By Jambase Correspondant Mister Minor
9/22/00 - Allstate Center, Chicago, IL
Tonight Phish returned to Chicago, a city with quite an illustrious history when it comes to Phish. From the Tinley Park Antelope in 93 to the, Peaches>MindLeftBody>Bowie at UIC in 94, to the epic Halloween show at the Rosemont Horizon in 1995 featuring the band covering the Who's Quadrophenia, to the epic three night UIC run in 1998 featuring three of the best shows of tour, to last years return to the newly renamed Allstate Arena featuring a big Twist and a Bowie in the second set. This year was poised for greatness, as once again Phish honored the Midwest mecca with a multiple night stand, as one of only four on the tour. What was to come, who knew? And that is the beauty of it all…sooo, lets go to the video tape……
The first set opened with a long and expansive Down With Disease, which brought hints of many stellar versions that have preceded it in this past year. This opening jam of the show extended far beyond conventional realms as its rhythmic exploration climaxed in an entire "back into Disease" part of the jam. A True highlight right off the bat, giving the same effect as last falls MCI Center similar opener. A rare appearance of the thick funk ridden Meat emerged out of the end of the Disease, and in one of the later breaks of the song they dropped right into the opening country twangs of Poor Heart. The country bumkinier types skipped along to the high paced rhythm chops, as before long the end of the ditty wrapped up and dropped into the opening chords of Wilson. This served as some hard and aggressive release from the tame duo that came before it. Following the Wilson, the band stopped briefly and slowly began the ours first Slave, whose slow progressive jam built to many climaxes as the patient jam grew collectively from the mellow and shimmery opening to the ripping and exhalting ending. This Slave really stood out as an amazing gem in the first set, and the rare mid set placement of the epic jam provided a disorienting factor to this first set which seemed to be growing larger than its first set counterparts. The next set highlight was the Bathtub Gin whose multiple themes layered on top of each other combined to form a dizzying climax that brought the set to an extremely high point with its extended improvisation. A Heavy Things followed providing some melodic buffer zone before the set ended with a groove-based exploration of YEM (which featured heavy work from Gordon) as Trey wove in and out with rhythm licks and lead lines that completed the parts to the puzzle. This first set, strewn with large jams and highlights, was probably the best first set of the tour thus far, and clocked in at around 90 minutes, due to mostly the Disease, Slave, Gin, and Yem. The ragingest first set of tour set up a climactic second set of the first night in Chicago, with Tweezer vibrations looming heavy, people were ready for what was to come.
The indoor venue provided a change of scenery at setbreak, as the Rosemont security/police force patrolled the floor regimentally as to maintain order and a clear floor with ample dancing room, very uncommon of the generally overpacked GA floors on Phish tour. The indoor intensity was felt as during setbreak things were a bit harrier than normal in the confined arena rather than the outdoor setting of the recent amphitheaters.
As the lights dropped, anticipation grew as the band stepped on stage and prepared for a while before beginning the set, heightening tension in a playful fashion. All of a sudden an asteroid crashed and the venue bumped up and down to the raunchy funk of Tube. This section of improv featured a long portion of Trey on keys in which he first set tonal colors and loops and then progressed to setting in some nice rhythm grooves a la recent Sands. This Tube, quite extended, brought Trey back onto the 'doc for some ripping licks before the band collectively turned back into the songs heavy blues rock section, concluding the opening dance session of the set. The band quickly ignored any Tweezer premonitions and dropped into the beginning composed section of Reba. The composed section moved along quickly until the band settled into the Reba groove which built from the get go in the most classic form and extending well into the set with melodic and wave-based improvisation that saw Trey go off into a moving and awing solo that directed the band through the transcendent grooves. Bringing echoes of the beautiful classic sounding Chicago Reba from UIC 11/7/98, the set continued with hints of that UIC show with the dropping of the tour's second Ghost. (11/7/98 Bag>Ghost, Reba, Farmhouse) This Ghost, as opposed to its UIC 98 funk exploration, grew primarily in raging and aggressive form with a Trey playing wailing and screaming lines over the band ever creeping groove which continued to build in both tempo and intensity through the jam until the band released the peak of the Ghost into the opening beats of the Wedge. The Wedge provided some syncopated island rhythms to the set and giving some rest space for the band while maintaining the dancy quality of the set. Trey decided to play the mellow Los Lobos cover of Circus, as the band methodically moved through the chill cover song. The first appearance of the Meatstick came next, bringing the reggae laced funk into the mix, as the band decided to once again revisite the On Air East in Tokyo, singing the Japanese lyrics to the song in their rendition, much to the delight of the giddy crowd. Once Meatstick ended , the Antelope intro commenced, laced throughout with Meatstick melodies by Trey, as the energy of the crowd grew with these teases of the previous anthem. The venue exploded with energy as the Antelope jam commenced in a groovier more spacious fashion than its typical driving self, and this led the jam into a less aggressive Antelope jam laced with some lighter grooves yet still containing a serious climax. Varying from its recent predecessors this tour, this Antelope gave a fresh feel to the jam, and ended the set with a real exclamation point as the band was clearly psyched to be back in Chi-Town! An encore of Bold as Love with a punctuated and extended guitar solo in the ending portion of the song, ended the night splendidly as the first night of Rosemont certainly lived up to its hype, as Phish invaded the Midwest with force greeting many Mid-western heads with a great show as they hopped on tour. Get ready for some continued intensity over the next two nights as the Phish continue with this falls rare indoor shows. Its all getting crazier, get here soooooon……….Minor
9/17/00 - Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
Merriweather Post Pavilion is a venue with a storied past, a past which Phish slipped into in low key fashion back in 1992 when they opened for Santana. In their first headlining gig in the summer of 1998, they greeted the crowd with a standout first set Sneaking Salley and an amazingly high paced and blown out Piper which highlighted the second set. Phish also closed the show with the Beastie Boys cover of Sabotage in their barrage of covers that summer. The 1999 edition of Merriweather brought a great second set which opened with the beefy combo of Punch>Free and closed with an exploratory and intricate Mike's song which segued into Twist for the first time ever and ended in a Macarena laced Weekapaug. That was then, this is now.
The band came onto the deeply inset stage to the not so excitable combo of Guyute and Get Back On the Train. The first appearance of the latter brought big cheers from the mid-adlantic folk. The set then picked up with the opening chords of Bathtub Gin whose musical path progressed in a way where the band began a slow loafing groove in which Trey would alternately take part in and speed up with s quicker skippier rhythm lick reminiscent of many Gin licks of the past. This Gin provided the highlight of the first set with its happy and building dance grooves. Mike anchored the jam with creative, melodic and thumping bass lines as has become his role in most recent jams. The solid combo of Limb and Moma Dance provided a contrast in styles before the loungy Lawn Boy set the table for what would be a late set Fluffhead. This instant crowd juicer did just that, as the band moved through a well played version of the song which didn't really depart from form at any point. This dip into the annals of Phish songs brought out some further old school material as what seemed to be a normal Curtain ended slowly and gradually progressed into the slower melody of Rift. The band was performing the Curtain With, the piece in its original format which gave birth to the Phish classics of Rift and the improv section if Reba. The crowd responded with a respectful silence as the band methodically moved through their early composition immaculately. Following this meditational piece, the band closed the set with the raucous anthem Chalkdust, similarly from the old school. This set built throughout, and closed in enthusiastic musical fashion and with the crowd full of energy and anticipation.
Merriweather, which somehow always seems over sold or too crowded, was a mob scene at set break as people filed in and out of openings of the pavilion that if seen from over head would look like some joke on human's logical cognitive abilities. The warm Maryland air gave the setbreak a summertime feel as everyone relaxed in among the wooded grove surrounding the theatre and lawn.
The second set was a creative masterpiece as the band wove together a group of random songs with several free form jams and created a conceptual set that with great songs and deep moments of improvisation. The set began with Velvet Underground's Rock and Roll whose jam blew out the form of the song's theme into an upbeat rhythmic exploration bringing hints of the epic Big Cypress excursion. Tonight's version eventually slowed from its high paced jam into a more melodic and transcendent section of music whose harmonies amidst groove were enough to bring chills to anyone's spine. The band moved into a slower section of grooves which minutes later spiraled down to a snare beat signifying the opening of Theme From the Bottom. After this song followed its traditionally uplifting course, the band decided to steer clear of bringing the jam to a climax and got into a slow and dark dance groove with Trey offering accentuated rhythm licks over a murky and slower bass groove. This section progressed into deeper and darker territory as the band moved into some heavier dub rhythms with which the rolling beats of Fishman, led into the beginning of a heavier version of Dog Log. Coming amidst deep improvisation and furthering that jam into deeper territory, this Dog Log was not a merely a gimmick for applause and bust out credential, but a legitimate landing point of a heavy Phish jam. Very cool, check it.
Amidst the frenzied applause following the opening non-stop section of the set, the band began the delicate opening to Mango Song, pumping the crowd up a notch further. The delicate and light improvisation gave the crowd a moment's breath before the band settled in a fast and mellow outro groove that was clearly heading in other directions rather than the end of the song. Soon, the band had progressed from a dark groove to some ridiculously dark and abstract psychadelia, somewhat reminiscent of the Simple from Worcester 11/29/98. This was extremely improvisational and out there as the emanations from the stage were akin to those that could be imagined from a futuristic killing module. This madness eventually oozed into a more spacey groove as the band settled before Trey delicately built the opening to Free amidst this spacious soundscape. Erupting the pavilion, this Free contained a very fast jam whose post- Mike bomb section saw Trey ripping aggressive lines over a building groove, leaving rhythm funk behind as this Free continued in the futuristic and militant fashion as the abstract improvisation that had preceded it. Closing the set with this dark anthem, this Free served as a dark musical arrival for the exploratory set which saw the band take some musical risks and succeed overwhelmingly. This set must be heard, as the setlist says very little about this musical adventure and the amazingly out there realms that the band reached. Possibly the most exciting Merriweather set yet, this second set is a tape to get your hands on sooner than later.
E: Contact, Rocky Top
Over and Out, Minor
9/15 - Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA
Chocolate City,USA! Phish meets Hershey, Pennsylvania for the first time since the short post Europe US tour in 1996. The outdoor football stadiumesque atmosphere evolved this year from its 1996 incarnation to a millennial edition with a rubberized dance floor covering the grass field. The feel of the open air venue was summery even though the nip of the fall air provided a crisp edge to the evening outside of Harrisburg. The band continued along its Fall 2000 path, as this, the sixth show, would be the first to see the band repeat a song. After an underrated show here back in 96 preceding the Clifford Ball, which featured a hot Runaway Jim, Tweezer and YEM all in the second set, along with a noteworthy Wilson>Disease and Reba in the first set, Hershey was again braced for the storm of Phish.
The first set opened with the immediate crowd spark First Tube, whose middle-eastern trance grooves rang out in the open air venue. Following up the opener came an extended and playful Jiboo whose summery feel shied from the harder dance exploration in Albany in favor of a lighter more noodly version which served as a welcome into the show. After the amicably groovy Jiboo came the only appearance of slow Taj Majal cover of Corrina, Corrina since the band resurrected it from the vaults on 12/30/99. The smooth textures of the music soothed the outdoor crowd as the evening faded to black. The more hard edged and aggressive Birds of a Feather whose themes were maintained amidst some fast and chugging improvisation greeted the nighttime hour . The second appearance of Windora Bug came in the first set this time, as Trey's reggae melodies were left behind in favor a loop-based improvisation whose soundscapes provided a more dub ambient section of the show rather than straightly ! reggae section . After Windora Bug came the opening licks of the tour's second Antelope whose jam progressed along a traditional path as the Antelope raged what seemed to be the end of the set. This was a super hot version whose climax provided an amazing peak to the first set. The set ended in the spillover songs of Golgi and Bittersweet Motel, whose annual Pennsylvania appearance ended the set quietly into the night.
The setbreak was enjoyed by all as the dry weather provided some relief from the previous night's wet weather. The set opened with the tours second Piper, following the monumental version at Great Woods on Monday. This Piper explored many territories as it again transcended its raging jam into a period which touched on the funk form the previous version as well as more millennial and slower grooves. This Piper continued for over twenty minutes as its typical harder section dropped the distortion into a hollower sounding Birds-esque jam with Trey offering quick rhythm chops over the grooves. This section progressed into a dark very abstract ambient section of improvisation, somewhat akin to points of the Drowned from Darien the evening before. This incredibly deep section slowly gave way to some heavier ambient grooves which served as an outro to the twenty minute improvisation. This trail off gave way to the opening noodlings of the Gamehendge regular, Lizards. With th! e proximity to the hometown haun ts of Trey, the Rhombus, and other Phishy lore, this dip into the classic saga seemed appropriate after the insane outer realms of the previous jam. The classic composition gave the crowd a chance to catch their breath as the band wove together the well known tale of Colonel Forbin’s entry into Gamehendge.
After this wound down, the band pumped things right back up with the dropping of the tour’s first Tube. Placed in the focal point of the second set, this Tube provided a return to fall of 1997, as the band moved through a wide array of some high speed funk grooves as Trey threw down chronic rhythm lick after chronic rhythm lick in this high intensity danceathon. Locked into some seriously tight grooves in this jam, the band blew the set apart with this raging funk, and even included a breakdown section where they disassembled the groove before building it back together. The band enjoyed the level of rhythmic communication they reached during the jam that directly after the conclusion of the song, they bust back into the same groove, a la Tubes from Dayton 12/7/97, and Utah 11/2/98. This second installment of the funk provided a very interesting jam which almost immediately built into a piece where Trey began to play lead lines over a quieter band breaks, each time ! with the full band diving back i nto the full throttle groove. Page stepped up and began to guide the jam with some piano washes and Trey responded by beginning to play quick intricate melodies over some siren loops creating a darker more murky feel to the music as Fishman’s beat subtly decreased in tempo. The band then progressed into a type of ambient-bluesy-drone groove with rolling piano lines and alternate sound effects which Fishman chose to build back into a groove based piece individually. The pace of the jam picked up quickly and the musical landscape was wholly altered to a level of a deeper Bowie or a Birds jam. Trey responded by ripping his resonant wailing cries of dissonance over the increasingly building and aggressive textures. All of a sudden, the music had reached mental asylum status, but too before long gave way to a melodic release which wound down this spontaneous jam and led into the tour’s first Circus. Reserved for points after special musical moments, this Circu! s provided a reflective break be fore what seemed would be a huge set ending jam, Character Zero was not quite as huge as people might have been expecting, but provided some high octane rock and roll to end fast and furious set. The encore of Possum pleased the crowd as the bluegrassy numbers built to a couple fun climaxes to put an end on a great evening of Phish….PS: Much props to my friend Beth who let me borrow her computer for the duration of fall tour. Beth, you’re a lifesaver!
….A sidenote from an experience at this show. Phish is an active experience. People are active in their reception of the music and power that the band provides on a nightly basis. People have different ways of receiving the music and participating in the concert, but if you choose to stand still and smoke cigarettes to focus on the music, it would seem to me like common courtesy to do that in a space where other people aren’t losing their minds dancing full throttle doing aerobic activity having a similar experience of a lifetime, yet in a different way. It is quite hard to breathe when you’re breaths consist of pure second hand smoke, and it is similarly hard to dance when people decide to come and stand within one foot of where you and your friends are raging. I suppose its all a matter of mutual respect.. People who dance full on should similarly not target a crowded area to rage where there are people packed together listening calmly. So take that ! to heart next time you are findi ng a place to settle at your next Phish show. Realize that you are not the only one there and your actions and decisions effect other people, and it is two way street. Secondly, if for some reason you find yourself inside a Phish show and not wanting to focus on the music and the magic that you are so privileged to be around, please don’t take away from other’s experience by taking up space and talking throughout the show. There are many place to talk and catch up with friends, and there are not many places to focus on Phish. People need to respect the sacred atmosphere at a Phish show, and if you don’t see it that way, at least respect those who do. Think about it, and have respect for what Phish represents.
Alright, I've figured out issues and gotten myself a new computer. Let's let Great Woods slide. They were sick. The first night of was arguably one of the better overall shows in a while. Check out the second set for some seriously sick improvisational mastery. Opening with a huge Chalkdust, Twist, the sets second half of Piper>What's the Use>Yem highlighted this amazing set. Also, check out the Gumbo>Maze from the first set. On the second night, the Disease consisted of over twenty minutes of improvisational greatness which progressed into the crosseyed-esque grooves seen in many jams over the last year (portland ghost 9/12/99, and radio city ghost 5/22/00). The set closed with a tight and ripping 2001>Mike's>H2>Weekapaug, which was tight as hell while all versions stayed within the confines of their forms.
9/14/00 - Darien, NY
Following the opening four shows, Phish seemed to be throwing down huge two set shows on a nightly basis, as they embarked on their final tour for the time being. The band pulled back into the amusement park surroundings of Darien Lake for the first time since back in the ground-breaking summer of 1997. Then the site of an epic pre-Great Went show featuring an epic Hood>Colonel Forbins>Camel Walk, the carnival surroundings greeted fans in a gray blanket of dreary wetness. The white pointed peaks of the pavilion cover shielded the stage from the moisture as the fans braced for what would sure to be another twisted musical adventure as storms of all kinds loomed near.
The first set openened amidst darkness with the adrenalized scrathes and grooves of Punch You in the Eye. A classic opener of big shows this Punch seemed to point to larger things ahead. The ending Latin rhythms of the song gave way to the opening licks of Reba. This Reba opened the show quickly with soothing grooves which paused a moment in darkness before progressingt along its traditionally uplifting path. The band was locked immediately in their jamming, craetintg magic almost immediately. It seemed to be in the air this evening as the band got onstage and took off with coherancy and locked communication as the Reba grew into one a real show highlight. A moments rest in Alberquerque gave way to some aggressive layered millenial exploration in the form of a blown out Carini. This improvisation reached some real mechanical sounding futaristic realms as the jam built into raging heights. This continued a set of non-stop action as the ending of the millenial sounding ! Carini gave way to the ragtime jazz instrumental of The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony which segued straight into the classic 1-2 punch of Suzie Greenberg. The Suzie provided some swank and full-throttled funk as the crowd favorite fired up the now wettening crowd. After the end of the song the band kicked back into funk groove that dominated their previous improv and kept plugging away at the extremely danceable patterns. The crowd, the band and the rain all became one as the energy eneveloped the moment in a ball of fiery funk. This explosion ended the first set with a bang as the crowd who happened to be inside the pavilion remained safe from the torrid downpour. The first set had consisted of only four major songs, and it had been a inspirational journey touching on several different textutures on the Phish palate.
The torrential conditions abbreviated the setbreak as it tends to do when storms hit Phish shows head on. The band responded to the conditions in a joking manner with the second set openeer of Drowned. The jam that stemmed from the Who cover, however, turned into a near 30 minute psychadelic exploration that was certainly the highlight of the tour to date. This improv progressed out of the classic piano driven rock and roll to the abstractest of groove and then beyond in this monumental jam. After approaching a musical trancendence of abstract egoless playing, the band then returned with sinister orchestral improvisation that seemed as if ripped from the pages of a wizards sorcery book. This jam bears an extremely close listen by all and will serve to amaze all who bear to open their mind to it. I won't elaborate into verbose nonsense to explain this majestical exploration. Please, I beg you to close your eyes for the duration of this musical masterpiece and let it into! your lives, it will enrichen all. Honestelym, this was one of the deepest jams I have ever seen the band get into, up there with the best of them. And when the jam was trailing off into ambience, the band stirred up some noise as they prepared to drop a huge song. Many were thinkning the Tweezer that has yet to appear was about to drop, but instead the band launched into a Crosseyed and Painless! This time around, the Crosseyed grooves started out very fast as the band seemed quite excited to be attacking the sacred Talking Heads cover. The jam climbed into a roaring and swarthy territory that suggested realms that the Talking Heads themsleves took the song to. This hot improvisation outlasted Deer Creek's version and took the set to even deeper territory. To this point, the set was as good as any set that had ever been played. However, after a Dog-Faced Boy and creatively ambient Caspian jam, the set screamked for one more ragingt Phish jam. The band selected to close! the set with the crowd favorite of Loving Cup, and actually took the bombastic ending grooves farther out than normal, but it kind of felt that they never really finished the epic set that had ensued. An encore of Driver, Josie Wails, and Sample in a Jar closed the explosive evening relatively quietly, just as the set had ended.
No mistaking however, this show was one of the strongest outings of tour (first night Great Woods). The Drowned is every reason we all come to see Phish wrapped into one, and the Reba, Carini, Suzie, and Crosseyed all provided more than enough supporting improvisational meat to go around. The Phish always seem to go huge here at Darien Lake, and 2000 was no exception. This one was a keeper folks....see in you in chocolate town
9/9 - Pepsi Arena, Albany, NY
OK, First off, allow, me this disclaimer. My laptop basically crashed right after I write the review of the second Albany show, even before I got a a chance to send it in for uploading, so I am going to try to recreate the review with the same fervor, although this will really only be a recreation of what is stuck in the annals of my un-turn-onable laptop. I am also writing this in a large rush before the first great woods show. That being said, and be forewarned, I have no idea how or when I'll be able to post further reviews, here's a second try at the second show......Minor
After a blistering first evening in Albany, Phish was apparently wasting no time in diving head first into their fall installment of shows. Creative and very tight, the band crafted a tremendous first show full of highlights for the ears. The band and crowd alike were now warmed up for the conclusion of the two-night opening stand in Albany.
As the band took the stage to the opening notes of Possum, an undeniable electricity filled the air. The band moved through the spunky jam with focus and direction, following the up the upbeat opener with the rarely played and oft desired My Friend, My Friend. The show now had a certain special feeling to it, where you knew that things were going to be huge tonight. The slip into the menacing groove brought an explosion from the excited audience and the show was all of a sudden very underway. At the end of the song, the band got into an ambient and layered trailoff jam that lasted for a minute or two before giving way to a heavy drop into Gumbo. The molasses-thick grooves of the composed section gave way to a very creative jam which saw Trey move from his playful accented melodies into his sly wah grooves and finally into a rhythm section which wrapped up the exploration. This last section however, maintained a slight beat as the Gumbo theme trailed away into a dissonant period which slid into the intro to Maze. This fiery Maze provided a great juxtaposition to the lampin' funk that preceded, as its jam took off at a faster than normal pace. Page's solo in the Maze brought some middle-eastern feel into the darkness, and Trey's section turned progressed through many mini-climaxes before landing back in the ending of the song. This Gumbo>Maze provided the highlight of a first set that after a standard Boogie On, continued in it's improvisational greatness with the most exploratory Roggae to date. Bring hints of the Garcia style and sound, Trey led the band through a subtle exploration of harmony and melody that provided some sublime improvisation between Trey and Mike (and Page) particularly. Trey played in more of as Phil and Friends(4/99) style as toyed with tone colors and harmony as the focus for this quiet and amazing improvisation. This really provided both a highlight of both the set and the show, as an aura of majesty and reflective wonder emerged from the music. Reference the Roggae from Nashville 7/1/99 (with guest musicians) for a hint at the musical direction of the jam. The band closed the first set with the classic combination of Guyute, Antelope, seen in the same venue as an encore on 12/12/97. This smoking Antelope provided relief from the string of relatively mediocre Antelopes this summer following the superb Lakewood version from 6/24. This jam progressed from villainous ninja-like James Bond grooves to a the intricately designed chaos that defines the peaks of the biggest Antelope jams. Along the way Mike thumped some extremely creative bass lines, defining the underlying groove to the building dissonance and keeping the music running along with Fishman's backbeat. This Antelope was certainly another highlight of a first set chock full of amazing improvisation, and it set some high stakes for the second frame.
The band emerged from setbreak to the familiar opening chords of Jiboo, which provided some very tight dance grooves to open the set. While remaining within the theme of the song, Trey created some amazing melodies and climaxed the jam with a unique phrase before heading back to the closing composed section of the song. Almost immediately, the band started playing The Curtain, and moved through its sections impeccably, building suspense as to the inevitable large song coming next. As Curtain ended, the band launched into the into to Sand at a super fast speed, causing them to stop nand restart the song at a slightly slower, but still far above average speed. This Sand contained a wide open intro, akin to the style of 2001 in its side open space and subtle harmonies and groove. Somewhat similar in feel to the middle section of the Nashville Sand from 6/22/00, this opening section merged the musical concepts of the two songs and created one of the most surreal moments of the night. As the band then launched into the actual song, the jam opened up in a similar wide open musical atmosphere. Trey set some loops and sounds before even picking up the guitar. Fishman's extremely fast and cymbal heavy beat gave the song an incredibly danceable texture. The band moved through an intense and building sand jam for about 15 minutes, and while Trey was settled in an amazingly rhythmic keyboard groove, Michael Ray, in full Cosmic Crewe costume, emerged from the side of the stage with his trumpet. After dancing around for some time, adding his funked/tripped-out New Orleans energy to the band and the crowd, he stepped behind the Mike and began to solo. Using both jazz-based be-bop licks and more abstract Sun Ra -esque squeaks, tones and noises, Michael Ray complimented the evil Sand grooves perfectly, evoking sounds and thoughts of Miles Davis' fusion explorations of the late 1970s. Completely compfortable in Phish's musical landscape, Ray shredded comfortably in creating a completely unique version of the song. After he brought his solo to a head, he continued to entrhusiaticallyh dance out in front of the stage, visable pumping up both the band and audience. Trey was especially all smiles and laughs as he continued to create some very danceable keyboard rhythms (see 12/16/00). Michael Ray hopped back on his horn for a brief moment, teasing the First Tube melody, as the band steered the almost half hour exploration back to its landing pad, to the roaring approval of the audience.
Following the dark and intense journey that sand provided, the band lightened the mood with the irie rhythms of Makisupa Policeman. Ray, while dancing during the composed section, joined in musically for the improvisation, creating a Jamaican dance hall feel to the jam, in the ska/dub tradition of the early days of reggae. His contribution helped really spice up the often routine song, and gave an islandy feel to this section of the show. In what is now their Michael Ray staple song, the band then launched into the jazz based McConnell composition Cars, Trucks, And Busses. Page added a great piano solo before Ray then took the stage and took his turn at the theme. Everyone in the building was adrenalized at this point at the visible amount of fun the band and Michael Ray were having. This energy surged throughout the cavernous venue, providing a real upbeat electricity to the show. The traditional Son Seals cover of Funky Bitch provided a bluesy backdrop fro the band members to create, as Page, Michael Ray, and Trey all took turns soloing over the bulbous grooves. A large loud and boisterous Cavern closed the set of high energy explosions.
Anyone at this show will explain to you the sheer power of this show. This was Phish at their highest octane, pumping out some seriously diverse and full on song selections from beginning to end. The show concluded with a fifteen minute Hood encore, that appeared was supposed to include Ray, but he apparently couldn't find his trumpet so he just danced around the stage with the audience for the duration. Adding a unique flare, electricity and dynamic to the stage, Ray defined the second set of this show, and the band gladly welcomed his energy with open arms. In terms of the stuff you need to hear immediately from this show, check the Gumbo>Maze, Roggae, Antelope, and Sand. Anyhow, this was a brief approximation of what I wrote last night, and hopefully at some point, I'll be able to retrieve the original all. Until tomorrow.
9/8 - Pepsi Arena, Albany, NY
Just like that, the summer has seeped by yet again, and as we embark on the fall season, filled with crisp weather, deep foliage, and shorter days, the welcomed arrival of Phish's Fall Tour has crept from nowhere into our laps. After only a short break since summer, Phish now sets out on their fall excursion, where The Phish delve deep into exploratory realms during the ending months of the year, taking the experience gained from another year of improvising together. In a year that began with the surreal surroundings of sunrise at Big Cypress, stopped in for two weeks in the Orient, and continued with an extremely hot US Summer run, Phish pulled into the familiar realms of the former Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, New York to begin what will be their final tour for an undetermined amount of time.
After years of rumored 'time off,' the band seems to have their sights set on some relaxation following this run, and for the first time since 1991, the band won't be playing a New Years Eve show. This tour, seemingly even more significant in light of these developments, began with some real anticipation and excitement as South Pearl Street began getting crowded early on in the afternoon. Albany was soon engulfed in Phishland as the downtown area became overflowed with heads, hippies, and concertgoers of all shapes and sizes. People slowly filed into the old-school venue as time approached the seven o' clock hour. The time was approaching for combustion, and all present were bracing for blast off.
As the band walked onto the stage, an anxious and excited anticipation filled the air, as few knew what to expect from the show, tour, and upcoming period of time for our musical superheroes. Yet, all involved seemed united in salivating to find out. The band responded to this energy coyly, opening the tour with the first time Bob Marley cover of Mellow Mood. This seemed to kick everything off in an amicable way for everyone, as the smoothness of the music and Trey's voice seemed like a warm cup of tea with honey in it, welcoming, soothing, and coating to prepare for what was to follow. Following the opening irie vibrations, they band leapt right into a tight and triumphant Limb By Limb, using the improvisational section to welcome all back to the Phishy realms of the mind and soul. After everyone felt welcomed and at home, however, the band wasted no time in getting down and dirty with a-third-song-of-tour Ghost. This Ghost began with some settling disco-like funk before building into a more aggressive version, hinting at smoother grooves throughout, yet maintaining quite a hard edge. This early drop down of such a big song seemed a sign to everyone in the building that Phish meant business, and they were wasting no time in letting us know. Following the large Ghost, the band played the always welcomed Bouncin' Around the Room, which continues to appear amidst large and ominous settings. The rare appearance of Horse>Silent provided some fresh and inspiring energy to the opening set of tour, which quickly took a turn for the heavier with I Saw It Again. Featuring some further exploration than the merely composed song, the band took the dark and heavy groove out in an abstract way before returning to the familiar melody of the song. NICU followed this heavy section with some lighter ska-like rhythms. A rare sighting of Glide followed this up, giving an old school feel to the home are show in Albany. After Axilla (part 1), the band launched an amazing Taste which built amazingly to a climax that truly needs to be heard to be comprehended. This provided an late set high point of improvisation to the show, and the band ended the set with their anthemic Golgi Apparatus. Check out the Ghost and the Taste in a first set that exploded out of the gate and grabbed everyone and pulled them right back into the swing of things.
The second set opened with a ferocious Birds of a Feather, whose jam launched at an extremely high pace, and continued with an opening section of ripping Birds grooves, anchored by some tight and fast rhythmic syncopation by Mike and Fishman. As the jam began to build, Fishman provided some seriously climactic fills upping the level and intensity of the jam with each break. This Birds began to build into some unique territory as Trey's playing began to move away from Birds-esque melodies to far more abstract looping walls of sound with the band maintaining the high-paced rhythms underneath. This interplay created a completely sinister atmosphere of madness, as Trey continued on his abstract path outwards into the darker and more demented territory that words can never describe. These insanely building grooves came to a head as Trey emerged from his sublime dementia selecting the exact moment to break out of his trancelike playing back into the progression of Birds and returned to some wailing and twisting Birds lines before settling the song back home. This opener provided some serious high-paced darkness to open the set, which was then followed by the only song that could have been a crowd favorite before it was ever played. The reggae rhythms of Windora Bug, as popularized by Trey's solo tour last April. This provided some lightness to the set as everyone was all smiles as the very anticipated song debuted in a short but sweet form. Phish plunged right back into the deeper realms as a very creative and polyrhythmic Bowie intro morphed into some ambient type abstraction before settling back into the cymbal groove and busting the song wide open. The Bowie jam began right off the bat with a steady groove as Mike and Trey began to seemingly solo together as they wove the beginning of what would be quite a path that this Bowie would follow. The pace of this improvisation was as fast as the opening Birds jam. Fishman created a driving path for the jam that Mike soon picked up on and began to really play along with bringing the heat up notch in this no-nonsense Bowie. Trey played some different and strange licks and melodies over this drum and bass led jam, as he progressed out of his noodlier style into his militant and evil screaming and wailing style, as he built the Bowie climax into a congruent intensity and 'abstraction within groove' as the insane Birds improvisation that opened the set did. At this point, the two improvisational pieces of the second set were seriously heavy, driving, aggressive pieces of music that delved deep into the realms of the most full-throttle millennial insanity that beautifully psychotic dreams are made of. After a climax as intense as the Bowie, the band decided to take a mellower step into the bluesy Jimmy Smith number, Back at the Chicken Shack.
The opening licks of Bathtub Gin brought an immediate excitement as folks battled the hot, wet and crowded venue for some space to interpret the greatness coming down from the stage. Gin's improv began slightly ambiently and amorphously, without a straight down-beat. This continued for a bit before the band picked up a groove and began to enter more traditional Gin sounding improvisation. This Gin is anything but traditional as Trey uses some high paced "the name is slick" (a la The Siket Disc) grooves to kickstart some seriously dancey action. At this point, the band was completely clicking as a unit. Their communication was impeccable as they set out on a surreally rhythmic and danceable exploration that had the band members locked into the most improvisationally magnificent jam of the night. This is one of those pieces of Phish improvisation that seemingly takes on a mind and life of its own, as if the band were simply on cruise control direct this amazing force flowing through them. This Gin reached the heights of groove, melody, and harmony simultaneously, as this jam provided the most triumphant, cohesive and sublime part of an amazing set. The band returned into from this blissful adventure into an eerie and tonal soundscape in which Fishman came out from behind the drums for a unique vacuum solo that was in complete concept with the set rather than used as a gimmick for laughs. His vacuum sounds gave a wistful and psychedelic feel to this creation in tone and sound color. This ambience moves into a small improvisation with Trey on the drums and Page providing the lead with some Rhodesia sounds. Fishman became a little more pronounced with his vacuum noises over this ambient groove, providing a new and different section to this song. This section of improv served as an abstract unwinding from the outstanding jam than preceded it. The band gently slipped out of that eerie feel, and into the opening of the set closing Character Zero. Trey used the Zero jam as a final outlet for his gnarling and crunching soloing as his searing lines defined the set closer on top of some bombastic bass lines from Bordeaux. The Zero put an emphatic exclamation point on a very deep set of exploration into the darker realms of Fish before climaxing the set with a Gin we'll all be listening to for quite a time to come. Fish tends to drop large shows at the beginnings of tour, an this one was no exception as the band dove head first into their fall leg of 2000. A quick cover of Fire as an encore continued the Hendrix-esque feel of the Zero closer, as the band ended the show with a bang.
Fall tour is when it all comes loose, and it has begun in a large and militant way. Stay tuned for Fall 2000, the insansity has arrived.
Mr. Minor is a mega Phish freak, always taking it to the next level, having seen hundreds of consecutive shows, over the course of many years. He gets down so, so hard. Look for his Phish column on JamBase during this fall tour.