Phish toured Europe for the second time in six months at the beginning of 1997, much to the disgust of some of their American phans. I'd seen them in London in July 1996 but this time I wanted to see them more then once - to do "the tour" like the American phans do. This is the story of the gigs I went to.

Billy Breathes

London - Shepherds Bush Empire 13/2/97

Ticket from London

I:Chalk Dust Torture, Wolfman's Brother, Also Sprach Zarathustra-> Stash, Walfredo, Taste, Waste, Poor Heart, Character Zero, Peaches en Regalia, Treat me like a fool, David Bowie

II:Julius, Cars Trucks & Buses, My Soul, Punch You in the Eye, Jam > Slave to the Traffic Light, Circus came to town, Maze > Rockawilliam, Harry Hood, Frankenstein

E:Prince Caspian, Johnny B. Goode

This was only the second time I'd been to this theatre, the previous time was to see Phish last July. The theatre itself is quite old, a traditional English theatre which until a few years ago was used by the BBC for live TV shows such as Wogan. When the Beeb moved out Rock'n'roll moved in!

I'd arranged to meet some Internet friends in the pub next door before the gig, only problem was - I'd sent them a description of me but no one had sent me a description of themselves. I therefore had to wait until someone came up to me and said "are you......"

Anyway I'd almost given up on finding anyone, due to the crowded nature of the bar - I'd forgotten that the last show was in summer and everyone was outside - when this girl (Bill's sister as it turned out) said the magic words. It was lucky really as he'd come all the way from Long Island with some tapes to trade with me. We had a beer, exchanged tapes, talked for a while and then decided to head into the show.

As Bill and his sister decided to go and get something to eat, I went in alone and fought my way to within 6 feet of the front. After about 10 minutes Phish came on opening with Chalkdust Torture which is one of those songs that I can never put a name to even though I know it oh so well! They followed this with Wolfman's Brother, 2001 and Stash before playing the first new song of the show. The band all moved one instrument to the right - Fish played bass, Mike guitar, Trey played keyboards and Page took over on drums. The song Walfredo was introduced as being about a member of Santana's band. It includes the immortal line "And fish played the vacuum and ruined your set". Returning to their own instruments they played two songs from BB, Taste and Waste before playing Poor Heart and another song from BB - Character Zero. Peaches and Regalia followed, a popular choice then a new cover which we think was called Treat me like a fool and the first set finished off with David Bowie.

I fought my way out of the crowd to go to the toilet but one look at the queue and I gave up. I bought some water from the bar (driving!) and headed back down the front. I found Bill and his sister and we manoeuvred ourselves into a much better position.

The band came back on and started with Julius and then went into what I first thought was a jam but soon turned out to be Cars, trucks and buses from BB. This was followed by another new one called My soul (Ma ma ma ma ma ma ma my soul!). Punch you in the eye followed then a jam into Slave to the traffic light and another new cover When the circus comes to town - apparently a Los Lobos song. (At some point during the second set my need to visit the toilet became too great and I had to go. When I returned I gave up on the idea of fighting my way back down the front and stood over near the now closed bar - the view wasn't as good but the sound was better!). This was followed by a storming Maze and then another new song with another instrument change. Trey took over playing drums from Jon in mid song, Jon then picked up the guitar. Meanwhile Mike and Page swapped too. The new song Rockawilliam (as in Rockabilly, Trey would later explain in Brussels) is a dark song with Fishman singing lead vocals. The set concluded with Hood which jammed into Frankenstein.

The band encored after quite a delay - I imagined the venue management telling them they'd gone past the 11.30 curfew and therefore couldn't play anymore! They played Prince Caspian and a long Johnny B. Goode.

I staggered out onto the Bush suffering from dehydration and went ot find my car. I got home at 1.15 knowing I had to be up at 6 am to get to the airport to catch a flight to Nice.

Brussels - La Botanique 14/2/97

Ticket from La Botanique

I:Runaway Jim, NICU, You Enjoy Myself, Sweet Adeline, Axilla Pt.l, It's Ice, Billy Breathes, Uncle Penn, Run Like An Antelope

II:AC/DC Bag, Ya Mar, Down With Disease, Funky Bitch, Reba, Walfredo, Rockawilliam, Scent Of A Mule* > A Day In The Life

E:Character Zero


I hadn't planned to go to this gig - London and Amsterdam yes but this was an added bonus! A client had called to ask me to meet up with her to do a site visit in Cannes the day after the London gig - frantic checking of the tour schedule and the flight times meant I could be in Brussels by 6.30 p.m. giving me two hours to get to the gig, all I needed was a ticket!! A call to the "charge by phone" number told me the agency had sold out - " have you any friends in Belgium?" I was asked because the FNAC outlets still have tickets but they are for personal callers only. Suddenly I remembered Benjamin - he'd e-mailed me two weeks before in response to a post in and offered to sort out tickets, somewhere to crash etc. if I wanted to go to Belgium, Köln etc.

"Can you get me a ticket?" I e-mailed

"I can get you a ticket if you can get here" was the reply

"I can get there"

Anyway I got to the Botanique at around 7.15 and headed to the bar (I can highly recommend the Chimmay Bleu if you are ever in Belgium) and after being served I was looking to see if I could spot Ben. Suddenly before I knew what was happening I was face to face with Trey -I shook his hand and made a cheap crack about passports and then had a camera pushed into my hands and had to take a photo of him and two American chaps.

After he went I noticed that Mike and Jon were also hanging out in the bar. anyway I went back to waiting for Ben who not only had my ticket but also knew where I was going to crash that night!!

I got talking to a lot of phans, most of whom seemed to be Americans and then at 8.25 (five minutes before the starting time) I finally found Ben and my ticket. We shot straight into the arena pausing only to have my bag searched by the security.

NOTE: Fascism is alive and well and working as security at La Botanique, during the evening I saw security guards ripping cameras from peoples hands and pulling film out in front of them. I managed to get off two shots before I realised what was happening and spent the rest of the first set with my camera stuffed down the front of my trousers to protect it!!

Trey and Mike Page

The two photo's I managed to take before the Belgian Bootboys arrived - Good eh?

Anyway the venue was quite small (600-800 people) and the door through which you entered deposited you right at the front next to Page's keyboards. I decided to stay there and to be honest being so close to the front was a lot more enjoyable than in London the previous night - not so much of a crush.

Phish opened with Runaway Jim, the second time I'd seen them open with this and then continued with NICU and them YEM, at the end of YEM the band gathered at the front (literally in front of me) and sang Sweet Adeline without mic's (If you get a tape you might just be able to hear me shout Freebird just before they start singing!) They then continued with Axilla, It's Ice, BB, Uncle Penn and ended the first set with Antelope.

Out to the bar for much need refreshment and a toilet break - Belgian toilets employ old ladies to charge you for admission!( This used to be commonplace in Europe but as the 21st Century nears most European countries seem to have ditched this quaint custom - but not Belgium) She wanted 10 BF I put my hand in my pocket and came out with a fist full of change, English, French and Belgian so I ended up just holding out my hand and letting her help herself!!!

Back in the bar I got into a conversation with an American (who I would later meet again in Amsterdam) and I was telling him how my kids had changed from liking The Spice Girls to liking Billy Breathes and told him that their favourite song was Character Zero and how they also liked Reba(or as they called it "The Bag it Tag it song")

A couple of beers later I was back down the front as the second set began with AC/DC bag, followed by YaMar, DWD, Funky Bitch, Reba then the new Walfredo and Rockawilliam The set finished with Scent of a Mule which ended suddenly and changed into A day in the life;. By this time I was leaning on the front of the stage, close enough to watch Trey's fingers on that fretboard (I'll never pick up my guitar again!). The encore was my kids favourite Character Zero.

Back in the bar I met my new found Belgian friends, Ben, Jack, Gary and Steve and their other friends - before I knew where I was I was sitting at a table with Mike and eight others(all European!). Now those of you who've read the page about the interview on GLR may remember that my question to Mike and Jon had concerned the numbers of Americans appearing at the European gigs.

Mikes first question was "So, do you think there were many Americans in there tonight?"

Mike then told a story about the braces he'd recently had to straighten his teeth. Apparently he'd taken a single frame of his face every day he'd had the brace on and after 4 months he had a short film of his teeth moving into their new positions.

After a while we were joined by Fish who stayed for a few minutes before wandering off in search of beer.

A while later we were back inside the venue talking with Trey and Mike (who was wandering around with a huge box of Belgian chocolates forcing people to eat them!) and we managed to convince them to go for a beer at a bar in Brussels.

So some of us got into cars and some of us (much to Brad's annoyance) got on the bus. I was sitting upstairs at the back when Trey came up and offered me beer (what a nice man!) we got talking and I told him about how I was going to have to go home and break it to the kids that they had played their favourite songs. Before I knew where I was Trey was asking about my kids and telling me about his daughter and how his wife was expecting their second in two months time. (You know you're getting old when you end up talking to Rock stars about kids!!!!).

Anyway I can exclusively reveal that the CD in the machine that night on the bus was the new CD from Pavement.

Following a close call when Brad tried to throw some of us off the bus I was forced to go and sit up the front with Trey and Jon. We set off, the bus following Jack and Steve in their cars to a bar called Peet's bar. On the way Fishman told a weird story about this girl he been seeing and how a week after they split up she was involved in a car crash and is now paralysed from the neck down and how he now gets on better with her than before!?!

Anyway we finally got to the bar and we all headed in, I got talking to another American who just kept saying "I can't believe this! I'm hanging with Phish!!"

About 2.30 Brad was wandering around with a concerned expression on his face and looking at his watch. I leaned over to Trey and said "I think your mom wants you in bed" He smiled and 5 minutes later they left.

We all went back to Steve's where I got about 2 hours sleep before flying back to England, having a shower at my Dad's getting changed, meeting up with Valerie, my wife, and flying out to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam - Paradiso 17/2/97

Ticket from amsterdam

I:Soul Shakedown Party > Divided Sky, Wilson, My Soul Guyute, Timber Ho!, Billy Breathes, Llama, Bathtub Gin> Golgi Apparatus

II:Squirming Coil > Down with Disease > Lucy with the lumpy face> lO-l5min Jam > Taste > Down with Disease, Suzy Greenberg, Prince Caspian

E:Sleeping Monkey, Rockytop

We flew into Schipol using our Airmiles (Frequent flyer miles) and caught a train into Amsterdam Central station. We were staying at the Hotel Agora at Singel 462 near the flower market. This was truly an Internet tour, ticket information, venue details and even hotels had been found via the WWW.

Saturday had been a rest day for the band and while they travelled onto Köln most of the phans had gone to Amsterdam! The first bar we went to was full of people I'd met at the previous two shows. While most of them headed off to the Köln show on the Sunday we stayed in Amsterdam and checked out the Cosmic Charlies - the Grateful Dead cover band at The Last Watering Hole.

On the Monday we made our way to the Paradiso which is an excellent venue set in an old church building. It still has the stained glass windows and a rather excellent Balcony. We stood at the back, near the bar, and this was the furthest I've ever been from the band but I suspect a lot nearer than most people would get at one of the US shows. This was my wife, Valerie's,phirst Phish gig and to be honest she's not a great phan.

The Paradiso, Amsterdam

The famous Paradiso in Amsterdam

The show opened with a Marley cover Soul Shakedown Party which was no doubt inspired by wandering around the city as Marley tracks seem to emanate from almost every other bar. This was followed by Divided Sky which then seemed to jump into Wilson with the familiar chanting from the audience. My Soul followed, which I'd seen them play in London, Guyute, Timber Ho! and BB followed before the set finished with three excellent tracks Llama, Bathtub Gin (a lot better than the last Bathtub Gin in Amsterdam!) and finally Golgi (oh how I'd wanted to hear them play this) before the traditional "15 minutes break". Why does always say 15 minutes when it's nearly always half an hour or longer?

The second set started with The Squirming coil before launching into an excellent 50 minute jam. This jam started off with Down with Disease, then went into Lucy with the lumpy face which went off into a 15 minute jam before returning to Taste and finally launching back into DWD. The set concluded with Suzy Greenberg and Prince Caspian.

Encores were Sleeping Monkey and Rockytop before we staggered out into the Amsterdam night to head off back to the hotel because we had foolishly booked an early flight the next morning. (We won't mention the fact that I fell down the stairs in the hotel the next morning).

This was an excellent show, especially as they played three of the four songs I really wanted them to play - Golgi, Suzy and Rockytop (Fee being the fourth) and also because of the jams. It probably wasn't the best show to take Val to - her reaction "They go on a bit!"

So that was it, except of course for the tapes and of course for my front row seat at the Royal Albert Hall in June.

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