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…