This week’s Phish Friday is brought to you by our good friend Ryan Bready over at Fresh Bread. This was my bad that the post didn’t get up yesterday, so just pretend that it’s a Friday even though it’s a Saturday.

I asked Justin if I could take over Phish Friday today because I want to toast a special 10-year anniversary. That anniversary is a weekend run of Phish shows in 1998:

Walnut Creek 8.7.98
Merriweather Post 8.8.98
VA Beach, VA 8.9.98

Over the course of that weekend, the middle section of the East Coast paid host to what was my fourth, fifth, and sixth Phish show. All three drove home that this band was now my favorite band (sorry DMB). Overall, I felt this mini-run’s enjoyment grew exponentially from the beginning to the end…each show besting the previous night, culminating in an all time concert going highlight…which was AMAZING…but I don’t want to get a head of my self and mention it…just yet.

Walnut Creek

The first set kicked off with a nod to the 15 minute summer shower that began as the band walked on stage. A watery themed “Water in The Sky” and “Drowned” got the crowd going. I was in the seats but just outside covering area…so I got a bit wet. No worries as it was hot and more than anything, the rain was refreshing. Overall most of the set was a bit mellow – it included a laid back “Frankie Sez,” “Brian & Robert” (which I always love), and “Bittersweet Motel,” placed between a basic “Stash,” a solid “Foam,” and a very nice “Ghost.” In the latter, Trey rips 64th notes like it was his job for what seemed like two minutes; all while Mike and Page carry the melody through nicely in a supportive way. Following “Ghost” was for me the highlight of the show, my first “Col. Forbin’s Ascent” > “Mockingbird.”

Trey’s Forbin story was pretty great – it was about a day when Forbin decides to change his plan from going to see Icculus to exploring a zip-line he discovers climbing the mountain. The zip-line story tangents into a description of Forbin being a lucid dreamer (like Mike) – he is able to control his dreams, get anything he wants. Forbin feasts on a huge banquet of beautiful foods and tastes. He becomes so big that he bounces away into the sky…until he eclipses the moon. Oh yeah, the “Mockingbird” was up there, too.

Second set was pretty underwhelming — as much as a Phish show can be — which is still better than most bands out there. Set opener “Chalkdust Torture” and closer “Weekapaug Groove” stand out as favorites. I’ll never really dig “Albuquerque.” Sorry, Trey.

Merriweather Post

Thank g-d my homey and show buddy Rasdub (big ups!) had the foresight to book a hotel within walking distance of the Columbia, MD amphitheater. We avoided most of the complaints of this show, the lot and the horrendous parking/traffic. We were in the lawn, which was very steep. To be honest, the venue was not that impressive and I can barely remember seeing the boys outside of what I saw on the screens. The two sets, though, were very memorable.

Kicking off the set was a nice “Wedge” / “NICU” combo. Definitely had the crowd going. Third song up brought a funked out “Sneaking Sally Through The Alley” merging nicely into a dark “Guyute.” “Ficus,” “Farmhouse” (my first, I was looking forward to hearing this), and a “Possum” all were received warmly. The set closer was another cover and a foreshadow of the Halloween “costume” set – Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.” Page’s vocals always make me smile; not the best voice but always endearing. His passion shows deeply as he screams out:

And, everyone who ever had a heart
They wouldnt turn around and break it

Trey’s solo is hot. En fuego. It is a straight-ahead, fist pumping exclamation point on a very entertaining set.

Set two kicked off with the slow funk version of “Cavern.” A short but sweet “2001” precluded another concert first, “Tela.” It segued nicely into “Piper” – a jam I can never get sick of. Fishman came around his set for a sloppy yet fun “Sexual Healing” – Bob Weaver’s solos can always make up for missed / flubbed lyrics and bad vocals. The night closed with a spirited “Harry Hood” and an encore debut of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabatoge.” The 4 and half hour drive to Virginia Beach the next day made getting out of the lot and into our hotel room in 15 minutes all the more important. As great as this show was, I always look forward to seeing the boys in my hometown, Vabeyotchay.

Virginia Beach Amphitheater

As I said, I love my hometown of VB. The amphitheater opened in 1996, five miles from my parent’s house. The shows I have seen there have been amazing – 6.4.96 DMB with Ben Harper, Page & Plant, Metallica, (of course) Phish ’97 and ’99, and others. None can hold a candle to Phish 8.9.98. This night was the pinnacle of my weekend run and shows seen at my home court.

I must mention that my seat that night was fifth row orchestra in between Trey and Mike. Perfectly placed to witness two amazing sets and an epic encore. “PYITE” definitely jump-started the show. First set was stacked with good jams: “Bathtub” > “Lizards” (another first), the funky “Moma Dance,” “Birds Of A Feather,” “Esther” (first), and the ever awesome “Roggae.” I thought that the set would be done after “Bouncin”” but no, an epic “Bowie” capped off a memorable set.

The guys came back on after about 45 min; Trey had the crowd turn around to see what he could see – an amazing full moon. What followed was a set full of classics – “AC/DC Bag,” “Antelope,” “YEM,” “Chalkdust,” and “Frankenstein”. The band nailed a bread favorite, “Waste” – Trey’s Languedoc work on the melody hook was spot on. The band segued out of “Waste” into a gorgeous instrumental version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” The 82 minute set ended with the acappella “Hello My Baby.” What would the band do to top the two sets of awesomeness? Only bust out a tribute to Jerry Garcia on the third anniversary of his death. No one, I mean no one, really thought it would happen…we hoped…but could we really think they would do it?

Trey played the first notes of “Lady With A Fan” almost cautiously…which quickly moved to confidence as he heard 20,000 fans losing their s*** in excitement. Literally, the first two minutes of the song I could barely hear because the crowd was THAT loud. There were numerous people around me crying and cheering at the same time. All relished what was sure to be a one-time appearance. Not a note perfect performance but that was easily forgiveable….c’mon, it was Phish playing Jerry!!! As the band transitioned into “Terrapin Station,” one lyric stood out as the summation of what I though of the entire weekend run:

Inspiration, move me brightly

Nothing will ever be as great to me as Big Cypress. But 8.9.98 is right up there….the whole weekend…but especially this show.

Written by Ryan Barkan