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
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.