Phish — Municipal Auditorium — Kansas City, MO 11.19.1996
I Ya Mar, Bag>Foam, Theme, Mound, Stash, Fee>Taste, Cup
II Bowie, ADITL>Gin->VoL->YEM, SSB, Fire
Leaving Memphis and starting what will eventually be a quite long journey northwest, Phish stopped in Kansas City for the final show of the Midwest Leg of this Fall 1996 Tour. As luck and round numbers would have it, this marks the 25th show of the tour so we’ll have our standard every-five-shows statistical update at the end of this post. For now, let’s go through the shows past for this Midwestern regional hub…
I’m going to cheat a little bit here by including a show that is about 35 miles west of the Kansas City area in the college town of Lawrence. This date, 04.01.1992, was the first time the band had played in Kansas (after their first two shows in Missouri preceded as they made their way west via St. Louis and Columbia) and being April Fool’s Day they had a few tricks up their sleeves as Fish wore a blue dress accented by a feather boa and the Bowie included a bunch of SL and a Landlady tease. Outside of the rare double encore proceedings this one is otherwise mainly the type of fare one would expect from the days in the move from big bars to small theaters. The return to the region would come just over a year following on 04.13.1993 at the Memorial Hall in Kansas City, KS. This was the first of three times playing the historic theater/concert hall/professional wrestling house built in 1925 and it is full of what you’d expect from Spring ’93 (assuming you either have your own baseline or followed along as we went through the shows on the first leg of that tour… which ended about a week before this one). The Forbin narration is interesting and leads into a really well played Mockingbird but the main draw is the teases in Mike’s, the CYHMK jam in Paug (it rips hard), and other tease fun in a tightly played affair. Phish returned to this room later that year during the August run, playing a well regarded show on 08.17.1993. Along with Fish wearing the Zero Man costume for this one you have a really interesting Divided Sky (I know), some fun with teases, an extended jam in YEM that quotes Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da (seriously, Beatles, you couldn’t picked a better title for that song simply so that I don’t have to write it all out), and a Bowie I implore you to spin. It goes out in a hurry and never lets up, hinting more at where Bowie was headed in 94/95 than in calling back to where it had come from. About ten months later they were back again for the third time at this venue, playing on 06.13.1994 on the heels of the wonderful Red Rocks run and mere days before we would get the legendary OJ Show in Milwaukee. Don’t skip this one for those just yet though as there is a really fun second set Reba and an uber peaked Slave that will hold your attention if nothing else from this one does (it will). And finally, on 10.19.1995 Phish for the first time played the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO making the move from one KC to the other in search of a larger room. Along with some Trey banter about the Chess Match there are some fun setlist choices here (like a Frankenstein 2nd set opener) and one of those big, gnarly Fall ’95 Mike’s Grooves (including the return of I Am Hydrogen after 34 shows on the bench – a time when five Mike’s Grooves had been played – which is certainly not the biggest gap for the song but kinda notable I guess). The next time the band would return to the Kansas City area would be just over a year later in the same venue as that Fall ’95 visit, playing the show we are here to discuss.
Before we get to that, there is full show video of this one so cue it up and let’s roll…
The night starts out with a fun warm up Ya Mar, giving everyone in the hall the chance to shake out the cold and get to moving. They back this up with the “double opener” energy of ACDC Bag, taking it for a brief ride that punches up the heat in the end as Trey starts to feel it, building a nifty segue into Foam as he goes. This is a really inspired version of Foam (and surprisingly only the second one this tour), a song that always seems to surprise me when I hear it live. I never really go in looking for it and it isn’t like I have heard too many versions or anything but it is just one of those songs that sneaks up on ya as coming off so much better than I expect pretty much every time. Enough about me. They nail this Foam with Trey hitting the delicate parts cleanly and then a little added extra mustard to it in the end pseudo improv part gets the crowd woohooing and whatnot. Staying in the major vein they head into Theme from the Bottom where Trey crafts a slowly building walk to the peak, one that explodes out before dissolving into the slow burn ending. After a quick run through the oddly timed Mound (the next time Phish fans get the timing right on the intro clapping will probably be the first) the band heads into Stash and by now the tone has been quite clearly set for the proceedings. Notice anything missing from the setlist up there? Yeah, there’s nothing in there that you could consider a ballad unless Fee somehow fits that bill for you. With the benefit of having that setlist up front you have to know where things are headed here even if the jam charts and show reviews don’t pamp this show much. The Stash is pretty well in the box but has some nice T&R to it. It works here because they don’t rush things and allow the release to come naturally, something that doesn’t always happen when they are trying to cram a bunch of songs into a set. Next we get that somewhat cool down Fee (with the megaphone, naturally) and that then gives way to Taste for what seems like the umpteenth time this tour. Simmer down, tour boy, it is only the 14th time they’ve played it so that means you have 11 full shows where they haven’t trotted it out. And really, unless you were on this whole tour (or significant portions of it) or just don’t like the song like some people I know (WILLOWED!!!) it is hard to complain about Taste. I tend to like it a bit more than other folk (I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my deep dive into the BYE for Taste a while ago…) plus it was really starting to get good here now that the final arrangement was set. Tonight’s has a fun ‘Third Stone from the Sun’ tease as they head into the jam (about 4:05 in depending on the source) which Trey takes charge of with the normal evocative phrasing that makes you wonder if he’s teasing something but no he’s just doing that Taste thing. They wrap up the set with the second Loving Cup of the tour — I can admit I kind of got sick of that song on Spring 93 and then throughout the first part of 3.0, right? RIGHT??? — which here feels like something of an exclamation point on the set, something the crowd catches on to at the thumb-on-nose “bad guitar” line. It is a good way to wrap up this set, rocking us into the break with the sustained energy of a set that for lack of segues still felt quite connected. That’s probably a factor of there being no “lulls” of any sort combined with the solid playing all the way through too. I may have had similar comments on the Grand Rapids show but it stands. This is not something you would necessarily expect considering everyone involved generally needs a few minutes to catch their breath and slower tempo songs are a good way to rest for musicians in between the faster stuff so it is a tad surprising to see it happen here more than once in the past week or so of shows, particularly when that all go vibe carries over into the second set…
…which tonight starts out with David Bowie, something that is not exactly a common occurrence. Of the 473 Bowies played only 40 have opened sets (there’s an additional five encores of the song) and of those 12 have opened shows, 25 have opened second sets, and 3 have opened third sets. Being the tension and release juggernaut that it is one typically expects the song to show up at the end of a set to put an exclamation point on the proceedings rather than to set the tone. And tone setting is definitely what this Bowie from Kansas City is all about as the jam doesn’t really depart too far from the Bowie structure over its 18+ minutes so much as flirts around that possibility which is not how most Bowies go. Heck, even the intro doesn’t follow the normal template as the “tik-a tik-a tika tik-a” Fish intro is relatively subdued as Trey sets a loop or two and they toy around with some soundscape before slamming into the composed/lyrics section. The jam is a patient run through familiar territory, one that includes all four band members in lockstep with each other and where it feels like it could go any of a number of directions all at once. It is the type of music that lends itself to one getting lost in the abandonment of thought, feeling it all while not actively focusing on any one part. Instead of peeling off big lead lines Trey opts for sustained notes to compliment Page and Mike which all feels like it is headed for a massive release peak. There is some of that here but honestly the return to the end is a bit surprising in that “oh hang on they are wrapping it up” kind of way rather than as a culmination of what came before. They are leaving a lot on the table here, teasing us with a small bit of release but holding on to the true moment for a time later in the set when they have us in the palm of their hand. As if to punctuate this almost as soon as the Bowie ends they are into the next song (though there is no segue here), playing the Beatles’ cover A Day in the Life. This song is itself a dichotomy between tension and release but of a different variety than Bowie what with the dissonant, swelling crescendo of the beginning and end framed around the mundane goings on of mediocrity outline in Paul McCartney’s lyrics. It fits with the Bowie in adding to the overall T&R feel of this set and two songs in we are cruising along as we continue to climb that hill. The end of ADITL bumps into the start of Bathtub Gin and after what we got in Lexington a couple of weeks earlier hopes are high for another journey like that one. Even before the lyrics Trey is toying around, playing a few chords that are probably just a variation on the Gin phrasing but sure sound like they are plucked from another song that I really am kicking myself in not being able to recognize. The early part of the jam works within the Gin framework, building things up in a way that in later 1.0 would end up being one of those prototypical bliss releases but here they settle into a pocket where Trey is pulling at sustained leads as the rest of the band gets the groove going. Trey is working his way upwards, adding to the tension as Fish goes off and Page pounds away. Here I refer you to the previously linked video for this set as you can just tell Trey is feeling it, particularly as they get to a false peak that ends up dropping into a different groove entirely. Trey sets up the percussive groove pocket we’ve come to know on this tour and Page shifts from comping to leading on the piano. Trey is working over the wah pedal as he plays rhythm and they settle into a dance groove with Page moving around his various tools to lead on top. With Page in front Trey moves over to the mini-kit, giving him room and providing space for Fish to push the beat forward as well. Page comes back to the piano with some Gin-like fills and then matches up with the pocket and the band has come down to a quieter space that is no less captivating than what preceded. Mike his the fight bell, Page adds some little phatty, Trey directs traffic, and then right when it feels like this thing might peter out Trey is back on guitar as the whole band latches on to what sure feels like they are heading into our old friend The Real Me after that last came out of Gin on 12.29.1995. This is brief, however, as Trey plays the tell tale ending for Gin wrapping up our fun excursion there and falling into transitional space.
Here you might think they’ll play that Caspian that you know is due or some other cool down tune but instead Trey comes to the mike to banter a a bit, first making sure everyone knows what the Vibration of Life is and then dedicating it to Bob Neumann, who along with being the Audio Crew Chief was also the man responsible for the somewhat iconic speakerboxes they use for their show setup. After a quick flirtation with the 7.5bps of the VoL (yep, Trey said 7bps the other night and 7.5bps tonight… get your fake stories straight, Trza!) Trey opens into You Enjoy Myself. As they move through one those tingle-inducing pre and Nirvana sections you can tell they are setting us up but it isn’t really clear where this might all head just yet. Again, I’ll tell you that this song is greatly aided by viewing the video and that’s the last time I’m telling ya so listen up, hippie! The tramps section is the typical fun stuff and then when they hop off Mike is all over the fight bell as Trey comps to Page’s organ leads. Trey is bouncing all over the place here, playing the type of funk rhythm you’d expect from Fall ’97. Suddenly Fish BLAPs the groove to a stop and we are into a big time stop/start funk jam! This goes on for several rounds with Trey and Mike putting in fight bell and mini-kit trigger fills (whistle wah, others) before Page gets a turn on the phatty in one of the returns. Trey is dancing to the music at this point, almost doing a Chuck Berry duck walk as he goes, even picking up the megaphone to add a sound effect to one of the stops (the siren thing all megaphones have). They are all having a blast with this, playing loose and free as the crowd boogies hard and then Trey moves to the lead role, ripping off big lines to accent the funk pocket. They come back to another stop with Mike taking a subdued bass lead which just counterbalances the next turn Trey takes in bringing it to a soaring shred peak before he sets it into a loop and moves over to the mini-kit again as Mike plays with a familiar melody. Trey catches on and starts a vocal chorus of Groove is in the Heart, the club track that made Deee-Lite a mainstream success back in 1990 (and which was buoyed by Bootsy Collins on bass and Maceo Parker on horn). If you dig their stuff I recommend checking out Sampladelic Relics & Dancefloor Oddities, the mid-90s compilation and remix project of a lot of their stuff. It isn’t purely their sound since there is another DJ involved who has a bit more of the D&B thing going (and apologies for the mid-90s brand of “techno” you will be subjected to if you aren’t familiar with that whole business) but still worthwhile if you like their style or have a disturbing obsession with Lady Miss Kier which is completely understandable. I know I was a big fan of her vibe back in the day. Or you could spin World Clique, the album that spawned Groove is in the Heart in the first place if you want the true representation of their sound… Anyway, the band is grooving and singing and Mike and Fish are into the D&B section now as Trey does his dancing thing while rocking the mini-kit and Fish is keeping the GIITH vocal going, eventually moving into something more like wooing along the the music. Mike gets a couple more minutes of focus in the D&B, playing a pretty extended solo and then we are off into the VJ which almost comes as relief in capping this fantastic version of YEM. There’s a bit more GIITH here but it goes plaid as it typically does eventually. A pretty well deserved respite is next for the a cappella take on the Star Spangled Banner, with a nod that they’ll be performing it “for Shaw on December 3rd” which is the date when they will perform the SSB before the Lakers v. Supersonics at the Fabulous Forum (a venue the band plays here in 3.0…), and then after a little “thanks for coming out” we are on to a fitting Fire closer. Preceding the encore Trey banters a bit about the SSB and then that this is the last show of the run before their long trek westward to Spokane, thanking everyone and then starting up a really nice Squirming Coil to send us off into the night. I’ve always been a fan of the Coil encore as a way to cool things down as we all reenter reality and this version accomplishes that.
This is a show that surprised me. I knew about the Gin and the YEM but was surprised at how cohesive the whole thing feels. The first set is all really solid table setting with that energy thing I tend to mention and some interesting jams – particularly Stash and Taste but everything seems to cook here – but the second set is something else entirely. The Bowie is a slow burner that grows on you the more you spin it and it completely undersold in the wider Phish community. That is probably due to comparison with some quite impressive musical feats they have performed with the song but still a bit surprising once you hear it. The Gin is not quite to Rupp level but still a wonderful journey through multiple phases and then the YEM just takes the set and elevates it to funk dance party in ways we now almost expect but back them would not have seen coming. Yes, there are other big, funky versions of the song that precede this one (and Groove is in the Heart had been teased a few times prior as well) but something is different here. This is cowfunk Phish in its infancy and we all know where that goes. The show works as a great cap of the Midwest run, almost offering up a summary of where they have gotten to musically so far this tour what with the varied playing styles on display (sans ballads, of course…). It also points forward to more great music to come in the final week plus of shows, not to mention as we look forward at the coming evolution of the band. Time and again on this tour we keep finding the seeds of that change already being sown well before the supposed jumping off point in Europe a few months on and this show has a lot of that to show. I consider this show to be a hidden gem showcasing what Fall ’96 is all about, one that doesn’t get the publicity of other nights but that holds up well against all but perhaps the toppest of top shows on this tour – and others. That’s not to say this is a top of the heap all time show but in terms of sleeper picks you could do well to surprise your headiest of friends with this one. Your takeaways tonight are Bowie, Gin->VoL->Yem for the first tier and Taste, Stash for the second tier so I’m not being overly gracious here, I think. Now on to the western climes and a visit to the lovely Pacific Northwest…
I was a tad bit excited to get this post up and forgot to include the Stats section I mentioned way up top there! So here ya go…
25 shows into this tour, we have a pretty good idea of what the normal rotation is. Two songs stand out above the fray as being the most often played as Taste (14) and Character Zero (13) continue to battle it out for the title. The next closest are four songs sitting at 9 appearances each (CTB, CDT, Swept Away, and Steep) and then eight more songs are knotted at 8 (Disease, Free, Caspian, Sample, Stash Theme, Waste, and YEM). After that the events are quite jumbled with 23 songs being played six or seven times each. Overall we have 131 unique songs played with 36 being one-timers. The openers/closers/encores game is still pretty varied with CDT and Jim being the only two songs opening more than two shows at three apiece. As one would expect, Zero holds the first set closer slot title at 5 with no other song closer than two times. Second set openers are also pretty lumped together with only 2001 having more than a pair at 4 times. Show closers and encores are even less of a clear picture as Weekapaug has 3 show closers and four songs sit at 2 (Bowie, Hood, HMB, and Reprise) while over in encores Waste and Funky Bitch are tied at the top with 3 times each. With five Mike’s Grooves we still don’t have an I Am Hydrogen to speak of but that is probably the biggest “missing” song at this stage. The bulk of the debuts so far this tour were (obviously) part of the Halloween Remain In Light set but we also have Swept Away, Steep, the Star Spangled Banner, Mean Mr. Mustard, and We’re An American Band. That’s really about it on the statistical front at this stage unless you really go deep into the nitty gritty at which point you say “haven’t you already done that” and I wink and put a finger to my nose knowingly and then we share a guffaw before the music cues and the credits roll.
6 thoughts on “The Time this Life Had Shined – Kansas City, MO 11.19.1996”
Great review. Really dig this show. Was one that I remember seeing about after I had gotten back from Omaha and wish I had made it to KC too. Really good Bowie, killer Gin and a sure fire keeper YEM makes this set a total gem.
And thanks for the prompting towards the Bowie from ’93. It rips!
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your site just makes it that much easier for such things @verno 😉
I’ve crawled down the hole of listening to pre-’96 Kansas City shows. I know I have this one at home, but the 4/93 Phish.in source is really super clean. Almost SBD’y quality. Thanks for the rec.
The only VoL I ever heard was at First Avenue in Dec. 92. I think it was the third time they did it. Trey explains the 7 bps, etc and they were going to pan the two guitars, etc, and that the notes would be slightly off, creating beats etc. I remember thinking “I know I’m really high, but 7 bps or 7hz, is unhearable to the human ear and this is complete bullshit. Funny. But bullshit.
I knew this show for the Gin and YEM, but I 100% agree that I didn’t realize they were just kinda “on” the whole show making everything sparkle well. There are certain nights where Gin and YEM are the perfect ways to party the night away. Dancy fun grooves. Nothing too deep. What is a little different this night is that both Bowie and ADITL aren’t really “shake your butt” kinda songs, nor is VoL, but Gin and YEM make up for it.
I love how the funk that keeps growing stronger every show.
And I am a fan of Deee-Lite for sure. Saw this video for the first time very high on E. It all blurs together and shakes and jitters. Great video.
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Looking forward to reading the review of Spokane!