Qu’est-ce que c’est – Eugene, OR 03.30.1993

Phish — Hilton Ballroom — Eugene, OR 03.30.1993

I  Buried Alive>Poor Heart>ATR, Golgi, MFMF, Llama, Esther, Stash, Glide>Divided, Cavern

II  Cup, Rift, Tweezer>Lifeboy, BBJ, Weigh, Mike’s>H2>Paug->Psycho Killer->Paug, Horse>Silent>HYHU>IIOHAB>HYHU, Reprise

E  MSO, Grace

After a night off to successfully negotiate the border crossing into Oregon and make their way up to Eugene, the band again graced the stage for an evening of frivolity and fervor in a somewhat uneven show that vacillates between raging, open jams and slightly botched compositions.

Things get started fine enough with a Buried Alive>Poor Heart>ATR segment that while not anything special is sure to get heads bobbing and feet tapping. Then we have a somewhat oddly placed Golgi which, okay sure, before they start to take things in a darker direction with MFMF (even though this one has a Sesame Street theme tease and the acoustic intro). This one stays in the box before we get to a quite shreddy Llama where Trey even throws in a little Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’ (CYHMK) tease just to keep everyone honest. After that we have Esther and this one starts off with a little SL (Random Note) and HYHU tease from Page before they dive into the song in earnest. It is a tad shaky at times but always nice to hear. From here we arrive at the first big highlight of this show which is a Stash that almost immediately departs from form once they finish up the verses. CYHMK is back again but played with a bit more before they dive deeper, eventually bringing it all down in building tension before ratcheting it all up towards a solid end peak. This Stash is notably one of the early examples of the band going completely type II with this song as it isn’t until the end peak that they really return to the main theme at all once the jam starts. This one would lead to much deeper explorations in the future but this is a jumping off point of sorts for the tune and well worth your time at that. The rest of this set just sort of glides along considering it plays out as Glide>Divided, Cavern and with that trio you pretty much know what to expect. Nothing bad, of course, but not much to speak of either.

Upon retaking the stage the band fired up Loving Cup and this is a punchy and on point one though not necessarily much different than others that precede it. Rift takes the two slot tonight and this one is fine enough before we get to Tweezer and for this one we have a big rocker version that stays mainly in bounds though is probably most notable for the fact that Page directs the path for sections of this jam unlike in many/most Tweezers of this era that are essentially Machine Gun Trey showcases. This resolves with the slow ending and into Lifeboy which is always nice and being only the fourth ever this one comes off cleanly (with Trey using the “she” indicating god’s lack of attention to listening to him, something that comes and goes with the song). BBJ is next and then we have Weigh which is mostly what you’d expect but for Trey throwing in some heavier licks that almost get to some Zep-ish ground (maybe it is just me but I almost hear ‘How Many More Times’). Trey gives a quick happy birthday to BBJ (which confirms yet again how closely he once watched the setlists) as well as to a guy named Bob turning 40 and that might be the biggest surprise considering at that time it seemed like there was no one “old” in the crowds at shows. Maybe that was just me too though… Anyway, from here the band introduces Mike’s song and he dedicates it to himself during the intro section before they head into a kinda dirty version of the jam that was sure to have the crowd moving. H2 is notable tonight for Trey throwing in a little ‘Call to Post’ tease and then we get to Paug.

Oh, Paug. Why were you once such a carrier of the jam flame only to now be relegated to being a rote rocker? Here we have a version that gets deep in a hurry, with several different layers emerging before, wait, are they? Could it be? Yup. Boom! They arrive in the debut of Psycho Killer and while it is a tad rough it is still worth the price of admission (and it would be another four and a half years before we’d get to hear it again). Honestly, probably the best aspect of this Psycho Killer is the segue back into Paug which is pretty much a flawless victory by the band (FINISH HIM!!). They wrap up the Paug in fine fashion and then Trey breaks out the acoustic again for Horse>Silent. Next up is Fish Fun Time for Brain and then we get the Reprise closer we all expected. MSO and Grace are your encores and it is off to Portland from here for a couple of shows and… more.

In all honesty, this is probably not a show you will spin top to bottom unless you are doing what I am or if you like Eugene shows or something. The band is playing quite well and trying out some new things as is evident in that Stash but there are just so many other shows that outpace this one overall. That said, the highs are high here and I’d recommend checking out the Llama, Stash, Tweezer, Weigh, and the entirety of the Mike’s Groove. You could probably skip the Weigh but why not spin it?

Next up is a pair of shows from Portland at the Roseland and these two each have some great things to discuss which we will catch up on soon enough…

Doing Things Smart People Don’t Do – Arcata, CA 03.28.1993

Phish — East Gym, Humboldt State University — Arcata, CA 03.28.1993

I  Landlady, Funky Bitch, Sparkle, Melt, Lizards, Sloth, Maze, Fee>Ice, Lawn Boy, Antelope

II  Walk Away>Jim, Mound, Gin, BBJ, YEM>My Life As A Pez>YEM, Paul & Silas, HYHU>Love You>HYHU, Possum

E  Contact>BBFCFM

And then there was one last show in California. This one is a Sunday night affair from up in Humboldt and we have a lovely soundboard of it to enjoy as well. It is also the back end of a run of five straight shows but there really aren’t many signs of fatigue out of the band here. Sure, perhaps it isn’t as full of highlights as the previous few nights but it is a rollicking affair that is tease-heavy and includes a unique one-timer song not to mention a punny pairing in the second set.

The first set starts off innocently enough with a fun Landlady and then the third Funky Bitch of the tour pops up in the second slot. Nothing major here but it is one that’ll get the sleepy head moving. Another workmanlike speedy run through Sparkle then precedes the first jam of the night when Melt stops in for a version that has some unique tone from Trey, sounding a bit gravely and getting fairly close to some Mission Impossible phrasing for a bit. This one stays mainly in form and builds well to a satisfying peak. Then we get a double dip of the Hendge with Lizards and Sloth and at this point on the tape you start to notice just how forward Mike sounds tonight in comparison to those auds and you nod in appreciation for finally being able to hear everything he is doing. After the dirty business of Sloth they head into Maze and while the end is obviously led by rockstar Trey it is Page who shines brightest here when his turn is up. The sbd really helps with the separation here in again noticing what another player is doing and now you are wondering when that box set of all of the best Spring ’93 shows might be coming out and you laugh and realize that is still another ten to twenty years away at this rate since Fish’s kids still aren’t close to college-age. Fee, sans megaphone, gets us to Ice and here we again have a more pronounced presence from Page as his solo is a bit extended in a dark version that hints at some of the things this song will eventually become. Continuing the theme, Page gets the piano solo in the subsequent Lawn Boy which is fairly rare (and not something I think we’ve heard at all on this tour yet) before we head to the Antelope closer. And, oh boy, what a closer it would be. Things going sideways in a hurry as the ‘Fishin Hole’ whistling and teases start early in the intro and then, hey, are they? Yeah, they are definitely playing ‘Axel F’ around the 3:45 mark! Now, if you had gotten your hands on the soundcheck of this one you would know that along with a very captivating Wedge Jam groove clinic Page throws in a tease of that Harold Faltermeyer classic that Fish mistakenly thinks is from Ghostbusters so it was clearly something in the heads of the band that evening. There’s supposedly a Speed Racer tease in here too but either I missed it or that is a bit of a stretch and speaking of stretches, this Lope definitely does just that as they take a big departure from the song for a bit before bringing it all back in fine fashion and wrapping up this set so that the heads can recollect their marbles once more.

After the break we are treated to an odd pairing to start the second set with the second Walk Away of tour opening (which in and of itself is highly rare since along with having just come back after a long respite the song had only opened two 2nd sets ever and both way back in ’89) and that being followed by Runaway Jim. If you can’t see the obvious pun of these two songs being paired together then, well, let’s just leave it there. The Walk Away rocks as it should and then the Jim has a quite engaging jam that the band clearly enjoys considering Trey throws in a few “yeahs!” at the end as they bring it all home. It is clear they are gaining more and more comfort with adding new ideas to this song and come August they would really begin to play around with this one even more. Mound fills the three hole here before we get a then-somewhat-rare Gin (only the third of tour and oddly enough all are in second sets). This Gin goes places for a bit and is worth your time as a proto-gin-jam example. We still aren’t quite there yet with this song but the groundwork is being laid… Another BBJ>YEM pairing comes up next and early on in the YEM (like immediately post-Nirvana) it is clear this version isn’t racing towards the end as Trey steps to the mike and gives a little background before singing a clever little ditty called ‘My Life as a Pez’ which he attributes to old friend Dave Abrahams. It is definitely the sort of thing you’d expect Phish to sing and apparently came up because someone gave the band a bunch of Pez backstage. Ah, the fabled life of rockstars. They then slide right back into YEM for a pretty mellow version that has a nice enough jam and then a ‘Higher Ground’ tinged VJ which also includes some band nickname fun. P&S and Fish Fun Time for Love You get us to the night’s closer which is a quite captivating Possum (yeah, I know!) that has a slurry of McGrupp teases and a whole host of creative thoughts from Trey as he works a few things out here. I definitely recommend checking out this one. And then rather than your standard encore fare we have a double Mike dip with Contact>BBFCFM. Trey essentially dedicates Contact to someone as she travels out to Boston which is nice. Then in BBFCFM they have their usual fun while Mike throws in a bunch of ‘Leave it to Beaver’ teases for good measure. You know, just your standard crazy affair behind the Emerald Curtain.

So perhaps in the end this show is better than the sum of its parts. It isn’t going to be put on an all-timer list but top to bottom it is a solid show in the middle of the tour. At this, the end of the Cali Run, the band has now played 41 shows (the full tour is 71 shows or 73 if you count the two Laguna Seca Daze shows at the end of May) so they are more than half way along the path before they would have about six weeks off in advance of what would become a quite transformative summer tour. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This show might seem as good as it is because of the high sound quality of the tapes available or maybe it is simply because they were hitting on all cylinders and clearly having a great time up there on stage. It comes through plainly here that this is the band in their element, playing to their people, with no concerns at all. It is the joyful exuberance and youthful energy of a band on the upswing and it is intoxicating in its own way. For this one I’ll say your takeaways are Melt, Maze, Antelope, and Possum and then the ones to secondarily check out are the Jim, Gin, and Yem>Pez>YEM if nothing else for the uniqueness of that one.

Off to Oregon next for a three pack of shows before points further north. First up is another tease-heavy show from Eugene that includes the debut of a cover Phish fans love to hear even though it is mainly tease fodder and has only really been played about four times ever.

The Finest in the Nation – San Francisco, CA 03.27.1993

Phish – Warfield Theatre – San Francisco, CA 03.27.1993

I  Llama, Guelah, Rift, Stash, Reba, MFMF, Uncle Pen, Sample, IDK, Bowie

II  Buried Alive>Halley’s>Ice>Bouncin’, CDT, TMWSIY>Avenu Malkenu>TMWSIY>Mike’s>H2>Weekapaug, HYHU>Rosie>HYHU, Poor Heart>Golgi

E  Coil, Carolina

After that first night fun time show at the Warfield, the band was back at it again for a night full of highlights and big jams in a time when that wasn’t exactly the norm. Now, I say ‘big jams’ but that doesn’t mean some 20+ minute escapade into mindfunking space darkness or something because that is just crazy talk but there are several vehicles to be found on this night that have some extra stank on them, much like the highly lauded Roxy second night (but not in the segue/tease vein of that one). You’ll get what I mean as we go along here…

First up is a let’s-get-these-people-moving Llama and then that all-but-ubiquitous second slot Guelah. Rift slides into the three hole tonight and this one is crisp and energetic like a pull off of a freshly poured ::insert your favorite summer beverage here::  Next up is a rather straight forward but rocking Stash that doesn’t really go anywhere new but builds some fine T&R before the resolution. And then we have our girl Reba. If you do not know this version, I implore you to go spin it. The band is all on board for this one from the start, running through the composed section cleanly before patiently working through the jam, adding new ideas along the way and working towards a wonderful build and peak. Trey really shines in this one but listen to what Mike does too. Actually, you should know this version already so I’ll just move on here. If you are sooooo busy that you don’t have much time, at least check out the jam. Next up is MFMF (with acoustic intro, natch) then a quick run through Uncle Pen, that ‘new’ song Sample in a Jar, and the Trombone Greasy tinged IDK complete with the “message of love” solo. But that’s just getting us to a captivating set-closing Bowie that has some SL in the intro (All Fall Down), a little ATR tease, and a very patient-almost-plodding jam that eventually comes around to a solid peak that puts a nice exclamation point on this set. As far as first sets in ’93 go, you really can’t get much better than this one.

So then the second set starts up and you are thinking, sure, I guess it’ll be good but can they sustain it? And you would be correct in answering ‘yes’ because from the Buried Alive on it is another solid set that begs to be listened to all the way through. This Buried has some drawn out notes from Trey but is otherwise pretty standard before they pull out the second Comet of the tour (after its very long wait). This then gets to Ice>Bouncin and from here the set then starts to take off in earnest. First we have a fiery CDT that brings the energy level up several notches and then the ol’ TMWSIY>Avenu Malkenu>TMWSIY sandwich pops up to get the people really moving. That’s all nice and all but it is the Mike’s that follows that really takes this set above the board. For the most part, Mike’s Song at this stage is largely straight forwardly jammed with the tramps being a limiting factor on the band being able to open things up for a lot of its history since Trey and Mike were obviously focused as much on their choreography as anything musical. But on this night (and more as we go forward from here) the band starts to play with the theme – with Trey even doing some creative playing underneath the lyrics before they drop into the jam segment. But what you really want to listen for in this one is the proto-Simple-esque jam that emerges for a bit before they go into a full breakdown ahead of the transition into H2. The song is still more than a year from being debuted (at this venue, no less) but here you can plainly hear the rudimentary elements of what will become the classic Mike’s->Simple->Mike’s>H2 nugget we got so used to for quite some time. Go enjoy that why don’t you. And then after H2 we are treated to a very high energy Paug that goes into some ‘On Broadway’ jamming that then departs Paug fully for a bit before returning to resolve in fine fashion. This is elemental phish. This is the band firing on all cylinders, starting to push the boundaries of their catalog and coming through on the other side sticking the landing. As earlier Mike’s Grooves go, this one is a shining example of the form. And then after that is over we have Fish Fun Time for Rosie and a Poor Heart>Golgi pairing to close the show. A very purty Coil and Carolina are your encores — with Carolina having a little a cappella slow Suzy tease at the start similar to 02.21.1993 — and it is now off north to Arcata for the last Cali stop on this tour at Humboldt State before they would enter the PNW and Canada for a few shows and the end of the Western Run portion of the Spring Tour.

This show has a lot to take away from it from both sets and you could easily just hit play on the Llama and let it run right through if you have the time. But if not, focus on the Reba, Bowie, and the Mike’s Groove at the very least. If you want to expand that a tad just add in the Stash and Coil. Next up we get to hear a crapload of teases, some memorable jams, and that classic tune about everyone’s favorite chalky sweet candy that comes with the collectible heads.

Like She’s the Queen of the Town – San Francisco, CA 03.26.1993

Phish – Warfield Theatre – San Francisco, CA 03.26.1993

I  Maze, Sparkle, Foam, PYITE, Fee, ATR, Melt, Fluffhead>Divided, Cavern

II  Wilson>Jim>Mound, Tweezer, Horse>Silent, BBJ>YEM, Oh Kee Pa>Suzy, GGITS>HYHU, Reprise

E  Grace, Rocky Top

Following Santa Cruz, Phish settled in at The Warfield in San Francisco for a pair of weekend shows that have all of the earmarks of ’93 Phish. The first of these shows was the Friday night affair which was the second time the band played this venue after being here for a memorable show the previous spring (one that I recommend checking out as well). This being the 39th show of the tour the band is very loose and comfortable, taking their time throughout and engaging the crowd in various ways as is their way. So let’s dive in, shall we?

The first set starts off first with a little nod to one of Fish’s friends who is doing a cross country bike tour (from Seattle to DC) in support of AIDS research. Then we get one of those somewhat rare Maze openers that just kick off the energy so well, even with this version being somewhat short in comparison. Getting geeky, this is one of only 11 total show opening Mazes ever — and one of only 25 times it opened any set as it has never been encored oddly enough in almost 300 appearances. The subsequent Sparkle is kinda almost not quite but sorta of the FMS variety before we get a very clean run through Foam, as the band is now fully warmed up and raring to go. Next they cleanly take on PYITE which is something considering the shakiness of this tune over the course of this tour. Fee and ATR get us to the first true highlight of the show when they drop a breakneck speed Melt that stays primarily inside the sandbox. This is definitely one to check out though as Fish and Trey are going for it with aplomb. The balance of the set is largely what you’d expect out of Fluffhead>Divided, Cavern as the energy stays high and the band plays the crowd as they head into the break. This set is a lot of warm up fare but solid in its own right though there isn’t much to take away from a true highlight perspective.

That would change a bit in the second set though. After coming out hot with Wilson>Jim>Mound (and definitely check out the Fish rolls in the start of the Jim jam) they drop into Tweezer for the first biggish vehicle of the night. This one stays largely within the framework of the song but gets pretty crunchy and boisterous in doing so. They bring things down after this for Horse>Silent and Trey has a bit of an issue with the tuning on Horse but whatever. BBJ then gets us to the next highlight here which is YEM and this version is one of those ones you don’t hear a lot about but that stands up as a solid example of the band playing one of their prototype songs true to form. Honestly, when you think of the classic songs in the Phish canon and hear them played very well YEM is up there as one of the very best and this version is a very nice clean take in that vein. There is also some Mission Impossible phrasing to be found here if you like that sort of thing. Next up is that classic pairing of Oh Kee Pa>Suzy and for this one Good Time Suzy is on display, bringing her dancing shoes along for the ride. Then there’s the third ever Great Gig in the Sky for Fish Fun Time before the Reprise closer you’d expect here. Grace and Rocky Top are the encores and it is time to rest up for the next night.

This show is a top to bottom well played concert without a lot of big highlights but no real low points either. The band is playing with great energy and acumen at this stage of the tour and they are encountering crowds who are engaged in the music on a nightly basis. This show pales a tad in comparison to the one that follows – and perhaps that’s a bit due to the band’s settling in here for the weekend – but it is worth the listen, perhaps in tandem to its brother from the next night. Your takeaways here are the Melt, Tweezer, and YEM. Next up is the Saturday night hit parade from the same venue!

Stand Up On Your Heels And Call – Santa Cruz, CA 03.25.1993

Phish – Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium – Santa Cruz, CA 03.25.1993

I  CDT, Guelah, Ice, Possum, Bouncin’, Stash, Glide, Rift, Horn, Magilla>Antelope

II  Axilla>Curtain>Sample, Uncle Pen, Forbin’s>Mockingbird->Kung->Icculus>Mockingbird, Wedge, Mike’s>H2>Weekapaug, Golgi

E  MSO>BBJ, Adeline

For the last half of their California run in Spring ’93 Phish strung together shows on five straight nights with this Santa Cruz show being the second such show. This would be the biggest and final show the band would play in this town, having graduated from The Catalyst for shows in ’91 and ’92. As the band’s trajectory continued to climb they would stick closer to San Francisco and the larger venues to be found there so this show (and the entire spring run really) includes some of the last stops at these small but not quite tiny venues before the summer of ’93 opened things up and then it really took off in ’94. On this night, they would do their best to fill the 1,857 seats of the lovely Art Deco Civic Auditorium and those who attended were in for some phishy treats along the way.

Things get started well enough with a rocker CDT much in the mode of how they went in those days. This one just shows to go that they came out firing and ready to play. The subsequent Guelah is well played and received and then we have a fairly standard Ice that has an ever-so-slightly extended jam section but is totally in the box otherwise. Next up is a quick fierce Possum that starts off with some SL (Simpsons, Oom Pa). The very start of the jam itself has an almost BOTT-ish feel for a bit but then it goes rock show machine gun Trey and the crowd goes nuts for it as was the fashion then. Bouncin precedes the first big highlight of this show which is an engaging Stash where the band takes it out, building tension, brings it back to the main theme, takes it out to the ether again, and then brings it all home for some well-deserved resolution. Very punchy version worth the listen. Next up is a dedication to their tour gear truck driver, Terry, preceding Glide and then we have an energetic Rift and a nailed Horn. At this stage the set doesn’t really seem to be all that special but, hey, it’s Phish so here we go. Why not bust out Magilla after 114 shows throw in a Stash tease and some Yakety Sax action and really turn the heads, um, heads? Well, that wasn’t really a question or request because it is exactly what happened. And then they go from there into a seriously raging Antelope closer that has a little ‘Ob La Di, Ob La Da’ jam in the intro as well as more teasing of that in the build from Trey. That tease is notable considering it would come up a few times more with a full jam on it in Albany later that Spring as well as the obvious full performance with the White Album in Glens Falls for Halloween in 1994. Great peak to be found in this Lope as well. After that it is time to cool down and rehydrate for a bit.

So for the second set the band keeps the heat on, starting off with a triple play of Axilla>Curtain>Sample. Kinda of an odd trio but in terms of building energy at the start of the set you could do a lot worse. Uncle Pen fills the bluegrass role next and then we are back to Gamhendgery with another Forbin being dropped after only one show off from the Sacramento goings on. This one wouldn’t go the traditional route as Trey weaves a quite entertaining story about a magic glass of wine, the crowd’s blood being turned to carbonation (and they themselves being encased in a soda can that is the venue), and the ‘ritualistic riff’ which Mike plays, popping the top of the can and spraying the effervescent crowd into Gamehendge. Quite vivid. This leads to a very clean rendering of Mockingbird before Trey starts with the talking again and another stab of the ritualistic riff begets the words of Kung being recited as the crowd falls in spray/mist over Gamehendge (summarizing these stories is kinda odd the more I think about it…). Then as he concludes that aspect all of a sudden we are in Icculus for the first time in 119 shows (and the only time in ’93) before they come back to the end of Mockingbird to wrap it all up. This whole segment is worth the price of admission which was quite low relative to today’s going rates. From here we have the return (after 20 shows) of the “new” song [slow] Wedge which works well here even if it is still odd to hear the different time signature for this song. Then just when you thought we were headed towards the closing tunes they drop Mike’s (of course they do! It hadn’t been played the previous show, after all!) for a nice version that includes a bit of stop/start jamming and some verytinymaybealmost inklings of what would become the transition into Simple… but no we get H2. The Paug that arrives after this is a good one, with more ‘Ob La Di, Ob La Da’ (writing that song title gets a little old, I must say) teasing and a quality jam overall. Some will tell you (looking at you .com and .net) that there is a ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ (Pretenders) jam in here but I’ve now spun this several times and I’m not hearing it. Sure, there’s something in the breakdown section of the jam before they build to the end peak which I guess you could say is that song maybe… so it is probably just me. Interestingly, this is the second Pretenders song they have teased this tour so maybe they have a CD on the bus or something. After this we have a Golgi closer and a somewhat odd MSO>BBJ, Adeline encore to send everyone home.

Top to bottom, this is a fine fine example of ’93 Phish with the quality playing, high energy, secret language, teasing, bust outs, jamlets, and everything else that makes a Phish show what it is. You get pretty much the full spectrum here. My only regret is that I haven’t yet heard the soundcheck listed for this one which apparently includes a Wedge/Wolfman’s “mashup” (per .com), Have Mercy (with the ‘You can feel good about Hood’ chorus added in the end section, and the requisite Dog Log. Might have to track that baby down… Anyway, for takeaways, I’ll recommend the Possum (yes, I’m serious), Stash, Antelope, Forbin>Mock->Kung->Icculus>Mock, and the Mike’s Groove. That’s a lot from this one but worthwhile, I think. Enjoy.

Next up we have a two pack from The Warfield in San Francisco before the last show in California up in Arcata on the way to Oregon.

He’d Like to Brush You Off and I Agree – Santa Rosa, CA 03.24.1993

Phish – Luther Burbank Center for the Arts – Santa Rosa, CA 03.24.1993

I  Llama, Foam, Fee>Poor Heart, Maze, IDK, Sample, ATR, Jim, Grace, Cavern

II  Landlady>Melt, Sparkle>Tweezer>Mound, BBJ>FEFY, YEM, Horse>Silent, HYHU>Prison Joke>HYHU>Terrapin>HYHU, GTBT

E  Carolina, Coil

After a night off following the goings on of The Crest Theatre show in Sacramento the band would be some 75 miles west in Santa Rosa for the only time in the band’s history. This is the 37th show of the tour and the 6th (of ten) along the Cali portion of the tour which makes this the longest stretch in any state so far this tour. In some ways this show suffers a bit existing between that legendary Sacramento affair and the Santa Cruz show that follows (more on this to come, naturally) but it does have its moments…

The first set starts off with a ho hum white hot Llama, Foam pairing where we get warmed up and it is clear the band is ready to rock after the night off. Next up is Fee>Poor Heart and nothing special to note here except that Poor Heart still has the slightly extended end section (compared to the modern versions) and Fee did not have Trey on the megaphone. Maze fills the midset jammer slot and Trey takes his time, toying with the theme throughout while offering his typical shred in a version that stays close to home but engages nicely. Trombone “The Missing Link” Greasy takes his solo in the subsequent IDK and then Sample and ATR do what they do before a slightly extended Jim where Trey seems to be starting the process of drawing more out of this jam. It is wholly in bounds (i.e. ‘type I’) but rocking and pays off in the end. A somewhat oddly placed Grace fills the penultimate slot before Cavern starts up. Normally I just skip over talking about this tune entirely but this one has Trey playing some different phrasing throughout, working downward as he accompanies the lyrical section. Interesting and worth checking out for its variety. After that we have our setbreak as is typical and not ever the fifteen minutes that Trey loves to tell us it will be.

Second set kicks off with a bit of a shaky Landlady before the drop a second song Melt. Yeah. So this one is borrowing a bit from the previous version in Ventura and still not quite where it will get in a couple of weeks but Trey leads the band into frenzied waters, almost going off the rails completely more than once. This one begs to be explored more deeply but alas they come back to the Melt theme and we are on to Sparkle. Whoopee. But okay, that’s all right because we get a Tweezer next and while definitely in the box and not pushing any major boundaries this one relies on great tension-building before resolving into the old school meltdown ending. Maybe not an all timer but worth a spin. Mound, BBJ>FEFY follow from here – and just a quick note that the seemingly odd pairing of BBJ>FEFY has now happened four times this tour, which shows it clearly works for the band if not for anyone else. Next up is YEM and this one is… okay. The composed bits aren’t exactly nailed and the start of the jam seems to go nowhere but dang it if they don’t keep trying to push through and eventually they hit a tiny little bit of space at the peak that is worthwhile. But really this one is more notable for the VJ which is rather extended, has some ‘Under Pressure’ elements, and then arrives at the band all chanting “shut up” to the acquiescing crowd. Creepy. An acoustically meh Horse gets us to Silent and then it is Fish Fun Time where there is the request for the telling of the Prison Joke which Fish does not want to oblige. But rather than move on they bring a person up out of the crowd for the telling and it is exactly what you know the Prison Joke to be before they get to Terrapin. Assuming you know the Prison Joke, that is (I’m linking that one because it is shorter and “performed” by Fish. And let me just say that this has always been one of my favorite Fish Fun tunes since there actually is a bit of a lift in the playing from the band when he takes his vac solo. It’s a small thing but it does offer more than just the diseased wailings of the Electrolux Viking. From here we get a GTBT closer and then it is off to the encores for Carolina, Repri… hey wait! They didn’t play Reprise! They threw a [quite lovely, actually] Coil in there and left Reprise Nation hanging. And no, this one doesn’t come out in a subsequent show. It is just… not. there.

So the tale of the tape is that this one is a tad uneven but you do have a few things to spin if you are so inclined. The Jim, while slightly extended, is really not that different than other versions this month (excepting that quiet jam Jim from Redlands) so we will skip that but (and I can’t believe I am typing this) check out the Cavern. And then in the second set the Melt and Tweezer are your meat. If you have never heard the Prison Joke I suppose that is something to hear but your reaction will probably match that of the crowd.

Next up is the Thursday night show from Santa Cruz for the last time the band has played that lovely seaside town. There’s a bit more to chew on with this one as we will see.

A Lullaby The Breezes Whisper – Sacramento, CA 03.22.1993

Phish – Crest Theatre – Sacramento, CA 03.22.1993

I  CDT, Guelah, Uncle Pen, Stash, Bouncin’, Rift, Weigh>Reba, Sparkle>Bowie

II  Golgi, Ice>Lizards>Tela>Wilson>Bag>Forbin’s>Mockingbird>Sloth>McGrupp, Mike’s>H2>Weekapaug

E  Grace, Fire

The night after Ventura Phish would be well north in the state, some 330 miles up in Sacramento for a Monday night affair that none could expect to go down in phishtory quite in the way that it has. For this night would bring forth a Gamehendge set, the first since 1991 (193 shows) and one of only five full such sets in the band’s history. This is a somewhat debatable number considering our man Trey’s propensity to wax on the topic in that way he does but we’ll just go with it for now because there are much better things about which to argue than the relative number of times Trey has filled an entire set with his narrative fiction. What is definitely true is that there are only two full such Gamehendge sets that follow this one: 06.26.94 (as one half of the famed “GameHoist” show from WV) and 07.08.94 (emerging out of the uber rare NO2 at Great Woods). But this one from Sacramento might be one of the more famous ones due to the ubiquity of the tapes during those formative years for so many fans and how quickly and widely the news of this one spread amongst the heads. It was for this that people often clamored and shouted for that mythical set to be dropped on them only to be once again thwarted.

But before we get to all of that we have a very engaging first set to talk about that gets overshadowed by what went down after the break. The band came out firing, throwing down a fun romp of a CDT that gets the room moving before dropping that second song Guelah they loved to play so much back then. Uncle Pen steps into the third slot tonight before a rocking straight forward Stash surprisingly fills in the four hole. This one is not big on the jamming but high energy and goes with the T&R over the dissonance. The midset segment of Bouncin, Rift, and Weigh is all well played with nothing major to write home about before we get to our girl Reba. This one is nicely done with a bit of a plinko-ish, sparse section in the jam that precedes Trey elevating things towards the end peak. It is a nice alteration of the standard theme for this tune. Next we get a quick Sparkle before the set closing Bowie where Trey throws in some cool phrasing at the start while throwing in several SL cues (Simpsons, Oom Pa Pa, Random Note, All Fall Down) before they devote a lot of energy towards the construction of major T&R in heading to the top of the mountain. Good payoff with that in mind and we are headed to the break still none the wiser for what is coming.

So then the second set starts out innocently enough with Golgi and you are thinking “okay, should be a fun one I guess” before they drop into Ice and you think “yeah, okay, this could work. I wonder how the Mike’s Groove will be tonight…” but then right when they are supposed to go into the jam portion of Ice the band shifts slightly and Trey starts in with the narration over the Ice tempo and it is kinda like when you are watching pro wrestling and everything is going along fine enough but then OH MY GOD IS THAT WILSON’S ENTRANCE MUSIC??? (I think you know what I mean and if you don’t you are clearly not ‘Murican which is fine, of course, but probably has you a little confused right now). And clearly some people there know what is happening right away while it takes others quite some time to figure it out (like, maybe the whole set). I’ll be interested to hear from anyone who was there about the mindset of the crowd. So now we are cruising through the narration and Trey uses this to set up each song along the way including Lizards, Tela, Wilson, Bag, Forbin, Mockingbird, Sloth, and eventually McGrupp. Musically, it is all pretty straight forward as the focus is on imparting the story in toto but really nothing is lost here as it is all well played and moves along quite nicely as they intersperse the narration with the music in the way you would want if you happened to be in the crowd that night. Granted, if you knew nothing of this band and stopped in to check them out and this is what you experienced it might not be the thing that adheres you to them for life – or perhaps it would be – but that is another facet to this whole conversation. The one bit of oddity is that during McGrupp Fish hops on the Madonna washboard to accompany Page during his solo section. Perhaps he was sad he wasn’t getting Fish Fun Time that night. So after they wrap up the GH Suite (with Trey noting there are several other related songs) they start up that Mike’s we knew was coming. This one rocks a bit more than what was typical then which is nice and then after the H2 the Paug picks right back up for a rollicking finish to the set while staying in bounds the whole way. Grace and Fire provide the encores tonight and the crowd is left to discuss what they just experienced as they wander out into the night.

Okay, look, let’s just get this out there right away. There are a couple of different camps on shows like this. If you are in it for the music (i.e. the hetty jamz, yo) then perhaps this isn’t your cup of tea and you think the hype about The Crest Theatre Show make this one highly overrated. I get that and there is no denying this position. On the other hand you have the Gamehendge fanboys who laud this for being a shining example of one of the handful of times they have blessed us with the performance of this mythic performance art and we should all be so lucky to even have the opportunity to spin it again (not to say anything of the wonderful sbd out there in circulation, of course!).This view is also acceptable because let’s face it we are a collection of a wide array of different levels of band nerds and that is just one strata voicing their opinion from the top of Mt. Icculus ( ::insert nasally snort laugh here:: ). And then there are the middling folk who can possibly appreciate it to a certain degree but are maybe left wanting for one reason or another – and that view is perfectly valid as well.

I suppose the point is that this is a perfect show to showcase the wide range of opinion about this band of ours. You have the high energy, on point playing of the first set with a few jams of note followed by something so special and sought after by a certain segment of the crowd that it is still talked about more than 20 years after the last time that it happened. At this stage I’m not going out seeking a Gamehendge set but I do know that if I happen to be in the room when it happens I will be happy as hell to be a part of the experience. Which is not something every fan will say. So in the end I’ll tell you that should spin the Stash, Reba, and Bowie from the first set here along with the second set pretty much from Ice on (though at that point you might as well add in the Golgi because that’s only another 5 minutes of your life, right?).

After a night off the band would be in Santa Rosa for a Wednesday night show which includes the good ol’ Prison Joke, a hot Melt, and a mess of other somewhat messy stuff. Should be interesting to discuss…

Watch the Big Core Crack and Glow – Ventura, CA 03.21.1993

Phish – Ventura Theatre – Ventura, CA 03.21.1993

I  Maze, Sparkle, Sloth, Divided, Esther>ATR, Melt, Poor Heart, PYITE, Lawn Boy>Possum

II  Cup, MFMF>Rift>Tweezer>Ya Mar, Llama, YEM, MSO>BBJ, HYHU>Rosie>HYHU, Hood, Cavern

E  Monkey, Adeline, Reprise

So after a day off learning to surf (more on this later) and probably celebrating the vernal equinox with buxom blissed out hippie fairy nymphs in various states of undress and consciousness, the band was back at it in Ventura for a one night stand as they started to head north-ish during this run out west. Losing none of the momentum that got them here, the band seems almost re-energized by the increased amounts of vitamin D coursing through their bodies as they have now been exposed to the real live sun for more than a few fleeting moments here in what some will tell you is paradise comparatively. So yeah, the show.

First set gets going with one of my favorite atypical openers, Maze. Not one you are going to slot in there when you submit your picks to PT very often, is it? Well, it works quite well here particularly considering they nail it and give it the business a bit in doing so. Sparkle does what it does next followed by a dirty Sloth that feels like something is afoot. What these people don’t know is that this is kind of practice for the next night’s goings on but let’s keep that our secret, okay? Divided comes in next with a fairly clean version where Trey shines through clearly in charge of the largely composed number and Page throws in a Jeopardy tease along the way. A somewhat shaky though always welcome Esther is next (with Random Note SL) followed by a nice ATR. Now here’s where things get interesting as we get a Melt that is almost-but-not-quite-where-we-want-it-to-get-to version. By that I mean you can definitely hear them pushing it outside the box (and they go out there for a bit) but it still doesn’t quite hit the mark when put up next to that one we’ll hear a month from now. I like this version and it is worth your time but this is still a formative version in all truth. Poor Heart gets us to an almost nailed PYITE (they are getting there with this one by now) and then we get a little dedication from Trey to the guy who gave him some pointers while he was out learning to surf for the first time on their off day. So what song does the guy get? Lawn Boy. Woo. After that they rip up a rocking Possum closer and we are off to the beer line to chat about the set.

Second set they come out with energy, bringing the Cup out first for a very high octane version. Then Trey picks up the acoustic for the MFMF intro and eventually this one heads into a very melodic outro jam that (dare I say) has an almost ‘Doors-ish’ feel to it. Interesting version for certain with no Myfe ending (kinda like that last one from The Forum). This precedes Rift where you can tell they are really going for it as Trey nails his part and the rest of the band follows along quite nicely. This energy follows forthwith into Tweezer which doesn’t go anywhere new but is what I’ll call ‘power type I’ jamming in that they are staying in the box but gunning for it the whole time. That said, there is some tinkling around what could be considered ‘Walk this Way’ by Trey and a brief return to that ‘Sweet Emotion’ theme they hit at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix as they rock through this one. They bring it down slightly for a fun Ya Mar with Mike taking the vocal scat thing at the end and then go right back up again for a shreddy Llama. The apparent theme to this set is to see how much they can make everyone dance to the shred tunes, I suppose. So then they get into YEM which in this case is just an okay version considering the competition. Not bad at all, no sir. But it doesn’t really do much in all honesty. Next we have the schtick portion of the show with MSO>BBJ and then Fish Fun Time for Rosie this time out. After that you have to figure they are starting to make plans for the end of the night but they have one more biggish jam up their sleeves (or eyeball dresses as the case may be). Hood starts up innocently enough and seems like it is going true to form before Trey gets a bit of growl to his tone that he carries forward throughout the jam. This version is not like most of your peaky major key Hoods (which is not to say that it doesn’t peak out). Definitely one to go spin. I won’t over analyze it here. Cavern caps the set and then we have Monkey, Adeline, Reprise for the encores to get us moving up to “central” California and the capital city.

This is your prototypical energy show. Heck, it’s also a Sunday show and we know the mantra there. Being a Spring ’93 affair you don’t have big hetty jamz (yo) but it does have some meat to chew on and the playing overall is what you want out of the band at this stage. The takeaways from this one are the Melt (easily), MFMF, maybe Tweezer, and definitely the Hood. Not a bad Sunday night! Next up is a rather famous show from Sactown. Maybe you’ve heard of The Crest Theatre show? If not, what the heck are you doing with your life? Go spin it so you will be ready to discuss. Geez.

It Was the Loudest Thing I’d Ever Heard – Redlands, CA 03.19.1993

Phish – Greek Theatre – University of the Redlands, Redlands, CA 03.19.1993

I  Suzy>Llama, Foam, Bouncin’, Rift, Stash, Fluffhead>Cavern, Antelope

II  Jim, Ice, Uncle Pen, Sample, Lizards, Mike’s>H2>Weekapaug->HYHU>Love You>HYHU, Golgi

E  Grace, CDT

And so, one day prior to the vernal equinox which would then allow this tour to accurately be called The Spring Tour, Phish would take the stage for their first outdoor performance of the year at a smallish independent college in the eastern part of the LA market, ending a four night run of shows at the start of their California run (but which includes the one show in Arizona. Don’t want to foster any confusion with that poorly worded sentence there). This night would have some interesting issues for the band to contend with, as the overzealous campus security didn’t appreciate the volume of the music and repeatedly indicated as much to Paul at the soundboard. This caused the band to produce some rather unusual jams in response, playing sparser lines rather than filling the air with shred and cacophony.

But before all of that they got the crowd moving first with Suzy. A bouncy version, this one heads right into a rather shreddy Llama that might have perked up the ears of those white shirts for the first time. Foam kept things energetic with a straight forward but punchy version that would surely get even the most crotchety jaded phanner at least head bobbing. Bouncin’ and Rift are up next as we make our way to Stash where we have our first hints that things are a bit… different tonight. First Trey gets a bit bendy with his notes in the early part of the jam before the majority of the band drops out for a Fish drum/silent jam segment. It’s a bit odd, honestly. But then they take it up a few notches for Fluffhead>Cavern  and  it seems everything is back to normal, particularly by the time they take on the set-closing shred-ahead Antelope. In toto, this set is a lot of table setting with the band seemingly feeling things out a bit. The playing is fine enough but nothing really stands out here.

So it is with a little bit of surprise that when they come out for the second set and get into Jim things take a sideways turn once again, heading into somewhat open waters for perhaps the first time in that song’s somewhat lengthy history. This is not to say it was anywhere near the big time Fall ’95 versions or (obviously) Worcester ’97 but they go away from form here for a bit, finding a bit of <em>almost</em> ambient space (not the right word, particularly for the time period, but you will understand if you listen here). This pairs up nicely with the subsequent Ice which also heads into darker, sparser waters as they include a breakdown jam where Page throws in a Rhapsody in Blue (or Gin if you prefer) tease for good measure. Again, this is one of the first examples for <em>this</em> song that strays from the formula. After these two brief departures to open the set they hit the third song bluegrass slot for Uncle Pen and Fish is feeling feisty, throwing in barker comments like “hoedown!”, “grab your partner!” and “here we go now!” as he is apparently watching the dancing in the pit/moat in front. Trey even comments on the quality of dancing at the end of this one. Then they play the <b>sixth ever!</b> Sample before a lovely Lizards – which also includes a rather sparse take on the outro instrumental section. You have to wonder if these coincide with the appearance of security at the board, as each time they happen the band then brings out a bigger gun to follow. So that gets us to Mike’s for a fairly straight forward version that slides right into H2 and then a very interesting Paug that AGAIN has that minimalist breakdown jamming which in this case ends up being mainly Page and Fish with Mike and trey dropping out completely but not before Mike throws in a quick ‘Boulevard’ tease (the Jackson Browne song). They eventually get to a VJ that has some inklings of the moe. song ‘Yodelittle’ before it transitions fully into HYHU for Fish Fun Time and Love You. This one includes some extended banter (including Fish apologizing to Paul, perhaps about the continued security issues?) before they bring it back and on home for the set closing Golgi. Grace (with mics!) and a fiery CDT are your encores on this night and we have a night off to catch our breath before taking it up the coast to Ventura on Sunday.

Overall, this is a bit of an odd show that is helped by understanding the context of what was happening that night. For highlights I’d check out the Stash, Jim, Ice, and Paug if nothing else for their uniqueness and the Pen because it is pretty hilarious. Also, if you can grab a good source off of etree with the soundcheck, this one is high quality considering they do Dog Log->Heartbreaker, Misty Mountain Hop, Bang a Gong, and a Jam. It’s a good listen and was captured by tapers since it was an outdoor venue without much of a fence going prior to show time.

Persuasion Through His Thoughts Peruse — Hollywood, CA 03.18.1993

Phish — The Palace — Hollywood, CA 03.18.1993

I  CDT, Guelah, Rift, Fee->Maze, Forbin>Mockingbird>Sparkle>Horn, IDK>Bowie

II  MFMF, Poor Heart>Melt, Tela>YEM, Uncle Pen, BBJ, HYHU>IIOHAB>HYHU, Coil, Cavern

E  GTBT

And then there’s the second night in Hollywood for a show that was only added after the first night sold out (good job, phans!). After a night plagued by sound problems, the band was back for another round on Thursday, bringing the energy to the crowd as much as they were getting it in return. This being the third show of four in a row the band was definitely in rhythm and the hijinks would be on display for this one as we will soon see.

CDT would kick off the night with a rocking version before Guelah filled its typical second slot role. Rift then gets the nod for the third slot and in this one you can really hear Fish pounding away with intent on an otherwise standard version. Fee is up next with Trey back on the megaphone this time and again it heads into Maze. The whole band is hitting it here but in particular Trey really goes off and Fish seems to be killing it which is always nice to hear. The fifth Forbin’s of tour comes next and this one provides a cool story about how the whole crowd is part of the first holographic phish show (you really need to hear it to understand…) amongst other items in a somewhat extended Storytime with Trey segment before a pretty well nailed Mockingbird. This precedes Sparkle and Horn which are both perfectly fine though not really notable at all as the FMS still eludes us. IDK brings out Trombone Greasy for a somewhat lengthy solo (and a bunch of nicknames from Trey) before we get the set ending Bowie. This one is worth the listen, starting with some SL (All Fall Down, Simpsons) in the intro and then it heads into some frenzied DEG territory during the jam before resolving in the Bowie fashion. Solid version for the time to be certain and a nice energetic cap to a pretty straight forward but entertaining set.

The second set would take things off in a different direction entirely as the band was definitely feeling their strange this evening. First up, Mike and Fish throw a little ‘Staying Alive’ tease out there and Page plays a bit of ‘Jimmy Olson’s Blues’ before the band gets into MFMF which ends up in a Drummer Boy theme (seemingly initiated by Mike here) that has the band chanting the Myfe section of the lyrics over the melody to Drummer Boy providing a sufficiently creepy resolution to the song. Notably, this was the first time they had broken into Drummer Boy since 12.06.1986 though it was teased on 05.23.1990 at the start of the first set. This is followed by Poor Heart where Trey throws in a MFMF quote and gets pretty amped on the “Cactus” callouts for good measure. Then we get to where things really start to get interesting. Second set Melts can be of many flavors and this one goes plaid in a hurry when Trey starts playing Staying Alive mid jam, throws in some Drummer Boy, and then cranks up the SHRED just to keep everyone honest. It might not be the mindfunker you expect of later versions but it’s memorable, that’s for certain… They come down from this with the second Tela of tour which is probably most notable for what will come just four days later in Sacramento (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we 😉 ). Actually, it is also notable for a quite lovely transition into YEM (and the last time the two songs have been paired as such). This YEM is pretty spirited, particularly with Mike leading the movement of the jam that evolves here that Trey then elevates which eventually gets to a quite energetic VJ. Uncle Pen, BBJ and Fish Fun Time for If I Only Had A Brain fill time before a quite beautifully played Coil takes the penultimate position in the set (seriously, this is a top notch one from Page) before Cavern closes things out. GTBT rocks the house in the encore and the band is ready to head east for their Friday night date in Redlands.

So of the two night stand here in Hollywood this is the more complete show, partially due to the lack of sound problems that persisted on that first night. The playing is loose yet tight in that ’93 way and the energy is high as the band runs through everything with ease and dexterity. Definitely check out the Forbin storytime, Bowie, MFMF, Melt, YEM, and perhaps the Coil here.

Next up is the one time the band played The Greek Theatre at the University of The Redlands in Redlands, CA. Cool looking little venue right there. And one where the band opened up a couple of tunes for the first time…