[The following is courtesy of Ryan Harrell. THANK YOU RYAN! -Ed.]
About a year ago, I was enjoying one of the Live Bait releases and began thinking about the somewhat disembodied nature of this series, in which live performances from different years and eras are removed from their context and assembled in a way that simulates a long live set. This effectively presents a broad range of Phish’s archives, for which we are all grateful, but it necessarily loses any sense of the chronology or historical context of a given song in doing so.
Also around this time, I noticed .net users on the forum discussing years and eras of the band underserved by official releases of full shows. As I recall, 1999 and 2000 were particularly high on that list, and I began wondering how much soundboard-quality audio from these years existed in a form let than a full show, but at least one song. Far from simply being a nerdy thought exercise, which it definitely was, I also realized how awesome a playlist from a particular year or tour would be with this data collected and compiled chronologically. Okay, so it still sounds nerdy.
What began as a relatively small task ballooned into a massive project, as I soon realized I was not only compiling all of the Live Bait tracks, but also every performance broadcast on every From the Archives, every pre-order bonus disc, every free sampler, every song on A Live One, every DVD extra, and so forth. Because the band seems to keep excerpts of webcasts on its YouTube channel more or less permanently, I also included those. And although I initially resisted the urge to compile soundchecks released by the band or Kevin Shapiro, in the end I caved, because why not?
The result of my obsession is the Chronological Index of Phish Archival Releases, which I am happy to share with the larger Phish community. It is my hope it leads to the creation of many excellent playlists and rediscovery of overlooked shows and eras. Even though much of the fanbase is no doubt familiar with many of these performances, I will admit I have not always connected illustrious jams that occured within the same week as one another, on consecutive nights, or even within the same show. Even more interesting are the sets and shows that now can now be completely or substantially assembled from their various standalone parts. For instance, the second set of 2000/07/04, excluding the encore, is now entirely available in soundboard form due to the release of Live Bait: Vol. 14, even though this show has never been released in its entirety. Other highly-regarded shows that can be substantially assembled are 1994/11/12, 1995/06/16, and many more.
Conversely, the highlights of many shows that have been released officially may already be in fans’ media library folders as portions of other live compilations. For example, the recent release of 1999/09/18 is indeed welcome, but two major highlights, “Tweezer” and “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” were previously released on Live Bait: Vol. 12 and the 2012 SPAC From the Archives respectively. If these snippets speak to you, it is a decent indication the entire show will as well.
To be clear, this is not an index of all officially-released shows or a broader list of shows generally available via ‘liberated’ soundboard. Many of those shows are indeed listed here, but only to the extent smaller snippets of them were released by the band on a separate occasion. One other caveat is my consistent usage of the name of the venue as it existed the first time Phish played there throughout the document, even if the specific performance occurred after the venue changed names. I did this not only because corporate renaming of classic venues generally stinks, but also so a user can search for “Knickerbocker” and see all soundboard selections played at that particular venue in Albany, New York. I wanted to provide a guide for not only making comprehensive chronological playlists, but also venue and region-specific ones, too.
I hope that Phish fans enjoy using this document as much as I enjoyed creating it. And to answer my question about how much from the year 2000 has been released in piecemeal fashion, I can now report the answer as more than six glorious hours, at least according to my playlist. Lastly, I recognize this task would have been impossible if it wasn’t for the people who reliably collect and publish all the setlist data on .net, those who taped and distributed the From the Archives broadcasts while everyone else was partying at the festival, and everyone who has undertaken a similar task, and whose previous hard work and dedication formed significant bases of and reliable means of fact-checking this document. For instance, I have since learned many soundcheck recordings were released only as iTunes bonus tracks, and I will work to include those, along with all other selections as they are added to this ever-expanding index. -Ryan Harrell
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