Following a couple weeks of touring in Europe in support of Billy Breathes, Phish wrapped up their stay in Europe with two shows in March. On the 1st, the band performed at Markthalle in Hamburg, Germany. The performance that night yielded the material for Phish’s first single-show live album, Slip Stitch and Pass This was the band’s second visit to Marthalle having first played there in July, 1996. Hamburg is also the first European city where the band performed, with their debut appearance abroad taking place in June, 1992 when they opened for the Violent Femmes. Their return on March 1st was preceded by a string of headline shows across Europe (see TMIPH February 1997). The band began their stay at Markthalle with a sound check the band refers to as Attack on the Bass. The performance that night kicked off with Phish’s first rendition of The Talking Heads’ song Cities since it returned to their repertoire at an obscure show in Ottawa, Ontario in 1994. Set one continued with The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony, which usually is paired with Suzy Greenberg or AC/DC Bag, but appeared alone in the Hamburg set. Down With Disease and Weigh followed and a combination of Wolfman’s Brother into Jesus Just Left Chicago was the meat of the set. Hamburg’s first set also featured Reba, the acoustic Hello My Baby and a heavy metal-esque Possum. From the first set, Cities, Weigh, Wolfman’s, Jesus Left and Hello My Baby appeared on the live album recorded that night and mixed down later from digital 32 track tape. Phish opened set two with the recently penned Carini, followed by Dinner and a Movie, which was performed for the first time that year. Mike’s Song then segued into a play on The Doors’ The End, the Oedipus portion of which was turned into a joke by Fish. The band also teased Pink Floyd’s Careful With That Axe, Eugene before settling into Lawn Boy and then Weekapaug Groove. The Mango Song, Billy Breathes and Theme From the Bottom rounded out set two. The encore was a soaring Taste and another a cappella number, Sweet Adeline. Slip Stitch and Pass contains the Mike’s > Lawn Boy > Weekapaug sequence as well as Taste, which is the last track on the album.
Phish played the next night at Pumpehuset in Copenhagen, Denmark. The first set of Copenhagen featured Runaway Jim (which contained Gypsy Queen) and the unique combination of Run Like an Antelope into Catapult into Life on Mars. The second set began with 2001 into Maze and also featured Punch You in the Eye and a strong closing sequence of Slave to the Traffic Light, Tweezer Reprise and You Enjoy Myself encore. Before traveling back to the United States, the band congratulated their Manager John Paluska (see TMIPH March 1988) for receiving Pollstar’s “Manager of the Year” award, presented by the industry magazine at their Concert Industry awards on March 3rd. Back stateside on March 5th, Phish made their third appearance on Late Show with David Letterman where they performed Character Zero with Trey and Fish appearing in their dress suits from the European tour.
After a few days to collect themselves and their equipment, the crew loaded into Bearsville Studios in upstate New York. Phish had recorded their last album, Billy Breathes at another studio in the Bearsville facility (see TMIPH February 1996) but for The Story of the Ghost, they recorded in the larger Studio A. John Siket Engineered the recording along with assistants Chris Laidlaw and Paul Higgins. At this first session, the band mostly laid down funky and experimental jams of the sort that had taken hold by the end of the European tour. The first session lasted from March 12th through March 15th and the band jammed and recorded round the clock. That and the next several jam sessions at Bearsville yielded material that would form the foundation for the next two records, The Story of the Ghost and The Siket Disc.
While plans were being made for the next studio sessions, Phish entered into a licensing agreement with Vermont neighbors Ben and Jerry for Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream to invent an ice cream flavor called Phish Food. The flavor development process had begun earlier the previous winter and culminated with the creation of one of the richer ice cream flavors in history. Perhaps the most important development as a result of the new flavor was not ice cream at all but Phish’s new charitable effort, The WaterWheel Foundation. All Phish’s proceeds from Phish Food flow directly to the Foundation. The Foundation’s primary mission is to clean up Lake Champlain and its watershed, which like most watersheds, has been polluted over the years mainly due to agricultural, industrial and urban runoff. A variety of introductory events were proposed and the band decided the best way to launch the new flavor and to bring awareness to the cause was to do what they do best – play a concert. On March 18th, the band performed a benefit show at the Flynn Theater in Burlington to introduce the flavor and the Foundation to the public. It was the band’s first hometown performance since July, 1995 (see TMIPH July 1995). They opened the show that night with their first rendition of Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl and brought up longtime collaborators Dave “The Truth” Grippo on alto saxophone (see TMIPH July 1991, TMIPH April 1994, TMIPH December 1994, TMIPH July 1995, TMIPH October 1995 and TMIPH October 1996) and James Harvey on trombone (see TMIPH December 1994 and TMIPH April 1996). Cars Trucks and Buses, a spirited Suzy Greenberg and Character Zero were all accompanied by the horns, which closed the first set. Set two began with Taste followed by Drowned into Prince Caspian, Prince Caspian and a couple blues songs featuring guest vocalist Tammy Fletcher on vocals. After closing the set with Slave to the Traffic Light, the band returned for an encore consisting of Hello My Baby and Funky Bitch, during which the Grippo and Harvey returned with their horns to wrap up the show.
On March 23rd and 24th, Trey and Tom Marshall undertook the first recording session that would spawn their first album, Trampled by Lambs and Pecked by the Dove. With help from Pete Carini and Paul Languedoc, Trey and Tom assembled instruments including and a single 8 track digital recorder, Fish’s practice drumkit, Page’s practice Rhodes keyboard, a bass, and Trey’s main guitar with his Fender Deluxe amplifier. They referred to this two-day round-the-clock session at Mountain View Farm in Stowe, VT as “Pecked by the Dove”. The session, which was the first of four comprising the album of demos released in 2000, generated songs such as Olivia’s Pool, Piper, I Saw It Again, Limb by Limb, No Regrets, Ghost, Dogs Stole Things and Wading in the Velvet Sea. Many of these songs also found their way onto the next two Phish studio albums as well as Trampled by Lambs and Pecked by the Dove.
After Trey and Tom’s weekend in Stowe, the band members and crew took a couple weeks off before getting back to practice and some side projects.