june 14th, 2000. the fifth show of a seven date mini tour of japan for the phish from vermont. after sixteen years of constant touring, recording, practicing and periodic reinvention that culminated in what can objectively be called one of the greatest concerts and live music events in the history of mankind (big cypress), the band played an intimate, one of a kind show at the drum logos venue in fukuoka, japan.
there are special moments from every show of this weeklong run, but the drum logos evening is an absolute masterpiece. i’m going to borrow the words of the guy who for my money is the best phish writer out there, waxbanks, to describe what happened, as his are far more articulate than anything i could come up with:
The second set is the best of Y2K to my ears, which isn’t exactly a colossal achievement, but it’s also the most delicate, ethereal, *patient* hour-plus of live Phish. Ever. The jam out of Walk Away sounds like a lonely wounded version of the ‘Quadrophonic Topplings’ jam at Big Cypress, the segue *into* Walk Away seems to stretch out forever, and the 18-minute take on Twist is pure crystalline sweetness. Beneath the washes of ambient sound a storm builds, and the electricity dissipates in an understated but intense 2001. Even GBOTT is infused with energy – and yet the whole set never seems to rise above a whisper. The show plays like a delicate small-venue coda to Big Cypress, albeit with none of that show’s anarchic swamplands energy. Get this one.
the band’s reinvention i mentioned above is not an exaggeration. from their early fast paced progressive style that evolved into trey’s nightly shreddery to their 94-95 avant garde arena rock jams to the funk and ambient space of the late 90s, this is a band that pushed itself to discover new things within old songs and kept the music fresh for as long as they possibly could until their first hiatus in the fall of 2000.
yes the second set gets its much deserved hype, but the first set couldve been a second set on any other night and received a ton of praise itself. there’s the evil carini opener that sets the tone, the cities with the noodles line, the gumbo and melt that roar, and even the heavy things, which has a fun upbeat little jam. and trey gives a great piece of banter right before setbreak that lives on today in infamy.
the night was also a musical outlier, as it was essentially a one time temporary transformation that began and ended in this small building. the jams from the second set in particular are of their own singular type, and don’t even really sound like they came from instruments. i know mike, trey and page all have their own gadgets that can manipulate sounds, but this was not the work of mere technology. this was a band that freed themselves from the very concept of “playing.”
there’s a saying among acting teachers whose origin i can’t think of right now, and that is the idea that the best acting or theory of acting is having a private moment in public. really what it means is letting go of the illusion of vulnerability and offering yourself -or selves, in the band’s case- up to the audience in the purest possible sense. that is exactly what phish did on this night. they had never played the way they did here in front of any kind of audience, and to take that challenge on the fly in a live setting takes brass balls the likes of which most bands can only dream of having.
i’ve thought many times what it must have been like to be in drum logos for this once in a career show. to not only be overseas in a beautiful country but also to be in that small club with such a polite crowd, watching this fungus-drenched music seep out right before your eyes. this wasn’t 1991. phish had been playing huge amphitheaters and arenas -not to mention their massive festivals- for quite a while at that point, so it was probably a treat for them to play in front of smaller crowds without having to worry about ridiculous requests (though that won’t stop me from begging for a dreamweaver > tweeprise encore every time i see them) and audiences that were less than sober.
the culture of politeness and courtesy in japan definitely had an effect on their ability to loosen up as well, and that may have been the biggest factor in the band’s ability to relax and play what they wanted without having to worry about meeting the usual psycho phish fan setlist quota we’ve come to expect. regardless of the reasons, this is an all-timer and should be celebrated as such.
enjoy this one with an adult recreational or two and a great pair of headphones and float off into the ether.
and while you’re at it, go read glide magazine’s 4 part summary of the japan shows by someone who was actually there, including this perfect nugget that i stole my name from:
But for some this was no miracle of science or happenstance, it was all the proof some folks needed: Phish was magic. The guys in front of me turned around, and began trying to explain frantically in Japanese what the rainbow meant. Bewildered, I motioned my surrender and explained – my Japanese is not nearly that good, you are going to need to slow down. One grabbed my shirt, as if to tell me not to leave: what they had to say was important. They conferred for a moment in an animated huddle, and one looked right at me, as if he had just discovered alchemy or something, and yelled in English, “Trey magic man! He red wizard! He sky owner!” I responded in Japanese with a phrase that seemed to really freak them out: “I can neither confirm nor deny.”
yours with magic, wizards, and lasers,