Monday, November 4, 2013

Response to the "Across the Margin" Phish in Wingsuit Article

If you have not read this article, and the comments that follow the blog post, then I suggest you take a look
This is my response....
Phish has spent years and years building expectations about certain days, songs, events and shows. Halloween is one of those “monumental” shows. Whether or not you think it’s fair, the band clearly recognized the expectation existed or else they would not have defended their actions in the Playbill and subsequently apologized to their fans over the next 2 nights. This knowledge – and clear foresight as evidenced by the Playbill – suggests that the band fully recognized this was deceit. Obviously not with malice, but organized, coordinated deceit. 
Every fan has a right to celebrate this ruse, just as they have a right to feel like someone they love has taken advantage of a situation....a historical situation. As with all bell curves, many of us will fall to either end of the spectrum with a majority somewhere near the middle. You cannot fault someone for being disappointed, but you should also not feel compelled to defend the band. This was not a case in which the band “never announced a cover album” and just coincidentally played an unreleased album. They methodically went about planning this event, knowing how it would be received across the spectrum.
My personal opinion – this was more of a New Years Eve "gag second set" and should have been saved for that night….after all, NYE is just 4 shows away.

~ @TimberCarini ~

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In Honor of the MSG Announcement: CHEESECAKE! 1999 Phish NYE Video from Big Cypress

In 1999 Phish played a swamp in Florida as the biggest concert celebration of the New Millennium in all of North America (just barely beating out Celine Dion). Big Cypress NYE has gone on to be considered Phish's most daring and musically comprehensive festival set in history. Raging long jams and creating sonic landscapes for hours upon hours....until the sun rise over the gator infested ditches of South Florida. However, this historic night started with an innocuous segment on ABC news for their nightly coverage of Y2K. Most people watched at home with their tin foil hats, fearful of the machines taking over at the stroke of midnight. We all sat in that Florida National Park and screamed "CHEESECAKE!" at the top of our lungs as the band opted for the dulcet tones of Heavy Things. Here's yer sign....

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Show #13: Oswego County Airport Volney, NY

PHISH AMBIENT JAM GRADE 7/17:   7 out of 10 

Highlights: 7/17 Tweezer > Have Mercy > Taste, DWD
Listen Here: Phan Reviews:

Oswego is the platform upon which Phish builds and connects its jams - past, present and future. Inviting all of the ingredients which have fans flocking into one fire-born cauldron of magic. Clearly the Architect had set out to construct a concert experience that brought Phish's influences together to appease a little bit inside everyone. Blues, Reggae, Bluegrass, Funk, Whimsy, Ambient, Rock and everything in between. 

The ambient flourishes are ever present in these shows. By now it has become "Phish's style." Many, many Phans think that it is Phish being sloppy but that is just not the case. Phish is playing in a looser style than ever before due to the tremendous impact of 1997 and 1998 on their cache within the record industry and the perceived power that Trey had over the band. They were doing less controlled practices and trying to create music more organically. More experimentally. The Siket Disc was "their sound" at the time. They worked by not working. Sonic landscapes were what they painted within almost every show, and rarely did it matter what set it was or what song it was. This was the Phish "Wall of Sound" ...not by stacking amps, but by creating a symphony of loops and feedback. They are still very precise in most of their songs, and not as drug addled as many claimed they were at the time. Sure, they partied... we all partied at these shows. Before. During. After. However, there is a clear distinction between Phish in 1999 and Phish in 2003.  
 ~ ~ ~ ~
*Reminder - my reviews are primarily based upon exploring ambient jams. I will often skip over great rock, funk or other types of jams in my reviews as they are not necessary for this blog series. The reviews linked above will paint a bigger picture if you are truly interested in learning about the complete shows of 1999.

Set 1: In what seems like a clear blueprint of the future jams of 2000, Phish lays down a Tweezer jam that is altogether smooth, spacey, jagged, peaked, subtle and ambient in more ways than one. Mike Gordon carries this jam on his back - connecting Trey to the rest of the band as Big Red starts to drift. However, it is this drifting that is so reminiscent of the future jams of 2000. This is one of those jams and segues that draws me to the ambient jams of 1999. Space is king. Space is relative. Space is the jam.

The segue to Have Mercy is perfect - with ambient swirls, a funk groove and reggae inflections. Twas the necessary release to the tempest of that Tweezer's futuristic ambient space funk. This is the BEST version of Have Mercy that I have ever heard Phish play. They truly make it their own - with a transition mid song that is so incredibly patient and beautiful - going from tease to full version almost on a whim. Have Mercy also goes out in true 1999 form and atmospherically twirls its way into a great Taste.
 Set 2: The ever present second set Down with Disease gets this show on the road following a historic Son Seals sit-in to open the set. This jam starts as most DWD jams begin - with a tour de force guitar solo from Trey. Attempting to show Mr. Seals how a modern bluesman gets dirty, Anastasio builds a monument to cock rock with a lesly-tinged feedback bonanza. The reverse-reverb effect has Trey really punching the solo through the garage-band-esque backdrop set by the other three as they try to keep up with Red's fire. Around 11 minutes into the song you start to wonder if Trey is going to give up some space to let the band explore, or if he plans to set the record of most trill notes in a solo. The release finally happens after 13 and a half mins, which is when Trey goes for the reverse delay pedal on top of the reverse reverb. This is the sound of a black hole eating its way through the universe. Page provides the space. Gordon seems a bit lost in space. Fishman is the passing stars and planets and comets and meteors. The ensuing ambient jam gets very cacophonous. Dark Star Trey finally fades into oblivion. The band locks up a dirty funk rhythm over the drone of the black hole loop from Trey. Page decides the groove is not enough without weird alien voices or sounds and thus provides the sound effect of tiny space mice crawling through the cascading space funk. Slowly Trey brings back the DWD arena rock chords and finished the song on the main riff. Kirk out.

Link Saturday, 07/17/1999
Oswego County Airport, Volney, NY

Soundcheck: Mr. Sausage, Beauty of My Dreams, Carini (slower)
Set 1: Tube > Boogie On Reggae Woman, Birds of a Feather, Guelah Papyrus, My Sweet One, Roggae, Tweezer -> Have Mercy -> Taste > Character Zero
Set 2: Funky Bitch[1], On My Knees[2], Jam > Down with Disease, Wolfman's Brother -> Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley[3] > Timber (Jerry), You Enjoy Myself
Encore: The Squirming Coil, Tweezer Reprise
[1] Son Seals on guitar and vocals.
[2] Phish debut; Son Seals on guitar and vocals.
[3] No vocal jam.
Notes: This was the first show of the Camp Oswego festival. Have Mercy was played for the first time since November 12, 1994 (335 shows). Son Seals sat in on guitar and vocals for his own composition, Funky Bitch, as well as the Phish debut of On My Knees. Afterwards, a brief blues jam was played as Son left the stage. Sneakin' Sally did not contain a vocal jam.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Shows #11 & #12: 7/15 & 7/16 1999 PNC Bank Arts Center Holmdel, NJ

PHISH AMBIENT JAM GRADE 7/15:  9 out of 10 
PHISH AMBIENT JAM GRADE 7/16: 4 out of 10
Listen Here: Phan Reviews: 


While so many shows we attend leave us feeling a variety of emotions, we often return to the shows that we enjoyed the most. I admit that I listen to (and defend) the shows that I attended much more than shows that have only heard through tapes and recordings. At 100+ shows, I feel like I have a pretty large sample size from which I can draw these emotional attachments for the use of reviews. There are amazing facts about memories and re-living moments that your whole body experienced that goes way beyond hearing music on playback. Reliving those experiences is part of what makes listening to Phish so incredibly powerful. When it comes to listening and reviewing shows for a blog, you get a chance to immerse yourself into shows you never attended or re-live shows you did attend. Shows that you loved, shows that were uninspiring, shows that were "perfect," and shows that carried the emotional baggage of your own personal journey.

This brings me to the next phenomenon: the PAPER TIGER. We are all guilty of judging a show by its setlist. The age of the internet allows communication to flow so rapidly that we get setlists in real time and judge a show as it is taking place. This was not necessarily the case for normal people in 1999. Setlists would pop up the next day or a few days later online (if you had internet outside of your college campus), but with limited information. Tapes/CDs would circulate weeks or months later. CD burning trees would allow you to send blank CDs off to be burned by phans in other states and then you would wait for the return burned copy in the mail. Shows were judged quickly by a setlist or word of mouth - or both. A show with a huge bustout or new cover or crazy theatrics was initially valued higher than a show with an amazing jam. Plus, jams were longer back then so it seemed like every show had a 20+ jam after a song. Paper Tigers are shows like 7/16 with the Born to Run encore. Huge bustout cover in NJ with a special guest - initially thought to be Bruce himself! That was the initial word on the street - by regular phans (not hypercritical uber fans) - that 7/16 was a crazy show.

I didn't attend these shows, so I had no clue, because I had done a whole bunch of the Southern and Midwest Runs of this Summer Tour. I got burned CD's in the mail a few weeks later and I listened to the 7/16 show and thought it was great. I ignored the 7/15 CDs because there was so much music to listen to, that I didn't make time to listen to 7/15.

When I finally heard 7/15 I was blown away. This was "the show" from that Holmdel run. Rivaling only Oswego in the East Coast run that summer as "the show." Obviously it's all up to interpretation, as everyone is looking for a different vibe and a different energy and a different experience. 
The highlights from 7/15 are era defining highlights, and the highlights from 7/16 are just that show's highlights. That is the difference.

Set 1: Punch You In the Eye > Ghost is just a killer 1-2 combo to start any show in any era. This Ghost is a bit faster and more energized than your usual Ghost and it gets the crowd going early. The spacey ambient textures that Trey was putting into the mix seemed to drive the jam in the more aggressive ambient jam style that had been seen in various other jams that tour.  Instead of a slower, mesmerizing "What's the Use?" style ambient jam the band was looking to tap into the variety of ambient jams available in their growing arsenal. As the band slowed down the jam at the end - as if an animal running in slow motion - you could tell they were locked and loaded as one propulsive unit. The remainder of the set was fun and high energy - no letdown - and it was capped off by an explosive YEM that allowed the tension and release of the whole first set to burst through everyone's synapses.

Set 2: Meatstick > Split Open and Melt -> Kung -> Jam
This is the only Meatstick that I put on regularly. This ambient Meatstick jam picks up right at the end of the shenanigans around the 11min mark and just drops into an ambient groove with hovering spaceship sounds by Page, staccato slaps by Gordon, and Fishman working to stay with the crowd claps as a time signature. Trey just sort of floats above with ethereal runs and harmonics from the Whammy. A really nice drone that builds on the Page keyboard weirdness and is the combination of ambient and funk that phans really love. Why have one without the other? Phish says you can have both... The jam simmers down and feedback builds and Fishman drops into 2001. Then Mike says, "No!" and drops the Split Open and Melt baseline within a few measures of Fishman's 2001 beat. Fish doesn't care, he's just going to make the 2001 beat work for SOAM. Trey thinks it's hilarious and cannot stop laughing, can't keep up with the lyrics, and is clearly distracted by Fishman refusing to change the beat. Eventually they get to the chorus and Fishman yields. They race through the composed section and just all want to get to the jammy weirdness as fast as possible. But even as the jam starts it feels rushed, then it stalls, they seem undecided and locked into a mediocre-at-best groove. Then about 7 mins into SOAM they flip a switch. Fuck this. They are not going to plod along in some non-directional jam. They are going for it. GOING FOR IT! Trey gets nasty and weird and the band follows. They rage for a couple minutes and find a deep ambient blanket to pull over everyone's eyes. Get inside. Everyone come closer. KUNG! FROM THE HILLS! FROM. THE. HILLS!!!! It gets super weird inside the blanket and the band finally releases the tension into a screaming jam over an ambient base of fuzz and feedback and uber weirdness. The JAM that comes out is an incredible example of the ambient jams of that era. Trey gets on the keyboard for some Peruvian pan flute for a brief interlude, but quickly recognizes that he needs to be on the guitar. The rage builds for a bit, but drops into a dark and creepy place akin to the 12/30/12 Carini. Although, not like the super low tones of the NYE12 Carini, but more of a horror movie creepy. Trey creates a "rusty swingset" loop over Fishman and Gordon's reprise of the SOAM coda. Then Page goes Thelonious Monk on the piano... it just breathes.... it is ambient, yet directional and defined. Trey adds some Wes Montgomery to Page's Monk. The ambient textures swirl. Gordon and Fishman keep it in the SOAM space. It's as weird and beautiful as it looks on paper.... the opposite of a Paper Tiger. Epic in the actual sense of the word.

Set 1: I cannot review this substandard boring first set of music. Not worth anyone's time.
Set 2:  Also Sprach Zarathustra > Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove
The 2001 everyone was waiting for comes out to play. Great run of songs. They don't make Mike's Grooves like this anymore. Ambient and flowing right through the I Am Hydrogen into an excellent Weekapaug. It is great. Listen to these 4 songs from this set and enjoy. Maybe check out Tom Marshall pretending to be Bruce Springsteen for a laugh, but remember why you are here and it's not for Springsteen Karaoke.

Thursday, 07/15/1999
PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ

Soundcheck: Lady Madonna, Have Mercy, Mountains in the Mist -> Dirt -> Mountains in the Mist, Guyute (part), You Better Believe It Baby
Set 1: Punch You In the Eye > Ghost > Farmhouse, Horn > Poor Heart > Axilla > Theme From the Bottom, I Didn't Know, The Sloth, You Enjoy Myself
Set 2: Meatstick > Split Open and Melt[1] -> Kung -> Jam[2] > Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture
Encore: Brian and Robert, Frankenstein
[1] Began as 2001 and was unfinished.
[2] Shine (Collective Soul) and Split Open and Melt teases from Mike.

Friday, 07/16/1999
PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ

Set 1: Sample in a Jar, Beauty of My Dreams, Dogs Stole Things, Limb By Limb, Billy Breathes, Vultures, Back on the Train, Maze, Cavern
Set 2: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove[1], Simple > Guyute, Loving Cup > Golgi Apparatus
Encore: Born to Run[2]

Friday, June 28, 2013's Live Bait 9 features two GREAT 1999 Jams


The cat is out of the bag. 1999, a year long ignored by, is getting it's moment in the sun on this new Live Bait 9 release. Long time phans have been clamoring for professionally remastered soundboard releases of these '99 shows for over a decade.

"Why? Don't the tapes suffice?"

The short answer:  "No."

The 1999 shows featured such a rich abundance of sounds, textures, depth, delicacy, rage, delicate rage, and sonic scapes not yet tested on stage by Phish. As the Summer 2000 tour came around, the band and sound techs had mastered the setup and monitors and PA levels for a better mix and thus tapers got better recordings. However, that meant that a full year of Phish was semi-sort-of missing in action. Some of the '99 recordings were fine, but many were washed out by the mid-level sounds and noises. Even the live shows were very hit or miss from a phan sitting in the pavs or lawn. It sounded like loud "droning" on specific notes. These were huge jams - 20+ minutes!

It was just raw. It was pure. It was uncut. It was amazing.

Some of the soundboard patches revealed hidden gems and textures not captured by tapers. The full extent of what Phish was doing on stage has been slowly leaking as archivist Kevin Shapiro features these songs and shows in his releases, and Live Bait 9 is a startling realization of what we have been missing.

Still not getting it?  Check out these Live Bait 9 cuts:
Split Open and Melt > Kung > Jam – 7/15/1999 @ PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel NJ
Mike’s Song > Twist > Weekapaug – 7/9/1999 @ Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia MD

Download Live Bait 9 for FREE right here:,788/Free-MP3-Download-Live-Bait-Vol-9.html

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Show #10: 7/13/99 Tweeter Center, Mansfield, MA

Highlights: The Curtain > Halley's Comet -> Roses Are Free -> NO2, Wolfman's Brother
Listen Here: Phan Reviews:


Hard to top the opener energy from the previous evening (Foreplay/Longtime), so the band opted to go in a different direction: jams... glorious, amazing jams. There is nothing better than Phish outdoing itself through pure creativity. Who needs a straight out of left field cover song, when you can play your own music in such an artistic and captivating manner? Set two is anchored with a mind erasing 21 minute Wolfman's Brother. It is the ambient take on the 97 versions of the jam. Stop what you are listening to and throw on this Wolfman's Brother. I am 99% sure it's better than whatever is currently embracing your ear drums. Hell, it gets so deep that Mike needs the FIGHT BELL to call the match. 
Prepare thyself, the aliens are coming.

SET 1: NICU opener is funky, calypso-groove fun for the masses, but it is but merely a placeholder in this set. The monster segue of THE CURTAIN > HALLEY'S COMET > ROSES ARE FREE > N02 is the "raison d'etre." THE CURTAIN brings with it a feeling of past greatness and has many of the parts of Phish that we all love - singalong choruses, intricate composed sections, slashing guitar riffs and the feeling of being transported to another world during those opening notes. Where were we going? Wherever it was, HALLEY'S COMET was
taking us. We go through Cadillac rainbows, get tangled in spaghetti, get served our thick strawberry goo, all along the way to the central part of town. Trey wastes no time peeling off squealing riffs and fast-fretted runs, instead he goes straight for the ambient groove. The central part of this town is ambient funk-ville. This groove is the anti-Halley's Comet solo and jam of the past and veers towards the core of Phish as one. The 2012 Summer Tour "all are one" jams should thank this grandfather of greatness. This Halley's Comet jam is a lesson in sum is greater than parts. The monumental jam leaks into what seems like Ghost.... but then a last second right turn takes us to ROSES ARE FREE. Roses was so under-played at this point in Phish's career it was a huge treat to get this tune. The song gets the crowd going and pours into a very loopy, soupy ambient jam that seems to be spiraling out of control (because it is) as it drops into N02. This N02 is unique because it contains the actual "composed" section atop the swirling loops and sirens. A first time play. Ever. A very beautiful and almost Crosby, Stills and Nash style composed jam of delicate chord changes and patient loving playing by the band. All that over some weird ambient siren loops. Quite a sonic buffet. An excellent Reba > Carini adds another set highlight.

SET 2: WOLFMAN'S BROTHER goes ambient early and often in this stellar dark and dirty version of the classic Hoist cut. Just so deep and layered and funky before it gets sucked into the galaxy. Mike's finds a very unique riff early and steers Trey towards the dark side. Soon enough the drone loops and feedback starts. Mike drops into slap groove mode. The crowd erupts for the glow-stick war. The funk gets deeper. You can feel the energy on playback. It's what you want... hell, it's what everyone wants. Darker, funkier, deeper into the groove. Page is so in the pocket he's invisible on the low clavs - like Bernie Worrell under water. It sounds like the entire amphitheater is slowly sinking into the ground and everyone loves it. Mike incorporates the Fight Bell just to let everyone know that this thing ain't over yet. The band melts into a subsonic spacey wormhole and the jam gets sucked into the vacuum. The rest of this set is nothing compared to that Wolfman's Brother, so I will pretend like it doesn't exist.

Tuesday, 07/13/1999
Tweeter Center, Mansfield, MA

Set 1: NICU, The Curtain > Halley's Comet -> Roses Are Free -> NO2[1], Lawn Boy, Reba[2] > Carini > Funky Bitch
Set 2: Wolfman's Brother > Piper, Bug > Mountains in the Mist, Run Like an Antelope[3] > Possum[4]
Encore: Tuesday's Gone[5]
[1] For the first known time, NO2 included the instrumental ending originally included on The White Tape.
[2] No whistling.
[3] Meatstick teases.
[4] Scott Murawski on guitar.
[5] Phish debut; Scott Murawski on guitar.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Show #9: 7/12/99 Tweeter Center, Mansfield, MA

Highlights: Foreplay/Longtime
Listen Here: Phan Reviews:


 This show will forever be known for its "electric" Foreplay/Longtime bustout, but features some nice ambient moments. Please note that their really is no "big" ambient jam in this show. Many of the ambient moments and jams are conducted with creativity and pensive precision, as Phish is clearly "locked in," only the delicate building ambient tinged jam in DAVID BOWIE is noteworthy.

 SET 1: Starting with a BANG! the band loads up and fires off a FOREPLAY/LONGTIME bustout for the Boston faithful and has the crowd amped early and often. Obviously they didn't take the jam of F/L to crazy ambient dissonance, but neither did they with the follow up 18 minute DOWN WITH DISEASE. Instead, Trey and the boys opted for a "meat and potatoes" guitar lead DWD with a pretty mild "ambient style" lower-tempered jam for the last 4 minutes before bringing back the central guitar riff and closing out the uneventful tune. A standard BACK ON THE TRAIN came and went with little fanfare. A bit of a pause before... WHAT'S THE USE slides into a great first set slot. Bringing a beautiful texture, the ambient tune dipped and swayed it's way through a very lowfi but awesome jam section that chose Radiohead sparsity over swirling "wall of sound" effects laden landscapes. Great minimalism ambient style. The gorgeous underwhelming continued with a rhythmic lowfi ambient tech jam in SPLIT OPEN AND MELT. A very understated but sonically strong version for Phish, probably overlooked by most. Trey channels his inner Hendrix on a scathing Character Zero set closer.
SET 2: TWIST opener is always a good idea. The band decided to go minimalist again, but opted for a bluesier take and really only hinted at the ambient jam that could have been. Playing it safe. I get it. It's a two night run and maybe they are saving the "weird" for the next night. MAKISUPA features some spacey weirdness started by Page and Mike, and finished off by Trey throwing down some reverse loops. Real reggae fans may shudder to think of Bob Marley approaching a reggae jam with alien sounds and reverse guitar loops, but this is Phish and this is what we want to hear! The rest of this set and encore are standard summer fare, aside from the DAVID BOWIE. The BOWIE has a really gorgeous and intricate building jam that starts off with almost complete silence and slowly builds through some clouds of ambient fluff and mini whale calls from Trey. Gordon plays some of his most thoughtful bass runs during this jam as clearly the band is seeking more from this BOWIE than any other song not called FOREPLAY/LONGTIME. 

Link Monday, 07/12/1999
Tweeter Center, Mansfield, MA

Soundcheck: My Best Friend's Girlfriend, Centerfold, Dream On, Rift
Set 1: Foreplay/Long Time[1] > Down with Disease, Back on the Train, What's the Use?, Split Open and Melt, Water in the Sky > Character Zero
Set 2: Twist > The Moma Dance > Makisupa Policeman > David Bowie, The Lizards, Guyute
Encore: Rock and Roll
[1] First Phish electric version.
Notes: Foreplay/Long Time was played for the first time since December 9, 1994 (310 shows) and was the first time Phish had ever performed it electric. Guyute was followed by band introductions, including Mike Gordon as “Michael ‘Soft G’ Jordan.”

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Show #8: 7/10/99 E Center Camden, NJ

Highlights: Wilson>Chalkdust>Roggae, Bathtub Gin, Tweezer, Fluffhead
Listen Here: Phan Reviews:


There are so many great shows from the past 30 years. Shows with incredible jams, incredible energy, hi-jinx, theatricality, and that spirit of oneness that pulls the entire audience together for that one night. Some of the best shows are a combination of many of those attributes. We as a community are lucky to have an opportunity to see Phish in 2013, and are lucky enough to have that chance to see a truly great show... on any given night. You pick and choose the shows you are going to attend with the hopes that on that steamy night in Maryland in July, or that crisp evening in Denver on September 1st, your mind will be blown. You will be hugging strangers. You will be screaming until your lungs bleed. You will be one.

This particular show from Camden, NJ in 1999 is one of those shows. It may not have the huge ambient jams that propel the ambient jam grade to a 10/10, but it has everything a show needs to be a "great" show for the ages. Phish knows this show was THAT good, because they released it in the original run of "LivePhish" remasters.

SET 1: Wilson opener gets down and dirty real fast featuring a very heavy metal drone with distortion from Trey in the jam that leads to a solo with his reverse reverb effect sucking the solo notes back into the vortex. The distortion and feedback swells, Trey piles notes upon notes with the reverse effect creating a dizzying effect within the jam. Quick and powerful. Trey decides that having one first set opener is not enough. He opts to steer the band toward another first set opener in Chalkdust Torture. These are often the two summer rock openers that band uses to get a show started with high energy, and to stack them one on top of another is a sign of things to come for this show. The Chalkdust cools off a bit during the sing-song part of the tune, but Fishman keeps it up-tempo and drives the speed with his unrelenting snare hits. Trey finally gets to the solo and unleashes in his fiery late 90's Chalkdust style ...but only for a couple minutes. Then he just stops. Hangs on a two or three note combo and starts to stray towards a melodic jam unusual for a Chalkdust. He brings back some of his usual guitar runs for a few measures to see if the band wants to go back to rage mode, but quickly realizes that the Type II approach was much more fun. The journey finds soaring solo notes and whale calls (not fully used until years later). Trey uses the Whale Calls to surf the ambient backdrop painted by Gordon and Page like Bob Ross on Valium. Fishman keeps hammering the beat. Keeping the ship straight. Trey appears to be searching. Looking for something in the jam. Never satisfied. Then he finds the robot and turns him on. The robot responds with laser eyes and a chugging deep and symmetrical bass groove found in between the lines of an Isaac Asimov novel. Almost like a robot march to salvation. Page sets the alien landscape. Full invasion. The only escape can be found in the solace of Roggae which appears like a mirage in the alien desert. The Roggae takes over and steers the band into a slower, lower groove that floats perfectly as the third song in a hot set in need of a funky cool-off. Trey's use of the Leslie with distortion, as is typical with this song, sounds so perfect after the crazy Type II Chalkdust. Almost like a glimpse in the rear-view mirror at the robot behind, as the band journey's toward the delicate melodies ahead in the form of Page's fluid piano fills. The Roggae jam features more melodic playing by Trey over a droning ambient groove from Mike. Building the soft, floating jam into the harsh return of the heavy distortion power chords is such a perfect use of dynamics both in the song and in the set. While this Roggae doesn't stray too far from the conventional versions, it is the beauty of the playing and the placement in the set that really make it stand out. Set filler follows until we arrive at Bathtub Gin. This seems to be a very ordinary Bathtub Gin with your "meat and potatoes" Gin jam until the 11min 30sec mark. At that point Trey decides to go in a completely different direction, Page follows, and eventually so do Fishman and Gordon into a full on Spencer Davis Group "I'm a Man" jam. It is absolutely perfect. Funky. Upbeat. Driving. Like James Brown on his worst day. Standard Golgi Apparatus closer seems to say, "Keep your ticket; you are lucky you picked this show."

Set 2: Tweezer. One of the best feelings in the world for phans is a second set Tweezer opener. The band knows it, the audience knows it, something is coming... something huge. The song builds and opens up to the jam. Ambient loops. Clav with wah. Funked out Gordon bass grooves. Fishman on a slow burning funk beat. Trey starts the build with ascending high fret funk chords. 7th and 9ths in a slower, funked out Tweeprise climb. Then Page drops the alien synth clavs on top and you have liftoff. Then around the 14 minute mark the rug gets pulled out from under the band. Trey is back to minimal riffs and picking. Page waits and comes over the top with over-arching chords similar to the No Quarter intro but in a different key and chord structure. Fishman provides an ambient soundscape with cymbal crashes and tom hits. Gordon searches for a way to bring a groove to the jam as the ambient space bleeds through everything. It's wavy. The music is blurry. The sounds unclear. The jam drifts away into the ether. Feedback echoes and slowly dissipates into Mountains in the Mist. Solid takes on Birds of a Feather (with a notable break down jam at the end) and When the Circus Comes takes us to a tremendous Fluffhead with an excellent and always appreciated Fluff jam along with its epic peak ending. Not much in the way of ambient jams on the back half of this set, but great energetic playing none-the-less. An appropriate While My Guitar Gently Weeps>Tweezer Reprise to cap the encore and send the good vibes into the dark New Jersey night.

Link Saturday, 07/10/1999
E Centre, Camden, NJ

Soundcheck: Foam, Funky Bitch, Back at the Chicken Shack, Jam, Blue Bayou
Set 1: Wilson > Chalk Dust Torture[1] -> Roggae, Water in the Sky > Back at the Chicken Shack, Sparkle > Bathtub Gin[2], Golgi Apparatus
Set 2: Tweezer[3] > Mountains in the Mist, Birds of a Feather > When the Circus Comes, Fluffhead
Encore: While My Guitar Gently Weeps > Tweezer Reprise
[1] In Memory of Elizabeth Reed tease from Trey. Unfinished.
[2] I'm a Man (Spencer Davis Group) jam.
[3] What's the Use? tease.
Show Note: Trey was wearing a Mia Hamm #9 USA Soccer Jersey

Friday, May 17, 2013

Show #7: Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, MD

Highlights: PYITE > Free > What's The Use?, Mike's Song > Twist > Weekapaug Groove
Listen Here: Phan Reviews:


This show is just a glass half full. The first set is nothing to write home about... absolutely nothing to separate itself from average. Standard late 90's first set. Minimal jamming, no bustouts, same song rotation as half of 1998 - 2000, and an abundance of standing around waiting for something the happen. This was often the case for Phish at the end of 1.0, and I have a hard time understanding why they so often played it safe during those first sets. It was almost like they were playing Blackjack and got 15 almost every night and refused to hit. Ever. Phish just wanted to take a chance on the dealer busting, rather than take a chance of their own. No risk, no reward. And so it was for this Merriweather first set on a sweaty night in July.

The band came out dealing in the second set. Complete role reversal. They wasted no time and jumped into a set full of great jams - both ambient and otherwise - and dropped in a couple of old school fan favorite teases in Sweet Emotion and Spooky. They were dealing everyone aces and face cards.

Set 1: I do not advise you to waste time listening to this set. You have far too many other options, especially with

Set 2: Punch You in the Eye > Free > What's the Use? BLACKJACK! This is the good stuff. Front-loading the PYITE with a nice ambient tinged intro jam and then a solid version of Punch bled into an ambient & funk-filled Free. A slower than usual Free with swirling Leslie Speaker effects and light distortion created a nice ambient build around the song's signature structure.  Then a really slow bass bomb jam out of the structured section leads to a reverse delay solo from Trey with gorgeous texture and long note holds. A gorgeous, patient ambient Free groove that feels almost like wading through a big steamy bowl of Maryland Crab soup. Trey builds and builds until the return to the song is almost a huge release from the ambient funk prison. Jailbreak. The song fades as the feedback is sustained and looped quietly into What's The Use? A delicious trip to the supersonic ether leaves the audience meditative and ready for enlightenment. That enlightenment comes in the form of a lesson on the Meatstick from Trey and the boys, and a chance to lighten the heavy mood. But waste not, want not, and Phish dives into the shallow waters of the closing stanza of the second set head first with a MONSTER Mike's Groove. The Mike's Song comes out flush with spades at it wastes no time in getting to the jam, laying down the erratic loops and grooving over top. Trey picks, and comps, and flutters over top of a tight groove from Fishman, Mike and Page until almost the 8 min mark when the band drops the jam off the edge of a cliff. Slowly, slowly, slowly climbing back up. Quiet at first, then growing, the band pulls its jam back up from the bottom of the quiet ambient bliss. A few setbacks and almost stops before the audience takes over from the ambient unstructured collapse. The crowd claps in unison and cheers the band on. They are asking for it. The band delivers with the royal flush of teases: Sweet Emotion. The groove builds. Mike lays down the bass in an ambient almost Catapult manner as the band lays down the vocals all together. Trey takes a stab at the solo for about 2 measures, but reverts back to the Catapult-esque groove. Page drops some high end staccato keys on top. It gets funky and weird and finally devolves into Twist. Twist Around brings it's own baggage. Fan favorite. Known for great jams. The crowd gets to yell "Wooooo!" It's like the Rick Flair of the Phish catalogue. This one doesn't disappoint. It gets down and dirty. It gets Spooky (teases). Drops into an equally fun Weekapaug Groove. Bass to the face. Macarena teases. Show closing goodness. Oh, and a Harry Hood encore? Not too shabby.

Link Friday, 07/09/1999
Merriweather Post Pavillion, Columbia, MD

Soundcheck: Bug, What's the Use?, Sleep, Back at the Chicken Shack, Vocal Check, Funky Bitch
Set 1: Limb By Limb, Farmhouse, Back on the Train, Divided Sky, Train Song, Llama, Driver, Runaway Jim
Set 2: Punch You In the Eye > Free > What's the Use? > Meatstick, Mike's Song[1] -> Twist[2] > Weekapaug Groove[3]
Encore: Harry Hood[4]
[1] Sweet Emotion quotes.
[2] Spooky teases.
[3] Macarena teases and quotes.
[4] Closed with a Meatstick tease.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Show #6: 7/8/99 Virginia Beach, VA

Highlights: Fee > Jam, Stash, Birds of a Feather, Jesus Left Chicago, Simple
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This show is certainly above average in terms of its level of ambient jamming and artistic abstraction from the standard, but doesn't necessarily hit the peaks of Charlotte or Bonner Springs. It features a tremendous Fee > Jam that certainly ranks as one of the best extended coda Fee's in history. The Stash has a dark and ominous ambient jam with fuzz loops and demonic swirling undertones. The elongated Birds of a Feather provides a very rich take on a late 90's set standard - with a very ambient, layered "If I Only Had a Brain" jam. Simple flourishes with a delicate and emotional (and quiet) jam that features strong solo piano work by Page overtop reverse ambient loops from Trey. This Simple eventually goes full Squirming Coil walk off jam - which is quite a treat.

SET 1:
Standard Julius opener to get the crowd on their feet, but again the two spot steals the show. Fee is played with finesse and only minor lyric flubs and the band chooses to really spotlight Page early. The Fee jam that follows is everything you could want - repeated coda, slow build up, ambient spaciness, artistic levels of incredibly understated band interaction, and really wonderful drum and cymbal work from Fishman. The jam just keeps rising from its own ashes. Building, Strengthening, and Carrying the audience. It's actually Fishman who really keeps this 23+ minute must-hear Fee Jam going. The jam slows back down and Phish ever so gently fades the song out. After all is said and done Page lets the dust settle and seems choked up when he offers a simple, "Ok. Thank you." to the breathless crowd. The set flows along with standard fare until a very dark and delicious Stash breaks the monotony. This Stash has a really ambient, uptempo, minor dark and evil jam that pulls the set back up to the surface. A stomping Cavern closes an unbalanced set, with a Fee for the ages.

SET 2: A really strangely fun Birds of a Feather opens the second set with a solid ambient jam that takes a turn to the truly bizarre as the band starts to jam to "If I only Had a Brain" from the Wizard of Oz. The band offer weird alternate lyrics to the song that seem to fit with the more ambient take on the theme than the music would seem to lend itself. A smoldering Jesus Left Chicago and a sublime Simple close out the set highlights. The pseudo triple encore provides the audience with both levity and double-fisted arena rock.

Thursday, 07/08/1999
Virginia Beach Amphitheater, Virginia Beach, VA

Soundcheck: Bug, You Enjoy Myself (partial), Magilla, Driver, Sleep, Dirt, Back at the Chicken Shack
Set 1: Julius, Fee -> Jam, Guyute, Dirt, Nellie Kane, Stash, Cavern
Set 2: Birds of a Feather[1] > Prince Caspian[2] > Jesus Just Left Chicago, Saw It Again, Sleep, Meatstick, Tube > Simple[3]
Encore: Terrapin > Hold Your Head Up, Character Zero
[1] Days Between jam from Page and Mike, several If I Only Had a Brain teases from Trey and subsequent strange lyrics from Mike and Trey, including an Uno reference.
[2] Unfinished.
[3] Ended akin to Coil, with each member of the band leaving the stage until only Page was left.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Show #5: 7/7/99 Charlotte, NC

Highlights: What's the Use?, Sneakin Sally, Wolfman's Brother>Maze, THE ENTIRE SECOND SET
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When any fellow phan asks me to recommend a 1999 show that demonstrates what I mean by "ambient jamming," I send them to this 7/7/99 mind eraser of a show. If they are with me at the time - in the car or at my home - I stop what I am doing and put on the 7/7/99 second set. This is the PERFECT ambient jam filled show from the era. Many, many other shows from 1999 have jaw dropping ambient jams and entire sets filled with incredible ambient improvisational jamming, but very few have the complexity and continuity of this two-set apparition from the steamy underbelly of America.

Highlights include almost every song played at this show and a brilliant special guest encore with Derek Trucks on Possum, and an incendiary take on Funky Bitch.

SET 1: Standard BOTT opener paved the way for Phish to drop What's The Use? for the second time in two shows. Clearly the band knew the power of the song and planned to feed off its cosmic energy. A celestial, time-warped journey through all of the particles in the universe, What's The Use? was a harbinger of how this show would unfold. A subtle, gorgeous version of Billy Breathes followed with patience and virtue in every note. A quick jaunt through MMGAMOIO lead to a first set stunner in Sneakin Sally sans vocal jam. Replacing the vocal jam in this understated but powerful Sally jam was the funkified soul-crushing bass rips of Mike Gordon's insane slap bass line over Trey's tasteful solitary note and staccato chord loops. The ambient layers of the background in this jam are less fuzz and more like a swarm of bees being charmed by an ancient pungi, or bin, from Jaipur - controlled by all members of the band at once (snake charming reference). Bringing the energy back up with a top notch Axilla>Rift, Phish gets ambient and spacey at the end of the Axilla with Fishman talking over the fuzzy distortion in a way that fits perfect with the ambient vibe. Wolfman's Brother follows with a slow-paced, summer-calypso-blues-groove. A perfect first set addition that ambles to a low key ambient transition to Maze. Maze gets a head start with the ambient layers and loops out of Wolfman's and eases into it's relatively standard song setup. Slight ambient distortion from Trey adds to the sublime buildup at the end. And a Loving Cup set closer which almost felt like an encore at that point.

SET 2: For the first 8 minutes of this set, Phish builds an ambient jam out of nothing and builds the disarray to such a heavy fog that the crowd is both mesmerized and befuddled. The tension builds, and builds, and builds, and builds, until it bursts into 2001 at the 8:03 min mark and the crowd erupts. A 14 min ambient journey ensues and rain drenched crowd loves being a part of the steamy mix. Trey's feedback loops through the Leslie speaker creates a palpable ambient backdrop as the band takes time to alter the jam with slow spacey breakdowns (around the 16, 18 and 19 min marks) as well as building the swarm of bees for the final crescendo. I find this version to be the perfect ambient 2001 from start to finish. The dissonent breakdown that follows drops the band into the murky depths that imply the start of a Down with Disease. DWD pulls the band from the depths and soars to the surface as Trey grabs the platform and shakes the listeners with fire-breathing guitar licks on top of Fishman's breakneck tempo. Nothing close to ambient, but a wonderful juxtaposition to the nearly 23 min 2001. Waisting no time, the band seeks to return to ambient bliss but on a lighter note with a tremendous Toe sandwich. My Left Toe>Wading in the Velvet Sea>My Left Toe is a gorgeous, thought-provoking float among the clouds. This My Left Toe sandwich is a meditation on existence and our need for connections to everyone and everything. The lighter sister to What's The Use?, this MLT is a wonderful way to bring both songs to life in separate sets within the same show. Understated and the perfect cool off mid set. A well placed Bug and YEM end the set in true late 90's fashion.

ENCORE: Derek Trucks smoke-show slide guitar for Possum and Funky Bitch provides the final lift of the evening. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Show #4: 7/4/99 Atlanta, Georgia

Highlights: Ya Mar, Vultures, Fast Enough for You, David Bowie, Slave to the Traffic Light,
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After  Phish seemed to veer away from the ambient style of jamming and transitions so prevalent in the first show of 1999, the band got back on track with this no frills 4th of July show from Atlanta.

It is clear from the outset that Trey means business - no fun and games tonight - and the audience benefits with a great setlist, intense jams, and masterful touches on otherwise standard set fodder (aside from the debut of What's The Use?). One of the most beautiful, patient takes on Fast Enough For You can be found in the first set of this show. After a scorching My Soul, Trey looks to move the boys in a different direction with a very ambient take on Ya Mar's jam and follows with fantastic ambient touches and sections in Vultures, Bowie, Ghost, Slave, Wilson and the debut of the ambient masterpiece "What's The Use?"

"What's The Use?" is the quintessential example of an ambient composition from a band who had spent the better part of two decades crafting precise musical songs and journeys. A stunning glimpse into the minds of artists who had been known for such attention to detail, comes a loose, oscillating and ever changing song with no real beginning or end. Almost the exact opposite of YEM or David Bowie, this new style of composed song with little structure seemed to be a cry for release from the band. An opportunity to play a song where every note and sound and texture is "right" and there are no mistakes. A song without a net... because there is nowhere to fall. The culmination of over two years of experimentation in the studio, and the centerpiece of "The Siket Disc," this song has grown to encapsulate this period of musical composition and experimentation for Phish. In 3.0 Phish, What's the Use? is the only song that has been played - even somewhat regularly given its rarity - from the Siket Disc. It is known from interviews that the band loves the Siket Disc album and counts it as the only one of their albums they have ever regularly listened to as a band together, so a return for other songs from that album may not be too far off (maybe only a few months away!). As the band puts songs together into setlists for 3.0 shows they often include music that spans their career - songs that represent eras to the band and their phans - and What's The Use? is the song that represents their foray into ambient music.

SET 1:  We find the first ambient jam of the show in the well placed Ya Mar (a great summer opener or second song). The Ya Mar jam is an even-tempered ambient jam that appears like steam rising from the crowd of hot sweaty southerners. The set builds slowly through standards until Vultures changes the pace and allows for a short but penetrating ambient jam with Trey directing through guitar bursts and fuzz. A top take on Fast Enough For You combines patience, soul, and a gorgeous solo - beauty in a often overlooked song - and just helps to cement that a standard setlist can make for an amazing show. A David Bowie with a great ambient jam and a fiery ending caps a perfect first set.

SET 2: Serious business when a set opens with loops and a Ghost, especially in 1999. A multi-layered ambient Ghost jam sets the tone for a second set full of highlights. Sirens, drones, staccato picking and tireless drumming build this Ghost into Slave with a perfect transition of swirling feedback and fuzz. The notes to Slave to the Traffic Light build and emerge in a slow but beautiful and meticulously crafted manner from the darkness of Ghost. The band lets the air out of the Ghost slowly, patiently, carefully as they fill the city and the zoo with funk. While the rest of the set has a solid, funky Mike's Groove and the ever-present 1999 Meatstick... plus a bonus Carini encore. The true highlight was the unveiling of "What's The Use?" in its live form. A sonic, ambient mindstorm all at once bringing feelings of universal forces, out of body experiences, deep crushing emotion and the envelopment of a sandstorm, while laying waste to everything around. The audience has no other choice but to let their collective jaw drop.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Show #3: 7/3/99 Atlanta, GA

Highlights: Gumbo, Tube, Taste, Twist, Harry Hood
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Are we headed down the wrong path?

The first of two shows in Atlanta, Georgia was built on a solid setlist, fun gags (Fishman as Little Drummer Boy and Page's dad with a kazoo), and a handful of good jams.... but the new ambient jam based songs from the newly released Siket Disc were missing and so were the spacy transitions and ambient accented jams that will grow to define the year.

In 3.0 Phish shows we have grown to expect short takes on Tube, Gumbo, Free, Mike's Song and AC/DC Bag, but that is not how it used to be... or even how it should be today. Some versions of those songs from 1999 have achieved legendary status (the 7/23/99 Free as a prime example), but even the seemingly pedestrian takes from 1999 out-muscle the best versions of these tunes since 2009.

Case-in-point - the highlights from this show aren't even highlight versions of these songs in 1999 but would probably be on some of the "best of 3.0" jams lists oft created by bloggers and phans today had this show been dropped sometime in the last three years.

SET 1: Trey sets up and drops a jagged, piercing loop from his Boomerang as the band gets ready for . "Here we go!" It seems to announce the intent to steer towards the ambient jam mood everyone was expecting, but it quickly is resolved by a standard-but-fiery CDT. The Gumbo from this show is a great example of the ole adage "they don't make em like they used to." This is a funky, extracted take without the modern piano outro. As platforms for greater things, the Gumbo and Tube from the first set of this show provide the much needed opportunity for Phish to get loose early - an aspect lost from most modern Phish shows. This version of Taste also lends itself to some creative space, but nothing too far outside the norm. Lost in this space is the space itself. Trey seems to be filling all the holes and plugging the gaps with riffs and chords, instead of letting the music breathe. The ambient backdrops and mechanical loops of '99 are missing, and the show as a whole suffers from this loss.... the song selection in this first set certainly lent itself to some great opportunities for exploration.
Chalkdust Torture

SET 2: The Twist > Piper is the bread and butter of this show for any ambient tinged jam segment, and honestly it still falls a little short. A funky MOMA Dance and a seething Antelope provide other highlights in an otherwise forgettable first night in Atlanta, while the Harry Hood encore does end the show on a positive note.... going into the 4th of July, the fireworks were yet to be displayed.

7/3/99 SETLIST
Soundcheck: What's the Use?, Rock A William, Wading in the Velvet Sea (x2)
Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Gumbo, Sparkle > Cavern, Taste, When the Circus Comes, Tube > Funky Bitch, NICU, Waste, Meatstick
Set 2: Twist[1] > Piper, The Moma Dance, Mountains in the Mist[2], Run Like an Antelope > Contact > The Little Drummer Boy
Encore: The Little Drummer Boy[3], Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?[4]
Encore 2: Harry Hood

[1] Oye Como Va tease from Trey.
[2] Phish debut.
[3] Fishman performed Little Drummer Boy solo on the snare drum, with alternate lyrics.
[4] Dr. Jack McConnell on vocals and kazoo.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Show #2 of 1999: 7/1/99 Antioch, Tennessee

Highlights: Bluegrass Style First Set (one big highlight), DWD, YEM
Listen Here:

1999 is Full of Unique Phish Shows. 

On the heels of a brilliant ambient jam-filled show in Bonner Springs, Kansas, Phish seemingly spun 180 degrees in the opposite direction and proceeded to drop the Antioch, Tennessee bluegrass tinged gem of a concert. A stunning collection of country and bluegrass influenced takes on heavy tour rotations and a smattering of special guests from the Tennessee hills seemed to take over the first set of this show. The second set - free of special guests - was a bit more experimental but brief due to extremely violent summer storms that enveloped the venue (even folks in the pavilion were getting soaked).

This blog is currently tasked with rating 1999 shows based upon how they fall on the "ambient jam grading scale," and thus every GREAT show might not necessarily score well for ambient style jams. This is a prime example of a Phish concert that is extremely unique - and should be heard by all Phans - but that does not necessarily fit the overall theme of 1999's sonic explorations. The guest sit-ins during the first set of this show are really spectacular - Jerry Douglas on dobro, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Tim O'Brien on fiddle (and vocals) and Gary Gazaway on trumpet.
 SET I:  From the dobro filled jam of Wolfman's Brother, to the spectacular hoe-down of Poor Heart, this set is filled with country, roots-rock, and bluegrass flavors that totally fill the void that Phish often creates in their songs and jams. At some points you may say to yourself - "This is exactly what Phish is missing!" - but you will realize by the end of the second set that Phish is not missing anything.

SET 2: A 3 song set with a 1 song encore. That's it folks. Dropping the all too common Down With Disease opener for the second set, it is evident the band was feeling the pressure of the inclement weather and was anxious to get to the centerpiece jam of the night. Trey blazed through the initial solo with precision, intent and fire-wrought licks while the band did its best to stay on pace with the guitar virtuoso. Anastasio spent almost 6 minutes of the initial jam putting on a clinic before descending into what is the only ambient jam of section of a jam seen throughout the night. As the band lets the jam descend into a feedback drenched chaos, Trey layers his guitar with the similar effects of the My Left Toe jam from Kansas on 6/30/99. The ambient jam builds for a couple minutes before Trey returns to the signature DWD guitar lick and the band returns for the final stanza of the song. The Prince Caspian that follows is delicate and beautiful in its own way - a definite must-hear for fans of the mighty water dweller. The You Enjoy Myself is a funky throw down harkening the Fall of '97 and expansive in a way that modern YEM jams fail to achieve. No ambient jam in this classic take on YEM, but it certainly isn't needed as this one speaks for itself.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Show #1 of 1999: 6/30/99 Bonner Springs, Kansas

Highlights: Bathtub Gin, Maze, LXL, Free, My Left Toe, Stash
Listen Here:

The Bonner Springs, Kansas Phish Summer Tour opener was the declaration that Phish's new phase of "ambient jamming" was the focus of 1999.

To set the scene.... The June 30th concert was the first official Phish show of 1999, but a number of performances by individual or group side projects as well as private shows had already taken place (Including the 'Carreystock' show with actor Jim Carrey). Similar to 2013, the Phans were anxiously awaiting Summer Tour to start after a great deal of anticipation had been building for the "kind" of Phish that would be unveiled after such an amazing Spring season of artistic collaboration.
The first six months of 1999 were busy for Phish band members. Trey had formed the "Trio" and toured for the first time that Spring as a solo artist. Trey and Page had joined Phil Lesh for the first run of "Phil and Friends" shows during the ides of April - in what could only be hailed as the most prolific collaboration among The Grateful Dead and Phish in history. Jon Fishman had been working with the Jamie Masefield led Jazz Mandolin Project. Mike Gordon was busy working on his film "Outside Out" with Col. Bruce Hampton of ARU.

<  Trey & Phil Lesh
rehearsing at the 
Warfield in SF

Jon Fishman & Jamie Masefield  >
with Jazz Mandolin Project           

6/30/99 SET I
The Bonner Springs, Kansas show opens with a BANG!  A huge Bathtub Gin with full band exploration and an ambient jam that enveloped the venue in a haze of mixed rhythmic signatures, gorgeous varied loops, and beautiful themes from Trey on guitar and Page on the baby grand piano. This Bathtub Gin ambient jam never goes fully off the edge of the world into polyphonic disarray, but seems to bridge the melodic jams Phish is known for crafting through its live improvisation with the new backdrop of fuzz, feedback and "wall of sound" alien effects from Page. The last 7 minutes of this Gin Jam are truly mesmerizing. Standard set filler gets us to a strong Maze with Trey using his drone based feedback loop to build the transitions and backdrops throughout the song. A nice touch using this new ambient style, but no full blown out jam. The Limb X Limb that followed Maze has a lovely melodic jam with some beautiful solo work through the jam and back into the coda. Quite lovely touches by Page and Trey at the end of this nearly 12 minute LXL, but nothing remotely close to the ambience of the Bathtub Gin opener.

6/30/99 SET 2
Opening with a Squirming Coil seems a bit strange, but was clearly meant as a warmup for what was to become a set full of the band's new ideas into sonic exploration. The end of the Squirming Coil piano solo culminates with a feedback buildup and the sonic texturing that Trey had been using throughout transitions in the first set. The buildup bled into a monster Free that carries the same feedback  touches throughout the intro as Trey pushed the band to carry that new spark throughout the set. The superb Free jam that emerged found Gordon and Fishman providing a strong backbone and beat for Trey's droning and feedback loops on top of Page's alien landscapes. While the bass and drums steer the beat away from complete ambient bliss, the work of Trey and Page to pull the psychedelic backdrop to the forefront creates a Free jam that is jaw dropping. The set rolls on through a seque-fest of Birds of a Feather > Simple > Swept Away > Steep > Piper with various ambient flourishes to carry the torch until unleashing the first ever My Left Toe. This 9+ minute MLT (a track originally recorded at 4min 47sec) is a gorgeous ambient musical display which Phish crafts with reckless abandon and intense precision. A culmination of three years worth of work on the Siket Disc, and finally an opportunity to display this new masterpiece has resulted in near perfection. While vastly different than any song publicly played by Phish in the past (at least any song with an actual name), MLT evokes amazing images and emotions in a musical onslaught to every nerve and every synapse. It both attacks you and lifts you floating to the heavens. At the time, many Phans were unsure what to make of this new style and direction, but upon further review it is clear that Phish was developing a genre perfected by bands like Radiohead years later. Listening to the show again on, it is evident by the crowd reaction that Phans are blown away by the new song and an almost unheard of late second set stunned silence falls over the crowd... Page breaks the silence to announce unceremoniously, "that was the first song off our new album, it's called My Left Toe."

A nice Stash with a slightly ambient jam at the end closes out the show, as a casual fan friendly encore wrapped up the evening.

All in all a terrific debut for Phish in 1999 and a sign of the amazing things to come for the band in this oft overlooked, but seminal, year of creative exploration in music.