Phish Presents All-Star Game Of Their Own On This Date In 1999 At Great Woods
Phish played Great Woods Center For The Performing Arts in Mansfield, Massachusetts at least once each summer between 1992 and 1995. However, the quartet skipped the Boston area amphitheater the next three summers before making their triumphant return for a two-night stand July 12 – 13, 1999. The first night of the run began with what still stands as Phish’s lone electric version of Boston’s “Foreplay/Longtime.” Today, I want to share a story about my experience at the same venue one night later which featured an even better Phish show.
There seemed to be less interest in the show that took place on July 13, 1999 than the prior night which was probably due to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game being held at Boston’s Fenway Park for the first time since 1961 on the 13th. On a whim, my friends and I called a local ticket broker to inquire about tickets for the Phish show and the broker was having a firesale. We wound up with tickets in the front section of the shed for under face value. The day was already off to a great start when the quartet opened with “NICU.” In a sign of what was to come, Phish extended the ending of “NICU” in a short but sweet way unlike any other rendition of the song.
The always welcome “The Curtain” was the evening’s second song and would be the only version of the tour. Bassist Mike Gordon then stepped to the mic to begin “Halley’s Comet.” Back in those days jammed out “Halley’s” weren’t unusual and this one spanned nearly 15 minutes. It featured Gordon leading the band with powerful synth’d out notes, while guitarist Trey Anastasio was content to play rhythm for a while. Trey eventually took control and the foursome made a move to a major-key and hit paydirt. This was the type of jam that would make you want to raise your hands and signal “touchdown.” The quartet eventually pulled off a wonderful transition into the tour’s only cover of Ween’s “Roses Are Free.”
Just when I was expecting a series of staples, out came one of the evening’s biggest surprises – “N02.” The White Tape classic was a huge bust out having returned to action after a whopping 356 shows. While I appreciated hearing the Mike Gordon-penned obscurity I was praying to the Phish gods this version would include the beautiful instrumental section found on The White Tape which had never been performed live. To my delight and joy, the band played the delicate end jam and I was in heaven. Sure, no one around me had any idea why I was freaking out but freak out I did. To this day Phish has still never played that section of “N02” again. The pretty music kept coming after “Lawn Boy” with a delightful “Reba” jam. Phish went the other direction with a dirty “Carini” and bluesy “Funky Bitch” to end the set. I was one happy dude, but my night was soon about to change in a big way.
A few months before summer tour I graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. I celebrated by catching all of Phish Summer Tour 1999 with the exception of the opening show in Bonner Springs. On July 13, 1999 at Great Woods I decided to wear a Skidmore t-shirt. At setbreak, as I discussed the phenomenal set I just saw with my buddies, a woman came up to me and asked if I went to Skidmore. I told her my story about how I recently graduated and after a quick chat she handed me a backstage pass. She explained that she was Mike Gordon’s aunt, was a Skidmore alum and had noticed my excitement during the set. The woman, whose name I still don’t remember to this date, asked if I wanted to meet Mike. I’m sure you can guess my answer.
All of the sudden I was backstage talking with Mike’s mom and aunt. It turns out the bassist’s mom, Marj Minkin went to Skidmore as well! Marj told us we’d have to wait a few minutes to talk with Mike as Phish was welcoming a special guest later in the night and was practicing with said guest. I could hear the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone” coming from the band’s practice room and it became clear this is what Phish and their friend – whom Marj told me was named Scott as well – were working on. After a few minutes the bassist emerged and greeted his mom and aunt. While he was a little apprehensive about my presence, I played it cool and he was soon at ease. Plus, I had a crazy backstage experience the prior fall (a different story for another time) and mentioned our last meeting which was arranged by a mutual friend of ours.
Gordon was a bit busy and went back to deal with his setbreak ritual, while I had a few more minutes with his family. I explained that for the next show – two nights later at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey – I’d be bringing my mother to her first Phish concert. They were both very excited for me and gave me a few tips about how to ensure my mom would have a great experience. Marj then called over a Phish staffer and asked her to set me up with backstage passes for myself and my mom in Holmdel. Was this the best setbreak ever or what? As the tones of “Wolfman’s Brother” came over the P.A. I excused myself and headed back to my bewildered friends who wondered what had happened to me. What a crazy story I had to tell, but it would have to wait until after the show as Phish was taking “Wolfman’s” deep.
I danced extra hard during the super funky “Wolfman’s” that wound up expanding past the 20-minute mark. The “Wolfman’s” was a true “Team Phish” affair with all four members adding impressive contributions to the “cow funk” stew. Phish then made a turn for an ethereal jam space that they explored for a few gorgeous minutes before transitioning into “Piper.”
Back in those days, the quartet would patiently and beautifully build up “Piper” ahead of singing its chorus and this “Piper” had a particularly pretty build up. Four delightful minutes passed until the band sang the first lyric. At that point Phish picked up speed and raced through the lyrics. “Bug” and “Mountains In The Mist” gave me a chance to catch my breath and try to take in the last few hours. A typically frenetic “Run Like An Antelope” came next complete with a fun “Rye Rye Rocco” section and “Meatstick” teases. From there, the band brought out their guest.
I finally found out the other Scott was none other than Max Creek’s Scott Murawski, the guitarist that a decade later would become Mike’s writing partner and band mate. Scott added to a romp through “Possum” and the Phish debut of “Tuesday’s Gone” I had heard the group practicing earlier. You can’t really beat a run that starts with the lone electric “Foreplay/Longtime,” ends with the band’s first and only “Tuesday’s Gone” and contained highlights every which way you turned. Though this particular Tuesday was about to be gone, it was a day I’ll never forget.
Here’s audio of the show taped by Dave Flashner, shared by From The Aquarium:
[Originally Published: July 13, 2016]