Like the Sound of a Breeding Holstein – Ames, Ia 11.14.1996

Phish — Hilton Coliseum — Ames, IA 11.14.1996

I  Bag>Uncle Pen, Wolfman’s>CTB, Free, ATR, Gin, Talk, Julius

II  Llama, Sample, Taste, Swept Away>Steep>Mule, Life on Mars?, Demand>Lope>ADITL

E  Stash, Hello My Baby


After their extended stay in Minneapolis Phish did that thing where they follow the lines headed south — and I mean like due south because Ames is the first town of any consequence that you hit when driving south on I-35 out of Minneapolis, with apologies to Owatonna, Albert Lea and the home of the Music Man Mason City, IA of course. You may think that is but a throw away nod to the regional geography found via bored internetting but seriously do you know who wrote The Music Man? A dude named Willson, that’s who. I mean, sure, the spelling is a little different but that’s just a little convenient don’t you think? Don’t answer that. I’m a bit overly caffeinated today.


So Iowa. Not exactly the most frequently played state in the band’s history but they have been here for a few shows dating back to the second leg of Spring 1993. And if you really know your band history you will say, “well, obviously they have some history with this state what with Trey’s grandparent’s having lived here DUH!” which would not only make you sound like a total creep for knowing waaaay too much about the band’s family genealogy but also is just plain rude, sir, and we would appreciate it if you phrased it a little more nicely so as to not alienate those who might be a little touchy about that type of retort. That show was at The IMU Ballroom at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on 04.12.1993. Three shows into that second leg, this one is a hot affair with a smoking Stash, a massive bustout of Satin Doll after 418 shows, two more bustouts in Tube (73 shows) and Highway to Hell (185 shows), a lot of that tease fun typical of that tour (like the brief hints of ‘Woody Woodpecker’ Trey puts into his trilling solo in Reba), and a YEM that includes a big Gumbo quote and a fun Mike-initiated jam on ‘Honky Tonk Women’ out of the B&D section. Be sure to check out the Trey banter at the start of Satin Doll because you get a lot of the family history of Trey who explains why they busted the song out. The short story is that Trey’s great grand father went to the University of Iowa (class of 1908 woo!), going on to become the first dentist in Iowa to use nitrous oxide (eliciting a cheer from the wook faithful). His daughter, Trey’s grandmother, would later go dancing at the very venue Phish was playing that night where she met his eventual grandfather, leading to the old school jazzy dance tune being played (as crooned by Page, of course). This is one of those shows you may never have heard before but that has a lot to be found within which might be obvious when you consider they double encored it. The next year they played about 110 miles to the west in Des Moines at the Civic Center on 06.14.1994, just a couple shows removed from their landmark performances at Red Rocks that year. There’s a great YEM here with a jam on ‘On Broadway’ not to mention all of that big time energetic jamming that typified Summer ’94. Oh, and be sure to listen to the quite interesting Guelah>Adeline>DDLJ>Guelah in the (you guessed it) second slot of the first set – just know that the Addy is un-mic’d so unless you have a phenomenal copy it will sound like silence after the Asse Festival for a bit before they do the little Digi Delay Loopin’ that bends back into The Fly section. Fall 1995 saw the band back in the state again, this time back east in Cedar Rapids at the Five Seasons Arena on 10.20.1995. As Fall ’95 shows go this one is a bit tame but you could do worse than to spin a show from arguably one of their best tours ever and besides there is an Amazing Grace jam with electric bagpipe accompaniment by Johnny ‘Bagpipes’ Johnston, naturally (because who else BUT him?).


All of that led to another show in Iowa in Fall ’96, this time for the first time in Ames, home of Iowa State University (and a pretty darn good barbeque place in Hickory Park Restaurant Co. if I do say so myself). That makes four different cities in four years something which would end here as since this show they have only played Iowa once time more, back here again at the House that Hotel Money Built (not its real byline) on 10.01.1999. In all honesty I wish we were discussing that show because it is the more interesting of the two ever played here what with that big Gin (I’m a sucker for the ’99 brand of Gin) and the fun Gumbo jam in the midst of a raging second set that included Antelope, Fluffhead, and Slave as juggernaut energy jams. Alas, that show is almost three years on from what we have here.


Why am I prefacing this show in such a blase way? Well, for context you should know that this show was played in the midst of one of those wonderfully epic Midwest ice storms that can be quite bad for your health if you find yourself caught outside while they are happening. That effectively kills the lot scene which definitely has an impact on the energy level of the crowd for some pretty plainly obvious reasons. Add to that the fact that the band and crew had a show about 380 miles to the southeast to travel to overnight through that weather, causing the show to end somewhat earlier than most. Don’t believe me on that? The set lengths tell the story as here we have two sets that clock in under and hour — and that includes the encore for the second set — for a paltry total of two hours and six minutes of stage time. Using our trusty geekiness with a little help from a basic spreadsheet we know the average show length of this tour to be 150.57 minutes which is just over two and a half hours for the mathematically challenged. Even if you take out the two shows in excess of three hours (Atlanta Halloween at 3 hours and 41 minutes; Las Vegas tour closer at 3 hours and 11 minutes) the average is at two hours and twenty-seven minutes which means that this show is 21 minutes shorter than the average on the tour. Now, you might not think that is very much to take out of a show but it could be up to three or four shorter songs or a couple of decent jams, to say nothing of a potential 20+ minute aural feast. I am pretty convinced that the setbreak here was also a lot shorter but I didn’t attend and no one has produced that information to my knowledge. I guess the reason I bring all of this up is to help provide context as to why I’m not going to spend much time on the actual music here as it is less interesting in total than a similarly-lengthed show from 1992 or 1993 where at least then they were in the midst of working on big changes to their music and overall sound. With that wonderful lead in we might as well get to getting…


The show starts out positively enough with a rocking ACDC Bag that has promise before dropping into the mini-bustout and tour debut of Uncle Pen. This pairing kind of sets up the tone of the night where they seem to be keeping things energetic, light, and dancer/singer-along friendly by mixing up genres and opting for shorter numbers light on big improvisational acrobatics. This continues with an almost funky if they had let it continue Wolfman’s Brother which segues into the reliable punchiness of the Page-penned Cars Trucks Buses, giving us our fourth different style in as many songs. The CTB has one of the more interesting bits of this set as there is what sounds to be a washboard accompaniment (by Fish?) in the early part though I have yet to be able to confirm that independently or via video (because none exists that I know of for this show). Anyway, that bit is brief and after closing up CTB they head into Free for what will be probably the most engaging piece of music of the set. While still pretty contained in comparison to what we expect from the song these days the jam gets quite percussive with Trey adding that dark, fractured lead line that feels more machine-like than musical while also adding in a couple of fills from his mini-kit. During the drum intro to the All Things Reconsidered that follows Free Trey gives his expected nod to family history with Iowa before they run through the composed piece quite nicely. Next up is our next sign of promise for the set as Trey goes into the first Bathtub Gin since that pretty okay one from Lexington a week ago. But as generally happens when a song goes big in one show the next performance of it is not nearly as memorable. This is not a dig on this version as it is the longest song of this set and definitely is a fun bit of type I jamming but it never goes anywhere new even with Trey hinting at a possible dive into DEG at one point and eventually wraps up in a standard fashion. After a quick take on Talk (thankfully for me the last one we will get this tour — I’ve probably said why before but let’s not go there now) they wrap up the set with a punchy Julius that speaks to everything I have said leading here which is that while quite raging (and including a quick run through the Buried Alive lick at 4:43) is not exactly the song we look to to find the highlight of a set. And with that we have finished up the first set having heard an art rock/idiom romp, classic bluegrass cover, white boy funk ditty, fun instrumental driving song, dirty rock anthem, fun proggy composed number, avenue for jam potential disguised as a nod to Gershwin, throw away acoustic ballad thing, and rocking swing dance tune all in under 55 minutes. If nothing else I guess you could say that this is a jukebox set that captures the many sides of Phish which is correct in one sense but leaves out a whole lot in telling that tale. As a first set it is largely harmless and isn’t really too different from of the similarly banal first sets we have been subjected to here in 3.0 but here in Fall ’96 it is even less adventurous than pretty much all of the other first sets that don’t look that great on paper. Worse things can be said about this band for sure — and clearly have — but in terms of intent you have to give them credit for at least playing this one well if not so uniquely.


When they come back out for the second set (and note that Trey just says they’ll take a quick break and not the standard “fifteen minute break” that really means about 30 minutes or so) you have to be thinking “okay, obviously they are taking us deep here after THAT” and you get the raging frenzy of Llama to help you along. That’s a good way to keep things up after that break but they quickly lose me with Sample in a Jar, though admittedly I am probably not the target audience for that song at this point. They are keeping the genre-hopping going here as the next tune is the oft-played Taste, tonight staying pretty close to the album version of the song while as always incorporating bits of the Norwegian Wood/WTU? melodic bits that always seem to pop up in that song. It is cleanly played and well received but again not necessarily anything new. Next up is the popular Fall ’96 pair Swept Away>Steep here in its 3 show out of the last four. This has been a solid precursor to some solid jams so far this tour buuuuuut tonight we get Scent of a Mule in its wake which while perhaps a fun song in the moment that has the lovely coda lines is not exactly the song the most of us are seeking for the meat of our second set. Trey does do the vocal scat thing to accompany his guitar but that’s still a pretty linear thing in terms of Phish jamming. Now pretty well half way into the set you have to be scratching your head a bit about how things are progressing and they head into another spot on take on Life On Mars? which is nice. Still not a jam though ::insert winky dude:: . They follow this up with another bustout for Demand (64 shows), that somewhat dark Hoist track which in pretty much all of its meager 15 performances has been a good lead-in to bigger things particularly considering how it was positioned on the album ahead of that Melt jam from 04.21.1993 which we know was a major touchpoint for the evolution of that jam template. Tonight in what ended up being its last performance until 3.0 it precedes Run Like an Antelope (the second such pairing) which does come off well in that energetic way but is pretty rote as Lopes goes in all honesty. It’s fun but at under 12 minutes is sits in the lower half of Lope lengths which is not an absolute indicator of quality, of course but here definitely speaks to the fact that they were not exactly looking to stretch things out. You do get a little taste of that almost-but-not-really washboard tone thing right before the “rye rye, rocco” section though. That said, it isn’t like this is the closer even though Lope does fit that role more often than not as they go into the set closing A Day In The Life cover. As with LOM? this is well played but not the kind of cover that has anything of a jam and we are off to the encore after another jukebox set (which this time goes rage rocker, pop rock single attempt, syncopated pocket rocker, moody art rock pairing, oddball Mike tune with band hijinx, Bowie cover, neato bustout, Phish anthem, Beatles cover). Interestingly enough, after those two sets of largely uninspiring if well played songs they come out and encore with Stash of all songs for only the second time ever (11.01.1991 being the other) perhaps as a bit of a “hey, yeah, we know that wasn’t the biggest set ever so here’s a Stash to take you into the night.” And that is a nice gesture because I doubt anyone thought that would happen but in terms of execution this one is (again) light on the jam opting for some brief T&R building (which almost feels pulled from some James Bond movie soundtrack for a bit) before coming back to the close. After the quick a cappella for Hello My Baby we are on the road again to find less icy pastures on a Friday in Omaha.


Yeah, I wasn’t too kind up there perhaps because I have a certain set of expectations for this tour in the back half but I stand by it. This is quite frankly a pretty boring show to discuss. The odd thing is that nothing here is botched or otherwise played poorly, they just don’t go anywhere with the songs they played. I’ve read one review on .net that indicates it might have something to do with it being a crowd largely made up of less experienced fans and factoring in the weather woes on top of that you have the band playing a basic, safe type of show that pleases everyone (except me, I guess) and gets them on the bus at a reasonable hour after the load out. That’s all well and good but this is a band that is known for playing big time shows in skip towns and dropping flaming hot sets when the weather is at its worst. I subscribe more to the idea that this is a band a bit weary from the road seeing the opportunity to play it by the book and get on the road, something that is in their long history actually quite atypical. So in that sense this is Phish being Phish, doing the thing you don’t expect them to do (just to stretch that to the furthest conclusion we can muster, of course). At first I thought I might not have any takeaways from this show but I think that Julius merits mention and the CTB is interesting enough for second tier along with the Demand because how often do you even get to hear that one? Besides, I’m a bit weary of including the same songs over and over so let’s mix it up a tad. With that I will say no more about this show as there are much MUCH better things coming that should sustain our interest ::wink wink::

Drown Beneath the Undertow – Minneapolis, MN 11.13.1996

Phish — Target Center — Minneapolis, MN 11.13.1996

I  Disease, Bouncin’, Ice, Ya Mar, Taste, Train Song, Reba, Zero, Adeline

II  2001>Suzy>Caspian>YEM, Theme, Golgi



After their night in Western Michigan Phish and their following traveled up to Minneapolis for a two night stay in the Twin Cities region. The first night did not have a Phish show but that didn’t mean the band didn’t perform as they debuted their rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to a professional sports crowd for the first time at the NBA game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Portland Trailblazers. This was the first of two such performances along the path of this Fall Tour with the other one coming a few weeks later in Los Angeles for a game between the LA Lakers and the Seattle Supersonics. Considering that the T’Wolves finished the year with a losing 40-42 record and were swept in their first round playoff series with the Houston Rockets the fact that they won this game could have something to do with that epic performance of our national anthem. Or it could just be an early season tilt against a decent Blazers team still finding their legs in the first couple of weeks of the season. Either way, that right there is your reason why Phish didn’t play a show in Chicago (unless you fly, you pretty much have to drive through Chicago to get from Grand Rapids to Minneapolis unless you are into long drives that take you far afield from the shortest possible path) leading up to the one we are here to discuss.


Heading into this show Phish already had a long history with Minnesota and the greater Twin Cities region in particular. The first confirmed visit to the area was on 11.06.1990 at The Cabooze (quite the punny bar name, that one) for a show that has no known recordings yet does have a full setlist. I say ‘confirmed’ because there was a show listed in the Update for 04.01.1990 but it would appear that this show did not occur based on what little information we have from .com. The next visit would be for the surprisingly well known 04.11.1991 show from The Cave (America’s oldest student-run pub in the basement of a residence hall on campus) at Carleton College about 35 miles as the mockingbird flies south of downtown Minneapolis. The main reason people know this show, of course is that it contains the only confirmed telling of The Prison Joke by Fish during the encore proceedings (the only other telling is by a fan in 1993 when Fish refused to tell it) but you should check out the Reba too while you are there. It really isn’t a very good joke but somehow it gained legendary status for a time. Supposedly, this show was meant to occur at The Cabooze but thankfully for us it was moved as we might not have tapes of it if it had gone as originally scheduled. That Fall they fit two shows in Minnesota in first back at The Cabooze for 10.05.1991 where again we get no setlist and obviously no recordings (perhaps they did not allow recording there?) and then at the Cochran Lounge at Macalester College in St. Paul on 10.06.1991. If you are at all a fan of stage banter, this is a great show for you. There are some pretty hilarious bits here and the music is fun Phish so go ahead and spin that one. 1992 saw two shows at First Avenue in Minneapolis, the venue made famous by Prince as it was used in the film Purple Rain. The first of these was 04.29.1992 where Trey gave a nod to the Purple One with a tease of Raspberry Beret in Weekapaug Groove and also includes one of only ten ever Secret Language Instructions. That Fall they returned in the last week of Fall Tour for a fun show on 12.07.1992 that has a quite unique take on Reba, one of the early (funny) Vibration of Life performances (something we will hear from soon enough on this Fall 96 tour), and a few other gems to be unearthed (like that Bowie!). While 1993 only had one show here it marked another uptick in the band’s draw as they graduated to the State Theatre, another of those wonderfully ornate old school theaters that the band frequented in this era. This 04.09.1993 show is the first show of the final leg of that Spring Tour (I reviewed the first leg already with this leg coming… eventually) and is big on teases, secret language, and other Spring 93 type stuff. Fourteen months later they again played the State Theatre on 06.16.1994, dropping a quite solid yet perhaps under-loved show (perhaps due to being on the eve of a quite famous show?) big on the jams and fun as Trey even trolled Timer (ZZYZX, the man behind this wonderful resource) by dedicating Amazing Grace to him by saying, “This next song is very long. Dave this one is for you it’s a long song.” The next visit to the area would be just down the street at the slightly larger but still ornate Orpheum Theatre on 11.26.1994 where they dropped one of THE big Bowies, a 37+ minute monster that still stands as the longest one ever played. This show also has the Slave that appears on A Live One (don’t mind those song titles in the preview pane; none of those tracks are from the Clifford Ball which didn’t happen until 1996 and this album is from 1994). And the final shown of the eleven that precede our 1996 show was on 10.25.1995 at the St. Paul Civic Center which was torn down in 1998 to make way for the venue where Phish will open its upcoming Summer 2016 tour after a sixteen year absence from playing this once oft frequented area. That 1995 show is another heater with a big time second set Reba and a Mike’s->Breathe jam (three years before they would eventually cover DSOTM) that you should just go ahead and spin. After our show here (their first at the Target Center) Phish would not return to the Twin Cities until playing in Fall 1999 and then again along the path of the pre-Hiatus tour in Fall 2000 before that long gap I mentioned above. But that’s for another day as here over 1,000 words in I should probably get to the show itself, eh?


Here in the 20th show of the tour (I’ll update the geek stats at the end as always for this multiple of five show) Phish opened with Down with Disease for the first time this tour, something they have only done nineteen times in 252 performances of the song. Granted, these days it has become a reliable second set opener so that stat isn’t too surprising but at the time it was only the third time they had opened a show with it and only the ninth time it had opened a set at all. Considering that this was the 75th appearance for the song overall that is fairly rare. This one rips as the majority of these Fall ’96 ones do while also having a patient feel to it that is more akin to latter day versions where they go out from the song into deeper, type II waters. The jam begs to get stretched out tonight but instead comes back to the traditional ending allowing the band to head into Bouncin’. After that, with the crowd sufficiently warmed up, they drop into It’s Ice, playing it pretty straight with a brief bit of Page-led improv in the back half. This isn’t the best Ice from this tour but it is a more typical type of take on the song than not while also being played pretty cleanly. That sounds like a dig but I guess I’m just saying this is your average sort of Ice for Fall ’96. The next dance number on the card is Ya Mar, keeping with the vibrant feel of the songs played tonight. Not much to discuss here as it is a fun but average take on the song that would become so much more in late 1997 and beyond. Afterwards Trey takes a moment to welcome everyone and nod to their previous night’s performance of the Star Spangle Banner before starting up a playful version of Taste. They are still working on how to really stretch out the jam here but the WTU? elements are present as are the hints of Norwegian Wood as Trey works through his soaring solo. As with the Disease this feels like it could go further but instead they wrap up and take it down a few notches for Train Song. The acoustic number comes off well as always and then our gal Reba stops by for a lovely musical conversation. The jam here progresses as most do with Trey leading the way through with meaningful leads that trill brightly. The whole band catches this building wave which abruptly stops on a dime for the whistling, leaving us with a bit of unrequited love for our girl who seemed to run off too quickly. Trey uses this to capitalize on the energy built there by punctuating it with the follow up Character Zero. They are really rocking this tune out at this point in tour with Trey taking big, Hendrixian style leads that add punch to this most-oft played song of the tour. Thinking the set has concluded you start to make your way to the concourse to rehydrate and maybe grab some food or something (if you didn’t already do so as Zero cranked up) only to quickly turn around when they pop out to the front of the stage to give us one of my favorite of the a cappella tunes in Sweet Adeline. After that warm bit of singalong fun we do get that setbreak, giving you the opportunity to finally get that foot long hot dog your mind convinced you was required eating somewhere in the middle of the set.


After giving yourself a hard time for the regret you now feel about your choice of setbreak sustenance you realize it won’t matter since you’ll just dance it off anyway and by then the lights go down and you forget about it anyway. There are a few moments of confusion, however, as the band starts up with a sonic wall of sound not too different from what the first set began as in getting to that Disease opener. Most will recognize that this is the old way they brought on 2001 with the similarity to Disease not to unlike the ‘which song is this” moment that many experience when the band starts up either Maze or David Bowie. For 2001 this doesn’t last too long as they get to the meat of the matter and play the faithful cover of the Deodato version of the song that we would expect. They drop right into the start of Suzy Greenberg from there, seeming to indicate that this set will be one of those fun yet probably jam-light shows that are really awesome to attend if you like that thing called dancing but perhaps not the most engaging shows to respin after the fact. Well, that assumption would be quite wrong as instead of closing up Suzy after the final refrain we have a Fish “blap” and then they head out in search of deeper, funkier waters. Now, this jam is not like the heavy wah funk of the Tweezer from Grand Rapids two nights previous as there is a much more percussive feel to it but Trey does hop on the mini-kit for a bit to give Page and Mike a bit of space before coming back to offer up some more rocking leads as they chug along for over eleven minutes. This jam fits the main template for the percussive jams we have gotten accustomed to this tour though typically this style has come out of Simple, Mike’s, and other more jam-friendly songs. It is refreshing to hear them work things out on a song that doesn’t generally get this kind of treatment. I’m a fan of this jam but in all honesty it is pretty “in form” for the jamming style they employed for the majority of this tour with the only difference really being the song placement. Again, this is not a dig just an acknowledgement of where we are at this stage on tour. Towards the end they allow the music to lose form a bit, signalling a transition to (what else) Prince Caspian, yet another of the more frequently played songs from this run. Nothing too special to report from this Fuckerpants as it mainly serves as a landing pad after the big Suzy jam but they keep the string going by heading right into You Enjoy Myself in its wake. While this YEM isn’t as big and boisterous as some of the other YEMs on this tour (it really is a much better tour for this song than I had remembered) Page gets the funk train going with that wobbly moog tone as they hit the jam and then Trey takes time in crafting a big solo as Fish goes positively nuts in back. Fish continues to romp as Mike takes over for Trey in the B&D section for a nice bit of that before they head into what is actually a pretty engaging VJ if you are into that sort of thing. Even if you aren’t it is only a few minutes long and then we have a late set Theme from the Bottom. They work through this one nicely, peaking it in that satisfying way that good Themes get but not really breaking any new ground along the way. An energetic Golgi Apparatus follows as our second set closer and then following a raucous Good Times Bad Times we are on our way to points further south and even more Midwestern-y if that is at all possible (it is).


This show took me a while to write about because I had a difficult time figuring out what exactly to say about it. It follows our pattern of solid, engaging, and energetic first sets followed by second sets where the jam highlights really go down. However, the song choices are all pretty safe here as outside of Adeline, Golgi, and GTBT every song has been played at least four times this tour (I don’t count the “Jam” out of Suzy as a separate song since it is logically tied to that song’s performance). Yet even with this average looking setlist there are clearly moments to be found that elevate this show to be better than just another one to check off the list. That Suzy jam feels so fresh because of its placement as well as how it combines most of what we have been building to up to now on tour. You would also be hard pressed to find much in the way of a botched segment of the music here as the band is a well oiled machine here 20 shows into their journey across the country. So where does that leave us? I can’t quite put my finger on why this one leaves me wanting for words. I was there which usually makes me quite effervescent in my effusiveness about a show but I’m not feeling it so much on (multiple) replays. It is for this reason that my takeaways from this show are somewhat light with the Suzy being the only sure-fire entry and the Reba taking “sure, why not” honors tonight. I feel like I need to keep saying that this is not a dig at this show or the performance in any way but that’s the gist of it for me. I am just having a hard time finding anything highly remarkable to discuss about this one which I know will probably bring down the comments from those who had great memories of this show (and probably that Suzy jam too). This could totally be a “me” thing so please let me know what I am missing with this show. Just don’t expect me to go through the roof for the next show which is one I can easily explain away for what did or realistically did not go down there but that’s for the next time. So bring it on, my friends, I’d like to be proven wrong…



As for the stats, here is where we stand now 20 shows into this 35 show tour:

  • 121 songs have been played with 39 being ‘one timers’
  • Character Zero is alone in first place with 11 performances. Taste is right behind with 10 performances and then there is a big log jam for third place with CTB, CDT, Disease, Caspian, Sample, Steep, Swept Away, Theme, Waste, and YEM all tied at 7.
  • Oddly, the most frequently played days of the week are Saturday (okay, sure, fine…) and Wednesday (?)
  • The 20 shows have been played at 19 different venues in 19 different cities in 13 different states. Only MSG where they played a midweek pair in the first week of tour has more than one show.
  • CDT and Jim are tied with three show opening slottings each. MFMF is the only other tune to have been repeated as a first set opener.
  • Character Zero is clearly in first place for first set closers with 4. Bowie, Lope, and Sample each have closed two first sets.
  • 2nd set openers are a bit more widespread with 3 2001 openers, and 2 openers for Suzy, Timber Ho!, and Wilson.
  • But second set closers are the most broad here with five songs tied for first at 2 playings:  Bowie, Hood, Hello My Baby, Reprise, and Paug.
  • There have been four Mike’s Grooves but not a single I Am Hydrogen
  • Six songs have only ever been played during these 20 shows, all of them from the Remain in Light set: Born Under Punches, Houses in Motion, Listening Wind, Seen and Not Seen, The Great Curve, and The Overload
  • 11 songs have been debuted so far this tour including all of Remain in Light as well as Swept Away, Steep, and the Star Spangled Banner

That’s probably enough for now…

Remember to Check on the Sausage – Grand Rapids, MI 11.11.1996

Phish — Van Andel Arena — Grand Rapids, MI 11.11.1996

I  CDT, Guelah, CTB, Bag, Sparkle>Brother, Theme, Axilla>Jim

II  Timber Ho>Divided, Gumbo, Curtain>Sample>Tweezer, Swept Away>Steep>Maze, Contact, Slave

E  Waste, Cavern


Following their Saturday night affair in eastern Michigan Phish rested for a night before the arduous 150 mile trek across the state to play in Grand Rapids for the first time in two years. They had played down the road in Kalamazoo on the Fall 95 tour (which we will get to in a bit) so this 1996 stop followed the pattern of playing Kalamazoo and grand Rapids in alternating order. The first visit to this wonderful, craft beer-filled part of the world was on 12.10.1992 at the old Kalamazoo State Theatre, one of those venerable old venues that can be found throughout the country. This show is a good example of where they were in the early theater days with that tight, rocking jam style that was starting to evolve into the speed jazz of 1993. There is an interesting YEM here with some rotating duet action but otherwise it is pretty much just one of those solid shows that was a fun time live (it was) without any lasting takeaway value. The next year they played Grand Rapids for the first time at the Eastbrook Theatre (possibly called Club Eastbrook at that stage but now it is definitely The Orbit Room), an old timey single screen cinema that was once split to make two not great rooms before being repurposed for music and other events. Phish played here on 08.11.1993 and you can guess what I will say here considering what I always say when we get to talking August ’93 Phish: GO SPIN THIS SHOW!!! It has a debut (Ginseng Sullivan), teases, tons of SL, and a bunch of those high quality jams we laud from this month including an open Jim, a MFMF with vocal jam, a purely nasty Stash, a Mike’s that quote Peter Gabriel, and a Lope that jams on the Simpsons signal if you can believe that. I’m starting to think I might have to just go ahead and do the August ’93 tour reviews at some point with how much I talk those shows up… Anyway, continuing the pattern they returned to Kalamazoo the following Spring, again at the State Theatre on 06.19.1994. This one is a fine example of 1994 with a menacing Stash, tension overload in Lope and a wonderful Reba>Makisupa that deserves your attention. That Fall they were back to Grand Rapids – this time at DeVos Hall – for one of those classic Fall ’94 shows on 11.14.1994. If you like dark jams this one is all for you from the evil outro in the opening MFMF to the hose-filled shred of Maze to one of the biggest, baddest of all the famed ’94 Bowies and on. It’s a raging fun show. We had a blast. And finally, on 10.27.1995 Phish played Kalamazoo (for the last time) at Wings Stadium which is home to the aptly named Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL. This is just another white hot rager in the lead up to Halloween that year but check out the Bowie and Simple for jams and a bunch of setlist rarities (well, now, that is…) including Taste That Surrounds (that period was confusing for this song), Suspicious Minds, Keyboard Army, DFB, and Life on Mars? Okay, that gets us caught up so let’s get regulating, regulators.


This was the last show to fit the alternating pattern with Kalamazoo as the only show after this in Western Michigan was back here on 11.11.1998 which we have covered previously. Van Andel Arena is quite similar to Wings Stadium in look and feel (inside anyway as Wings is quite uniquely shaped) as it too is the home ice for a hockey team, the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. Now, I’m just going to get this out of the way right up front: I was on the floor for this show camped out within arm’s reach of the rail in front of Page. Anyone except for the routine rail riders who do it every single show who claims that such visual proximity to the band will not have an influence of your enjoyment and subsequent recollection of the show is either lying to you to keep you from coming down front or stands there with eyes closed the entire time and really should go ahead and give way to those who would better benefit from such awesome sight lines. So yeah. Get ready for the fluffing! Oh, and feel free to follow along for at least the first set with this video though I warn you the sound on it is less than desirable and the camera person wasn’t exactly committed to a stable image or even clearing the shoulder of the person in front of him which is why you won’t be graced with more shots of my head, sadly.


The show starts with a fiery Chalkdust Torture that is all in bounds and not too dissimilar from the one in Lexington a few nights earlier while setting the tone for the evening as Trey takes a few laps around the fretboard. The good old Guelah Papyrus second song first set slot holds true tonight. Mike comes in early tonight with the fight bell as he and Trey draw out the intro a bit with the whistle wah fight bell combo. All good fun. Cars Trucks Buses follows this up making this the second show of the tour with this trio to open the show. The first time was 10.29.1996 in Tallahassee and it will pop up one more time later on in Vancouver on 11.23.1996. Closing this up they quickly drop into an on point ACDC Bag, frothing the fervor of the crowd even more along the way. I can tell you that I shared a moment with Page in this one as we locked eyes for what seemed like an eternity, him pounding away on the piano and me belting out the idiom-filled lines to the song as time stood still and we mentally made plans to go get a sandwich, maybe a cup of coffee or something after the show. Alas, I waited and waited but he never showed up and instead I scarfed down some horrible Taco Bell while trying to not nod off during the horrific blizzard as we started the long trek around the Great Lakes to get up to the Twin Cities for the show two nights later. He may have left me wanting but I will never forget that night, Page…


Um… so where was I? Right. Bag. So maybe as a nod to the moment Page and I shared or something they followed ACDC Bag with Sparkle, putting up a decent if not exactly FMS take on the song. This drops right into Brother, a tune that never seems to disappoint. For a song only ever played 58 times it sure showed up frequently in 1996, first having been busted out for the Ben & Jerry aided version at The Clifford Ball, with five total performances in this year (four of which come along this Fall Tour). Incidentally, the vast majority of those 58 performances came prior to its long wait on the bench as 43 of the performances came between its debut on 09.25.1991 and its final show before the 258 show gap on 08.02.1993 (which was itself a bustout after 143 shows). Anyway, that Brother rips and sets us up nicely for the Theme From The Bottom that follows. This Theme is pretty standard but they nail the transition to the jam and Trey does that shredding the peak thing we all seem to love so much. Our second Axilla of the tour pops in next and here we do not have those pesky guitar problems so they rock it out and finish it off with the Axilla II ending again before dropping into a set closing Runaway Jim. Having been mainly a first set opener so far this tour, getting a bit of that Jim jammery to finish things off is a nice change. They keep it at home, not going big time or anything but finishing a quite energetic set on a strong note. Now we have another opportunity to time Trey on his fifteen minute call for setbreak, knowing full well that this is a fool’s errand.


During the break the conversation you had was surely about how hot they are playing tonight as when you look back at that setlist you can’t help but notice that the only dip in the energy would have come from, what, Guelah? I mean, sure, the tempo is slower but with the fun they displayed there in doing the dance and playing around with their various toys it never felt like the energy waned at all. It’s the type of set that won’t get mentioned too much outside of this show review because nothing really stands out on its own but as a whole you could do a heck of a lot worse in putting together a fun as hell bunch of songs to get to to there. As you and your friends pore over this the lights drop – hey, maybe it really was  a fifteen minute break! (it wasn’t) – and you get yourself right to get down to business for the second set. For the second time this tour they open with Timber (Jerry) which teases us with its oh-too-short middle jam (we are still more than a year away from the lengthy versions scattered through 1997) before they come back to the final verse and refrain. Trey drops into the opening for Divided Sky, making this the first of a few repeats from our visit to Auburn Hills two nights ago. Perhaps it had something to do with the unbelievable double rainbow we saw along the drive here that afternoon? I cannot be certain but the weather was quite stormy those few days in Michigan so it isn’t too big of a stretch to make that assumption. The interesting thing about these two Divideds is that musically they are quite similar. Yes, I know the bulk of the song is composed but the pauses are the same length (1:02) and Trey’s solo is very similar to my ears. The only noticeable difference is that they drop our first Secret Language in the pause, bringing out the All Fall Down signal to the confusion of the vast majority of people in the room. I recall hitting the deck and realizing no one else around me was doing the same and kinda slowly standing back up with feelings of eyes on me all around. That signal really never caught on, did it? Every time I’ve been at a show where they played it I only see a small handful of people actually act on it. I always have wanted that one to get the whole floor to drop just to see what the venue staff would do as a result. Oh well, I guess we are just too cool to pull off that big of a coordinated joke.


After working through Divided Sky Phish graces us with the second Gumbo of the tour, getting the dance vibe going in earnest once again. The notable thing here is Page’s end piano solo includes a quote of Maple Leaf Rag, that ragtime number written by Scott Joplin that probably reminds you of The Entertainer or the classic film The Sting (starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford amongst many others). It is a neat little nod and fits quite well in the context of Gumbo. Next up is The Curtain, that wonderful composed lead-in to impending jam vehicles like, um, Sample in a Jar? WTF? C’mon, Trey. That’s not cool at all. Hang on. They have played Curtain>Sample 11 times??? Geez, man, that’s not where we want Curtain to lead! Thankfully, after that head-shake-worthy move we do get that vehicle we expected in the form of Tweezer (video here!), our fifth of the tour. Pretty well right from the start you can tell this one is going places as once they hit the drop into the jam, Kuroda colors the stage blue, Trey drops into some funk rhythm comping, Mike hits the fight bell, and then Trey adds in our friend the whistle wah. They fall into this groove quite nicely and it becomes a bit of a stop/start jam with Trey adding in the whistle wah as Mike leads the jam. Watch that video and you can see how much Trey is enjoying this groove jam thing with that grin you know so well beaming off his face as he bobs his head and comps along. This is cowfunk before we knew that was even a thing! Before you know it, Kuroda is punctuating the whistle wahs with his lighting and the crowd joins in as well, something that works a lot better than the dreaded woos that a certain Tweezer from northern California in 2013 brought (back) into the scene. Eventually Trey doesn’t even have to hit the whistle wah trigger as Fish and the crowd are laying it down so that he can get in on the action with some more varied fills on the guitar. Page brings in the wobbly tone (which he also inserted between verses earlier) then moves to the organ as this groove matures, all with Mike still driving the bus in the lead role. Trey moves over to the mini-kit to let this groove continue to breathe. Mike notes his approval by inserting some more fight bell action in time with the beat Fish and Trey are laying down while still leading the way. Trey moves back to the guitar and immediately takes charge, pushing us away from the groove and into a more traditional Tweezer-type jam, soaring to the eventual old school slow down Tweezer ending. I know I have Show Attendance Bias with this one but this is a seriously funky Tweezer. It is yet another example of the sound changing right in front of our eyes on this tour and a jam I could listen to on a loop. Here it sounds so fresh — because it is. The video really helps to show how much they just got down and into it from the drop. It isn’t a version you hear people point to very often when discussing the roots of cowfunk (what, you don’t have those conversations with your friends? PFFFT!) but damn if it doesn’t fit the mold. I need a smoke.


Sensing the need for a bit of a breather Phish plays Swept Away>Steep for the second time in as many shows and putting that pair in a six-way tie for third on the list of most played songs this tour at seven appearances (and all of those other songs were also played this show: CDT, CTB, Waste, and Sample – way to keep it fresh, Trey!). After this quick slow down they drop right into Maze, playing another fiery version heavy on the shred but perhaps not quite as big as the one a couple of nights ago in Champaign. Now in the latter part of the set, the band starts up Contact for what will surely be the start of the end proceedings. This road song is a clear nod to the impending almost 600 mile drive to come around the lakes and up to Minneapolis (I am still not sure why they didn’t have a Chicago area show on that off night but whatever) and it gets paired up with the other typical road song, Slave to the Traffic Light, in capping this set. Now, you are probably saying to yourself, “hey, I bet that isn’t too uncommon for them to play those songs together like that” but you would be wrong, mister. This is the first time they ever did it! And they have only done it once since on 08.13.2010 at Deer Creek where it served as the encore before a similarly northwesterly cannonball run up to Alpine Valley for the next night’s show (note that there is only one Slave, Contact ever which occurred way back on 02.18.1989 in Newmarket, NH). Considering these two songs have been around since 1988 (Contact) and 1984 (Slave) it is even more surprising that there are only 19 shows where both songs appear (I’ll let you find that list if you really are that interested in such minutiae…). The pairing is fun but not exactly revelatory stuff and then we are starting to gather our marbles and coats and such while we wait for the encore to start. Tonight gives us, thankfully, the only ever Waste, Cavern encore pairing (they are late first set buddies for 02.16.1997). Look, those are both fine enough songs I guess (I won’t bring up my Cavern issues right now but let’s just say the song follows me, okay?) but paired together for the encore just ain’t what this cosmonaut is looking for in an encore. I know encores can be as much about cooling down a hot crowd as giving us a big exclamation point to send us out the door so I’ll just leave at that.


And how are we feeling about this show? It pretty well fits the mold of Fall ’96 so far with a strong if not jammy first frame followed by a nicely flowing second set that has at least one big takeaway jam to it. The band is truly connected at this point of the tour and you can tell they are feeling good about where things are headed as they dip their proverbial toes into the groove jam waters. This Tweezer is another of the formative jams leading to the big changes in 1997 but the balance of the show is firmly in the mode that we have been hearing up until now: super tight band communication, big time energy, and some bits of percussive jamming. And here’s to more of this formula going forward because it is working for the band. Your takeaways tonight are Divided (I had to include one of the past two as they are both quite good) and Tweezer with Gumbo being the add-in for the fun ragtime teasery. Rest up and be careful on that drive over to Minnesota, fans, cuz there’s more weather brewing. And as my wife likes to shout to the cars leaving the lots while we unwind after shows, “don’t pass them, let them pass you!” I know. It doesn’t make sense to me either…

Seven Years On…

I think I share the view of most of us when I say that my life would be a lot different if Phish had not gotten back together in March of 2009. I was never comfortable with how it all ended in 2004 (spending the night on that highway and then getting turned away without ever having gotten within 25 miles of the venue didn’t help but I’m not here to dredge up that particular set of feelings or all of the circumstances that caused it to end in that way for me…) so I was left in an odd place having lost one of the things I loved to do most in my life. Now, I didn’t exactly sit around wallowing in misery as at the time I was quite busy with l-i-v-i-n’ but it did leave a hole. Granted, by the time that all happened I had moved on a bit from the singular obsession that was my life with Phish from about 1993 to 1999 as Hiatus showed us all that this wasn’t permanent and was going to end eventually. I guess we all just didn’t expect (i.e. want) it to end the way it had.


We all endured The Long Wait in our own ways and that is not what this post is supposed to be about but I will say that for me it was an opportunity to broaden my musical horizons a bit looking both forward to newer forms of music I had then yet to explore while also going back to music that I loved from even before my many years with Phish. Some of us used this time to get serious about careers, family, personal growth, and other endeavors. Some of us used it to get clean. Whatever you did during those four plus years I hope that like me it gave you a more full appreciation for what having Phish in your meant for you.


When that announcement video for the comeback dropped on 10.01.2008 it was a something I never expected to happen. I had moved on and expected that the only Phish I would have in my future was already in the past. Here was this band that I had devoted so much time and energy to coming back from the dead and offering the chance for redemption, both for them and the fans. This wasn’t Trey playing a tour in his newly found sobriety (though those Fall 2008 shows were pretty fun…) or two band members being in the same room for a night or something, this was PHISH! And they were coming back! Pretty much immediately I knew that I needed to be there to see the return and to reconnect with the scene I had been a part of for so many years.


Luckily for me, my wife is also a fan of Phish. Well, maybe not always lucky due to it complicating the ease of finding tickets or deciding on a whim to drive five hours to catch a single show but at least she gets it. Being a few years younger than me her start with the band was a bit later than mine (my first couple of shows were as a teen in 1990, hers were also as a teen but in 1995) and we never knew each other in either of our prime show going days but we have triangulated a pretty large number of shows that we both have attended which is fun when you think about how close we were to meeting but never having that occur. It really makes you realize how small one’s circle within the greater Phish world can be. I bring this up to say that obviously we would both be trying to go which meant securing a pair of tickets for each night to what would easily be the toughest Phish tickets ever.


You may be wondering why I am writing this here on March 7th instead of yesterday which is the day that marks the triumphant return for the band. It is relevant for me because I missed that first show though honestly it really doesn’t change anything for me having caught #2 instead of #1. You see, along with everyone else we tried to do mail order (fail!), we tried to do the general onsale (fail!), and we scoured the then unsophisticated online ticket resources in search of our pair. At that stage I was not active online on any of the Phish community sites that had developed over the early years of the internet so I didn’t have those connections to go to to try to make it happen. And even though we didn’t yet have kids in our life we were not in a financial position to shell out the many-times-face-value asking prices of the hundreds of people scalping tickets to these shows. We tried to get creative, putting up craigslists posts about how we were huge phans (yes, we probably used the dreaded ‘ph’ too. ugh) and we really wanted to go and blah blah blah but so did everyone else. I even bought the Clifford Ball DVD set early when they had that raffle for a pair of tickets to the shows and entered some of the more questionable ebay and craigslist raffles to increase our odds hoping that might be a way to hit on getting our pair. The real gut-punching part of it was that my best friends had hit big time in the lottery, scoring a pair for all three nights which just made it more depressing that they would be able to go and we wouldn’t be able to share this together as we had so many other adventures around the world. And so at a certain point in the months leading up to the show I resigned myself to the fact that this probably wasn’t going to happen. We live in New England and with the shows about 600 miles to the southwest the prospect of driving down there ticketless to fight it out with all the other people from the region (and country, honestly) looking to do the exact same thing wasn’t exactly looking too enticing. It appeared that I would miss out on this epic event just as I had missed Big Cypress (friends bailed on me a month before the trip was to happen and I wasn’t about to drive almost 1,300 miles alone) and Coventry (already covered, won’t go into the gory details) making this just one more big Phish event I had not been able to experience in person and in the moment.


And here is where it gets fun. We continued to work the secondary market to try to get tickets, giving ourselves a cap on what we would spend above face in order to make it happen. My friends also worked hard for us, looking at anything and everything with pretty constant text traffic going on between us as we worked the system of the time. My wife went all in here, emailing and calling dozens of people who had posted anything remotely promising to try to get some tickets. Finally we had a bit of luck as there was someone local who had tickets due to being an old friend of Trey’s from high school or something but who couldn’t go to all three shows because it would probably have caused a divorce with his wife so he had a pair for the final night that he was willing to part with. Okay, that’s a start! We can build from there. Now being able to focus on two nights instead of three we doubled down our efforts aaaaaaand struck out. Royally. Like it seemed that every avenue had closed and being only a couple of weeks prior to the shows the already dry well had gone over to dust. This was depressing. For only the last show it didn’t really make too much sense to make the massive trek (even if I had done similar things in years past).


Then something happened that I will never forget and never be able to fully express my appreciation for to the people who did it. My friends traded their pair of tickets for the first night to get a pair of tickets for the second night to get us in the building. I still can’t believe it writing these words seven years on. They had given up seeing the return for us so that the four of us could share the weekend together. This was (and is) one of the most selfless things I had ever had happen to me. I was so incredulous that I asked my friend over and over whether he really wanted to do that and his answer every single time was a simple “yes”. Now that I think back on what they did for us it speaks not only about the very close friendship that I have shared with these wonderful people for now more than 23 years but also to what this whole community really can be for us. Yes, in a lot of ways this Phish obsession of ours is a largely selfish (or at least self-centered) thing as we spend thousands of dollars and spend so much time trying to get to shows at the risk of potentially alienating loved ones, derailing careers, and other not-so-forward-looking behaviors but at the root of it (get ready for the cheesy lyrical reference!) it only works when we are ‘sharing in the groove’ and not when we are only thinking of ourselves.


This really opened up a big thing for me personally as I guess up until that point I had primarily looked at Phish as an escape from my life rather than an integral influence on it. For most of my time in 1.0 traveling all over to catch shows I had almost been embarrassed to share that information with my coworkers and non-fan friends (family understood well as both of my older brothers had steeped me in the Dead tradition at an early age and our parents were open to our excursions as part of our life experience), instead ‘hiding’ it under half-truth descriptions of my trips or simply deflecting to other conversation. But here was the touch point for me in really bringing home the point that the shared experience had greater impact than something wholly individual. Conceptually it was something I already had bought into – particularly with these friends who I had traveled through Europe with amongst many other very memorable times over our life together – but in the Phish context I had never really put all of that together in this way. Sure, I had had many moments of losing myself in the sea of people that make up the Phish crowd (I had a particularly introspective moment atop the hill at the Clifford Ball but that is a story for another time) but never had it coalesced that I was anything more than just another ticket holding fan who was really into this weird band.


So we followed the lines headed south, picking our friends up along the way, and arriving in Hampton about the time the band was coming out for their encore on 03.06.2009 and made our way to our hotel to get settled for the two shows to come. We first hit the lots during the day of that second show and all of those feelings returned once more as we exhaled our normal lives once more and breathed in this new life for Phish. When the band came out and opened up with Back On The Train  (oddly enough that video is filed from pretty close to where we had camped out that night) it was yet another example that the band was connected with us as that was pretty well the perfect sort of opener for me in that moment. The balance of those two shows were invigorating in a way I had forgotten Phish could be and left me wanting more in that way you all know. Our band was back!


Wishing to keep that going in some way I now looked outward to find connection with the like-minded folk I had missed so much without ever realizing it. And with that my Phish internet life began, first in lurking dribs and drabs and then eventually as a contributing commenter, and eventually leading to you reading this today. So many things have happened for me in the years since Phish has returned that it is hard to imagine my life now without that as part of the story. Thankfully, with the current state of the band being as positive as it is I don’t have to imagine that. My life is enriched by Phish and the exposure it has given me to all of these amazing people who follow them just as I do. These days at shows I find myself observing all of those connections that occur between seemingly disparate people who this band has brought together and that does almost as much to fill my cup as the music. Almost. I jest, but that aspect of the Phish experience is something I cherish now more than ever and what I take forward with me when the show is over. It influences my mood, my attitude, and my outlook and helps me to work to find connection wherever I can in all aspects of my life. And that? That is really what IT is really all about…

With Your Past and Your Future Precisely Divided – Auburn Hills, MI 11.09.1996

Phish — The Palace of Auburn Hills — Auburn Hills, MI 11.09.1996

I  Buried Alive>Poor Heart, Sloth, Divided, Horn, Tube, Talk, Melt, Lizards, Zero

II  Bowie, ADITL, YEM, Taste, Swept Away>Steep>Hood

E  Julius


After their single night stop in south central Illinois Phish traveled to the suburban Detroit area for their second time playing at the Palace of Auburn Hills, home to the Detroit Pistons of the NBA. By the time Fall 1996 came around the band were no strangers to the state of Michigan, having played 17 shows in The Mitten (good for #14 overall). Most of these seventeen shows were in cities and towns west of the Detroit Metro area which makes sense considering the large Phish-friendly populations at Michigan State (2 shows), University of Michigan (5 shows), and in western Michigan (5 shows – which we will get to for our next show’s post). So at this point they had really only played a small handful of shows in this region, first at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit on 05.06.1992 which includes a lovely Reba and the 449 show bustout of Shaggy Dog emerging out of a fun YEM for a unique a cappella version of the rarity. A couple months later on 07.30.1992 Phish played the Meadowbrook Music Festival (which is actually a venue not a festival in case you are confused as I was) in Rochester Hills just to the east of Auburn Hills as part of their tour opening for Santana. The Phish set is pretty unremarkable but the whole band did join Santana that night for several songs which is nice. The next year saw them return to the same place, this time in a headlining capacity in the middle of that August ’93 run I keep referencing. Being seasoned Phish folk I know you already have that 08.12.1993 show memorized but just in case you do not please do yourself the favor of checking out this quite legendary show. There are teases, tons of Secret Language, a great Reba, a big time Melt, and a Landlady/Tweezer mashup that you really need to hear. The next summer on 06.23.1994 they played the Phoenix Plaza Theatre in Pontiac just to the west of Auburn Hills which along with one of those fantastic ’94 Melts has a bustout of NICU and the second ever Silent in the Morning without The Horse leading into it. And then the final time they played this area prior to our show up above was their first time at the Palace on 10.28.1995, dropping a solid if not epic show along the path towards Halloween. With all of the big shows that surround it it is easy to see why this one is skimmed over but if you give it a listen you will be pleased in doing so. And with that we are caught up on our regional review and can get into the meat of the matter for this second ever show at the Palace.


Tonight starts with one of my favorite mood-setting openers, Buried Alive, which they romp through energetically before dropping into Poor Heart. Of its 148 performances, 86 times the song has opened a set and thirty-one times Poor Heart has been its partner (though four of those were not set openers). It is one of the more common pairings for Buried Alive and somehow works in having two very different yet both high energy songs start things off. The energy stays WAY up as they rock through The Sloth and then head into Divided Sky for our first long form song of the evening. This one is played quite well (1:02 for the pause tonight, timers) and elicits many a “woo” from the fans surrounding the tapers, something you will need to get used to for this show considering this continues pretty well throughout the show. Next up is the first Horn of the tour which comes off cleanly before a punchy run through Tube (by sign request based on the Trey banter that follows). Trey then straps on the acoustic for our fourth Talk of the tour which gives us a good breather before the Split Open and Melt that follows. This Melt is pretty linear, never really straying too far from the prominent theme but it is a fun one that punches hard in getting back to the close. Next up is The Lizards which mainly does what you expect from the song though there is a brief bit of playfulness by Page in the first part of the song as he uses a wobbly, liquid tone to accompany the main melody Trey is playing. After giving us our second dose of Gamehendgery for the set we get the Character Zero closer you should have seen coming a mile away considering this is the tenth one in just eighteen shows and they kinda really like playing it this tour. Now you are left to wander the cavernous halls of this quite large venue, trying to put this first set into the context of the tour as a whole, muttering to yourself as passersby give you a wide berth. Eventually it will hit you and you sprint back to your seats to find your friends and enlighten them about what you just discovered only to have them make fun of you because as soon as you start talking you forgot it all in one of those moments of lysergic confusion that we have all experienced. Maybe another lap around the venue will trigger your memory…


Yeah nope. Instead you will get to spend this next set head tripping over that lost notion… which is not always the best thing when they start out with a jam vehicle like David Bowie. Now, this is not a total mindfunker like some Bowies but it does offer up some space for exploration (both musical and introspective). The prevailing mode is in building tension here as it sure feels like it could take a hard turn into the aether at several points but instead they stay at home in crafting a percussive groove that builds to a nice payoff at the peak. You won’t hear this one on any best of lists but as a set opener it certainly gets things going quite well. This is followed by A Day In The Life which once through to the frenetic crossover section actually matches the Bowie energy, almost nodding back to that Bowie in how they approach it. Matching the first set, they continue to build the energy by going long form with You Enjoy Myself, our sixth of the tour which puts it in a tie for third place with 12 other songs. The early part of this one is fairly typical with lovely pre-Nirvana and Nirvana sections but we are here to talk about the jams, yo.


So remember last time when I voiced my concern about not being able to figure out who plays the ‘whistle wah’ tone in that Simple and elsewhere? Yeah, well, I now have VIDEO PROOF that it is in fact Trey! I KNEW IT! It is definitely a pad he hits on his mini-kit rig that triggers it and you can see/hear that plainly around the 8:35 mark of that video right there. Even better, this is the start to the really fun part of the YEM as with Trey adding in the whistle wah fill and Mike hitting the fight bell you can tell they are ready to go. So they funk through the Trey-led section getting a dance party going and then Trey moves over fully to the mini-kit for the D&B section which includes some fantastic Mike along with all that percussive power. This is yet another good/great YEM, perhaps not to the level of the one from Lexington a couple of nights ago but still one that begs you to move. After the typically hilariously ridiculous VJ Phish plays Taste (which is 2nd in times played so far this tour at 9). This one is pretty clean with a solid payoff jam but nothing too major to write home about. While not a segue, they do drop right into Swept Away>Steep which is becoming a nice counterpoint cool down here on this tour, seeming to arrive right around when it would be a good time to change it up a bit after some more energetic jamming. So far we have seen it come out of Simple (2 times), Mike’s (2), and Fluffhead prior to this one emerging from Taste, all examples that support my premise (::pats self on back::). Even better, this leads into Harry Hood in a combo that works even better than it looks on paper. Something about the tone and flow of Swept Away>Steep really matches well with Hood. This is a classic run-for-the-peak Fall ’96 type of Hood – and I say that with all the due respect for such versions. If you were looking for an openly jammed Hood in this era people would have called you crazy and told you to take another lap around the venue. This Hood does exactly what it is meant to, building towards the big time release we all signed up for. You signed up for that, right? Well, even if you didn’t you are getting it, mister, and you will like it! Oh, Trey throws a Steep tease in there for good measure if you want to listen for that. And with that another very engaging second set has come to a close and all that is left is the swinging Julius encore to yet again send us off into the night wagging fingers and do-do-doing off into the night.


On first glance and even listen this show doesn’t really seem to be that great. And in the grand scheme of Phish history it is not “great” in comparison but there is a lot to like here. Sure, the first set is largely anchored by Divided and only has that shortish Melt as the other jam but everything is played with fire and zest. Similarly, the second set doesn’t exactly contain a murderer’s row of massive jams but it all works so well together. This is one of the hundreds of shows that benefit from setlist construction which at this time was still one of Trey’s primary pastimes. Sure, the pure takeaways are few (I’m going with YEM and Hood tonight) but as with pretty much every Phish show you’ve ever been to you would have had a blast in the moment (yes, I know there are exceptions both for personal and other reasons). Putting this show into some kind of larger context works on some levels (it is the exact midpoint of the tour with 17 shows on either side which is something I guess and you could make an argument that with the recent RiL performance and all that opened up to the band everything from here on out is looking forward in the band’s development rather than being just more of the same…) but sometimes when we try to find meaning in every single moment we lose our ability to enjoy our time in the present. Which I guess might be why I am doing this almost twenty years after the fact… So let’s just say this is a fun Saturday night in the middle of tour -and let’s not forget the fourth show in as many nights – and move on west to Grand Rapids and the rest of the Midwest portion of the tour.