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…

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