December 29th is a special day in Phishtory. They played more than a half of a dozen shows on that epic night. I am going to talk about three in particular, because I happened to be at those three shows... at Madison Square Garden in NYC during 1997 and 1998, and in Miami in 2003.
12.29.97 Madison Square Garden, New York, NYIn 1997, Phish played a three show run at MSG and 12.29.97 was the first night. I went with Senor and his brother and we got super drunk before the show. I had pretty good seats in the 100 level and a couple of hits of liquid acid on sugar cubes that I had smuggled into NYC from Seattle.
Set I: NICU, Golgi Apparatus, Crossroads, Cars Trucks Buses, Train Song, Theme from the Bottom, Fluffhead, Dirt, Antelope
Set II: Down With Disease, David Bowie, Possum > I Can't Turn You Loose (Blues Brothers Theme) > Possum, Tube, You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Good Times Bad Times
Click here to listen/download 12.29.97 via phiSHows.com.
The boys opened with a heady NICU which set the them for the night. After a crowd pleasing Golgi, the boys busted out into a frenetic Crossroads. Then Page stepped it up and belted out Cars Trucks Buses. I smoked heavy during Train Song and Theme and Fluffhead back-to-back kicked my ass. I thought that would be it, but they played Dirt which is a slow song that I could hear any show before the boys ended the set with sizzling Antelope where Trey shredded the shit out of his solos.
Set II was one of those epic sets that everyone wanted a soundboard copy. I mean, Phish opened up with three heavy hitters in Down With Disease, David Bowie, and Possum. That was almost forty minutes of intense Phish, before they segued into the Blues Brothers theme and went back into Possum. They kept up the intensity and busted out a fatty and funky as shit Tube before closing the set with YEM and a crazy vocal jam. They encored with a bong-rattling cover of Led Zeppelin's Good Times Bad Times and we left MSG wanting more.
12.29.98 Madison Square Garden, New York, NYLike I wrote yesterday, the 1998 shows were some of the best I had ever attended. After a hot start the night before, the boys continued their momentum.
Set I: Rock and Roll > Funky Bitch, Punch You in the Eye > Horn, Ginseng Sullivan, Split Open and Melt, Brian and Robert, Guyute, My Soul, Freebird
Set II: Free, Limb By Limb > 2001, Boogie On Reggae Woman, You Enjoy Myself
Encore: The Divided Sky
Click here to listen/download to 12.29.98 via phiSHows.com. Please note that the last three songs are missing!
I knew it was going to be a special night for Page when they opened up with Rock and Roll. After covering Loaded from Velvet Underground on Halloween, I had hoped they would keep a couple of songs in rotation. The one that made the cut was Rock and Roll. It was a fitting tribute that Phish played Rock and Roll in New York City since the Velvets were originally from NYC with their origins as the house band for Andy Warhol at The Factory in Union Square.
Mike Gordon stepped up on the next song with a scorching Funky Bitch. In 1998, Funky Bitch was one of the Top 5 Pauly songs I wanted to hear every night (along with Tube, Slave, 2001, and Ghost). They didn't slow down and kept up the frenzied pace with PYITE > Horn. It was an interesting segue for sure. Split Open and Melt is one of those songs that fried my brain and I needed a slower paced B & R to sit down, relax, smoke up, and get my shit together. My buddy Modeski wanted to hear Guyute and I wasn't a big fan of the song until that night's version. My Soul was a heavy blues-inspired cover and I can recall these Phishy chicks in front of us going nuts during that tune. They ended the set with an accapela version of Freebird.
Set II on 12.29.98 is one of my favorite sets of Phish... all time. I still have the original CD that a friend of mine burned for me from an audience recording. I must have listened to that set a couple of thousand times. They played just five songs in the second set containing Free, Limb By Limb > 2001, Boogie On Reggae Woman, and You Enjoy Myself. Only Limb by Limb was the weakest song of the five and that still kicked my ass. The 2001 was smoking and the Boogie On super funky, as the boys continued knocking out stellar versions of covers as they did four that night. I had rarely seen Divided Sky performed indoors, so it was a treat to hear that as an encore. My biggest criticism of Phish over the years has been their inability to close a show, because what usually happened after two amazing sets was a weak encore like Velvet Sea. Not in 1998.
12.29.03 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FLI flew down to Miami for all four shows of their holiday run. 12.29.03 was their second night. On my regular blog, Tao of Pauly, I had written... The second wave of Phish hit me... and I left with a wide grin and seeing one of the best sets of Phish in a long time!!
Set I: Piper, Foam, Anything But Me, Limb By Limb, Wolfman's Brother, Poor Heart, Cavern
Set II: Rock and Roll > Twist > Boogie On Reggae Woman > Ghost > Free, The Divided Sky, Good Times Bad Times
Encore: Waste, The Squirming Coil
Click here to listen/download to 12.29.03 via phiSHows.com.
Since I have the show review already published on Tao of Pauly, I'll pull out some excerpts...
I kinda had to rush to the show after playing poker with Jerry at the dogtrack in Hollywood. I found my seat rather quickly and was not pleased. I was up in Sec 403, behind the stage, six rows from the top! Yeah, those were nosebleed seats and I decided to move up closer. Zobo and Chad were hanging out in Section 122, also behind the stage. Zobo called me to say that the coast was clear and I should come down. I had my stub from the night before (Section 124) and quickly flashed it to the usher and breezed through. I plopped down in the third row and could easily see Page play all night. If he turned to his left while playing his piano, he would see me waving at him. It was a huge difference where I was sitting! I realized that although Zobo and I were at several of the same Phish shows in the last few years... the last time we got a chance to hang out was in Osaka, Japan... where we actually stood next to each other at a Phish show. It was very cool to party up with the second most popular American in Japan. All the Japhans were randomly seated throughout the venue.
Normally I am not a huge fan of Piper so that's why I totally enjoyed their high energy version. They boys ripped it up and they showed no signs of a lull in between shows. They came out fired up and Piper sincerely blew me away. I was hoping to hear Foam and although it wasn't the best version I heard, but I loved every second of it! When they finished up, Trey turned to Fishman and said, "Wow, that was great!" Yeah, I was that close that I could see everything on stage. It was a cool perspective for sure, because I finally got to see what it was like to be on stage and looking out at the crowd. Anything But Me was sweet and mellow. A perfect smoke up song. I became a big fan of Limb by Limb post hiatus. Some good versions out there after I finally gained respect for that tune in Japan. Wolfman's Brother smoked! The boys were on for sure and they funked it out a little bit. They threw the crowd a definite crowd pleaser with Poor Heart. Cavern to close was hot, hot, hot!! I was expecting one more song, and was disappointed when they ended the set after just an hour.
The second set was some of the best Phish I had heard post hiatus. Before I left for Miami, someone recently asked me (in a slightly condescending manner), "How long was I going to continue to follow Phish?" If you saw what I saw... you'd never want to miss another show. I love it when Page sings on Rock and Roll. They segued into a mellow and weird Twist where I swear that Trey was playing some crazy bluesy licks that he had busted out the night before during the Miami Jam after Suzy Greenberg. Just when the crowd got a little bored with Twist, Fishman took control and started busting out the back beat to Boogie On Reggae Woman which was a sweet and delicious version and if it weren't for the drunk kid in our section who drew the attention of asshole Draconian security guards... it would have been perfect. The segue into Ghost was sick! The jam out was stupendous and I kept wanting more but they slowly segued into the fifth song since the set started... Free was rocking and Trey was pulling out rock star antics. He and Mike had a crazy and intense jam when they faced each other and just went off together on a sick and loopy jam, which got the crowd even more pumped up. For fifty minutes they did not rest once and played five straight songs. Most groups can't even throw together enough material for a fifty minute long set... let along play for fifty straight minutes. The crowd applauded for two minutes while they decided what to play next. Divided Sky was one of the best versions I saw since the hiatus... something they had been improving upon each time I see them play it. The boys stood in silence for three minutes while they counted off during that middle-to-end part. The jam out was insane and Zobo and I kept looking at each other giving the "wow" look back and forth. Good Times Bad Times was satisfying for sure and Trey jumped up and down on that one. An excellent closer to an excellent set.
For the encore, Phish came back out for Waste which was OK and again, I hopped that it would be followed up by a heavier tune. When it ended they walked off stage. The crowd would not leave and kept cheering louder and louder. They walked right back on stage a few minutes later and broke out Squirming Coil. I love Page piano solos and I was just 25 yards away from Page and I'd get to see him play a sweet solo at the end of Coil. As he played, one by one, the rest of the members of Phish walked off stage, leaving Page alone to play and accept a thunderous applause after he finished up.
I partied up with my friend Alea and her friends from Madison, WI. I also hung out with Emi and her friends from Japan after the show when we all went back to Zobo's suite on South Beach and partied hard for a couple of hours, before I slowly made my way back to Miami Shores, along Biscayne Blvd., past Little Haiti and past all the hagged out hookers, and their bad make-up jobs, illuminated by the hysterical glow of the neon lights.