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.