And They Just Couldn’t Wait — Atlanta, GA 02.21.1993

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.

The Resounding Echoes Grow — Atlanta, GA 02.20.1993

Phish — The Roxy Theatre — Atlanta, GA 02.20.1993

I  Golgi, Foam, Sloth, Possum?Weigh>ATR, Divided, Horse>Silent>Fluffhead, Cavern

II  Wilson>Reba>Tweezer->Walk Away->Tweezer>Glide>Mike’s->MMGAMOIO->Mike’s>H2->VoL->Kung->H2>Weekapaug->Have Mercy->Weekapaug->Rock and Roll All Night Jam->Weekapaug, FEFY>BBJ>HYHU>Terrapin>HYHU->Hood, Reprise

E  Sleeping Monkey

You see that setlist up there? That right there is Phish in a nutshell, particularly the Phish that existed in the early to mid 90s traversing the country time and again building the fanbase we have today one show at a time. By this time they were not quite well known but regarded highly enough in certain regions of the country that they could play a three night run more than 1,000 miles from their home base in Vermont to a sold out crowd and drop that show seemingly without any notice that something like this was coming. Sure, the signs are there if you listen closely enough to the earlier shows on the tour as they warmed up and reconnected after the short break between the 1992 New Year’s Run shows and the Spring 1993 Tour that began about a month later. But up to this point in the year they had not broken out this brand of Phish yet, choosing instead to focus on more straight forward shows that highlighted the songs on the recently released Rift album while interspersing older songs and some new music in as well. Maybe this was the “make up” show for the one at the Variety Playhouse from just under a year prior that got abandoned only a few a cappella numbers into the second set when a flood in the venue caused officials to not allow the band to plug in and play. Trey had hinted at that flood during the previous show’s Colonel Forbin’s Ascent narration but here, seemingly, was the payoff since that night was more about celebrating Fish’s birthday and inviting Jimmy Herring to join in for the back half of the second set than it was about making any kind of larger musical statement. So here it would be, the show that would eventually make this three night run legendary and part of the lasting canon of the band’s legacy, a show that was at least partially nodded to as recently as 07.27.2014 at Merriweather Post Pavilion what with that show’s twists, turns, and returns to the overarching theme of Tweezer while also stringing the majority of the music together without much of a break to to speak of once they took the stage for the second set. Rather than effervesce here about what this night means in the larger scheme let’s dive in and take a look at what really makes this show stand the test of time: the music. Because if nothing else it is the music that tells the story and everything else is simply statistical detail.

First set starts off innocently enough with a few warm up numbers in Golgi, Foam, Sloth before Trey seems to wake up a bit for Possum (this is not to say the playing is off before this just that they really get going as of the Possum). This is your typical straight forward rocking Possum and by now four rocking songs into the set the crowd is fully warmed up as is the band. This brings us to the always fun Weigh and a fine ATR before a Divided that is clean, powerful and pretty… like my wife! Horse>Silent gets us to a perfectly serviceable Fluff and Cavern ends the set which all feels like table setting. There’s nothing bad in this set but nothing great either. You just aren’t going to have a legendary set on your hands when Divided and Fluffhead ‘carry’ the weight of the set. But it is a first set which is meant to focus more on songs than jams anyway so there is nothing wrong with calling the set what it is and realizing that it is all done simply to set the stage for what they get into after the break. It feels like they are just getting ready to drop IT all on us and holy shit are they ever.

Strap in, this second set summary may take a while…

So the second set starts off with one of those slow-ish Wilsons where they drop some secret language (Simpsons here) and a tease (Iron Man – this is just the start of much much much more to come in this set) before ratcheting things up to the peak before working towards Reba and this is a keeper version to be sure. The pace is quick, the playing is tight, and Trey slips in some Woody Woodpecker teasing which works perfectly in this jam that also has some inklings of Stash and Lizards mixed in before they go into Tweezer. From here things start to really get nutty as this one has not only a Low Rider jam but some Das EFX teases (seriously. go spin this and then the Tweezer and you will hear it) before going into Walk Away (tour debut and 159 show bustout!) and then back to Tweezer. Then they segue into Glide which has an undercurrent of Tweezer from Trey as they move through Glide before they go into Mike’s Song (while stretching the Gliiiiiiiiiiide out into the Mike’s intro which is nice). At this point I should probably just start another paragraph because shit gets real.

Mike’s starts up and they are having fun with the lyrics, changing it up a bit and then the next thing you know Trey is playing Reba, then they are playing Tweezer, then Lizards, the Wilson “blap boom”, then a bit of Stash, then back to Mike’s before ho hum I guess we’ll just do MMGAMOIO before going back to Mike’s and then why don’t we just move over into H2 now?Oh and by the way we’re going to do the Vibe of Life with some N2O undercurrents and add in Kung too while we are at it, tease Entrance of the Gladiators and NO2 and then maybe we’ll finish up and head to Paug, ok? Oh, you thought we were done having fun here? Now let’s just go ahead and rip into that Paug before executing a great segue into Have Mercy over the Paug groove (ho hum, only 669 shows between appearances there), working back to Paug, getting into a Rock and Roll All Nite jam (complete with a fan on vocals – in costume as Gene Simmons no less), and then returning to Paug to cap that off. Yeah. So let’s just take a little breather here and reflect on what just happened.

Got your wits about you now? Okay, let’s keep going… FEFY>BBJ>Fish Fun for Terrapin ought to do it. Heck they even throw a tease in there as HYHU gets teased in Terrapin (which also includes a lengthy series of band and crew introductions). 20 minutes later give or take and we are on to a wonderfully open Hood that provides a nice punctuation mark on a fantastic set of phish. This one goes to eleven. Then the Reprise closer really seals the deal and Monkey provides the denouement it typically does for such things in the encore.

So I’m going to tell you straight up that if you are not familiar with this show you really need to just go ahead and spin it straight through. I get if the ’93 sound isn’t your thing and you like the big open jams of later years or cowfunk or ambient washes or whale’d out jams or songs about doing lines with basketball players (that’s what that song’s about, right?) but this? This is canonical phish.This is a brand of phish that many of us cut our teeth on. I have joked in the past that this set is what the 07.27.2014 set II wants to be when it grows up and honestly there’s some truth in it. Sure, they were harkening back to this sort of set with that show but this is what that came from and what people talk about when they refer to ‘turn on a dime’ mastery phish. It is tough to say now how much of this set was planned ahead of time and how much happened in the moment but considering the setting and time period my money is on it all being a spontaneous outpouring of everything up to that point from the band. This is a touchpoint show that can be pointed to as one of those moments when it all came together. The wonderful thing is that for some bands this would be their peak, the thing to which they aspire and a show that they would talk about longingly in the future as ‘that time when it all made sense and just worked’ for them as musicians. But this is Phish we are talking about here and this show is exciting not only for the music it provided us but also that it is just one of many false peaks along the path as they continually challenge themselves and alter their course by pushing the boundaries of what their music can be.

I know I have already written a lot here and I don’t want to go on for too long (too late!) but this show epitomizes Phish in so many ways. Here we have evident the full gamut of Phish with their tight playing, high energy, playfulness, antics, mastery of varied forms of music, ability to alter the show based on the mood of the room, and their eagerness at pushing the envelope. This show not only culminates everything that came before it (recall that the better 1992 shows are high on energy, segues, teases, etc. but a bit light on open jamming) while also pointing openly to the future that lay ahead. It is the type of show you give to people who want to be introduced to the band just to show them the possibilities of what Phish can do. By this time I had enough of a baseline with Phish that when the tapes reached me (pretty quickly, I might add. this show hit heavy circulation very quickly) that I could hear what this show meant in the context of where they were as a band at that stage but if this was your first show or the first tape someone handed to you, honestly, how would you react to it? To my mind, this was the type of thing Trey was always referring to when he talked about people coming to their shows and not being ‘in on the joke’. Just imagine having no baseline for this band and having something like this be your entry point. It would be totally polarizing but hopefully if you are in the right frame of mind could catapult you into the world we all inhabit. This is truly the type of tape I would give to a friend to see if they “get it” when they ask what phish is “really” about (back in the day – now that story is different).

And if this type of show isn’t your thing? That’s fine. We all came into the scene at different stages and for that reason perhaps appreciate different aspects of what make the band what they are to us. But even if this isn’t your favorite flavor of Phish you have to realize the significance not only of what this set means musically but also in the larger picture of where they were headed soon after this. The jams would only get bigger and more open from here but the spirit of this show shines forth in other classics that came after it such as 05.07.1994 (Bomb Factory, of course), 06.22.1994 (Columbus, OH), 07.13.1994 (Patterson, NY), 12.01.1994 (Salem, OR), 12.14.1995 (Binghamton, NY), 06.27.2010 (Merriweather Post Pavilion), and the aforementioned 07.27.2014 (also MPP). It would eventually pave the way for the four song set era where sets generally did not have much of a stop if at all in getting through those massive jam vehicles. Now it is yet another tool in the arsenal that they can call on or ‘get to’ when pushing the music forward. And having such a versatile band is one of the things that attracts us to following them, is it not? I mean, who would want to go see basically the same show time and again year after year? That’s just boring.

You have read more than enough on this topic so with that I will end this post. If you do not yet have this show memorized I strongly urge you to get on that homework. There are much worse things you could do with your time than to revel in the jaw-dropping greatness of what still stands as one of the top shows the band has ever played.

The Room Begins to Spin — Atlanta, GA 02.19.1993

Phish — The Roxy Theatre — Atlanta, GA 02.19.1993

I  Cup, Rift, Melt, Fee->Maze, Forbin’s>Mockingbird>Sparkle, MFMF, Poor Heart>Bowie->Moby Dick>Bowie

II  Jim, Ice, Paul & Silas, YEM>Ya Mar, BBJ, Lawn Boy, Funky Bitch, MSO, HYHU>Love You, HYHU, Llama, Grace

E  Bag

Ah, the last (of two) of Fish’s birthday shows… and the first of what would become quite a notable run in the band’s history — one that was eventually released as a high quality boxset for you to enjoy. Incidentally, this would be the first three show run at any single venue by the band since 1990 (not including the three shows at the Greek in August ’92 when they opened for Santana each night) when they did it twice: The Front in Burlington, VT (03.09-11.1990) and The Inferno in Steamboat Springs, CO (04.12-14.1990). Let me just start out by saying that the thirteen shows on the tour that lead up to this run all pretty much pale overall in comparison to what happens here. Sure, there are individual jams that might outpace some of the stuff here (and honestly this first night is probably the weakest in overall jamming considering it was the Fish birthday party and Herring sit-in night) but from the very start you can tell they mean business. Maybe they are finally warmed up, maybe it is the presence of other great musicians in the room, maybe it is Fish’s birthday, or maybe it is something else, but whatever it is they have IT here. So let’s get down to it, shall we?

The first set kicks off with Cup and this is definitely the best version of the song yet with Trey going big with his solo and Page really giving the baby grand the business. This carries over into Rift, the oft played number that hasn’t really clicked much this tour. This is definitely being used as a warm up tune here but Trey is already on fire, totally taking it where he wants without any inklings of borked notes or missed opportunity. Then we get a fast paced Melt that has a lot of Trey out in front, bending notes in ways that hint at where this song is destined to go in a few short months. But the real takeaway here is a lead line Trey adds on the journey back towards the main theme that takes this thing next level. There really is a lot packed into this relatively short version. Fee is next and while ‘normal’ has a nice segue into a positively smoking shredder Maze. Trey is hitting all the notes tonight and this Maze is Trza personified. Then we get a fantastic Forbin narration that starts as a callback to the last time they were in Atlanta and got flooded out of the Variety Playhouse (which may be another reason they are taking it up a notch) but then goes to something else entirely in the way the good Trey stories do before a beaut of a Mockingbird completes the tale (listen for a ‘Charge!’ tease in the Mockingbird). Sparkle and MFMF come in next and then there’s a Poor heart that again showcases just how on point Trey is this night. I can’t believe I’m even calling out Poor Heart but here we are. But now we get to the meat which is the set closing Bowie->Moby Dick>Bowie which starts out with some fun teases (Jingle Jangle Jingle, Happy Birthday, Moby Dick, Happy Trails), birthday shoutouts, and whatnot before heading into the debut of Moby Dick (with vacuum, natch) and then they get into the Bowie itself for a very nice jam and some more Moby Dickery in the wrap up of Bowie. Great capper to that set and we are left wanting more as we head to the setbreak to check out the Spanish Baroque architecture of this old venue.

Second set starts out with a fine example of where Jim is at this stage (which is still about a month from going ‘away from script’) but again Trey is exerting his clear influence on this night. Then we get the fourth Ice to follow Jim on this tour (and it won’t be the last) in a fairly standard version (another tune that didn’t get weird until a bit later). Quick dip in the bluegrass for Paul & Silas and then a midset YEM which is well played but without any major takeways other than “yeah, that was pretty nice”. A fun Ya Mar with Mike babble chanting and a ‘Happy Birthday’ tease is next followed by BBJ (Charge tease) and Lawn Boy with Page noting the presence of his parents in the crowd before we get to Jimmy Herring joining the fray for the remainder of the set. First up is Funky Bitch and Trey and Jimmy trade solos in a fiery version where they seem to be checking each other out a bit. MSO is up next and Jimmy gets a solo before they cut it to bring Fish out for Love You where, along with Fish beginning a joke of introducing Jimmy Herring repeatedly for the rest of the show and another ‘Happy Birthday’ tease, Jimmy gets a solo and Fish is presented with a Flavor Flav style neck clock to help him get to the bus on time as is part of the running bet thing this tour (there is no mention of what the bet is up to at this stage though). There’s also some fun in trying to get Col. Bruce Hampton up on stage but that doesn’t happen so we will just move on then. After all of this fun you get a seriously shredded Llama with Page, Jimmy, and Trey all taking solos before an a cappella Grace closer and then the bustout Bag (84 shows woo!) encore that was apparently a gift for someone else’s birthday who they may have met the night before or something. I don’t know. Go check the show notes on .net or .com for more on that ‘Hack’.

Overall this is clearly one of the better shows they have played on the ’93 tour so far and shows they are hitting stride in fine fashion. As said above, this is not the big jam show if you are looking for that but the playing is sharp, the band is clearly having a great time, the sit-in does not detract from the vibe of the show at all (in fact it probably adds to it), and you can tell they are settling in for bigger things to come from this weekend run. Interestingly enough, outside of YEM there really isn’t a big vehicle in the second set, something that will bear fruit for us in the next show, one that is really where the legend of this run grew and one of those shows that you can point to as a taking off moment for both the band and scene in general. The takeaways here are probably the Melt, Bowie->Moby Dick>Bowie and maybe Llama but this one is more than the sum of its parts. Go spin it for Fish’s sake as he hasn’t gotten a birthday show since this one.

Bereft of Oar — Knoxville, TN 02.18.1993

Phish — Electric Ballroom — Knoxville, TN 02.18.1993

I  CDT, Guelah, Poor Heart>Tweezer->Foam, Sparkle>Cavern>Reba, Lawn Boy, Antelope

II  Rift, Stash, Lizards, PYITE, Mike’s>H2>Paug, Mound, Grace, Memories, Adeline, Rocky Top

This is a another one off show on the way south towards what would be a band-defining three night run and here I am already getting ahead of myself because how would they know this at that point? But here we are thirteen shows into the tour and you can hear how they have come together as a band musically to form one unit within the music even when the venue and everything else around them conspire against them. I’ll explain as we go along…

First set kicks off a very nice quality sbd recording with a fiery CDT and Guelah (a tune they used to play quite a lot, quite well, and quite often in this second song first set slot) before a quick Poor Heart precedes a first set Tweezer that really deserves your time here. Before we get to the Tweezer I do want to note that Trey is using his echo repeater on vocals more than normal tonight as it has popped up already in both of the songs we have heard. Not unusual for Guelah but a little more so for CDT. Anyway, back to the Tweez. It is all pretty well ‘type I’ but Trey is really giving his ‘doc the business while Fish pounds away and Page/Mike add color behind it all to form a tapestry of tweezer-y goodness. Getting something like that even now would be quite the breath of fresh air and then Trey starts up a melodic line for which the pace quickens and before you know it we are in Foam! This is a pretty clean version with Trey playing a very crisp solo but nothing out of the ordinary, honestly. Realistically, it takes a lot for Foam to be notable above “hey, they played it well tonight and I danced a lot” but these ’93 versions all have a good pop to them in the execution. Sparkle>Cavern>Reba gets us to our next bit of jamming. It is a touch sloppy in getting there but who cares and then Trey and Page play off each other on some quite lovely stuff before The Trza gets his trill on and it goes stratospheric in the way Reba does for those couple of minutes. Grand stuff. Then we get a Lawn Boy with the somewhat rare Trey solo (though seemingly somewhat common on this tour so far as we have seen) and another raging Lope closer (kinda what they did with it then, huh?). This one is flavored with some teasing (Hall of the Mountain King from Page and then Another One Bites the Dust in more than one spot) and SL (All Fall Down). Trey has some interesting things going on here even during the ‘rye rye rocco’ section. Overall, a pretty solid first frame. Doesn’t hurt that the sbd is crisp, making it much easier to here what is going on with the band. Now we are off to set break to discuss the current state of Volunteer athletics which at this time was interesting considering the football team was leaving the Johnny Majors era for the Phillip Fulmer era to begin the following fall. I’m sure there were some fiery arguments about it over hotdogs and soda pop while everyone waited for the lights to go back down.

Second set kicks off with the then all but ubiquitous Rift (okay, this is “only” the 8th of 13 shows but still…) before a quick dip Stash pops in. Today we’d be whining up and down about a nine minute second set Stash but such is life in these times. This one is obviously straight forward but Trey does drag on his leads to create some nice T&R while Page pounds away on the baby grand before Trey builds it back for the ‘maybe so’ part. Not too shabby but leaves one wanting. A lovely Lizards provides interlude (Page on the BG really adds to this tune in the live setting) before Trey asks whether they “should do it” and the band plays a regrettable PYITE that perhaps they ‘shouldn’t’ have. It is just really botched on several fronts (in the back half – the first part is actually not bad at all) to the extent that Trey apologizes during the song. Yikes. Anyway, it is around this time that on the tape you can start to sense that something is going on with the sound system but we aren’t really sure just yet what that might be. So the band heads into Mike’s, does that with the tramps and all*, works through H2 (much better than the previous version in Chapel Hill to be certain), and then heads into Paug for a rocking good time. There’s actually a couple of chords at the start here that could be considered teasing of some sort from Page but I don’t know what he is hinting at before the Paug takes hold. You get the Mike “MAKE!” yelling which is always amusing before they jump on the jam here. Fun stuff to dance to if you are into that sort of thing which a lot of Phish fans are, I am told. Aaaaaand now we hit our snag. The available recordings of this show seem to cut the end of that Paug before they wrap it up and then we jump into the middle of the subsequent Mound which is okay, I guess, except that once they wrap Mound up we learn that the soundboard is fried. oops. That will wrap up the recorded portion of the evening. (Page blames it on a spilled drink here but the .com show notes say it was dripping condensation from the roof of this warehouse-cum-ballroom). Everything from here on out was done un-amplified and that went Grace (that makes 11 in 13 shows!), Memories (tour debut!!), Adeline (exclamation points!!!), Rocky Top (with Page on piano and Fish on trombone!). There was no encore. Sad.

So putting the soundboard issues aside, the band is playing well here. They are connecting and the jams are starting to really come together as we will see even more so over the course of the next several shows. Your takeaways here are Tweezer->Foam, Reba, Antelope, and possibly the whole Mike’s Groove but focus on the Paug for what they do there in six short minutes. There is nothing earth-shattering to be found in this show but in each of those examples you have a few minutes of connection and new ideas sprouting forth that should engage you enough to elicit at least a small grin. Unless you are jaded in which case good luck with all that. Realistically, the major thing to take away here is that they are becoming more connected as the tour goes on, not only playing sharper but testing each other with different takes on the same songs. Having the benefit of hindsight here it is very encouraging to hear how this progression is going considering what we know is coming in on the next three show run in Atlanta and beyond. You almost feel like cheering them on to bigger heights. Woooooooo! Go Phish!!! You can do it!!

*I really believe that this part of The Groove did not really take off as a true jam vehicle until the tramps went away. Sure, they were fun to see and there are those who want them to return but that is a gimmick that really just takes away from the musicians doing what they do. I mean, it’s not like something truly essential like a catapult foot trigger to release a drill to create soundscapes on the bass or something. Geez.

Sparks

Often we experience things in one context only to have them framed in another context that completely shifts our view or understanding of that thing. It can provide for learning or for greater appreciation of the thing… or it can just flip our heads by recontextualizing what we have understood the reality to be for certain circumstances. This sort of thing occurs fairly frequently for we who follow this band called Phish when we see them in a venue we went to as a child to see the circus or the ice capades or perhaps when we visit a city again after only having been there while passing through on tour many years ago.

As we know, the experience around the show is as much a part of memory of it as the music. The stories we tell are of the funny things that happen in getting from show to show and in connecting with other like minded people. Which is why when we see something we know only from Phish in another context it can really mess with us and cause us to  reconsider whether what our memory of that thing is real or a contrivance of whatever mental cocktail we had brewing on that past visit. It can also allow for greater appreciation of that prior experience in knowing that the palette is not as rich without the artistry of the Phish scenery layered on top of it.

Which all beings me to my current point. I am in Las Vegas for work and it is the first time back since being here last fall for the wonderful Halloween 2014 Run. I get to walk past the entrance to the MGM Grand Arena multiple times a day and each time it brings a smile to my face both in remembrance and in knowing that we who were there shared something that those who pass by now probably have no frame of reference for understanding what that experience meant to me and others.

Another aspect to this is that seeing a venue outside of the Phish context demystifies it to a degree which is an unfortunate side effect. I experience this every time I take my kids to the Worcester Centrum for the circus or whatever because the veil is lifted and the magic that we know that happens when those lights drop and the band takes the stage just isn’t there. But the memory of it is and often that is enough to again spark that smile and invoke dreams of jams gone by.

So with that I invite you to share your own experiences with similar awakenings to the world when the curtain has come up. Where have you been that differed greatly from your memory of it when you experienced it with Phish?

Ponder the Yonder — Winston-Salem, NC 02.17.1993

Phish — Benton Convention Center — Winston-Salem, NC 02.17.1993

I  Buried Alive>Possum>Weigh>ATR, Sloth, Jim, Ice>Bouncin’, Fluffhead>Maze, Golgi

II  Axilla>Landlady>Bowie, Glide, MFMF, BBJ, MSO>Horn>YEM, HYHU>Lengthwise>HYHU, Coil

E  Carolina, GTBT

Some shows can look wholly pedestrian on paper and turn out to be absolute smokers. Other shows look fantastic on paper and then end up being largely underwhelming. And most shows fall somewhere in between with the setlist hiding the truth of what occurred, relying on our listening to get to a resemblance of the truth. I mention all of this in starting out the conversation on today’s subject show because on paper this one looks like it has a lot of potential. And it does have potential but it goes largely unfulfilled as the band never fully connects. By no means does this imply that there are not some moments in this show that deserve our attention because at the end of the day even the most flat performance by the band will have ardent defenders who found themselves in the middle of ::insert song here:: or felt particularly elevated by the communal experience they shared with the other spunions in their midst. And this one in particular is pretty uneven so there are definitely a few of those ‘moments of IT’ to be found mingling with the headscratchers, teases, and more. Oh, and just to address the venue they played here, it appears that based on the capacity .com says was for the ballroom they played in this convention center facility that they played in the South Exhibit Hall. So that’s something. Nothing quite as intimate as playing in the same room that a bunch of dentists or something probably used to hold meetings on prevailing trends in their industry (hopefully even the next day with the funny smells that follow phish shows still lingering in the HVAC units). Can’t say for certain but one would have to think that this kind of venue didn’t exactly help with the goings on of the band’s visit here.

The first set starts off promisingly enough with another string of songs being strung together before they come up for air. On this night we have Buried>Possum>Weigh>ATR and the only thing to note here from these mainly energy-building numbers is that Trey throws a ‘Sex Machine’ tease into Possum and also toys around with the Oh Kee Pa meoldy in the middle of Weigh. Other than that these are just table setting. A quick run through The Sloth gets us to the only real highlight of the set which is a straight rocking Jim where Trey is out front throwing ideas around. He takes a moment after Jim to give some thanks and then we are on to another group of tunes as they put Ice>Bouncin’>Fluff>Maze together. Ice and Bouncin’ do what they do and then we have the big energy peak of Fluff (but it is a bit rough in getting there) and the highlight of this section in Maze. This is still a pretty straight forward Maze though as there is no real new ground covered. The set is closed by Golgi which isn’t really anything special, now is it? Aside from the juxtaposition segues, write down this setlist and you have a pretty standard first set from any era (and one you could actually expect these days if you replace one or two of the less common songs with some 3.0 material.) So now it is on to the setbreak to look at the beautiful ballroom and other unique features of a block building whose greatest attribute may be that it is connected to nearby hotels. Not that many fans were doing the hotel circuit back then but whatever. I’m sure at least a few fans benefited from this. Trey also tells the crowd “don’t believe everything you read” which is a confusing statement to come out of a guy who will spend the next 20 years telling us to reading the fucking book (the right way)

The real meat of this one lies in the second set though so perhaps the band went back to the conference room they had booked here to make some flow charts and brainstorm ideas for how to get outside of the box that kept them from elevating in that first set. Or maybe they just had some sandwiches and beer. Who knows. But the intent is better in this set as they get things going right away with Axilla>Landlady>Bowie. Those first two are your energy builders before Bowie which ends up being a pretty nice version. First there’s some SL in the intro (Simpsons, Random Note, Oom Pa Pa) which also has some unique melodic interplay between Trey and Mike but then they really take off in the jam, giving us a great example of the growing potential of this vehicle. This one has hints of the massive versions of ’94 and ’95 while staying rooted in its 93-ness too. Put this one in your trapper keeper for that Bowie jam evolution term paper you have due in a few weeks. I’ll be sending out reminders soon and docking hetty brah points for tardiness. Don’t just think you can wook your way through life, son. Glide and MFMF (with acoustic intro, naturally) fill space next and realistically that’s about all they do. BBJ is notable because Page throws in some teases (Charge, Call to Post) and then we have its spiritual partner My Sweet One that brings us to a fine enough Horn. In case you are wondering about that “spiritual partner” comment, listen to Fish on both BBJ and MSO. And then look at how many times the two songs are paired up. Figure it out yet? Okay, moving on here, we next have a pretty engaging YEM that benefits mainly from the teases and musical quotes rather than from the main form of the song itself. That’s not to say that it is played poorly but rather that what makes it notable are the Mission Impossible tease (Page), Black and White tease from Mike (not the Black and White we heard during Harpua the other night. The other one. You know, Three Dog Night), and the Sunshine of Your Love jam (with lyrics in the VJ, which also has some sneezing and the choir ending). I really hope you clicked on that first link because I know I had totally forgotten about that video and the fact that George Wendt and McCauley Culkin both appear there. Man, the late 80s and early 90s were quite a different time, huh? Next up is Fish Fun Time and here we have a bit of an extended HYHU that bleeds into a fun take on Lengthwise that goes reggae and also has vac interspersed in there. Coil wraps up the set with Trey and Mike not really on the same page before Page does his thing in closing up shop. Carolina gets the a cappella nod tonight, giving Amazing Grace the night off (finally!) and getting its tour debut in the process. I’ve never heard the GTBT from this one as most tapes available cut just a few seconds into the Carolina but I’m sure it was fun because who doesn’t love that cover as an encore?

Okay, so maybe I was a little harsh on this show up top but the reality is that this show is largely underwhelming. Yes, there are a couple of highlights (Bowie, YEM, maybe Lengthwise to hear this unique take) but other than that it feels like a lot of filler. I am convinced that the type of venue had to play a role somewhat as that can influence the crowd which has a direct influence on the band. In the end, there are so many much better shows out there that we don’t need to belabor the point here, though at least we can find those nuggets here to catch before moving on to bigger and brighter options. Besides, a couple of shows from now they would throw down one that is canon so maybe they were just sandbagging.

Tie a Cable to a Tree — Chapel Hill, NC 02.15.1993

Phish — Memorial Hall, University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill, NC 02.15.1993

I  Grace, Suzy>Sparkle>Guelah, Divided, Esther>CDT, Mound, Stash, IDK, Antelope

II  Rift, FEFY, Reba, Mike’s>H2>Paug, Wedge, Poor Heart, BBJ>HYHU>Bike>HYHU, Fee>Llama

E  Contact, Fire

After a day of travel spent getting from Delaware to North Carolina (and celebrating Valentine’s Day by weaving grass rings, listening to Brazilian music, and dancing all night with their respective SOs of the time, of course, though I doubt they had time to hike a long trail to a spring or swim at dawn) Phish found themselves in Chapel Hill for the first time since their last show at the Cat’s Cradle back in November 1991, a venue they played six times between 1990 and 1991. If you had a tape back in the day that had Roll Like a Cantaloupe on it as filler there is a good chance it came from that 11.14.1991 show here. But now they have moved up to a bigger room, playing at the on campus Memorial Hall (and for the last time in Chapel Hill as their subsequent visits to North Carolina would be to bigger markets such as Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and the like) which has about double the capacity of the former venue. This is something that was common on this tour as they capitalized on the growth in the fanbase and graduated from the bars and small theaters to ones with more capacity. This is still far from the big sheds and arenas that the band eventually would play only a couple of years later but the move is a significant one in the evolution of the band both culturally and musically.

For this one they decided to flip the script a bit by having Amazing Grace open the show, something that had yet to occur in the song’s brief history. Heck, the earliest it had been played up to this point (as we saw with our geek out yesterday) was as the second set closer. Next up is the ‘real’ opening segment for the show as they strung Suzy>Sparkle>Guelah together as a suite of get-the-heck-up-and-start-dancing numbers. Next up is a reasonably well played Divided before they get into Esther. This time the sad tale included a Random Note SL and had a bit of an extended intro but it is otherwise exactly what you’d expect. After these two largely composed songs they threw in a CDT that includes some inspired playing from Trey as they employed their fast-jamming technique to present several ideas within the short framework of this 6+ minute version. Mound pops into the first set for the first time this tour next and then we have a very T&R filled Stash that doesn’t stretch the song so much as providing opportunity for release here in the midset jam slot. Fish (ahem. “The Little Beast Boy Tubbs”) comes out for the trombone solo during the IDK that follows and this one also has a nifty little vocal scat section before the rejoinder. The set is capped off with a raging Antelope that has some more SL (All Fall Down, Oom Pa Pa) right before the ‘Rye Rye Rocco’ section. This one also includes some nice ideas out of Page on the piano in pushing the jam towards the big peak prior to the break, layering some almost dance-y lines in amongst Trey, Mike, and Fish’s frenzied playing. Trey then reminds everyone in the crowd to remain calm before they leave for the setbreak which is an awfully lovely nice sentiment for him to pass on here. Such a friendly fellow, that one.

Apparently, the band didn’t fully embrace Trey’s advice over setbreak as they come out with a somewhat shaky take on Rift with Fish seeming to be slightly ahead of the rest of the band as they plug their way through the song. They seem to catch up to each other in the FEFY that follows and then Reba shows up to really make things right. This ends up being the real vehicle of the second set as the rest of the show is plagued with a variety of sound issues and other problems that we will get to forthwith. But first there is Reba which is highlighted by Trey plucking around for a bit over Mike and Fish’s pocket while Page adds some fills before they all collectively swell towards the peak as Trey gathers momentum. It is worth your time. Mike’s is next and works well enough in the short time it fills though the timing seems off from the start in some way. But when they drop into H2 you can tell things are amiss. This gets… well, it kind of goes off the rails a bit when Mike’s amp or something decides to not cooperate. Not sure why the .net folks put this in their jam charts but whatever. Anyway, after that they ratchet it up for a jaunty Paug then we get [slow] Wedge, Poor Heart, and BBJ which included Trey imploring the crowd to get the balls up to the balcony. Fish Fun Time gets a bit nutty tonight as in performing Bike he ends up running around the venue and up into the balcony with his vac in hand. You know, typical Monday night stuff. A botch-y Fee brings us back to earth a bit after that hilarity and then they rip shit up with a shreddy Llama closer to put the punctuation mark on the night. Contact and Fire are your encores tonight and the highlight here is probably the dedication of Contact to the tour bus driver Charlie.

This one is a bit of an uneven show. Sure, the energy and intent is there but something goes missing in the execution in places. Oddly enough, the last time they really didn’t connect as well for a show was after the other day off on this tour (02.09.1993 in Rochester). I’m not saying these are ‘bad’ shows but they just don’t get to there like happens on seemingly more nights than they should. Add in the fact that these come after nights off and you have the makings of a real headscratcher. Oh well. Anyway, your takeaways from this one are CDT, Reba, Stash, and maybe the Lope and, um, maybe H2 if you want to hear just how bad that was? Yeah, let’s just move on from there…