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Reconsidering the horizons: the Island Tour, remembered

Posted 2 years ago by J_D_G - 26 comments Link: http://phi.sh/b/515c3cc4

Phish fans are coming out of a big season for fifteen-year anniversaries, with the great shows from 1997 achieving that vintage last year. This comes on the heels of the 1995-era anniversaries, and then that of the Clifford Ball, which will be old enough to vote in summer '14. This week marks the last big, 15-year moment until Big Cypress's time comes in '14. (Hopefully by then we'll have worn out our DVD box sets of those shows...)

The Island Tour (which I still habitually call by its lesser-used nickname, the Spring Run)—taking place at the Nassau Coliseum and then the Providence Civic Center on April 2,3,4 and 5 in 1998—was a huge moment. The 1997 New Year's Run had already capped a momentous year with at least one classic show, and an all-around sense of good-natured back-patting. We were already hibernating, and likely speculating about summer tour, when the surprise announcement came: four stand-alone shows in early April. In the Northeast. Golden Age overtime.

It turned out the run would be laced with highlights and underline a heightened sense of connection between band and fans. It featured a jamming style that clearly wasn't far-removed from that of the previous year, but even a blindfold test revealed it was clearly not from, say, fall '97. (Before Live Phish originally announced it would release archival soundboards of the show, the release was teased with a soundcheck jam from one of the shows that fans were invited to identify. At first flummoxed by the mix of '97 and post-'97 elements, I finally realized it reminded me of the 4/4/98 "2001.") With so much live Phish now available to listen to, with such ease, the canon of "must-hear" shows seems a little less firm. But whatever evolving standards emerge, this run is lodged permanently in the "must-hear" category for fans who want to claim expert status.

Below is an edited version of my review of 4/2/98, which appeared in The Phish Companion. Its roots stretch back to a rec.music.phish post shortly after the shows, though it's had a few thorough rounds of revision since then. (It's also firmly tinged with the disappointment I felt in 1998, figuring out how to deal with the fact that for the first time since I started following them, the band was not following a dizzying trajectory upwards.) Still, it preserves, I hope, a sense of the on-the-scene giddiness that pervaded at the time. The music is there for all to hear, but this review provides a sense of what it was like to be there at the time, as a young fan.

My tastes in music have surely evolved quite a bit since then, so I can't stand behind the aesthetic judgments made here without carefully revisiting the music—and I'd surely disavow some of those opinions—but I revisit the warmness of the memories without caveat.

4/3/98 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY—Jeremy D. Goodwin

Full version appeared in The Phish Companion: A Guide to the Band and Their Music (2004)

The Spring Run, that unexpected and brilliant “overflow” from Fall/New Year’s Run ’97, was the culmination of the delirious “we can do anything” feeling that permeated everything related to Phish for over a year. The winter Europe '97 tour had started a headstrong buzz that would only increase throughout the year, and by the end of New Year’s ’97, the advertising slogan “Phish Destroys America” had been totally fulfilled. And then…four extra shows. Like an extra New Year’s Run. A little gift from the band, an unexpected chance to jaunt off into that splendid and friendly Temporary Autonomous Zone that is Phish tour. When Trey joked “this song’s from our last week’s concert” during the opening night of the Spring Run, it felt like this band could (and would) do anything. The shows, somehow, were both momentous and casual. Accidental and possessed of deep purpose. The boundaries were disappearing, and the momentum of the band's swelling oeuvre was growing.

It seems obvious now that no creative unit could walk that tightrope indefinitely; the band’s abilities had been expanding exponentially from August ’93 until early ’98, and the train was bound to run off the track. Of course, we didn’t know that at the time. Thus the Spring Tour was left as a kind of high point from which we could all view our Phish careers afterwards. At least, it was for me. These particular shows will always stand out to me as a pinnacle of my last unspoiled, unjaded period as a fan. My twenty-fifth show happened in this run, which I considered a minor landmark at the time. Experiences like Big Cypress continue to demonstrate to me that Phish can still reinvent the show-going experience utterly, and perhaps spur on Ferlinghetti’s “rebirth of wonder.” The Clifford Ball, the Spring Run, Big Cypress…it is at these unprecedented events that sometimes all of us together, the band included, figure out for ourselves just what this thing is all about, are surprised by the results, and reconsider the horizons.

[...] That evening, after an unnecessarily confusing drive from Hempstead to Uniondale, we arrived at the Nassau Coliseum with only minutes to spare before the forecasted start time. We settled into our seats in the back row above the Page Zone about a minute before the lights went down, and noticed for the first time just how small the venue is. We were literally in the back row of the section, but I had no problem with the seats whatsoever.

“Mike’s Song” opener. This was a personal victory for me, as certain factors had prevented me from enjoying the Hampton “Mike’s” opener as thoroughly as I could have. I can easily say that this one surpasses the Amsterdam and Hampton openers. It was a very solid, fourteen-minute “Mike’s. The segue into "My Old Home Place" was magnificent. Phish definitely plays this song to express a sentiment, I believe…and that sentiment is “We’re home!” This tune has owned me ever since it opened day two of the Ball.

[...] At New Year’s, I needed to figure it out from the lyrics, but this time I was immediately cued in to the “Roses Are Free” second-set opener. After MSG as well as the Rochester debut version, I had already been hoping for a jammed-out take on this Ween song. And so, in Nassau, we saw the first jammed “Roses.” But is anyone even keeping track of this kind of thing anymore? Phish jams had become so prevalent and so randomly placed in '97 and '98 that statistics like that began losing their relevance. (For example, in ’97 the Harford show has a better “Character Zero” than “Tweezer”.)

It was a real treat and a delight, from an historical as well as purely musical perspective. The jam was the triumphant culmination of all the ’97 funking, and featured Trey repeating a deliriously groovy riff over and over. This eventually gave way to some more exploratory work, before segueing into a standard (read: ripping) “Piper.” And then, they romped off into a new jam that meandered into a brief Page solo interlude (nothing so extended as those ones from ’95/96), which was the springboard for the opening to “Loving Cup.” Then “Antelope”.

The antics contained therein have been discussed a lot, but don’t overlook the fact that it was altogether a very good “Antelope”. When they sang three-part harmony on the theme “Carini’s gonna get you” in the opening, it was one of those moments when I felt that this band was perfectly willing to do anything to please all of us special, special people. The jam was very satisfying (the meat of it was played in the dark, in deference to some the meandering glowsticks), and then the last sequence made it a true keeper. They played the end of a phrase, were silent for the intervening seconds, and then jumped on and played the end of the phrase again. Then, during the lyrics, they switched into a mode that was so thickly reggae that I thought for a moment they were segueing into “Makisupa.” There were a few more delightful choruses involving Carini before the affair was over.

I doubt I was the only one in the house calling a “Carini” encore. The addition of “Halley’s” to the already formidable encore was generous, but also meant there’d be no jammed “Halley’s” that weekend. Hardly an issue to whine about, though, in the context of such a special night and overly generous encore. Then the “Tweezer Reprise” just sent things over the top. Trey was stomping around the stage, practically headbanging, obviously reluctant to ever get off the stage. As I remember it, the energy in that room for those few minutes was about as intense as I’ve seen it at a Phish show. (Another candidate is the "Twist" from the previous night.) The song isn’t usually such an inspiration, but in this context (third song of the encore, and no previous “Tweezer” in the show) there was not the initial twinge of disappointment that I at least usually feel, knowing that there’s nothing left to come in the set or show. This “Tweeprise” was strictly over­time…one hundred percent a bonus. Years later, I would wonder if the 12/2/02 mid-set, “Tweezer”less “Tweezer Reprise” surpassed the Spring Run version in intensity.

So the band headed out of Uniondale positively on fire. My initial impression was that both of these shows were classics…the 4/2 second set, and 4/3 all around. Another note: on one of these two nights, as we drove back after the show, we found a great college radio show called “Echoes”. It was strictly fusion, and it totally blew our overworked music receptors away as we sat numbly in the car. Christian wondered aloud how many other people in our situation found this station as they drove back. We continued listening to the show back in the room, and I quickly fell pleasantly asleep, hearing echoes of the “Sneakin’ Sally,” with my clothes on.

Comments

bertoletdown Phish.net Staff Reply
bertoletdown Thanks for posting, Jeremy -- a nice walk down memory lane.

I've been listening to a lot of 1997 and 1998 lately, and for me personally, I feel that 1998 has aged better.

Don't get me wrong. 1997 will probably always be my favorite year of Phish, among other reasons because I think their jamming style in summer and fall was so raw, emotional, and fluid. But 1998 is just a fine wine that gets better with age.
Score: 5
MDosque Reply
MDosque I really enjoyed that - thank you. I will echo bertoletdown and add that I have been on a HUGE 98 kick and I can't get out of it. That year is so good because the funk is there, but slightly tweaked with this new bouncy, spacey sound. Love it. Great jams.
Score: 1
GitDown Reply
Obviously it's all personally subjective, but while this Mike's is no slouch, I would say the Hampton '97 rendition blows this one away. Granted, you had other factors. Sadly, I have only truly been able to enjoy this run's Roses in the post since I myself had other factors that led me to be otherwise distracted.
Score: 0
J_D_G Phish.net Staff Reply
J_D_G I've spent about 15 years trying to like the Hampton '97 "Mike's" as a jam. Can't remember if I finally got there or not, with the help of the official release. I appreciate it for being different, but always found it languid.
Score: 1
Poster_Nutbag Reply
i second what betrolet and MD said...1998 has aged well. the summer moreso than the fall.

i also agree with JDG that the hampton mikes isn't my favorite. i prefer 12/2, 12/31, and 4/3/98 all over hampton. especially 12/2. that entire mikes groove (mikes> simple> DFB> ya mar> weekapaug) is a top 5 groove for me. the only thing that prevented 12/2 from becoming a truly epic show (the first set is no slouch either...just listen to the opening burried alive> DWD> makisupa> CDT, ghost> divided) were the 2 songs to close set 2 and the encore.
Score: 1
wauch Reply
Oh Kee Pah to end all Oh Kee Pahs
Score: 1
Slothberries Reply
Slothberries Thanks for the recap! These are definitely two of my favorite shows attended and most likely the pinnacle of my concert going experiences. I can't believe it's been 15 years.

While we are on the subject of 97/98 Mike's...let's not leave out 8/12/98 at Vernon downs. Whoa Belly!
Score: 3
waxbanks Reply
waxbanks @J_D_G said:
I've spent about 15 years trying to like the Hampton '97 "Mike's" as a jam. Can't remember if I finally got there or not, with the help of the official release. I appreciate it for being different, but always found it languid.
...where 'languid' means 'static,' presumably? i tend to think both hampton 97 openers (sorry Emotional Rescue 'shippers) are snoozefests. there's a weirdly sluggish, static feeling to both those shows, isn't there? the way caspian and ghost sink down into nothing, how long the ac/dc bag takes to figure anything out, the bullshit tweezer...i love that hood but it's the opposite of 'fleet' if memory serves.

and even the great hampton halley's is a weird, not wholly likable creature: the long funk jam goes a damned long time without moving at all, then there's this odd molasses-related-slo-mo-disaster and trey kind of slowly oozes into that SPACE JAM EVERYONE LOVES, which is basically the whole band standing with their feet together and eyes closed, waving and teetering and managing somehow not to fall down...

i can never quite decide whether i love or just tolerate those shows. (i drooled all over them in my .net reviews but the more i hear, the more ambivalent i get.) the halley's is definitely a Thing Unto Itself, but i have a hard time imagining anyone preferring it to, say, the palace tweezer, which goes on this awesome uphill climb, wobbles vertiginously at the top of the mountain seeing spirits, then shrugs and says FUCK IT and straps on a pair of skis for the izabella > twist > piper insanity.
Score: 2
phozzi Reply
phozzi your original post got me to throw on those shows and take a better listen than ever before... kept me jammin much later than intended, thanks for the kindling my friend
Score: 1
peoplewhofly Reply
peoplewhofly the past 6 weeks ive been going over "the Island Tour 2"-boy how underrated this 8 day run is.
Phish went to Japan for 4 days in 1999. But it wasnt their tour.
After Big Cypress many many amazing shows happened, but an energy that built on itself?

June 9 - 16, 2000 Japan

ill just list a few songs over 10 minutes, aside from 6/14, you can get that

NIGHT1 6/9
~Taste (11:26)
~Funky Bitch (10:43)
~Moma Dance (10:10)
~CDK (10:09)
~Tweezer (31:26) ***best of 2000?
~Mango (9:38)
~ Squirming Coil (9:33)
~Gotta Jibboo (11:00)
~YEM (24:16)

NIGHT2 6/10
~DWD (24:59) ^ excellent
~Piper (21:23) ^ excellent
~Guyute (11:26)
~Sand (14:14)
~Bathtub Gin > (16:15)
~Twist (10:22)
~Loving Cup (9:16)
~LimbxLimb (9:27)

NIGHT3 6/11
~Stash (12:13)
~Possum (10:06)
~David Bowie (14:33)
~Hood (17:25)

NIGHT4 6/12 ##BOYS NIGHT OFF##

NIGHT5 6/13
(+11 minutes of soundboard soundcheck)
~Maze (12:51)
~Ya Mar (13:11)
~FEFY (9:00)
~Mike's (10:29)
~Weekapaug (10:02)
~Gotta Jibboo (12:24)
~Wolfman's (15:20)
~Sand (11:41)

NIGHT6 6/14 (GET IT YOURSELF)

NIGHT7 6/15
(+19 minutes of soundboard soundcheck)
~AC/DC Bag (11:36)
~Ghost (18:38) ****beyong excellent imo
~Divided Sky (15:51)
~DWD (27:53)
~Lizards (11:39)
~YEM (25:03)
~Gotta Jibboo (13:05)

NIGHT8 6/16 THE FINAL SHOW IN JAPAN
(+34 minutes of soundboard soundcheck)
~LimbxLimb (15:48)
~D.Bowie intro> Reba (16:13)
~Runaway Jim> (26:09) ^ the last 5-10minutes surpass excellece
~Theme From (14:43)
~Slave to the Traffic Light (12:37)
~Bug (9:14)
~Harry Hood (17:48) this was the encore
Score: 3
qushner Reply
Jeremy--always a treat to read you here. All these anniversaries have me thinking about nostalgia and what it means for Phish. This is a band that is special (at least in part) because of the insistent promise of surprise, what you describe as "we can do anything." I think/hope all of our (band and fans) musical tastes have evolved quite a bit over the last decade or two, but one of the things that keeps us coming back is the promise that we'll hear/see/feel something new. In a sense, then, what we seek out in Phish is somehow the opposite of what draws us to a Billy Joel or Pink Floyd or Justin Bieber concert. We want to hear Piano Man sound just as we always remember it and we want Gilmour's solo to ring out just so and we want whatever it is that Bieber does done precisely right--but we want to hear Antelope differently--preferably very differently--each time.

It's too easy to say that this is what makes some people uneasy about latter-day Phish, even if that problem seems to be diminishing a bit in the last year or so. More interesting is the question of why so many people point to 1998 as the beginning of The Long Decline (even if, as Chris notes, '98 might get better with age). Perhaps the issue is that the surprise of the surprise jam had worn off as the last real funk jam ended that night in Providence. It seems that after all the unexpectedness of the '97 fall (an hourlong Jim! a jam in Character Zero! something-or-other at Hampton!). After all, we remember Summer '98 at least as much as the jukebox tour as anything else. When you finally become the band that can do anything--when America has been destroyed--what's left? Doesn't the empire slayer just become the empire, and mustn't it decline and fall? Perhaps the nostalgia we feel is nostalgia for the possibility of surprise, a possibility that we lost because there just weren't any real surprises left, just top-ten lists to be made, updated, and compared. The horizons needn't be reconsidered--they've collapsed.

For me, the question that the Island Tour poses now--fifteen years later, when we re-listen to it full of loving nostalgia and warm memories, too full of the knowledge of everything that comes next--the question is necessarily about that moment's relative future, those post-perfect antediluvian moments of the very late 1990s. What did you do after the orgy?
Score: 5
IamHIGHdrogen Reply
IamHIGHdrogen Well-said @qushner, very eloquent. I just came in to say that after much internal (and external) debate, '98 is MY favorite year of PHiSH and it starts with these shows right here. You can tell how excited the band was to play after being in the studio and the fans bring it with the energy. Wish I could have been part of the glory of 93-98 but I'll have to discuss with my parents why they wouldn't let a 9-13 year-old tour with Phish. Here's to hoping Phish brings some of that '98 excitement, energy, experimentation and focus into their music in 2013!
Score: 2
bertoletdown Phish.net Staff Reply
bertoletdown True or False: Hampton '97 is all about Page McConnell.

The answer is true.
Score: 0
J_D_G Phish.net Staff Reply
J_D_G @waxbanks said:
@J_D_G said:
I've spent about 15 years trying to like the Hampton '97 "Mike's" as a jam. Can't remember if I finally got there or not, with the help of the official release. I appreciate it for being different, but always found it languid.
...where 'languid' means 'static,' presumably? .
No, I was pretty much going with the standard definition. You were right on it when you went on to say "sluggish"...though I hear different shows than you do on 11/21 and 11/22/97, apparently. The "Mike's" jam is the only thing I'd apply that word to. "Ghost"-> "Bag" I find thrilling.
Score: 0
HotPale Reply
HotPale The Lemonwheel may not be too high on the list for many, but it's 15-year anniversary is this year! That was my 1st Phestival and I do remember it foggy and fondly!
Score: 2
Brandonclick77 Reply
A run totally different from anything I had experienced up to that point... To this day I consider the Twist Jam to be just as ground breaking and fresh as ever... I got awful food poisoning on 4/3 that had me throwing up something fierce at the beginning of Set II... My hands were on the walls of Nassau Coliseum in the bathroom and as sick as I was I'll never forget feeling the bass and the vibrations during the Roses are Free jam,it was part transcendent and excrutiating... I had a hard time listening to it for awhile after only because it was a traumatic experience,I had to leave the show early,almost died from salmonella,etc... Its now one of my favorite jams for obvious reasons and I still believe the direction and mood of the second set was somehow connected to how sick and delirious I was at the time... Roses thru Antelope weaves and ungulates like a living thing...droning,dark and crackling with mood...
Score: 1
HotPale Reply
HotPale @HotPale said:
The Lemonwheel may not be too high on the list for many, but it's 15-year anniversary is this year! That was my 1st Phestival and I do remember it foggy and fondly!
I mean its not it's and not to be confused with IT!
Score: -1
Brandonclick77 Reply
Oh yeah, who can forget the very Neu! inspired Ghost jam? Easily in my top 5 Ghosts next to 12/31/98,7/23/99,11/17/97,7/6/98 and this go for broke face melter...
Score: 0
lumpblockclod Phish.net Staff Reply
lumpblockclod @waxbanks said:
i can never quite decide whether i love or just tolerate [the Hampton '97] shows. (i drooled all over them in my .net reviews but the more i hear, the more ambivalent i get.)
I certainly wouldn't go as far as you, but I am struck by my realization over the past several years at how strikingly average those shows are in the context of Fall '97. They're still great shows and I love the Halley's, Emotional Rescue and Bag (though it does stall in places). The Slave is also a great version. As good as all of that is, there are probably 7-8 shows from Fall '97 that I consider to be a cut above the Hamptons.
Score: 2
kyediggs Reply
This is how to never become Jaded. Been seeing Phish since 95 a 114 shows or so My key now unlike when I was 15,25 or 30 is to only go to a few shows a year, This summer I will only hit 3 shows and Ive never been so excited to see phish in my life. Of course listening to other and new types of music is key. I love walking down memory lane but I keep in mind how myself, phish, music , the world has changed since 1997. I remember the Benefit show for VT after Irene and How I thought Phish would just blow it up 97 style. Well that didnt happen and that show was average at best but if you were there there is no other way imho that show could have went. There was really no shake down no raging no balloons it ws a family affair. Living only a few miles from the devasted area you could tell that show was for people that hadn't seen phish in a long time. they played a greatest hits kind of show that at the time I was a little annoyed by because here was there chance. Back home where it all began maybe a gamehenge maybe 3 sets maybe... a show for their people of VT. I listen to that show every no and again and think wow they nailed it. It was exactly what VT needed. Great music, great people, great family and most important great charity. I will never have that jaded feeling again. Sorry if this rambles but jaded phans are the worst fans out there and I am as guilty as anyone for being jaded but no more. 2012 was fantastic. They seem to be healthy and having fun. So tired hearing about a new album or the venues of this summers tour. they are 30 I am 33 and I will prob see phish at most 6 times this year and Ive never been more excited in my life! Great article and review thank you.
Score: 1
ckess22 Reply
ckess22 I feel very lucky to be going to my 25th show this summer. Great post. Thanks.
Score: 1
bertoletdown Phish.net Staff Reply
bertoletdown @lumpblockclod said:
@waxbanks said:
i can never quite decide whether i love or just tolerate [the Hampton '97] shows. (i drooled all over them in my .net reviews but the more i hear, the more ambivalent i get.)
I certainly wouldn't go as far as you, but I am struck by my realization over the past several years at how strikingly average those shows are in the context of Fall '97. They're still great shows and I love the Halley's, Emotional Rescue and Bag (though it does stall in places). The Slave is also a great version. As good as all of that is, there are probably 7-8 shows from Fall '97 that I consider to be a cut above the Hamptons.
And I don't know if I'd go as far as you.

The Halley's is in my top 5 all time jams, and by its lonesome offers the show epic status. And on the lesser of the 2 nights. 11-21 is just stupendous... I know it's a nice Slave but you can't talk about that show without talking about the space-Ghost. One of the major highlights of the whole tour.

But Fall '97 is, to your point, consistently hosey, and all those shows have It, except maybe SLC.
Score: 0
jkturtle11 Reply
@Slothberries said:
Thanks for the recap! These are definitely two of my favorite shows attended and most likely the pinnacle of my concert going experiences. I can't believe it's been 15 years.

While we are on the subject of 97/98 Mike's...let's not leave out 8/12/98 at Vernon downs. Whoa Belly!
ive laways loved the verdon down mikes the whole simple,rift,lovin,cup,coil,paug was stellar
Score: 0
bmrobin Reply
bmrobin @peoplewhofly said:
the past 6 weeks ive been going over "the Island Tour 2"-boy how underrated this 8 day run is.
agreed - this Japan run is incredible. all the jams you flagged as exceptional i agree with 100%. the small, club atmosphere that these shows took place also make for a very different vibe for the band. like when they went abroad to Europe in '97 and got to play in the smaller venues and experiment with their jamming and sounds in a smaller quiet room...
Score: 0
nichobert Reply
nichobert Some of those long Japan jams aren't very good.. or really just one of them, i forget which, maybe the Piper? Or one of the Diseases? i think one of the DWDs is the culprit..

6/9 Tweezer-> Bouncin (Bouncing with Improvised solo!) is grand..

Drum Logos is perfection

but that Jim-> Theme is like holy crap. We called it robo-calypso
Score: 0
nichobert Reply
nichobert My biggest mistake going into this latest NYE run was this stupid assumption that NYE Run was going to be the Island Tour of 3.0, following up on Dicks which i guess would just represent all of 1997 lol

Just felt like the momentum was higher than it had been at any point since then..well, i guess Cypress-> NYC small venue shows in 00 was pretty scintillating too.
Score: 0

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