Phish — The Roxy Theatre — Atlanta, GA 02.21.1993
I Suzy>Buried Alive, PYITE, Uncle Pen, Horn>CDT, Esther>DaaM>Bouncin>Antelope
II Axilla, Curtain>Stash->Manteca->Stash->Lizards, Gin->HYHU>Rosie>HYHU, Coil, BBFCFM
E Adeline, GTBT->Paul and Silas->Pig in a Pen
How do you follow up one of the better nights (up to that point) in your live musical career? Do you try to top it? Do you just say ‘screw it’ and go out there knowing you cannot live up to the previous show? Or do you do what you do which is to treat each night on stage as the special snowflake that it is with the understanding that the people who came out tonight are not the same crowd as the night prior and it is your job — nay your duty — to do whatever you can to try to melt their faces with the music you play on this night? Rhetorical questions, obviously, but this show points out the challenge of being a touring musician, playing your fifth show in as many nights (not to mention knowing they had to hit the road to make it to Gainesville, FL for the next night) and working as hard as you can to achieve that connection you know is out there just waiting to be found and fostered so that the fans that came to this show get as much out of it as you can give them. On this night, planted firmly in the shadow of the one that preceded it we get a little bit of all of the above as the band brings as much energy and musicality as they can to the proceedings while also clearly fighting the fatigue and ‘hangover’ from the prior few nights’ shows. This is not to say that the show suffers but in reality it is not quite to the level of the two nights that preceded it, hetty jams therein notwithstanding. But let’s get into things to see what went down, shall we?
The first set kicks off with a somewhat rare different intro to Suzy as they harmonize a line a cappella before diving into the song proper. This isn’t the first time (or last) that this would occur (summer 1992 has a few, for example). Trey slips in a Tweezer tease along the way, perhaps reflecting back to the previous night’s epic second set but also hinting they are raring to get after it again. They take this into a quick Buried Alive and then run through a still-pretty-rough-around-the-edges PYITE. Uncle Pen and Horn bring us then to CDT which rages in that way it did in the compact form it maintained in this era and then we are on to Esther. Page toys around with the intro here, adding some ‘reggae’ flavoring while the band banters about him ‘moving his organ’ so that everyone can see what he is doing. After Esther (which includes a Simpsons SL) they roll right into the tour debut of Dinner and a Movie before hitting Bouncin’ on their way to the big Antelope closer. This Lope has a Woody Woodpecker tease and some Secret Language (Random Note) but the real reason to spin it is the push towards taking this one outside the lines with Page adding to the dissonance and everything leading to a well executed peak. Now we are at setbreak and when not comparing this set to the show the night before people were probably starting to realize they should just go ahead and call out from work the next, oh, week or so and go ahead and follow the band down to Florida since the music was so hot. I know I would have had that conversation… at least with myself.
After the break the band comes out firing, ripping through Axilla and The Curtain before kicking off a Stash that will eventually become one of those Stashtecas the kids are always on about. This one is not as fully developed as the one from 11.14.1995 (part of that amazing set) or the one from 10.30.1998 (with the masterful transition both to Manteca and eventually to Tweezer and beyond) but it has its value. You get the typical Stash fare of ’93 in the first half and then they take it down quite low before making the move to Manteca (107 show bustout!) and then eventually bringing it back home for the release from Stash. They then go directly into Lizards after another fine segue and this one is about what you expect out of the Gamehendge tune. Next up is a somewhat rare for the time (heck it is rare now too!) second set Bathtub Gin that actually stretches a bit more than what is typical for the song in this era (remember, this song did not really take off as a potential jam vehicle until August ’93 with the Tampa and the probably-doesn’t-need-to-be-mentioned-because-you-should-already-know-it-by-heart Murat version) before heading directly into HYHU for Fish Fun Time. I’ll stop here for a second to point out that they were definitely trying to replicate something of the previous night with all of the seguery here but it doesn’t pop quite as much as that set perhaps due to the songs involved or the way it is handled, which is not to say it is ‘forced’ but that there is something just missing in the execution (even though the segues themselves are quite good here). Perhaps it was the total reckless abandon with which they attacked those songs the night before, throwing in teases and callbacks to prior songs while also layering them seemingly on top of each other. Really, it is just a matter of trying to compare one subjective thing to another. So we will move on with that. After HYHU we have some typical Fish banter, the second Rosie of the tour, and (after Rosie) Trey mentioning how they don’t want to leave the Roxy to head forward on tour. Aaaawww. Anyway, next is a fine Squirming Coil with Page doing his thing and then a typically fun BBFCFM closer to wrap up the set. After that you’d think we were about headed to the exists with a quick encore but they still have some tricks up their collective sleeves (and mumus) as after the standard a cappella number (Adeline tonight) they bring out another guest, the Reverend Jeff Mosier, who like Mr. Herring was also a member of the ARU family tree with their roots here in Atlanta. This is very notable sit-in as it is the first [known] example of him bringing his bluegrass stylings to the Phish stage but it most certainly would not be the last as we would all grow to know him quite well over the Fall 1994 Tour, specifically the Midwest section where he hopped on the bus and sat in for several tunes in several shows (aside: this is another tour I plan on eventually covering. but we will get to all of that eventually…). The first song they tackled was GTBT, putting a grassy spin on the typically raging rock classic before heading straight into the only repeat song of the three show run, Paul and Silas. This gives way to a direct transition to the Phish debut of Pig in a Pen which caps the night off and sends everyone home to check those finance boxes about that notion they had over setbreak.
As I said, this show is not the one from the previous night but it does have its highlights and takeaways. For respins, I’d recommend the Antelope, Stashteca, Gin->Lizards, and the encores if you are into the grassy side of the band. And with that in mind, if you have never taken the time to check it out, I highly recommend devoting the hour and twenty minutes required to watch the Phish Bluegrass Sessions video which was filmed along the path of the Fall 1994 tour, mostly by Rev. Jeff Mosier himself. Realistically, the biggest takeaway from this show is the introduction is allowed for that to happen at all considering his sit-in here and the background story which places he, Trey, and Mike playing bluegrass tunes backstage after this show for more than an hour to the crew, family members, and other hangers on before they hit the road and followed the lines headed south to Gainesville, FL. This summary isn’t the place to get into the full dissection of how that impacted the band but knowing that this is the probable starting point for it is important. So chalk another one up to the band finding the connection they can on the back end of a big run. And next we will dive into the band’s first ever shows in Florida which include some things that set the stage for the rest of the tour as it progresses further west.