze On” was pure fire. Trey soared early on with inspired and active leads, with Fishman driving the steam engine. About ten minutes in they returned to the song’s chorus to seemingly signal the end, but instead of wrapping up they tacked on another four minutes of swirling exploration let by Trey and Page, finally setting up “Twist.” Phish was clearly intent on going deep, as they shed the confines of “Twist” early – within four minutes of the opening notes, the song proper was a distant memory. The early part of the jam was edgy with tension, before briefly hinting at the “Twist” theme about nine minutes in. As was the case with “Blaze On,” instead of resolving to the song’s conclusion, Page let the way to major key bliss and sent the jam sailing into delightfully familiar and sunny territory, building to a soaring pinnacle.
”Twist” -> “Light” – 7/24/15, Mountain View, CA (video via Phish)
A solid half hour of glorious improvisation under their belt, this set had already more than wiped clean any disappointment from the first set. But Phish was far from done, as the opening notes of “Light” signified that this thrill ride did not require a pit stop. The “Light” takes a little longer to shine than did “Blaze On” and “Twist,” but by the seven-minute mark they had found their stride, coalescing around the most thrilling jam segment of the show. The collective flow of ideas in this set and the “Light” in particular was seemingly endless. “Joy” doesn’t always flow well in a second set, but it was a perfect interlude in this spot, after the joy ride of the first three songs that stretched over 45 minutes. Plenty of modern day Phish shows have a spectacular third quarter, but then tend to protect the lead and go into cruise control and coast to the end. This performance would definitely not follow that script. Instead, “Harry Hood” put pedal to metal with an invigorating, exploratory 15+ minute sprint to the finish. A completely unnecessary “Cavern” was tacked on, but the blowout win was solidly in hand.
Shoreline was an uneven performance to be sure, but when it contains a power hour of artistic greatness with four legitimate top tier jams in a single set, we can all walk away feeling good. Even with the dead weight of the first set, Shoreline is well-deserving of top-five 2015 status.
It had been a long, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time since Phish had truly rocked our worlds at a festival, in a musical sense. Both Festival 8 in the California desert and Super Ball IX in upstate New York had glorious weather, carefully manicured festival grounds, and infinite delights to pass the time while the band wasn't playing, but the music was not exceptional Phish. And the festival before that was so star-crossed that many fans won't even speak its name. Before this summer, you had to go back to IT in 2003 for a Phish festival that pretty much everyone would agree delivered Phish music at the absolute highest level.
That changed in a hurry on the opening night of Magnaball, and over the course of that weekend the band's tenth festival quickly earned its place on a short list of its very best. The big development of summer 2015 was the resurgence of first sets, and this show almost certainly had the best first set of the year. The "Bathtub Gin" closer seemed like it was about to falter about eight minutes in, only to be served a massive dose of rocket fuel by Jon Fishman, who proceeded to lead the band through the greatest version of that song in over a decade. And "Gin" was just the capstone on a set that was excellent from the get-go. Not just a "Simple" opener, but a "Simple" opener that jammed, pleasantly, melodically, circuitously, making clear the band realized they had all night. Rarities abounded, with "Simple" leading into "The Dogs" and the "TMWSIY" > "Avenu" > "TMWSIY" sequence I am fated never to see live. But the most welcome bustout was only the second instance ever of Mike Gordon's whimsical, fragile, and always welcome "Mock Song." This version sported a special verse calling out Phish festivals past and present, but hopefully that's not a sign that the song will go back on the shelf for another twelve years.
”Bathtub Gin” – 8/21/15, Watkins Glen, NY (video via LazyLightning55a)
The second set is better, as per usual, but not by much. The "Chalk Dust Torture" opener doesn't quite approach the great versions from the song's summer 2014 revival, but it is consistently captivating, first flirting with "Twist" and then (in a recurring theme that weekend) with "What's the Use?" before settling into a garden-variety (i.e., funky, nasty, ass-shaking) "Ghost." Eventually the "Ghost" groove morphed into "Rock and Roll" via a slightly clumsy segue (GSAC 6/29/00 it wasn't), and after throwing down hard "Rock and Roll" dwindled into the signature tom-tom roll that begins "Harry Hood." Does that sound any good? Other than "Waste," which should never be played by anyone, the set is notable for consistent, interesting, exploratory jamming without a down moment. The band even segued one of its newest songs, the incredibly promising Nawlins boogie "No Men in No Man's Land," into one of its oldest, the always-welcome set closing "Slave to the Traffic Light," with its chord progression that conjures the rising sun. A double encore sent the fans back to their tents, or yurts, or luxury condos, happy and sated. They'd need to conserve their energy for the next night's marathon.
One of the great takeaways from 2015 is the return of a creatively vital New Year's Run. Though this annual fixture on the tour calendar has featured ever-more focus on creative and entertaining spectacle, and it's always draped in a feel-good, reunion vibe, musically speaking the shows have tended to be more anticlimactic than exclamatory in 3.0, even as the overall baseline for great shows has gotten more impressive. So it's a great treat to see two shows from the 2015-16 New Year's Run on this top ten list, with the other two shows at least in the top 20 dicussion as well.
12/31/15 was cruising along as a pleasant but low-stakes endeavor when things suddenly shifted gears in the second set. Midway through the set, “Kill Devil Falls” emerged in an extended version. Though sludgy and not terribly interesting, it at least signaled that the band was willing to work outside the box. This bled into a standard but fiery “Piper,” and then a standout “Twist” to close the set. “Twist” offered a head-fake toward wrapping up before stepping back out for some more action; it featured the sort of soaring, simple guitar phrase that Trey put at the center of many memorable jams in 2015.
”No Men in No Man’s Land” > Auld Lang Syne” > “Blaze On” – 12/31/15, New York, NY (video via Phish)
The third set showcased the two most joyous Phish debuts in some time. It opened with a 21-minute “No Man In No Man’s Land,” performed (mostly) at a provisional stage near the back of the floor, and its last ten minutes represent some of the more experimental music Phish has played in a proper set in some time; for several minutes it is a cousin to the “Drive-In Jam” from Magnaball. Following a brisk “Auld Lang Syne,” a standout “Blaze On” marched fans into 2016, with a very active lead guitar part from Trey throughout its upbeat jam. Next came a short “Carini” and a focused “David Bowie” that had a touch of the 1992-era fire, closing out the suite of great music that had begun in the second set with “Kill Devil Falls.” Though bookended with essentially low-calorie material, this impressive chunk of music gives 12/31 a solid place among the year’s top shows.
Five song second set. Nothing bad ever comes from hearing those four words. The five song second set is a statement. It’s the band playing at the top of their game, and knowing it.
The first set is solid, but far from spectacular. However looking back now, there is definite foreshadowing of something special to come in set two – the “Martian Monster” jam in “Free,” a rare extended “Cities,” one of the best jams you’ll ever hear in the middle of “It’s Ice,” and Trey… um… losing his shit during “Character Zero.”
The second set begins with an excellent and rare set-opening “Bathtub Gin” that contains a spectacular flurry of notes through Trey’s favorite toy of 2015, the Mu-Tron envelope filter. If you are familiar with this “Gin,” one can only assume you’ve replayed this moment several hundred times by now. The “No Men in No Man’s Land” that followed is the clear best version of summer 2015, containing three separate peaks. “Twist,” the show’s centerpiece, embodies one of the many ways Phish was different in 2015 compared to 2014. During several sections of the jam, any band member could have ended it. But all four patiently held out for new ideas, and the result is a 20-minute masterpiece that should make every fan’s top jams of 2015 list. “Scents and Subtle Sounds” is played with its proper intro for the first time since 2011’s Super Ball and contains the finest improv in any version since the song’s glory days of 2003-04. To close, a heartfelt type-I “Harry Hood” and old-fashioned “Loving Cup” encore.
”Scents and Subtle Sounds” – 8/12/15, Philadelphia, PA (video via Phish)
For many jaded vets, describing the best Phish sets of the last several years often required a “for 3.0” caveat… until August 12, 2015. The second set from this night requires no such designation, making its way into the record books as one of Phish’s finest sets from any era.
This one was unanimous. It’s rare for Phish fans to uniformly agree on a favorite show, but here we are. Every single one of the phish.net editors who participated in this exercise felt this was the best show of the year and, I’m guessing none of us felt it was particularly close. It’s pretty amazing and maybe even more so, given that the afternoon first set is devoid of anything that warrants a second listen. Harsh? Maybe. But true. And, ultimately irrelevant, as Phish was poised to unleash two of the strongest sets of the year.
The big question with three set shows is, are they going to play two “first sets” or two “second sets”? BITD™, this was never really a concern, but by 2013, it proceeded quickly from concern to trend to norm. Second sets from 7/2/11, 12/31/11, 12/31/12 and even 7/20/13 all failed to distinguish themselves. NYE 2014 reversed the trend but when the set opening “Wolfman’s” and “Halley’s” each stuck to their 3.0 form one couldn’t help but wonder, was this going to be another first set in second set’s clothing? An exploratory, if serene, “46 Days” put those fears to rest. A quick trip down the number line and “Tweezer” effectively announces that there’s no need to worry, we’re deep into second set country. Similar to the “46 Days,” this version starts out almost airy and boundaryless. This is music befitting of the open field in which it is being played. The jam patiently builds to major key bliss before turning spacey and then, oh goddamn it, Trey, seriously? “Prince Caspian”? Now? “Caspian” follows its usual course but then, instead of ending… well, Little Lord Caspian straps on his big boy pants and becomes a man. The cathartic jam that follows could just as easily be called “Tweezer” as “Caspian.” It’s a true mashup… known to many as “Tweezerpants.” It will also be known to many – and rightfully so – as the best jam of summer tour.
”Tweezerpants” – 8/22/15, Watkins Glen, NY (video via notmkdevo)
The gravy set begins with a mood setting (as in “we mean business”) “Meatstick” before shifting gears to “Blaze On.” The new song does not disappoint in this high-profile slot, offering up still more atmospheric, introspective, yet completely engaging improvisation. The end of the “Blaze On” jam actually hints at the storage jamming from four years prior, before smoothly shifting gears into “Possum.” “Cities” is next and features a “Mind Left Body Jam” in addition to its usual funky fare. “Light” provides yet another extended jam and at this point, the only question is whether this is the best or merely the second best show of the year? There’s arguably more to love here than in the exquisite 8/12/15 Mann show, though certainly more filler. I probably come out on the side of “Tweezerpants” and Magnaball, but reasonable minds can differ. But then this happens:
”Drive In Jam” – 8/22/15, Watkins Glen, NY (video via LazyLightning55a)
Game, set, match, Magnaball. Someday we may be brave and/or stupid enough to attempt to rank best shows of all-time. 8/22/15 will be part of that conversation.
Bienvenidos from Mexico!! I have bruises running up and down my arm reflecting the number of times I’ve pinched myself to assure that I’m not dreaming. Phish. In Mexico. On the beach. Surrounded by close friends. This is literally a dream come true. Either that or I’ve died and gone to Phish Heaven. Last year my wife and I came down for Strings & Sol, which was at the time one of the best musical experiences of my life. One of the first things I said to my wife after we settled in was, “Can you imagine what it would be like if Phish did this?!?” In my wildest imagination, I never thought it would happen. But we’re here. It’s not everyday that one can frolic in the turquoise waves in the shadow of Mayan ruins and a few hours later, walk down the beach to see a Phish show.
Typically the purpose of these recaps is to provide an immediate post-show view of the music, both its highlights and low points, allowing those not in attendance a chance to read about what they missed. 95% of the recaps focus on the music alone, with the occasional commentary reserved for the set and setting, or the crowd energy, or the vibe. But these shows are different in that respect. I was asked to recap this show, not because of the number of shows I’ve seen, or my musical background, or my extensive experience reviewing musical performances. No, it’s largely because I’m here, on the ground, in a position to share with people what it’s like to be here, on the beach seeing Phish in Mexico. These Riviera Maya resort shows account for a mere .0016% of all Phish shows, and the setting and vibe take on far more importance than usual.
Photo © @Phish_FTR
So. Much. Anticipation. Phish’s first tropical destination show, the first all-inclusive Phish experience, the first show in Mexico. What would the band have in store to welcome 5000 of their friends to the Mayan Rivera?
Like most Phish experiences, the lead up to the event can be all-consuming with planning and questions – especially when nobody really knows what to expect for a first time event. The discussion on Facebook groups dedicated to connecting the thousands of fans following the lines going south rose to a fever pitch in the days before, as feeds were filled with selfies from smiling faces on flights from every possible point to Cancun. As people landed in the Cancun airport, they were whisked away on charter buses to one of six resorts – two at the host, Barcelo Maya Beach, and four in the surrounding towns.
Photo © Noah Cole
Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road
You asked, they delivered.
[Editor's Note: We welcome back phish.net contributor and musicologist Mike Hamad, who shares his thoughts on the "Modulating Jams of Summer 2015." Below is the last of three parts. Part 1; Part 2. -PZ]
Compound MODs: My Double Wants to Pull Me Down
Four jams this summer modulated twice before calling it quits. I’ve been referring to these jams as double – or compound – MODs. They function by simply combining two of any of the four MODs (III, IV, V and flat-VII) discussed previously. These also happen to be monster jams; technically, they are the four most harmonically adventurous jams of summer 2015.
Table 7 lists the four Compound MOD jams Phish played this summer:
Pathways: the 8/1 “Tweezer” jam was the only compound MOD III-III of the summer, moving from A min (5:52-9:51) > C maj (9:51-23:46) > min > E-flat maj (2:47), which led right into “Waiting All Night” (also in E-flat). Also notable: two simple MOD IIIs stuck together takes you a tritone distance (i.e. A > E-flat) from where you started.
After a long tonicization of F# (vi), the 8/8 “Disease” jam turns into a compound MOD IV-III jam, moving from A maj (4:44-10:46) > D maj (10:46-12:35) > min > F maj (12:35-14:27). This MOD IV is more the blissful type – more like a MOD III in spirit than a “gear-shifter,” as in the 8/22 “Caspian.”
The harmonic trajectory of the 8/12 “Twist” – a compound MOD IV-V jam – is from G min (2:27-6:03) > C maj (6:03-13:06) > G maj (13:06-22:42). It returns, in other words, to its starting key (G), but in a different mode. Several times during the jam, you can hear Mike try to return to the “Twist” motive, with little support from the others. The first MOD IV comes after an aborted tonicization of III; there’s often some searching that goes on before travel plans stick.
Finally, the Magnaball “Chalk Dust” (8/22) is a compound MOD IV-IV jam, one that keeps moving toward the flat-side of the circle of fifths: E min (6:08-7:34) > A maj (7:34-15:14) > D maj (15:14-18:55).
"Tweezer" – 8/1/15, Atlanta, GA
Eight additional jams contain modulations that don’t hit the two-minute mark, usually to set up segues. Table 8 shows how long these MODs stayed there, and where they went. You’ll notice the subsequent songs (“segues into”) are all in the exact keys of these brief MODs. When I examined this group, it became clear that these weren’t true MODs; they’re more like ways of patching set segments together.
You may notice that the famous Nashville “Mike’s Song,” which marked the return of the second jam, didn’t even make it to Table 8. Each of the two separate jams, the first in F# minor and the second in F minor, as structural components; each begins and ends in the same key, without modulation. If one jam began in F# and moved to F, without being segmented by the band, it would be a different story.
Putting it all together
“Tweezer” -> “Caspian” nicely demonstrates two different approaches to the key of C major: the first, a sort of blissful settling-in (the MOD III in “Tweezer”) and the second, a ramping up toward an eventual peak (the MOD IV in “Caspian”). Yet, through it all, C major is C major is C major.
For many, the high point of the summer came at Magnaball during Saturday’s second set, with the 30-minute pairing of “Tweezer” and “Prince Caspian.” Taken as a single entity, “Tweezer” -> “Caspian” could be considered one monster compound MOD jam (III-V-IV, moving from A > C > G > C).
At 7:52 of “Tweezer” – a moment where the jam dips and blisses out (Page’s Rhodes is prominent, along with Trey’s ambient effects) – they modulate from A min > C maj (MOD III). Plenty of dissonance follows, up to around the nine-minute mark. Then, when fully committed to C major, the rest of the jam is all about introducing new chord progressions and staying on an upward dynamic slope. In the final minute Fishman all but drops out, and Trey tonicizes (“makes home”) G major (V in C), and that leads the way to “Caspian.”
4:48 into “Caspian,” Trey and Page start flipping the mode from G maj > min, leading to what many hear as return to “Tweezer” (Charlie Dirksen called this “a ‘Tweezer’ jam in the key of ‘Fuckerpants’”). They jam in G minor for another nearly eight more minutes (4:48-12:20) before a scorching MOD IV into C major–the same C major we heard in “Tweezer,” only different, more fully alive, shifting into high gear the high gear of your soul.
"Tweezer" > "Prince Caspian" – 8/22/15, Watkins Glen, NY
Where do they go?
The reason I started looking into this stuff in the first place: while listening to the 9/6 “Carini” in real-time, I heard a move from E min > A maj (MOD IV) only seventeen seconds into the jam. That’s unusual.
Like others on Twitter at the time, I called “Tweezer” (A min). But that would have been too easy; six minutes (of A major) later, I realized: they aren’t going into “Tweezer.” That’s too much time in A (major or minor), assuming a long “Tweezer” jam would likely follow the song-part.
Which led to a general principle I’ve stumbled onto when segueing out of modulating jams. I call this the “non-jam-song exception”:
Table 9 shows how modulating jams segue into non-jam songs in the same key:
Naturally, there are other exceptions – long, modulating jams that do segue into other jam songs in the same key.
Before we go touting the harmonic adventurousness of the summer 2015 tour, it’s important to remember the 7/13/14 “Chalk Dust,” which went all over the place: E min > D maj > F# min > E-flat > F > D-flat, before landing in B major (for “Light”). If you squish it all together within the space of an octave (and switch every flat to sharp), that’s C#-D-D#-E-F-F#, or the entire chromatic set between C#-F#. They spent time, in other words, in every tonal area in the span of a perfect fourth. That’s craziness. Nothing in 2015 even comes close.
You can – and should – enjoy Phish jams without thinking about or hearing modulations. For me, new keys and modes are like colors changing in front of my eyes. I can’t ignore them. They’re as real as anything else I experience at a show. It’s not something I can shut off.
But I’m happy knowing that very few other bands change keys and modes spontaneously during jams the way Phish does. (The Grateful Dead didn’t.) You can take the methodology I’ve outlined in this article and back it up through 3.0, to 2.0 and 1.0, as a way of measuring how truly exploratory this band was during a given era or tour. It’s a ton of work, but it’s totally worth it.
[Editor's Note: We welcome back phish.net contributor and musicologist Mike Hamad, who shares his thoughts on the "Modulating Jams of Summer 2015." Below is the second of three parts. If you missed it, you may wish to start with part one. Part three will run tomorrow. -PZ]
Modulation Types & Pathways
The 37 modulating jams of summer 2015 fall into five categories. I’ll discuss these in turn, along with common pathways (and exceptions) for getting from point A to point B (and sometimes, to point C). These five categories, and the number of jams they contain, are included in Table 2:
MOD III: The Light is Growing Brighter
Tonal music is based on the diatonic scale, in which two “tonics” (hence “dia-tonic”) – one major and one minor – compete for primacy. As a result, the keys built around those each tonic (B minor and D major, for example) are known as “relatives”; D is the relative major of B, and B is the relative minor of D. This extends enharmonically to any other set of relatives: A min/C maj, E min/G maj, and so on. Relatives share a key signature (two sharps, in the case of B/D) and the majority of their pitches (chromatic pitches, such as G# and A#, are brought in to tonicize B minor, but that’s not important here.)
In B minor, or any key, the chord built on the third degree of the scale (i.e. D major) is known as the mediant. MOD III jams, then, modulate from the tonic key (i.e. B) to the key located a minor third (three half-steps up on the piano keyboard) above it (i.e. D major).
MOD IIIs are close, easy modulations (there’s no change in location on the circle of fifths); the bassist simply chooses D, which already exists as part of the B minor scale, and makes it “home.” The other players simply buy-in with D major melodies and triads.
MOD III moves always progress from minor to major, and therefore they’re filled with a sense of light overcoming darkness, happiness defeating sadness, a feeling of bliss, and so on. MOD III moves, furthermore, frequently happen at a low point in the dynamic trajectory of a jam (in my schematics, I label these “DYN DIP”). The band often rests in the new key while figuring out what to do next.
"Twist" > "Light" – 7/24/15, Mountain View, CA
Table 3 shows the eleven MOD III jams Phish played this summer, including how long they spent in each key:
Pathways: MOD III jams that start in minor keys (“Chalk Dust,” “46 Days,” “Ghost,” “Tweezer”) simply flip over to the other tonic:
E min > G maj (“CDT”)
B min > D maj (“46 Days”)
A min > C maj (“Tweezer,” “Ghost”)
MOD III jams that begin in a major key (“Light,” “Golden Age,” “Piper,” “Blaze On”), however, require a little more work. In every case this summer, major-key jams flipped to the minor mode in the same key (what’s known as “mode-mixture”) before each move was made:
B maj > min > D maj (“Light”)
C# maj > min > E maj (“Blaze On”)
G maj > min > B-flat maj (“Piper”)
C maj > min > E-flat maj (“Golden Age”)
A minor and C major are relatives; they share tons of pitches. Moving from one to the other isn’t dramatic. A major (three sharps) and C major (no sharps), however, actually are sort of distantly removed from each other; going from one to the other, without preparation, is jarring (although the majority of Abbey Road is built on this very relationship).
Some interesting things happened in MOD III jams. The 8/4 “Golden Age” contains a transposed version of its signature bridge progression (“Love, don’t you falter,” or I-IV) into the new key (E-flat major). We heard the “Tweezer” riff in B-flat at the end of the 8/15 “Piper.” After three minutes of jamming in C major, the 8/22 “Ghost” segued into “Rock and Roll” (more on this later).
MOD IV: The High Gear of Your Soul
In any key, scale degree ^4, unlike ^3 or ^5, is a dissonance. And dissonance – in life and in music – usually leads to rapid change.
The chord built on the fourth scale degree, or IV, is often referred to as the subdominant. MOD IV jams modulate from the tonic (home) key (C major, for example) to the major chord built upon the fourth degree of the scale (five half-steps up on the piano keyboard, or F major). This represents a shift one step to the flat-side on the circle of fifths.
Like MOD IIIs, MOD IVs can either mean settling into a blissful resting place (the move from C maj > F maj in the Tahoe Tweezer comes to mind). More often, however, MOD IVs are immediate infusions of energy (as in the 8/22 “Caspian”). There’s occasionally some settling in once MOD IVs arrive, but often not much.
Table 4 lists the twelve MOD IV jams Phish played this summer, including how long they spent in each key:
Pathways: typically, MOD IVs don’t require a pathway. Mode-mixture is unnecessary. One member of the band simply bangs on the fourth scale degree. Because it’s dissonant, the others react pretty quickly. The destinations, at least in 2015, are always major keys (not minor iv).
(Quick aside: “Simple” jams usually begin with band members repeating a I-IV (F to B-flat) chord progression in F major. At 7:18 of the 8/21 “Simple” jam, they spontaneously decide to stop on the B-flat and quit alternating back to F.)
MOD V: Plugging the Distress Tube
The chord built on the fifth scale degree is known as the dominant. In tonal music, the dominant is the least stable place to be; the built-in tension resolves only with the return to the tonic (I) or a move to some other place (VI, or what’s called a deceptive cadence). In the Phish repertoire, “Steam” and “Maze” (each in G minor) are good examples of songs that have extensive jams in the dominant key (D maj/min). We all have felt how tense those jams are, for this and other reasons. When G minor returns in each case, at the end of the jams, it’s a relief.
None of that matters much here; modulations to the dominant key (seven half-steps up or five half-steps down on the piano keyboard), or MOD V, are less common than the other types, and they generally don’t feel all that tense.
Table 5 lists the three MOD V jams Phish played this summer, including how long they spent in each key:
Pathways: each of the three MOD Vs of summer 2015 preserves the mode of its starting key: 7/31 “KDF” moves from C min > G min; 8/7 “Tweezer” moves from A min > E min; 8/22 “Light” moves from B maj > F# maj. The MOD V in the 7/31 “KDF,” one of the longest jams of the summer, feels arbitrary; so does the move to F# maj midway through the Magnaball “Light” (8/22), but at least it demonstrates “Light” can do more than just MOD III.
The 8/7 “Tweezer” is notable because of what happens earlier: “Chalk Dust Torture,” a MOD IV (E min > A maj), gives us a long taste of A-ness long before “Tweezer” arrives. The MOD V “return” back to E min in “Tweezer,” then, feels like a return to the “Chalk Dust” jam. If you reduce the Blossom “CDT” -> “Tweezer” down to keys and modes, it looks like this: E min > A maj/min > E min (or I - IV - I). More than any other pairing of the summer (except, maybe, for the Magnaball “Tweezer” -> “Caspian,” discussed later), the Blossom “CDT” -> “Tweezer” acts like a unified whole.
MOD flat-VII: Now I’m on My Way
A MOD flat-VII move involves a major key jam (A major, for example) that modulates to a major key located one whole-step below (two half-steps down on the piano keyboard, or G) the tonic key.
The MOD flat-VII category has a dual nature. From a major key to another major key, MOD flat-VII represents the biggest tonal leap (two flat-side steps on the circle of fifths) of any of the MODs this summer. The three “Disease” jams (8/2, 8/5 & 9/6) that contain MOD flat-VII moves all go from A major to G major–keys that are (relatively) distant.
A minor key and a major key located a whole step apart, however, such as G minor and F major (7/31 “Twist”), or E minor and D major (8/1 “Carini”), fit right into a diatonic key (I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-viio-I), as ii-I or vi-V, without much effort. These are tonal slots we’re used to hearing.
"Down with Disease" – 9/6/15, Commerce City, CO
Table 6 lists the seven MOD flat-VII jams Phish played this summer, including how much time they spent in each key:
Pathways: Two possible pathways to get to MOD flat-VII include two quick MOD IVs (i.e. D > C > G in the 7/24 “Hood”); a short MOD III > MOD V (G > B-flat > F in the 7/31 “Twist”); or some other, more obscure pathway. Sometimes it’s just about opening up new tonal spaces that aren’t MOD IIIs (via mode-mixture) or MOD IV (though they do that in the 8/23 “Disease”; see above).
MOD flat-VII was the most popular modulation for “Disease” jams this summer (three of them). The 7/24 “Hood” jam, as I mentioned earlier, is an anomaly: a Type I jam song with a four-minute excursion into a (relatively) foreign key (C maj). It’s probably the most harmonically adventurous 3.0 “Hood” since 7/1/14, which spent a significant amount of time in G maj/min (MOD IV). MOD flat-VIIs in two jams on this list, the 8/1 “Carini” and 9/4 “Fuego,” barely cracked the two-minute mark, and are therefore just slightly more than last-minute swerves to segue into other songs, which might explain why a more distant modulation was chosen.
[The third and final part of this series will run here in the phish.net blog tomorrow...]
[Editor's Note: We welcome back phish.net contributor and musicologist Mike Hamad, who shares his thoughts on the "Modulating Jams of Summer 2015." Below is the introduction and part one, of three parts. Parts two and three will run here early next week. -PZ]
Not counting the Magnaball Drive-In Jam, Phish played 513 songs – roughly three days of non-stop music – during the summer 2015 tour, spread across 51 sets and 25 shows in 16 different venues. That’s a lot of music.
A minor subset – 37 songs, clocking in at nearly ten hours – stands out not because of how good it was, but because of what happened during those ten hours: in every case, the band, as a unit, changed keys. In musical/analytical circles, this is known as “modulation.”
Each modulation lasted more than two minutes. It’s an arbitrary amount of time that I chose to distinguish between structural modulations, or key changes, that I felt would unmistakably weaken the music if they weren’t there, and last-minute swerves, to enter new keys and set up subsequent segues to other songs. Anyway, two minutes is a good, round number.
Technically speaking, this group of 37 jams represents the most harmonically adventurous collection of improvisational rock music played by Phish during the summer – the Type II-est of the Type IIs. In this series I’ll discuss the different types of modulation practiced by Phish, the common pathways they use to get where they’re going, and where they ended up on the other side.
In part one, I’ll talk about modulation in a general sense, before getting into the group of 37 jams that meets these conditions. In part two, I’ll lay out the four different types of modulation heard in the summer of 2015, as well as common pathways heard in each category. Finally, in part three, I’ll discuss compound modulations, jams that nearly made the cut, and how Phish treats segues after modulating jams.
What is modulation?
Inclusion on this list has nothing to do with taste (or even “Taste”). Each song/jam meets a single condition: it modulates to a new key for longer than two minutes. Improvisational rock music has many things going for it, and modulation is only one. Obviously it’s possible to enjoy Phish jams without hearing any of these, and that’s because, at its most elemental, Phish music is dance music.
I’ve written about Phish and modulation for phish.net, and also for Lawn Memo’s The Daily Ghost. Improvising rock musicians – arguably all musicians – think in terms of keys (F, G, A, D, etc.) and modes (major, minor, Dorian, Mixolydian, Lydian, Phrygian, pentatonic, and so on). Part of that is physical, and has to do with hand placement on an instrument. Piano players can attest that playing in B minor, for example, feels very different than playing in A minor; the same goes for the guitar and bass. (You may recall Trey’s comment to Phish.net member Andrew Hitz, when they discussed the Mike’s Song second jam in Nashville: “Ooh, I like jamming in F.”)
Modulation isn’t required for a jam to be considered “good” (check out the list of honorable mentions later in this article). But looking across Phish’s enormous output over the years, there’s an argument to be made that a significant percentage of Hall of Fame jams modulate at some point. (A quick scan of Matt Burnham’s HOF poll tells me that six of the seven Tier 1 jams modulate.)
In a general sense, every Phish jam starts out the same way: in a certain key (A, for example, if you’re talking about “Ghost”) and mode (minor; more specifically, the Dorian mode, which employs the raised ^6 scale degree and the flatted ^7 scale degree). Countless “Ghost” jams (7/21/15, for example) begin and end in the same key and mode, without straying, and they’re awesome.
After a while, particularly during longer jams, ears and fingers get tired of being in (and hearing) the same key and mode. Phish often switches modes from major to minor (what’s known as “mode-mixture”) for variety, while remaining in the same key. Mode-mixture is fairly easy, and Trey or Page, because they play chordal instruments, are responsible for this slice of the pie.
Modulation occurs when Mike decides he’s going to make a new tonal center the “tonic,” or “home.” The lowest voice in any musical texture has this power. It’s some sort of physical thing, but it’s true. The other guys can (and very often do) signal that they want to go someplace else, but Mike has to buy in.
Still, I’d argue that modulation is an important part of what makes great Phish jams great. You’ll find many of the most talked-about jams of summer 2015 on this list: Atlanta “Kill Devil Falls”; Blossom “Chalk Dust Torture” -> “Tweezer”; Mann “Twist”; MPP “Twist”; Magnaball “Bathtub Gin,” “Tweezer” -> “Prince Caspian,” and “Blaze On”; Dick’s “CDT” and “Down with Disease,” and so on.
Other beloved 2015 jams are not on the list: Bend “Simple”; Nashville “Stash” and “Mike’s Groove”; Mann “Cities” & “Scents and Subtle Sounds”; MPP “David Bowie,” and so on. I’ll discuss some of these later.
Table 1 lists the modulating jams of summer 2015:
|7/24||Shoreline, CA||“Twist,” “Light,” “Harry Hood”|
|7/29||Grand Prairie, TX||“Chalk Dust Torture”|
|7/31||Atlanta, GA||“Ghost,” “Kill Devil Falls,” “Twist”|
|8/1||Atlanta, GA||“Tweezer,” “Carini”|
|8/2||Tuscaloosa, AL||“Down with Disease”|
|8/4||Nashville, TN||“Golden Age”|
|8/5||Kansas City, MO||“Down with Disease”|
|8/7||Cuyahoga Falls, OH||“Chalk Dust Torture,” “Tweezer”|
|8/8||East Troy, WI||“Down with Disease,” “Light”|
|8/9||East Troy, WI||“Tweezer”|
|8/15||Columbia, MD||“46 Days,” “Piper”|
|8/21||Watkins Glen, NY||“Simple,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” “Ghost”|
|8/22||Watkins Glen, NY||“46 Days,” “Tweezer,” “Prince Caspian,” “Blaze On,” “Light”|
|8/23||Watkins Glen, NY||“Down with Disease”|
|9/4||Commerce City, CO||“Golden Age,” “Fuego”|
|9/5||Commerce City, CO||“Chalk Dust Torture”|
|9/6||Commerce City, CO||“Down with Disease,” “Carini”|
Why these particular songs?
In this group of 37, you’ll notice that there are only seventeen different song titles. Alphabetically, these are: “46 Days” (2 examples), “Bathtub Gin” (1), “Blaze On” (1), “Carini” (2), “Chalk Dust Torture” (4), “Down with Disease” (5), “Fuego” (1), “Ghost” (3), “Golden Age” (2), “Harry Hood” (1), “Kill Devil Falls” (1), “Light” (3), “Piper” (1), “Prince Caspian” (1), “Simple” (1), “Tweezer” (4) and “Twist” (4).
The most exploratory song of summer 2015, if you wish to count them, was “Disease” (five modulating jams), followed by “Chalk Dust,” “Tweezer” and “Twist” (four each); “Light” and “Ghost” (three each); and “Carini” and “Golden Age” (two each).
This group of seventeen contains several different types of songs. Some are open-ended, meaning we don’t expect them to return to any sort of “head,” and are therefore natural choices for exploratory, Type II jams. Among this group: “46 Days” (it’s usually the second jam, though 8/22 only has one jam), “Carini,” “Down with Disease,” “Ghost,” “Golden Age,” “Light,” “Piper,” “Simple,” “Tweezer” and “Twist.” Some of these had typical returns in earlier days, and some still do return to the head; see the 7/25 “Disease”, for example.
Building on what they’ve done with “Chalk Dust Torture” in 3.0, its appearance on this list is no surprise. Prior to 2015, however, Type II “Chalk Dust” jams (7/13/14 or 8/3/14, for example) took off in the middle of the song, without the final chorus, and are therefore labeled “unfinished” by the phish.net setlist gurus. That changed in 2015; every “Chalk Dust” played during the summer was of the finished short: after a short guitar solo, Trey signaled the return of the chorus. Modulatory “CDT” jams, a la 8/31/12, are what you’d call “second jams.”
“Bathtub Gin” typically returns to its C-major head before ending (8/21 is no exception), but I’m also not surprised that at least one version got spun out in 2015 (oh, and WHAT a spinning out that was). “Fuego” sometimes ends formally (see: 7/25), but it also occasionally spins out without modulating (8/11) or spins out with modulation (9/4, and many examples in 2014).
“Blaze On,” a new song in 2015, always concludes before it either spins out (as on 8/22) or does not (7/28 and several others). Two additional songs – 7/31 “Kill Devil Falls” and 8/22 “Prince Caspian” – normally conclude and don’t get that spun out – but these two certainly did.
“Harry Hood” is another story. In 3.0, it’s unusual to hear a “Hood” jam that modulates, but it happened on 7/24, when we heard four minutes (!) of a modulation from D major to C major (flat-VII, from 8:26-12:28).
“Hood” is part of a group of songs typically known in 3.0, with important exceptions, as Type I jam vehicles, along with “Antelope,” “Bowie,” “Stash,” “Mike’s Song,” “Reba,” “Runaway Jim,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Wolfman’s,” “YEM,” and a few others. These are some of the most welcome jam songs in the 3.0 repertoire, and they seldom modulate (although a frequent, welcome occurrence in this group is the appearance of a lengthy tonicization of another key).
Tonicization vs. Modulation
Tonicization occurs when a key area outside the tonic (i.e. the “home” key) is temporarily treated as the tonic. This new area feels like home for a little while, but not for long. Modulation, on the other hand, is deeper and more structural. (Note: all timings are from LivePhish.)
The 7/28 “Antelope,” for example, is a jam that takes place in E minor, with a short tonicization of G major (III) from 4:11-4:42. For roughly 30 seconds, we feel like G major is home, before the bass slips back to E. It’s a good jam, but it doesn’t make this list because it doesn’t technically modulate. The 8/22 “Antelope” tonicizes B major (V) from 4:52-5:39, then G major (III) from 5:40-6:18, for 1.5 total minutes of being displaced from E minor.
Similarly, in the 8/4 “Stash” jam, we hear fifteen seconds of a move from D minor to F major (III, from 6:20-6:34), then fifteen more seconds of an A major (V) tonic (from 6:35-6:50) before Mike re-settles in D minor. The 8/9 “Melt” jam (in C# minor) contains a lot of dissonance and harmonic ambiguity, but it briefly tonicizes B (7:35) and A (8:18). The 8/11 “Bowie” jam (in E minor) tonicizes G major (III) twice (at 5:27 and 6:55), and the 8/16 “Bowie” jam contains extensive tonicizations of A major (IV) at 8:09 and 9:17.
Tonicization frequently happens in jams that also modulate. The 8/1 “Tweezer,” for example, a jam in A minor, contains a brief tonicization of D major (IV) from 8:25-8:46, before the eventual, seismic modulation to C major (III) at 9:51.
Location, location, location…
Not surprisingly, in 2015, the overwhelming majority of modulating jams occurred during second sets, either…
We’ve come to expect harmonic exploration in second sets, in other words, because that’s when usually happens.
Three exceptions: the first-set Ghost on “7/31,” which returned back to its home key (A minor) after a five-minute jam in D major (IV). And Magnaballers were treated to rare, modulating first-set bookends – the “Simple” opener and “Bathtub Gin” set closer – a phenomenon that recalls the latter years of 1.0.
[Look for parts two and three here at the phish.net blog next week...]
Jürgen Fauth’s The Ashakiran Tape is a novel set at Jones Beach in 2009, and the following excerpt opens during the second show of the run, 6/4. After he’s had to deal with hapless noobs, sketchy scenesters, and a yacht full of strung-out tech millionaires, hardboiled lot detective Quentin Pfeiffer is finally trying to enjoy his first shows since Coventry – but the dark events of the previous days are threatening to overshadow the music.
EXCERPT (from Chapter 14)
Of course they played "Drowned."
In The Who’s Quadrophenia, the song marks a desperate moment for mod hero Jimmy — but according to Pete Townshend, it was originally intended as a love song: "I wanna drown in cold water" wasn’t a death wish but an expression of ecstatic abandon. Out of the structured section, an urgent jam exploded, teeter-tottering between stadium rock grandeur and darker undercurrents that lashed the audience like an elemental force, like the rain that came pouring down for most of the show. For a second, Quentin thought he heard the band tease "Jumpin’ Jack Flash" — it’s a gas, gas, gas! — but it dissolved before he could tune into the significance of it.
Walt and Q watched the show together from the taper's section, where it was considered good form to keep the chatter to a minimum as to not ruin the recordings. Q danced carefully, forever worried he’d bump into a 12 foot mic stand or step on someone's MacBook Pro, the situation complicated by the tarps people were using to protect their equipment from the weather.
Phish seemed much more in sync now, but the vibe was ominous. Q figured the band would have to know about the dead body fished out of the bay a stone's throw from the stage, and death hovered over the music all night long — from "Grind," a cheerful a cappella number that changed lyrics every time to count out the actual days the band members had been alive, to "Squirming Coil," "Dirt," and "Ghost." The joyfully silly dance tune "Meatstick" couldn't seem to find its bearings and was played in a wrong key and "You Enjoy Myself" was lacking its usual, blissful nirvana section. Mike Gordon was wearing purple pants, which was neither here nor there — his sartorial choices often left fans befuddled.
The show concluded with another cover, the Velvet Underground's anthem "Rock and Roll," which seemed like an attempt to find salvation in the music: "Her life was saved by rock 'n' roll," the song went, and the crowd dutifully roared at the mention of "a New York station." All Q could think about was the Skipper's horrible swollen face, lying down by the bathrooms, and the cold stare Chuck had given them, but finally the images resolved into the rousing final chorus.
"They'll need some time," Walt said as he packed up his gear after the show, "but they'll get back to where they were, and more. I'm sure of it."
"Searching for a way forward," Q said. "They seem horrified by the idea of repeating themselves, trying to relive past glories and failing. I think that's why Trey ripcords jams. Either it's fresh or he cuts it short."
Some dude wearing Mr. T levels of Mardi Gras beads around his neck had overheard them and sneered. He sang a line from "Time Turns Elastic:" "I'm a submarine, a submarine, sinking beneath the ground," and broke out into drunk giggles.
Walt invited Q over to his hotel for a beer while he tracked the show and got it ready for seeding, but Q declined — he had to get back home.
"How's the little one?"
"She's awesome. It's hard, but I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"Spoken like a real daddy."
"It's a cliché because it's true, man."
Walt nodded. Q didn't know what his story was with kids, and he'd never asked. He’d known some of Walt’s girlfriends over the years, yoga instructors and nutritionists, Waldorf teachers, all of them quite fetching, and some of them had kids now with other men. Their friendship covered more than just the music or the scene, and Q could have easily asked — but he never had, and now it seemed too late, somehow.
"Speaking of which, I gotta check in with Em — "
Walt nodded and bought two beers from a vendor while Q dug out his cell. The battery was on its last legs, but it'd do for one more call. Em picked up on the second ring.
"Quentin Pfeiffer," she said, and the way she used his full name told him everything he needed to know.
"Two house guests are quite enough for me, thank you very much. I’m not running a home for hippie chicks in distress."
"It's only for tonight, I promise. I gotta go, my battery's dying. I’ll head back now, okay?"
After he hung up, Q found himself lingering on Shakedown rather than heading straight for the car. He meandered aimlessly down the main drag and the surrounding lanes, which slowly emptied out of cars — but enough people were still hanging around, drinking beers, enjoying their highs. The mood wasn't euphoric, exactly, but the faces Q saw seemed to know they'd seen a better-than-average show with some profound moments that managed to speak, however imperfectly, to the vibe of the place and time, that addressed the mysteries surrounding the day, the death on the beach, this peculiar moment in Phish history that was, like any other day, cyclic yet utterly unique, never to be repeated in its singular configuration of hopes and dreams, disappointments and possibilities.
Unwilling to let the night end quite yet, searching for something he couldn’t put his finger on, Quentin turned and ambled down Shakedown one more time. From way beyond the far end came the telltale hiss of a tank — someone was selling nitrous. Hippie crack, they called it. The high didn't last, it was terrible for your brain, and a fucking balloon of the stuff was up to what now, $8? The margins were astronomical, and the people selling it were famously profit-driven and somewhat less than invested in the health of the scene. Q hated the stuff, but already clusters of people with moronic grins, some of them holding two or three balloons each, were stumbling his way or slumped out on the ground, like a kid's birthday party gone stupendously wrong.
He found a curb at the edge of the lot to sit down for a moment, closed his eyes, and breathed in the cool air. He attempted to read the moment, feel his way through the remaining crowd to get a sense of the secrets still hiding out, but he couldn't find the right place to do it from — couldn't get time to slow down and stretch, couldn't get a handle on the night.
His phone beeped, not with a message notification but a battery warning: it would be out of power shortly. He flipped it open and dimmed the display to squeeze a few extra minutes out of it and noticed that he did have an unread message after all: a text from Dana.
Q had tried to call her before the show to see if she'd gotten the news and if she was okay, but when she didn't pick up, he’d only left brief voice mail.
Her text read: "Need to talk to you. At the marina. URGENT."
He tried calling, but his phone went dark on the second ring. Quentin Pfeiffer stood by the edge of the emptying parking lot and cursed.
The Ashakiran Tape (HEAD CASES Vol. 1)
From the author of the historical thriller Kino, a "fast, complex, exhilarating roadster ride through history and time" (Frederick Barthelme) comes a gripping psychedelic mystery steeped in sex, drugs, and rock ’n' roll.
When legendary improvisational rock band Phish returns to the stage after a five-year breakup, longtime fan and hardboiled hippie sleuth Quentin Pfeiffer has to be there — even though he is older, wiser, and the father of an adorable baby daughter now.
But not everything is sunshine and rainbows in the freewheeling circus surrounding the band's summer tour: after the millionaire skipper of a drug-drenched luxury yacht goes missing, Q and his crew are drawn into a dangerous intrigue of dreadlocked dames, shady tape collectors, and spun-out wookies chasing after the long-lost recording of a mysterious late-night jam.
Inspired by Raymond Chandler and set during a series of concerts at Long Island's Jones Beach amphitheater, The Ashakiran Tape takes readers deep into the spiraling ecstasy of Phish's epic shows and the seductive underworld of the obsessive fans following them.
Jürgen Fauth’s first Phish show was 4/26/96, New Orleans Jazzfest. He is the author of the novel Kino (Atticus Books, 2012) and Raves (2014), a collection of movie reviews. He has been called “for better or worse, the only person to ever provoke Robert Hunter to write a semiformal explanation of one of his songs” (Jesse Jarnow). Jürgen holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and divides his time between Berlin, Germany, and Dakar, Senegal. You can find him online at jurgenfauth.com, and on Twitter at @muckster.
Phish has announced a three concert run in Mexico's Riviera Maya at the The Barceló Maya resort on January 15-17, 2016. This unique series of three shows on the beach will be sold as part of an all-inclusive resort vacation, with food, drinks, concert tickets and lodging included in the price. Airfare is not included, but transportation to and from the resorts is. A choice of four resorts is available; no concert tickets will be sold outside of the all-inclusive resort packages. There are three and four night packages available, with a variety of rates (ranging from $1349 pp -$3149 pp) depending on occupancy, room size, length of stay and resort. Reduced rates for children are available.
Tickets go on sale September 10th at 11AM EDT and can be purchased only via the web here: http://cidphishrivieramaya.shop.ticketstoday.com.
Just How Good Was the Music at Magnaball?
Before we begin, I want to say upfront that I did not attend Magnaball. Due to other vacations and obligations this summer, I was forced to choose between Magnaball and Dick’s. I chose Dick’s because of the low risk of impacting rain, zero risk of crippling heat and humidity, preference for Colorado over upstate New York, and Dick’s stellar batting average. Along with Star Lake, Dick’s likely has the highest percentage of great shows out of any current venue. As we know now, I may have made a poor choice: Magnaball was blessed with perfect weather, and the band played three shows for the ages.
But were these three shows simply great for an era when the band members are in their fifties? Or, did Magnaball stack up to the great festivals of the 90s? Now, you may be saying to yourself, “How can someone who didn’t attend Magnaball properly rate it?” My response is that is precisely why I’m well-suited to write this. I’m basing this list on the replay value of the music alone – announced sets only – so no Storage Jam, Tower Jam, etc. It has nothing to do with the vibe, weather, traffic, your pimp RV, coming of age moments, or any other factors that can't be captured on the recording. It’s all about how well the music holds up after the festival is long over. Now that we’ve laid the ground rules, let’s run the numbers.
Tiers represent hard borders in the rankings. Shows can be shuffled within a tier with minimal argument. However, moving between tiers requires a much stronger case.
1) Big Cypress
The Meat: I’m not sure what even needs to be said here. 12/31/99 is greatest Phish show ever. You either know this to be true, or you’re tired of hearing it. But how else can it be described? The first set contains a top-two version of “Split,” and that’s just the appetizer. The second set spits out an almost unimaginable collection of Phish’s greatest improvisations ever: 23-minute “Disease,” 31-minute “Rock and Roll,” 21-minute “Crosseyed,” 36-minute “Sand”-> “Quadraphonic Toppling,” 25-minute “Drowned” -> “After Midnight,” 35-minute “Roses Are Free,” and so much more. Any one of those pieces is enough to make a good show great. Now imagine getting all of them, plus several more hours of brilliant music, in one single set.
The Achilles Heel: I guess you can argue that 12/30 was merely spectacular and not the second greatest show that Phish ever played.
X Factors: The 12/31/99 second set went from midnight to sunrise. Enough said.
12/31/99, Big Cypress, FL – Set II, complete.
The Meat: This festival is loaded with replay-worthy riches. Start with the “Ya Mar” and “Birds of a Feather” from the opening set. Move on to the “Disease” and “Waves” in set two. Next, play the perfectly flowing fireball set three. When you’re ready, move on to the greatest “Chalk Dust” ever played and the mesmerizing 30-minute “Ghost” from day two. Then, go back and listen to the whole two days from start to finish to discover so much more.
The Achilles Heel: Perhaps the only flaw of this festival is the final set leaned too heavily on a 39-minute “46 Days.” Take a moment to process that.
X Factors: Mike and Fish were absolute beasts for these shows. Nearly every jam had extra gas coming from the rhythm section. It’s perhaps the pair’s finest festival showing.
8/3/03, Limestone, ME – "Chalk Dust Torture"
The Meat: These three days are stocked with improv-heavy play from the opening “Simple” to the closing “You Enjoy Myself.” Start with the best “Bathtub Gin” in twelve years. Then, take in the glorious “Tweezerpants,” brilliant “Blaze On,” and smoking “Light.” All four jams are among the best of the year, with the “Gin” and “Tweezerpants” ranking among Phish’s finest improvisations in the 3.0 era. In between those tent-pole moments, there’s plenty more to keep your ears happy for days.
The Achilles Heel: If we are being fair, Saturday’s day set and Sunday’s first set are somewhat of a letdown given the level of play around them. The third night, although still great, was a significant drop in quality from the first two.
X Factors: Before anyone complains that I have Magnaball underrated at third, think about this: a 20-year, 200+ show jaded vet just rated a festival in 2015 higher than The Great Went, Lemonwheel, and Clifford Ball. If it wasn't for somewhat weak first sets on days two and three, Magna would have overtaken IT as the best Phish festival that wasn’t Big Cypress. And if we include the "secret" drive-in set, Saturday goes down as one of the greatest single shows in Phish history. That’s an incredible feat for a band in their thirty-third year of existence.
The Meat: If you are not familiar with the music of this festival, you should be. The “AC/DC Bag,” “Drowned,” and “Split Open and Melt” are among the best – if not the best – versions of each song. Then, listen to the “Jibboo,” “Stash,” “Walls of the Cave,” “Twist,” “Down with Disease,” “Chalk Dust,” “Seven Below,” and the “Dickie Scotland” “Piper.” It’s a wealth of thrilling improvisation unlike any Phish festival, other than Big Cypress.
The Achilles Heel: For as great as many of the jams are, much of the music played at Coventry is painful to hear. Just try listening to the “Glide,” the composed section of “Stash,” the “Harry Hood,” or even first half of the “Drowned” – which again is among the best versions ever – you’ll understand the dichotomy when you hear it. This ranking is just about the replay value of the music on the recordings, but it’s near impossible to separate the music from the emotional horror that so many experienced that weekend. The 36-hour traffic jams, being told to turn around and go home, the toxic mud, the fear that Trey’s health was so bad he might not even make it to the end of the shows. And most of all, that this festival would be “the last Phish concerts ever.”
X Factors: To many in the Phish community, giving any praise to Coventry is equivalent to sympathizing with Nazi Germany. It’s understandable. Talk to anyone who was there. We all have horror stories. We all had moments when we broke into tears. But for our purpose here, we are discussing the music. And the compelling music of Coventry is powered with an intense level of emotion that is not part of any other Phish experience. Being able to latch onto what was going on inside the band member’s heads through the sounds coming out of their instruments may still be painful, but it’s also special and in a strange way, magical. We all seek to feel a connection when we listen to Phish, and this is that connection in its darkest and rawest form. If Coventry had been the last Phish shows ever, I might not be able to write what I’m writing now. But knowing the band is now healthy and happy, these two shows offer some of the most intriguing and powerful two days of music for any fan to revist.
8/15/04, Coventry, VT – "Split Open and Melt"
5) The Great Went
The Meat: The Great Went is chock full of magical nuggets of jammy goodness. Your starting point should be the brilliant second set on day two – a set that many fans consider one of the band’s greatest sets ever with its deep “Down with Disease,” soaring “Gin,” funktastic “2001,” and blissful “Harry Hood.” Backing up that pinnacle set are top notch versions of “Theme From the Bottom,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Wolfman’s” -> “Simple” and “Halley’s Comet” -> “Cities.” To many who love the band’s 1997 sound, this is Phish at its finest.
The Achilles Heel: If we are really being honest with ourselves, the first set on day two is below average for the era, and the closing festival set is nearly devoid of jamming in a year known for legendary jams.
X Factors: A “Makisupa” into “Harpua” (that concluded the “Harpua” from The Clifford Ball) is classic Phish and couldn’t have opened the festival better. And have I mentioned the second set on day two?
8/17/97, Limestone, ME – "Bathtub Gin"
The Meat: This mini festival is much maligned, but the truth is there's more interesting play in 7/18/99 than in the entire Clifford Ball and Lemonwheel combined. Don’t believe me? Check out the 22-minute “Gin,” 35-minute “Runaway Jim” -> “Free,” and 25-minute “Piper.” Then, head over to night one for a 20-minute “Tweezer,” 23-minute “Down with Disease,” and a brilliant “Wolfman’s Brother” -> “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” > “Timber Ho” sequence.
The Achilles Heel: Oswego had only five sets, and the play was somewhat inconsistent. Some odd setlist choices definitely hurt the flow compared to festivals with better crafted sets.
X Factors: The third set contains the first “Icculus” in four years, sending off those who had been chasing the rarity quite happy.
7) Clifford Ball
The Meat: This is a magical event filled with tight, confident play. Highlight jams include a monster “Mike’s Song” and a brilliant “Down with Disease” that still holds up today as one of the band’s finest versions.
The Achilles Heel: Unfortunately, the improv highlights end with the “Mike’s” and “Disease.” Yes, there are plenty of tight versions of other songs. But by 1996, Phish had proven they had the ability to do so much more. Compared to the jamming displays of 1994 and 1995, the play from these two nights in Plattsburg was in many ways a step backwards.
X Factors: The Clifford Ball was a spectacular milestone for Phish with some fantastic highlights. If we are allowing other festival factors to be included, this moves up several places. But sadly, outside of a few tracks, the recordings from these shows probably don't do much more than collect dust unless you want to relive your personal memories of being there.
8/16/96, Plattsburgh, NY – "Down with Disease"
The Meat: Although it doesn’t contain the peaks of The Great Went one year earlier or Oswego one year later, there is still plenty to enjoy, especially the sublime “Wedge” > “Reba” > “Gumbo” -> “Sanity” > “Tweezer” segment from the second set of day one.
The Achilles Heel: There is nothing bad in six sets. The problem is there's not much that stands out either, especially for the era. This may be Phish’s most consistent and solid festival. Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of being a little boring to go back and listen to unless you’re reliving the memories of a great time in Limestone, ME. This festival is a classic example of how shows that make for great times in the moment might not make for great recordings years later.
X Factors: If the ambient fourth set on day one counted for this exercise, Lemonwheel would move up a few spots in the rankings.
9) Festival 8
The Meat: The band covered Exile on Main St with a full horn section and backup singers for Halloween. They played a very rare acoustic set with some gorgeous versions of Phish classics. They encored with “Suzy Greenberg” with horns.
The Achilles Heel: See those three sentences above. That’s the end of the highlight reel.
X Factors: If this festival was graded on concert grounds and amenities, it would be number one on the list. I still give it a slight edge over Super Ball IX based on the Exile set and rare acoustic set, both of which I find more fun to listen to than just about anything from Super Ball. However, if you dislike the Rolling Stones, feel free to place Festival 8 last. Also, please seek help to understand why you don’t like the Rolling Stones.
10/31/09, Indio, CA – "Loving Cup"
10) Super Ball IX
The Meat: This festival is filled with tight play, fun setlists, and lots of “micro moments.” If you are seeking out jams, there’s some fun play in the “Golden Age,” “Crosseyed and Painless,” and “Down with Disease” to start. But nothing ever leaves the comfort zone. You’re better off focusing your attention on blistering covers (“Monkey Man,” “No Quarter,” “Roses Are Free,” “Soul Shakedown Party”) or rare Phish originals (“Scents and Subtle Sounds,” “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” > “Fly Famous Mockingbird”).
The Achilles Heel: In seven sets of music, there isn’t a single deep jam to write home about. Everything is a little too "safe."
X Factors: Super Ball proponents should not take this last place ranking as an insult to what was by all accounts a truly spectacular event. As mentioned previously, you can easily bump this festival up a spot if Exile on Main St isn’t your thing. Even a last place Phish festival is still a better time than 99.9% of the other things you could have been doing that weekend. Phish is a great band that has put on ten legendary festivals. One of them had to finish at number ten.
7/2/11, Watkins Glen, NY – "Storage Jam"
If you have your own Phish Festival Power Rankings, we’d love to hear them in the comments below.
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