October 2010 - Posts

PHISH: 12/29/97 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (12/19/06)

December 29th, 1997 Phish was the first show of Phish's first three-night stand at Madison Square Garden. Before starting the holiday tour, the band played a breakthrough 21-show tour starting November 13th in Las Vegas and ending with two nights in Albany, New York December 12th and 13th. Consistently amazing performances were the rule throughout the tour as Phishheads soaked up legendary shows from Vegas to Denver, Hampton to Worcester, Philadelphia to Michigan, Ohio to Rochester and Albany. By all accounts, the holiday tour closed an exceptional year in Phish history.

Phish had released their 6th studio album "Billy Breathes" in fall 1996. The band had been working toward a new, more textural and democratic sound leading up to their Halloween 1996 musical costume "Remain In Light". By the time they recorded "Slip Stitch and Pass" live in Germany in March, 1997, Phish had become comfortable with the sparser, funkier feel that defined their sound in the later ‘90's. They created another festival masterpiece at The Great Went that summer. Following the release of "Slip Stitch and Pass" in October, they would spend the spring of 1998 recording "Story of the Ghost" with a brief time-out to perform the four shows of the explosive and historic Island Tour. Filming for the Phish movie, "Bittersweet Motel", also began during fall 1997 and continued through the sold-out holiday tour and into 1998.

Amidst this busy background, holiday tour 1997 kicked off on December 28th in Landover, Maryland before the band settled into New York City for the remaining three gigs. The band hit the stage on the 29th with NICU > Golgi Apparatus > Crossroads. This was one of only nine Phish performances of Crossroads, Robert Johnson's devilish tale of the making of a guitar hero and the band made the most of the rare chance. A hot Cars Trucks Buses and soaring Theme From the Bottom and Fluffhead led to a set-closing Antelope, which resolved into deep funk only after multiple peaks of music and energy shook the Garden. A dark and poignant Down With Disease > David Bowie opened set two before the band paid tribute to the Blues Brothers (and Otis Redding who penned the classic) with a double Possum/I Can't Turn You Loose sandwich. A deep, telepathic Tube and a smoking, funk-filled You Enjoy Myself to close the set. The Good Times Bad Times encore unfortunately can't be included with the video for the show but it's included with the audio download. Like the other three shows from the holiday '97 tour, each of which deserves a chapter of its own, this show transcends all worldly expectations.

With beautiful flow, song selection and execution, 12/29/97 is the next show in the Live Phish Video Series, which will feature regular new releases from the Phish Archives, so stay tuned. Enjoy!


PHISH: 7/6/98 Lucerna Theatre, Prague, CZE essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (3/24/08)

PHISH: 7/6/98 

After finishing recording "The Story of the Ghost" in Vermont and Bearsville in upstate New York, Phish embarked on June 27th for a short European tour. The band was accompanied on the trip by their core crew and a very limited amount of their own gear. Adding to the adventure of playing a mini-tour abroad with rented gear in some strange places, Todd Phillips' film crew was filming the Europe shows for the Phish movie "Bittersweet Motel". At times during these shows, the unwary film crew found themselves uncomfortably sandwiched between the band and audience in the limited space of cozy European venues.

The tour began with a three-night run at Grey Hall in Copenhagen, an old army barracks mess hall in the colorful anarchist community of Freetown Christiana. On the first night, June 30th, the band debuted Roggae, Moma Dance and Brian and Robert plus their new arrangement of Water in the Sky. On July 1st, the second set featured a killer combo of Tweezer > 2001 > Loving Cup and a Harry Hood encore. For the third Copenhagen show on July 2nd, they introduced two more new songs from the new album - Meat (described as the second song in the Ghost duology) and Fikus – as well as a hot second set consisting of Ghost > Runaway Jim > Prince Caspian and You Enjoy Myself.

On July 3rd, Phish left the clubs to play a set at Midtfyns Festival in Ringe, Denmark, about 100 miles from Copenhagen. The band and crew spent American Independence Day flying from Copenhagen to Prague for their second appearance in the capital of the Czech Republic. Prague or Praha was also the capital of ancient Bohemia and is a cultural center that thrives on the arts, especially gothic and modern architecture. The city is packed with historical sights from the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle to the 500-year old Golem said to protect the city's Jewish Ghetto from attacks. Full of catacombs, Prague has been called the most haunted city in the world.

On July 5th Phish played the first of two shows at the Lucerna Theatre, an ornate theater turned music club with a capacity of 700. It is located through an indoor mall a few flights below street level in the Nove Mesto or New Town. The intimacy of these shows can't be overstated. The average venue for Phish shows in the United States at the time was close to 20,000 so those in attendance were treated to arena rock concerts with the sound and feel of club gigs. Prague is situated 600 miles from Copenhagen and more than 1000 from Barcelona making travel to and from the other shows a challenge, especially by train. The first Prague show was Monday July 5th during Jan Hus Day, a national holiday commemorating the execution of Master Jan Hus who was burned at the stake in 1415 for espousing heretical views. The show was reportedly colored by experimentation with the local absinthe as many in attendance chased the Green Fairy for the first time. This yielded some good jamming on Moma Dance as well as interesting jams in Fee, McGrupp and The Watchful Hosemasters and Funky .

On Tuesday July 6th, the band tore into the second show with a subterranean Buried Alive during which Mike turned experimental before the two-minute mark, stretching the breadth of the song until the band switched handily into AC/DC Bag. This was a relaxed, playful Bag that, like Buried Alive, hinted at the night's ghostly theme. AC/DC Bag was explosive, buoyed by Fish's fiery drum fills around which the whole band locked into a groove.

They deconstructed Bag's concise jam into a perfect segue to the centerpiece of the show - a fast, funky and furious Ghost. The soundboard recording compliments the band's creative approach while building this masterpiece. You can clearly hear the sonic flourishes layered over a driving groove with confident vocals that seethed energy. The dynamic feel of Ghost lent deep drama to the lyrics, highlighted the loops and effects and provided an ideal platform for some hairy soloing. Page migrated from piano to synthesizer, Clavinet to Rhodes in a floating conversation with the band. Eventually Ghost took on an electronic tinge that hinted at the deepest post-hiatus improvisation. This was fueled by Trey's Hendrix-esque leads with bent tone and pitch into a series of shifting polyrhythmic counterpoints. Expanding until it seemed the room would explode, the music evolved into a funky groove with starts and stops punctuated by the now-roaring crowd. These pauses, described by some as a "silent jam", led into an unusual Cities that started in double-time and shifted effortlessly into normal rhythm for the first chorus and the rest of the song. With the lyrics "a lot of ghosts in a lot of houses", Cities continued the eerie theme of this already-historic performance, blending a smooth, creative vibe with an aggressive, rocking attack. Seemingly on cue, the band dropped out of Cities and left Trey to end the song alone with the clapping crowd. The momentary pause after Cities was the first time the band stopped at all, having linked Buried > Bag > Ghost > Cities into a powerful opening sequence for the ages.

Limb By Limb followed - a song first tracked in March 1996 for "Billy Breathes" but debuted for the public in Europe a little more than a year before. Written by Trey on a sequencer with a drum part intended to stump Fish, Limb is always a feat of execution. This performance exhibited an added sense of dynamics no doubt spurred on by the intimate setting, highlighting restrained melodic dialogue among the whole band. While sometimes this jam breathed fire, this groovy interlude danced intricate circles around the glowing embers, leaving space for Fish to lay down some outrageous fills and cymbal work. Trey's final solo culminated in repeated guitar fanning, which brought the song to a cathartic close.

Train Song, debuted in Europe two years before, provided a moment of tranquil reflection in the middle of the set. The second-ever live Roggae followed, giving a chance to show off more new material in a new country as the band fashioned a coda with so much inherent space that the notes hung slightly suspended between phrases.

Roggae was followed by a unique Maze, which blossomed into an electric improvisation starting with Page's lively organ solo followed by a cacophonous solo from Trey who shredded unabashedly until the whole band telepathically stopped on a dime for him to say "We hope you're all having a good time tonight...we just want to say that we really appreciate your support and how much we enjoy playing in Prague here." Page interjected "We love the architecture" while Trey continued "I don't think we got a chance to thank you last night so we just thought we'd take this moment to thank you very much." After a quick countdown, the band re-entered the song in the exact shred-space they'd occupied before the acrobatic stop. After Maze, they closed the first set with Golgi Apparatus that had a rave-up ending with Trey shouting, in an apparent nod to the World Cup Soccer quarterfinals, "Jon Fishman, Jon Fishman, Hey, Ho, Hey, Ho".

Set two began with a swinging Julius that got everyone moving and Fishman passionately testifying at the highest peaks. Julius led into Meat, a new song the band wrote in Vermont during the "Ghost/Meat" sessions in March and first played publicly in Copenhagen. Meat returned the show to its initial ghoulish theme, confounding the audience with its multiple stops and starts. Immediately after Meat came a soaring, adventurous Piper, which stretched nearly twenty minutes and bumped up against the boundaries already shattered by Ghost. Piper sped into a ferocious jam characterized by intense guitar runs with hints of Crosseyed and Painless and perhaps even Gimme' Some Lovin' before it settled into hard rock with plenty of room for the whole band to explore. Like the experimental Ghost in set one, Piper was fearless, building to massive peaks before floating off into a slower, more minimal section accented by loops from Trey and Mike atop Page's piano and Fish's cymbal rolls. This part of Piper hinted at Fikus, part three of the Ghost trilogy, becoming slow and funky before locking neatly into the rowdy reggae of Makisupa Policeman. As he scatted around the lyrics, Trey uttered the key phrase, "stink-kind", adding a touch of home with "policeman came to Vermont!" He handed things off to Page for a piano solo (calling him "Petrof" after the logo visible on the rented piano) during which Page developed a ska feel. Trey announced a drum solo next, saying if Fish soloed too long the crowd should start whistling, as the band did when he talked too much. Fish played along, rendering a minimal solo of high hat, kick drum and rim shots, returning to the song in the nick of time. After some dancehall-style dub effects, the band finished Makisupa and dove into David Bowie.

In this intimate setting, Fish's introduction to David Bowie was particularly suspenseful. A thematic jam hinted subtly at Santana before riding a dissonant wave into the ending changes of the second and final Bowie of the European tour. With scarcely a pause, Page hammered out the opening notes of Loving Cup, cementing the status of this magical night. Trey tore through his solo supported by the band in elegant lock step, building successively to the last chorus. Whether this was another soccer shout-out or just an old-school cover to end a rocking set, it was a beautiful buzz indeed.

The band returned for an encore and repaid the rowdy crowd's enthusiasm with Possum. The audience clapped along for a bit eventually leaving the band to a textbook performance that was at once conscious and passionate, restrained yet explosive. Trey dropped a quick tease of Stash as he propelled "Possum" through machine-gun fans entwined with soft, dynamic sections that made this a perfect encore for such an intimate show. As the crowd filtered into the streets of Prague it was clear that this had been an unforgettable night that could only have happened when and where it did.

To save space, along with renting gear and flying from city to city, the 1998 Europe tour wasn't multi-tracked. The band's only audio recordings from the show were Paul Languedoc's 2-track soundboard reference DATs. Due to an issue during recording, the only usable transfer from the master DAT's came from a lucky play in a portable DAT player. Ten years later the DATs mastered by Fred Kevorkian are the definitive soundboard source of this show, capturing a peak moment as poignant now as when it happened.




back to 07/06/98

PHISH: 12/1/95 Hersheypark Arena, Hershey, PA essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (3/18/07)

Phish 12/1/95

By the time Phish arrived at Hersheypark Arena in Hershey, PA on December 1st, 1995, they had performed thirty shows in Pennsylvania over the years, from a 1988 gig at John & Peter's in New Hope to a sold-out 1994 Philadelphia Holiday show . and most recently a two-night stand earlier that summer at Mann Music Center . The Hershey show fell in the middle of the second leg of fall tour and the previous shows of the run contained too many high points to list. Some notable moments of the late fall included a three-night stand in Atlanta and a blistering Orlando show . Other highlights included the debut of the full-band "Rotation Jam" (a/k/a instrument-switch jam) at their first Hampton Coliseum show, Fish's loving serenade of Col. Bruce Hampton in Knoxville and Bela Fleck's semi-regular Nashville sit-in. The night before Hershey, they nearly blew the roof off Dayton's Nutter Center during an exquisite second-set Tweezer > Makisupa > Antelope that must be heard. After an overnight drive of nearly 500 miles, the tour arrived in the mystical land of chocolate, conveniently located just over an hour's ride from Wilson Drive in King of Prussia.

Hersheypark Arena is a hockey arena built during the Great Depression. It sits in the center of Hersheypark , a nearly 100 year-old amusement park set in the "sweetest place on earth" originally built to entertain employees of Hershey's Chocolate. Phish's December 1st show there was sold out to a crowd of over 8,500 – tickets were sold mail order through Phish Tickets By Mail (begun in earnest that summer) and through the venue box office. Despite cold temperatures in the venue, zealous security and the old ice arena's imperfect acoustics, the band played a high-energy, well-paced show with good flow and exceptional comic relief rooted in the location, the band's penchant for The Simpsons and the universal human proclivity for "…mmm, chocolate." During this tour Trey had begun playing a percussion setup during jams and Page's Clavinet and synthesizers were becoming more prominent in the band's sound especially when Trey focused on grooving percussion. These changes in instrumentation helped open the jams up for the unofficial funk breakthrough that crystallized around the 1996 Halloween show and matured around the 1997 Hamburg show immortalized on the live album Slip, Stitch and Pass. Lighting Designer Chris Kuroda had increased the size and functionality of his lighting rig and crew and, for the first time in over three years, the Minkin backdrops and scrims created by Mike's mom weren't used. While missed, the lack of backdrops helped open the stage to the audience from more directions - 360 degrees at many venues - which helped energy flow more freely in the arenas. All these factors alchemized to lead the band and a lucky capacity crowd in Hershey to the sweet taste of high adventure.

Like nearly all shows that Fall, the Hershey show began with the band chess move. As soon as the band took their places, they kicked into Buried Alive to open the show. With Trey's first notes, the crowed exploded with waves of unbridled energy that characterized the rest of the night. After the opener, Mike dropped instantly into Down With Disease, deftly connecting club days gone by to the arena rock era. The lights accompanied the last strains of Disease softly into Theme From the Bottom, easing the transition into the latter's submarine wisdom. As our hat-headed fearless leader coaxed slow leads through his Leslie amplifier, the spirit began to take hold. Piano, drums and Languedoc custom bass combined in exquisite counterpoint from the bottom and from the top building to the final crescendo in one of the set's high points. Poor Heart was next, played at a fast clip in contrast to some slower shuffle versions played earlier on the tour. With scarcely a pause, Page set forth the opening piano notes to Wolfman's Brother. Trey liked the "smooth atonal sound" line so much he repeated it, lending to the carefree, relaxed feel of this set. The staggered ending harmonies and extro of Wolfman's led Trey immediately into a rocking Chalk Dust Torture.

For the first time in more than four years, Col. Forbin's Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird followed Chalk Dust, coupling the tale of youthful frustration with that of mid-life vision quest and divine connection. Trey's narration was another high point of set one as he endeavored to explain "a brief history of this planet" focusing on "the horrible split" between Western and Eastern thought, the latter of which obviously led to the "mystical land of chocolate…mmm chocolate." The story was that before the evil King Wilson enslaved the Lizards, the only place remaining where science, philosophy and religion were all unified was Gamehendge (which incidentally owed its peace and harmony to the prophet Icculus' inspiring archival work in authoring the Helping Friendly Book!). Answering fan inquires, Trey then revealed the alleged location of The Rhombus in nearby King of Prussia before they finished Mockingbird.

Stash followed with a formidable jam that stretched out instrumentally, locking into a dissonant theme that ignited the highest improvisation of the set. The whole band linked up beautifully for this jam, evoking a Dave's Energy Guide-ish vibe and at points recalling the expectation-smashing heights of the Orlando Stash weeks before. After Stash returned to terra firma, Cavern closed the set, leaving "15 minutes" of recovery and preparation before the even sweeter second set that defined this show.

The audience chess move was made by an eleven year-old in attendance before set two's music kicked off with the doo-wop intro to Halley's Comet. This was a straightforward version compared to the extended madness of Halley's > NICU > Slave two weeks later on December 14th but it was a great start featuring pronounced Clav work by Page and a short guitar solo that dropped straight into Mike's Song. Before Mike even began to sing, Trey was spinning little licks around the groove. Page's organ fueled the jam as Mike and Trey began an improvised theme. The jam got deeper and deeper until it eventually flew off a precipice as Fish switched to a more syncopated feel while Trey and Page hammered around him on guitar and piano. Trey then alluded back to the initial improvised theme, switched to a funkier feel and some hard rocking chords before he moved to percussion. This allowed Page to immerse himself in a long piano solo atop Mike and Fish's deep groove. Page switched back to the funky wah-wah of the Clav, eventually locking into a synth-inflected groove that stretched out over the driving drums and bass. Trey picked his guitar back up amidst a changing beat that seemed to form the basis for the first-ever transition directly from this legendary Mike's Song into Weekapaug Groove (they repeated the combination the following week at Niagara Falls). The band experimented with the rhythm of Weekapaug and a big guitar swell preceded the melody and lyrics, which took a minute to lock in as if the band was surprised that's where they landed. Perhaps they were. Weekapaug soared with Mike slapping and Trey and Page trading licks for a minute until they developed a beautiful, almost-harmonic theme. As the jam shifted dynamically and began to deconstruct, the exuberant crowd started to clap along and the band sped furthur out into hyperspace before resolving back into the end of Weekapaug.

They barely paused before diving into The Mango Song. The audience hung on every line, reacting to the lyrics. Page's piano work trading licks with Trey atop Fish's jazzy approach here transliterated the tranquil and serene moment. The layered lyrics of the next verse were well executed and the jam out of the last chorus was tight with everyone hooked up into the ending, which in turn, was immediately transformed into Wilson. The crowd went crazy singing along, and the band was obviously excited to finally present the story of Wilson, King of Prussia so close to the namesake – causing Trey to giggle a as they negotiated the changes. Trey even blurted out "King of Prussia" before the blat-boom ending. The end of Wilson gave Fish and Trey the opportunity to switch drummers without a pause as the band slid into Suspicious Minds - a tribute to another King. Fish's vocals were especially zealous, distorting at times as he drove the audience absolutely bonkers with his lit-up cape, the claw and the windmill during the rave-up ending. As usual, the band poked fun at him with Hold Your Head Up while he took his bows and sat back down to the serious business of bending minds.

David Bowie began with the signature high-hat section quickly melting into Catapult, which Trey sung accompanied by Mike's understated bass. With barely time to process the song change, Catapult morphed back into Bowie's introduction, which was peppered with more Homer-style references to the region's key export and Simpson's Phish language
thrown in for good measure before the lyrics. This was one of three Bowie > Catapult > Bowie sandwiches in Phish history (the other two are the first live Catapult 4/17/92 San Francisco and 2/16/03 Las Vegas). Similar to other big jams in this show, Trey began an improvised melodic theme colored by the eerie sound of his Leslie as the other band members swirled around him. Before long, the jam returned to more familiar Bowie territory as they rocked their way to the triumphant end of the song and set.

The fun continued during the Suzy Greenberg encore, with some unusual string scratching by Trey and an extended piano solo among its highlights. This show is a classic and we can now experience it with re-mastered soundboard audio synced to archival front-of-house video footage. It's worth noting that this is the best possible quality this show's audio can ever be offered in because the multi-track tapes are unplayable. This show, like Orlando before it and others on-deck for future release, is another stop along the golden road to the epic year-end celebration of this powerhouse year of Live Phish.



PHISH: 11/14/95 University of Central Florida Arena, Orlando, FL essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (2/19/07)

PHISH: 11/14/95 University of Central Florida Arena, Orlando, FL
essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (2/19/07)

After touring in support of "A Live One" the previous summer, Phish's Fall 1995 tour kicked off in late September in California and spanned from the Pacific Northwest through Big Sky country and the southwest reaching Chicago for their second modern era Halloween show, 24 shows later. The band solicited votes for their second Halloween musical costume and even led the fans into believing it could be a Michael Jackson album (a joke which dates as far back as the band's first gig in 1983). On Halloween, the band performed an impressive reproduction of The Who's "Quadrophenia" complete with horns, guest vocals and pyrotechnics (see This Month In Phish History September and October 1995). After a ten day break, the tour resumed in Atlanta for a three-night stand at the Fox Theatre, which began a second leg of nearly thirty more shows eventually ending the year in style with the "New Year's Eve 1995" concert at Madison Square Garden


The three nights at The Fox were legendary, building toward the magnificent peak of the 11-11 show before rolling down to Gainesville for Phish's first Florida dates of the year. Phish had been gaining notoriety in the sunshine state ever since they first played there in February 1993 but the shows in August 1993 and spring and fall of 1994 cemented the band's reputation there. Those previous shows had been clubs and a couple small amphitheaters so the college arenas in 1995 were a step up, however the energy of The Edge and even The Ritz shone through.

Shows that week in Gainesville, Tampa and most notably West Palm Beach were all excellent, but the magic that took place inside the University of Central Florida Arena on November 14th was of a higher order. Having written about the personal impact of this day in other forums, it suffices to say that a trip to Disney World was the perfect buildup to a remarkable show. This show also marked the time when Eric Larson was equipped to videotape some key shows (12/31/95 and 12/29/97) and luckily, the Beta SP masters of the Orlando show turned out great. The result when synced with engineer Paul Languedoc's 2-track soundboard reference audio mix mastered by Fred Kevorkian elevates the intended archival-only status of these tapes to that of must-have release.

The University of Central Florida Arena is a 5300-seat bleacher-lined basketball arena which, for this show was set up with the soundboard against the back, leaving no room for the taping section where it usually was beside the front of house mix position. Instead Paul helped set up a special taping section in the bleachers at stage right so tapers could still record the show. The two thirds full room buzzed with anticipation as the band made their move in their continuing chess match against the audience and started a blazing Chalk Dust Torture which served as an initial portal into the show. A particularly intricate and dynamic Foam kept the eager crowd’s attention as the possibilities of the evening continued to unfold. A pretty Billy Breathes, which had been debuted at the beginning of fall, came next before Trey looked skyward for The Divided Sky. Just a few seconds passed after Divided Sky before Page dropped into the circus-y opening of this tour's second Esther - the theme of which would be revisited later in the show's peak moments.

A solid Free and a spirited Julius came next, further stoking the electric atmosphere. The acoustic instruments and arrangements that had been honed the previous fall tour were used for I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome which featured a brave mandolin solo by Fish as well as some especially inflected vocals by temporary upright bassist Page. Cavern provided a fitting close to a tight, well-played set that alluded, only in subtle ways, to the incredible madness that would manifest during the second set.

After a set break and the audience chess move, Trey taunted the audience as the band broke into a frenzied Maze– traversing alien switchbacks fueled by swirling organ and Trey singing along with his guitar for a gremlin-like effect. Gumbo was next and provided a funky interlude before the band launched into one of the deepest and most exploratory versions of Stash, which was masterfully woven in and around most of the rest of the set, spanning an epic forty minutes before returning to the more earthly environs of Central Florida. Alongside telepathic sets like 2/20/93 The Roxy, 8/14/93 Tinley Park and 5/7/94 II Bomb Factory the improvisational skill and grace demonstrated in this Stash set the standard for years to come.

Trey began the first segment of Stash so quickly that the rest of the band was barely ready. By this time in Stash's history, it was standard for the audience to clap along to the woodblocks, but their in-unison shout of "please don't do that" signaled the Florida kids' intensity and no doubt helped this masterpiece pick up even more steam. Staccato guitar and clavinet accents began to lead into some incredible jamming with massive, swirling tension as the band weaved in and out of Stash's theme in a loose, psychedelic approach. Deep rhythmic tribal incantation followed with Trey eventually switching to percussion and grooving into something akin to the ending of Fee. This jam continued, melting perfectly into a supercharged version of Manteca, played for the first time in a year and sandwiched between segments of Stash for the first time since 2/21/93 at the Roxy.

Manteca resolved back into a soaring jam that begat the second segment of Stash – lighter and more dynamic in contrast to the more slanted feel of the first section. It's here that Leslie-soaked guitar floated serenely over Fish's ethereal cymbal and woodblock work to allude sublimely back to Esther, conveying a level of emotion capable of coaxing tears of joy from even the most grizzled listeners. A primal jam developed from this moment of beauty that swirled deeper and darker into a drone accented by tick-tocking percussion that lasted a few minutes before tender a capella vocals emerged for the only Stash > Dog-Face > Stash in Phish history. After Dog-Faced Boy, the band returns to the harmonic bed that begat it, mysteriously skipping the final lyric "but ask me and I'll do anything but you" as they add increasingly-intense layers of hypnotic sound complete with some swirling megaphone work by Trey and (so it seems) a paintbrush solo on the bass. This experimental jam ultimately reverses its cacophonic swirl back into the triumphant final segment of Stash, leaving minds blown and jaws on the gymnasium floor.

Strange Design provided a needed entrée back to reality – sung and played superbly and providing a chance to catch a breath before Trey counted out the opening of You Enjoy Myself. Like parts of the show-stopping Stash and other versions from this year commonly ranked among the best ever, this YEM is amazing, intense and engaging, exploratory and rocking especially when teamed with Chris Kuroda's phoenix-shaped lighting rig. A brief nod to Led Zeppelin's The Immigrant Song punctuates the jam and the energy in the room and intensity of playing throughout kept the set flying as high as Trey and Mike's mini-trampoline performance. A two-song encore of The Wedge and lickety-split Rocky Top provided the sweet icing on the cake of this landmark performance in the Magic Kingdom.



PHISH: 11/30/94 Olympia, WA & 12/1/94 Salem, OR essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (2/8/05)

PHISH: 11/30/94 Olympia, WA & 12/1/94 Salem, OR

Phish began the touring year of 1994 with seventy-four shows from April through July following the release of their fifth album, "Hoist." Responding to an increasing number of tapers and core fans hitting the road for multiple shows, Phish mixed things up even more than usual. They added horns to shows in April, tore through full sets based on single songs and songs within songs and even spent one show egging on a fugitive celebrity. They capped the summer off with the first performances of the Gamehendge Saga (the second with all of "Hoist" as a second set!) and a blistering tour-closing show in Vermont, which was later released as LIVEPHISH 02.

Phish hit the road again in mid-October for another forty-six shows. This time they were armed with multi-track recording gear to capture the shows for their first live album "A Live One." Attendance grew larger and performances riskier with more exploratory jams and the debut of complex composition Guyute and several covers. As the band grew in stature, their shows were less often set at nightclubs and watering holes. The new venues (mostly colleges and theatres) allowed the audience to tune in at higher levels and appreciation for the band intensified accordingly. Amidst growing fan concern about the band's fast growth and wider discovery of the fans' secret, the band repaid the attention beyond expectations. At the twentieth show of fall tour, Phish donned the first of four legendary musical Halloween costumes they would perform in the coming five years. The middle of three sets in Glens Falls, New York on October 31st, 1994, consisted of Phish's complete rendering of The Beatles' "White Album" (released as LIVEPHISH 13) and set the standard for Halloween performances for years to come.

After Halloween, the tour proceeded through the northeast and into the midwest with celebrated shows and a new bag of tricks every night. Creativity swirled around the band, crew and fans as the tour increasingly became a place to stay for a few nights or more. Rev. Jeff Mosier was enlisted for acoustic bluegrass training (much of it onstage), which became a regular part of groundbreaking performances across the breadbasket (see TMIPH November 1994). After a scarcely documented show that yielded Montana on "A Live One" in the midst of an incredible Tweezer, Phish arrived at Olympia, Washington on November 30th. The locale was already famous in Phish circles for its 1991 narrated "Gamehendge" set. With the year's events being what they were, anticipation was high. Phish had played at Evergreen State College in Olympia for their second time in 1992 on Chariots of Fire and, as Trey pointed out during the 11/30/94 show, "three is a magic number." A smoking tour, rich history and the lush backdrop of the Olympic rainforest set the stage for what happened that cold, dank night at the Campus Recreation Center.

The band hit the stage with a rocking Frankenstein opener. The rollicking country of Poor Heart gave Mike and Page a chance to stretch out and Fish an excuse to let loose some screams before sliding into My Friend, My Friend. After a spooky, extended ending without the usual "mife," My Friend segued neatly into Reba, which soared through hills and valleys of extended dynamic exploration. Reba showcased Phish's growing ability to stretch themes acrobatically beyond genres, starting and stopping effortlessly and journeying through the sweet, the dissonant and everything in between in a single jam. When Reba touched back down amidst screaming guitar, it also ended unusually - without the whistling. The crowd erupted as the band broke into Colonel Forbin's Ascent and Fly Famous Mockingbird. The latter became a vehicle for Trey's introduction of the profound Vibration of Life. Building on a theme begun earlier on the tour, he explained how the Vibration synchronized with Chris's lights and swirled the audience around space so fast they drifted into Gamehendge. After Mockingbird, Mike led the spacey beginnings of a textbook multi-dimensional Down With Disease, for the set's last excursion into warp-driven cacophony. After an emotional Disease, they eased into Bouncing Around The Room. Set one ended with I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome and My Long Journey Home, a pair of bluegrass songs performed for the devoted audience on acoustic instruments.

Set two kicked off with Halley's Comet, a vehicle into one of the craziest, darkest and segue-filled sets in Phish history. The band scarcely paused during the entire set, segueing from Halley's into a blistering Run Like An Antelope and then into an extended improvisational My Sweet One, which made a rare second-set appearance. Sweet One slowed to silence fueled by the attentive crowd (at the time, some Phish audiences would even "shush" each other during a quiet moment). The pause in Sweet One was colored by uncanny grunting and snoring before it grew into a spellbinding jam amidst Antelope-esque jamming which yielded another great segue into Phish's first electric Fixin' To Die. A traditional song "popularized" at the time by Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Fixin' was performed acoustic with Jeff Mosier weeks before. The band's only electric rendition of the song featured a spine-tingling jam punctuated, as was much of the show, by Fish's shouted testimony. Fixin' slowed near the end and the groove bent toward Latin and then calypso as it melted into Ya Mar. Trey turned his volume down to nearly inaudible and built it back up before they segued into Mike's Song. Fish's drums tore through the sparse, dark Mike's jam. As Mike's ended, Trey sang Catapult, which provided a perfect transition into an especially dynamic McGrupp And The Watchful Hosemasters. The ending decay of McGrupp formed the beginning of the set-closing Cavern, as Trey described the time and the mission to the keen audience. After the pyrotechnics of this incredibly-flowing second set, the band returned to the stage for a reassuring encore of The Horse > Silent In The Morning. The show ended with Amazing Grace performed acapella without microphones at the edge of the stage. After the show, the thunderstruck audience shuffled out of the Campus Recreation Center to prepare for the three-hour trek down to Salem knowing that with the band playing like this, if you snooze, you lose.

The following day, December, 1st 1994, United States Senator Patrick Leahy (of Vermont) recognized Phish on the Senate floor, stating proudly for the Congressional Record: "Their star is on the rise. Phish's music spans many genres - from classically inspired pieces - to hillbilly country - to slick jazz - to hard rock. Add two trampolines, a vacuum cleaner, a first rate light show and you have a live performance that is hard to forget. A lot of good things come out of Vermont - Phish is one that seems poised to play a prominent role in the American musical scene" (see TMIPH December 1994). Meanwhile, the band prepared for their show that rainy night at the Salem Armory with a sound check that produced this jam.

Phish kicked off the first set of the sold-out Salem show with the first single from "Hoist," Sample In A Jar, which focused the energy of the exuberant crowd. They followed Sample with Flatt and Scruggs' Uncle Pen. Next was Fast Enough For You, which featured an evocative solo by Trey before ending with the introduction to Maze. The chaotic energy of the previous night was recalled Trey and Page traded off the lead in Maze before launching into the orchestrated, progressive Guyute. Completing a two-night nod to Nancy, they followed with his swinging classic, I Didn't Know, with Mike's doo-wop vocals and trademark vacuum solo by Fish, introduced as "Greasy Fizeek." Next was a funky and adventurous Split Open and Melt, which turned dissonant, stretching from one theme to the next as band and audience held on for dear life. Sweet Adeline, performed acapella without microphones, settled things down for set break as debate began about the set two opener.

The band opened the second set with Peaches en Regalia by Frank Zappa followed by Mound. The remainder of set two recalled the previous night's adventures in connectedness as a formidable Tweezer began a non-stop adventure in musical madness. Heavy bass and Page's funky keyboard lines helped achieve liftoff, eventually blasting through the melodic horizon into a funky groove punctuated by Fish's testimony. Tweezer eventually became a start-stop groove, with Mike and Fish yelling and laughing over the demented waves of music. A frightening, dark segment ensued during Fish's vocalizations and eventually morphed into an instrumental Norwegian Wood jam recalling the roots of the region that inspired the risky jamming of these two nights. The jam flowed smoothly into a twisted rendition of Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, which the band used to rib their lone vegetarian, Mike. Creature grew syncopated, traveling outward as Trey scatted into a groove that eventually slowed into Makisupa Policeman. After a bizarre Makisupa, they locked into a new rhythm and completed a tremendous transition into a euphoric NICU, with more testimony by Fish and a brief encounter with Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairies. They returned briefly to Tweezer, which they segued into a standout reading of Jesus Just Left Chicago, showcasing Page's soulful vocals and poignant piano work. They slickly slid the blues ending of Jesus straight into Harry Hood, which signaled the approaching end of the show. Like the show itself, the jam in Harry went from understated, distorted to the soaring end before they ended the set ended with Golgi Apparatus. After leaving the stage momentarily they returned for an encore and Trey thanked the audience before launching into Sleeping Monkey followed by Tweezer Reprise. These incendiary shows left many mapping the mileage to Davis, California for the final leg of this inspirational tour.

PHISH: 8/13/93 Murat Theatre, Indianapolis, IN essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (6/11/07)

Phish 8/13/93

When reviewing shows for release, there are a number of approaches. One is to look for music never heard by the community – something that's basically new to everyone who hears it. A good recent example of this is the Headphones Jam recorded at a studio session in the barn. The relative privacy of that setting, while retained on the tapes, changes as it becomes engrained in the collective memory of more and more listeners. If the music and performance are special enough, it may eventually rise to legend. Other shows are chosen because they are known and loved. They have already been accepted as legendary and literally beg for release regardless of the sources that circulate. Without them, the catalog – some would even say the fan experience – is simply incomplete.

The August 13, 1993 Murat Theatre show is a perfect example of the latter. The venue was an Egyptian-themed Shrine Temple, palatial on the outside and dripping with red and gold trimmings inside. About 1700 attended Phish's first show here, which was typical for the time with just enough room for everyone who arrived to pay their $17 and enjoy the show. The performance was groundbreaking with whole styles of playing and interacting unfolding in real time. Adding to the backdrop of this surreal summer 1993 tour was the progressive rock, conceptual dream-space album Rift.

The added twist is that audience tapes circulated of the Murat thus far were made from the extreme back of the balcony, where the taper's section was located that night instead of its usual spot adjacent to the mix position. Phish implemented the official taper's section earlier that summer when the forest of microphone stands in front of the mix position grew too thick for the band and crew to see each other. That meant that circulating recordings of this classic show, instantly famous for its mind-melting (or is it mind-melding?) Bathtub Gin > Ya Mar and Mike's Song > Lifeboy have always been amiss. A soundboard cassette of the second set of the show was copied early on and has been among the most commonly traded tapes/CD's for years, but the first set has never been fully appreciated due to limitations of the audience source. This show is legendary among Phishheads based almost entirely on the second set! That's not to say set two is not worthy on its own, but the entire show is risky and magical in so many ways. Every note must be heard in the highest possible quality to fully appreciate what transpired amid the geometrically ornate background of that beautiful Masonic Temple.

Summer 1993 was a time when each show somehow surpassed the last. From the sunny innocence of the Cincinnati Zoo to the Roller Coaster of the Mind at Darien Lake to the first time at Nautica Stage, from the penultimate stage fog of Grand Rapids' Great Gig in the Sky to the blazing Split Open and Melt in Rochester, this tour was for the ages. The audience was spellbound every night sharing incredible discoveries with the band that kept unfolding with more clarity and purpose than previously imagined. Until now, the only show from this amazing tour released was LivePhish 07 from 8/14/93 Tinley Park. The Murat Theatre release continues the story of LP07, working backwards a day and whetting the appetite to hear more and more of this powerful era of Phish music.

It is true that the Murat show is capped by the pure unbridled majesty of Bathtub Gin and Mike's Song, but the whole show is worthy of strong recognition. Set one began with a unique opening combination of Lengthwise > Llama, a dub-wise Makisupa Policeman with an easy slide into Foam and an exploratory Stash (which entered hyper-space a couple nights later). After a special Friday the 13th interlude, Ginseng Sullivan featured "Mr. Butt with protruding arms and legs on Madonna washboard" followed by a formidable Fluffhead with an acoustic introduction by Trey. My Mind's Got a Mind of It's Own and Horn provided a bit of a head-rest, before they ended the set with a powerful and dark David Bowie sprinkled with licks from the likes of The Mango Song and Magilla.

While the Murat Gin > Ya Mar and Mike's Song > Lifeboy define the show – perhaps even the era, the band threw caution to the wind throughout this entire show resulting in transcendent musical and emotional heights. The power of the Buried Alive > Rift set two opening combination started things off solidly. The set continued with a masterpiece Bathtub Gin that featured a massive, historic jam rooted at times in Weekapaug Groove resolving into a spine-tingling segue to Ya Mar. At this point, the place nearly exploded with sheer energy, setting the stage for the evening's next improvisational experiment, a deep, dark Mike's Song. Interwoven with Stranglehold teases and other musical madness still sizzling with high voltage electricity after Bathtub Gin, Mike's Song begat another near perfect segue to the contemplative spaciousness of Lifeboy. As trusted guides have pointed out, this Lifeboy was truly "spiritual." In addition to a host of dark heavy jamming to the depths of consciousness, this show still maintains a playful vibe throughout. It ended that way with Oh Kee Pah Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg and the perfect yin-yang of an encore, Amazing Grace and Highway to Hell.

To celebrate the newfound availability on CD of more shows from the archives, filler from the Murat Theatre soundcheck was included. That provides a glimpse at what was almost an interesting development for Fishman material with Love Me Two Times, a cool little jam known as Page's Hand a/k/a Indianapolis Soundcheck Jam and finally Ginseng Sullivan which had been debuted August 11th and reveals the band working out the details of where to place Fish with his Madonna washboard for the best acoustics.

This must-hear show from a must-hear tour is as good as they get, and this is the first opportunity in nearly fourteen years to hear the whole show in crisp soundboard audio beautifully re-mastered by Fred Kevorkian. An added bonus is the fact that this landmark show along with 11/14/95 Orlando, 12/1/95 Hershey and 12/29/97 Madison Square Garden are now available on CD with filler from the soundchecks. It's been a long time coming and it's never been better.



PHISH: 5/8/93 Durham, NH essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (6/1/04)

Phish's May 8, 1993 concert in Durham, New Hampshire capped a seventy-show tour supporting the band's fourth studio album, Rift. The tour began February 3rd and led south from Maine (including the first Florida shows), up through Colorado and along the West Coast and eventually across the Midwest where the band finally reached New Hampshire via Canada. They played mostly theaters and college gymnasiums along with a few clubs and ballrooms. By now, Phish consistently sold out a majority of their shows as word of their musical skill and adventure spread quickly through tapers, word of mouth and an increasing Internet presence.

In addition to increasing popularity and a larger footprint travel-wise, the tour brought equipment changes as well. Trey integrated an acoustic guitar to his setup for the tour, adding acoustic introductions and codas to classic Phish tunes like Fluffhead and Rift compositions like My Friend, My Friend. Fish debuted a Madonna-style washboard (with metal breasts) along with his drums and "traditional" vacuum. The most significant gear change was Page adding a grand piano, which he still plays. The piano cuts through with a natural sound that helped inform the band's increasingly democratic, textural jamming style. The band was becoming increasingly adept at weaving in and out of their growing repertoire, playing songs within songs and turning on a dime while further extending jams and debuting a variety of new original songs and lots of covers. During the tour, Phish performed Trey's entire "Gamehendge" saga for the first time in nearly two years in Sacramento, played Mike's Song throughout an entire set in Atlanta and took a ten-minute silent pause in the midst of a single version of Big Black Furry Creature From Mars in Ann Arbor. Carefully planned set lists were often abandoned in the early part of the show. It was clear Phish enjoyed accelerating the mental joust among themselves, and between band and audience, to a higher level. To better set the stage for their exponential musical growth the band also employed increased moving lights and improved sound reinforcement. The full package that tour resulted in some of Phish's finest and most celebrated performances as well as fast growing popularity.

The longest tour ever finally ended May 8th reaching a crossroads at sold out UNH Fieldhouse in Durham, New Hampshire. As the band and road/office crew gathered backstage for a rare group photo shoot, the mood in the venue was electric and the crowd restlessly waiting for the lights to go down. The band came out strong, opening the first set with Chalk Dust Torture followed by Rift and Mound, both from the new album. Stash followed with the still recent phenomenon of the audience clapping along when Fish played his wood blocks. Stash gelled into an exploratory jam with Trey and Mike repeatedly accenting the "one" as Page weaved piano around them. Stash found its way into Kung, a bizarre Fishman-penned ancient chant, and then back to Stash. Glide came next with a sufficiently pregnant pause at the end to confuse the uninitiated. My Friend, My Friend, which featured acoustic guitar during the introduction, followed Glide as the excitement of the night flowed through Trey's long, eerie notes. My Friend flowed from its giggling end refrain straight into Reba, which was stretched into its usual soaring jam. The jam in Reba was highlighted by syncopated playing and even included some classic Trey "water" licks over the quietest portion as the excited audience clapped along in rhythm. Trey then thanked the audience and the crew, introducing the crew in detail including "big ball thrower" Brad, Amy and Greenpeace Mike. Expressing the band's gratitude for their hard work on the tour, he dedicated Satin Doll, a song Phish rarely played, to the crew. Page sang the Duke Ellington song in traditional style before they ended the set with a spirited Cavern.

Set two kicked off with a twenty-minute David Bowie with an introduction that included teases of the Allman Brothers Band instrumental, Jessica before the song developed into a heavy jam with vocal chanting and soaring leads by Trey and Page. Bowie then calmed into a piano, bass and drum-led groove that morphed into The Mighty Diamonds' Have Mercy, a song which Phish has tackled only a half dozen or so times and seemingly only at pinnacle moments. Have Mercy flowed seamlessly back into Bowie by way of a double-time groove and the song ended as if the inspirational detour never happened. By the time anyone could process what happened, Trey began a beautifully extended rendition of The Horse on his acoustic guitar, which drew appreciative yells from the crowd as it flowed into its partner Silent in the Morning. Silent, with its layered vocals led by Page, rolled directly into It's Ice and Page took his third vocal lead of the night as Trey and Mike's Simple-esque licks signaled a heavy jam reminiscent of the pre-Have Mercy Bowie. Ice segued into one of the most improvisational versions of The Squirming Coil ever played. Page's usual piano solo at the end of Coil floated into a potent and unusual jam segment that recalled the heavy grooves in It's Ice and Bowie. During the Coil jam the licks of Robert Johnson's Crossroads started to emerge only to descend into a funky Big Ball Jam, which jumped sharply into a mid-set Mike's Song. Mike's featured pronounced bass and organ work as the jam developed into the band's debut of Crossroads, proclaiming the theme that had developed throughout the set. After Crossroads, the energy was palpable as they dropped back into the remainder of Mike's Song. As the band segued back into I Am Hydrogen, Page played a signature organ lick from Rainy Day Women #12 and 35, adding a humorous moment to the mix. After Hydrogen, the band settled into a concise Weekapaug Groove with textured interplay between the band members leading to a light reggae groove. At that point Page began to play Amazing Grace on the piano and Mike picked it up on the bass. After a second's pause, the band began to sing Amazing Grace acapella (through microphones). As soon as the Amazing Grace vocals faded, Mike and Trey picked up the song on their instruments and Page joined on organ in Phish's first instrumental rendition of the spiritual. Fish started the beat for Weekapaug Groove as Trey played the melody and soon the band was playing a full-bore electric instrumental version of Amazing Grace over the groove. Trey thanked the audience again over the music and they wrapped up the song and the set. Phish returned for the encore -- a spirited AC/DC Bag and a nod to days gone by. Ironically they closed this amazing show and tour with Bag's refrains of "no future at all" as the audience was treated to a guitar solo complete with hammered strings and interjected piano and bass licks. Closing the epic spring tour and effectively the theater era, Durham was a crossroads and an inspiring crossroads at that.

Phish 11/2/96 Coral Sky Amphitheater, West Palm Beach, FL: Essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro

On November 2, 1996 Phish performed the thirteenth show of their fall tour at Coral Sky Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, Florida.  The previous show in Atlanta featured the band's third annual Halloween "musical costume", The Talking Heads' 'Remain In Light'.  The Halloween show (later released from the archives as 'LivePhish 15') featured a horn section, Colonel Bruce Hampton and longtime Santana percussionist, Karl Perazzo among others.  Phish met Karl opening for Santana in the summers of 1992 and 1996 and, as Trey shared at Coral Sky, had always wanted to play with him.  In addition to a legendary Halloween performance, Perazzo played three Florida shows – Tallahassee prior to Atlanta and West Palm Beach and Gainesville after.  His contribution helped extend and expand upon the magic from Halloween. Allman Brothers Band drummer and part-time fishing guide, Butch Trucks, furthur upped the rhythm coefficient, playing drums for Son Seals' Funky accompanied by the driving percussion duo of Perazzo and Jon Fishman.

The Coral Sky show crackled with the residual energy of Halloween and a tropical feel that could only have happened in a South Florida amphitheater in November.  Trey mentioned from the stage how excited the band was to play the only outdoor date of the fall.  Amidst swaying palms and soft breezes, the band wove its way through a high-energy, deeply experimental show with optimal flow and groove.  The molten epicenter of the show was a transcendent pairing of Crosseyed And Painless > Run Like An Antelope, a combination the likes of which finds the faithful perpetually "still waiting".  The 'Coral Sky' DVD showcases the birth of the band's more rhythmic, textured group improvisation style and conveys the band and crowd's shared excitement about the breakthrough.

Other highlights from 'Coral Sky' include a rollicking Ya Mar opener, fiery Julius, Cavern with heavy metal screaming and a psychedelic Stash.  Trey made full use of his megaphone during Fee and gave his newly added percussion setup a workout during Free, liberating Page to explore more extended keyboard sections.  Island-infused renditions of The Lizards and Harry Hood and hard-rocking Johnny B. Goode and Funky round out this performance.

The 'Coral Sky' 2-DVD set documents the band at the thrilling crux of a new approach to improvisation spurred on by a luminary guest. The two-and-a-half hour DVD was created from videotapes that captured the multi-camera lawn screen feed.  The audio was mixed from digital multi-tracks and mastered in 5.1 Dolby surround and PCM stereo for DVD as well as a separate 2-CD audio set.  Like the 'Walnut Creek' DVD set, 'Coral Sky' showcases some of the most unique and compelling playing of Phish's career.



PHISH: 10/21/95 Pershing Auditorium, Lincoln, NE essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (August 2007)

Phish 10/21/95

Like most touring bands, Phish returned to certain markets and venues habitually.  There were also certain stops along the way that were more unique.  Nebraska was one of those.  Phish played the state of Nebraska only twice - less often than almost anywhere else they performed.  There were some excellent shows on the fall tour leading up to the band's first visit to the Cornhusker State.  A number of new songs from the yet-to-be-recorded album "Billy Breathes" and some covers were debuted at the start of the tour as well as the chess game against the audience and the game of convincing fans that they had selected Michael Jackson's "Thriller" as the upcoming Halloween musical costume.  Baby Gramps opened back-to-back shows in Seattle followed by stops in Portland, Vancouver, Spokane and Missoula.  The band tore up Compton Terrace in Phoenix and played a few nights in Texas, where they traded licks with fellow musical sorcerers Medeski, Martin and Wood onstage in Austin and Trey sat in at MMW's gig afterward.  MMW opened in New Orleans where they again joined Phish for a jam out of Keyboard Army.  Last but not least they began a hot run of Midwest shows by bringing a rock and roll bag piper onstage in Cedar Rapids to jam on Amazing Grace.

From an archival viewpoint, perhaps the most notable fact about the shows leading up to Lincoln was the addition of a front-of-house video camera set up at the mix position for the first time in Cedar Rapids.  Under Mike's tutelage, band chiropractor and old friend Eric Larson took on the added role of regularly capturing live footage.  With the help of a technician sent out to teach him the gear, Eric began his on-the-job training as cameraman and video recordist.  There were some scrapes early on, but right from the outset he captured some classic footage that rounds out the band's video collection from a powerful time in Phish history.

When the band arrived in beautiful Nebraska for the eighteenth show of their epic 58-show fall tour, the nearby University of Nebraska campus was primed and ready - lit up with excitement from a key Homecoming Day Huskers football win against 8th ranked Kansas State Wildcats.  The Huskers led 42-6 after the third quarter, but a late Kansas State spurt threatened to close the score against the Huskers. Wildcats quarterbacks then suffered nine sacks and two interceptions allowing the Huskers to win 49-25 on their way to the NCAA championship. On a campus so devoted to football, this win had everyone in extremely high spirits.  Set atop a cauldron of Homecoming gusto, the Lincoln show had a special energy from the minute the band rolled into town. Mike noted in his journal that the band played along during soundcheck to the hammering of an apron-clad venue worker during a 20+ minute Dog Log that's included as filler with the CD.  The stage was a little lower than usual, which gave the audience an extraordinarily hyped feel on video.  Dancers' hands got right up in front of the lens and their footwork made the floor of the auditorium bounce along to the music, giving the Lincoln footage a very live feel and helping transmit the power of this show to the tapes.

After Page made the band's chess move, the show exploded out of the gates with the first-ever Tweezer Reprise opener.  The video camera shook along with the floor of the front-of-house riser when the crowd started moving to this unprecedented opener.  The floor kept bouncing with Chalk Dust Torture as the whole band linked up pretty much immediately.  The reggae-ish lilt of Guelah Papyrus awed the crowd and gave Trey and Mike a chance to display their special dance for the locals.  Reba, like many standout versions from 1995, was fast and well executed with a magnificent jam.  Reba is also the first strobe warning for this show – if you are prone to seizures, exercise caution as Lighting Designer Chris Kuroda cranked up the strobe lights liberally throughout this gig.  The Reba jam weaved sinuously into deeper territory with some tender discussion between Mike and Trey before Trey launched a staccato-fueled theme that lifted the room higher each time it was restated.  The band picked up the theme and stretched it out and back to Reba with a whistle-less ending.  Wilson came next and led straight into Cars Trucks Buses where the video footage reveals some good close-ups of Page banging it out on the piano. 

The set turned weird with the implementation of Fish's ancient ritual chant, Kung.  The raucous crowd was captivated – many shook their hands in the air toward the band to illustrate some of the more extra-terrestrial sounds.  The video caught some precious footage of Fish and Trey, who toyed with a drumstick slide and played his guitar behind his head before making Paul nervous by threatening to smash his Languedoc G2 through a speaker cabinet.  Obscuring the band with hands high, the crowd obediently stood up on their heels and called "From The Hills!" as they deftly revisited Gamehendge with a nice segue into The Lizards.  A dramatic and pretty Strange Design was next, then the band advanced to stools at the edge of the stage for Acoustic Army with its four-way acoustic guitar harmonics.  After that brief interlude, they ended the set with a rocking Good Times, Bad Times that Trey called before affectionately bluffing the upcoming Halloween gig by teasing Michael Jackson's Black and White.  A ripping Good Times ensued with a layered jam that got downright nasty before segueing perfectly into another Tweezer Reprise.  The unexpected Reprise exploded with cyclonic energy and lights leaving all present scrambling to reconstitute their reality.  They saved the full Tweezer for the next night in Champaign and the band never again attempted the set one Tweezer Reprise Sandwich (though in Philadelphia later in the tour they tried a similar trick, book-ending Tweeprise in set two).

After a "fifteen-minute" set break and a two-person audience chess move, set two blasted off with a quick 2001, which set a groove and showed off the light rig. Fender Rhodes and high-hat swirled together as 2001 segued into David BowieBowie led into a jazzy jam with lots of space and some interesting musical conversation (some J-licks by Trey and Page recalled Jingo and Jeopardy respectively).  The jam grew more frenetic with flashing lights to match and entered a dissonant section before resolving into the fiery ending licks of BowieLifeboy followed, changing the vibe from shredding to spiritual.  Sparkle lifted the spell to reveal the galloping dance party that was the Pershing.  As a testament to the heights of the dancing, the video during Sparkle's chorus is bouncing enough to give a cameraman a coronary.  Thankfully, Eric pushed on to capture it, realizing the power of that undulating auditorium floor and ignoring the tech's suggestion to steady the camera or turn it off.  For the sake of completeness, we left this somewhat dizzying footage as part of the release.  Sparkle fell directly into You Enjoy Myself as the roller coaster of the mind picked up speed.  Like some of the best-ever performed that fall, You Enjoy Myself was a testament to the band and fans growth into the arena rock era.  YEM was the perfect arena rocker even when it was played in a dorm room or corner bar.  In an arena full of raging college-aged Phishheads, YEM is simply incomparable.  Written by Trey while traveling abroad with Fish midway through their higher education, YEM synesthesiastically blends music theory, reggae, funk and trampolines into a psychedelic prog-rock rite of passage that primes the college Being for exactly that for which the composition is aptly named.  Blown away, the lively audience clapped along with a polyrhythmic vocal jam that became a pitch-increasing rotation of sound effects and lights (strobe alert #2) before sinking into a dynamic breathing-snoring exercise.  As the snoring subsided, You Enjoy Myself drifted away on cymbal rolls that allowed Trey to slide behind the drum kit while Fish grabbed his vacuum for Purple Rain.  Upon arriving center-stage, Fish crowned himself with a glow ring that he wore the rest of the show.  It's a shame the video of this song can't be released at this time because Fish, looking like a short Jesus or a white Hendrix with his head-ring and running slow motion in place as he guided you to the Purple Rain with an Electrolux solo was a sight to behold.  The crowd was spellbound, trying to figure out how this wave of madness translated so naturally into a Huskers Homecoming Game bash.

Harry Hood started with more Beat It teases from Trey followed by a playful and mellifluous introduction.  Strobe alert #3 took place during "Thank you Mr. Minor", which led to a dynamic jam section with some nice full-band improvisation.  The crowd erupted as Trey called Suzy Greenberg.  Fish continued the Harry Hood humor into his usual Greenberg commentary, making Trey and Mike laugh as they tore into the last song of the set.  Strobe alert #4 occurred just as Trey teased Beat It to the rhythm of Suzy.  Obviously feeling in the zone at that point, Trey fearlessly quoted the lead for Stairway to Heaven before making way for Page's inspired piano solo.  As Suzy drew to a close, Trey threw out one last stanza of Tweezer Reprise as a parting nod to the shared magic of the moment.  The crowd roared and ignited their lighters in a show of rock and roll solidarity as the band returned to the stage for the encore, Highway to Hell.  Due to licensing, we can't present the Highway to Hell video at this time, but like Purple Rain it warrants mention.  There is a combined glow from watching Fish wearing his head-ring, Mike mysteriously sitting down in a chair during the second verse and Trey in Husker red, pumping his fist and singing like a kid in a candy store.  As Highway to Hell drew to a close, the room exploded with lights flashing (strobe alert #5), heads banging and fists pumping in a classic display of arena rock power.

This was a championship show for Phish, for the Huskers and for those of us lucky enough to relive it now.  As with other livephish.com videos, the archival Beta-SP footage was sync'd with audio re-mastered by Fred Kevorkian from 2-track soundboard reference DAT.  Like New Year's Eve 1995, 12/29/97 New York, 11/14/95 Orlando and 12/1/95 Hershey, this recording crackles with energy and begs to be enjoyed over and over.  As with other recent livephish.com titles, this show is available as an environmentally friendly 3-CD set as well as FLAC and MP3 download.  In the quest for higher quality delivery, we have doubled our video resolution starting with Lincoln to a bit rate and frame size that max out specifications for 5th generation iPod and provide a great viewing experience on any device.



PHISH: 3/18/97 Flynn Theatre, Burlington, VT essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (4/6/07)

Phish 3/18/97

The Flynn Theatre is a historic venue set on Main Street in Burlington, Vermont. It is an Art Deco theater in design and decor, built by J.J. Flynn and his associates and opened in 1930 for live performance and cinema. After a brief time as a movie theater only, the Flynn was re-configured for performing arts in 1974. A locally run, non-profit organization of community leaders purchased it from private hands and set about restoring the theater between 1985 and 1999 creating a world-class performing arts center in the hub of Vermont's cultural capital. While rock concerts are rarely a part of that mission, Phish performed at the Flynn a number of times through the years – in 1992, 1994 and finally in 1997 in conjunction with the launch of Phish Food.


When Ben and Jerry's approached Phish to license the band name for an ice cream flavor in 1996, the band's initial response was "no, thank you" respecting a pact they made early on not to license their name to anyone but a record label. At the same time, the band members were talking about how to consolidate and focus their corporate giving which, until then, had been as impromptu as their live setlists. All the suggestions shared a focus on children's and environmental causes in the State of Vermont. As talks continued, they learned that Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (at that time still directly at the helm of their creation) had a similar charitable vision. They were willing to collaborate directly with the band to develop a flavor that would help bring the band's charitable efforts to a new level.

After a summer that included Ben and Jerry's historic guest vocal slot with the band at The Clifford Ball, the visionary confectioners found common ground with the visionary band. They eventually agreed to create a flavor, with the final development being Fish's suggestion to make the marshmallow more correctly "marshmallow-y", unlike other rocky road type flavors of the past that had wispy, not-very-marshmallow-y ingredients. Ben and Jerry's Research and Development arm managed to bring that about and Phish Food was born earning frozen food awards and spin-offs that included Phish Sticks - a Phish Food chocolate covered ice-cream bar). The flavor became popular and the rest is history, with Phish Food consistently a top seller in pints and scoops sold worldwide. Ben and Jerry's has even created a special edition variation (with added chocolate cows) Phish Food 10th Anniversary Surf n' Turf Edition to celebrate this milestone. As Ben said during his introduction at The Flynn Theatre in 1997, the work between the band and Ben and Jerry was one of mutual respect and "a real spiritual connection" between them.


It was eventually agreed that the only appropriate way to kick off the release of the ice cream flavor and awareness of both companies' environmental efforts was to do what the band did best and play a live show. A special one-off U.S. theater show was booked for March 18th, 1997 at the Flynn. Tickets were placed on-sale on February 20th with procedures to ensure this special show would be attended only by the fans who bought the tickets, rather than scalpers who at that time routinely re-sold tickets to fans at top dollar against the band's wishes in spite of creative anti-scalping measures like mail order ticketing.

The band was already running their direct mail-order ticketing operation, Phish Tickets By Mail, through the Flynn Theatre Box Office where Shelly Culbertson (founder of PTBM) worked with Celia Asbell (who ran the Flynn Box Office) to fulfill orders from the faithful. This was done with surgical precision based on when the orders were received so the band could deliver the specially decorated tickets to fans in time for them to make a second attempt to buy elsewhere if their orders couldn't be filled due to too high demand. This was a challenge in a small town with very high ticket demand and fans who can be so dedicated to procuring tickets to see their band that they are sometimes difficult to placate.

It was decided that tickets for the Phish Food launch would be sold in pairs, first-come-first- serve only and that the purchasers, who bought their tickets in person at the Flynn, would have to be the attendees. To accomplish this, the on-sale was top secret until it was announced on local rock radio station and longtime Phish supporters WIZN FM the day of the on-sale at 8am. Purchasers were given vouchers that required them to return in person on March 18th for the show, produce their identification and enter with one person accompanying them if they bought a pair of tickets. This made it so even if a scalper heard the announcement and made it into the line in time to get a pair, the scalper him or herself would have to actually attend the show with whomever they sold to – an unlikely scenario which as far as we know never happened. Tickets sold out nearly instantly with local news coverage of fans buying tickets, Ben and Jerry's employees handing out free samples of Phish Food and announcing the Vermont partners' joint purpose of cleaning up Lake Champlain . Phish fans were especially excited about this small, one-off show in a year when every other U.S. gig was in a venue ten to fifty times the size of the Flynn.

Meanwhile, the band had released their latest studio album Billy Breathes in fall 1996 and toured Europe twice in less than a year to support it – once in summer opening for Santana with a few festival and headline dates and again as a headliner in 1997. On the second leg of that tour in Hamburg, they recorded the live album Slip Stitch and Pass. They also toured the United States twice in 1996 playing sold-out amphitheatres and arenas. Their last theater shows were special events even in 1995 when they happened, with a benefit for Voters For Choice at Lowell, MA in May and a three-night stand at Atlanta's Fox Theatre in November. Before that, it had been years since the band had played small venues. Their last show at the Flynn was nearly three years earlier in 1994 where they kicked off a tour supported by a horn section with a special gig (even then they were playing mostly college gymnasiums and arenas) at their hometown theater on April 4, 1994. That show was a benefit to help raise money to restore the building, so it was fitting that they returned in 1997 to christen the newly restored room.

On show day, March 18th, Ben and Jerry took the stage first that night to introduce the flavor and the band. Their introduction was remastered and provided for free download at livephish.com. The band opened their first hometown show since 1995 with their first ever rendition of Neil Young's Cinnamon Girl followed by a non-stop combination of NICU > Sample in a Jar > Punch You in the Eye. Punch had a specially developed introductory section with lots of work by Page on his Fender Rhodes. Two more covers followed before they dove into Harry Hood, which was drawn masterfully into a more-amazing-than-usual jam section now re-mastered for free download at livephish.com. Without stopping, longtime local collaborators Dave "The Truth" Grippo and James Harvey joined the band to add horns to a no-holds-barred Cars Trucks Buses with extended solos by everyone. Cars Trucks Buses was also remastered and is provided for free download. Two more songs with horns followed – the always-raucous Suzy Greenberg and Character Zero, during which Trey wished Ben a happy birthday as they ended the song and the set.

The band kicked off set two with over a half hour of continuous music with Taste > Drowned > Prince Caspian > David Bowie. Bowie blew up as expected and a short pause ensued while local blues singer Tammy Fletcher got up to join the band in an impromptu guest appearance for two of her songs, I Told You So and Love You Like a Man. After apologizing to her date for abandoning him to sing, she proceeded to blow the Flynn up with her big booming vocals, stage presence and Phish acting briefly as the best backing band in the business as they learned her songs onstage. I Told You So was especially powerful and was remastered for free download at livephish.com . The second set continued with Waste > Chalk Dust Torture and finally a dynamically soaring Slave to the Traffic Light to seal the deal. As they ended Slave Trey said "thank you very much for coming tonight to our ice cream bash" and proceeded to thank Ben and Jerry and everyone present for helping out Lake Champlain. For the encore, the band returned with Hello My Baby acapella before closing the night out with Funky B*tch, during which Grippo and Harvey re-joined to lend horns to the classic adopted by Phish from Chicago bluesman Son Seals.

As a one-off hometown theater show full of debuts and special guests, this show was an instant classic. The efficiently circulated FM broadcast that was blasted "live" during the show at local bars helped grow the legend for the past decade. Mastering engineer Fred Kevorkian brought out the very best in the soundboard reference tracks now at livephish.com. Soon after this show, Phish gave a name to their environmental efforts when they decided to funnel 100% of their royalties from the license of Phish Food into their non-profit organization called The Waterwheel Foundation. Waterwheel's primary mission is to fund efforts to clean up the Lake Champlain watershed from years of pollution from industrial, agricultural and urban runoff. Waterwheel also developed a touring leg that partnered with local charities wherever Phish played to support local communities where the shows happened and collect donations from fans to raise money and awareness for the local partners and the foundation. The Waterwheel Foundation's mission continues to this day.



Essays by Kevin Shapiro



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