Originally I was going to separate these two shows into separate posts but it kind of makes sense to group them together here, considering this was the first “stand” the band played on the Spring ’93 Tour. I’ll handle each show in turn and then we will get to the big picture as well. But I’d be remiss to not first note that this classic venue that was once a skating arena is no more, having closed in April 2014 (after Lady Gaga had the final residency) to make way for yet another 50+ story building here in Midtown. Progress never sleeps, right? With that, let’s strap in because this one is a tad lengthy…
Phish — Roseland Ballroom — New York, NY 02.05.1993
I Llama, Guelah, Rift, Melt, Sparkle, PYITE, IDK, Poor Heart>Reba, Bowie->Vibe of Life->Bowie
II Curtain>Tweezer, Horse>Silent, Paul & Silas, Ice, YEM, HYHU>Love You>HYHU, Coil, Reprise
E Grace, Cup
On the first night of their stop in New York City Phish opened up with a fiery Llama that gets the rowdy crowd going in what will eventually end up being one of those “Page Shows” we used to note excitedly while filing out of the room back in the day. Guelah then slides into its familiar second song first set position (get used to it. this song was played in 30 of the 71 shows that make up the spring tour) before we have Rift, a tune that benefits well here from Page’s new baby grand piano. Next up is the first opportunity for the band to stretch their metaphorical legs a bit with Melt but this one is wholly in bounds and pretty short at that. The renaissance for this song was still about two months away and we will get to listen to that all happen on stage as we move forward here. A fast Sparkle then precedes a massive bustout of PYITE, a tune that had gone 414 shows between appearances. This version is a tad shaky which isn’t really surprising all things reconsidered, but its appearance is notable as they would then begin a pattern of alternating this song and Landlady (not always in consecutive shows). It is an odd thing to have them playing what amounts to two pieces of the same thing concurrently as in most cases when they have had songs that eventually became larger suites (think Fluffhead>Fluff’s Travels with all of the various parts that make it up — Clod, Who Do? We Do!, The Chase, etc.) they ceased to play the parts once the whole had been begotten. Quite frankly, I know there are many who would love the return of the freestanding Landlady but that is a discussion for the comment section. Note that during this version Trey takes the time to teach the crowd The Storm Dance and even notes that the faster playing they typically use for Landlady messes him up a tad. IDK (“Tubs” “Beast Boy” actually attempts to play an oversized picture of Otis Redding, which obviously does not translate well to the tape and seems to just confuse the crowd) and Poor Heart serve as filler in this set in getting us to the first Reba of the year, one that takes a patient path through the jam segment with Trey adding color to the relaxed vibe of the rhythm section. This is followed by the set-closing Bowie which includes some SL (Random Note, All Fall Down) as well as a little taste of Storytime with Trey as they throw the Vibration of Life in the mix before leaving the Bowie intro. This is only the fifth (of 22 total) time they evoked the green beams of the universal vibration of life so it doesn’t really get the reception I think Trey was seeking but it does provide a nice interlude upon which to lay down those aforementioned secret language cues. From here we get the balance of the Bowie (complete with the echo vocalization that the song now lacks) and a Bowie jam that gets out there in that way we love with the band toying around with the rhythm of the jam as they work their way towards the big finish. And with that we are off to setbreak.
This night the second set would kick off with the beloved old school combo of Curtain>Tweezer and this version is a keeper at that. After nailing the Curtain they take the Tweezer out for a bit in a jam that hints heavily at ‘Funkytown’ at times. Ok, so maybe this isn’t a ’95 mindfuck Tweezer jam or a ’98-99 space odyssey but it is worth your time. Horse>Silent, P&S provide a bit of a break here before they dive back into the bigger stuff with a nice Page-led Ice and eventually YEM. And let’s just note here that you will see an obvious pattern form over this tour where the major jam vehicles alternate on a 2-3 show basis with Mike’s Groove and perhaps a “minor” vehicle such as Reba or Stash typically being played opposite of Tweezer and YEM. Obviously they break the pattern occasionally — and often this results in the more notable set/show having been played — but for the most part this is the format we have (along with some other patterns more related to the straight ahead tunes. Keep in mind that this is before the true “open jam era” that would begin in earnest later in ’93 and really springing to life in ’94 and ’95 so a song like Weekapaug actually did have some notably unique jams that could almost carry the set which is relevant when simply perusing these setlists and trying to make comparisons to the way the songs are played today. But let’s get back to that second set here…
From the first notes of YEM it is apparent that this is a song many came to hear. The crowd immediately provides positive feedback to the band and the band responds in kind with an engaging and complete take on the composed section of the song, particularly with a stunning ‘Nirvana’ section and a great Bass & Drums that leads to another interesting VJ that culminates with the choir ending. Page rides this choir theme on the organ before starting up HYHU and Fish then comes to the front of the stage for his pretty much nightly thing to sing Love You and suck some vac while also bantering about the crew (notably, he calls Brad the “chairman of the boards” since he is sitting in a chair by the soundboard, a nickname that will eventually be linked to Page). Once he is back at the kit we get the first Squirming Coil of the tour and here is where Page really gets to use his new toy to great effect, stretching out the end solo as he tinkles away at the keys of his real live actual piano. But I will say that whoever thought it was a good idea to start a synchronized clap thing during Page’s solo really needs to reevaluate that line of thinking. There will be many instances of crowd-generated clap routines over the course of this tour but this might be the most oddly placed one. At least the others accompany the song to some degree. Geez. The expected Reprise closer comes next and then we get those two new tunes again for the Amazing Grace, Loving Cup encore combo.
This is, largely, one of those shows that would today be referred to as an “energy” show where the jamming is limited but the songs are played well and the crowd is fully engaged. But if we do that then we will have people arguing back and forth because one person was there and feels the show is getting slighted by those only listening on tape and surely they don’t get what happened that night and then there will be some negative comment that hurts someone’s feelings about what was a transformative experience for them and then we have to do the whole dance around Attendance Bias and whatnot. Honestly, I’d like to avoid that aspect of modern phishlife if we can so we will just move right along then to tell you that the takeaways from this first night at the Roseland are Reba, Bowie->VOL->Bowie, Curtain>Tweezer (because why avoid the introducing piece?), YEM, and Coil.
Oh, and because we are here we should also note that after the show Mike and Trey went over to The Ritz to join in on what would henceforth be known as The Ritz Power Jam to help out on a few tunes at the end of the second set. They would be part of Spanish Moon, Watchtower, and the Gloria encore. Really, if you have never heard this tape check it out. Warren Haynes, John Popper, Noel Redding, Leland Schliefer, Chuck Leavell, Bernie Worrell, Jaimoe, Jerome Brailey, and Marc Quinones make up the band. Add in the Trey/Mike + DMB on Watchtower and there’s a heck of a lot of musicians involved. I definitely wore out the tapes on that one way back when.
Now on to night two!
Phish — Roseland Ballroom — New York, NY 02.06.1993
I Golgi, Foam, Wilson, MFMF, Maze, Horn, Divided, Lawn Boy, Wedge, Bouncin’>Antelope
II CDT, Mound, Stash, Adeline, ATR, Mike’s>H2>Paug, Lifeboy, Uncle Pen, BBJ, HYHU>Lengthwise>Buried Alive, Possum
If the Friday night show was an “energy” affair, then this one would definitely be considered the “Saturday Night Special”. This is also the fourth night (of five total) in a row that they played and even though this is a much younger band at the start of the tour it does show a bit that they were a tad weary by the time they hit the stage for this one (and the late night sit-ins and other partying that occurs in NYC surely had some impact as well). Now, these five night runs weren’t rare at this time so after a while you just accept that they are going to happen and keep that in mind for perspective but as this is a much younger band they don’t seem to have a lasting impact or are always at play when trying to figure out why the band isn’t connecting as well as on other nights.
With all of that said, this is still a solid outing for the band for Spring ’93 showcasing the variety of the songbook, the high standard level of playing, and some guest sit-ins taboot taboot. Things get off well enough with the first Golgi of the year and a second song Foam (pretty much this song’s standard slot when not occupied by Guelah) that brings things up a bit in the energy department before we have the first Wilson of tour. Now, if you know your phishtory you know that this is pre-crowd involvement for this song (that really didn’t take off until later with the 12.30.94 version being The Moment for the song — and the version that ended up on A Live One) so it is quite subdued from the song we know today as the bombastic anthem it has become. There’s even room for some SL (Random Note, Simpsons) in the pause before the “blap boom” ending section. Next up is MFMF and its old acoustic intro before a shredder Maze that features a nice organ solo from Page before Trey takes a few laps around the fretboard. Horn (finally!) makes its appearance as one of the last Rift songs to be played on this tour (remember, Weigh is still a couple of shows away and Mound would show up later one this night) before a quite well received Divided fills the room. Lawn Boy (with Trey taking the solo) and Bouncin’ sandwich a very nice take on Wedge where Page really shines on the piano, bringing this “slow” version closer to the modern iteration of the song. Finally, a rousing Antelope sends everyone to the setbreak on a high note to discuss current events and various forms of literature and other art while waiting in line with the other freaks to unload their bladders.
The second frame starts with CDT (similar to two shows ago) before the first Mound of the year pops up to keep things quirky. Then a now-rare second set Stash fills the third slot and if you are thinking “holy shit! second set stash! that must jam!” then you would be largely incorrect as this one stays at home for the most part, though they do build some nice T&R along the way. Oddly, they take things way down next for a mic’d take on Sweet Adeline and then ATR before ratcheting it back up for the obvious Mike’s Groove we knew was coming. Things start of hilariously enough with Mike doing the “this is MY song” bit before they take the jam out for a dark turn or two. A somewhat out of tune Hydrogen is next before they dive headlong into a dynamic Weekapaug that includes an extra verse and some type II jamming, giving a bit of a glimpse into where this song was at the time considering that in some cases the Paug jam could elevate a set in a way the rote rocker quite simply does not do anymore. Next we get the second Lifeboy ever and this one is maybe a little more poignant that the debut but still lacks the deep pathos this song would deliver as it became a more regular member of the rotation. A quick run through Uncle Pen precedes Fish Fun Time which on this night includes Fish refusing to tell the Prison Joke (don’t worry, it’ll come out later in the tour) and a few rounds of Lengthwise including a verse about burning your finger from holding up a lighter for too long before they transition directly into Buried Alive. John Popper comes out to add flavor on this tune and stays on through the set closing Possum and here I will just say that the subject of the relative merits of sit-ins is on full display here. Back in this time Popper was a big gun on the scene (particularly in NYC and the area) so it was not unusual for him to join in here. What you get here is largely what we all now know his harmonica playing to be which is to say that some appreciate it and others really don’t. I’ll argue that he adds to the Possum but really just clouds the issue a bit on Buried Alive. Then for the encore the debate can go further as they start up Fire only to stop twice after jokingly not being able to play the song before they bring out Noel Redding to sit in on bass. Popper is also there (Trey gives him the first solo) and Mike gives way to join Page on the keyboards and while including one of the original players on the song it is just an okay take without any major benefit in the long run, as in “holy crap have you ever heard that time they did Fire with Noel Redding and John Popper?!?” yeah, it’s fun to hear but just doesn’t really elevate much. So then everyone is off into the night to find other nefarious goings on to attend to with their Phish buzz in full effect. Which is interesting to joke about considering that Fish would sit in with Shockra over at The Wetlands for a couple of songs, playing vac on one and playing drums while reading from a Sun Ra book on another. They also encored with Fire which is nice. But that’s all really just anecdotally relevant to the larger topic anyway.
For your takeaways on this night let’s include The Wedge, Weekapaug, and that Possum. Sure, there aren’t a lot of high highs here but the tour is early…
So where does this stand put us? These two shows point out the benefit of a band that plays and practices together a lot, as the playing is quite strong and energetic no matter what song they are playing. In a way, the playing is so sharp that when they do slip up it is almost UNnoticeable as it almost seems planned (if that makes sense). Part of this is the youthfulness of the band and their mastery of both instrument and the music being played but a lot of it is simply the level of connection and communication they have forged amongst each other. There is still a long upward trajectory to be heard on this tour but here only four shows in it is clear that the band is feeling good and sharing in the energy their fans push back to them. There is excitement in knowing what is to come here as these shows don’t even really scratch the surface of where we will be in a few short months. And that is a wonderful thing to look forward to…