Wade’s World: Phish’s 20th Anniversary Run

Ghost slinks out between song banter and escalates to a rocking jam that winds up in psychedelic cacophony. The blitzkrieg of noise ends up floating into one of the most sought after instrumentals in Phish’s live touring repertoire: What’s The Use? from the Siket Disc. It was nice to see the band open up like this in the first set and they would close the set in the same fashion. The Bathtub > Free combo was ferocious and delivered with the energy we would have liked to see in set two. Alas, this is the extent of the raging the band would do this evening and it was time to head to Philly.


11/29/2003 – The Spectrum, Philadelphia PA

Set 1: WilsonCars Trucks BusesLimb By LimbDirtSeven BelowThe Divided Sky,Fast Enough for YouJulius

Set 2: Twist -> SimpleTasteMakisupa PolicemanBuffalo BillDavid BowieStrange DesignCharacter Zero

Encore: Friday

Notes: The lyrics to Makisupa referenced waking up “in Hempstead.” Later in Makisupa, Trey commented on the upcoming 20th anniversary of the band, and noted Makisupa as the first original Phish song ever played. Trey also commented on his long-standing friendship with Tom Marshall and said that Tom had written Makisupa when he was a child. Trey brought Tom out on stage and noted that he thought Makisupa was written in 1969, leading Tom to note that we “have a 60’s song.” As Tom prepared to handle vocals on Buffalo Bill, Trey noted: “Tom is now going to sing you a song about a boss, a log, and a piece of rope.”

The first set in Philly was hastily thrown together and didn’t give the band much room to shine. Perhaps they felt this going into the green room and decided to put their best foot forward for the second set. The Twist that opens the set is one of my favorites and a glowing example of just what “Type II” is all about. Around the 10 minute mark, this jam goes into the nether regions of Twist and a dark psych-rock ballad ensues with Trey emerging from the shadows with heroic guitar lines as if he is slaying a path towards the light.

  • Audience MP3 Download: Twist

Our second highlight from Philadelphia comes from the comedy department. Tom and Trey had discovered that Makisupa Policeman had been written in the ’60s by Tom Marshall long before he and Trey became friends, giving Phish their one and only ’60s penned tune. This little anecdote segued into Tom’s appearance and a Phish/TM version of Buffalo Bill.


12/01/2003 – Pepsi Arena, Albany NY

Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Stash, GuyuteThunderheadSparkleWolfman’s Brother > Good Times Bad Times

Set 2: Tweezer -> Also Sprach ZarathustraYou Enjoy MyselfCamel WalkPossum,Long Cool Woman in a Black DressRun Like an Antelope

Encore: Fire

Notes: Tweezer was preceded by a Dixie tease. Camel Walk through Fire featured Jeff Holdsworth on guitar. This was Jeff’s first known performance with his former Phish brethren since May 17, 1986. Camel Walk, Possum and Long Cool Woman (first since October 30, 1998, or 180 shows) also featured Jeff on lead vocals. Antelope featured Tom Marshall on vocals.

After a much needed day off by both fans and band, Albany started off quite electric. The Chalkdust opener was a great jump start to the evening and the Stash that followed was a highlight of the night. Not the longest or even the weirdest, this solid version of Stash excelled with patience and the age old tension and release formula.

  • Audience MP3 Download: Stash

Thunderhead was also a highlight, with this version getting my official “best evar” claim. The loose ethereal jamming reminded me of the Grateful Dead so much at the show and even more so now that I listen back to it. The four members meander around the theme while giving it a foundation at the same time. Magnificent.

The end-all be-all highlight of the show comes from the mighty Wolfman’s Brother. Chunky funk leads the jam into a tinkering mood that suggests anything can happen. As you’re in the playful purgatory the band slowly builds to an arena rock “bring it home” jam that must be heard by Phish fans young and old alike. This, my friends, is a glimpse inside The Rage Cage. Enjoy.

Even though Jeff Holdsworth showing up is worth mentioning, the sit in is NOT. However, the three tunes before he came out were extremely fun so here they are. Note to any guitar players who leave would-be arena rock bands, DON’T COME BACK. This show would have the most highlights out of the four, which once again showcases Phish’s penchant for opening up on the night before the big night.


12/02/2003 – FleetCenter, Boston MA

Set 1: Harry HoodCavernBirds of a FeatherYa MarHornPiperAnything But Me,Water in the SkyDown with Disease

Set 2: Rock and Roll -> Weekapaug Groove -> Tweezer RepriseFrankenstein ->Kung -> FrankensteinAll of These DreamsThe WedgeBoogie On Reggae Woman >CitiesMazeWaste

Encore: Bug

Notes: This gig commemorated the 20th anniversary of the first Phish show. In the audience, a section of seats were roped off to make way for a music stand. The music stand held a three-ring binder that contained lyrics from the Phish canon, but it did not play an active role in the performance. At the end of Disease, a video screen descended behind the stage. As the house lights remained down, a 25+ minute video was played featuring retrospective highlights from throughout Phish’s career. Before the second set, Mike brought out a tray of desserts and shared them with fans in front of the stage. Weekapaug was unfinished. Tweezer Reprise included lyrics (sung by Trey) from Mike’s Song. Appropriately, the post-show house music was the Beatles’ song Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (which begins with the lyric, “It was twenty years ago today…”).

So here we are, the 20th Anniversary show in Beantown. The opening notes of Hood got us all thinking this would be a set for the ages. How wrong we were. However, watching a champagne-swilling band at the side of the stage checking out the video roll of highlights from the last 20 years gave us hope for set two.

A high energy Rock and Roll got things going but what happened next was Phish GOLD….FRANKENKUNG! Trey signaled Frankenstein to Fishman by doing his impersination of a re-animated corpse (hilar) . Frankenstein mowed through its parts until near the end when Kuroda went into a hauntingly dissorienting strobe light chase that gave the band a very surreal look. Out of weird came the anthem of weird – Kung. Runaway Golf Cart Marathons soon wound down and the band finished off Frankenstein. The place went WILD.

Our last, and perhaps most significant highlight comes from the Maze near the end of the set. Certainly one of the best versions ever and perhaps the greatest post-hiatus Maze there is. This version shows the band’s ability to listen to each other and play off of each other, even inside other member’s solo sections. Both Page’s organ solo and Trey’s guitar solo have great improvised playing from all the band members with the guitar solo being one of the most patient builds I have heard in this song. Quirky and well-timed interplay get help from a TON of energy in the room from the crowd to make this Maze one for the books.

There is the 20th Anniversary highlight reel. Feel free to tear me to pieces or share some of your own experiences in the comment section. I look forward to getting back in the trenches – missed all of the fall tour due to my own touring -this NYE run at the glorious Worcester Centrum. Don’t forget to follow @yemblog all tour long for live tweets and of course @originalwyllys for daily banter on all of life’s important subjects.

NOTE: You can purchase and download official audio of all four shows through LivePhish.com. Phish donates a portion of the proceeds from LivePhish.com purchases to The Mockingbird Foundation.

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16 Responses

  1. Great review. Thank you for mentioning that Twist. I was at that show and remember being floored by it – however, afterward, I couldn’t find a positive word from anyone online about it.

  2. Nice review. I should go listen to that Twist. I think there was one other highlight from the first set in Boston though – the Piper. That jam went WAY out there.

  3. Nice work.

    Loved the first set of Nassau. The run had its moments, but not on the same level of playing the band had captured that summer IMO.

  4. I feel the same way DaveO. I kind of said that in the intro, just didn’t specify Summer, cause the Feb run had fire too

  5. The Piper from the Boston show is also excellent. I love that you (the writer) feel the same way that I do about this Maze (& the Thunderhead from the night before!).

  6. loved this run Wade, as I am sure you did too, as evidenced by your review.

    I made this run with my boys to all these shows and I’ll never forget how brutal the snowstorm was in between Albany and Boston and how cold it was in Boston that day.

    great memories from great shows!

  7. Haven’t heard these shows since I was at them, but I think you nailed all of the highlights, save one: I remember the Limb x Limb from Philly really being something special, then again I could be completely mistaken here, anyone remember it?

    Nice work and I agree, second set in Albany was really amazing when it started and had epic potential, I was completely sucked into the grooves they were playing and then when Holdsworth came out on guitar it fell apart.

  8. Listening to the twist now as we speak. Highlight of the entire run for me. You are on point these shows musically were not the best but they were a great time. We all know the best music comes when no one is paying attention like a Tuesday Night in Manchester NH thats when they really let loose. Some of the most “memorable” shows have been quite bad on the music side, these shows, coventry, etc but as always I have never left feeling let down or like they just phoned it in. The montage was amazing the venues some of the best arenas around. I will continue to see phish until I don’t breath air or they dont breath air then that will be my problem right there.

  9. The 20th Anniversary Boston show really turned me off from the band. I flew in special for the gig and was thoroughly disappointed. After the Crimes of the mind and the appearance of Jeff Holdsworth I thought they might attempt something special. I mean the video was cool but I don’t fly to watch videos. As the writer of the article said, I remember the Kung-Frankenstein being cool, but in general big deal. One of the biggest jokes I had been a part of, and one of the few times the band hypes a gig and doesn’t come through.

  10. @wyllys:

    Ha! That was a great night, I never did many after shows (except in Vegas) but was juiced up and had a blast there. I remember this young girl singing on I think it was on “Beauregard” Fun show, nice job with the lights.

  11. The Packers are now 2-12 in games decided by four points or less since QB Rodgers took over as the team’s starting quarterback in 2008, though this defeat could hardly be blamed on him (alone).

  12. Was at the Boston show.. my favorite Rock and Roll. They get into a great jam toward 9-10 minutes that eventually segued into Weekapaug

  13. One thing to note is that the 1st set of the Boston show in terms of setlist position standards was backwards. Hood opener? DWD closer? Cavern 2nd song?

    Fun show… Home venue and we had mid-floor seats. Only time I could ever take a cab home after a phish show. Damn was it cold that night and not easy to find that cab.

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