I’ve been on a 1998 Phish kick lately. Not only was ’98 a pretty big year for Phish, but it was probably my most active year of seeing the band in concert. As a result, I’ve been digging back into the archives to re-listen to some of the shows I experienced first-hand.

This week, I bring you a couple of gems from one of my favorite shows from what many refer to as the “Summer of the Cover,” (because of the band’s more frequent experimentation with other band’s music). In the summer of ’98, they pulled out some interesting new covers, some classics, and some that were just plain silly. Sometimes they worked, and other times they were off the mark. While these covers were always a blast during the show, it’s pretty rare that I ever really go back and re-listen to their takes on songs like the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage’ or Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealin.”

But there are a couple exceptions to that rule, including one of my all-time favorite segments from one of the more enjoyable summer shows I’ve ever attended:

8-12-98 at Vernon Downs, Vernon, NY


  • Phish – Ramble On – 8/12/98 > [mp3]
  • Phish – Slave To the Traffic Light – 8/12/98 [mp3]

Comments and additional tracks after the jump…

While there are ton of great moments in this show, there are few that really stand out…

Band fun = fan fan

The band was not only “on target” for pretty much the entire night, but they also seemed like they were having a blast! The banter right before “Ramble On” is a great example of this. Most of the first set, the band had been ganging up on Fishman and giving him s*** (apparently, this was considered Fishman’s hometown show, and the band decided to really heckle him about it, providing some quality banter). It all amounted to yet another one of those examples of “when the band has fun, the crowd has an absolute blast.”

solid Zeppelin cover and quintessential outro

And then there’s this cover of “Ramble On.” I somehow got lucky and witnessed the band’s first try at “Ramble On” at Alpine Valley just a few days prior, which was a really nice treat. But their second take at Vernon Downs definitely put their first attempt to shame. The main parts of the song rock and feature the usually-quiet Page McConnell howling out the vocals. But it’s really the outro jam that nails it. Trey keeps repeating Jimmy Page’s little major-scale riff over and over and the band proceeds to get out into some sort of spacey oblivion. This ambient little outro was just the perfect sound to match the beautiful summer sunset as the band’s set neared its end.

Hell of a way to end a set

This jam also perfectly weaves its way into the opening notes of “Slave to the Traffic Light,” a classic Phish set-closer. This version features some really solid interplay between Mike and Trey and ends on a high note with what I will just call a “reminder of where they left off on the last song” (just in case you’ve never heard it before). Now I know the end of this song is always quite triumphant, but in this version Trey just nails the end so perfectly. Unfortunately, you can’t hear me or any of the other fans that recognize the riff that he drops, because we were buggin out (in a good way). I think most of us just had our jaws to the floor thinking something along the lines of, “Man, that is a hell of a way to end a set of rock’n’roll.”

One more thing…I’d seriously be remiss if I didn’t tag on another standout moment from the show: the encore. I’ll let it speak for itself, but don’t miss the change in lyrics on the Talking Heads cover or the “Mission Impossible theme” teases in YEM. Good times:

  • Phish – Burning Down the House – 8/12/98 [mp3] (Talking Heads cover)
  • Phish – You Enjoy Myself – 8/12/98 [mp3]

A few notes:
-All tracks courtesy of Nugs.net; you can download the entire show here
-I decided to offer these trackes even though there are few digital blips and the tracking on these Mp3s is a bit off. If anybody has a better audience source for this show, I’d really appreciate the heads-up.

Hope you dig this week’s selection. Have a wondeful weekend!