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Feb 9, 2007

Phish Friday | Island Tour Memories

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Editor's note: we're going to start mixing up Phish Friday a bit by featuring other people's experience with the band. This week's selection is coming straight from our very own Marcus Whitperson.

Also, we're now opening Phish Friday up to the masses. If you've got a great idea for an upcoming post, please send us a small paragraph and an MP3 or two (approved AUD copies only) to vibes@livemusicblog.com. We'll promise to take a look and possibly feature it in the near future. --Justin

Island Tour Memories: 4.3.98 > jamming with a purpose

I have to admit that I just don’t listen to Phish as much as I used to. Whether it’s all the new bands to check out, my changing musical tastes, or that the band is no longer touring…I don’t know. But compared to the years of 1996-2001, the band gets a lot less play in my musical world nowadays. That said, there are still a few exceptions to that trend; there are cuts that I continue to play in rather frequent rotation; gems that I can always turn to for “vintage” Phish listening.

April 3, 1998, at Nassau Coliseum is one of those gems.

This show -- in particular its second set -- is now a famous, key component of a well-known run of Phish shows from the Spring of 1998 called the Island Tour (as it was comprised of two nights on Long Island at Nassau Coliseum and two nights in Rhode Island at the Providence Civic Center). The entire tour was recently released on livephish.com to much aplomb (But, ya know, there’s just something about the audience recording that I prefer).

To the well-seasoned Head, this show is probably nothing new. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get another listen or generate some further discussion. I’ve included the second set for your listening pleasure.

4.3.98, Set II:

*Obligatory caveat*
This is the audience recording of the show and is for non-commercial use. The soundboard is available for purchase at livephish.com (along with the entire “Island Tour,” which we highly recommend)

Commentary after the jump…

For the hardcore fans, this is a top-tier show for the books and most folks will probably have given it a good listen. For the un-initiated, this set is a perfect example of deep, dark, exploratory Phish jamming at its finest. It is not for that faint-at-heart; those who let a 20-minute plus jam cause them to lose interest or allow strange psychedelic madness to make them shy away. The “Roses Are Free” clocks in at over 27 minutes, and the "Piper" ain’t much shorter. That said, this is NOT a bunch of useless guitar wankery. It is "jamming with a purpose,” with a drive to "get somewhere else," to explore uncharted territory, and an example of Phish’s collective improvisational chops that so many fans grew to love. The entire Island Tour is full of great examples of what made the band such an exciting live act, but this set is my favorite of the bunch.

Here’s why:

Roses Are Free >
I sometimes wonder if Ween ever thought a band would actually cover their song “Roses Are Free,” let alone, cover it like THIS. This version starts out like most other versions of this Phish cover, fun and rockin'. And then they start the improv, and that’s where the similarities end. What I like so much about this 27-minute behemoth jam is that it covers so much ground; there are so many different themes and variations. In minutes, it goes from rockin’ “Roses Are Free” outro to space-funk madness with a steady, dance-able pulse. One minute Trey is dropping chicken-neck funk on the wah and Page is “going up top” on the Moog. A few minutes later, the space funk is still there, but with much more washed-out, background heaviness, complete with the dark but groovy bass lines from Mike Gordon. At about 14:00 things quiet down, Trey drops into that muted staccato riff and they do a little start-stop thing that wakes the crowd out of its daze. Then they proceed with various adjustments in tone, new settings and textures, a wash of psychedelic madness, and finally change keys to bring us out of the dark minor-key mess and into the light of...

Piper >
I like to think of this version of "Piper" as setting the bar about five times higher for all other successive versions of the song. It is probably one of the slowest and most patient intros to this song I’ve ever heard. Whenever I re-listen, it’s as if the band is still just learning to love the basic chord progression; keeping it simple, repetitive, and just playing the living shit out of it. But unlike later versions that feature long-winded guitar solos and uptempo super-funk, this is one where the meat of the jam is actually the outro. They rock out the main song components (twice) and then drop into the light and airy outro nice and early, proceeding with a calmer, subtler washed-out psychdelia. It incorporates a lot of weird guitar pyrotechnics by Trey, but all the while, Paige is still playing straight-laced piano. And it's Page's solo that provides the interlude that somehow winds into the more rock and soul-based chords of...

Loving Cup
...A straight-forward rockin’ version of the Stones’ classic from Exile on Main Street. By this time, "Loving Cup" was a staple cover tune for Phish and it was the perfect answer to all the guitar wizardry and spacey madness that preceded it. What stands out from this version is not so much the playing, but an image imprinted in my brain of some kid running on stage as the band played the last chorus. He had some sort of stuffed-animal backpack (a tiger?), and after seeing the security guards closing in, he made a giant leap off the front of the stage into the crowd (and if you listen closely, you can hear the crowd’s boisterous reaction near the song's end).

Run Like an Antelope
Like so many Phish shows, the band not only played on, but decided to take this moment to share an inside joke with the many thousands of fans in attendance. As they began "Antelope," Fishman made a comment about the fan’s stage dive and how he should watch out for Pete Carini (Fishman’s drum tech). The band then sang a little improv tidbit “Carini’s gonna get you,” keeping the Carini theme moving along. And that was just the beginning of the tune, which proceeded in raucous fashion with a dark "lights-out" jam (for the glowstick war), a groovy slowed-down reggae interlude, and a start/stop jam before the final rockin’ chorus ended the set.

sidenote:
The Carini theme actually came up again in the encore, which included a rockin' “Carini,” a solid version of “Halley’s Comet,” and a “Tweezer Reprise” to end the night.

Hope you enjoyed my run-down and feel free to share your own experiences in the comments.

Have a great weekend!

posted by: WHITperson | Comments (1) |

Comments

thanks, marcus, for an excellent commentary on an excellent set. i want to add a quick addendum about the show's first set, which has some early highlights worth noting. the mike's to open is top notch - maybe my favorite ever. the star, of course, is mike himself, whose dark bass groove is the engine for the whole jam. the weekapaug is tight as well - again, probably my favorite ever, with this neat disco jam that features some bizarre vocal "ooh-ooh"-ing by the band.

bottom line: if you don't own this show, or any of the other shows in this run, get them.

Posted by: stan | February 9, 2007 4:42 PM

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