Phish – Haas Center for the Arts (Bloomsburg University) – Bloomsburg, PA 02.11.1993
I Suzy>Buried Alive>Poor Heart, Stash, Fee>Rift, Fluffhead>Llama, Lawn Boy, Bowie
II Landlady, Wilson>Pen, Mike’s>H2>Paug, Mound>BBJ, Bouncin’, HYHU>Love You>HYHU, Lizards, Cavern
E Bold as Love, Grace
After those two shows in upstate New York Phish popped down to Bloomsburg, PA for an oddly placed tour stop before they headed back the the Hudson Valley for a show in Poughkeepsie (the last of the six shows the band has ever played in that city, in fact). But before we get to that one we have this Thursday night affair from Mitrani Hall at the Haas Center for the Arts on the campus of Bloomsburg University in this quaint town (that bills itself as the “only incorporated town in Pennsylvania” which is something) that sits on the banks of the Susquehanna River in the east central part of the state. How’s that for an interlocking series of prepositional phrases? And before we get to the show itself, it is notable that this is the third night in a row (of five) they would play, making that two five night runs to start the tour. After a couple of shows with nights off in between they would then string together seven straight nights before having a night off during their initial run through Florida. That’s 18 shows in 21 days if you are counting along. That would make I know they were a much younger band then but when you factor in all of the travel and everything else you have to think that it takes its toll as some point. And quite frankly, it is noticeable when they are on the tail end of a long run (i.e. five shows or more) as the playing seems to lag just a bit as a result. Here in this one it isn’t highly apparent but it is something to track as we go forward.
Here in this 8th show of the tour we are definitely seeing patterns emerge, perhaps none quite as obvious as playing the same three song ‘suite’ to open the show as they had a few shows earlier in Washington, DC (02.07.1993). Yup, that’s Suzy>Buried Alive>Poor Heart kicking things off here much in the same way as that previous show, bringing the energy level way up and getting everyone moving but not really providing much more in terms of notably unique music. We do have our first opportunity for such music immediately following this three pack with Stash starting up and bringing the T&R that we expect but without offering much more than that musically. Nice version but nothing we will be talking about later. Fee then gets us to the fifth Rift of the tour (already? um, yay?) before we are treated to the first Fluffhead of the tour. This one is a bit dodgy in places but brings that wonderful fluff energy. Trey throws in a Woody Woodpecker tease towards the end right before they segue into Llama. Now, this is not the cleanest, shreddiest Llama ever but they play around a bit with the theme and jam on that a bit and while it doesn’t completely work it shows they are open to trying new things with even their straight forward rocker tunes. Mike throws in an ‘Entrance to the Gladiators’ tease here as well (just like during last night’s Foam intro) and if you are now saying to yourself, “what the heck is that?” you probably know it better as the ‘Random Note’ Secret Language indicator which is where that originated from but without the signifier ‘trill’ and no response from band or crowd we can’t really consider it secret language, can we? Next up is a little lounge music with Lawn Boy where Trey again takes the solo and then we are off into the set closing Bowie. Now, this one is a bit deceiving on paper since it looks to be over 15 minutes long but the reality is that the first several minutes of that are the intro in which they continue the Lawn Boy theme and layer in a few real live actual SL signals (Random Note, Simpsons, Oom Pa Pa, Get Back – twice) all at a diminished tempo from normal (and more subdued than the backing Fish beat) before pulling a full Lawn Boy quote out – with lyrics – and then heading into a decent jam that caps the set nicely. Overall, a pretty stock first set here with not much to write home about except maybe if you have a blog where that is exactly what you are trying to accomplish.
After a break probably spent reminding Fish about his bet to get to shows on time, the band kicks into the first Landlady of the year to get things rolling for set two. Up until now this song had been relegated to its watered down PYITE segment but from here on out you will see a lot of alternation between the two songs as the tour continues. An odd combination of Wilson>Uncle Pen is up next and aside from a slightly elongated outro from the Wilson there isn’t much to discuss with these two numbers. So then we have the expected Mike’s Groove start up after its night off in Geneva and this one is pretty much about as normal as one of these can get without being a 3.0 stock groove. Well, except for the ‘Ice Ice Baby’ teases in the Mike’s jam and some overall dark/dirty playing during that one and the Paug that follows. After this we have Mound and while a fine enough tune it has always surprised me that there just aren’t any versions of this song that do anything except follow the original blueprint of the song. I mean, for almost every song in the catalog there are at least one or two versions that are noteworthy due to some tangential jam or unique phrasing or a tease that they throw in or something. But not Mound. Nope. That one is stock. Oddly enough, the only version that is of note only is because they had to stop a set due to the torrential downpour that was flooding the pav (06.15.2011 Alpharetta, GA) and they picked up about where they had left off in the song after the rain delay ended. This one goes right into BBJ (back after the well deserved break the night before) which gives way to Bouncin’. From here we have Fish Fun Time for Love You (complete with some band intros from Fish), a decent Lizards, and the Cavern closer that we could see coming a mile away. Encores on the night are a shaky tour debut for Bold as Love and (shocker) Grace. Hey, at least it is a good version of it.
What do we do with a show like this? The only tunes worthy of a respin are Llama (maybe), Lawn Boy>Bowie (sure fine whatever), aaaaaaaaannndd… Mike’s? maybe? Yeah, I just can’t say that there’s much in this one you should rush out to spin. The simple truth is that this is an average at best show with no real highlights. That’s not to say anyone who attended shouldn’t have fully enjoyed themselves and have wonderful memories of the night. And realistically they are still in the “forming” stage of getting it all together on this tour, developing what we will know to be the ’93 Sound’ along the way. So just to leave you with a broad metaphor I’ll say that this show is one of the little seedlings in the understory of the forest that is Phish, providing the elements of what was to come without having any of the big highs that make up the main foundation for where they would be later that year and beyond. Next, we are off to the home of Pete Seeger for a night of some more tour debuts including the first Harpua of the year.