Editor’s Note: As we mentioned yesterday, we’re honoring the ten-year anniversary of a legendary set of Phish shows that have become known as the Island Tour. To celebrate the anniversary, we’re featuring a special four-way “group-post” and also offering up a CD giveaway courtesy of our friends at Phish Dry Goods. Enjoy!
Ten years ago, Phish’s studio sessions for The Story of the Ghost were going so well that they just couldn’t bear not to share with their fans. To quote Trey thanking the crowd on April 2 in classic understated fashion, “We were getting bored at home, so we wanted to do some shows.” After two absolutely blazing nights at Nassau Coliseum (on Long Island), the band headed up the road to Providence (in Rhode Island) to finish what they’d started: one of the most legendary runs of their entire legendary career. It’s certainly arguable, but in my opinion, I don’t think Phish ever patched together a run of consecutive shows this consistent, creative, and down right fun. Although we have written about these shows before, we decided that the ten-year anniversary of the Island Tour deserved something special. We pieced together a four-way set of mini-posts from several of our Phish Friday contributors, each featuring his personal take on one of the four shows on the tour.
To the make the anniversary even more special, we’ve arranged for a special CD giveaway contest in conjunction with the fine folks over at Phish Dry Goods. They’re also celebrating the occasion with a special “Island Tour 10-Year Anniversary Sale” on all the discs from the run.
To enter the contest, all that we ask is for you to share your thoughts and memories down in the comments section. Whether they are the most creative, witty, or fun, we will then choose our favorite comments and giveaway the following prizes:
Top prize: All 4 Island Tour shows on disc and a Phish Tiki Sticker
1st runner-up: Both Nassau shows and a Phish Tiki sticker
2nd runner-up: Both Providence shows and a Phish Tiki sticker
And with that, we bring you the goods…
04-02-98 Nassau Coliseum – Uniondale (Long Island), NY
The real obvious choice from the first night of the Island Tour, the night that began the set of shows that we keep writing about over and over again, would probably be “Twist.” The set-two monster began as any other version would, but it turned into a completely spacey jam that got darker and darker as the minutes wore on. The video is pretty sick.
But that would be too obvious a choice for this little homage of a writeup. For my part, you can’t really beat the opener of the entire Island Tour; the one-two-three punch of “Tube,” “My Mind’s Got a Mind…” and “The Sloth” superbly highlights the real power of the band and how varied they were. The “Tube” opener stretches out nicely with a bit of the hints of space rock that really dominated the sound of the entire mini-tour. When they drop into the blues jam at the end of the song, it’s a fantastic transition that makes my spine tingle a bit.
From there, it’s a simple transition tune in “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own,” into a rambunctious and half-sloppy version of “The Sloth.” You can just hear how excited the band is in these first three tracks. It’s my pick for the real money of the show, as I know I tended to remember the openers of the shows I saw a little better than the funk that got thrown into the middle of the set in an effort to really stretch out. Give the tunes a listen if you haven’t done so 50 times already…
- Phish – Tube (live, 4-2-1998) [mp3]
- Phish – My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own (live, 4-2-1998) [mp3]
- Phish – The Sloth (live, 4-2-1998) [mp3]
04-03-98 Nassau Coliseum – Uniondale (Long Island), NY
Long-time readers of this site may already know of my love for 4.3.98. I recently touched on the fantastic version of Reba that the band dropped in at the end of the first set. And a while back, I espoused the greatness of this show’s mammoth second set, most notably the opening epic journey of “Roses Are Free > Piper.” But as much as the second set of this show gets most of the attention, a true Phish fan cannot ignore the pure fun of the first set’s opening segment:
- Phish – Mike’s Song (live, 4-3-1998) > [mp3]
- Phish – My Old Home Place (live, 4-3-1998) > [mp3]
- Phish – Weekapaug Groove (live, 4-3-1998) [mp3]
The band opens with “Mike’s Song.” Not wasting anytime, they get right into a fierce improv section as if to say, “tonight, we mean f***ing business.” The improv meanders and swells, with a variety of different grooves. I especially love Mike’s bass-playing on this track. It’s patented Gordo, as he lays down a consistently deep groove but throws in just the right amount of variations to keep it fresh and interesting. Around minute nine-to-ten, they make a key change and the song starts to really evolve, with Trey playing a few blistering solo sections before making another key change. This leads them into happier, major key territory before they create a perfect segue into the traditional bluegrass of “My Old Home Place.”
Man, do I love this transition! It’s so simple. I distinctly remember watching Trey walk over to Mike to whisper something in his ear. Mike seemed to dig the idea, they signaled to other guys, and then bam! we’re in happy Phish bluegrass territory. Now typically, Phish bluegrass covers never really did that much for me. I dig classic bluegrass and I think Mike’s country influences are great, but this was rarely the sound I really wanted to hear from the band. But for some reason, this “Old Home Place” stands out to me as perfect. Trey’s solo is probably my favorite short solo I’ve ever heard him play. It’s a playful little solo that hits all the right notes, stretches out a a few extra measures, and rounds out the song with a perfect happy touch.
And then there’s the “Weekapaug” — which like the “Mike’s Song” that preceded it — wastes no time locking into a groove. About 5 minutes in, they settle into a super hyped-up funk jam, with Fishman going nuts on the cowbells and percussion. Some might also note a tease by Trey of what later became a full Trey Anastasio Band song called “Mozambique” – it’s an odd chord progression that’s seems a bit out-of-place, but it’s a cool precursor to what the progression would eventually become as a song. Luckily for us, the tease doesn’t derail the funkiness, because they settle back in, change keys, and then the Talking Heads-style funk jam just oozes out from every instrument. After a little Trey wah-wah breakdown (which had become so natural by this point), the band really starts to channel the Talking Heads. With the underlying hyper-funk, they start to add some vocal “ooos” that are totally reminiscent of “Crosseyed & Painless.” Some call this a tease, but I just call it awesome. After the funk the living hell out of the song, they drop back into the familiar uptempo rock of Weekapaug. Trey unleashes several solo peaks to rock out the end of a killer opening segment that always leaves me thinking: “What a way to open a rock concert!”
04-04-98 Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI
by Stanley T. Roper
For those among us who bought the soundboards of these shows as soon as Phish released them, the bonus soundcheck material is a real treat. And given the funked-out soundcheck on 4/4 — an unnamed “Soundcheck Jam” and a ridiculous “Shafty” — it’s no surprise that the band dropped “Tweezer” right out of the gate. No warm-up necessary tonight, folks.
- Phish – Birds of a Feather – (live, 4-4-1998) [mp3]
- Phish – 2001 (live, 4-4-1998) [mp3]
- Phish – Brother – (live, 4-4-1998) [mp3]
But as good as this “Tweezer” is, it’s not the highlight of the show for me. Neither is the second set “Ghost,” or the massive “Lizards-Bowie-Hood” to close the show. The highlight for me is “Birds of a Feather.” Yes, you read that right. The band debuted the song a few days earlier at Nassau and gave it top billing as a second set opener this night in Providence. Everything is standard for the first five minutes. Then things start to evolve. Trey sets some loops. Mike starts to drop variations on the standard Birds bassline. Page and Fish create a wall of rhythmic filler in the background. Trey drops all sorts of rhythm guitar on that ass. It’s amazing that four guys can make this much noise.
Sidenote: WHIT and I were just talking about this show, and he said he just recently caught one guy’s description of this “Birds” over on PT Bisco. The guy called it “millenial psychadelic warfare.” It’s a helluva a description and not that far off.
The band eventually finds its way back to the chorus, then drops “2001>Brother” just for good measure. I could write another pile of words about this “2001,” one of my favorites, or “Brother,” which is so good that the band reprises it in a “radio friendly” version. But I’ll let the music do the talking.
Cheers, and happy ten year anniversary!
04-05-98 Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI
by T. Gordo
The fourth and final show of the Island Tour starts out strong, with a solid “Oh Kee Pa” that launches straight into “You Enjoy Myself.” The “YEM” jam gets into some deep funk right off the bat, with Mike dropping fat bass bombs and Page funkin’ out on the organ. Eventually Trey joins in with some backup wah-wah rhythm — mellow at first, then building as the jam heads into more typical “YEM” territory. This “YEM” is great way to start the show, and is probably the highlight of the first set. Interestingly, the funk doesn’t really surface again until the end of this show.
The second set features a 14-minute “Ya Mar” that shouldn’t be missed. Trey’s solo turns into a two-minute long Trey noodle fest, which I always enjoy. This “Ya Mar” doesn’t really ever finish; instead, a sort of mellow, ambient jam emerges that leaves you wondering where it’s going. You may hear hints of “Slave” or “Tela.” But alas, it heads into a not-as-great “Prince Caspian,” but we won’t hold that against it!
The final highlight of this show is the second set closer, “Cavern.” After leaving “Possum” unfinished, Trey starts up a wah-wah funk groove and let’s thanks the crowd for a great little run of shows. He then lets everyone know that they’re gonna play a little more “for those of you who want to dance to the funk.” This funk jam features some stop-start action and Fishman breakdowns before eventually morphing into the slowest, funkiest version of “Cavern” you’ve ever heard, complete with some old/alternate lyrics.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta “turn the blade back on the bitch and drop her in the dung.” Have a great weekend!
- Phish – Oh Kee Pa Ceremony (live, 4-5-1998) [mp3]
- Phish – You Enjoy Myself (live, 4-5-1998) [mp3]
- Phish – Ya Mar (live, 4-5-1998) [mp3]
- Phish – Funk Jam (live, 4-5-1998) > [mp3]
- Phish – Cavern (live, 4-5-1998) [mp3]
We hope you enjoyed our Island Tour round-up. Be sure to share some of your own thoughts and comments if you want to enter the contest. Cheers!