Sound Checks – Part 1
Peering behind the scenes of Phish provides a look at the band in their raw, playful form. During shows, they are compelled to put on a show, to deliver. Thus, they cannot fully be themselves. Thought they have tried to make things as relaxed as possible on-stage, there are certain elements that prevent the band from simply playing as they want. Fans want to hear certain songs, certain covers may not go over well in live shows etc. As a result, Phish has often used their sound check time not only to test their equipment, but also to unleash their playful spirit, and try new things. Often including fun, joking lyrics, sound checks have been known to lead to some incredible jams. Sometimes, the band decides to bring songs from the sound check to their live shows, other times they are simply used as practice vehicles, or fun covers.
At times, sound checks provide a glimpse into the bands’ personal jamming style. While studio sessions such as The Victor Disc offer a raw look at the band in a studio setting, the sound checks offer a live experience. When arriving early to a venue, one can often hear Phish’s sound check from the distance. For example at Darien lake the band was heard working through sections of “Sugar Shack”, and at SPAC they were overheard playing MGMT’s “Kids”. Even though most sound checks are kept private, some have been officially released and others have been leaked through various sources. Recently the band released the sound check from Hartford, showing the playful spirit that exists before the show starts. Over the next while, we will present many special moments from Phish’s sound checks. Today, we share three of the finest moments, showing the magic that takes place behind the curtains.
1992.3.19 Palace Theater, New Haven, CT – Andrew
This sound check shows the band experimenting with outside, fusion-style jazz. What begins as a series of drum beats, leads into a full-on jazz exploration. Page is the first to join, adding Hancock like organ fills. Trey then adds a furious jazzy, modal solo to the mix. This is a great listen to Phish in their early jamming days. Heavily influenced by jazz, the jamming style is noticeably different to the examples that follow. The jam is dubbed “Andrew” as Trey furiously begins yelling that name toward the end.
Listen to 1992.3.19 “Andrew”
DOWNLOAD the entire 1992.3.19 Sound check (featuring “Shaggy Dog”, “Andrew”, “Mound” and a discussion of the show’s setlist).
1998.4.4 Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI – Providence Sound check
From the legendary Island Tour, this sound check shows the band letting loose with a killer jam. More straightforward than many of the intergalactic ’98 jams, this sound check features a heavy funk groove which Trey shreds apart for the first few minutes. After locking into an interweaving pattern, the band carries the jam to a higher level with each member following the same melody. This sound check enters into the same groundbreaking territory that would unfold throughout the entire Island run.
Listen to 1998.4.4 “Providence Sound Check Jam”
1999.12.29 Big Cypress Indian Seminole Reservation, FL – Big Cypress Sound Check Jam
An ambient exploration into musical discovery, this sound check is a must-listen for any fan of Big Cypress (which I assume most Phish fans are). Big Cypress lacked an open-ended, free-form jam such as this one. Rather, the show consisted of song-based jams that lead into exploritory worlds of their own. This sound check, however, is built from the ground up, on the spot. The masterful ambient composition, layered with effects makes for a great listen. Very much in the style of the Big Cypress jams, the band takes an intergalactic approach, which goes from ambiance to an intense, energetic jam.
Listen to 1999.12.29 “Big Cypress Soundcheck Jam”