Phish – Crest Theatre – Sacramento, CA 03.22.1993
I CDT, Guelah, Uncle Pen, Stash, Bouncin’, Rift, Weigh>Reba, Sparkle>Bowie
II Golgi, Ice>Lizards>Tela>Wilson>Bag>Forbin’s>Mockingbird>Sloth>McGrupp, Mike’s>H2>Weekapaug
E Grace, Fire
The night after Ventura Phish would be well north in the state, some 330 miles up in Sacramento for a Monday night affair that none could expect to go down in phishtory quite in the way that it has. For this night would bring forth a Gamehendge set, the first since 1991 (193 shows) and one of only five full such sets in the band’s history. This is a somewhat debatable number considering our man Trey’s propensity to wax on the topic in that way he does but we’ll just go with it for now because there are much better things about which to argue than the relative number of times Trey has filled an entire set with his narrative fiction. What is definitely true is that there are only two full such Gamehendge sets that follow this one: 06.26.94 (as one half of the famed “GameHoist” show from WV) and 07.08.94 (emerging out of the uber rare NO2 at Great Woods). But this one from Sacramento might be one of the more famous ones due to the ubiquity of the tapes during those formative years for so many fans and how quickly and widely the news of this one spread amongst the heads. It was for this that people often clamored and shouted for that mythical set to be dropped on them only to be once again thwarted.
But before we get to all of that we have a very engaging first set to talk about that gets overshadowed by what went down after the break. The band came out firing, throwing down a fun romp of a CDT that gets the room moving before dropping that second song Guelah they loved to play so much back then. Uncle Pen steps into the third slot tonight before a rocking straight forward Stash surprisingly fills in the four hole. This one is not big on the jamming but high energy and goes with the T&R over the dissonance. The midset segment of Bouncin, Rift, and Weigh is all well played with nothing major to write home about before we get to our girl Reba. This one is nicely done with a bit of a plinko-ish, sparse section in the jam that precedes Trey elevating things towards the end peak. It is a nice alteration of the standard theme for this tune. Next we get a quick Sparkle before the set closing Bowie where Trey throws in some cool phrasing at the start while throwing in several SL cues (Simpsons, Oom Pa Pa, Random Note, All Fall Down) before they devote a lot of energy towards the construction of major T&R in heading to the top of the mountain. Good payoff with that in mind and we are headed to the break still none the wiser for what is coming.
So then the second set starts out innocently enough with Golgi and you are thinking “okay, should be a fun one I guess” before they drop into Ice and you think “yeah, okay, this could work. I wonder how the Mike’s Groove will be tonight…” but then right when they are supposed to go into the jam portion of Ice the band shifts slightly and Trey starts in with the narration over the Ice tempo and it is kinda like when you are watching pro wrestling and everything is going along fine enough but then OH MY GOD IS THAT WILSON’S ENTRANCE MUSIC??? (I think you know what I mean and if you don’t you are clearly not ‘Murican which is fine, of course, but probably has you a little confused right now). And clearly some people there know what is happening right away while it takes others quite some time to figure it out (like, maybe the whole set). I’ll be interested to hear from anyone who was there about the mindset of the crowd. So now we are cruising through the narration and Trey uses this to set up each song along the way including Lizards, Tela, Wilson, Bag, Forbin, Mockingbird, Sloth, and eventually McGrupp. Musically, it is all pretty straight forward as the focus is on imparting the story in toto but really nothing is lost here as it is all well played and moves along quite nicely as they intersperse the narration with the music in the way you would want if you happened to be in the crowd that night. Granted, if you knew nothing of this band and stopped in to check them out and this is what you experienced it might not be the thing that adheres you to them for life – or perhaps it would be – but that is another facet to this whole conversation. The one bit of oddity is that during McGrupp Fish hops on the Madonna washboard to accompany Page during his solo section. Perhaps he was sad he wasn’t getting Fish Fun Time that night. So after they wrap up the GH Suite (with Trey noting there are several other related songs) they start up that Mike’s we knew was coming. This one rocks a bit more than what was typical then which is nice and then after the H2 the Paug picks right back up for a rollicking finish to the set while staying in bounds the whole way. Grace and Fire provide the encores tonight and the crowd is left to discuss what they just experienced as they wander out into the night.
Okay, look, let’s just get this out there right away. There are a couple of different camps on shows like this. If you are in it for the music (i.e. the hetty jamz, yo) then perhaps this isn’t your cup of tea and you think the hype about The Crest Theatre Show make this one highly overrated. I get that and there is no denying this position. On the other hand you have the Gamehendge fanboys who laud this for being a shining example of one of the handful of times they have blessed us with the performance of this mythic performance art and we should all be so lucky to even have the opportunity to spin it again (not to say anything of the wonderful sbd out there in circulation, of course!).This view is also acceptable because let’s face it we are a collection of a wide array of different levels of band nerds and that is just one strata voicing their opinion from the top of Mt. Icculus ( ::insert nasally snort laugh here:: ). And then there are the middling folk who can possibly appreciate it to a certain degree but are maybe left wanting for one reason or another – and that view is perfectly valid as well.
I suppose the point is that this is a perfect show to showcase the wide range of opinion about this band of ours. You have the high energy, on point playing of the first set with a few jams of note followed by something so special and sought after by a certain segment of the crowd that it is still talked about more than 20 years after the last time that it happened. At this stage I’m not going out seeking a Gamehendge set but I do know that if I happen to be in the room when it happens I will be happy as hell to be a part of the experience. Which is not something every fan will say. So in the end I’ll tell you that should spin the Stash, Reba, and Bowie from the first set here along with the second set pretty much from Ice on (though at that point you might as well add in the Golgi because that’s only another 5 minutes of your life, right?).
After a night off the band would be in Santa Rosa for a Wednesday night show which includes the good ol’ Prison Joke, a hot Melt, and a mess of other somewhat messy stuff. Should be interesting to discuss…