We’d Be Remiss…

…if we didn’t at least mark the occasion of the anniversary today of one of the canonical shows in all of phishtory. Yes, I am stepping outside of the current project to do this but if you cut your teeth on mid-90s tapes then you definitely had this one in your collection. And really, I don’t need to provide much introduction to this one as it is known far and wide simply by the venue within which this one went down on that spring night in Texas. A show with more highlights than a middle aged housewife trying to hold on to her youth. A show that is a touchpoint for the transition from the speed jazz era that evolved in 1993 on to the bigger psych era that emerges in 1994 and extends through 1995 and into that un-loved but quite strong in retrospect transitional year of 1996. And definitely a show that holds up after twenty-one years as being one that you can give to even your most ardent non-Phish detractor “friends” as evidence in fighting the argument you know you have had more than a few times with the ininitiated.

In case you do not have the setlist memorized as I do, I [re]present to you (hopefully not for the first time because, seriously, how could you possibly have missed this one?) that show:

Phish – The Bomb Factory – Dallas, TX 05.07.1994

I  Llama, Horn>Divided, Mound, FEFY>Mule, Melt, If I Could, Suzy

II  Cup>Sparkle>Tweezer->Sparks->Makisupa->Digi Delay Loop Jam->Sweet Emotion Jam->Walk Away->Cannonball Jam->Purple Rain>HYHU Jam->Reprise

E  Grace, Sample

So go spin this classic today by whatever means suit your fancy as it can be found for streaming (most of the streaming sites lack the encores), for download, or get it in its full LivePhish glory (also available on Spotify). And if you choose either of those last options be sure to stick around for the ‘filler’ which includes the phenomenally abstract Funky Bitch->Jam, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav from 11.22.1994 as well as the extended, ‘reggae’ Dog Log from the soundcheck of 05.07.1994.

There’s really nothing more that needs to be said here. Why aren’t you listening already?!?

My Will to Appease — Bloomsburg, PA 02.11.1993

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.

And It All Would Be — Geneva, NY 02.10.1993

Phish — Smith Opera House — Geneva, NY 02.10.1993

I  Cup>Foam, Guelah, Reba, Sloth, Divided, Tela>Llama, IDK>Catapult, Antelope

II  Jim, Ice, Coil, Tweezer>I Walk the Line, Sparkle, YEM>Horse>Silent, HYHU>Rosie>HYHU, Possum

E  Adeline, Grace, Reprise

Continuing on after Rochester, Phish was just a bit down the road in Geneva, NY for their show on this Wednesday evening at the venerable old Smith Opera House, a venue with over 100 years of history and which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This would be the one time Phish would perform here though Fish would return seven years later while touring with the Jazz Mandolin Project. But we are here to talk about that first appearance, a show replete with several tour debuts, some secret language, a few solid attempts at taking jams out of the sandbox, and – quite frankly – some very uneven playing over the course of the show. Now, I am far from being a professional touring musician and I do not make any assumptions about what goes on for such people from show to show but there just seems to be something… off… about this show, particularly with Mike’s playing. This is not to say he plays poorly but just that he isn’t on the same page as the rest of the band in several places. And he’s not the only one who seems distracted as Trey has a few WTF moments along the way too. Fish seems to be fully on his game which may be due to performing so close to home considering this venue is only about 50 miles from his boyhood hometown of Syracuse, NY. Speaking of Fish, all throughout the tape I listened to for this one he is very much out front in the mix which really just punctuates one’s appreciation for his contributions, if you are into that sort of thing. And Page just does what Page does, coloring the music brightly with his various toys. Maybe I am setting the tone too negatively here before we even get to the music itself but here in the first week’s worth of shows there are bound to be some misses as they look to connect and progress towards bigger things. Back then this was definitely not considered to be a “bad show” (and it really shouldn’t be now either) but with the bar set as high as it is these days this one has a high hill to climb in order to be considered something worth our precious time. So let’s dive in and see what all the fuss is about, shall we?

Tonight we get the second show-opening Loving Cup ever (something that will become more common going forward as the song would open several more sets before hitting the shelf for a bit after 08.08.1993) and this song is progressively becoming more of a “phish tune” with every appearance. Page has full command of this song now on the piano and Trey takes a bit more of a solo that in earlier versions but in the end it is still a fairly straight forward, bring up the energy number. This heads directly into Foam but not before Mike throws in an unrequited bit of SL (Random Note). Heck, not even the band acknowledged it. Hmmm… maybe that’s why he was off on this night? “Hey, those guys clearly aren’t on my team tonight since they didn’t even do the random note. Screw them, I’m tanking it tonight!” #thoughtsthatmikeclearlyneverthought Okay, in truth, this is probably an ‘Entrance of the Gladiators’ tease rather than the secret language signal but what’s the fun in that? It is much more fun to imagine this as an opportunity to create division between band members (and much geekier than the sort of thing that divides most musicians like “why did you sleep with my girl?” or “I told you to never eat my pimento loaf” or “why do you keep hiding the good drugs from me?”). Where was I again? Oh, right. Foam. So the Foam is servicable in getting the crowd going but doesn’t really do much above that before we get the third Guelah of the tour. Only thing to note here is two more SL signals (All Fall Down, Simpsons). Reba is up next and this one is completely and perfectly okay, never really getting to a place that allows for true connection. This is really the first place we start to hear the cracks in the night’s performance, particularly through the bulk of the composed section. They do come together for the end jam but even that isn’t one you are going to spend more than once. There’s an entire RLP* devoted to the stronger versions where one can cull out their favorite take on our favorite gal and this one ain’t gonna be featured there. Next up is the first Sloth of the tour and this one is in the typically dirty vein that most versions of this song are. Fun to hear, particularly live, but doesn’t really do much outside of the realm of a Gamehendge set where it benefits from context (and we will have ample opportunity to delve into all of that about six weeks from this here show). A clean Divided fills the mid-set long number slot (complete with a nice long pause) before we have another first timer of the tour in Tela. They play this well with Trey handling the end solo admirably (nimble, young fingers are a wonderful thing on intricate songs like this one) before they head directly into a shred-heavy Llama. Next we have the late set I Didn’t know (still batting .666 for the tour here!) where instead of Fish picking up either the trombone or Madonna washboard we get the announcement by Trey of the running bet about Fish “The Little Beast Boy” being late for the bus (at this stage up to $800) before a somewhat-rare-for-the-time vac solo. And then rather then sewing up the IDK they head directly into the third ever Catapult. This would be the only time they would play the song in 1993 before it really had it’s “peak year” by being played nine whole times in 1994. So then after this we arrive at what will end up being one of the only real highlights of this set, Antelope, with a version that gets pretty well out there before coming back around. This one is a good example for when people ask you, “hey, you, show me why Antelope is a song people talk about as having been a jam vehicle because here in 3.0 (actually, are we still in 3.0 or has it moved on to, like, 3.4 or something? I can’t keep track of these computer geek designations) the song is pretty much just a rocking set closer.” At which point you would put on this Antelope really loud and then you would both rock the fuck out before nodding knowingly to each other once they arrive at the ‘Rye Rye Rocco’ section. So yeah, there’s that. Granted, there are much bigger and better versions of this song but this one is a good example of how they used the song to build tension and get weird for a bit within the context of the song largely in a way more than they do these days (with the one-off exceptions like from Utica 10.20.2010). And then it is off to setbreak to learn about the architectural history of this cool venue that has elements of Romanesque, Art Deco, and Baroque motifs.

So after that enlightening yourself with that architectural tour, the second set kicks off with another Jim (by now you have probably noticed just how short the bench was back then. More on this shortly) and again it is clear something is going on with Mike as in the breakdown section where he and Fish usually set the ground upon which Trey will solo Mike completely drops out at one point. Now, it is a minor thing and doesn’t ruin the song or anything but this is Mike we are talking about and he just doesn’t do that kind of thing that often. They somehow manage to recover from this (phewf!) and then Trey takes the solo we expect before they bring it all back and then kick into Ice for another fairly straight forward though energetic take on this number. We then get a somewhat rare early 2nd set Coil which is fine enough and then the Tweezer we knew was coming (since last night was Taco Mike’s Groove Tuesday and we know they pretty much alternate the main vehicles every other night at this stage). This Tweezer just plugs along doing Tweezer-y type stuff but without much work outside of the main theme of the song and then before resolving it they head into another tour first timer, I Walk the Line. Now, some may say that this is a nod to Mike having a bit of an off night and others may say it was simply a cover they played sporadically around this time so why wouldn’t it pop up? And really I think both answers are right. Besides, what better homage to The Man in Black could there be than a group of floppy haired weirdos from a cow state jokingly covering one of the iconic songs in his canon? Amiright? ::high five:: Anyway, after that little interlude we have a kinda rough Sparkle (sadly, non-FMS) and then the other jam vehicle we expected, YEM.

So before I talk about that song perhaps we should discuss the pattern that existed in this era regarding song rotation and the rotation of jam vehicles in particular. At this stage in the band’s history the song rotation was decidedly smaller, partially due to the fact that most of the songs we hear today were not yet written but also due to the tight lease they kept on song rotation. I’m not going to pull out the stats here as others have covered that much better than I can (see: caped individuals who tend to track the relative length of songs and often carry a clipboard to shows) but I will say that the main songs in the repertoire would pop up on a 2 to 3 show rotation with some being more frequent (Guelah, Poor Heart, IDK, etc.) and others being less so. For the songs we rely on for that jammy goodness this holds true even more as there just weren’t a lot of songs in this era that the band wanted to stretch out beyond the song. The only tried and true songs that could be considered in this conversation would include Tweezer, YEM, Reba, Stash, Mike’s Groove (more specifically Weekapaug as the real jamming for Mike’s Song was still evolving and wouldn’t punch through until the development of the ‘Simple-esque’ jams that are still a few months away from even being hinted at), Antelope, Possum (yes, this was something of a jam vehicle once upon a time. I know. But the tales you heard are in fact true. There are several highly notable versions of the song from this period), Bowie, Hood, Maze (though largely ‘type I’ jams), and Melt (but not really fully until the ‘aha’ moment hits on 04.21.1993). Keep in mind that songs like Jim and Gin didn’t become vehicles until later and the ones in the rotation at this time that blow up in the funk era (Bag, Gumbo, Halley’s, Ya Mar) are still a long time from being more than just fun setlist fillers. And of all of the ones listed above the only consistent jam vehicles were Tweezer, YEM, and the Mike’s Groove with the others being more ‘minor vehicles’ that could or could not elevate depending on the set and setting. With that in mind, it is easier to see why the pattern mainly holds that in one show they would anchor the second set with Tweezer and YEM (and maybe one other junior vehicle) and the next would have Mike’s Groove and a junior vehicle like Stash in there. In this way you could anticipate what songs would pop up next with much better accuracy — even going so far as to be able to predict the set more easily for the most part. But, of course, the exception proves the rule so that when you do see a show that has a combination of vehicles (i.e. Mike’s Groove and Tweezer in the same set or Reba, YEM, and Tweezer all in the same set) it is a good indication that this is a show you should spin the whole way through and at high volume if at all possible. We will encounter several of these standout shows as we move along here but for the most part we should expect to be searching for the minor highlights that supplement the larger vehicles since most of these shows follow the overarching pattern discussed above.

So! Back to the show, eh? We were on YEM next, right? Right. Anyway, forget what I said above about the vehicles carrying the set all the time because this YEM is not one of the better ones out there. They definitely try, with a somewhat unique bit of phrasing from Trey in the build of the main composition but it sort of falls apart at times due to more of that disconnected playing from the band because of which the composed aspects of the song suffer. Heck, Mike completely drops out at one point which indicates that some of the issues may have been as much physical (i.e. gear related) as mental. It isn’t like can’t-take-your-eyes-off-the-trainwreck bad or anything but they seems to struggle through it in getting to the jam which has a few nice moments before we get Horse’d out of the VJ. Sure, fine, whatever, play the same songs again from your new album. And this version of Horse>Silent is pretty okay but here’s another on in the 50% club over the six shows of tour so far. Not exactly keeping it fresh on the setlist front. On the bright side, we do avoid the BBJ for the first time this tour, which is something. Instead, they fire up Fish Fun Time for the first Cracklin’ Rosie of the year which plays about as expected before they give us that Possum closer we have been begging for. This one stays more in the rocking vein than going outside the song but does provide a high energy punctuation mark for the set and show. The encores provide a bit of levity as they abort Adeline due to Fish not exactly bringing his best to the table before another a cappella number in Amazing Grace (six for six on venues this tour! It’s like Fuego but without the audible groans from the jaded old timers!) and then the Reprise we all knew was coming.

End of the day, this is not a show you need to spend much time with. Your takeaways from this one are pretty thin with the Antelope being the only real highlight and everything else being either fairly standard or only notable due to being a minor bustout or general setlist oddity. There’s a couple of moments of connection that are worth the price of admission (which was probably pretty cheap at around $15 back then) but we are still about a week or so before the band really starting to hit their groove as a singular unit. I know I am repeating myself here and it is easy to say this now with the benefit of hindsight but in the moment this was not considered a “bad” show by any means. This was still a young, hungry band out there night after night proving themselves to any and all who would come to see them. And each and every night they were able to convert more and more people to their calling by doing things and playing music in ways that we were not used to but that just made us itch for more. The main “problem” with looking back at shows like this one is a modern issue as we know what to expect out of the band even just 8-10 shows from here, to say nothing of where this is all headed into August ’93 and beyond. So with that as your guide do as you are supposed to and enjoy it for what it is and not what it is not. They will get there. We all know it.

— —

*Reba Listening Project. Maybe we can go to there some time…

Laugh When They Shoot You — Rochester, NY 02.09.1993

Phish — Auditorium Theatre — Rochester, NY 02.09.1993

I  Bowie, Bouncin’, Poor Heart, MFMF>Rift, Wedge, CDT, Esther->Maze, Golgi

II  PYITE, Mike’s>H2>Paug, Weigh, MSO>Sample>BBJ, Stash>Lizards, HYHU>Bike, Grace

E  Cavern>Rocky Top

Okay, first things first. I listened to this show a few months ago and must have been distracted because my notes on it are that it was a wholly underwhelming show that was lacking something to take it from “well-played midweek affair” to “can’t miss musical experience”. The reality is that while this certainly would have been a much better way to spend that Tuesday night than whatever else you had going on in 1993, it never really elevates past that even if it was better on second/third relisten than my initial notes told me. And that’s… okay.

I should have known from the fact that they opened the show with Bowie that there was more than meets the eye here. In the long history of that canonical tune there have been only 12 shows opened with Bowie (of 432 total appearances). This one was the sixth ever and first since 1991; there would be three total in 1993. In being an opener, this one had a slightly looser feel at the start with Trey messing around with some chords that harken to Buried Alive and Page/Mike doodling away while Fish kept down the hit hat game. There’s a SL call (Oom Pa Pa) before they break into the song in earnest and then it is off into an exercise of building tension before the big release at the lead peak. This isn’t a world beater version by any means but it is telling in the developmental process that leads from these early ’93 Bowies up through ’94 and eventually to the epic psych meltdown mindscratchers of ’95. Nice way to kick off the show too. After that there’s some crowd-moving filler with Bouncin’, Poor Heart before they triple dip on the Rift tunes with MFMF>Rift, Wedge. Of course, there’s the acoustic intro to MFMF and the then common dark breakdown at the end before they head into speedier waters with the title track of their current release. Then we have another [slow] Wedge and a fiery but quick CDT (there’s actually some unique phrasing by Trey mid-jam here but it only lasts a few bars before they head back towards the safety of the song) before a fun Esther->Maze combo stretches the set out and provides both the strong storytelling that is Esther (not to mention some more SL with Simpsons and Random Note signals here as well as some ‘Charge’ teasing from Page, all in the intro) and the shred aerobics of Maze. Golgi caps the set as it does and we are off to setbreak to figure out how to reinvent the post-industrial rust belt cities like Rochester that can no longer rely on the manufacturing base that once made them great. Or we could get nachos. Nachos it is!

Punch You in the Eye starts off the second set with a bang as this one is definitely better than the first attempt after its long break. Still not quite there yet but nice to hear the kinks being worked out on stage for this tune which would stay in the rotation for the most part from here on out. A relatively rote Mike’s Groove follows and things are going along true to form until they hit the Weekapaug. Right after the lyrics end and they head into the jam Trey is taking a different tack, alternating unique leads with lines that are at least reminiscent of the Paug theme and the rest of the band follows along in kind. In truth, this jam stays more in the Paug realm than going elsewhere but the way they play with the theme is interesting enough in its own right to consider this a version you should at least pay attention to. And one thing we will find over the course of this tour is that there are definitely some songs that they play with more than others, which makes sense of course due to the structure of such songs, but the way they do this with Weekapaug time and again is interesting considering what the song has become here in latter day Phish. From there we have the final Rift album tour debut with Weigh getting weird here after ten previous appearances in 1992. This is followed by the first My Sweet One of the year, a song you will hear a LOT more of as we go forward as they would pair it with BBJ, double it up in encores with Amazing Grace and other tunes, or just add it to the bluegrass bits tossed around in one show or another. This one eventually leads to BBJ after a segued stop in that new hot single that some wiser than I thought might spur a version of the “Touch Heads” that flocked to the Dead after Touch of Grey became something of a hit. Fortunately (for several reasons), this didn’t happen with Sample. So after that subsequent BBJ we have a late second set Stash that dives fully into the open waters of the deep end with a captivating, at times quiet subtle jam that comes back to the main theme before heading off into Lizards without the return to the normal end and the ‘maybe so, maybe not’ section that provides resolution to the song. After a nice, clean visit with our friends the Lizards we have Fish Fun Time for the first Bike of the year and then the fifth Grace of the year (first time not in an encore slot! woooo!) to close the set. Cavern>Rocky Top are our encores tonight and then it is off towards the Finger Lakes region for the next night’s show at the Smith Opera House in Geneva.

So here again we have another one of those midweek shows that is probably not going to change your world upon hearing it but offers a few gems amidst an otherwise uneventful though well played show. Nothing here is ending up on a best of all time list but (as we are finding) this whole show is table setting for much bigger things yet to come. Plus you have a very well engaged crowd that gets the Secret Language cues, contributes lyrically when Trey leaves them space (e.g. for the “Please don’t do that!” line of Stash), and is definitely bringing the energy throughout. Hey, like I said, what better things would one have to do in the early 90s in upstate New York than to spend a random Tuesday night with Phish? For takeaways from this show I’ll say you should spin the Bowie, Esther->Maze, Weekapaug, and Stash. Onward and upward…

I Seem to Forget Half the Things I Start — Washington, DC 02.07.1993

Phish — Lisner Auditorium, GWU — Washington, DC 02.07.1993

I  Suzy>Buried Alive>Poor Heart, Ice>Sparkle, Forbin’s>Mockingbird>Rift, IDK, Melt, Fee>Jim

II  Llama, FEFY, MMGAMOIO, Reba, Tweezer>BBJ, Glide, YEM, Coil, IIOHAB>Reprise

E  Grace, Contact>BBFCFM

After a fine pair of shows in New York City, Phish headed to the nation’s capital for the fifth show of the Spring ’93 Tour which also happened to be the fifth consecutive night the band took the stage. This show would be the last (of two) times the band would play this venue at George Washington University, graduating (ha!) to larger rooms on subsequent visits to the area, including the New Year’s Run ’93 appearance at Bender Arena (at American University) just a few months from this date. It is something of a scheduling oddity that they dipped down to the mid-Atlantic region for this one show before heading back to upstate New York and Pennsylvania over the course of the next several shows and then eventually following the lines headed south for good about a week on from here. But all that being said, we have here the first Sunday night show of the tour which is always something in its own right, right? Plus there are several tour debuts and a bunch of teases to go along with the high energy that both the band and crowd bring to the table here.

The band wasted no time in getting a head start of bringing that high energy to the forefront as they came out gunning in the first set, dropping the first Suzy Greenberg of the year to get the dance party moving before doubling up on the openers with Buried Alive. This butts up right to the Poor Heart that followed and here we see something that becomes a pattern over the course of this tour with the band stringing three and sometimes four songs together with no break to start the first set. Now, most of these are not full segues but rather those quick transitions that happen so frequently in Phish sets. But the sum effect is that they get themselves warmed up with a few energetic songs and also get the crowd amped and moving and itching for more. After these three we have Ice>Sparkle and here five songs in we have yet to experience a dull moment even if all of these are light on jam and heavy on the peanut butter. After bringing it all up thus far Trey takes the opportunity to hold the first real Storytime With Trey session, playing Forbin’s>Mockingbird and weaving a quite intricate tale in the process. I could go through and write out what he said here but my synopsis will be a poor facsimile of his words so I’ll just suggest you get into whatever headspace makes you most open to these stories and spin this visceral yarn. All I’m gonna say is that I think Trey was really liking how “pea stew” sounded because he says it like 100 times. So good luck with that head trip. And then after working through a decent Mockingbird they go right into Rift before yet another IDK (this is the 3rd in 5 shows) with Fish (ahem, “Tubs the little beast boy”) on trombone. A snappy take on Melt stays firmly in the box before they close the set with Fee>Jim. This Jim has a nice little jam and some crowd participation (clapping?? WTF? where are the woos???) during the breakdown before Trey solos but overall it is about what you expect from the song at this stage. And then we are off to the setbreak to look for political celebrities in the crowd and chat about political-y type stuff like manifest destiny, the Iraq war, and the changing nature of the American Dream in the latter part of the 20th century. You know, kid stuff.

For the start of the second set Trey mentions that this is indeed a special night as he has apparently found one of those celebrities in the crowd, motioning to Chelsea Clinton here at her first concert and offering a dedication of the impending Llama to her even though she would have been about thirteen at the time and was most definitely not in the audience. There are some added chuckles as they false start that Llama (a telling joke about the dedication in its own right…) due to Trey’s amp not being on but then they attack the song with fervor in getting everyone moving again after the break. The second Fast Enough for You of the tour precedes the first My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own (a personal favorite cover of mine) and then we have the first real jam highlight from this night with our girl Reba stepping into the second set. This one has a little SL (Simpsons – right before the whistling), a somewhat unique jam that deserves to be heard, and some alternate lyrics with “baguette” replacing “bag it”. So funny. And then they head into Tweezer for the combo punch, provoking dreams that don’t exist about a massive jam when instead we get some Gumbo teases, a jam that begs to get extended, and a quick dive sideways into BBJ. Dang. Well, it is ’93 so you shouldn’t expect more than what you got. Oh well, but at least they throw another Gumbo tease in the BBJ. Glide bridges us to the next opportunity for the set to really elevate and this time they do not disappoint with a compelling YEM that includes a VJ that heads into a bit of ‘My Darling, Clementine’ before resolving. A pretty Coil comes up next and you can really tell here that Page is enjoying having the piano on tour by the way he takes on the solo. Nothing earth shattering, but he is doing more here than he was in the later ’92 versions which aren’t bad, but lack the color of the piano. Next we have another tour debut for Fish Fun Time (sans HYHU tonight!) as he comes out for If I Only Had A Brain, vac’ing it up as always. They take this directly into the Reprise closer and then we have another special moment at the start of the encore as Trey dedicates Amazing Grace to his sister Kristy (on her 30th birthday), who is in the crowd, and gives her a bouquet of flowers. This is particularly poignant now considering that this is the sister to whom the song Joy references and who sadly lost her battle with neuroendocrine cancer in 2009. As always, Fuck Cancer. After this touching moment they capped the night with two more tour debuts in Contact>BBFCFM and then we are off into the capital city night.

Here in the fifth show of the tour the band is clearly still getting their feet wet but by now the playing has solidified towards being decidedly crisp and energetic no matter what the song. This show has a variety of flavors for fans to enjoy but lacks a definite-must-hear-at-all-costs song or segment that would push it to higher classification for repeated listens. There are, however, some great takeaways here to spin before the band finally gets a night off to head back up towards Rochester. Definitely spin the Forbin’s>Mockingbird, Reba, Tweezer, and YEM but add in Jim if you are feeling charitable too.