The Phish 52: My Left Toe 7/21/99

Let’s see at this rate, I will complete my 52 Phish reviews in “52 weeks” around November, 2023.  I’m shooting for better than that.  Looking back over my daily list of things to do* the word JAM has appeared a great deal over the past 5 weeks, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger.  Mind, to paraphrase Jimmy Greenfield, consigliere of the Chicago Now blogging network, this is not an apology.  I’ve been busy and I’m probably trying to do too much.  White Sox blogging, podcasting, which is really turning into the first among equals of creative projects, looking for extra money, coaching baseball and well you know everyday life stuff.  Yeah, I’ve got a bit going on.  And to be honest, while I did commit to the 52, it isn’t like I’m going to lose my house if I don’t keep to it on a regular basis.  So, let’s recommit.  I have the long window of November 2023, a “short window” of beating George RR Maritn; the remaining 45 reviews before the Winds of Winter is published, and the insanely ambitious, not going to happen goal of one a week until I’m done.  Somewhere between all three of those seems about right.  I also don’t know why, but I really want to beat GRRM.

*Yes, I do a daily to do list, have for years.  Currently it is a two list affair, one side for the actual job, the other for my soul.

So let’s get started with a jam that I did witness, but to be honest almost completely forgot about.  However, when I went back to this show from Star Lake (no corporate naming for me, thanks) I couldn’t believe that this song wasn’t in my heavy rotation of jams, like ever.  That has since changed.  A good spacey, ambient jam is always good, regardless of era.  Let’s get to it, My Left Toe.


The song comes out of a pretty standard Simple, ultimately a nice Mike’s Groove* of Mikes ->Simple -> My Left Toe -> Caspian -> Weekapaug.  The first 4 minutes are ambient music at it’s best.  Trey is playing with tone and melody, Fish is just keeping a steady rhythm and Mike and Paige are barely in the mix.

*As I enter my 22nd year of listening and following Phish, I still get confused about what is and what isn’t Mike’s Groove.  Is it a set song? Is it the grouping of songs between Mike’s and Weekapaug? Would that be more of a suite than a groove? Maybe by year 30 I’ll have it figured out.

3:45~3:50 Trey starts to grind it out a little more, a darker tone has seeped into the sound.  There is a build up going on here, but it is taking its sweet old time.  A slow burner, that’s for sure.

7:15 the build, the tension slows way down.  Knowing what we know now, it almost sounds like Caspian will be starting soon.  Perhaps this change in tempo and tone was a signal of the type, “Hey! When we finally pull out of this, Caspian is where we are going.” Of course that is total conjecture on my part.

7:30 Things start to rebound and by 7:50 Trey is really punctuating matters with sustained notes and feedback.

8:31 Oh, there’s Page! 8:48 Page is finally coming through the haze and adding some great texture to the jam.

9:00 A much more melodic sound has emerged.  It’s not quite the total triumph that I’ve come to almost expect from Phish, but we are looking at the angels at this point, that’s for sure.  It has a very Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday feel to it.   I could just dance and sway to this kind of sound all day.

12:30 things start to lose shape a little and it becomes kind of a rock anthem, with Trey leading the way and eventually starts to trill like a guitar hero around the 13:40 mark.

~14:00 The true climax of the song has been reached and at 14:42 a distinctive downshift occurs, the end is in sight.  All throughout this song I can’t help but think how great it would be during a long run.  I tend to make an up tempo, jammy kind of playlist for long runs.  Usually 3 or 4 shorter songs then one jam from Phish or the Grateful Dead.  It keeps things exciting and meditative.

Anyway, 15:00 the essential groove of the song is back for a quick coda and it descends nicely toward Caspian.  I’ve always been a fan of Caspian, despite all the hate it has gotten over the years.  There is something about that opening that just nails me in the feels.  Also the nod to CS Lewis doesn’t hurt.  I like my bands to be literary.  See you next time on the Phish 52. (shooting for before two months!)

I finally got my podcast working the way I’d like, so if you’d like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 30 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!

 Get Your History On

The Phish 52: 12/30/93 David Bowie

Oh dear.  I don’t like this new feature on the admin page here on WordPress.  It is a little calendar that shades the days that you posted.  Eek. I went 0 of February here at the Lazy blog.  Which puts me a bit behind on the 52 as well.  Jesus, how do people with a full-time job, family and other interests stay so consistent?  Just not my bag I suppose.  Even so, pressing on!

For this installment, I decided to go with a show that I did not attend and also an older show once again.  A pretty old show by my standards.  Basically I came to Phish in the fall of 1993, didn’t attend my first show until summer of 1994.  For the most part, I don’t really venture much further back than 1994 in my live recordings.  I know there is some great stuff back there, but it’s just not mine, you know what I mean.

So, I was working in a cafe and this guy brings Rift into the shop to listen to while we work.  It was such a great perk of working at an indie cafe, we could choose pretty much whatever we wanted to play.  Anyway, I’d never heard of Phish, but we were all pretty tolerant of each other’s music, so on it went.

I can’t say I was blown away, but I was definitely interested.  I particularly liked how the concept album and guitar style reminded me of Steve Hackett and Genesis.  The keyboards were a great touch too.  I was willing to check out more.

The same friend told me to really “get” Phish I needed to see them live, or at least listen to some live tapes.  I also started lurking on and realized that the band allowed taping at shows, so getting a live tape was pretty easy.  I was still pretty internet-shy, so I went to a local head shop that spun tapes for free and asked for the show I saw some buzz about, 12/30/93.  No, it wasn’t the New Year’s Show, but that seemed like a big commitment.  So a two set show seemed right.  It started with David Bowie.  I wasn’t quite hooked yet, but I was on the line.


I’m pretty sure that I hadn’t heard the Junta version of Bowie at this point, so everything was new.  As the intro played, I didn’t know what to expect, but after 1:33, the Bowie groove got started and I was immediately into it.

2:03 The lyrics kick in and I think with a song like Bowie and being new to Phish, things could break one of two ways.  The first way, our way, is to think, “this is weird. I like it.”  The second way, the way pretty much everyone I know in a professional/social way with the exception of fellow fans is, “David Bowie? This is stupid.” click.

I didn’t tune out and was awarded by the amazing composed section of the song that comes next. At 3:00 the spiraling down that then kicks back to the lyrical portion is still one of my favorite Phish composed bits.

After the second lyrical break (UB40? ok, 80s reference. I like these guys) The composition isn’t quite the same as last time and instead of coming back for more lyrics at 5:08 there is a great break in the song.

The song goes into a very subtle, mellow feel but at 5:20 a thirty second quote from a classic rock anthem, Dream On, gets tossed out.  It’s more than a tease, at least I would call it more than a tease.  Also as someone who by this point in my musical fandom was well versed in the classics, it made me feel intimately connected to the band. A shared musical history that we shared.  We were reading from the book, sharing the same experience.

At 5:53, they return the Bowie sound proper and by 6:33 they start to rev things up a bit.  It’s a great example of the tension and release that I think we all can appreciate.

7:09 The pace really gets going.  No one is particularly dominant at this point, a very strong group jam. It was a phenomena that I wasn’t quite used to at that point.

8:03 Trey starts to pull out in front a little more, making it a little more familiar to me.  The pace and speed of the playing isn’t quite as familiar to me though.  It seems to have a point, a destination.  Unlike the heavy metal of my youth, it isn’t speed for speed’s sake.  This guy Trey and the band have got more up their sleeves.

9:02 An explosion! The payoff.  I wouldn’t say Trey is shredding and eventually starts to play around with tone. A controlled style of chaos ensues.

10:37 The now familiar Bowie wind up starts. It isn’t exactly the same as the beginning of the song, but familiar enough to make one say, “oh yeah, we’re still in this space.” At 11:00 there is a final burst and then quick release back to “Dream On” also reminding us of the uniqueness of this song. We’re not going to hear another one like it. Because of that fact, and of course many others, I was happily being reeled in for the next 20+ years.

I finally got my podcast working the way I’d like, so if you’d like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 27 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!

 Get Your History On

The Phish 52: Prince Caspian 8/20/2015

I’ve seen a lot of discussion of this being Tweezpian or some such mash up and I won’t disagree.  I do think, however, the Prince Caspian can also stand alone and vise-versa.  A couple of opening notes on this jam as well.  So far, I’ve only review stuff from the 1990s, so it feels good to get to something more recent.  In this case very recent!  It is, yet again, a jam that I was witness to.  Truth is, I don’t own a lot of stuff that I didn’t also attend, but I hope to branch out a bit more as I do this project. Speaking of this project, and one post for each week of the year…um yeah about that… Well, I’m giving it my best shot.  Even if it takes 70 actual weeks to get to 52, I’m doing 52 reviews.  Just read them once a week:-) On to Caspian!


When Prince Caspian came out of Tweezer, I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting much.  We were just treated to a very good Tweezer and Caspian seemed to signal a coda to end the set, or at least a lead in to the final closer of the set. I remember when people would collectively groan when this song was played and some on the old referred to it as Prince Poopy Pants.  While that wave of negativity has subsided (pretty much in general, really) I don’t think I’ve ever seen people react with great joy when Caspian was played.  It might be time to rethink that reaction.

2:30 The lyrics come to an end and it very much feels like they will be playing out to the end of the song, maybe another few minutes.  From about the 2:10 point, I urge you to listen to Page’s playing.  The fills and highlights he is throwing around in the early part of the song are just fantastic.  Trey is playing very well, quite spirited.

4:40 Something is going on. It still sounds like Caspian, but things are changing. At 5:10 Trey is really pushing things away from the Caspian structure and at 6:00 minutes, the last tethers of Caspian are gone.

6:35 After some very heavy playing by Trey, Mike starts to bring back the Tweezer riff. At this point, Page is on the synthesizer and Fish is playing a steady rock beat.

8:05 Things start to move away from the Tweezer riff and it starts to become its own jam.  Around 8:20, Mike comes to the fore. This segment shows off how the band moves around the music. Mike is dominating right now and Page is in a supporting role.  Even though the guitar is the traditional lead instrument, Trey does such a great job of adding to the sound, but not throwing things off.

8:55 Trey is playing around with some effects, getting some great echo sounds. It could start to get spacey, but instead Trey settles into a nice fuzzy groove at about 9:15.  This is were the dance party starts for me. A nice funky feel and about 10:24 Trey starts to solo, with great a great intro from Page.  After that, Fish takes over the breaks, almost mini solos, before the focus goes back on Trey.  At 11:08, Trey starts placing some echoes again, but the groove isn’t lost and they settle back in after a minute or so.

12:20 It sounds like they are getting ready to wrap things up.  If they did pack it in here, it still would be a memorable Caspian and with the Tweezer preceding it would be a classic jam, one of the best of 2015.  Of course it doesn’t end here.  Instead at 12:30 Trey punches it really high and starts to bring it.

13:50 It is the jam that is going to lead to the end, with Mike playing some think, chest thumping notes.  The end that they are working toward here is triumphant, no other word for it.  Everyone, band, crowd know that they have just nailed the last 30 or so minutes of music.  As they start to just pound away for the last minute and a half, it’s like they are fist pumping.  Honestly, I’m pretty sure that was what I was doing as the song came to a close.  It’s for moments like these that I keep going to see this band.  Everyone expects the big moments to come from Tweezer, but it’s in moments like this, in songs that don’t have a history, songs that, let’s be honest, are often seen as breaks or good times to go to the bathroom, that makes every show an adventure.  In the spirit of adventure, next week will finally be a review of a jam I didn’t attend.  Keep on jamming…


Phish Song Rankings: As of Riviera Maya 1/15-1/17

What a weekend! I can’t deny that I’m envious of all those that got to Mexico.  I’m not very anti-snow and cold weather, but if you’re going to entice me with a trip to warmer climes, throwing Phish in will seal the deal.  The price tag for Riviera May was just a little too much for my budget.  Maybe next year, if there is a next year.

As far as the set lists are concerned, there wasn’t anything especially significant.  I don’t think that was the point of these shows.  This was Phantasy Island. Days lounging about, being able to splash in the ocean during a Phish show.  That’s why Phish did this.  It wasn’t about epic shows it was about an epic experience.  From what I’ve heard, as with most special events put on by Phish, they delivered.

There wasn’t any change in the top twenty, though a fair representation of those songs was present.  Wolfman’s Brother reached 175 plays and Funky Bitch reached the top 50 with its 195th play.

Much further down the list, a few significant milestones were reached.  Rock and Roll was played for its 75th time and Cities reached 80 plays.  I find the rise of Half Way to the Moon, at 30 plays, to be a pretty fast climb. What’s the Use? reached 25 plays and in just over a year, Martian Monster, a pretty inaccessible song when you think about it, has been played 10 times.

It was quite a year for Phish.  Not only did we get a great summer tour, we had a great festival in New York, another weekend at Dick’s, a return to MSG and to top it all off, a winter getaway in Mexico.  It makes you wonder what can they possibly do in 2016?  Your Top Twenty:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 573

2    Possum – 504

3    Mike’s Song – 483

4    Bouncing Around the Room – 452

4   Weekapaug Groove – 452

6    Golgi Apparatus – 450

7    Chalk Dust Torture – 439

8    David Bowie – 437

9    Cavern – 435

10   Run Like an Antelope – 431

11   Suzy Greenberg – 412

12   Divided Sky – 403

13   Stash – 401

14   Reba – 373

15   Runaway Jim – 371 (24%)

16   Harry Hood – 355

17   Tweezer – 347

18   The Squirming Coil – 345 (22%)

19   Foam – 341 (22%)

20   I Am Hydrogen – 333 (21%)

Phish Song Rankings as of New Year’s Eve Weekend (12/30/15-1/2/16)

So nice to be writing about Phishy things again.  I’ll be back on the 52 shortly, but got swallowed up by a couple of things since the last post, which I’ll comment on in that specific avenue.

But the boys have played some shows this weekend! Which means something, in terms of nothing really important, but fun nonetheless.  Of the biggest headlines I would say that the top ten songs in the Phish cannon were well represented over the four shows, 9 of the 10 were played.  Golgi Apparatus was the one hold out. It demonstrated the falling out of favor that Golgi has had, but it will take a long time for it to fall completely out of the top ten.

As far as milestones go, Down with Disease has reached 250 plays while Rift is at 275. Piper reached 150 plays this past weekend.  Wingsuit hit a modest 20 times played and No Men in No Man’s Land reached a score of plays.

In the rankings, not a lot of movement in the upper reaches, but far afield Halfway to the Moon moved into the Top 200 as did Undermind.  Blaze On reached the Top 275. How Many People Are You reached the Top 350 which basically means it’s been played 4 times as of now.  Though the numbers are low, watching the newer songs jump many places with each new play is part of the fun.  After the Mexico run and that update, I’ll be going back to the font of all knowledge and making sure my numbers jibe with what is the official count.  Also, I’ll be looking at a few different things as well like what song from each studio record is has the highest ranking, what Mike song ranks the highest and things like that.  Stay tuned.  Here is the Top 50 as of 1/2/16:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 573
2    Possum – 503
3    Mike’s Song – 482
4    Bouncing Around the Room – 452
5    Weekapaug Groove – 451
6    Golgi Apparatus – 450
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 438
8    David Bowie – 436
9    Cavern – 435
10   Run Like an Antelope – 431
11   Suzy Greenberg – 412
12   Divided Sky – 403
13   Stash – 401
14   Reba – 372
15   Runaway Jim – 371 (24%)
16   Harry Hood – 354
17   Tweezer – 347
18   The Squirming Coil – 345 (22%)
19   Foam – 341 (22%)
20   I Am Hydrogen – 333 (21%)
21   Sparkle – 314 (20%)
22   The Lizards – 310
23   Split Open and Melt – 309
23  Hold Your Head Up – 309
25   AC/DC Bag – 301
26   Llama – 300
27   Maze – 296
28  Poor Heart – 295 (19%)
29   Sample in a Jar – 278
30   Fee – 275 (18%)
30   Rift – 275
32   Wilson – 261
33   Tweezer Reprise – 259
34   Down with Disease – 250
35   I Didn’t Know – 249
36   Fluffhead – 246 (16%)
37   Bathtub Gin – 243
38   My Sweet One – 241 (15%)
39   It’s Ice – 231
40   Slave to the Traffic Light – 223
41   Good Times Bad Times – 214 (14%)
42   The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony – 212 (13%)
43   Ya Mar – 209
44   Uncle Pen – 207 (13%)
44   The Landlady – 207
44   Julius – 207
47   Also Sprach Zarathustra – 204
48   Guelah Papyrus – 199 (13%)
49   Lawn Boy – 196
50   Rocky Top – 195 (12%)

I finally got my podcast working the way I’d like, so if you’d like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 23 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!

 Get Your History On

In Praise Of Anthony Trollope

I wish I could say I happened upon the example of Anthony Trollope all on my own, but I can’t.  I first came across his name reading Stephen King’s book On Writing. The basic gist of Trollope’s story is that every morning from 5-8 or thereabouts, he would get up and write and then off to work for the post office of the United Kingdom.  He is credited with creating the octagonal mailbox famous throughout Britain and he had quite a career rising up through the ranks of the service.

He was also a very successful  and prolific writer.  He published over forty novels, numerous short stories, works of non-fiction and even articles for the magazines of the day.  He was so productive that no matter what, he wrote every morning without fail, until it was time to go to work.  As King recounts, if he finished a story within the writing window he’d type “the end” and immediately start the next one.

I have no designs on being as productive as Trollope.  For the better part of his writing window, I’m trying to get children out of bed, off to school and then myself to work.  I do, however, get to work early (like now!) and instead of popping open Twitter and my other news sources, I get to work.

Since the end of March until last week, pretty much every work day, I’ve written.  The goal was three pages.  I rarely made it over that number and I often fell below.  However, I kept on working.  The result? a 245 page screenplay.  Yes, that is twice and then some the size that is recommended for a screenplay.  I’ve got some serious editing to do.  The feeling of accomplishment is striking though.  Honestly, I didn’t think I would feel this…good.  I fully realize that the odds of this project getting much further than a recycle bin in an office somewhere are unbelievably high. But it’s finished, at least the first draft and the odds of getting it made have improved greatly from when it was just an idea.

Of course something crazy like 95% of screenplays submitted get turned down, but during this break I get to dream a little.  I can start casting roles, prepare my award acceptance speech, start budgeting the payment I’ll be receiving soon.  Come the turn of the year and a return to the routine, I’ll be back to my routine, perhaps my least favorite part of the writing process, editing.  But for now it’s a time to relax and celebrate both the holidays and my progress on this project.  Oh, and give thanks to Anthony Trollope. I couldn’t have done it without you, Tony!

The Phish 52: 12/5/97 Slave To The Traffic Light

Another personal show, another hidden gem if you ask me.  This entire show is a bit uneven, no doubt and when compared to some of the monster shows from 1997, especially the night that followed, it is an easy show to overlook.  I would however, recommend that you give it a listen, especially this Slave.  It is not what we have grown to expect from Slaves.  When I hear this tune at a show, it almost always signals the end is nigh.  A nice mellow jam is on the way to ease us to the end of the show and stick around for the encore if you’d like.

On this winter’s night in Cleveland (and it was winter, the weather was terrible) Slave came in during the middle of the set, following another underrated jam, Julius.  It starts out like any other Slave you’ve heard, but as we approach the build up and quick break that defines the song, things are different. At 2:54 the feedback and distortion that Trey uses is much more present than normal.
At 4:13 things seem to be back to normal and the mellow, blissful sounds of Slave are back.
5:44 More light soloing from Trey, he is definitely taking the forefront on the song at this point.
7:33 Just some beautiful stuff in hear.  Page and Fish are keeping a steady rhythm while Trey just is playing wonderfully over them.  Mike is very subtle.
8:04 Trey starts to rumble and Fish makes a greater impression as well.  By the nine minute make a definite rise in the tension can be felt. It is still well within the Slave structure and the high point of the jam feels like it is about to present itself.
10:16 The peak is reached and Trey just shreds and rises to the occasion. If the song relaxed and worked its way to its conclusion, it would have been a good, but not exactly memorable Slave.
10:27 Trey just pounds back into the song.  The whole band just gets to another level of intensity.  By the 11 minute mark, the light, airy, angelic Slave that is custom, is going away and something much darker is rising.  A wall of noise just explodes.
11:30 Or there abouts.  I can’t precisely mark it, but Mike gets into a fantastic groove that carries the song into an even darker place.  It is at this point I wish I had a better music vocabulary and understanding.  I can hear what he is pounding out, but I can’t convey it properly in words.  All the while, Trey is bringing his best Jimi Hendrix-type sound.  I know we say Rage Side Page Side, but Trey is raging at this point.
14:30 Page starts to bring in the synthesizer, adding an excellent touch of space. At this point all real structure has left the song and the jam.  I would call it spacey, but that conjures up ideas of something ethereal, something weightless.  We are not in that territory.  Or better said, it is not that kind of space, the space of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  No, this is the space of Alien, a dark, we are going to get eaten kind of space.

In the last few moments of the song, things start to lighten up.  One of the most light-hearted songs, Lizards, comes about.  I can’t help but think that it was a direction reaction to what was just going on.  Overall, it was kind of jarring.  Once we got to such an intense spot, leaving felt like a let down.  Sometimes when things get dark, it’s just better to dwell in that place for a while. But that just wasn’t to be on this night.