Friday, October 23, 2009

Tour Opener #4 - Thursday, 09/09/1999 GM Place, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Set 1: Mozambique[1], Axilla > Limb By Limb, Horn, Guyute, Chalk Dust Torture, Back at the Chicken Shack, Stash, I Didn't Know, Character Zero

Set 2: Birds of a Feather, Ha Ha Ha, Ghost, The Inlaw Josie Wales[1], First Tube[1], Tweezer, Bug, You Enjoy Myself, Hello My Baby

Encore: Sample in a Jar, Golgi Apparatus, Tweezer Reprise

[1] Phish debut.

Notes: Mozambique, The Inlaw Josie Wales, and First Tube made their Phish debuts at this show


I think without a doubt, following Halloween '96, the biggest influence over the band's sound came from Trey's solo tour in the spring of 1999. Not only did the last batch of 1.0 songs come from these shows, but the multi-layered soundscapes of 99-00 differed greatly from the funk throw-downs of 97-98, probably in no small part to the fact that Trey had a lot of space to fill on stage with only a bass player and drummer.

Going back to listen to the 2nd set of those first Trey shows really reminds us that there was an extremely prevalent experimental vibe strung throughout the tour. The wide open nature of songs like Sand and Gotta Jibboo presented him with a new opportunity to build something special each night by himself on stage.

Bringing these themes and new compositions back to Phish, a directional change in their sound is almost instantly recognizable as they began their June run. New songs Back on the Train and Bug as well as the instrumentals My Left Toe and much later The Happy Whip and Dung (from the Siket Disc) were all indicative of a slower paced, mellow groove style.

In choosing this show over the June opener, the basic reasoning is that the monster songs from Trey tour had yet to be incorporated into Phish's rotation. While there are some incredible shows from that tour like Atlanta and Oswego, our discussions came to a head and were finalized in that the tour that debuted First Tube, Gotta Jibboo and Sand HAD to take priority. Some of the most memorable moments of 99-00 and beyond sprouted from those songs.

In starting another new song, Mozambique, a song only played on this tour but one that pop's up frequently on Trey Tour, the band was making it clear that there was some new music to be played and that they were toying around with some new musical textures.

I happen to love this song, and other songs from the 8' Fluorescent Tubes gig.

A powerful Axilla (sans ending) drops into a Limb by Limb that had some good length and some interesting improv to it. At this early juncture in the show, it was already slightly apparent that a shift from layered funk to sheer soundscapes had occurred.

Horn and Guyute were both nice first set adventures, Guyute bringing some real darkness to the mix.

Again during Chalkdust, there are moments when it seems that they were going to break away from the song strucuture, but eventually are pulled back in and take a breather with Chicken Shack. As much as I loved the new Trey songs, the inclusion of the blues standard does very little for me.

Closing the set down with pure madness, they launch into an epic Stash that explores some exceptionally dark and rhythmically obscure places. Great version.

In only the 5th performance since 1996, I Didn't Know (with vacuum) provided some great fun before ending with a standout take of Character Zero. In listening to this show for this post, I found myself starting this track over again to make sure i'd heard this correctly. For a song that has recently become a bathroom break for many phans, it was refreshing to hear a top notch version.

The second set opened up with a raging Birds of a Feather, this one showing signs of laying texture over the structure unlike many traditional versions and the comical Fishman tune Ha Ha Ha.

Out of the silence comes the eerie whistle of Ghost bringing us all to a gooey and delicious land of thick beats, bass chunks and mellow improvisation. Having been a product of the funk explosion in early '97, Ghost was primed at this juncture to be a breeding ground for cutting edge jams and exploration.

Treating us to back to back new tunes, Trey debuted The Inlaw Josie Wales on acoustic guitar and then gave us perhaps the best new tune of the Farmhouse era, First Tube.

I'm not sure there are enough words to describe the energy this song brings to every show. Placed all over the set list throughout the years, its an instant lift from a long jam or slow song and can kick start a set or bring down the house as an encore.

Keeping the mood high, they rip into a Tweezer, heavily infused with funk before Trey starts ripping some rock star lines about halfway through the jam.

Giving us all a break for a moment with Bug, the band was swinging back and forth between massive improvisational conquests and tighter composed tunes quickly as we were instantly hit with YEM.

Crescendoing toward a tight, funky jam with an ambient decay in sound that melts into an intricate vocal jam, the band then comes together for Hello My Baby.

Sample in a Jar, Golgi Apparatus, Tweezer Reprise

A great encore of high energy classics topped with perhaps the best way to end a show and leave everyone high on a cloud.

This show was the first of a giant cross nation slog that would take them to some great venues and produce some incredible music.

First Tube, Gotta Jibboo and Sand (debuted on subsequent nights) would go on to become rotation staples, exemplifying and pushing the new sound the band was leaning towards.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to discuss the Japan shows, which also left their mark on the band. Touring in Japan in smaller venues and to large festivals to fans that looked and sounded like nothing the band had previously experienced must have been an eye opening and humbling experience.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tour Opener #3 - 04/04/1994 The Flynn Theatre, Burlington, VT

Set 1: The Divided Sky, Sample in a Jar, Scent of a Mule[1], Maze, Fee > Reba, Horn > It's Ice > Possum

Set 2: Down with Disease[1] > If I Could[1], Buried Alive[2], The Landlady[2], Julius[3], Magilla[4], Split Open and Melt[2], Wolfman's Brother[3] > I Wanna Be Like You[5], The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony[2] > Suzy Greenberg[2]

Encore: Harry Hood, Cavern[6]

[1] Debut.
[2] Giant Country Horns.
[3] Debut; Giant Country Horns.
[4] Giant Country Horns; more of a shuffle beat than usual.
[5] Phish debut; Giant Country Horns.
[6] Old lyrics. Carl Gearhard on trumpet.

Notes: This show, a benefit for The Flynn Theatre, featured many debuts, including Scent of a Mule, If I Could, Wolfman’s Brother, Julius, and the full Down with Disease. I Wanna Be Like You also made its Phish debut. The show kicked off with one a cappella line of My Hometown. Buried Alive through Suzy Greenberg featured The Giant Country Horns: Mike Gallick on baritone sax, Carl “Geerz” Gerhard on trumpet, Dave “The Truth” Grippo on alto sax, Don Glasgo on trombone, Chris Peterman on tenor sax, and Joey Sommerville on trumpet. Cavern, which contained the old, alternate lyrics, also featured Gerhard. Magilla was played slightly differently than most versions, with more of a shuffle beat. Trey updated the crowd throughout the show on the score of the Duke - Arkansas NCAA championship basketball game.


A show that served as a bridge between what was and what would be, sandwiched between perhaps their greatest show up to this point (12/31/93) and a spring and summer of virtuosic performances.

As many tours had begun in these earlier years, we were introduced to new songs, these recorded for Hoist. Most, if not all of these tunes became locked into the regular rotation for years to come.

This period of immense focus and creativity that we were about to embark upon started in their hometown with old friends on stage and off. While new songs these days are often greeted with skepticism and indifference, the audience laps up every last drop. While its not hard to imagine instantly falling in love with Disease or Wolfman's, this show reminds us of a time when all of the new music was fully appreciated and eagerly accepted.

Kicking off with an a capella line then Divided Sky, the band immediately jumps headfirst into one of their harder compositions. Followed by one of the only Hoist songs known to fans before the album's release, Sample in a Jar keeps the energy high.

One thing that is already apparent, and continues throughout the show is the pace at which they continue to fire off song after song. While today's shows often have the vibe of a well paced excursion, shows during this period exhibited rapid fire release of songs before the previous song had fully finished.

These set-lists were tightly composed novellas, stringing a new story together night after night.

The first debut of the night came with Scent of a Mule, a quirky tale with dueling solos that has launched more than a few incredible moments of music throughout the years.

Out of the smoke of Mule, the frenetic beat of Maze rises to our ears. Tinged with arabian themes, this version is straight ahead fire.

Again, without taking a moment to breathe, the bass drum kicks of Fee begin our tale of the weasel. One of those songs that never gets old and is never out of place in any set, the end of this one dissolves to one of my favorite Reba's.

Maybe the very hardest of Trey's compositions (sorry Guyute), Reba was already a fan favorite and jam monster by this point. Immediately upon landing in the jam section, we are taken on a short ride out of the song structure before returning to familar territory and even given a treat during the bag it tag it reprise with improv whistling. An incredibly fun version all around that deserves a slot in the discussion of great Reba's.

A beautifully executed Horn precedes a blistering It's Ice, complete with some really interesting jamming in the middle section. This is one of those sections that doesn't really get drawn out too far anymore that has always held some absolutely incredible potential.

Continuing the trend of taking the music out of the song structure in Possum, we were treated to some playful interludes after its raucous beginning, and before its glorious peak and ending.

Though a tight set with many great moments, the 2nd set debuts would come to dominate this show.

Lacking the spacey ambient intro that would come to signify Down With Disease (or confuse it with another!), the band ripped straight into this now classic tune for the first time after giving us the "peak" at the stroke of midnight during new years so Mike could get footage for the music video.

A rendition that pretty much stuck to the album version, albeit with a slightly extended jam, faded into another new one, If I Could. This tender tune is one that really sticks out on the album, but mostly doesn't do it for me live (see Jones Beach 09). However, on this first take in front of a live audience they nail it.

Buried Alive, The Landlady

Then came the Giant Country Horns, a welcome addition to any show, and the whole crew proceeded to spit fire through these well known tunes. Though the Landlady would be swallowed by PYITE for good shortly, that big band/jazz quality of the tune that i think was lost during the incorporation is something that i hope we get to see again, whether on this song or another.

Breaking out another new song, Julius, the band locks in with the horns and delivers a stellar debut.

Magilla, Split Open and Melt

A slightly revised Magilla came before a fantastic Melt. I love this song with horns. It adds a dimension that we rarely appreciate since for the most part we dive headfirst into some mind numbing "fill the hole" jamming with this song.

Upon dropping their first Wolfman's we can see the very beginnings of funk infused, groove jams. This song was made for it. As well, another great song for horns, I continue to come back to this version time and time again.

After Fishman's glorious rendition of I Wanna Be Like You, yet ANOTHER debut, the band gets back in place for OKP>Suzy. Maybe the best known "combo" of theirs (eh...probably Mike's Groove actually), i guess let's call it a reliable combo, this evening's version does not disappoint.

Hot page solo and of course, the horns.

For the encore, the band treats us to a powerful, if shortish Hood and a Cavern with the older lyrics.

As mentioned earlier, this show followed a pattern of many tour openers of the early years of new debuts, some favorites sprinkled in and here we got the HORNS.

The band continued to tour almost non stop through July familiarizing themselves and the fans with the new songs and bringing the music to a new high. Countless "best of" versions of songs like Stash, DWD, Wolfman's, Maze and Tweezer would be dropped in the coming months.

Legendary shows such as the Beacon Run, the Fox, the Warfield, Red Rocks, and of course, Sugarbush can all trace their beginnings to the Flynn.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tour Opener #2 - February 13th, 2007 London, England

Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Wolfman's Brother, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Stash, Walfredo[1], Taste, Waste, Poor Heart, Character Zero, Peaches en Regalia, Love Me[2], David Bowie

Set 2: Julius, Cars Trucks Buses, My Soul[2], Punch You In the Eye, Slave to the Traffic Light, When the Circus Comes[2], Maze > Rock A William[1], Harry Hood, Frankenstein

Encore: Prince Caspian, Johnny B. Goode

[1] Debut.
[2] Phish debut.

Notes: The European tour opener featured the debuts of and Rock A William and the Phish debuts of Love Me, My Soul, and When the Circus Comes.

Setlist from


Following Halloween in 1996, late fall and new years tours had featured a new emphasis on percussive improvisation that was paying immediate dividends, taking jams in entirely new directions. But no one was prepared for what the next year would bring.

In a stroke of genius, the band heads to Europe soon after their monstrous NYE run for their first headlining tour on the continent. Quickly we learned that these new surroundings would be a launchpad for creativity.

While its clear that many phans made the cross ocean journey, on tape the venues sound pleasantly spacious and the band's sound is raw in a fashion that can't be had in larger coliseums and amphitheaters.

As has been noted in many histories of the band, since the very beginning they have been dedicated to constantly improving their sound and their gear. These Europe shows almost have a sense of deconstruction to them, giving a meatier sound with more depth than the hollow caverns of large venues allow.

The first set of their first intercontinental headliner starts screamin' HOT with Chalkdust, the trusty opener. Tons of energy and a nice Trey solo.

After a short but disgustingly funky Wolfman's, we get our first mini taste of '97 funk. Placed earlier in the show than in later years, 2001 features a short ambient intro, tight funk grooving and a nice extended middle section. Though shorter than many 2001's we would come to know and love this fit perfectly into the flow of the set and kept the already high level of energy going strong.

Straight out of peak of 2001 we land nicely in a powerful version of Stash. The audience is coming through loud and clear on this one and you can really get a feel for how small these venues were compared to what we were used to. After some cool outer realm exploration, Trey brings us back to reality and introduces a new song, Walfredo. Though only played on this tour with one other bust out appearance at Vegas 2000, this is one of a handful of songs written by the entire band together. To top it off, the band also rotates instruments.

A wicked version of Taste mellows into a reflective Waste. I love that either direction.

Poor Heart, Character Zero, Peaches en Regalia, Love Me

Fairy standard versions of classic first set numbers preceded the Phish debut of Love Me (Treat Me Like A Fool), a doo-wop-ey tune, before the familiar clang of the high-hat brought us Bowie.

Always showing up in meaningful shows, this Bowie delivers like many others. We're taken on a few twists and turns before the song peaks flawlessly.

All in all, a nice set. No major signals yet, but its clear that they came to play hard.

Julius, Cars Trucks Buses, My Soul

Always love a Julius opener and this was a great CTB. The debut of My Soul was OK. I'm not a big fan of this song that featured prominently over the last few years of 1.0.

Then they dropped PYITE with a fairly extended opening sequence which led to one of the key moments of this show as it would be a harbinger of what was headed our way.

Seemingly over, the last sounds of PYITE begin to form into an sea of cascading sounds and we have a dark, brooding jam out of nothing. This music was extremely patient.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of a new direction for the band, this was when we began to realize that any tune was ripe for improv at any point.

While unfinished versions of songs like Stash and Fluffhead and extended jams from Tube and Fee are all possible now, this was pretty new at the time.

Literally melting into Slave, we we're treated to a rare mid-set soaring rendition of this classic. Bringing the energy down a little, we were given another debut, a cover which became a late 90's staple When the Circus Comes to Town. Maybe lacking the power of emotion found in later years, this was a well timed break as we geared up for Maze.

Maze is another song that benefited greatly from more percussive playing. Over the next couple of years, this song would be explored to its heights (notably the version on Bittersweet Motel), and this version teased at the possibilities.

Another instrument switch brought us Rock a William, another debut of a Phish penned tune. Though another song that had disappeared from the rotation by the end of '97, the exercise of writing these songs together clearly provided a benefit in terms of communication and ear training.

Once everyone resumed their places, the descending tom beats of Hood filled the room. Always a crowd pleaser, this version was roaring from the start and the beautiful melodies and harmonies of this well orchestrated improv lead us wonderfully higher and higher until we reach the crescendo of the show. And we DO feel good!

A scorching Frankenstein closes the set down. Before leaving, a singing Capsian and the rock and roll standard Johnny B. Goode (played four times on this tour), sent us home.

Following more of a typical pattern for tour opening shows, this one flies under the radar for the most part. Lots of debuts and some inspired jamming, but we all know they were just getting their feet wet.

I think the best thing to take away from this show is the level of creativity and willingness to try anything that permeated the band during this time and was clearly on display.

As the tour progressed we would hear some of the most amazing music our ears ever came upon and one show in particular (3.1.97) that would be shrouded in immortality.

The music created during this Euro Tour was maybe the most powerful display of virtuosity and mastery over their craft that could have ever been imagined and blew new life into music already loved and adored so much.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tour Opener #1 - September 8th, 2000 Albany, NY

Set 1: Mellow Mood, Limb By Limb, Ghost, Bouncing Around the Room, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Saw It Again, NICU, Glide, Axilla, Taste, Golgi Apparatus

Set 2: Birds of a Feather, Windora Bug, David Bowie, Back at the Chicken Shack, Bathtub Gin > Jam > Character Zero

Encore: Fire

Download Link

When we think of shows that NEED to make a statement, there are only a handful of shows that come to mind and this is maybe the most memorable.

Perhaps it was just all of being in the right place at the right time, but it seemed as though this entire Fall Tour consumed my life and those around me for its duration. There was class, work, family, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends but through it all, the only thing that mattered was checking the set-lists and trying to get our hands on AUD's through the rudimentary systems setup on the internet at the time.

Before everyone was carrying cell phones and Twittering set-lists, we needed to wait for our friends to leave the show and get home before calling us with their updates.

For all of us, we were waiting to find out how the band was going to approach this last tour.

And our answer came immediately: Mellow Mood. This song captured the moment with such certainty that any doubts that were lingering breezed away. Phish was back on tour, and we should be enjoying it.

Both the title and the lyrics to this old school Marley classic were perfectly placed. Phish was relaxed, they were ready to "play our favorite song" (all of them) and instructed us to "strike the hammer while iron is hot." For me, this was a directive to take advantage of what we're giving you because we're going to leave it all out here and once we step off the stage, we might never come back.

Side Note: This is a moral of seeing Phish that i've taken to heart in 3.0. Think about it for a moment. Each and every night that these guys step off the stage COULD be the last show they ever play and we need to savor it.

The rest of the first set, though light on improv, was a career spanning who's who of standalone cuts. No song, no era was going to be left out on this tour.

Limb by Limb warmed everyone up before oozing into a terrific Ghost. Bouncin' and Horse>Silent led to an energizing Saw it Again before the highlight of the first set for me.

NICU, Glide, Axilla, Taste, Golgi

Moving backwards and forwards through their repertoire, they blazed through these five songs. Though no version of these tunes stands out particularly, all were well played and provided great energy to the crowd.

The real question of the evening had yet to be are the jams gonna be?

A fairly standard Birds they debuted Windora Bug, a forgettable tune from this last tour. Then it got nuts.

This particular Bowie always stands out in my memory. Maybe its my love of this venue, but this is when the HEAT started in this show. There's always that moment in a tour opening show when you can feel the tension release and in my opinion this is where it happened.

After a quick Chicken Shack, the evening's highlight of Bathtub>Character Zero was dropped on us like a megaton bomb, vacuum and all. Really take a listen to this if you haven't heard it, great melodies and lots of fun.

With one last burst of energy, an encore of Fire closed down this evening with perfection.

We heard jams, we heard well timed covers and we heard from a wide variety of the band's repertoire.

The band was practiced and was ready to dust off some oldies, they hadn't lost their touch for amazing improvisation and they were ready to tour across the nation lighting each venue on "fire" as they left.

It wasn't the best set-list, but it was a well composed one and as with any good tour opener, we were left wanting for more.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Discussing Shows w/ @phishshowaday on twitter

Our good friend @phishshowaday on Twitter will be exploring tour opening shows next week and each suggestion will be accompanied by our own thoughts on the show and what it meant for that tour.

As the show most likely to be scripted with little nods to the past and future, tour openers have always held slightly more intrigue than other shows and set the tone for the coming week(s).

As always, if you have any suggestions, please let us know by emailing us at

Fall Tour

And there we have it. A decent sized east coast tour of arenas big and small. The first trip back to MSG since '02 and only the second time since NYE '98. An historic rock venue on its last legs (Cobo) and a tour ending trip to a new southern venue.

Though summer likely busted my wallet for a full tour, I hope to be able to personally visit at least four of these venues (fingers crossed for lottery!).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Shocked and Persuaded

"So much better I said to myself
And drawing quite close to the top of the shelf
I struggled with destiny upon the ledge
And gasped when defeated he slipped off the edge
And silence contagious in moments like these
Consumed me and strengthened my will to appease
The passion that sparked me one terrible night
And shocked and persuaded my soul to ignite..." - Tom Marshall & Trey Anastasio, "Rift"

How many times have I heard these lyrics? Yet while driving to work today I was reminded once again that no matter where I seem to be in life, I've been perfectly willing to drop anything and rearrange everything for a couple of hours of music, a few nights in a row, anywhere in the world.

With each tour announcement or rumor thereof, it's as if my body gets an electrical "shock" that fires up all of my tour instincts. Where are the shows? How are we gonna get there? Where are we staying? At the moment i feel like i'm waiting for this electrical pulse to hit for fall tour.

A feeling not felt since 04, when in reality i'd already lost a lot of "the feeling," was persuaded to re-emerge last September with the Hampton announcement. Since then, i've been almost giddy, with each show i've seen adding to the need to see more.

This year, my soul has literally been shocked and persuaded to ignite in a way that i wasn't sure would happen again. I'm listening to old shows with a new ear, finding golden moments that i'd never heard before in shows from '93 to '04 and waiting on the edge of my seat for more.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 6 & 7 2000, Shoreline

There are only three times in my phistory that i have ever been truly devastated at missing a show, and they all happened in just over a year:

1. Oswego '99 - thanks to EG's crush on a girl who shall not be named my entire crew blew their money on Woodstock that year. They all had a terrible time, came back fighting and many did not speak to each other ever again. I stayed home and enjoyed some Sophie Parker.

2. Big Cypress - continuing my year of phestival disappointments, everyone from my parents to my girlfriend to the girl that shall not be named conspired to make it impossible for EG and I to drive down and experience this one live.

3. Shoreline 2000 - at the time, i truly did not believe that they would play again. As many have noted, at this point they were merely going through the motions. There were so many reasons to go to these shows, but EG and I just couldn't make it happen. Before streaming video, before instant downloads and before movie theater simulcasts we just sat and hit refresh on for two days as the setlists came song by song.

Musically, these shows were mediocre. But to be there for the last notes ever played would have been epic and special. At the height of my pre-professional phandom, only missing out on these shows could have thrown me into the fit of depression and wallow that ensued after Merriweather that year.

Unlike the train wreck that was Coventry, these shows were a happy ending to nearly 20 years of incredible music in a serene setting near the birthplace of improvisational rock and roll.

And i'm still sad to have missed it.