Having taken some time off from touring during the first few months of the year, Phish hit the road for four shows in April dubbed "Island Tour" because of their locations in Long Island and Rhode Island respectively. After Island Tour, Phish continued work on their next Elektra release, The Story of The Ghost (see TMIPH April 1998) before heading to Europe in June and July (see TMIPH June 1998). Phish returned from nine dates in Europe and kicked off the summer’s U.S. touring in Portland, Oregon. By August they had worked their way down the West Coast and across the country into the Midwest. The summer tour featured a variety of new covers not played previously by Phish, such as Sexual Healing, Call Me If You Need a Fool, Too Much of Everything and Albuquerque. Also debuted that summer was the original Bittersweet Motel (title track of the Phish movie released in August, 2000) and the return of a number of songs which the band had not played for years, like Sea and Sand, She Caught The Katy, Lengthwise and If I Could.
Despite an impressive list of new and revived material earlier on the tour, August was the real pinnacle for the summer’s debuts and breakouts. Phish played a new cover song almost every night of the month starting with August 1st at Alpine Valley, where they opened the show with Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On and continued with Mike’s Song > Esther > Weekapaug Groove. Alpine’s second set was equally impressive with Wilson > 2001 > Magilla > Tweezer and a spirited Fluffhead. The encore that night featured another first as Phish broke into the Jane’s Addiction song Been Caught Stealin’, catching many fans off guard with the intensity of their rendition.
The following two nights, the band played at Deer Creek Amphitheatre. On August 2nd, they played I Get a Kick Out Of You, written by Cole Porter, popularized by Frank Sinatra and sung by Mike. On the 3rd, they opened the show with Rhinocerous by Smashing Pumpkins and also played the first Ride Captain Ride since 1992 as well as Fish’s first Bike in almost three years. After a couple days off, the tour resumed August 6th in Atlanta, where Phish played a weighty encore consisting of the Van Halen classic, Running With the Devil followed by You Enjoy Myself. On the 7th, they performed at Walnut Creek in Raleigh, North Carolina, where they opened the show with Water in the Sky and Drowned, celebrating the annual rainstorm at that venue. Trey did a special lunar eclipse narration in Col. Forbin’s Ascent before breaking into Fly Famous Mockingbird for the first time since it was played on Halloween, 1996.
Phish’s next stop was Columbia, Maryland at Merriweather Post Pavilion on August 8th. The first set at Merriweather featured an opening sequence of The Wedge, NICU, Sneaking Sally Through the Alley and the band’s first rendition of Sweet Jane by The Velvet Underground. Later that year (on Halloween in Las Vegas), they covered the entire album on which the song appeared, Loaded (see TMIPH October 1998). The second set featured 2001 > Tela followed by a jammed-out Piper. For the encore, the band debuted their cover of The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage. The band opened the following night’s show at Virginia Beach Amphitheatre with Punch You in the Eye followed by Bathtub Gin, Lizards and Moma Dance. They closed the first set with David Bowie and opened set two with an exploratory AC/DC Bag which jammed into Sparkle and then Run Like an Antelope. You Enjoy Myself was also playd in the long second set. Road Manager Brad Sands recalls thinking that ironically Virginia Beach is the venue with the strictest curfew in the nation, yet the band rolled forty minutes past curfew before they left the stage. He was pacing like an expectant father as Phish took the stage for the encore and broke into another first-time cover which brought down the house unlike any other – the Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station. They performed the sacred anthem in honor of the third anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing, learning the song before the show and between sets from a 1977 live recording.
Continuing the new cover theme, Phish opened the following show in Pittsburgh on August 11th with Trenchtown Rock by Bob Marley. That was followed by Julius and Wolfman’s Brother which segued into Times Loves a Hero, played that night by Phish for the first time since 1988. On August 12th, the band rolled into Vernon Downs in Vernon, New York, where they began their set with four classic songs, La Grange, Makisupa, Funky Bitch and Possum. They kicked off set two with Mike’s Song > Simple > Rift followed by Loving Cup and Sleeping Monkey before they settled into Weekapaug Groove. The encore at Vernon Downs was the Talking Heads classic, Burning Down The House (or as some called it that night "Vernon Downs the house") followed by You Enjoy Myself. After a night off, the band and crew returned to Limestone, Maine for their second year at Loring Air Force Base where they produced their third summer tour-ending festival known as "Lemonwheel" (http://www.phish.com/slideshow/lemonwheel/index.html).
On August 14th, the band sound checked in the giant fenced field where nearly 80,000 fans would watch the band perform three sets per night the next two nights. Fans who were already camping on site heard the check and roared their approval as it ended. The band and fans alike spent the rest of the night cavorting around the festival grounds and checking out the many displays of art and other entertainment around the town square called the Garden of Infinite Pleasantries. On August 15th, Phish took the stage and began the show with Mike’s Song > Simple and ending it appropriately with Cities > Weekapaug Groove as they shared the groove with what had temporarily become the largest city in the state. They kicked off the second set on the 15th with The Wedge (perfectly appropriate for the "Limestone blocks so large" lyric). Set two also featured Gumbo > Sanity > Tweezer and a Slave to the Traffic Light closer. Set three followed with NICU, David Bowie and a Loving Cup closer. The encore that night was Halley’s Comet (with Trey’s custom lyrics, "I’m going down to the Garden of Infinite Pleasantries") into Cavern and Tweezer Reprise. Keeping with their tradition of late-night/early morning surprises at their summer festivals, Phish announced they would return to the stage for a fourth set of "collaborative art" which consisted of ambient jamming (rather than songs) during which the band was flanked by hundreds of candles in a display referred to as the Ring of Fire.
August 16th was the second day of Lemonwheel and the last show of the summer tour. The first set featured Bathtub Gin, YaMar into AC/DC Bag and Guyute. Set two began with a thundering Down With Disease and featured Piper, Ghost and Run Like an Antelope to finish the set. The third and final set of Lemonwheel kicked off with Sabotage followed by 2001 > Wilson and The Mango Song. The set wound down with Bittersweet Motel and While My Guitar Gently Weeps before the encore, which consisted of Harry Hood with fireworks exploding overhead. As the fireworks erupted, a fuse was lit that ran around and above the stage, then over to a giant surreal elephant sculpture, which proceeded to "walk" through the audience to the tune of Baby Elephant Walk played over the P.A. Needless to say, many were puzzled as they shuffled out of the concert field back into the Garden and their campsites after another great summer’s end festival with Phish.
The rest of the month was taken up by practice sessions in preparation for fall touring as well as the release of the mail-order only presentation of the first CD from the Phish archives, Phish a/k/a "The White Tape".