Phish — Mt. Baker Theatre — Bellingham, WA 04.02.1993
I Buried Alive>Poor Heart, Foam, Bouncin’, Divided, IDK, Ice>Sparkle>Maze, Golgi
II Jim, Sample, Uncle Pen, Llama, Horse>Silent, Mike’s>H2>Weekapaug, Lizards, BBJ, HYHU>Bike>HYHU, CDT
E Grace, Rocky Top
After spending a couple days and nights in Portland, OR Phish headed well north to the lovely town of Bellingham for a single night’s stay on the way to Vancouver, BC. This would be the third to last show on the West Coast leg of the Spring ’93 Tour before starting up the Midwest portion… but that’s all for another time. Right now we have an interesting one to cover, one that is a bit of a “tale of two sets” in the offing.
The first set kicks off with that quite common pairing of Buried Alive>Poor Heart to get everyone moving and this marks the ninth time (of 13 Buried Alive performances this tour) where the two songs have been paired thusly. They keep things up for a fast pace run through Foam and a buoyant Bouncin’ before heading into a somewhat extended and quite energetic take on Divided Sky. Fish comes out for the washboard solo on the ensuing I Didn’t Know which also includes a vocal jam breakdown at the end after the “Pardon me, Doug” lines. Next up is a bit of an uneven It’s Ice that leads to a kinda shaky (and definitely non-FMS) Sparkle before they crank up the Maze you could have seen coming a mile away (which really isn’t that far off to notice something if we are being totally honest here). This one isn’t the biggest jam or cleanest execution of the tune but it rocks pretty hard which is always nice. A rote Golgi closer brings us to the break where we can all start wondering whether there is any real meat to be found in that set that just occurred.
I mean, sure, it is a set of Phish and that is great but I’m not recommending anyone rush to go spin this one. There aren’t even any unique highlights to call out which might suit your fancy. It is pretty much a bunch of warm up tunes and rockers to get everyone loose on a Friday night. Which is fine and all, but not really what will keep us all engaged and coming back for more if that was the way things are normally. So it is nice to know that this type of set is actually somewhat atypical even in this pre-massive-jams period of the band’s history. Okay, enough on that.
Perhaps the band sensed that they weren’t really connecting in that first frame since they came out with some extra sauce for the second set, starting with a punchy Jim that included a Simpsons signal in the start of the jam section. After a couple of standard fare tunes (Sample, Uncle Pen) we have a shreddy Llama to really kick things up a notch. They cool it down a bit with Horse>Silent (Trey on acoustic in the Horse, of course) and then crank it right back up for the start of Mike’s. Once they get to the jam here we have some almost-but-not-quite DEG playing out of Trey though in this case it is a bit more frenzied and off the rails. After the expected Hydrogen we get the show’s highlight and main takeaway in a Weekapaug that really needs to be heard to be understood. They depart the main theme of the song fairly quickly, heading to some avant garde waters, throwing in a Random Note SL call, and eventually even giving a shoutout to Tela in the breakdown section before the final return to the Paug theme. This is a great example of the band taking this song OUT and really stretching their legs, something they didn’t do as frequently back then. It shows where the band is headed more than anything which is pretty freaking neat.
After that wonderful music happened they provide a great breather in Lizards before dropping their balls all over the crowd… hang on, that sounds a bit blue. They played Big Ball Jam. That’s it. Nothing dirty here, folks. Next up is Fish Fun Time and tonight we get the fourth Bike of this tour, complete with a lovely vac solo from Henrietta Tubman. Chalkdust rocks the closer spot tonight before the Grace, Rocky Top encore (fourth time these two have been paired in the encore this tour) sends everyone off into the night to plan for the border crossing ahead of tomorrow night’s show in America’s Hat.
I mentioned above that this show is a tale of two sets and I think it is clear to see what I mean by that. They never fully connect in the first frame, throwing rocker after rocker out there and just generally working their way through tunes with nothing special going down. There is nothing wrong with this — some of the best received sets in the band’s career are full of straight ahead energy-inducing rock songs — but it isn’t what most people point to when they talk about their favorite shows. “Yeah, man, they played like seven straight tunes that were almost exactly like the last time they played it and then did three more the same way. It was the best!” is something no Phish fan has ever uttered. The fact that the second set here is so different points this out even more considering Jim has some extra stank on it, Llama spits hot fire, Mike’s gets a bit of the treatment, and then Paug just punches through to another level entirely. I’ve said it before that a set like this won’t hit the ‘best of’ lists for any fan who didn’t find god in a microdot that night but they elevated this thing to a point where listening to the two sets together you have to wonder how the post-first-set conversation between band members went down (this was well before they swore off over-analyzing their performance in the moment). It is a fun question to think about and one that doesn’t have any repercussions in the asking. Your takeaways from this night are pretty much what I just detailed: Jim, Llama (if you like concise shreddy versions), the entire Mike’s Groove (but definitely the Weekapaug if nothing else from this show), and perhaps the CDT closer (again with the shreddy thing).
Next is that one Canadian show of this leg of tour (there is a pair of shows in Toronto and Montreal towards the end of the final leg…) and then Seattle for the last one out west.