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…