And I Know I Play A Bad Guitar – Champaign, IL 11.08.1996

Phish — Assembly Hall, University of Illinois — Champaign, IL 11.08.1996

I  Jim, Axilla>ATR>Mound, Disease>Caspian, Reba, Golgi, Lope

II  2001>Maze, Bouncin’>Simple, Cup, Mike’s, SSB, Paug

E  Theme


Leaving The South behind after their stellar night in Lexington (though really, is Kentucky the South? or perhaps the lower Midwest? West Appalachia? Sure, it is south of the Ohio River – not that that is a designation point or anything – but it borders four Midwest states and but three southern states. I’m pretty sure they eventually sided with the Union in the Civil War too… maybe I should just accept it and move on? yes? okay!) Phish descended upon the college town of Champaign, IL for a one night stop as Assembly Hall, the on campus multi-use venue most associated with the Fighting Illini basketball team. This would be the band’s second visit to Assembly Hall and third visit to Champaign altogether as they first played here waaaaaay back on 10.03.1991 at Mabel’s. Check out the unusual Coil ending as they segue to Tweezer. The next time they came back to town was 10.22.1995 for their first show at Assembly Hall, supposedly the 1000th show in band history (according to some resources). Check out the Possum->Catapult and Tweezer->Makisupa if nothing else here. So the next visit would be our show here on Fall 96 Tour, one full of gusto and highlights as they began their assault of the Midwest.


Things start out in a familiar way with the fifth Runaway Jim of the tour – also the third Jim opener already, making it the most common opener in these seventeen shows. Actually, before we even get to that Trey drops a bit of the “whistle wah” tone (that’s the name I’m going with until someone can give me something better) we were introduced to in the Lexington Weigh and YEM. While it doesn’t show up in the Jim it will be all over the place throughout this night. So the Jim is nice enough with Trey playing a bit of staccato/plinko lead to accompany Mike and Fish’s punchy rhythm but they wrap it up after a few minutes and move into the tour debut of Axilla. At this point it had been 170 shows since the last one and it shows a tad even if some of the issues here are with Trey’s guitar more than anything (another thing we will come back to here). It is still good to hear this song though and I always appreciated when they used the Axilla II ending as they do here. This allows them to slide right into another bustout, All Things Reconsidered, our friend from Spring 93 which hadn’t been played in 108 shows at this point. The faithful rendition drops right into a funky but straight forward Mound and then we get our first real meat of the evening as they start up Down With Disease. While firmly an in the box first set type version, Trey goes off in that wonderful way, shredding big until they drop down to transition into a decent enough Prince Caspian. Following our date with Fuckerpants they visit our gal Reba to the delight of all in attendance (I know I was psyched). After the composed section as they are heading into the jam Trey pulls out a couple more whistle wahs and Mike punctuates with the fight bell though admittedly this could have been Fish’s bell he used to have since I really can’t recall right now when the *tings* by Mike started popping up. This is the type of Reba that just begs you to groove along with it as Trey takes his time in building to the end peak and all involved do their share to elevate this one to that smile-inducing realm the most satisfying ones do. After a quick and rocking Golgi Apparatus they head into the set closing Run Like an Antelope, punctuating the set with the classic mind bending burst of energy that jam entails. It is pretty well straight forward stuff but rocks the heck out in getting everyone pumped for the “fifteen minute break” to come. So we sit there with our stopwatches, fully expecting the lights to drop when that minute hand clicks over after fifteen extremely long minutes before it dawns on our addled heads that perhaps it would not really be fifteen minutes.


Now a bit more grounded after a swig of a friend’s coke (or pepsi, no idea what the served there then)  and perhaps a smoke if that was your thing back then (it was pretty common, after all) the lights do finally drop. Possibly knowing that we all wanted to get down from the get down in this one they drop into 2001, giving us a brief taste of what is to come with this song in coming months as they start to really stretch it into the groove monster it was for a few years there. Still, it serves its purpose here in waking us up from setbreak slumber and before you know it they are into a rip roaring Maze. Quite simply, Trey shreds the shit out of this one with Page having a bit of fun in his solo as well. This isn’t quite to the level of that Pittsburgh Maze earlier in the tour but there’s nothing to complain about here either. They counterpoint this with Bouncin’ Around The Room providing the happy music in the wake of the deep dark Maze that preceded it. Next up we get the jam highlight you came here for, one of those big time Fall 96 Simples that they write poems about. They do that, right? After working through the song and standard first solo Trey drops over to the mini-kit, adding pop to the backing rhythm for Page’s piano stylings. Trey is adding effects with his pedals and such, giving us a little whistle wah and more. Hey wait one second…  Now I am not so sure who initiates the whistle wah as when it comes up in the video (see the link a bit further down) Trey is on the mini-kit and doesn’t appear to make a move towards a pedal or anything but there it is – and Page is going nuts on the piano right then so I’m fairly certain it wasn’t him either. Dagnabit, that’s a world-view-altering question I need answered now. So anyone want to tell me who DOES play the whistle wah tone???


Now back to the jam… Page runs the show in this first part of the jam, first on the piano and then the Moog and electric organ all while Fish, Mike, and Trey add varied sounds to the mix. Trey then starts up some elongated, almost dissonant lines on the guitar as Page moves to a more percussive mode of playing which eventually evolves into Trey taking the reins to lead out into a high powered section  of guitar-led rawk. This section feels like it should head up to a massive peak but then you can tell something isn’t quite right with Trey’s playing as he seems to go in and out a bit as they move into a different space. I can tell you that he was literally kicking an amp up there, somewhat faux angrily playing at wanting to destroy the thing in frustration. You can see all of that in the last two minutes or so of this video (I know the quality is crappy but think about the source and the intervening years of tape degradation involved, mister 4K vid snob) of this wonderful jam which also shows off that it was Gold Shirt Night for Trey yet again that night. The thing about it is that Trey really does still pull off some nice stuff here which makes you wonder what could have been had he not been fighting with his rig there.


Right as they finish up the Simple Trey banters a little about how “you have to kick it sometimes, you know?” and then they head right into Loving Cup with fingers pressed firmly against the side of their noses. The “bad guitar” line definitely held a bit more weight and humor after all that. And while this isn’t exactly an epic Cup like, oh, I don’t know, the one from Indio in 2009 Trey does shred this with a bit more gusto than what is typical for the song. Now back on it, they start into Mike’s Song for what will clearly be the set closing Groove. They dive quickly into the chugging first jam with Trey accenting it with more wah’d out fills than we’ve heard from him in this song up to this point. They don’t sit here very long though as after only a couple of minutes we move into second jam territory with Trey hopping on the mini-kit for a bit to let Page play around as his sustain loop drones on behind. There are several whistle wahs here to accompany the percussion which may be indicative of it really being Trey who hits it, though I still don’t have video proof of that… yet. Anyway, they bring things down to a very sparse place, giving the crowd the chance to offer some positive feedback before they stop altogether and walk out front to get into a cappella mode. Trey give a little banter of thanks and about this being practice for their upcoming performance before the upcoming Minnesota Timberwolves game (adding in the jibe “those of you who have a tv”). Obviously, this gives us the Star Spangled Banner (an interesting Mike’s Groove filler to be certain) and then they return to their respective places to start up Weekapaug Groove. But something isn’t seemingly going right here as Mike is playing those big intros notes without anything really coming out of his amps until all of a sudden ALL THE NOTES come out at once in this wild cacophony of Paug noise. I’m pretty certain he forgot to turn off his delay pedal or something but whatever. It was a wild effect live and somewhat holds up on tape. Now we are off into the feel good vibes of Paug for a rocking close to the set. All told that’s a really fun setlist and it comes off quite well upon relisten as well. The encore tonight is Theme from the Bottom (after a whistle wah at the start to keep that going) and while nice and soaring — I will not comment on the clapping some fans did here (or in the Reba…) — it stays at home and the next thing you know we are filing out to head to the lots and figure out how long we need to screw around there before one of us is brave enough to take the wheel for the  almost 400 mile drive up and over to Auburn Hills. Thankfully for me, my family lived along that path so we had a stopping point for the night and to recharge before the next night’s fun but for a lot of people that would have been yet another in a long line of potentially harrowing drives on the highways and byways of this great nation.


Upon reflection, this show is one of those ones that is perhaps a bit better than it looks on paper — even if it looks pretty good there! Taking the equipment issues Trey experienced out of the equation (and honestly, they really aren’t too noticeable on tape anyway) you have a first set with a couple of bustouts, a few nice jams, and some great energy throughout. When your one ‘slow song’ for the set is a power ballad like Caspian that bodes well. Then they really amp things up for a second set that has no lulls unless you aren’t a fan of patriotic a cappella tunes. This is just an overall solid Friday night of fun in a college town which can lead to some pretty memorable evenings, quite frankly. Your highlights here are Reba, Maze, and Simple with second tier entry being Mike’s Song. I’d spin this whole show if I was you but if not you could also check out Disease, Lope, and perhaps Theme and have yourself a nifty playlist of highlights. Now we are on to the Michigan portion of the tour before that night off date with NBA destiny.

We’re All In The Bathtub Now – Lexington, KY 11.07.1996

Phish — Rupp Arena — Lexington, KY 11.07.1996

I  CDT, Weigh>Rift>Guelah, Stash, Waste, Guyute, Free>Tela, Zero

II  Suzy>Gin->HYHU>Bike>HYHU, YEM

E  Frankenstein


Every once in a while there will come a point on a tour when the band has “one of  those nights”. For many bands, this might have a negative connotation, as “one of those nights” could mean the lead singer is off his ‘meds’ again (or back on them…), the musicians are actively fighting each other on stage (possibly related to the meds thing), the PA or other gear didn’t cooperate, or they run up against an unruly crowd that really just wants to tear shit apart and has no time for whatever drivel is being poured into their ear holes. For Phish, “one of those nights” usually refers to a show we now treat as canon be it for seamlessly strung together segues, massive bustouts, or big time legendary jams that are known as much by their phish portmanteau or venue moniker as any other way of denoting them. These often take place in ‘skip show’ locales or on odd nights of the week or in other seemingly innocent circumstances as the band has made a habit of not really coming up really big when the fans expect it but then smacking us upside the head with a total smoke show somewhere else just to keep us honest. It can be annoying trying to figure out where the real heaters will drop but I suppose that’s why the adage of the ‘next show is the best show’ rings so true… With all this in mind, it was then that on Thursday, November 7th, 1996 the band came to Lexington, Kentucky for the first (and final) time and by the time they left the stage one of those nights had happened once more.


But before we get to the music from this night we need to do our thing about reflecting back. If this is a feature you really aren’t into then you are in luck because along with this singular performance in Lexington the band has only ever visited Kentucky four other times (to play a show, of course. I know not of whether they have ever vacationed there or otherwise passed through the Bluegrass State). All four of those visits were to Louisville with the first being on 04.16.1993 at the McCauley Theatre. Note that while all Phish literature refers to the theatre by this name it is really the Brown Theatre that the band had played considering that the original Macauley’s Theatre was razed in 1925 which is also the timing of when the Brown Theatre opened. The confusion lies in the fact that after renovations in 1971 and a sale to the Louisville Board of Education that theater was renamed Macauley’s Theatre which persisted until a new infusion of funds and acquisition by the Louisville Fund for the Arts in 1997 with the re-christening of the venue as the W.L.Lyons Brown Theatre when it reopened in 1998. Waaaaaaay more than you cared to know about that but this is a venue with two pretty solid Phish shows having occurred inside so there.


That first one sits in an interesting period of Phish’s upward trajectory, being part of the second leg of the Spring ’93 tour when they were fully into breaking new ‘speed jazz’ ground in their jamming style which shows up clearly in the Weekapaug Groove. There’s a bunch of teases, some banter, and a fun Free Bird-tinged Gumbo in the encore. Listen in Mike’s for a bit of what would become Simple less than a year from this show. About four months later Phish was back here during that fantastic month of August ’93 to drop a classic show on 08.15.1993 that you should really spin straight through but just in case you cannot do that please do check out the fantastic Stash, Tweezer, and Hood from this show (check out the wild Mockingbird story and performance too if you can). A little more than a year later Phish returned at the larger Palace Theatre, playing a show on 10.10.1994  which is best known for the quite type II Tweezer but also has a banjo sit-in by Steve Cooley and more of the solid greatness of Fall ’94. Then on 10.29.1995 they played Louisville for the final time at the now gone Louisville Gardens arena for a pre-Halloween show full of wonderfully dark jamming and the playfulness of a band on top of their game and messing with everyone’s heads in the lead up to the big night up in Chicago a couple of nights later. Listen for ‘Beat It’ teases and check out a big time Melt, a demonic Bowie, a quite fun Ice->Kung->Ice, and the only performance of Shaggy Dog between the bustout after 450 shows on 05.06.1992 until it came back 574 shows after this night on 06.22.2012. And that’s it for Kentucky! Now on to the last time they have played here…


Here in the sixteenth show of the tour the band is firing on all cylinders and from the opening notes of Chalkdust Torture you can tell they are raring to go. They run through this one quickly, rocking it out and getting everyone moving as the song tends to do. They follow this with the tour debut (something we will see more of tonight) of Weigh, playing it pretty straight though if you listen closely you might catch a bit of Trey using his wah pedal in a way you don’t normally get with this song. This will be important later. This segues into a ripping version of Rift which then goes right into Guelah Papyrus. The execution here is a tad sloppy but works out in the end and then we get our first jam potential on the night with Stash. There is nothing revealing here but the T&R build is fine enough in getting through. Continuing to vacillate the pace with song choices (similar to the prior night’s show) we get Waste for the first (and only) true ballad of the show. Now headed back from the bathrooms you get to hear the telltale intro to the tour debut of Guyute giving you the chance to either dive in and throw down with the other pig heads or maybe walk a bit and grab a snack if you and your head will allow it. This is played well if predictably and then we get the bombast of Free to keep the rocking going. As with Stash this is fine enough but no new ground is covered and then we are into Tela for yet another tour debut. Trey really goes off in the end solo here, nailing all those notes in bringing it to its satisfying peak. A crunchy yet contained Character Zero wraps things up for the first set and now you and your friends start to wonder what big jam highlight you might get in the second set. I mean, the last few shows had pretty average first sets coupled with some major second set jams so you had to think the pattern would hold… right?


I won’t just leave that question hanging. With the benefit of hindsight, if you saw that second set list above these days you’d be screaming and hollering and tweeting and anything else you could to express your whatthefuckery about it until you got your hands on the tapes to hear it yourself. Excepting the rare mechanical-issue-shortened set, they simply did not play four song sets back in this era (I don’t count HYHU, yo.) – not that they do much of it now either. Yeah, there’s stuff like the Fleezer set but that and the few others like it were considered to be so rare as to not be something you would ever see again. Heck, even the Tahoe Tweezer set with its 36 minute Tweezer has six songs. So when this setlist came out – and remember this is in the time when except for the most widely circulated tapes you had to sometimes wait months to hear a show – people went nuts. I wrote the dang thing down that night and spent pretty much the entirety of the drive to Champaign the next day looking at it and alternately laughing or shaking my head. And the great thing is that it isn’t some gimmicky or overly unapproachable abstract “music” that they play here (no comment on vac solos and their relative abstraction, thank you very much). It isn’t even as if they dove deep hard and fast, heck they opened up with Suzy Greenberg of all songs! But that Suzy gets a bit of extra mustard when Trey hops on the mini-kit for a bit to let Page take an even longer solo, showing that from the start this set is not about keep with the norm.


The next song, Bathtub Gin, starts up and you are thinking, “oh, nice… I really like when they play this as a second set vehicle. I hope they have some fun here!” which pretty much becomes quite the understated expectation as we move along. I say that because pretty much as soon as the finish up the lyrics and head into the jam (around the five minute mark of that lovely remaster I linked there) Trey moves away from the Gin theme immediately. Over the next several minutes he will continually come back to Gin to stir the pot but the lead here is melodic and forward-moving as Trey offers up several different ideas over the groove set up by the rest of the band. He soars with Page pounding away on the baby grand, evoking Gin while also being completely new music. At various times his leads seem to hint at a variety of teases (I swear at one point he is playing the melody to Bad Company’s Silver, Blue, and Gold – the “don’t forsake me cuz I love you” bit), none of them necessarily overt, but in the end it is all heading up to the end peak you know is coming sooner rather than later. But you’re wrong! The peak never resolves (this is a good thing) and then Trey moves over to the mini-kit, allowing Page to take charge in the second phase of the jam. He plays around with all of his toys, offering up a pastiche of various keyboard sounds as Mike offers up his own ideas to counterpoint Page’s playing. They ride this percussive pocket for several minutes with Page in charge then eventually Trey moves back over to guitar as the band starts to head yet again to the end peak. The band is far afield from Gin at this stage and the jam gets bigger in that way that some of the best ones do, flowing into a rocking section that feels like it could fall right into Reprise at any point. It also feels like it could become 2001 or even the bustout of The Real Me, the one time partner with Gin back on 12.29.1995. Once more they forego the obvious peak to stay in this raging groove and go to what we would now expect to be transtion, dropping down a section first denoted by the odd loops Trey sets. Then he and Page hit on a repeating phrase that has the uneasy feel of a Buried Alive jam of sorts, adding tension to the jam. Even with some cadence changes by Fish Trey persists until finally relenting as Mike leads into an eerie place. You know they are moving on again but it isn’t plainly clear which direction they will go next. Will it be another section in this masterful jam? Maybe the eventual move back to Gin to wrap this up with a bow?


No, instead we head to Hold Your Head Up, signalling Fish Fun Time for only the third time this tour (I think my memory is right there). The Fish tune tonight is the tour debut of the Syd Barrett classic Bike, allowing Fish to do his thing while also providing the breather everyone needed after the nearly 35 minute non-stop start to this set. As an aside, I can tell you that by the time they started up Bike I was personally just giggling in awe of what had just happened. The tapes tell the tale but live that was something other worldly to behold. Following Bike Trey gives a little banter about their boy Norton Charleston Heston and then they start up You Enjoy Myself to the delight of the crowd. After that Gin you have to think they will take it a bit easy here and maybe set this up to lead into the eventual set closer. And that is reasonable thinking but remember, this is one of those nights so things like reasonableness aren’t really applicable. The pre-Nirvana build is nailed and all through the Nirvana phase they kill it just adding more to the anticipation of the explosion to come. The crowd senses it too, almost begging the band to get to the “Boy!” line and once they do a full-on dance party breaks out. Trey lets the Phish funk ooze out here, adding some wah’d out accents behind the organ and bass as they work through the Uffizi lines and then once they go to the jam it is a funk jam not like previous versions of the song. After the trampoline section Trey lays back to let Page continue on the organ, opting for sparse rhythm fills that are heavy on the wah pedal. Mike solos here a bit, Page plays a ‘wobbly’ synth line and Trey eventually hits a tone you should start to get used to because we will hear it a bunch from here on out this tour. Listen around the 13:15 mark at the point where they do a little stop/start action and you will hear it. As far as I know this is the first time he has ever done this but from this point forward it pops up in at least one jam in pretty much every show. They ride the groove pocket for a bit more, giving the kids the chance to shake their bones some more and then Trey climbs the mountain, riding a lead line that isn’t too far off from Quantegy (albeit at a faster pace here) if you recall that odd ditty from his first solo album which would come out a couple of years from this night. That doesn’t last long though as he takes the lead to the peak but rather than going full to it and dropping out for the D&B he comes back to a chugging riff, allowing Mike and Fish to come in more organically as he eventually drops out. This D&B is pure gravy to the point where the crowd starts clapping along, giving Mike time to get out there for a bit after riding the groove pretty much all night. Eventually we get the obligatory VJ (it’s a pretty interesting one, to be honest and the crowd is with the band the entire time) and then they depart, having just dropped a four song set and two jams of 27+ minutes EACH in this wonderful set. I still recall looking at my watch as the VJ started wondering how it got so late so quick. I love that feeling. So they come back out for the encore, tear up Frankenstein, and leave us all there wondering how we will be able to leave the venue much less gather our marbles to hit the road on the path to the next show. Let’s just say we weren’t exactly in a rush to get out of there that night.


I think it is pretty clear that this is a show that I consider to be a pretty big night in my personal Phish life. The first set is, admittedly, largely average but not bad by any means. But once you get into that second set you can plainly hear that something is up even from the start. They have some playful banter and then just dive into a set that has but one moment for breath in the hilarity of Fish Fun Time. The Gin that they play here is not the first time they have gone deep with the song – far from it! – but the way they stick with it and never bail after shifting into at least four different phases of the jam is quite important. I believe that this jam doesn’t happen before RiL and certainly without having had Perazzo help them out with getting comfortable in the groove space. At no time does the jam feel rushed or as if they are looking to bail. They simply try out various ideas all while keeping that pocket moving forward. Sure, there are other Gins that I tend to spin more frequently but this is canon. This is a Gin that is so revered it is known by the venue in which it was played. Say “The Rupp Gin” to any fan who knows their Phish and you will immediately get praise and adulation for this piece of music. That’s not to say it has to be your favorite or that it is the “best” (whatever that means) but that it is so iconic as to really need no further introduction than by name. And then in its wake you have an absolute throw down of a YEM, one that gives us a glimpse of the proto-cowfunk already being worked out on stage by the band here just a few shows after their first big adventure in groove on Halloween. That YEM is completely undersold (probably due to the Gin, of course) and really deserves so much more praise than it gets. I have really been looking forward to writing this review since the tour started for me and now that I am here I am even more excited about having had the opportunity to spin this gem again and again to really get to the core of it. This is a wonderful high point in this tour but that takes nothing away from the great stuff we have already heard — and for what is yet to come. So let’s wrap things up by saying that your takeaways are the entire second set on this night (I’m throwing the HYHU>Bike>HYHU in there because it really just fits so well in the context of the set). And let’s revel in the fact that there are still so many great jams to come… starting with the next night in Champaign!




Since I am also posting this on what happens to be an important day in Phishtory (Fish’s birthday) I’d be remiss to not at least mention it. Happy 51st to my partner in February 19th birthdays, Mr. Norton Charleston Heston, Henrietta, the tiny beast boy, Tubbs, Moses DeWitt, the octopus, John Fishman. Here’s to many more for our favorite oddball, mumu-wearing beat monster.

Much Ado Is All I See – Knoxville, TN 11.06.1996

Phish — Knoxville Civic Coliseum — Knoxville, TN 11.06.1996

I  Melt, CTB, FEFY, Taste, Train Song, Poor Heart, PYITE, Billy Breathes, Bowie

II  Wilson, Curtain>Mike’s->Swept Away>Steep>Paug, Mule, Sample>Funky Bitch

E  Rocky Top


Heading north from their quick dip into Florida, Phish took two days off before playing again in Knoxville, TN. By this time the band were no strangers to Tennessee having played 14 shows in the state (the total is now up to 25 shows making this state tied for 19th most played by the band). The first time they came to the state in Spring 1991 they hit up this college town of Knoxville first, playing 02.27.1991 at Arnold’s Flamingo Grill (or Flamingo Cafe depending where you check). There are no known recordings for this one, unfortunately. The next time Phish came here was on the eve of the classic Roxy Run in Atlanta, playing a solid (if water logged…) show at the Electric Ballroom we have covered here previously. Check out the Tweezer->Foam, Reba, a tease-filled Antelope, and more from this fun show. They returned later that year on 07.29.1993 for a show at the Tennessee Theatre on the eve of the epic month we got that summer. There’s a punchy Possum, a rocking YEM, a great Mockingbird narration, an unusual Maze intro and jam, an extended (!) Bouncin’ outro, and more (like Trey and Mike on the exercise gliders for Ice – check around the 2:25 mark of this video for an example of that if you aren’t familiar) of that frenetic Summer ’93 greatness in this one. They came back only one time in 1994 for their first visit to the Knoxville Civic Auditorium/Coliseum facility, performing in the smaller Auditorium venue on 04.25.1994. This one has a ripping Jim, one of those awesome Fee->Foam combos from that time period, and a big time Melt all in the first set along with a super shred Antelope (with Layla teases) anchoring the second set. They returned once more on 11.28.1995, a solid show with one of only seven Stash openers ever (out of 401 performances of the song), a tease-tinged Suzy, and the lone performance (by Fish) of Wind Beneath My Wings as a dedication to his hero Col. Bruce Hampton (who sat on side stage reading a newspaper during the song). There are some bits of this show that appear in the Col. Bruce documentary Basically Frightened: The Musical Madness of Colonel Bruce Hampton. That doc is well worth your time if you dig the Colonel or any of the myriad of musicians he has influenced. Like Phish.


So now they were back once more to the venue where Randy Rhoads played his last concert (March 18, 1982) before his tragic and frankly pretty stupid death in a small plane crash where he joined the tour bus driver and the band’s seamstress for a stolen plane joy ride that ended in a fiery crash due to them deciding it was a good idea to buzz the tour bus where Ozzy and others lie sleeping. This show was personally my first since Pittsburgh and the start to a nice six show run in eight days for me (and the band and other people, I suppose). Getting down to business from the start, Phish starts tonight with the quite rare Split Open and Melt as there are only nine such show openers in the 306 times the song has been played (with an additional 12 2nd set opening versions). The jam here is nice enough, albeit a bit brief for my tastes, and includes some In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida phrasing and teasing by Trey, something we heard in the prior version from Charlotte as well. I’ll just say right now that if they want to start opening more shows with Melt I will not be complaining. It sets the mood much better than most of the more straight up rocker options. Page gets the turn to work some stuff out in the subsequent Cars Trucks Buses, getting the boogie machine rolling for all who care to hop on board. Following CTB they bring it down a bit for the tour debut of Fast Enough For You, that tender relationship ballad from Rift full of singular lines that always seemed to end up in the doodle section of your classroom notebooks when thoughts went a-wanderin’ during a boring lecture. This leads to Taste, already the 8th performance of the song in just fifteen shows. The outro jam here is pretty straight forward and brief but serves its purpose in this set, providing a counter point to the two ballads that sandwich it tonight.


That latter ballad is Train Song and after the travelogue ditty they crank into Poor Heart to ramp the energy up. Poor Heart leads to a rocking Punch You In The Eye and then we are back to ballad land for Billy Breathes. At this point you kinda have to wonder what is up with the pace tonight considering the set has had three ballads which all seem to mess with the overall flow a bit. My memory of this in person was that we were all saying “c’mon, guys!” a bit in hopes they would blow things up and once through Billy Breathes they do exactly that by setting up a loopy intro to the set closing David Bowie. The jam in Bowie starts out in a patient way, perhaps a result of the carry over from the set that precedes it. This version is pretty straight forward thematically but they take it out for a nice ‘type I’ ride, establishing some solid T&R along the way to the satisfying peak and resolution. This laid back set allows one (during the “fifteen minute” setbreak) to cordially debate the merits of Peyton Manning as a leader, quality upstanding man, and quarterback with any of the hundreds of completely reasonable Tennessee football fans in attendance and if you take the first half of this sentence at face value you really don’t know much about college football in the South. I’m not saying anything about Mr. Manning, just that UT fans are straight crazy pants nuts. And I say that as a vehement defender of my own team who have never been anything but the most perfect gentlemen and symbols of the innocence of the game.


As if to speak to that insane line of thinking, Trey comes out and starts up Wilson, a tune about a wonderful leader of men who maybe got a bad rap due to some scandalous press by the opposing party. I mean, maybe he really did what was in the best interest of those Lizards and they just haven’t had enough time to see that. They say history is written by the victors (well, lots of people say that anyway even if it isn’t always the case) so maybe once they overthrew him and cancelled all of the great programs he had instituted to keep them from doing things smart people don’t do they rewrote all of their history to make him out to be the bad guy. Why else would they keep imploring you to read their book if not to get you to buy into their propoganda?? I’m tellin’ ya, man. Trey’s in on it too. You think he didn’t get some kind of kickback from the Lizard lobbyists for telling the tale the way they wanted it? I’m guessing he got taken care of pretty well…


Where was I? Oh, right, Knoxville and the start to the second set. So after Wilson they punch through into The Curtain, offering up a sort of double opener pairing. Here in its With(out) form as it was in that era (and honestly, most of us really didn’t even know or at least concern ourselves with With since it had been over eight years at this stage since they had last played With) and as always it offers up a great lead-in to whatever vehicle they had up in the rotation that night (except for the eleven times they did Curtain>Sample which, c’mon, what the hell, Trey?). Here in Knoxville that led to Mike’s Song and this one continues the upward trend of awesome for this song on the tour. The first jam starts out super crunchy and a bit plodding as they all seem to feel each other out to see who will take charge. Trey plays with a couple of descending lines before starting up his lead, toying around the main theme of the song. This goes along for several minutes with the band picking up steam along the way as Trey makes those open-mouth-o-face motions to accompany his playing. He eventually comes back around to the Mike’s riff but instead of moving out to the next song in this groove they drop into a dissonant space to begin the second jam. Mike is on top here, offering up the main lead while Page adds in glitchy electro fills to accompany his organ. Trey is on the mini-kit here, giving Page and Mike room to play for several minutes and helping Fish to build the pocket. They clear out the noise around the 5:45 mark (of the second jam. this is about 16 minutes into the Mike’s proper) and Trey moves back to guitar for some heavy wah fill action. Things fall into a bit of a groove pocket jam here for the next few minutes without a true lead being played, showing a pretty conscious effort by the band to not get in front of themselves here. Over the last minute or two it loses focus as you can tell they are all kind of waiting for the next thing to happen but just before the transition Mike does offer up a little more and then we are out into Swept Away>Steep territory. This is the second time this tour that they have played this as the filler in the Mike’s Groove sandwich and I’ll say again that I am a fan of it. Tonight this makes for the only ballad space in the second set and following the Pink Floydish scream bit at the end we are right back to dance party time for Weekapaug Groove. This one stays at home in the song but they elevate the jam to allow Trey to straight GO OFF heading to the end peak in that way that has you hootin’ and hollerin’ and fist pumpin’ and shouting out “yeah!” with each round of notes. You know the feeling I mean.


So after that really fun Mike’s Groove you know we probably only have a few tunes left with maybe one of them being a vehicle of some sort. They start into Scent of a Mule which lets you know it is probably this and then heading to the closer after a song or two so you settle in for the always odd and sometimes interesting spacegrass tale of aliens, farm animals, and lemonade. The song goes as it does and then we get more of a ‘real’ jam than what is typical as first Page take his turn on piano, Fish joins on woodblocks, then Trey leads on guitar (with the vocal scat thing), then Page with Mike, then everyone comes back and finally we are on to the normal klezmer finish (with Mike really drawing out the “well”) and return to song. I am not going to get into the habit of breaking down every Mule jam but that one was at least interesting in how they structured it all. Following Sample in a Jar we do get that set closer we knew was on its way, tonight in the form of Funky Bitch. It is a rocking version (page on the organ in particular) but mainly serves to cap the set with energy. Then, being that we are in Tennessee we get Rocky Top to encore because of course we do.


This show is a decent enough Wednesday night show in a college town. You get some interesting setlist construction what with the Melt opener and the up and down tempo of the first set and then a solid grouping of songs making up the majority of the second set before it goes cold at the end. The takeaways from this one are a bit light (Mike’s is the only sure fire one but Melt, Paug, and the Mule if you are really feeling generous make for a nice little list) but the energy is high and there are signs that bigger things are on their way (they are). Best thing to do here is take what we came for and rest up for the next night in Lexington where along with a few tour debuts we will get a quite memorable jam to discuss and debate with regards to its all time placement.

What You Strive to Condone – Gainesville, FL 11.03.1996

Phish — O’Connell Center, University of Florida — Gainesville, FL 11.03.1996

I  MFMF, Jim, Billy Breathes, Sloth, NICU>Sample, Theme, Bouncin’, Zero

II Timber>Divided, Wolfman’s Brother, Sparkle>Tweezer, Life on Mars?, Possum>Reprise

E  Fire


On the night following their last (to date) visit to West Palm Beach, FL Phish stopped in to the college town of Gainesville, FL as they made their way north towards the start of the Midwest Run (by way of a pair of shows in Tennessee and Kentucky, of course). The home to the University of Florida, this town had seen Phish perform here twice prior, first on 02.27.1993 at the Florida Theatre in a show we have covered here previously and again on 11.13.1995 at the O’Connell Center. That former show is good for the raging hot Antelope, a playful Stash, and more of the solid Spring ’93 sound as well as being the “Pre Techno Rave gig” since the band and crew were quickly ushered out of the venue that night to make way for the rave going down there later that night. The latter show is a classic that really should be in your Fall ’95 vocabulary already though admittedly it can get lost between the Atlanta run that preceded it and the legendary 11.14.1995 show from Orlando which followed it. If you aren’t familiar, at least check out the Reba, Tweezer, and Possum from this one as all are worth it. Back to 1996, this show (again from the O’Connell Center which is home to several UF sports along with concerts and other events) would become the final time Phish has played in Gainesville as return trips to the state have gone to bigger cities and bigger venues in conjunction with the band’s rise in popularity.


The show starts out with My Friend My Friend, a song that can denote a particularly dark vibe to a set or show in being placed in this spot. In its 139 performances the song has opened 28 shows with an additional 10 second set opening versions and just one encore appearance ever on 04.29.1993. While not necessarily a sure fire indicator of hot stuff on the way (like My Soul openers, for example) it does set a certain tone to the proceedings. Tonight in the 2nd such show opening version of the tour they keep it contained and drop right from the maniacal yelling at the end to the start of Runaway Jim. Oddly enough, this is the only time these two songs have been paired thusly, something that seems impossible considering how frequently the two songs used to get played in the past. There have, however, been two times (05.05.1993 and 12.05.1997) when Jim gave way to MFMF with both times being full segues. The Jim here in Gainesville is straight forward stuff but with the added percussion and Trey putting a little extra stank on his end solo it gets a decent rise out of the crowd. A quick stop for an early set take on Billy Breathes precedes our second version of The Sloth this tour and here four songs in with but one song of any real substance you have to wonder what the point is of having Karl on board for the show. The hard edged song gives way to the bouncy NICU and those wondering existential thoughts about Karl’s role in the Phish universe at this moment are put to rest as he adds a playful tone to this already happy song. After they play Sample in a Jar we get our second opportunity to stretch a tad as Theme from the Bottom starts up. There is some nice work towards the peak out of Trey in this one and the added percussion is interesting but overall this is not a top tier version for your scrapbook. Keeping things light, the band next plays the predictable Bouncin’ Around the Room before a rambunctious Character Zero drives us home into the end of set. Looking back over your setlist scribblings once the lights come up you have to be wondering what gives here as the stage was set for another potentially great set what with Perazzo Phish engaged and a relatively clean slate of options after just one show since the night off after Halloween. There is nothing wrong with the playing but there are no risks taken AT ALL in this set with the only improvisation really taking place in brief patches of the Jim and Theme. It is a largely forgettable set that certainly had heads scratching at more than dry dready scalps.


So after the fifteen minute break (yeah right, Trey! LIAR!!) they come back out for the final set of Perazzo Phish and start up Timber Ho! for one of the 22 times the song has opened a second set in its 82 total performances. This version serves as table setting, never really going anywhere but including a decent bit of percussive jamming from the five. Next we get Divided Sky, a song I wouldn’t necessarily put into the category of songs that feel like a good match for extra percussion but once they get through The Pause (1:06 tonight for the timers in the audience) it is on as Trey nails his solo and the rhythm section plays with some serious pace in a version that feels a heck of a lot faster than it actually is. I was surprised by how much I liked this one but then Divided is one of those songs, isn’t it? You never really go into a show saying “hey, I would really love for them to play a 2nd set Divided tonight” but then they do and when they get to the end bit you are rocking out like there’s no tomorrow and everything is great and you have a vision of your future as Trey tears the song a new one and… okay, probably just me there. But I think you will find this version to be a good one made better by the added percussion. Wolfman’s Brother is up next for a quick run through the proto-funk stylings of the song before it became more of a groove vehicle. While not exploratory, this does serve to set the table for something yet to come in this set but it still feels like more could have gone down here. The race through a quick Sparkle following Wolfman’s and then segue into what we have all been waiting for: Tweezer with Perazzo.


With the potential that this song holds, bringing in the groove element on top of his percussive offerings just begs for a big jam to get thrown down here and that is exactly what we have. Pretty much right after the lyrics end they drop into a punchy groove pocket. Trey is patient here, letting the mood set as Karl drives the groove with his work on the congos. Page is comping along on piano and Trey comes in with some staccato leads that accent the groove. They are moving as one here as Trey starts to take a more active role in leading the way, playing drawn out notes evocative of the Tweezer theme. Around the 11:40 mark Page takes control a bit, soloing over groove as Trey sets a loop and hops on the mini kit. After a bit Trey comes back to the guitar and takes command, pushing the jam out of the comfortable groove as he builds towards the inevitable peak… which never materializes. Instead they head to the old school slow down ending, further showcasing that this is not your typical Phish anymore as they just took Tweezer for a 17 minute ride without ever really climbing the hill. Perhaps that is a revisionist statement as these days it seems most jams eventually head towards the resolution peak. That was pretty much true in this era too but in different ways, I believe. But this Tweezer wasn’t about resolution it was about catching the groove and playing around it in that way they didn’t do before RiL. I promise I won’t keep saying stuff like that with every new groove pocket jam but I think it is telling here as it was set up to go big towards a peak and they resisted and instead let it run its course without feeling the need to start up another song or force anything musically. New Trey could stand to learn something from old Trey in this regard.


After the Tweezer we get another one of those spot-on covers of Life On Mars? which works well as a bit of a cool down here (it is, admittedly, the slowest paced song of this set…) before they crank up Possum for start of the end of set proceedings. The only really notable thing here is that Trey for some reason decides to play some of the Chinacat->Rider transition in the intro section. That’s the only time I know of him doing that, like, ever (with Mike having a Chinacat tease in between Meatstick and Bug on 08.19.2012) so it is pretty odd for him to do it here with no seeming connection to anything in the set or then current affairs. Not that there would ever be a current affair that necessitates the band Phish teasing a tripper song by the Grateful Dead but you get my point. So Possum does what Possums do and then they jump right into the set closing Tweeprise you had already written down in your notebook and then we get our second Fire encore of the tour. Now, I am not saying they didn’t play a solid show here but I am one to side with the notion that certain encores come out for big time shows. Stuff like Monkey>Rocky Top or Monkey>Reprise, Bold as Love, Highway to Hell, and yes, Fire. I guess it works here to cap the PerazzoPhish run but in all honesty this show doesn’t elevate to the level that I would want in capping it with a raging Fire encore.


Maybe I am being too harsh here but I kind of feel that this show falls a bit flat except for that Tweezer jam. The takeaways are thin as well with it being pretty much the Divided and Tweezer and perhaps the Possum if you want to hear that brief tease. I’m just not hearing anything else worthy of inclusion in our ongoing list. This is probably all me as I really wanted the final Perazzo show to just explode with energy and big time jams and, frankly, it didn’t. It is a solid outing for a Sunday night show in a college town and there are some extremely huge things coming up quite shortly but it really felt like they missed an opportunity to take this one next level. But that is okay because at the end of the day Phish is not about the expected. So now we close the book on this chapter with the band having found a new playground to explore and still more than half of the tour left to go. On to Knoxville!

The Feeling Returns Whenever We Close Our Eyes – West Palm Beach, FL 11.02.1996

Phish — Coral Sky Amphitheater — West Palm Beach, FL 11.02.1996

I  Ya Mar, Julius, Fee->Taste, Cavern, Stash, Lizards, Free, JBG

II  C&P->Lope, Waste, Hood>ADITL, Adeline

E  Funky Bitch


After a long, late night spent celebrating one of the high holy days of the Phish calendar, the band dipped south first for a night off and then for the lone outdoor show of this Fall Tour in West Palm Beach, FL. This was the third (and seemingly last) time the band would play in this town, opting for larger venues and locales in the future. The first time they played here was during the 13th annual Sunfest on 04.28.1994, apparently as an alternative band scheduled to draw those hard to please college kids if this article is to be believed. After Phish’s one set performance here (there isn’t much meat to be found but it is a fun listen all the same) Trey sat in with Blues Traveler during their headliner set. Throw in a bunch of other bands like Los Lobos, Huey Lewis & the News, the Village People, and Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers and that’s not a bad day for an $8 advance ticket! The next year they came back to play the WPB Auditorium on 11.16.1995 for a show most memorable for the Butch Trucks sit-in during the 2nd set closing Possum (which included a brief jam on the ABB tune One Way Out along with Fish on trombone and Trey’s mini kit), the debut cover of Brown Eyed Girl for the encore (with Jimmy Buffett joining in, no less), a Timber with a bit o’ MLB (you gotta believe it is there to hear it), a solid Hood, and a little jam nugget background music during the new chess match’s initial moves. More than just background fluff, that sit-in theme in this town held true one more time for this classic show from 11.02.1996, one so good the band released it on dvd a few years back. It can also be heard in its sbd glory on spotify. I have found a few uploads from the DVD that I will sprinkle into the setlist breakdown as well.


After that night off following their massively successful Halloween show the band hit the stage on November 2nd (a date with its own long and often legendary history) for what would be their singular outdoor performance of the Fall 1996 Tour, something Trey mentions in a bit of banter in the first set. They are again joined on stage by Karl Perazzo for this show and get right to the matter at hand by dropping a Ya Mar that will have you looking for the waiter to order up some umbrella drinks. They ride the island groove for a bit here, daring you to not dance along to the beats. Julius rocks in next and while the added percussion doesn’t really do a whole lot here Trey does take some big time rocker leads which is pretty typical, particularly here in ’96. The three slot breath catcher tune tonight is Fee which oddly works well with Karl on board and in the aftermath we segue directly into Taste. Tonight’s is perhaps not quite as big as the first one Karl sat in for on 10.29.1996 but it is still quite good. This is one of the first ones that I directly recall hearing the overt WTU? theme being played by Trey but I might just have to go back to ones prior to listen a bit closer. It is one of those things that once you hear it you always do and in this version it sticks out big time. The ending of Taste is a bit different as when they come back for the final lovely bit they instead hit the chop chords a few more times, eventually shutting it down without much fanfare. Here is where we get a bit of Trey banter, first introducing Karl to the crowd and pointing out how awesome it is for him to be on stage with them and then mentioning the bit about this being the only outdoor show of the tour.


Next up is Cavern, a song I have a personally complicated relationship with considering it is somehow one of my most frequently seen songs and always ALWAYS seems to chase me but I will say that this is a quite fun version what with the added percussion and a bit of an extended ending as they work into the beginning of Stash. Stash tonight is all pretty much “in bounds” but there is a bit (starting around the 7:00 mark or so) where Trey starts a theme that persists throughout the balance of the song (with others chiming in) which feels like it is pulled from a James Bond soundtrack. It isn’t a direct reference but the feeling is there. This is followed by a solid run through The Lizards (another song that doesn’t seem to need extra percussion but it again works) and then a crunchy, percussive (obviously!) Free that stays at home but provides for some solid rocking out. After a bit more banter from Trey we are on to the closer, Johnny B Goode. This rocker wraps up a pretty fun if not necessarily exploratory first set which fits with what we have seen so far this tour. They are stretching out a bit more than perhaps they would what with Karl on board but there is a lot left in the tank here. So over the setbreak you have to be wondering what is in store, including whether they might bring back one of those groovy new Talking Heads covers from the other night…


Well, you would have a short wait for the answer to that question as they come out for the start of the second set and dive right into Crosseyed & Painless. I’ll just put this nice video of it right here so that you can follow along. I highly recommend it if nothing else to see Fish concentrating so hard on the beat and the lyrics all at the same time but be prepared because it ends before the transition point jam. Ready? Okay! So in this second ever take on the song they are positively giddy going in as Trey counts it off all while showing that big shit eating grin he gets sometimes. As an aside, that term is pretty weird when you think about it. Like, at what point did someone see enough people with that look to coin the term? Keep the coprophagia out of my idioms, thank you very much, sir. So they work through the composed bits of the song with fervor, offering up some energetic “woo” and general excitement as they head to the groove jam to follow. They set up a chugging groove here with Trey going off on top of the beat Fish and Perazzo lay down all while Page accents with effects and Mike thumps away. At about the ten minute mark they drop into a psych groove section with Trey moving over to the mini kit such that Page is doing the soloing here along with the effects he has set up. Trey moves back to the guitar after a few minutes and from here we enter a phase of loops, scratching noises, and all manner of wild stuff — all with that groove killing it in the back. Trey is even playing his mini-kit while adding to the fray with his guitar at one point. At about the time on the video where they show a shot of Karl looking a little perplexed about where this is all headed and with loops layering on top of one another Trey is back on the mini-kit as Page and Mike drive the groove and then Trey goes back to the guitar to scratch out some lines that complement all of the other crazy going on. This is by far one of the grooviest yet out there psychedelic Phish jams you could put together. Things seem to be cooling down a bit and then Mike heads into a DEG-like bassline prompting Trey to follow along with more overt DEG teases. The frenzy softens a bit and we get some “still waiting!” lines but various band member thrown into the ether as they appear to be headed towards transition space but the groove persists! Eventually Fish relents and they drop into the noisy transition space and after a bit more waiting we get the tell tale intro to Run Like An Antelope.


Before we get there though let’s talk about this Crosseyed jam. Up to this point we have never heard a jam like this from Phish. Sure, there have been a ton of big, open, wildly psychedelic jams. But never had the groove been there and never in that almost-off-the-rails-but-still-fully-in-control way that you get with this jam. And I never mentioned it before but there is no peak here, nothing to point to as the crux moment. It is just big time from the start until they move into setting up the move out to Antelope. This Crosseyed shows the immediate takeaway of a band looking for the “next thing” while also drawing greatly from what got them there. And that in a nutshell is the beauty of Phish. In each evolution, while they push forward into forging a new sound they never fully let go of the past. Instead they take the best from that and layer it in with the new sound, creating something that might be outwardly seen as different but is still Phish through and through. That is something I think we all love about this band: that they can seemingly reinvent themselves over and over but still be Phish through it all.


Now, typically, people will combine the C&P and the Lope into “Crossalope” or some other witty portmanteau (we are a pretty clever group… sometimes) and I get why that happens as both are great but unlike in other mashup cases these are wholly separate jams. They just both kill it so hard you naturally want to make the connection. So the Antelope goes sideways in the best way for a few minutes with the percussion driving the thing forward as Trey shreds before they come out of it for the lyrics and ending. Trey replaces the standard “Marco Esquandolas” line for “Norton Charleston Heston” tonight. In his exuberance in the aftermath Fish calls out “Karl Perazzo!” which pretty well goes without saying here what with all he has brought to them in this brief stint with Phish. The time is now for a well deserved breather after that 40ish minutes of awesome so we get Waste which works here because those folks just needed to cool down for a bit and collect their thoughts and stuff, okay? Phish fans can’t be expected to rage for an entire set without some bit of cool down, can they? They can? Oh. Well, Waste has a nice solo at the end so maybe there were some folk raging the Waste? No? Let’s just move on then… Harry Hood follows Waste tonight and here is one where the video really adds something as in the composed build section where they are alternating the pattern of notes before heading to the lyric section you can tell Karl doesn’t know the unique beat, leading to a few laughing exchanges between various band members. Once they hit the jam though Karl is in the groove with the band and after a clean and engaging jam where Trey finds an interesting descending line we get one of those lovely, uplifting Hood peaks you read about in Bliss Peaks Weekly. What, yo don’t get that publication?


Hood segues into A Day in the Life for a faithful take on the Beatles classic and then we have the semi-obligatory a cappella tune to close the set which tonight is Adeline. I miss that song. Of all of the a cappella tunes over the years I think that is probably my favorite — and my daughter was thisclose to being named after the song as a result before we opted for another name on our list. Check out the video there as Karl comes to the front of the stage with the band and there’s a nice moment of thanks by Trey as they congregate (he also helps out with the time keeping by snapping along — ever the percussionist, that guy…). Now on to the encore, the band brings out another guest, our guy Butch Trucks from the Allman Brothers Band and resident of West Palm Beach as we discovered the year prior. They play Funky Bitch which has a bit of a (to borrow the phrase…) sneakers-in-the-dryer feelin the early part of the song as with so much percussion going on (Butch on Fish’s kit, Karl on his rig, and Fish on Trey’s mini-kit) it is really a bit much until they fall into line. This is a nice encore to cap this show and we are off on our way to the other big college town in Florida for the bookend show of our time with Perazzo Phish.


Over the years this show has become canon probably mainly due to that ridiculous Crosseyed jam and the overall great playing going on throughout. Unlike many of the best known shows in their history this show doesn’t have a big string of flawless segues or several centerpiece jams. It doesn’t have massive bustouts or crazy hijinx or anything more than just fantastically crisp playing by all involved. The addition of a fifth player does nothing to diminish the band’s sound here and shows why they had Karl on board for the mini run they did as he fits in so well with the type of jamming they wanted to explore at this time. I hold this show up as an example of the band being open to new things but also staying rooted in their unique sound, something we discussed a bit up above. The main takeaway from this show is what it allows for in the future, honestly, so any individual jam highlights are just gravy. Really tasty, thick and chunky gravy but gravy all the same. Those gravy jams tonight are Ya Mar, C&P->Lope, and Hood with Julius and Free as the second tier and Funky Bitch as the “why not, it’s unique” entry. With only one more Perazzo Phish to go we are about to leave the Southeast behind but there are fireworks to see before that move…

A World of Light- Atlanta, GA 10.31.1996

Phish — The Omni — Atlanta, GA 10.31.1996

I  Sanity>HTH>Disease>YEM, Caspian>Reba, Forbin’s>Mockingbird>Zero, SSB

II  Born Under Punches>C&P>The Great Curve, Once in a Lifetime>Houses in Motion->Seen and Not Seen->Listening Wind>The Overload

III  Brother, 2001>Maze, Simple->Swept Away>Steep>JJLC>Suzy

E  Frankenstein


Ah, Halloween. We have dipped our toe into this most holy of high Phish holidays before to break down the band’s performance of The Velvet Underground’s Loaded album but two years before that night — and the last time they had played Halloween before then — the band graced the stage of The Omni for an evening that would perhaps do more to shape the future trajectory of the band than any other single show. That’s a pretty hyperbolic statement to make on the surface but as we go along here I think it will be more clear why I speak so assuredly on this subject. Of course, I tipped my hand a bit on this front with the last show review but that was but that was almost like the preamble before the real speech. The opening band before the main attraction. The fluff… I’ll stop there. I think you get the point.


Phish by this time already had a quite healthy history in Hot ‘Lanta and Georgia in general, having first played in the state way back in February 1990 for a trio of shows supporting Widespread Panic. These shows (The Georgia Theatre in Athens for 02.01.1990 and 02.02.1990 and Atlanta’s Cotton Club — another in the long line of clubs now closed that Phish once played — on 02.03.1990) don’t offer us much considering all are one setters and none of them has a fully known setlist. They continued visiting these two venues later in 1990 and into 1991, playing seven shows alternating between the two rooms starting in Athens with 05.31.1990 opening for the Aquarium Rescue Unit, then 06.01.1990 for a fun one with ARU members sitting in (check out the Antelope and the Col. Hampton’s Ascent>Mockingbird), then 10.18.1990 for an okay one, 10.19.1990 for an odd single setter with two encores, 03.01.1991 for a show most notable for the DEG fun in a few tunes, 03.02.1991 opening for The Grapes (a 90s era ATL-based jam/rock band), and 07.26.1991 for a Giant County Horns tour show that ARU opened (please please check out the YEM and Tweezer from this one if nothing else!). The string was finally broken with their first visit to the Variety Playhouse (though the Athens/Atlanta streak was still intact!) for 07.27.1991, a single set show opening for ARU that marked the end of the famed GCH Tour (and another with a double encore). They returned to the Variety on 11.09.1991 for a show best known for the ‘gospel My Sweet One’ then back to Athens (for the last time ever…) for the fun 11.12.1991 show that has two quite lengthy encores (must be some great cheering going on back then at these shows to ellict all these double encores…). The band’s last visit to the Variety Playhouse came the following Spring on 03.28.1992 for a show best know as the “Flood Show” as they had a quite abbreviated 2nd set where they performed four songs unplugged (three songs and IDK) before giving up. There’s also a Secret Language Instructions and the one time performance of Lullaby of Birdland, both tucked into the first set Bowie. Perhaps wanting to satisfy the fans who had been robbed of their second set in 1992, Phish returned in February 1993 for a three night stand at the Roxy Theater (yup. it’s closed) that really needs no introduction considering there is an official release and everything. Besides, we already covered those amazing shows. All I will say is if you don’t know them already get on it, dude.


Don’t worry, we are almost caught up. I can’t be held responsible for the band playing awesome music in this area so often.


Later in 1993, in the middle of Summer Tour and on the cusp of what is known to be one of the more important months musically for the band’s future development they played at the Masquerade Music Park on 07.31.1993 for a show that has a big Mike’s Song and the last Leprechaun ever (sad). On 04.23.1994 they played the Fox Theater for the first time, bringing out Col. Bruce Hampton and Merl Saunders in a great one that includes debuts of High Heel Sneakers to close the first set and Who by Fire out of YEM (more of a VJ intonation than anything) not to mention an epic Stash. Around this time (04.26.1994) they also visited Purple Dragon Studios for a promo set supporting the Hoist release, a set that is mostly straight forward by that also includes the singular performance of Sun Ra’s Carefree (a song I still long to hear Phish bring to the big stage). That Fall they played the Atlanta Civic Center (10.25.1994) for one of those great Fall 94 shows, this one highlighted by big takes on Melt and Paug, not to mention a slew of teases and some fine segue work throughout. On 06.15.1995 Phish played Lakewood Amphitheatre (a venue that has seen quite a few name changes in the 20 years the band has been playing there…) for the first time, dropping a wildly psychedelic Stash->IDK (one of the first instances of Mike using a power drill that I know of) and the first of the big time Summer ’95 Bowies. Fall 1995 saw another three night run — this time at the Fox — for three more great shows, first on 11.09.1995 for one that has jam highlights all over (Simple>Reba and the Gin are probably the biggies), then 11.10.1995 which continues the jamming trend (Mule, YEM->Crossroads->YEM, Hood), and finally 11.11.1995 which has big Mike’s Groove elements and fun Ya Mar. Keep in mind that these were the first shows following the triumph that was 10.31.1995 and the energy from that night seemed to carry over to this stand. That gets us up to date for this next Halloween show and I appreciate you bearing with me in getting through all of the varied and wonderful history that the band has in The Big Peach (and Athens!).


Now, on to the show!


Oh yeah. One more thing before we get going here. If you don’t already have a copy of this show here are a couple of options for you. Since there is an official release, you can always grab it from LivePhish it or listen on the LP+ app if you have that. You can also stream the release on Spotify. There is also some video out there with an incomplete set I and the full set II (note that there are some large gaps in the video that are filled with iconic Phish imagery but that the audio never falters. oh, and don’t mind the shirtless dude in the first row who gets focused on a lot. he was just feeling IT, maaaaaaan. and the audio cuts out during The Overload which kinda sucks but you should be spinning the soundboard for the audio anyway) though I have yet to find anything of set III. There’s also the streaming resources like,, and but those will be auds and perhaps not quite up to autidory snuff for your needs.


1996 marked the third consecutive year that Phish would be playing a “musical costume” for its Halloween show and the first year where the band made the choice without any influence by fan voting. This was also the first year that they produced a Phishbill (see here for a doc that includes all of the phishbills up through 2010), a humorous mock up of a Broadway playbill that included some information on the night to come, an essay by Parke Puterbaugh, and some humorous fake ads referencing Phishy themes. It is all a tongue-in-cheek reference to what you would get when seeing a show in New York City or something at the same time shedding some light on the album they would cover. They have since continued this tradition with the Phishbill effectively confirming what the cover album would be for the night — even though many a wook has decried it as a ruse with the confident stance that they just know, man, that Trey is gonna totally do Zeppelin this year cuz the energy from this new tourmaline I scored is just radiating those vibes to me, man. Dig it?


Thankfully for us, we don’t have to sit through the first sets of Halloween shows wondering what the costume might be (I must say, it was a bit distracting wondering about all that 10.31.1995) and we can instead focus entirely on the music at hand. Each of the past two Halloween shows had opened with a nod to the season, first with Frankenstein for the Glens Falls show in 1994 and then with Icculus for the Rosemont Horizon show in 1995. The trend continued here with a Sanity opener (a 43 show bustout) that segues right into a likewise suitable Highway to Hell (41 shows). Nothing like setting the mood with a couple of somewhat unhinged tunes, both which were apparently birthday requests by Brad Sands.. They keep the string going by segueing into Down With Disease, getting the jams going nice and early. Once through the song itself they take the typical Disease jam out for a ride, bringing it to a pocket jam of sorts. Trey and Page flavor this one nicely and even though it is decidedly type I the jam is fresh and novel and could be the best one of the tour to date (it is). Even though he isn’t on stage with them you can almost feel the presence of Karl Perazzo here as the percussive nature of this jam helps to push it forward all while Trey gets his fingers moving and Page gets the boogie going. I am a fan of all of this. The wrap-up then segues right into You Enjoy Myself, a bit of a surprise choice here in song four of the first set. The start is not the cleanest one you will ever hear but once they settle in the nirvana section takes off well. Trey’s solo gets a bit of clap-along-with-Trey to it before the transition to the D&B which tonight is a bit plodding, honestly. If you are into VJs this one is pretty high energy which is always fun in person but can definitely get the heads a scratching upon relisten.


We get our first full stop of the night here and looking back you have to wonder what is in store when a set starts out this big. Phish in this era isn’t exactly known for front loading shows so that points to great things, generally. These thoughts maybe took a back seat when the next song starts up as Prince Caspian isn’t exactly the most loved tune in the canon but they do cap it with one of those soaring, peaky finishes that are typical of the ’96 Caspians. They continue on into the start of Reba, first working cleanly through the entirety of the composed bits. The start of the jam is that patient sort of Reba we beg for with a fantastic build towards the peak. Trey is playing ALLTHENOTES but Mike has just as much to say as they take this one for a thrill ride that begs to be played over and over. After this we get to have a bit of Story Time With Trey as they go into Colonel Forbin’s Ascent>Fly Famous Mockingbird for the first time this tour. The songs are about what you’d expect but the story is topical and humorous as our protagonist encounters the David Byrne rock face on his climb of Mt. Icculus whose big shoulders and dance moves swat the Colonel off into the air, only for him to be caught by the evil, death, killing mockingbird who takes Forbin’s eyes. Nice imagery for the spunions, Trey. I’m sure the trip tents were a bit more full this set break than usual. Now on to closer land we get yet another crunchy Character Zero (our seventh Zero already this tour) and then a nice a cappella take on the Star Spangled Banner as they continue to work on this song in advance of performing it at a Minnesota Timberwolves game in a couple of weeks. This provides an oddly fitting cap to a quite explosive first set and now everyone can continue those conversations they started preshow about the relative merits of covering Talking Heads albums and trying to figure out which song on this album was the one with that one video you used to always see on MTV (remember, this was in the years before MTV forgot what their letters stood for).


Even in knowing what the album to come would be there is definitely a lot of excitement to be had in wondering how Phish would tackle it. Up to this point they had stuck to costumes a bit more in their classic-rock-fed roots as The White Album is a collection of so many wonderful Beatles’ songs and Quadrophenia is bombastic arena rock (with a theme) to the core. But here was an album of music pretty far afield from anything the band had taken on up to this stage with only one Talking Heads song ever having been covered by Phish prior to this night. That song is Cities, a tune we now hold dear as a song the band does well in making it their own (just listen to the original version as compared to one of the more highly lauded recent takes on it from 08.06.2010 in Berkeley). Now, the original versions Phish played were a bit closer to the original tempo and feel for the song (and the Mike Gordon Band versions of it are very true to the roots of the song – here’s one with Trey from 04.04.2014) but here in 1996 that song had long gone to the shelf with but one performance of it on 07.05.1994 (a unique version that benefits from Trey’s nimble fingers in the end solo bits) since it had last been played on 03.01.1989 (an equally unique version in its own right considering the DEG dropped in the middle of it). Anyway, the song was still a few months away from returning to the Phish fold but that landmark show is for another time and a different tour review. The main point is that at this period in phishtory the majority of the fanbase would have no frame of reference for hearing Phish play this band’s songs short of some hissy late generation tapes or word of mouth.


UPDATE/EDIT: Eagle-eyed reader MikeinAustin noted that the band had played another Talking Heads tune prior to this date but I somehow completely forgot that which is odd considering I wrote about it in covering the 03.30.1993 show from Eugene, OR. It is not a complete version, but enough that I should have remembered it. Plus, they have toyed with it since with a VJ on 08.09.1993 in Toronto, ON and quoted in the YEM on 05.23.1994. So yeah. A bit of swiss cheese memory going on for me there. HOWEVER, it still does not change the main point that I was making there above about people not really knowing what to expect with Phish covering the Talking Heads. There may have been a few more people who knew of it occurring though which I think is important to point out. Thanks for catching me on that, MiA. Now back to the review…


The second set begins with the band joined on stage by Karl Perazzo (which we now know was part of the plan with his joining the band in Tallahassee) on percussion, Gary Gazaway on trumpet/flugelhorn/trombone, and old friend Dave “The Truth” Grippo on alto saxaphone. The first track of the album, Born Under Punches, provides everyone with our first dose of the varied stylings this set will offer, combining independent yet interlocking parts from each player into a catchy song that is more than the sum of its parts. Phish plays this one true to form, mimicking the album version well while also sounding like Phish the whole time. This serves as set up for the first big moment of the set as they drop into Crosseyed and Painless, a cover tune that fans have come to know and love quite well. This initial version benefits greatly from Perazzo and Fish putting down an addictive beat that the other players match, creating a groove pocket unlike anything Phish has ever done up to this point in their history. Trey and Mike are practically dancing their are so affected by this groove, all while Page and the horn players adding flavorings on top. They carry this groove forward for several minutes before Karl takes a solo, allowing for the transition directly into The Great Curve. A groove monster in its own right, this song hits hard and fast with Page singing the verses all while the frenetic groove takes off. Trey nails the Adrian Belew lines here and when they hit the big chorus the thing pretty well explodes into this joyous ball of energy. Trey goes off again after the chorus playing the guitar god leads we love all while the pocket beneath seems to pulse and flow in a way that almost feels like it is at risk of flying off the tracks into something wholly different. The energy builds to the finish and we finally have our first chance to catch our breath.


You can tell the band is feeling it when Fish lets out an audible woo/sigh and Trey hops up and down a few times to release some of the pent up energy. Next up is the most famous song on the album, Once in a Lifetime, the song made popular due the re-release of it in conjunction with the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense and its inclusion on the soundtrack for the movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Phish’s take is true to the song (and definitely more practiced than the bustout version they recently played as part of the amazing “THANK YOU” encore on 09.06.2015), eventually coming down to a muted transition point. Next up is Houses in Motion which — similar to the opener Born Under Punches — has lyrics that seem to almost counterpoint the groove they lay down underneath. Grippo gets a couple of solo moments here between the verses and Page layers in more effects while Gazaway throws in some echoed trumpet lines in the back half. Trey gets a Tweezer tease in along the way as this jam goes out for a bit before they make a full segue into Seen and Not Seen, a track that gives Mike his chance to take the lead vocals while sitting in a chair on stage as Trey plays his bass. It is pretty funny to see Mike (in marching red shirt and pants) rocking away in a barcalounger while providing the spoken word to accompany the minimalist groove. That’s something I could see happening in a Phish set without it being a costume which makes it even more humorous to see it in this context. All the while Trey paces back and forth behind him in his gold velour shirt doing those knee bends he tends to do during the YEM D&B section. Eventually Trey hops back on the guitar, putting up some extended notes that offer the opportunity for transition to Listening Wind, an atmospheric song that has nature sound effects, haunting yet lovely lyrics sung primarily by Page, and more of that groove. Here in the back half of the album the songs are more ethereal and the grooves a bit less “punishing” perhaps but the more you listen to these “side B” songs the more you can hear the obvious influence they had on the band, just as much as those in the first half. Just listen to the solo Trey takes at the end of Listening Wind which is made up of sustained, somewhat drone-y notes that work with the groove pocket and sound effects to create the vivid image of the words being sung (check out the words if you have never have). As Trey continues to wail away Fish makes his way to the center stage for The Overload, a song with a somewhat menacing tone that takes things into a darker direction. Trey plays similar lines to what he had going in Listening Wind but Mike is lower down and the overall tone is much more menacing than anything else we have heard thus far. Trey sets a whirling loop and Fish adds in some vac as someone (tour bus driver Dominic Placco) comes on stage to bark out “time to get to work” as he points to various band members and eventually they are all playing different “tools” (Trey on skilsaw, Fish on vac, and Mike on that power drill again) that contribute to the cacophony of machine noises being made. If you watch the video you might even catch Col. Bruce Hampton up there on the jackhammer. Page is still on his rig adding to the whirl but this is post modern Phish here as they have tv screens, the nameless worker overlord, and some repeated sound samples adding to the sensory overload (get it?). As the sounds drop out one my one, the band members leave the stage and our costume set is ended.


In the moment it is a wonderful take on a classic album that really deserves your time in its original format as much as here as a cover. This is an important album in the time it was released due to the unique way it melded rock, funk, African polyrhythms, electronic music, sampling, and more in a time when that just wasn’t happening. Brian Eno provided his influence and expertise with other notable guests including Adrian Belew (mentioned previously) and Robert Palmer (yes, that Robert Palmer). While it was not a chart topping record at the time, its influence on music cannot be overstated. Within the context of Phish it stands as a major moment in the band’s history, marking the move from the open psych “precision” to a time where the band focused on creating grooves that allowed for a new way to experiment with their jamming. This is not to say that overnight the band changed completely but from here on out nothing would be quite the same (for better or worse depending who you ask). Heck, even the shows that follow this one on the Fall Tour are mostly still in that 95/96 percussive psych precision phase but as we go forward you will start to get more ‘pocket jams’ and other inklings that this album has laid its influence on the band. And from this night we took one song into the semi-regular rotation as Crosseyed and Painless has now been performed 36 times – with 26 of those coming in 3.0. I personally would love for them to bring The Great Curve back for another dip but as we have seen with every Halloween show played there is usually one and perhaps 1-2 more songs that will get future play from Phish. But short of more songs for the repertoire this costume paid dividends for the band in what they could take from it more than the tracks themselves. Lastly, before we get to the third set I want to give you a link to a quite interesting video from just before the Fall 1998 tour where Phish was interviewed by David Byrne himself for the show that he was the host of, Sessions at West 54th, a PBS series where they would intersperse bits of interview with in studio live performance. This is the raw interview video which includes a lot of stuff not in the final show. There is a section (starting around 25:33 of the raw video) where they discuss Halloween costume albums including the cover of Remain in Light which I think is quite interesting and worthy of your time if you have never checked it out. Knowing that this interview was taped only a couple of weeks prior to their cover of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded (which we have discussed…) adds a bit to me but the salient points here about their intent and takeaways from playing Remain in Light are the main reason for linking this. Enjoy.


Geez, we have a third set to go here? <-Easily something you may have overheard at a show before. Okay, well, let’s get to it then…


So after the pageantry of the costume set we are back to Phish again but as tends to happen we will have some guests as Karl Perazzo sits in for the entirety and the horn players drop in at the end of the set. First up is a brief Feel Like A Stranger tease by Trey (the only ever to my knowledge) before they crank out a fun Brother to get everyone back in the Phish frame of mind. Next they get a bit funky with 2001, offering a taste of what might be to come for this song while still keeping it truer to the Deodato version than some of the extended workouts we will see in coming years. This segues into Maze for yet another quite engaging Fall ’96 version. Trey shreds the crap out of this one and the addition of more percussion only serves to amp this one up more than normal. While perhaps not as big as the one earlier this tour from Pittsburgh, this is a solid take on the straight ahead jammer. Now we have Simple which in three previous performances this tour has proved itself to be one to keep tabs on each and every time. The prior versions had sections of percussive jamming as Trey hopped on the mini-kit for a bit in each one but tonight’s takes it to another level as Fish and Perazzo pound away, allowing Trey to stay at home on the guitar. There is a Mama Told Me Not to Come tease to be found amongst the rhythmic groove here as well. In a show where it becomes difficult to pick out the real peak jams because everything is played well this one stands out. They execute a great move into Steep>Swept Away for the second time this tour, playing that pairing as you know it before seemingly suddenly arriving in the bustout of Jesus Just Left Chicago, last played one year prior during the third set of 10.31.1995. Dave Grippo and Gary Gazaway come out here and add in to the bluesy jam as everyone takes a turn at a solo. This bleeds into Suzy Greenberg, easily one of the most horns-friendly tunes Phish has ever written (personally, I insert the horn lines in my head pretty much every time I hear it). This is a similar pairing as that last Halloween show except for the ADITL they sandwiched in there in 1995 as these two tunes seem to be becoming the de facto post-costume-get-the-horn-section-involved songs for the third set. Tonight’s Suzy goes away from the typical rocking peaky take for a bit as the horn players influence things in a jazzy manner but in the end it is good times Suzy bringing the party home once more. Following the encore break we get the seasonally appropriate Frankenstein to cap this show (a full mirror to last year’s Halloween which opened with Frank), sending everyone out into the night with one last bit of rocking the heck out.


I’ve spent a lot of time (and words) discussing this one so I won’t belabor the point too much further but I think it is pretty obvious how important this show was to the future development of Phish. By no means am I suggesting that they needed this impetus to push them forward as there were no signs of stagnation coming into this night. They were already riding the crest of a peak year (’95) to take on new challenges including their first festival, a well received album, and more. This moment simply provided them with another avenue to explore, one which they have taken and made a part of who they are as a band. Never before had Phish grooved like this. Never before had they mixed musical styles as fluidly as what this new way of playing allowed for. But all through it they are still Phish and sound like no other band in the world. I had a hard time cutting the highlights list for this show down to a respectable size but that’s what you get with a canonical performance. So with that in mind your takeaways are:  Disease, Reba, C&P, The Great Curve, Houses in Motion, Simple, and Suzy with honorable mentions including Forbin>Mockingbird, Born Under Punches, Listening Wind, and perhaps Caspian if we are feeling gracious.


I apologize for this post taking as long as it did but hopefully my words make up for that. I really enjoyed re-spinning this show a few times to make sure I got a lot of the necessary nuance. We will start cruising again here shortly with a couple more Perazzo Phish shows before we head to some seriously crushing Phish in the Midwest portion of the tour. As always, the takeaway tracks are now part of the playlist in the sidebar.