Phish Kicks Off Tour Of Japan In Tokyo On This Date In 2000

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Twenty years ago today Phish began their first and only tour of Japan following an appearance at the Fuji Rock Festival the previous summer. The band consisting of guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardist Page McConnell, drummer Jon Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon kicked off the seven-show run at On Air East in Tokyo and followed with concerts at Tokyo’s Zepp and Hibiya Outdoor Stage before heading to Nagoya, Fukuoka and Osaka.

JamBase asked Dave Calarco to document his experience attending each and every show on the tour and he did so under the pseudonym “Mr. Minor.” This was Calarco’s first time writing about music but it certainly wouldn’t be his last. In 2008, Dave started the Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts blog, which was so popular it landed a spot on JamBase’s 20 For 20: Fan Sites list. A few years later Calarco published the 650+ page book Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts: An Anthology By A Fan For The Fans. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Phish starting their famed tour of Japan, here’s Calarco’s thoughts on opening night as it ran on JamBase in 2000:

So Japan Tour has begun, and in a large fashion indeed! Phish has commenced the madness that will soon come to be known as Japan Tour 2000. I am here to bring you what you need to know about everything that you would never hear about elsewhere. As a disclaimer, because I know that Phish can be a touchy subject for many of you, I will be highlighting particularly fantastic portions of shows for you without trying to over-analyze the music at all. Consider my column as a sign pointing those of you who couldn’t be there in the right direction of the epic Phish jams, ones you might want to attempt to get a hold of and hear for yourself. Take it for what you will, and please do not get offended by anything I am writing as I am trying to do the community a service of letting you know what’s going down while you’re not around.

The On Air East, from the outside, is a relatively small yellow building convieniently located across the street from an AM/PM Mart, just up the small, yet club-filled and bustling side street of Dogenzaka in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. Quite unassuming, the outside of the club made one wonder how small the room would actually be. Yet, this line of thought was not so prevalent because of the scarcity of tickets for the many Americans who had made the journey without tickets to the first, and most quickly-sold-out, opening gig in Tokyo. Most all found a way into the club, but word had it that a group of about 25 people gathered on the at the back door of the venue unable to gain admission. A mixed group of Japnaese and American heads began gathering early on the street and surrounding area in anticipation of the night to come. There were even some “Tweezer Reprise” shirts designed in the Thrasher Skateboards logo by some Japanese heads, and being hawked for 25,000 Yen, or about 25 dollars. Very cool indeed!

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Upon entering the club, the intimacy of the room was overwhelming. The On Air East is the smallest cllub that Phish has played in recent years, with the possible exception of the Markthalle in Germany, now famous for Slip, Stitch And Pass (and the Fillmore in Cortemaggiore, Italy). The room looked more like my basement than a venue. Packed excessively full with a crowd of about 1000, the anticipation came to a head at about 7:30 p.m. when Phish took the stage.

The first set opened with the relatively strange combination of “Axilla,” “Taste,” “Billy Breathes” and “Golgi.” The “Taste” was the only standout version to note in this run. With the next songs, the meat of the set began. “Funky Bitch” was drawn out in a very quiet and laid back lampin’ club-funk groove. They continued the dancy theme with a sick, and heavily improvised “Moma Dance,” featuring many “Funky Bitch” licks from Trey. The funk gave way to the more driven “First Tube” which reached searing levels of energy from the band and crowd alike.

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The second set began with a 30-minute experimental “Tweezer,” which was the clearly the most amazing point of the show. Beginning with a tweeked out composed section and some teases of a seventies rock song (Joe Walsh?). The improvisation launched into a slowly buliding jam which stayed within the “Tweezer” theme, as Trey built the jam with his raw lead licks rather than offering any rhythm licks. This section reaches an amazing climax, at which point Trey hopped on his keyboard, and then the “Tweezer” settled down into a quieter section.

Led by Trey’s keyboard groove oriented melodies, they pass through a very Far-Eastern sounding section of grooves before building into rather amorphous improvisation with each member coherently pulling the music in different directions. They then come together into and hit a groove that would build this section with triumphant improvisation. Reaching a height greater than the first climax, the club exploded with roars of excitement and celebration with each chord progression. The denoument of this climax featured some a few classic Trey licks before fading into “Bouncin’.” (Note that the crowd was completely silent and respectful during the quiet improvisation, Americans can feel free to emulate this on US Summer Tour). Basically the “Tweezer” is what needs to be heard by all near and far. Exploratory and multi-faceted, this “Tweezer” is the blow out jam that a show is built on. Listen to it and see how Phish imploded their first Tokyo club.

Full Show Audio Taped by Dave Flaschner/Shared by fromtheaquarium

The rest of the set featured a hot version of “Mango” and a tightly grooving “Jibboo” that precluded a Japanese rendition of “Meatstick” which saw the band singing the lyrics in Japanese and yet in rhythm with the song. This was enough to make you keel over laughing and then stare in jaw dropping amazement as they continued to rip the Japanese lyrics as Mike and Trey taught Tokyo the Meatstick dance. The “Meatstick” is going international, baby! And there ain’t nothing you griping anti-Stick heads can do about it!!

Expecting a short encore after a blistering show, Phish came out and dropped a “YEM,” throwing you the left hook you never saw coming. As they always do.

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