Some Good Parts… – Phish and Great Woods

The Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts opened for the 1986 concert season with great regional access to many of the major population center in this part of New England being approximately 40 miles from Boston, Providence, Worcester, and Cape Cod. Situated between I-495, I-95 and the town of Mansfield the venue has reasonably strong regional access and even with newer venues having been built in the intervening years draws a consistently high level of performing group each summer. At opening the venue held approximately 12,000 people which was expanded to 19,000 in 1994 with further enhancements improving the access and comfort level for patrons. One challenge that still remains (and will forever be a problem at this venue) is the bottleneck parking situation where the majority of fans are parked around the back side of the venue and thus forced to wait out extremely long lines do get to the one main exit from the center. This is not always a bad thing for the Phish crowd who love to hang out and recreate before and after the show but when the band leaves the stage at just after 11pm and you are still waiting to get out at 1:30am it is safe to say there is a bit of a problem. Since debuting here with a single set opening performance for Santana in 1992 the band has played a total of seventeen shows with performances in all three of the main eras of the band’s history.

 

After that Santana single setter every show at Great Woods has been a two set performance as part of that year’s summer tour. 1992 and 1993 were single night stops and then the next five times the band came here was for a two night stand. Oddly, Tuesday holds the high mark for most days played at this venue with seven as the next two highest combined (Friday at 3 and Saturday at 4) total to that amount together. There has never been a Sunday night show (or a Thursday one for that matter) which should not be skipped per the axiom.

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Great Woods Jams.

 

Oh, hi there! Miss me? Well, life moves pretty fast and all that. And then Summer Tour comes and that whole new Phish thing gets in the way of worrying about shows from twenty or more years prior. But we are back! And I have another site update to add! I’m going to add a link to the stream of each show on phish.in for your use if you so choose. Note that this provides a good, quick way to spin each show but in most cases those are auds unless a soundboard copy leaked at some point or it was recorded by patch which would only be relevant in the old shows. Many of the shows reviewed here, particularly the ones since LivePhish was created and the band starting releasing full tours of shows, are available in remastered soundboard glory elsewhere. Join me below the fold…

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Jonesing For Jams – Phish and Jones Beach

Jones Beach Theater is located on the shores of Long Island Sound in Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, NY. This outdoor amphitheater is one of two “large” outdoor venues in the Greater New York City area with the Garden State Arts Center being the other one, located on the opposite side of the city. With a capacity of approximately 15,000 people this venue attracts a wide variety of performers and has been a mainstay of the summer season since opening in 1952. There have been several updates and additions to the venue over the years including a smaller “theater” setting that seats approximately 5,000 people but that venue is not one where Phish has performed. In 2012 the venue was inundated with water from the storm surge related to Hurricane Sandy resulting in a $20M project to repair the theater in advance of the 2013 season. Phish has played here in two of the three main eras of their career with the majority of the performances occurring since The Return in 2009.

The fourteen shows Phish has played at Jones Beach have all been in the summer months with the first two in 1992 being single set performances on other tours (i.e. not as part of a Phish Summer Tour). The initial performance took place as headliner for the H.O.R.D.E. tour while the second was a set opening for Santana later that same month. All subsequent performances have been Phish-only two set shows with single night visits in 1993, 1994, and 2013 and multi-night stands in 1995, 2009 (3 nights), 2010, and 2012. While Friday is the most common day for Phish to play here with five such shows all other days of the week except for Monday and Saturday have witnessed Phish on this stage. Coincidentally, the first and last performances here both occurred on July 12th.

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Jones Beach Jams. Not the biggest list but there are some doozies in there.

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Old School Vibe in a New School Time – Phish and The Worcester Centrum

For our first indoor arena on the Venue Project we come to the wonderful Worcester Centrum, now known by its corporate moniker, The DCU Center. This venue holds sway not just for Phish but also for other music acts going all the way back to the first event here, a concert by none other than Frank Sinatra. Just to name a few, U2 had their first stadium show in the US here back in 1983, the Grateful Dead played twelve shows between 1983 and 1988 (before getting banned…), Boston had a nine night stand drawing over 100,000 big haired fans in 1987, Neil Diamond played a record 21 shows (Phish is closing in at 16!), and Dave Matthews apparently played some legendary pair of shows with Bela Fleck supporting in 1998. No matter what type of recreational past time you enjoy, there’s a good chance you can catch a version of it at the Centrum and musically that holds true as artists (and “artists”) of all kinds have played here over the years. For Phish fans in and around New England this place became one of the can’t miss venues on the touring circuit, usually good for at least a pair of shows in a place where the band played with ease and comfort while the crowd enjoyed the classically ‘dirty’ shakedown lot scene and general orneriness of interacting with the locals. In an effort to be transparent, I live about ten minutes from this venue and therefore hold it quite dearly. Expect fluffing.

 

Phish has played the Worcester Centrum sixteen times with the first show being the grand New Year’s Eve celebration from 12.31.1993 and the last to date being the second night of a pair on the Fall 2013 Tour. After that first time here the band has played at least two nights with the exception of their visit during the whirlwind Winter 2003 run including two highly memorable three night runs here over Thanksgiving weekends in 1997 and 1998.

 

Here is you www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Worcester Jams. Note that the famed Worcester Jim has entries for both the full thing as well as smaller chunks for each of the different sections of that epic in case you want a more manageable dose there.

 

12.31.1993  When your first time playing a venue is New Year’s Eve, you go big. Add on the fact that this was a band on the rise playing their first big time NYE Run (prior year’s runs were a much smaller affair) and you have the recipe for some serious heat which is exactly what the band brought that night. Coming off a lengthy break after a heavily front loaded year that saw a full, two legged spring tour (half of which we began this here blog by reviewing) followed by a summer with some H.O.R.D.E. sets mixed in with one of the famed months in the band’s history (August as if I have to mention it) Phish had made their way up the East Coast with a four show run that started in Washington, DC before three New England shows in New Haven, CT (their first in the big old Veterans Memorial Coliseum), Portland, ME (their second show here and first full show after a single set H.O.R.D.E. appearance in summer 1992), and here in Worcester culminated the year for the band. For each show of the run the stage was decorated to look like we the crowd were peering into a demented fish tank and that would make a lot more sense the next year when the band released their first – and only- music video ever for the big single off of Hoist, Down with Disease (more on that song in a bit). This is a very highly regarded show in the fanbase, one that many consider canon and for good reason. From the start of the show opening Llama you can hear the energy from both band and fans alike threatening to blow the roof off the room before they even get warmed up. Pretty much everything they play in this show is nailed though obviously some things stand out more than others like the crisp takes on Stash, Reba, and Lope in the 1st set or the raging Tweezer and Peaches tease-filled Ice and Possum from the 2nd set. The context there is that this run was the first set of shows the band had played since the passing of Frank Zappa a few weeks earlier, resulting in numerous Peaches teases throughout the shows as well as the song being played on three out of the four nights (there are other songs that got repeated in the run like Hood and Possum but that was more a factor of the limitations of their catalog at the time than anything). The third set is the template for how Phish would manage New Year’s shows in the future with a post Auld Lang Syne jam celebrating the new year as they open up into a jam-filled run of songs to ring in the proceedings. This night got brand spanking new music with the then unnamed but soon to be well loved Down With Disease jam (just the riffs, no lyrics, ma’am) which gave way to a smoking, tight Melt. The rest of the set is party time Phish culminating with a Hood that has long been a favorite of many a fan with some still considering it their finest pure, straight ahead version of the song ever. It is a perfect cap to this celebration and quite the jam to inaugurate this venue into Phish lore.

12.28.1995  Two years later Phish returned for more of that New Year’s Run goodness, this time playing the first two shows of the now traditional four night run before heading down to MSG for a pair of shows that were kinda pretty amazing. Warming up for that here in Worcester, the band came in hot on the heels of the legendary Fall 1995 Tour which peaked during its final month only a short nine days ahead of these shows. That results in a well polished band plying their trade rather than spending a show or two shaking off the rust. The fruits of that show from the start as they open with Melt for one of only nine times ever in the 312 performances of the song. The rest of the first set is just your typical for the time nailed fare with the fun of the PA going out during Rift being the only true notable somewhat unique feature because, c’mon, having Page sing the iconic “and silence contagious…” line at that moment is almost too convenient, eh? The second set, however, goes left in a hurry as after the Audience Chess Move they open with a dark, punishing Timber Ho! featuring a lot of big time Fish fills that slides into a raging Theme that Trey dominates. After some more evil Phish with Wilson>Buried Alive they drop into Tweezer which is in the vein of many of the classic Summer/Fall ’95 Tweezer jams which is to say that that shit is dark, yo. If you aren’t hip to the Fall ’95 jam template this is a good example of the mindfuckery we got nightly. There’s a bit in here that will be resolved in the next night’s show as Mike “practices” some of what goes down in the Bass Duet jam with his teacher Jim Stinnett but we’ll leave that for the next one down. Eventually this Tweezer morphs into a full segue to IDK where Fish takes up the trombone in the exhale of the set as they drop a late Uncle Pen and then we breathe deep again for a soaring yet also quite dissonant Slave closer. This is the type of show to kick off a NYE Run, Phish. Don’t forget that a few weeks from now…

12.29.1995  Night two on the 1995 run here in Worcester starts with a run of six songs strung together before the band takes a moment to rest. In there we get a compact Disease and one of those Taste That Surrounds that lived in the space between when Fog That Surrounds eventually became Taste. The Stash is really where things get going in earnest as they build tension with a staccato-filled jam that stays at home in the song but comes to a massive peak complete with a nice held note by Trey before they wrap around to the final round of ‘maybe so or maybe not’. The remainder of the set is raucous fun with Fluffhead and Llama before the a cappella Adeline closer cools things down a tad for intermission. Our second set starts with one of seven ever Makisupas, eventually dropping into a feedback-heavy, ambient-ish jam that melts into Page hitting the organ for the start of CTB. After that we get the always welcome second set Gin. This one is a rager from the start as Trey picks his path, navigating through the Gin theme as Page throws in his grand piano stylings. Almost suddenly, at around the 7:50 mark, Trey starts repeating a quick phrase that settles the band into a fast paced groove that Trey starts soloing over delicately. Fish is pounding away here as it evolves away from Gin into a recognizable tune, particularly if you had been around that Fall for, oh I don’t know, a certain Halloween performance? Once Trey plays the tell tale chords it is clear they are playing The Real Me to the delight of the fans. Trey’s worn out vocal cords from the prolonged tour are evident here but this rocks hard before they seamlessly come back to the Gin close which in turn segues right to a solid take on the classic McGrupp. Then, following a fun BBFCFM and as hinted to above Mike’s old bass instructor Jim Stinnett comes out for a bass jam that has some classical elements some may recognize. As the rest of the band rejoins Trey pushes it into La Grange and on to the end of set fun numbers. This show is known for the “Real Gin” but don’t sleep on the Stash and McGrupp here or that bass jam which is a unique sit-in to say the least.

11.28.1997  After skipping a visit in 1996 Phish returned for a Thanksgiving Weekend Run, giving us an excuse to dance off the holiday meal with three heaters in the ol’ sweatbox. A Curtain opener is always a good sign especially when the dance partner is a big time funky YEM. They forego the VJ for IDK and then tear through Maze as they do ahead of the piss break midset Farmhouse. The funk comes back in spades with our now defunct friend BEK (okay, sure, it’s now Moma but that’s not nearly the same is it?) and then the set concludes with one of three ever Theme>Rocky Top combos (a bit of an odd pairing if I do say so myself). This is a quality first set which was kind of the norm that tour but still only a taste of what they were about to throw down. First up is another set opening Timber Ho! which again delights with that dark magic. Next they go for the peaks with LxL which they follow up with a super peaky Slave that lands in Ghost. Now, Fall ’97 is a great tour for Ghost as they had settled into a comfortable way of attacking the jam after its debut that summer and this version is definitely a keeper. It is a clinic in cowfunk with everyone on board, compin’, clavin’, bassin’, and beatin’ into an infectious groove accented by a laser loop track. Trey resets the groove with a common comp phrase he employed back then (Mike’s *ting* shows his approval) and then they take off again as Trey alternates between lead and follow with Mike *ting*ing along as they drop into a sparse section that just begs to blow up for the final peak, which it does as Trey repeats the same, familiar lick over and over with ever increasing intensity and the band swells to the… ugh. really? so much potential for the release here and they drop into Johnny B. Goode. Oi. Not what I would have called there but then again I’m not exactly too handy with the musical creation thing like our friends up on stage, am I? Eh, after that hot set I’m not going to let a rocking fist pumper closer ruin it for me. Fun show, let’s do it again tomorrow.

11.29.1997  The middle night of a three night run that falls over a weekend generally means you get the SNS show here, one with a bunch of fun rockers and type I jams but not much in the way of otherworldly exploration. Well, that’s not where this one goes which should have been evident from the start of the Wedge opener considering it was only the 2nd ever show opening Wedge at the time (Great Went day two being the other) and still one of only five ever. Then there’s a punchy fun romp through Foam before the set slides into song mode for a few bustouts (TMWSIY>AM>TMWSIY after 67 shows and Sloth after 55) and caps with a slow burning, better than you remember Bowie. This is all appetizer though because what goes down next is still unmatched and probably will forever be so within the construct of a ‘traditional’ Phish set. Over the years, Phish has played the song Runaway Jim 377 times with versions ranging from the straight forward road song variety to longer, chugging jam vehicles that stretch well beyond the confines of the song structure (much like Jim’s wanderings…). On this night in Worcester Phish laid down the single longest single song jam ever with a Jim that comes in just a minute or three under the one hour mark. Now, depending on your favorite species of Phish jam this one may lose you in places but there really is something for everyone to be found in the “Jim Symphony” that moves through several distinct sections without ever falling apart. There are several teases, a full-on Paug jam, and more to be found here, enough that it may take repeated listens to fully grasp all that they packed into it. I know a couple of people who had that as their first show and let’s just say they were NOT prepared for that level of immersion into Phish. Perhaps sensing this unease, the band drifts into the start of Strange Design in the wake of The Jim then backed that up with a soul affirming Hood and eventually a mini bustout of Suzy (of all songs!) after 49 shows on the bench. Then for good measure there is a unique triple combo of Buffalo Bill, Moby Dick>Fire including Trey playing on The Song Remains the Same intro for the 435 show bustout in the middle there. This show is justifiably known for The Jim but giving it a full spin might surprise you with how complete it is even with that biggie in the middle.

11.30.1997  For the Sunday show capping this run before the quick turnaround to get down to Philly to sing the national anthem on Monday one could have excused the band if they wanted to play it safe after that big without a net type endeavor the night before. But that’s not what Phish does now is it? Again we get a rare opener with Guyute doing that for the first time ever here (and one of only four all time in 124 performances of the song). A not so standard Funky Bitch keeps em grooving next and then Wolfman’s in the three slot goes plaid in the best way. This is a second set hide-under-your-chair multi-themed thirty minute beast placed a mere twenty-five minutes into the show, well ahead of the schedule most of the trippers had planned for this evening. The jam heads into devilish territory with some Esther and Sanity lyric/music quotes before the band deftly throws a curveball in by seguing to the Elvis Presley classic Love Me, a Mike-sung tune we discussed back on the Fall ’98 tour. This is the last of the seven 1997 versions before it went unplayed until the following Fall and was eventually shelved. So as to not front load this show too much the band drops a hose-filled Stash in the two slot of the second set, taking the song out for a long, enjoyable ride before going unfinished into an arena-sized Free which is to say it rocks hard if not for a very long time. Without ever fully letting up on the sustain Trey then moves into soundscape building as the other players join in to create an ambient jam that feels more at home in 1999 or 2000 than here in the cowfunk days but I guess you gotta start somewhere. It provides a nice bridge to the slow build Piper that follows and something of a respite after that Stash->Free combo. After the expected Lope to close the set we get the one and only performance of Them Changes, the Buddy Miles tune from the album of the same name that also showed up on the Band of Gypsys album from the same year (1970). An interesting one off choice, it would be nice to hear why they played it then and never again.

11.27.1998  A year later the band was back again for another post-Turkey Time three pack of shows, ones that we have covered here previously. The first night is a quite well known show what with it being included in the first set of LivePhish releases. I won’t rehash my previous posts here (too much) but for this show the meat is definitely packed into the second set (even if the song Meat appeared in the first). The Reba and BOAF in the first are highlights but mainly serve to whet our appetite for the Dagwood set to come. If that reference is lost on you, go brush up on your Blondie cartoons a bit and maybe you’ll get it? Anyway, after Buried Alive the band drops a few rounds of Wipeout, the classic surf rock song by the Surfaris (get it???) that should not be confused with the oh-so-80s Beach Boys/Fat Boys joint of the same name. Bits of the 722 show bustout will pepper the set including in the middle of Weekapaug and to cap the Golgi encore but that’s not the only reason this set holds sway in the fanbase. The Chalkdust includes the debut and one time performance of the English Beat’s Mirror in the Bathroom and a return for Dog Log after its last appearance in the wake of The Riverport Gin amongst the frenetic shredding and boisterous energy from the band. Sanity and Buffalo Bill show up after the Chalkdust and then we get an almost-not-quite “traditional” Mike’s Groove since H2 comes back after a 68 show absence. Then following that Wipeout Paug fun they head out into the bliss of the type of ambient jam that Fall 1998 was known for before capping the set with a rousing Lope closer. We’ve talked about the uniqueness of seguefest shows before so I won’t dive back into that but let’s just say that this is definitely a case where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

11.28.1998  While this middle night was probably never going to live up to the legend of the one from the year before it holds its own as a solid if not great show that is a good example of what they were accomplishing that tour. The first set is anchored by (again!) the first ever Gumbo opener (only three ever there and the other two are in 3.0) which includes a nice if not extended jam, a compact but dangerous Disease, a crisp run through Foam, and a Melt that breeds hope for the second set to come. On paper this second set doesn’t look like a can’t miss winner but there’s a lot to be found here. The Wolfman’s>Timber Ho! combo has a dark, ambient vibe that Page counterpoints with bright piano fills and the Mule has some unique dueling including Mike putting the viking helmet on as he battles Fish but then the Caspian surprises with the power that the song can hold as Trey takes charge with his end solo. Then there’s a Crossroads bustout (64 shows) before a late set Tweezer that while not as expansive as we might want chugs through some interesting sections before suddenly ending for the Cavern closer. As I said above, this is not a ‘canon’ worthy show but there sure aren’t any low lights to worry about either.

11.29.1998  So then we have the final show of the 1998 Turkey Run which also happened to be the tour closer that Fall. For the third night in a row we have a first time opener, this time the Josh White ditty Paul and Silas complete with alternate lyrics to reference Paul Languedoc’s arrest the night before for not wanting to leave the hotel bar in a timely manner. This first set also has a soaring Theme and a unique LxL->Catapult->Kung>Maze section that delights the bustout junkies and setlist mavens. For the end of set the band welcomes Seth Yacavone (see the post on this show from the Fall ’98 reviews for more detail on him) for his song All The Pain Through the Years and the only ever cover of Layla. Those are fine enough but this isn’t the best sit-in ever even if they were giving some free pub to another Burlington dude. That said, Seth shreds so if you ever get the chance check his band out. In the second set there is a Simple that goes ambient but in a dark and dissonant way instead of the typical blissy bright feel and then peters out to Makisupa where we get more digs at the expense of Paul followed by the typical ambient dub mini-jam the song often gets. The Possum that follows goes fully into Wipeout before coming back and then we get one last airy vehicle with the late set Gin. This is a keeper and one that encapsulates the tour sound well before the band wraps things up with a powerful YEM and move into the encores. It is hard to say that any of the final two shows can live up to the fun and uniqueness of the first night of this run but in terms of open jamming this one is the big dog for the year at Worcester.

02.26.2003  During the post-Hiatus Winter 2003 Run Phish played the Centrum for the third to last show of that tour. After a telling tease of Call to Post at the outset they were off running into YEM for only the 11th ever show opening version of the song (and first since 1997) with the 12th (and last to date) occurring later that year at Shoreline. This is a bombastic version of the classic with the crowd erupting at several points to voice their approval for the return of the band to New England after Hiatus. Then the set takes on a “What I Did on Summer Vacation” vibe (not my line but I like it) as first we get the Mike/Leo Kottke tune Clone (which had you been listening closely was quoted by Trey in the YEM VJ), then later the TAB tune Drifting, Pork Tornado’s Blue Skies, and Vida Blue’s Final Flight with a really uplifting Roggae and big time funky Moma interspersed before a punchy Maze closer. If you aren’t familiar with these side project bands and/or songs, check out the Phish versions which are fun interpretations if perhaps not 100% faithful and then go spin the originals. Sadly none of these has ever graced the Phish stage again but it was a neat thing to hear the band mix these tunes in with some high quality ‘standard’ fare. The second set starts out with a long run through Stash, one that benefits from the 2.0 sound as they drop some gritty funk and Trey gets to some almost plinko space in his staccato playing. Next up is a far reaching Ghost that first meanders and then climbs to a powerful transition to Low Rider (after a mere 214 layoff) before shifting over to Makisupa where the keyword references a fire in the band’s hotel back in Cincy. The outro jam of this then pushes into Ya Mar and from there the set stays in a more song-based mode as they ride the high energy of the room. This is a unique show with the setlist debuts and a great example of the highs that 2.0 Phish could reach.

12.27.2010  It was then another seven and a half years before Phish would return to Worcester, partially due to that whole “breaking up” thing. Here we get the first two nights of the first five night NYE Run in the band’s history with the last three occurring down at MSG after one night off between the venues. This was the first show following the Halloween Little Feat throwdown in Atlantic City so it isn’t exactly surprising that there’s a bit of rustiness to be found here. On top of that, there was a full-on blizzard going down outside and Trey was battling a cold. All that said, this was still another fun night in the Centrum and being the first time the band had played here in 3.0 spirits were high amongst the faithful. The first set is very song heavy with only the lovely Roggae eclipsing the ten minute mark as the band mixed in the 54 show bustout of Cool It Down and the second/final version of the Mike tune What Things Seem mixed in with mainly common fare. The second set starts out promisingly enough with Mike’s which gets a 74 show bustout of Mound in the middle slot (only time that has ever happened) before they bring Paug around (so much for the hope of a set-spanning Groove, dude) and then trot out Farmhouse. Seven Below provides hope and delivers on that to a certain degree when Trey begins adding WTU? phrasing to the jam, eventually ending up there for a unique meshing of the two songs. Honestly, outside of the clever lyric change in Cavern to “take care of your boots” that’s about it for highlights in this one. Oh well, at least there’s more to come.

12.28.2010  Night two on this stop feels a lot more energetic which might be as much about the crowd being more comfortable as the band considering Trey’s voice is not in a good place for singing tonight. The first set gets a couple of bustouts in MMGAMOIO (56 shows) and She Caught the Katy (323 shows) which I still scratch my head about in wondering why that song then. Before we can answer that rhetorical question they blow up the room with a compact but boisterous Wolfman’s and then debut Pigtail which was then promptly shipped off to TAB tour until it came back twice this summer. The set ends with another debut, this time a curious choice due to Trey’s voice issues as the a cappella Birdwatcher (another song heard mostly with TAB after this time) gets its turn. Oh yeah, almost forgot. Trey uses a toy Sarah Palin thing to insert her soundbites into Alaska, amusing himself greatly and throwing a bunch of spunions into a wild head trip. Nice job, Trey. The second set chugs in with standard takes on Carini and BDT#L before an energetic BOTT (with the crutch Streets of Cairo tease thrown in) that segues nicely into LxL. Later in the set we have two more bustouts with Frankie Says (82 shows) and Albuquerque (60 shows) which precede a stunningly beautiful plinko-filled Hood that is the gem of this pair of shows. Listen for Page teasing the wonderful Spanish Harlem along with some other musical nods that may or may not be there depending on who you ask. The Bug closer and Shine A Light encore add some gravitas behind that Hood and we are outta here for the year.

06.07.2012  The Summer 2012 tour got started here in Worcester with a pair of shows that had the fanbase buzzing as the band was coming off a rather underwhelming NYE Run to end 2011 and following a Spring where Trey hit the symphony circuit and Mike did a little Euro run (including headlining Jam in the Dam VI). Hopes weren’t exactly high about the music the band had left us with last so no one really knew what to expect here. Perhaps in response to this, Phish came out with guns blazing, leaving those questions at the curb. It doesn’t hurt when you start the tour with Buried Alive>Jim>Torn & Frayed sequence, going from the old school darkness through a bright and fun Jim jam and onto a song with emotional impact and poignant, relevant lyrics like “the band is a bag of nerves on first nights”. After a few more energetic dance numbers we have a pair of bustouts surrounding Ocelot in the ultra rare Nothing (78 show gap and only six ever performances now) and Beauty of a Broken Heart (91 show gap). Then the set concludes with a somewhat different take on the Possum jam and Rocky Top, giving us little to no hint about what was to come after the break. Things get started with a Carini that goes to bliss territory pretty quickly, opening up into a lush, sway-friendly space where Page is layering in various effects on the keyboards and Mike and Trey are tinkling around, eventually building up to a transition point where Trey moves into Taste, one with a soaring Norwegian Wood tinged jam (I will never tire of how quickly we fans pick up on that sort of tease. You can hear the recognition within a note or two here). This is followed by yet another solid Ghost from this venue which tonight starts out with a patient groove that evolves through several sections before starting to lose steam when Mike takes charge and pushes it into Boogie On. Normally that would probably signal the move into fun time Phish where the jams are an afterthought but tonight they take Boogie out dancing as Trey plays an infectious lead and Mike employs the meatball filter to great effect. The crowd climbs on for the ride as they peak it out more than once before dropping back down to a funk groove and eventually segueing into the 102 show bustout of If I Could. You could excuse them for wrapping it up with a couple of rockers after that but a punchy Quinn, peaky Hood, Cavern, and a bit of Buried Alive reprise are still in store before the predictable Cup encore. This show is a very strong tour opener and definitely one that had us all beaming after the doubts that preceded.

06.08.2012  The second night follows the Worcester tradition of rare openers as Free gets its second ever appearance in the one slot (first one was only three shows prior on 12.29.2011 – and there have now been another four since this one) and then in the three slot fans finally got their wish for another go at jamming out the Ween classic Roses are Free. you know how I said you can hear the tease recognition in that Taste? Well, once the crowd realizes they are stretching out this Roses the place went WILD. This was clearly a conscious effort by the band that pays off for all as they settle into a playful groove where both Trey and Mike bring forward creative ideas before it drops out into Theme. The rest of the set is fine enough, I suppose, but that Roses is where the hat hangs, so to speak. The Julius has a bit of extra stank on it and the Gin peaks well in closing things up which is always appreciated. The second set starts out with a better-than-I-remembered Disease but it’s not one you will see thousand word essays written about any time soon, I would venture. Next up is Sand which doesn’t go too far into the typical jam but instead after a bit of plinko gets one of the more unique full segues ever accomplished by the band as they somehow move from the late 90s groove vehicle into a bluegrass cover in Nellie Kane. Dubbed the “Sandy Kane” by some it deserves a spin or two if only to hear this transition go down. The balance of the set is fine enough with the only Mike’s>Maki>Paug ever and a highly danceable 2001 in the penultimate slot but nothing really elevates in the second set.

10.25.2013  The following year Phish was back for another pair in the week leading up to their Fall Tour ending stop at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. This first set is decent with a nice Wolfman’s and the 109 show bustout of MMGAMOIO (last played here…) being the notable things to take away from it. This is not to say that nothing else is “good” here just that it is the type of good we expect from the band without it ever going past that mark. But the second set is a different story as they open with Waves, giving the song space in the second jam as they bring it up to a swelling peak that crashes into the start of Carini. Sorry about that ‘waves’ imagery there. It was just too easy. Anyway, the Carini is another solid one, this time staying in darker territory than the one from here last year in a more compact version that I felt should have continued longer rather than moving on to Caspian. Oh well. The BDT#L jam after that is nice in the oh-yeah-this-is-why-I-like-this-song way that often hits those who grumble about it being played mid second set and then we have another entry into the Worcester Ghost files. This one is playful and light as they change the lyrics to reference Fish’s son Jack. The jam dies out into Dirt and then after a straight forward Disease they head to end of set proceedings with a Sally>Cavern>Lope sequence. The encores are extended a bit tonight as they fit in four songs including Contact which if you listen to closely enough on the auds you might hear my wife loudly booing (kidding about hearing her, but she is NOT a fan of that song and has definitely booed it at shows… including this one). The first half of this second set is really strong but overall this is a bit of a standard-feeling show.

10.26.2013  The next night is a different story. Maybe it is me but something about this first set just speaks to the combined energy of the band and crowd making it a lot better than perhaps it should have been just looking at it on paper. Nothing here is a big jam highlight but everything pops from the Party Time opener on. There’s something to be said for a set when even in being ten songs long only has one almost slower song with Ride Captain Ride. The second set continues the trend though now with jams aplenty as they first take Drowned to several places including some Oye Como Va type phrasing, a Steam-like part, and a section that really feels a heck of a lot like Jimmy Cliff’s Sitting Here in Limbo. The Light that follows is brilliant as well, shining with melodic delight and hitting a section where Fish interjects “heys” in an obvious nod to the ‘hey hole‘ jam space they hit.Succinct runs through Sand, Theme, and Mike’s lead to the second ever No Quarter in the Groove sandwich slot (which is to say the placement is the second ever, not that it is the second ever performance of the song) as Paug caps the set in rocking fashion. During the Boogie encore someone joins Fish on the kit, eventually taking over for him as Fish moves to the side to watch. That person turns out to be legendary drummer (and Berklee School of Music professor) Kenwood Dennard who many in the Phish scene probably first became aware of from his appearance on the Maceo Parker tour staple album Life On Planet Groove which you probably heard a lot if you spent any time in the lots in the mid 90s. Kenwood stays on the kit for Possum and while I personally like this very different take on the drumline many were not quite so appreciative of it. So much for taking risks. This is definitely the better of the two from 2013 and might be the best of the 3.0 shows overall from this venue considering the deep jams and clear intent to just go for it from the start.

 

And now for the Tale Of The Tape!

Venue:  Worcester Centrum Centre (DCU Center)

No. of Shows:  sixteen

Intangibles:  geographic position draws fans from all over New England and the Tri-State area to the southwest, better acoustics and ease of access than similarly sized venues in Boston appeal to the band and fan alike, venue is one of the classic minor league hockey sheds where Phish made their name – and still has that feel, always has one of the wildest old school lot scenes around

Recurring Themes:  multi-night stands (only two single shows with six multi-nighters including two three-nighters in 97 & 98); unique openers (Funky Bitch is only repeat with several songs opening shows for one of few times ever), bustouts (almost every year there are at least a few minor and often major song bustouts, singular performances of songs (eight songs have been played here and nowhere else: All the Pain Through the Years, Blue Skies, Clone, Drifting, Final Flight, Layla, Mirror in the Bathroom, Them Changes), no Divided Sky or ACDC Bag (neither song has ever been played here), Ghost jams (every version they have played here has merit in some fashion), Possum and Stash (chances are, if you come to Worcester shows you’ll get one as each has been played in all but two of their stops in town)

Key Jams/Songs:  1993 – Stash, Reba, Lope, Tweezer, Ice, Possum, ALS>Disease Jam>Melt, Hood; 1995 – Melt, Timber Ho!>Theme, Tweezer->IDK, Slave, Stash, Gin->Real Me->Gin->McGrupp>BBFCFM>Bass Jam->La Grange; 1997 – YEM->IDK, BEK, Timber Ho!, LxL, Slave, Ghost, Foam, THE Jim, Hood, Funky Bitch, Wolfman’s, Stash->Free; 1998 – Ya Mar, Jim, Reba, entire 2nd Set of 11.27, Gumbo, Disease, Foam, Melt, Wolfman’s>Timber Ho!, Caspian>Crossroads, Tweezer, Theme, LxL->Catapult->Kung, Simple, Possum->Wipeout->Possum, Gin; 2003 – YEM>Clone, Roggae, Moma, Stash, Ghost->Low Rider->Maki->Ya Mar; 2010 – Roggae, Seven Below>WTU?, Wolfman’s, BOTT->LxL, Hood; 2012 – Jim>T&F, Possum, Carini->Taste>Ghost>Boogie>IIC, Hood, Roses are Free, Julius, Gin, Sand->Nellie Kane, 2001; 2013 – Waves>Carini, BDT#L>Ghost, Gin, Drowned>Light, Possum

PJJ Ratio:  Worcester comes in at a lower than expected but still solid 2.56 JPS rating (the average for all venues under consideration in this project is 2.47). Even my hometown bias can’t massage the numbers there.

Worcester has a long history and is rightfully considered one of the classic venues in Phish lore. A lot of that reputation is based on the shows from 1.0/2.0 as some of the sets in 3.0 haven’t exactly been all-timers. This is a place where the band and crowd are clearly comfortable which shows up in the loose feel to the playing and the general rowdiness of the fans both inside the venue and out in the streets that surround. While at the end of this the Centrum is definitely not going to place highly in the overall ranking of these venues it is a place we hold dear as much as for what it represents from the band’s past as what they continue to do when visiting. Some truly canonical stuff has gone down here including NYE 1993, The epic Jim, the Wipeout Set, and the “What I Did On Hiatus” set but that is really just the cream of a banner crop. Long live the Worcester lots!!

 

Tales of the Giant Iguana – Phish and Red Rocks

The first venue to (randomly) come up in our review of the best venues in all of the band’s history is Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO, arguably one of the most beautiful venues in the United States. This natural amphitheatre is part of 640 acres of parkland with trails and other sites besides the music venue to entertain those who visit. Opening in 1941, it has since been designated a National Historic Landmark and is characterized by the iconic dual 300+ foot monoliths that project upwards on either side of the venue, providing that amazing sound and allowing for 9,525 people to have a fantastic view of the band on stage as well as the surrounding area including the Denver skyline off in the distance. This is the type of venue that elevates the concert experience not only literally (elevation here is 6,450 feet above sea level) but also spiritually as for reasons that are obvious once you get into this wonderful place both musicians and fans tend to bring their “A” game most of the time. That ‘venue magic’ is evident in many of the shows that Phish has played here and is part of why seeing shows at this venue became a necessity for those able and willing to make the trek across the great divide.

Phish has played Red Rocks a total of thirteen times with the first appearance being a Friday night in the middle of one of the legendary months in the band’s history and the final appearance to date being the capstone show of the four night run in the comeback summer of 2009. In between they have played two night stands in 1994 and 1995 as well as a four night stand on the brief US portion of the summer tour leading up to The Clifford Ball. There have also been several non-Phish visits to this storied venue including five TAB shows, one Mike & Leo Kottke show, a YMSB with Fish show, and one sit-in by Mike during a Gov’t Mule show. But we’re here for the Phish!

Since we are starting a new thing here let’s talk a bit about what this will look like. Rather than give a full recap of every show at a venue I will be listing off each one, cherry-picking notable highlights and identifying the potentially iconic jams that each show birthed. From there we can debate how this stacks up against the other venues on the list.

Before I dive in forthwith, here is a playlist of all of the Red Rocks jams over the years from our friends at www.phishjustjams.com

08.20.1993  Opening with Divided Sky to nod to the rainstorms that passed through the area pre-show is a nice touch but following it with a mythos-building Harpua tale immediately takes this show next level. Trey espouses his adoration for the venue before even getting to the Giant Iguana Red Rocks origin story which is one I highly recommend listening to if you don’t already know it. The rest of the first set progresses as most did in that era with crisp renditions of each song including some solid Page work in Ice,  a nice acoustic Ginseng Sullivan dedicated to Brad Sands, and the final “slow” Wedge before it got shelved and reworked (returning 135 shows later just before another show detailed further down this page). The Antelope to cap the set is a wild psychedelic ride that departs the song for a bit before coming back to the big ending we know and love. The second set is full of highlights including a patient early set Slave, a frenzied and fast-paced Melt, and a YEM->Purple Rain that includes Mimi Fishman joining her son on the vac. This show is not the best from that legendary month but is a great example of what Phish was in this time as they began the move out of the ‘speed jazz’ era.

06.10.1994  The next year Phish returned for a pair of shows, again hitting the weekend with the first night falling on Friday as the second show of the summer tour after opening up in Salt Lake City on Thursday. Even in being only ten months since their last visit here it is clear that this is a different version of this band. The release of Hoist in March coupled with the spring tour supporting that release has brought out a ferocious side to their playing, a style that builds off of the speed jazz of 1993 but now includes the machine gun shred and regular dips into more open, psychedelic waters. This first night only offers us inklings of that as they are getting into this new tour but still has some interesting aspects such as the nod to the Iguana Tale in the intro to The Lizards (a song that almost never includes banter like this), a bunch of teases, an entertaining Fish Fun Time segment for I Wanna Be Like You, and a compact yet powerful Tweezer that resolves nicely into Lifeboy. When looking at this 1994 Red Rocks pair the second night is the one everyone points to (for reasons that will be obvious shortly) but this show also has most of those elements that made 1994 Phish so intoxicating for we fans.

06.11.1994  Now relaxed and comfortable in their surroundings, Phish came out for the second night of the pair with a show that is anything but a “Saturday Night Special”. By that I mean it is not just a rock-it-out jukebox set but instead is often held up as a paragon of what Phish could be in this era. Some have called this a “perfect” Phish show which might be hyperbole but the argument for it is pretty compelling. The first set is all go for broke rock highlighted by a wonderful YEM and a short but peaky Stash to close the set. Then the second frame is more of the same with Antelope and Fluffhead cranking the energy up before they blow the metaphorical roof off in a nasty take on Melt and a Maze that gets strong solos from both Page and Trey. There’s also a 332 show bustout for Frankenstein just for good measure. This may not have as many open jams as fans these days want/expect but it still holds as the type of show that you can give to a friend who doesn’t know the band to provide a glimpse into this world of ours.

06.09.1995  Almost a year to the day Phish came back for their third visit to Red Rocks and second straight year playing two shows. Once again the band was working through newer material, this time working on many of the songs that would end up on Billy Breathes when that album was released more than a year later. Again this show fell in the early part of tour as this pair was preceded by only the tour opener in Boise and one in Salt Lake City ahead of these weekend shows. After a one year gap Divided Sky returns to Red Rocks and the first set includes three of those newer tunes in Strange Design, Theme, and Taste (but not the final version of that song). The set is capped by a quite peaky Antelope and then they come out firing with another second set Melt that goes sideways in that wonderful way. Bowie is the dark vehicle that carries this set in the first version of perhaps the best tour for the song overall. As with 1994 this first night is a bit of setup more than the peak of the pair but being summer 1995 it pops with the energy and swagger that the band had on display throughout that year.

06.10.1995  There’s something to be said for a show that starts out with Trey pointing out his grandfather in the crowd before starting up Makisupa Policeman. It pretty much tells you how comfortable they were in their position as the rising stars of Jamlandia, particularly when that Maki keyword is “4:20. Dank” and the crowd goes wild before they dropped from a soupy outro jam into a power packed Llama. Here again we also get another solid mid first set YEM which evolves into a vocal HYHU segue to Fish Fun Time for the final version of Lonesome Cowboy Bill before it would return on Halloween in 1998. The second set is another rager with a Maze opener and a massive Mike’s Groove that eats up more than 35 minutes from the 22+ minute Mike’s through the CYHMK-tinged Paug. This Mike’s is the sort that 1.0ers are always on about when the younger fans wonder why this song is held so highly by older fans and lives up to the billing in all its dissonant glory. For good measure this set is graced with the debut of ADITL in the encore. Between this show and the second night the prior year you can see why fans at this time had come to regard shows at Red Rocks as can’t miss certainties.

08.04.1996  Following their first “real” tour of Europe in the early part of the summer of 1996 Phish returned to the US for nine shows leading up to the first big end of summer festival at the Clifford Ball in Plattsburgh, NY. Four of these nine shows were at Red Rocks and the hype surrounding them was unparalleled in the fanbase due to several factors including but not limited to the demise of the Grateful Dead, the explosion of Phish in the wake of 1995, and a limited US touring schedule for the summer of 1996. Once again hitting here in the early stages of tour after stopping in Utah first, the band comes out strong and rides the energy of the crowd. You can almost feel it listening back on the tape as the band and fans connect to elevate the music beyond the objective criteria one might set. This first set gets a lot of the fist-pumping anthems with the Chalkdust opener, Guyute, a really high spirited Melt, Sloth, Maze, and the Loving Cup closer. Then after a punchy Bag 2nd set opener they lay down a lovely Reba (just watch out for the super abrupt ending!) and take Bowie out for a ride. Page also breaks out his “new toy” theremin for a brief debut of the Theme from Star Trek in the encore. This show is a fun one for the start of the run, the first non-NYE time four show run at one venue, and an odd first night Sunday show taboot taboot.

08.05.1996  The second night in 1996 feels in retrospect like a Clifford Ball primer show with its solid if unremarkable first set and a second set that showcases a couple of different sides of the band in that time period. It also is a pretty typical show for 1996 in general. Starting out with 2001 (which happened in a show at every Red Rocks run except 1995) the band then goes into what will eventually stand up as the best Disease of the year (even including some of those wonderful ones from that Fall tour). This is an atypical take on the song in this era but moves through several phases (including Trey on minikit) before seguing into a wild Ice that you really should spin as it is pretty unique. They come up for air in Halley’s but dive deep here as well until Page surfaces with Somewhere Over the Rainbow on theremin. Following the oddly placed mini-stage acoustic set (including the debut of Talk… yay?) and the a cappella Amazing Grace they wrap up with another strong Mike’s Groove. This one is perhaps not as lauded as the one from the year prior but still will get you moving and grooving. Another thing of note with this show is that it includes one of the first example of fans actively trying to get the crowd en masse to “interact” with the band on our terms as flyers were handed out in the lots to try to initiate a few new responses by the crowd to what the band was doing, akin to the Secret Language responses that the band had employed for several years by this time. One of these ideas was for fans to sit down during the pause in Divided Sky which apparently worked to enough effect on this night to be noticeable above just a few folks getting winded from the lack of oxygen and needing to catch their breath. That one didn’t stick but one from the next night sure has…

08.06.1996  By the third night of this 1996 run Phish and its fans had pretty well overrun the small town of Morrison. A contributing factor was the large number of ticketless fans who descended (or perhaps ascended if we want to get technical with the altitude here) upon the area and did not exactly cooperate fully with local law enforcement. There are several stories out there about what really went down but the impact would be felt for more than a decade (more on that later). The band clearly knew what was going on as they opened with Makisupa and then altered the keyword to the first set closing Lope to be “21 year old Phish Fan Marco Esquandolas” which is a direct reference to a quote from a local newspaper from an oh so clever fan. In between that Trey threw in a U2 (and 07.25.1988 Icculus that made it to the Electra release of Junta) reference by saying  “This is Red Rocks. This is the Edge,” in the Rift break section (you know, the part right after the “…slipped off the edge” line), and they played a straight but solid Simple along with everything else. The second set is carried by a strong Tweezer that includes a jam on Norwegian Wood (Trey is very much in charge in this Tweezer) but then the set turns towards the more humorous side of the band as they romp through BBFCFM and then nod to the rainy night with Fish Fun Time for Purple Rain. But with the next song, Harry Hood, the fans joined the band to add “Hood!” in response to the standard “Harry!” line in the song, spurred on by that flyer that circulated and forever changing the song once these tapes got out and spread to the wider fanbase. You may love it but I personally long for the days when the song did not include that crowd feedback. Call me crotchety or whatever but that’s one of my few “back in my day!” things with this band so yeah.

08.07.1996  The final night of the four in 1996 continued the trend with another solid first set as they took Stash out for a DEG-tinged jam, thanked a recent medal-winning Olympian in the crowd, and brought out Colorado native Tim O’Brien for a few songs to end the set (all debuts). I still cannot figure out why they didn’t play Nellie Kane with him but whatever. If you like mando-music this is good stuff for you. The second set starts off with a very engaging Jim that somehow morphs into a full Gypsy Queen jam before coming back to Jim and eventually dropping into a crunchy Free where Trey hits the minikit for a bit. Next up is storytime for another iteration of the Iguana tale (that makes three references in four years), a Life On Mars? that was both topical to current events and nodded back to the tale in Forbin>Mockingbird, and eventually a very nice YEM in the latter part of the set. This show is one of those celebration cappers to a solid run where it is as much about the feel in the room as the music they lay down. The scene was in full bloom at these shows and was about to take another major leap forward with the first true Phish-only festival about ten days away. Though no one knew it at the time this would be the last time Phish would/could play this venue for more than a decade as the poor interactions between fans and local officials made it such that the venue “banned” the band for what we could only assume was forever.

07.30.2009  Time has a funny way of softening people’s views on things, of course, so when Phish returned after The Long Wait and started announcing plans for their summer tour there were rumors that perhaps we had all grown up enough to be allowed back to Red Rocks. Those rumors became reality and Phish came back for another four night run in starting up the second leg of the inaugural summer tour of 3.0. It was difficult to figure out what we might get musically but anticipation was high and tickets were as difficult to come by as any perhaps save the reunion shows at Hampton earlier that year. This was a venue that Phish had ostensibly outgrown in the years since their last visit which played into the demand (and is definitely part of why they have not returned here since, preferring the big crowd and easy venue logistics of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park). Nodding to past shows here they opened with Divided Sky, giving everyone the chance to reconnect with this magical place during The Pause. This opening set is pretty safe as they go but the Stash goes out for a walk even with Trey working out some whale tone in there. The second set is anchored by a fun Ghost>Wolfman’s pairing and the second set closing Bowie is a rocking good time but overall this is a pretty tame Phish show. That is understandable considering it is the first show in more than a month following the Leg One closer at Alpine and 2009 was mainly about everyone reconnecting.

07.31.2009  The second night found the band seemingly more in their element as they got to jamming pretty quickly with the third song Gin. Unfortunately, the energy built by the opening threepack of Jim, Chalkdust, and Gin was deflated when they dropped Time Turns Elastic in the four hole, resulting in a mass departure for the restrooms. The weather played a role in this one as well when the band started up Water In The Sky with rain starting to fall and eventually leading to a wild open jam in Melt during the windy downpour that felt in the moment like the band was ‘playing the storm’. After an extended break to wait out the storm they came back with an on-the-nose Drowned that gets to some quiet space before a nice segue into C&P gets the crowd and band bouncing again. As in the first set they don’t capitalize on the energy as they head into the then new Joy before pulling the yo-yo string again to crank into a much appreciated Tweezer. Unfortunately the ripcord is here too as they bail for BDT#L (let me tell you, it is really weird to be writing about these newer songs after so many posts about shows from eighteen or more years ago!). Pulling the string again they run through a raucous Fluffhead->Piper->ADITL segment to end the set and then after the encores we are left wet and weary and eager for more. There are more good moments here that I recalled but this show suffers from the yo-yo effect that disrupts any cohesiveness.

08.01.2009  By the third night of any run both band and crowd are now fully present and that holds true for this show. The second song in is the return of The Curtain (With) which while only having had a gap of 21 shows waited almost five years to be played again after the absolute trainwreck version from The Festival Which Shall Not Be Named. It was particularly fulfilling to see Trey nail this. Mound was a little bustout (83 shows) and then a fun Jibboo preceded Trey joking about the band using only hand signals to indicate what song would be next (something they continued throughout the set), followed by the high energy PYITE, Guyute section before they started up the end run with a punchy Tube that was big on Page with Trey bending his notes to accent the clav. Antelope punches through for another solid Red Rocks version and then the double whammy 2nd set opening pairing of RnR>Disease got the jams going for real. The RnR has some stop/start action and the Disease includes LA Woman teases which is always nice. There’s an Esther bustout here (89 shows) and a quite heavy feeling Dirt which led to a fun Hood that included teases of both Dirt and Free. This show felt like the one where we were all finally comfortable in the surroundings and musically I think that holds true. The music here has been vastly surpassed in the intervening years since The Return but there are some great connected moments to be found in some of these jams.

08.02.2009  For the final night of this 2009 run the band played things very loose, even opening with the first Roses Are Free of the comeback and then playing a spirited if somewhat disjointed set of music from all over their history. The second set is the gem of this run starting from the jammed out Boogie On opener and working through YEM which dove directly into Undermind when Bill Freaking Kreutzmann came out to join Fish on a second kit. Billy K stayed on for the rest of the set which included a Drums segment that segued into Seven Below, a fantastically groovy 2001, and a quite interesting Waves before the Zero closer. A triple encore put the icing on this one and wrapped up the final Red Rocks show to date. Similar to the night before, the band really found connection in this set and unlike many times when a guest sits in did not lose anything for it. It added another chapter to the ever growing shared mythology of Phish and The Dead while allowing for some creative music as well.

So those are the shows and the base synopsis for each night the band has played this venue. What then is the tale of the tape?

Venue:  Red Rocks Amphitheatre

No. of Shows:  thirteen

Intangibles:  unique, beautiful venue in Phish-friendly Colorado with great acoustics. band has long appreciation for the venue. small(er) capacity adds to mystique in it being a hard ticket to get but worth it if you go. added mythos with band getting banned after 1996 run. classic lot scene with multiple lots and entry points.

Recurring Themes:  Trey wove tales of the giant iguana into almost every run in 1.0, adding to it and updating with topical references. Every visit has Antelope, Melt, Coil, and Yem. Rain.

Key Jams/Songs:  1993 – Harpua, Antelope, Slave, Melt, YEM->Purple Rain, slow Wedge; 1994 – Tweezer, YEM, Stash, Melt; 1995 – Antelope, Melt, Bowie, Makisupa->Llama, YEM, Mike’s Groove; 1996 – Melt, Maze, Reba, Bowie, Disease, Ice, Halley’s->SOTR, Mike’s Song, Tweezer, Hood, Stash, Jim->Gypsy Queen->Jim>Free, Forbin’s>Mockingbird, YEM; 2009 – Stash, Ghost>Wolfman’s, Melt, Drowned>C&P, Tweezer, Curtain (With), Tube, RnR>Disease, Hood, Boogie, YEM->Undermind->Drums->Seven Below>2001>Waves

PJJ Ratio:  2.00 (Please see the Shoreline post for details on this)

 

While I have a hard time believing that Red Rocks will win this competition, it is clearly a venue that holds some great history for the band and fans alike. I must admit that I used to live a short five miles from this venue and grew to love it even more with each show (Phish or otherwise) that I saw there. There is something magic in those rocks, something that you cannot fully explain but once you’ve been there you understand. That magic reflects in the experiences people have and in the music that gets played. It is the type of venue that you remember fondly even after the music fades away.

Where this venue ranks in the overall list is still to be determined. For now let’s enjoy the music that was created in the cradle of the Giant Iguana. What is your favorite memory of Phish at Red Rocks?

As I Thrill to the Magic Charms — Seattle, WA 04.05.1993

Phish — HUB Ballroom — Seattle, WA 04.05.1993

I  Llama, Ice, Fee, Maze, Fluffhead, Paul & Silas, Stash, Forbin’s>Mockingbird, Bowie

II  Axilla, Poor Heart, Caravan, PYITE, Tweezer, Glide, YEM, HYHU>Cracklin’ Rosie>HYHU, Reprise

E  Carolina, Fire

Now back in the good ol’ U S of A after their one night tour of Western Canada, Phish put another solid show in the books for the good people of Seattle, WA on what would be the last night of the West Coast leg of this Spring ’93 Tour. This is a show that provides a nice exclamation point to all that preceded it, offering musical ideas that have been developed over the past two plus months and popping off with the energy of a band that knows they can do effectively whatever they choose in delighting their fans. Tonight’s show would include so many of the elements that make Phish who they are that it seems difficult to think that the band did not actively take the show in the direction it would eventually go.

Starting with the first set opener the band showed they came to do business, offering up a fiery little monster of a Llama that contains a tease that would play heavily into the tenor of the show, particularly the second set. This tease is Caravan and if you know your Phish history you will note that this jazz standard was once a relatively common cover with 26 of the total 42 performances to date occurring in 1990 (and another five times in 1991 — four times on the Giant Country Horns tour that summer). We will come back to this though…  After that we have a clean take on Ice and a megaphone-less Fee to bring us to the next rager in Maze. A typically high energy version, this one is quite shreddy and fast-paced with a big organ (heh) solo out of Page and some crowd participation as the fans clapped along during the initial build and in a couple of other spots. This clapping is something that wasn’t necessarily rare in later ’93 and ’94 but this is the first time this tour I recall hearing it so clearly on the tapes.

Next up is a mid set Fluffhead and this take is on point and energetic, which seems to be something of a theme by now in this set. Nothing too special here but nice to hear them nail this tune. The bluegrass ditty tonight is Paul & Silas which then gets us to the main highlight of this here first set in a dynamic Stash that I definitely recommend one listening to if you can.  The jam starts off patiently, allowing the band to get a bit outside the song itself before they head into a DEG-ish section and eventually come back around to the song while seemingly hinting at CYHMK along the path. It is a good example of what Stash used to be. By now you’d think they would be starting to head towards the closer but first we have Story Time with Trey by way of Forbin’s>Mockingbird. Tonight’s story is another engaging one as Trey notes the crowd being pretty ‘toasty’ and being quite literal here he means that the crowd is turning into toast.  I don’t want to ruin the detail of where the story heads from there but I will note that there is a ‘Those Were the Days’ (theme to All In The Family) in there from Page. After that we get the lovely resolution that is Mockingbird and finally the set closing Bowie you could have bet was coming if you had been watching setlists this tour (much easier said than done back then, frankly). The intro section gets the Secret Language in spades tonight with Simpsons, AFD, and Oom Pa Pa signals, not to mention a tease of Mockingbird before they head forward for a mainly ‘in bounds’ version that provides an energetic stamp on the set and allows us to all catch our breath for a bit with the break to follow.

After that breath-catching session the band came out and started up the 2nd set by continuing the high energy motif with Axilla and a decently fine Poor Heart before we get the payoff on that tease in the show opener. After 224 shows and almost two full years they dusted off Caravan, throwing in a Manteca tease for good measure. Incidentally, the song would then stay in the rotation for the next leg of tour, being played three more times between this show and the tour closer in Durham, NH a month from here. Each of those also included a Manteca tease for whatever that is worth. Sadly, after seven more appearances for the song it has been shelved (last occurring as a bustout after 160 shows for the New Year’s Run in 1996 at the Spectrum in Philly). Pardon the parenthetical dangling participles there.

After this we get PYITE which is just fine and dandy before they head into a Tweezer that doesn’t stretch too much but offers up several more Caravan teases out of Trey. Worth the listen but this Tweezer isn’t making any best of lists. Glide provides a respite of sorts before the next big one which tonight is YEM. We get a few ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ teases along the way here and Trey exerts his domination in taking over the jam which brings us to a nice peak and resolution.  Next up is Fish Fun Time which tonight is Cracklin’ Rosie and then we have a bombastic Reprise closer to cap the night. For the encores we get a couple of ‘dedications’ as they first do the un-mic’d a cappella for Carolina (played in honor of the University of North Carolina basketball team which the band watched beat Michigan during setbreak — this is the infamous Chris Webber time out game if you can recall) and then Fire (for Trey’s friend Dudley who was the other guitarist in Space Antelope back in the day). After this the band would be off for a few days before starting up things in the Midwest on April 9th. They were not resting on their collective laurels, however, as they traveled back east to receive an award and perform at the Boston Music Awards, gathering more laurels in the process.

I am a fan of this show and while it has a few warts in a couple of songs that aren’t exactly top notch versions there is a lot to like here. Seeing as it was the capstone show on a wonderful West Coast leg of the tour, the band is clearly feeling it and they provide a bit of everything in their bag of tricks to celebrate this fact. The straight forward rockers all have great energy, the more open jams go places with concerted effort, there are quality teases and some secret language, Trey tells a captivating story, and the band engages the crowd on several levels that pay off for everyone. Yes, there are better shows on this tour which we have discussed (and which are yet to come when I eventually come back to detail the last leg of this tour) but if you want to give someone an idea of what they could have expected from Phish in this era, you can’t do much better than to offer up this as an example. Your highlights tonight are the Stash, Caravan, Tweezer, and YEM, as well as the Forbin’s story if you like that aspect of Phish.

Next up for me is kicking off our new tour project which we will leave to surprise for now. I will also be putting together a post to pull together the biggest of the highlights through these first two legs of the Spring Tour so keep your eyes peeled in that regard.

Before we move on, however, I do want to give the stats update for these 47 shows. By now they have played in 19 states over 61 days (yup, that’s only 14 days off non-show dates over that time). They have played 121 unique songs with 23 being one-timers. The most frequently played tunes are BBJ (32), Rift (29), Amazing Grace (28), and Poor Heart (28) with HYHU being left out because of course I am not counting that. The most common 1st set openers are Buried Alive (7), Golgi (6), and Llama (6) with the most common first set closers being Antelope (17) and Bowie (14) by far. Second set openers are a bit more scattered though Axilla (9) and Jim (7) are ahead of the pack. Second set closers are also somewhat widespread but Reprise is king with 10 such performances. Encores are also expectedly all over the place but Amazing Grace (18) and Sweet Adeline (11) are the only above single digits. Another interesting trend is how often certain songs were played in consecutive shows (something that virtually never occurs anymore with such a huge song canon) as Amazing Grace, Rift, BBJ, and HYHU all had runs of five or more shows, including three such runs by BBJ and two by HYHU including one run of 22 straight shows. Seven songs had gaps of at least 21 shows within this tour (Lifeboy, Tela, Weigh, TMWSIY, Aveenu Malkenu, Walk Away, and Harpua) and 18 songs were debuted (Loving Cup, Wedge, Lifeboy, Amazing Grace, Sample, Moby Dick, RnR All Night, Pig in a Pen, Nellie Kane, It’s My Life, Choo Choo Cha Boogie, Loup Garou, Spooky, GGITS, You Gotta See Mama Every Night, Sweet Emotion, My Life as a Pez, and Psycho Killer) though several of those were one-off songs played during sit-ins and at least four others were effectively “jams” rather than full performances of the songs. Lots more detail to be found in the stats but I think you get the point.

Thanks for reading and we will see you on the other side…

The Moral Seems A Little Bit Obscure — Vancouver, BC 04.03.1993

Phish — 86th Street Music Hall — Vancouver, BC 04.03.1993

I  Landlady>Rift, Guelah, Sparkle, Melt, Coil, MFMF, Reba, Horn>Antelope

II  Suzy>Stash, Mound, ATR, Sloth, YEM, JJLC, MSO, HYHU>Love You>HYHU, Cavern

E  GTBT

Taking advantage of their proximity to Canada, Phish next took the stage in Vancouver, BC for the first time ever before dipping back into the US for the rest of this run out west. This would be a fun show on several fronts with the band throwing in secret language, teases, and some humor amidst two sets full of high quality playing. This is a great example of the type of Phish you could expect in Spring ’93 with all of the youthful swagger and bravado of the band barnstorming their way through this 71 date tour.

The first set kicks off with a straight forward combo of Landlady>Rift, setting the table with some energetic playing that kind of gets a bit ahead of itself in that Rift which is a nice way of saying they didn’t really nail that one so much. They collect things with an expected Guelah and a punchy Sparkle before dropping into the first meaty dish of the evening with a compactly jammed Melt. We are oh-so-close to this song really taking off but they are still reined in a tad here which is not to say that there is anything lacking in the execution with this version. Coil provides a bit of a breather with a lovely Page outro (as always) and Trey then picks up the acoustic to bring in MFMF. This one stays mainly to form without some of the second set dementedness the song has enjoyed this tour. It ends up being a bit of a table setter as well since we then get our girl Reba in her favorite third-to-last-song-first-set slot. There’s nothing overly special about this one but being Reba it deserves a listen at the very least. A somewhat shaky Horn bridges us to the rocking Antelope closer (with Simpsons signal, of course) and we are off to setbreak.

A quick note here, as if you go looking for this show to stream online you will note that the most common resources will only have the Antelope from that first set. Really not sure why this is, except that they are all pulling from the same source which lacks the majority of the set. Go to The Spreadsheet, however, and you can grab the set easily (or you can find better copies on etree and other torrent sites. Now back to the music…

The second set kicks off with a fun time Suzy that includes a little Spin Doctors tease (Jimmy Olson’s Blues, I believe, though my knowledge of their catalog has slipped in the last 20 years or so…) and provides ample opportunity to stretch those dance muscles a bit after the break. We then get the somewhat rare second set Stash (less than 25% of the 400 times played ever) and this one delivers on the promise with a divergent jam that keeps coming back to the main theme to help build that T&R. The payoff here is great from this example of jam density in action. After a run through Mound, ATR, and Sloth we get the next biggie with a midset YEM that begs to be heard. The build in this version is huge and almost feels like something off of Pink Floyd’s Umma Gumma. Once the jam takes off Trey elevates the music to a wonderful peak after playing around with riffs reminiscent of ‘Walk This Way’ as he shows off his ridiculous dexterity on the fretboard. I don’t know that is a full tease, necessarily, but the idea is there and it won’t be the last time we get a taste of it this evening. This leads to a somewhat minimalist D&B section and then, finally, they bring in the humor with a My Girl-tinged VJ and a nod to their April Fool’s shenanigans as Trey whispers an introduction for “Mr. Neil Young”, which works on multiple levels considering the country of origin for that fine performer.

After that all resolves we get the third Jesus Just Left Chicago of this tour. Page shines brightest here with a fiery solo on the organ that pushes the song to great heights even in staying within the structure. Then we are left with the backside of the set which means MSO… but no BBJ tonight! before Fish Fun Time. Tonight the selection is Love You and we get band intros with Fish noting that they are called Fishbone (!). Trey pays him back with the nom de plume Henrietta Tubman that seems to be his go to this week and we are on to the Cavern closer. Tonight’s version is mainly notable for the Walk This Way tease in an otherwise typically fun take on the song. And then before the encore Trey placates some in the crowd by playing a bit of Weigh before they throw down a rocking GTBT to send everyone out to prepare for their second border crossing in the same 24 hour period.

Once again we have a classic example of this band in the speed jazz era pushing the boundaries where appropriate and otherwise flooring fans with their prowess and high energy playing. Tonight’s highlights are plenty with the Melt, Reba, Stash, YEM, and JJLC being the songs I would recommend you spin if nothing else here. This one will never be on anyone who wasn’t there’s Top Whatever list but it is a fun show to spin and shows how far they have come since the start of tour two months and 46 shows ago. One more to go before this leg ends (and we divert into a completely different flavor of Phish…)!

The Source Was Quite Invisible – Bellingham, WA 04.02.1993

Phish — Mt. Baker Theatre — Bellingham, WA 04.02.1993

I  Buried Alive>Poor Heart, Foam, Bouncin’, Divided, IDK, Ice>Sparkle>Maze, Golgi

II  Jim, Sample, Uncle Pen, Llama, Horse>Silent, Mike’s>H2>Weekapaug, Lizards, BBJ, HYHU>Bike>HYHU, CDT

E  Grace, Rocky Top

After spending a couple days and nights in Portland, OR Phish headed well north to the lovely town of Bellingham for a single night’s stay on the way to Vancouver, BC. This would be the third to last show on the West Coast leg of the Spring ’93 Tour before starting up the Midwest portion… but that’s all for another time. Right now we have an interesting one to cover, one that is a bit of a “tale of two sets” in the offing.

The first set kicks off with that quite common pairing of Buried Alive>Poor Heart to get everyone moving and this marks the ninth time (of 13 Buried Alive performances this tour) where the two songs have been paired thusly. They keep things up for a fast pace run through Foam and a buoyant Bouncin’ before heading into a somewhat extended and quite energetic take on Divided Sky. Fish comes out for the washboard solo on the ensuing I Didn’t Know which also includes a vocal jam breakdown at the end after the “Pardon me, Doug” lines. Next up is a bit of an uneven It’s Ice that leads to a kinda shaky (and definitely non-FMS) Sparkle before they crank up the Maze you could have seen coming a mile away (which really isn’t that far off to notice something if we are being totally honest here). This one isn’t the biggest jam or cleanest execution of the tune but it rocks pretty hard which is always nice. A rote Golgi closer brings us to the break where we can all start wondering whether there is any real meat to be found in that set that just occurred.

I mean, sure, it is a set of Phish and that is great but I’m not recommending anyone rush to go spin this one. There aren’t even any unique highlights to call out which might suit your fancy. It is pretty much a bunch of warm up tunes and rockers to get everyone loose on a Friday night. Which is fine and all, but not really what will keep us all engaged and coming back for more if that was the way things are normally. So it is nice to know that this type of set is actually somewhat atypical even in this pre-massive-jams period of the band’s history. Okay, enough on that.

Perhaps the band sensed that they weren’t really connecting in that first frame since they came out with some extra sauce for the second set, starting with a punchy Jim that included a Simpsons signal in the start of the jam section. After a couple of standard fare tunes (Sample, Uncle Pen) we have a shreddy Llama to really kick things up a notch. They cool it down a bit with Horse>Silent (Trey on acoustic in the Horse, of course) and then crank it right back up for the start of Mike’s. Once they get to the jam here we have some almost-but-not-quite DEG playing out of Trey though in this case it is a bit more frenzied and off the rails. After the expected Hydrogen we get the show’s highlight and main takeaway in a Weekapaug that really needs to be heard to be understood. They depart the main theme of the song fairly quickly, heading to some avant garde waters, throwing in a Random Note SL call, and eventually even giving a shoutout to Tela in the breakdown section before the final return to the Paug theme. This is a great example of the band taking this song OUT and really stretching their legs, something they didn’t do as frequently back then. It shows where the band is headed more than anything which is pretty freaking neat.

After that wonderful music happened they provide a great breather in Lizards before dropping their balls all over the crowd… hang on, that sounds a bit blue. They played Big Ball Jam. That’s it. Nothing dirty here, folks. Next up is Fish Fun Time and tonight we get the fourth Bike of this tour, complete with a lovely vac solo from Henrietta Tubman. Chalkdust rocks the closer spot tonight before the Grace, Rocky Top encore (fourth time these two have been paired in the encore this tour) sends everyone off into the night to plan for the border crossing ahead of tomorrow night’s show in America’s Hat.

I mentioned above that this show is a tale of two sets and I think it is clear to see what I mean by that. They never fully connect in the first frame, throwing rocker after rocker out there and just generally working their way through tunes with nothing special going down. There is nothing wrong with this — some of the best received sets in the band’s career are full of straight ahead energy-inducing rock songs — but it isn’t what most people point to when they talk about their favorite shows. “Yeah, man, they played like seven straight tunes that were almost exactly like the last time they played it and then did three more the same way. It was the best!” is something no Phish fan has ever uttered. The fact that the second set here is so different points this out even more considering Jim has some extra stank on it, Llama spits hot fire, Mike’s gets a bit of the treatment, and then Paug just punches through to another level entirely. I’ve said it before that a set like this won’t hit the ‘best of’ lists for any fan who didn’t find god in a microdot that night but they elevated this thing to a point where listening to the two sets together you have to wonder how the post-first-set conversation between band members went down (this was well before they swore off over-analyzing their performance in the moment). It is a fun question to think about and one that doesn’t have any repercussions in the asking. Your takeaways from this night are pretty much what I just detailed: Jim, Llama (if you like concise shreddy versions), the entire Mike’s Groove (but definitely the Weekapaug if nothing else from this show), and perhaps the CDT closer (again with the shreddy thing).

Next is that one Canadian show of this leg of tour (there is a pair of shows in Toronto and Montreal towards the end of the final leg…) and then Seattle for the last one out west.