Phish — Tipitina’s — New Orleans, LA 03.02.1993
I Buried Alive>Poor Heart>Stash, Reba, Sparkle, Ice, Fee>ATR, CDT, Horse>Silent, IDK, Bowie
II MFMF, Uncle Pen, Tweezer>Lizards, Llama, YEM, HYHU>Love You>HYHU, It’s My Life, Loup Garou, Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie, Hood, Grace
After finishing up the Florida run, Phish hugged the gulf coastline to make their way to New Orleans for the tail end of the Mardi Gras proceedings that year. They had a few days off to make the trip across and apparently took full advantage of that in ways that will become apparent as we work our way through chronicling the show from this visit. This would be their fourth stop at the venue but their first since 1991 when they played a pair of shows (one in March and the other in November). That November one had a bunch of ARU folk sit in with ten tracks included as the filler for the Katrina Relief release several years ago.
For this stop, the first set kicks off with Buried Alive>Poor Heart>Stash which can really serve to get the crowd going — and would help keep them from singing too much considering Trey now sounds afflicted with the cold Fish had in Florida (along with the fact that the band overall seems a bit… off). This Stash is well played and peaks nicely in a short but sweet version. Reba is next and she does well for herself while not necessarily dropping any jaws. But then, she’s a coy gal and doesn’t get too flashy very often but people still notice her beauty. The set then takes shape with a run through a bunch of stuff where you know what you are getting starting with Sparkle, Ice, and Fee>ATR. Trey notes those aforementioned issues with his voice during the ATR intro right after Page had thrown in a clever tease of Manteca in the Fee coda section. This is followed by (yet another) fiery CDT, Horse>Silent, and IDK (with multiple nickname fun and Fish on Madonna washboard along with Trey and Mike adorning his head with Mardi Gras beads during his solo). Interestingly, there is a note on .com about a sit-in for this version of IDK but I cannot hear it on the tapes and Trey never mentions it… Which gets us to the Bowie set closer. Probably the most notable thing here is that Trey asks the crowd if everyone is still hungover (with the implication being that he is) before they dive into what will be a rather unmemorable version that meanders a bit before coming back to close. Then it is off to the break to nurse those hangovers or maybe get a bit more hair of the dog going prior to the band’s return.
Second set kicks off with another tune with Trey on the acoustic (remember, of course, that Horse was Trey on acoustic back then) as MFMF sets the mood preceding Uncle Pen and then Tweezer>Lizards. The Tweezer has a couple of interesting ideas but doesn’t really flush those out too much with some over-noodling from Trey going on before they end up in Lizards. Trey’s vocal issues are on display a bit as he ‘speaks’ the lyrics for one section but otherwise this one is just fine. A kinda shreddy but sorta uneven Llama gets us to YEM (which has the ‘water your team’ lyrics) which is a pretty decent version with a nice jam. It isn’t a world beater but you get a nice building Page organ solo and then the requisite Trey hose-y takeover and a relatively mellow D&B section as they bring it home to the VJ which has a section that almost sounds like wolves howling (which is apropos to one of the sit-in covers to come). Next up is a relatively quick Fish Fun Time for Love You (though Page does give the opening HYHU a little extra sauce tonight) and then we get a sit-in from Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes for It’s My Life (Junior Wells tune), Loup Garou (a Willy DeVille tune about Bayou werewolves that Sunpie and his band also recorded about five years after this sit-in), and Choo Choo Ch’Boogie (a Louis Jordan original that Sunpie recorded much later than its 1940s heyday). All of these are fun tunes for the locale and were one-time performances by the band. Incidentally, the connection to this fixture of the New Orleans music scene was just starting with this sit-in as Trey would join his band for a whole set on 04.28.1996 (two days after the initial Phish appearance at Jazzfest – which was the bulk of that Katrina Relief release – in what would be a busy day for Trey as he and Page sat in for the whole Cosmic Krewe show too). Then on 04.30.2005 Sunpie came out to join the 70 Volt Parade for a couple of songs in a show highlighted by the “New Orleans Superjam” that deserves your listen, particularly for the second set and encores which include Trey, Cyril Neville, Gregory Davis and Roger Lewis of The Dirty Dozen, Dave Grippo, Michael Ray, Gordeaux, Ivan Neville, and the 70 Volt Parade band members. Oh yeah, Dave Matthews was there too. A fine enough Hood then gets us to the Grace closer (unplugged and not included on most tapes in circulation) and finally a Golgi, Reprise combo for the encores so that everyone can go revel in the last hours of Mardi Gras before doing it all again once more the next night.
In the end, overall, really not much going on here that you don’t hear in other shows. The sit-in is interesting if you like that shuffle-y cajun-ish music but it doesn’t really go anywhere very creative. At the least, it is different than most of the cover fodder Phish gets into and Sunpie is a massive personality with great stage presence that just grabs you and brings you into a happy place full of smiles, dancing, and good times in general. The Reba, Tweezer, and YEM are nice enough but there’s not much meat on the bones of anything in this show, quite frankly. Maybe it was the illness, or the hangovers, or just one of those nights after a couple off where they didn’t really connect. But you would hope that by the second night of the run they’d hit form again and we will find out about that next time…