Tell Him What It Is – Portland, OR 04.01.1993

Phish — Roseland Theater — Portland, OR 04.01.1993

I  Llama, Guelah, Rift, Stash, Coil, MFMF, Paul & Silas>Fluffhead, Lawn Boy, Antelope

II  Axilla>Curtain>Possum, Fee>Ya Mar, Tweezer, Poor Heart, BBJ, HYHU>Terrapin>HYHU, Cavern

E  Carolina, Reprise

April Fool’s just feels like a perfect holiday for Phish. This is a band that thrives on doing the unexpected or at least playing to those in on the joke and watching in amusement as the befuddled others try to sort it all out. Over the years there have been so many different ways that they have used this to their advantage be it secret language, knowing lyrical references, obvious song placements, random covers, various stage antics, and even more when you include the off-stage stuff as well. And when they do actually play on this date (which hasn’t happened since the ’93 show we are here to discuss) you can be sure they make note of it. It could be a one time performance of Help>Slip>Bag (!) such as in ’86 (which also has the only NFA ever in the shared encore with The Joneses and the debut of Icculus – a joke of a song if ever there was one) or Fish wearing a black dress and feathered boa (as in ’92) or the antics we have from this show here in Portland in ’93. Just to set it up, prior to this show the band participated in a rally to benefit Ancient Forests that also included Neil Young amongst others (and where they played Amazing Grace and IDK. again, not taking things too seriously there…). Somewhere along the way (i.e when the band started it themselves) rumors started that he would show up to perform with the band that night at the Roseland. Well, that’s all they needed to toy with the crowd throughout the evening which we will cover as we go along here.

It didn’t take long for the first nod to appear as Trey throws down a ‘Heart of Gold’ tease before they even start up the first set opener. Some in the crowd pick up on it and then we are off to the races with a shreddy Llama. Next up is our favorite two-hole fodder Guelah (after a shockingly long four show gap!) and then its common partner Rift. Both of these are of the expected variety without much to speak of outside of their set placement so we’ll just move right along to the Stash then. This one is not quite as off script as the previous version but there are a solid couple of minutes in the middle part of the jam here that are definitely type II jamming before they bring it around for the T&R resolution. Some interesting stuff to chew on with that one. Also interesting to chew on is the ‘Sugar Mountain’ tease Trey throws in before the next song, just adding to the anticipation of what could be coming… Next we get a somewhat oddly placed Coil that actually works here with a well played composed section and a nice, albeit shorter-than-typical solo from Page. Trey straps on the acoustic for the MFMF intro in a rote version that precedes a quick P&S. Then we have a nice enough Fluffhead and a Lawn Boy (Trey on the solo tonight) before the inevitable Antelope closer starts up. Things are swirling around as they do in the jam here as they build momentum and when they hit the break for the ‘Rye Rye Rocco’ section Trey throws in some ‘I Feel the Earth Move’ lines (another nod to the benefit show as Carole King also performed) and some ‘Barracuda’ for good measure (again with the callbacks as the sisters Wilson performed at the benefit too) before they wrap it up and thank everyone for coming out before heading off to warm up the hot pockets.

After the sandwich break we get an Axilla>Curtain>Possum trio to start the set and let me just again note here that one thing that is very common throughout many of these shows is that they will generally string 3 or sometimes 4 songs together to start the second (or sometimes first) set, not letting anyone have much of a breather for the first 20-30 minutes of the set depending on the song choices. The Axilla here is rocking as usual and Curtain does what it does in setting up the Possum which is another solid version that has hints of McGrupp (again, as they had in Arcata a few nights before) at about the 1:25-1:30 mark. From there it goes into straight forward Possum jam territory. Fee>Ya Mar keeps the party vibe going and then we get the meat of the second set in a chunky Tweezer that has similar elements to the one that preceded it in Eugene, particularly with Trey’s lead lines as they enter the jam. This one is more straight ahead Trey rockstar stuff as they climb the mountain, eventually arriving at the old slow down ending. Definitely not a face melter but Trey is working some stuff out here that may pop up in other jams later on… Poor Heart, BBJ gets us to our real April Fool’s Fish Fun Time as Trey introduces Neil Young… only to have Fish come out instead. Laughs are had, Fish gets a pie to the face (seriously) and they start up ‘After the Goldrush’ which Fish tries to sing but he clearly does not know the words beyond maybe one verse or so and they drop into Terrapin for our normal fun here. Note that .com has this listed as ‘Love You’ which is the wrong Syd Barrett tune for this evening. After they get Fish back to his kit Trey jokes about fooling the crowd and introduces Bill Clinton on saxophone while Page plays some ‘Hail to the Chief’. What jokesters. A rousing Cavern with the evil jedi maniacal laughing caps the set and then we have Carolina, Reprise for the encores before we head north to Bellingham, WA for the next night’s show. Oh, and apparently they played some NY & Crazy Horse (Welfare Mothers) as the house music post show just to rub it in even more.

So what do we do with a show like this? It is a joke-filled affair with the type of playing we expect out of the band nightly at this stage but not a lot of real highlights overall. I mean, I am totally recommending you spin the Stash, Lope, Possum, Tweezer, and the entire Fish segment because it is just plain funny but that’s not the type of phish that will appeal to a large segment of the fanbase. Or maybe it does. I guess the point here is that shows like this are exactly why so many of us go back time and again because as much as we seek the epic jams, unique setlist construction, bustouts, and other music related stuff the antics and showmanship of it is a major draw as well. This is all very Zappa-esque in the delivery in a lot of ways and nods to many of their other influences as well. And let’s face it, if you were them and you were on your 44th show in 57 days you would be doing some pretty weird stuff just to keep yourself interested and involved. But in all honesty I think these guys would be doing it no matter what because that is just one of the many masks they put on and why we go back again and again – to see what flavor of phish we will get to enjoy that time around.

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