Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Phish Island Run '98

"For Those of You Who Want to Stick Around and Dance to the FUNK..."

In the midst of what was arguably their most creative and productive practise sessions (which eventually led to the album The Story of the Ghost), Phish scheduled a quick run of four east coast shows in early April 98, known to 'phans' simply as "Island Tour." The gigs - two nights in Long Island, and two nights in Rhode Island - are considered by many to be the creative musical pinnacle of the band's career.

Coming off of a Fall tour and New Years 1997 run where the band began experimenting with a looser, groovier style of playing (which has affectionately been dubbed "Cow Funk"), the theme for the first shows of '98 was no doubt wah'd out PHUNK. The four shows featured some of the most intricate, awe-inspiring improvisational work the band ever created - the result of years of rigorous practice and musical camaraderie. The jamming from these shows is utterly egoless, yet the band maintains a clear sense of direction and purpose throughout; the music hovers as it progresses along, propelled equally by four distinct musical personalities and ideas, spontaneously and constantly morphing into something fresh and exhilirating.

Song selection over the four nights featured many new tunes that would later appear on "Ghost", longtime classics stretched to their mind-bending limits, and brilliantly executed covers that proved the band's versatility and ability to work in a miriad of different musical styles. Below is a selection from the final show's second set and encore. Listen as "Possum" is taken to uncharted territories, and then morphs into a funked out version of "Cavern" to close the set. The band then encores with a smoking version of Jimi Hendrix's "Bold As Love". This mini compilation of tracks not only captures the spirit of the classic four night run, but more importantly shows how the Island Tour served to create an air of energy and excitment that would carry over throughout the summer and last well beyond the release of"Ghost" in the fall of 1998. Mmmm, Cow Funk.

Phish - Possum -> Cavern, Bold As Love (April 5, 1998)

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