What You Strive to Condone – Gainesville, FL 11.03.1996

Phish — O’Connell Center, University of Florida — Gainesville, FL 11.03.1996

I  MFMF, Jim, Billy Breathes, Sloth, NICU>Sample, Theme, Bouncin’, Zero

II Timber>Divided, Wolfman’s Brother, Sparkle>Tweezer, Life on Mars?, Possum>Reprise

E  Fire

 

On the night following their last (to date) visit to West Palm Beach, FL Phish stopped in to the college town of Gainesville, FL as they made their way north towards the start of the Midwest Run (by way of a pair of shows in Tennessee and Kentucky, of course). The home to the University of Florida, this town had seen Phish perform here twice prior, first on 02.27.1993 at the Florida Theatre in a show we have covered here previously and again on 11.13.1995 at the O’Connell Center. That former show is good for the raging hot Antelope, a playful Stash, and more of the solid Spring ’93 sound as well as being the “Pre Techno Rave gig” since the band and crew were quickly ushered out of the venue that night to make way for the rave going down there later that night. The latter show is a classic that really should be in your Fall ’95 vocabulary already though admittedly it can get lost between the Atlanta run that preceded it and the legendary 11.14.1995 show from Orlando which followed it. If you aren’t familiar, at least check out the Reba, Tweezer, and Possum from this one as all are worth it. Back to 1996, this show (again from the O’Connell Center which is home to several UF sports along with concerts and other events) would become the final time Phish has played in Gainesville as return trips to the state have gone to bigger cities and bigger venues in conjunction with the band’s rise in popularity.

 

The show starts out with My Friend My Friend, a song that can denote a particularly dark vibe to a set or show in being placed in this spot. In its 139 performances the song has opened 28 shows with an additional 10 second set opening versions and just one encore appearance ever on 04.29.1993. While not necessarily a sure fire indicator of hot stuff on the way (like My Soul openers, for example) it does set a certain tone to the proceedings. Tonight in the 2nd such show opening version of the tour they keep it contained and drop right from the maniacal yelling at the end to the start of Runaway Jim. Oddly enough, this is the only time these two songs have been paired thusly, something that seems impossible considering how frequently the two songs used to get played in the past. There have, however, been two times (05.05.1993 and 12.05.1997) when Jim gave way to MFMF with both times being full segues. The Jim here in Gainesville is straight forward stuff but with the added percussion and Trey putting a little extra stank on his end solo it gets a decent rise out of the crowd. A quick stop for an early set take on Billy Breathes precedes our second version of The Sloth this tour and here four songs in with but one song of any real substance you have to wonder what the point is of having Karl on board for the show. The hard edged song gives way to the bouncy NICU and those wondering existential thoughts about Karl’s role in the Phish universe at this moment are put to rest as he adds a playful tone to this already happy song. After they play Sample in a Jar we get our second opportunity to stretch a tad as Theme from the Bottom starts up. There is some nice work towards the peak out of Trey in this one and the added percussion is interesting but overall this is not a top tier version for your scrapbook. Keeping things light, the band next plays the predictable Bouncin’ Around the Room before a rambunctious Character Zero drives us home into the end of set. Looking back over your setlist scribblings once the lights come up you have to be wondering what gives here as the stage was set for another potentially great set what with Perazzo Phish engaged and a relatively clean slate of options after just one show since the night off after Halloween. There is nothing wrong with the playing but there are no risks taken AT ALL in this set with the only improvisation really taking place in brief patches of the Jim and Theme. It is a largely forgettable set that certainly had heads scratching at more than dry dready scalps.

 

So after the fifteen minute break (yeah right, Trey! LIAR!!) they come back out for the final set of Perazzo Phish and start up Timber Ho! for one of the 22 times the song has opened a second set in its 82 total performances. This version serves as table setting, never really going anywhere but including a decent bit of percussive jamming from the five. Next we get Divided Sky, a song I wouldn’t necessarily put into the category of songs that feel like a good match for extra percussion but once they get through The Pause (1:06 tonight for the timers in the audience) it is on as Trey nails his solo and the rhythm section plays with some serious pace in a version that feels a heck of a lot faster than it actually is. I was surprised by how much I liked this one but then Divided is one of those songs, isn’t it? You never really go into a show saying “hey, I would really love for them to play a 2nd set Divided tonight” but then they do and when they get to the end bit you are rocking out like there’s no tomorrow and everything is great and you have a vision of your future as Trey tears the song a new one and… okay, probably just me there. But I think you will find this version to be a good one made better by the added percussion. Wolfman’s Brother is up next for a quick run through the proto-funk stylings of the song before it became more of a groove vehicle. While not exploratory, this does serve to set the table for something yet to come in this set but it still feels like more could have gone down here. The race through a quick Sparkle following Wolfman’s and then segue into what we have all been waiting for: Tweezer with Perazzo.

 

With the potential that this song holds, bringing in the groove element on top of his percussive offerings just begs for a big jam to get thrown down here and that is exactly what we have. Pretty much right after the lyrics end they drop into a punchy groove pocket. Trey is patient here, letting the mood set as Karl drives the groove with his work on the congos. Page is comping along on piano and Trey comes in with some staccato leads that accent the groove. They are moving as one here as Trey starts to take a more active role in leading the way, playing drawn out notes evocative of the Tweezer theme. Around the 11:40 mark Page takes control a bit, soloing over groove as Trey sets a loop and hops on the mini kit. After a bit Trey comes back to the guitar and takes command, pushing the jam out of the comfortable groove as he builds towards the inevitable peak… which never materializes. Instead they head to the old school slow down ending, further showcasing that this is not your typical Phish anymore as they just took Tweezer for a 17 minute ride without ever really climbing the hill. Perhaps that is a revisionist statement as these days it seems most jams eventually head towards the resolution peak. That was pretty much true in this era too but in different ways, I believe. But this Tweezer wasn’t about resolution it was about catching the groove and playing around it in that way they didn’t do before RiL. I promise I won’t keep saying stuff like that with every new groove pocket jam but I think it is telling here as it was set up to go big towards a peak and they resisted and instead let it run its course without feeling the need to start up another song or force anything musically. New Trey could stand to learn something from old Trey in this regard.

 

After the Tweezer we get another one of those spot-on covers of Life On Mars? which works well as a bit of a cool down here (it is, admittedly, the slowest paced song of this set…) before they crank up Possum for start of the end of set proceedings. The only really notable thing here is that Trey for some reason decides to play some of the Chinacat->Rider transition in the intro section. That’s the only time I know of him doing that, like, ever (with Mike having a Chinacat tease in between Meatstick and Bug on 08.19.2012) so it is pretty odd for him to do it here with no seeming connection to anything in the set or then current affairs. Not that there would ever be a current affair that necessitates the band Phish teasing a tripper song by the Grateful Dead but you get my point. So Possum does what Possums do and then they jump right into the set closing Tweeprise you had already written down in your notebook and then we get our second Fire encore of the tour. Now, I am not saying they didn’t play a solid show here but I am one to side with the notion that certain encores come out for big time shows. Stuff like Monkey>Rocky Top or Monkey>Reprise, Bold as Love, Highway to Hell, and yes, Fire. I guess it works here to cap the PerazzoPhish run but in all honesty this show doesn’t elevate to the level that I would want in capping it with a raging Fire encore.

 

Maybe I am being too harsh here but I kind of feel that this show falls a bit flat except for that Tweezer jam. The takeaways are thin as well with it being pretty much the Divided and Tweezer and perhaps the Possum if you want to hear that brief tease. I’m just not hearing anything else worthy of inclusion in our ongoing list. This is probably all me as I really wanted the final Perazzo show to just explode with energy and big time jams and, frankly, it didn’t. It is a solid outing for a Sunday night show in a college town and there are some extremely huge things coming up quite shortly but it really felt like they missed an opportunity to take this one next level. But that is okay because at the end of the day Phish is not about the expected. So now we close the book on this chapter with the band having found a new playground to explore and still more than half of the tour left to go. On to Knoxville!

The Feeling Returns Whenever We Close Our Eyes – West Palm Beach, FL 11.02.1996

Phish — Coral Sky Amphitheater — West Palm Beach, FL 11.02.1996

I  Ya Mar, Julius, Fee->Taste, Cavern, Stash, Lizards, Free, JBG

II  C&P->Lope, Waste, Hood>ADITL, Adeline

E  Funky Bitch

 

After a long, late night spent celebrating one of the high holy days of the Phish calendar, the band dipped south first for a night off and then for the lone outdoor show of this Fall Tour in West Palm Beach, FL. This was the third (and seemingly last) time the band would play in this town, opting for larger venues and locales in the future. The first time they played here was during the 13th annual Sunfest on 04.28.1994, apparently as an alternative band scheduled to draw those hard to please college kids if this article is to be believed. After Phish’s one set performance here (there isn’t much meat to be found but it is a fun listen all the same) Trey sat in with Blues Traveler during their headliner set. Throw in a bunch of other bands like Los Lobos, Huey Lewis & the News, the Village People, and Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers and that’s not a bad day for an $8 advance ticket! The next year they came back to play the WPB Auditorium on 11.16.1995 for a show most memorable for the Butch Trucks sit-in during the 2nd set closing Possum (which included a brief jam on the ABB tune One Way Out along with Fish on trombone and Trey’s mini kit), the debut cover of Brown Eyed Girl for the encore (with Jimmy Buffett joining in, no less), a Timber with a bit o’ MLB (you gotta believe it is there to hear it), a solid Hood, and a little jam nugget background music during the new chess match’s initial moves. More than just background fluff, that sit-in theme in this town held true one more time for this classic show from 11.02.1996, one so good the band released it on dvd a few years back. It can also be heard in its sbd glory on spotify. I have found a few uploads from the DVD that I will sprinkle into the setlist breakdown as well.

 

After that night off following their massively successful Halloween show the band hit the stage on November 2nd (a date with its own long and often legendary history) for what would be their singular outdoor performance of the Fall 1996 Tour, something Trey mentions in a bit of banter in the first set. They are again joined on stage by Karl Perazzo for this show and get right to the matter at hand by dropping a Ya Mar that will have you looking for the waiter to order up some umbrella drinks. They ride the island groove for a bit here, daring you to not dance along to the beats. Julius rocks in next and while the added percussion doesn’t really do a whole lot here Trey does take some big time rocker leads which is pretty typical, particularly here in ’96. The three slot breath catcher tune tonight is Fee which oddly works well with Karl on board and in the aftermath we segue directly into Taste. Tonight’s is perhaps not quite as big as the first one Karl sat in for on 10.29.1996 but it is still quite good. This is one of the first ones that I directly recall hearing the overt WTU? theme being played by Trey but I might just have to go back to ones prior to listen a bit closer. It is one of those things that once you hear it you always do and in this version it sticks out big time. The ending of Taste is a bit different as when they come back for the final lovely bit they instead hit the chop chords a few more times, eventually shutting it down without much fanfare. Here is where we get a bit of Trey banter, first introducing Karl to the crowd and pointing out how awesome it is for him to be on stage with them and then mentioning the bit about this being the only outdoor show of the tour.

 

Next up is Cavern, a song I have a personally complicated relationship with considering it is somehow one of my most frequently seen songs and always ALWAYS seems to chase me but I will say that this is a quite fun version what with the added percussion and a bit of an extended ending as they work into the beginning of Stash. Stash tonight is all pretty much “in bounds” but there is a bit (starting around the 7:00 mark or so) where Trey starts a theme that persists throughout the balance of the song (with others chiming in) which feels like it is pulled from a James Bond soundtrack. It isn’t a direct reference but the feeling is there. This is followed by a solid run through The Lizards (another song that doesn’t seem to need extra percussion but it again works) and then a crunchy, percussive (obviously!) Free that stays at home but provides for some solid rocking out. After a bit more banter from Trey we are on to the closer, Johnny B Goode. This rocker wraps up a pretty fun if not necessarily exploratory first set which fits with what we have seen so far this tour. They are stretching out a bit more than perhaps they would what with Karl on board but there is a lot left in the tank here. So over the setbreak you have to be wondering what is in store, including whether they might bring back one of those groovy new Talking Heads covers from the other night…

 

Well, you would have a short wait for the answer to that question as they come out for the start of the second set and dive right into Crosseyed & Painless. I’ll just put this nice video of it right here so that you can follow along. I highly recommend it if nothing else to see Fish concentrating so hard on the beat and the lyrics all at the same time but be prepared because it ends before the transition point jam. Ready? Okay! So in this second ever take on the song they are positively giddy going in as Trey counts it off all while showing that big shit eating grin he gets sometimes. As an aside, that term is pretty weird when you think about it. Like, at what point did someone see enough people with that look to coin the term? Keep the coprophagia out of my idioms, thank you very much, sir. So they work through the composed bits of the song with fervor, offering up some energetic “woo” and general excitement as they head to the groove jam to follow. They set up a chugging groove here with Trey going off on top of the beat Fish and Perazzo lay down all while Page accents with effects and Mike thumps away. At about the ten minute mark they drop into a psych groove section with Trey moving over to the mini kit such that Page is doing the soloing here along with the effects he has set up. Trey moves back to the guitar after a few minutes and from here we enter a phase of loops, scratching noises, and all manner of wild stuff — all with that groove killing it in the back. Trey is even playing his mini-kit while adding to the fray with his guitar at one point. At about the time on the video where they show a shot of Karl looking a little perplexed about where this is all headed and with loops layering on top of one another Trey is back on the mini-kit as Page and Mike drive the groove and then Trey goes back to the guitar to scratch out some lines that complement all of the other crazy going on. This is by far one of the grooviest yet out there psychedelic Phish jams you could put together. Things seem to be cooling down a bit and then Mike heads into a DEG-like bassline prompting Trey to follow along with more overt DEG teases. The frenzy softens a bit and we get some “still waiting!” lines but various band member thrown into the ether as they appear to be headed towards transition space but the groove persists! Eventually Fish relents and they drop into the noisy transition space and after a bit more waiting we get the tell tale intro to Run Like An Antelope.

 

Before we get there though let’s talk about this Crosseyed jam. Up to this point we have never heard a jam like this from Phish. Sure, there have been a ton of big, open, wildly psychedelic jams. But never had the groove been there and never in that almost-off-the-rails-but-still-fully-in-control way that you get with this jam. And I never mentioned it before but there is no peak here, nothing to point to as the crux moment. It is just big time from the start until they move into setting up the move out to Antelope. This Crosseyed shows the immediate takeaway of a band looking for the “next thing” while also drawing greatly from what got them there. And that in a nutshell is the beauty of Phish. In each evolution, while they push forward into forging a new sound they never fully let go of the past. Instead they take the best from that and layer it in with the new sound, creating something that might be outwardly seen as different but is still Phish through and through. That is something I think we all love about this band: that they can seemingly reinvent themselves over and over but still be Phish through it all.

 

Now, typically, people will combine the C&P and the Lope into “Crossalope” or some other witty portmanteau (we are a pretty clever group… sometimes) and I get why that happens as both are great but unlike in other mashup cases these are wholly separate jams. They just both kill it so hard you naturally want to make the connection. So the Antelope goes sideways in the best way for a few minutes with the percussion driving the thing forward as Trey shreds before they come out of it for the lyrics and ending. Trey replaces the standard “Marco Esquandolas” line for “Norton Charleston Heston” tonight. In his exuberance in the aftermath Fish calls out “Karl Perazzo!” which pretty well goes without saying here what with all he has brought to them in this brief stint with Phish. The time is now for a well deserved breather after that 40ish minutes of awesome so we get Waste which works here because those folks just needed to cool down for a bit and collect their thoughts and stuff, okay? Phish fans can’t be expected to rage for an entire set without some bit of cool down, can they? They can? Oh. Well, Waste has a nice solo at the end so maybe there were some folk raging the Waste? No? Let’s just move on then… Harry Hood follows Waste tonight and here is one where the video really adds something as in the composed build section where they are alternating the pattern of notes before heading to the lyric section you can tell Karl doesn’t know the unique beat, leading to a few laughing exchanges between various band members. Once they hit the jam though Karl is in the groove with the band and after a clean and engaging jam where Trey finds an interesting descending line we get one of those lovely, uplifting Hood peaks you read about in Bliss Peaks Weekly. What, yo don’t get that publication?

 

Hood segues into A Day in the Life for a faithful take on the Beatles classic and then we have the semi-obligatory a cappella tune to close the set which tonight is Adeline. I miss that song. Of all of the a cappella tunes over the years I think that is probably my favorite — and my daughter was thisclose to being named after the song as a result before we opted for another name on our list. Check out the video there as Karl comes to the front of the stage with the band and there’s a nice moment of thanks by Trey as they congregate (he also helps out with the time keeping by snapping along — ever the percussionist, that guy…). Now on to the encore, the band brings out another guest, our guy Butch Trucks from the Allman Brothers Band and resident of West Palm Beach as we discovered the year prior. They play Funky Bitch which has a bit of a (to borrow the phrase…) sneakers-in-the-dryer feelin the early part of the song as with so much percussion going on (Butch on Fish’s kit, Karl on his rig, and Fish on Trey’s mini-kit) it is really a bit much until they fall into line. This is a nice encore to cap this show and we are off on our way to the other big college town in Florida for the bookend show of our time with Perazzo Phish.

 

Over the years this show has become canon probably mainly due to that ridiculous Crosseyed jam and the overall great playing going on throughout. Unlike many of the best known shows in their history this show doesn’t have a big string of flawless segues or several centerpiece jams. It doesn’t have massive bustouts or crazy hijinx or anything more than just fantastically crisp playing by all involved. The addition of a fifth player does nothing to diminish the band’s sound here and shows why they had Karl on board for the mini run they did as he fits in so well with the type of jamming they wanted to explore at this time. I hold this show up as an example of the band being open to new things but also staying rooted in their unique sound, something we discussed a bit up above. The main takeaway from this show is what it allows for in the future, honestly, so any individual jam highlights are just gravy. Really tasty, thick and chunky gravy but gravy all the same. Those gravy jams tonight are Ya Mar, C&P->Lope, and Hood with Julius and Free as the second tier and Funky Bitch as the “why not, it’s unique” entry. With only one more Perazzo Phish to go we are about to leave the Southeast behind but there are fireworks to see before that move…

A World of Light- Atlanta, GA 10.31.1996

Phish — The Omni — Atlanta, GA 10.31.1996

I  Sanity>HTH>Disease>YEM, Caspian>Reba, Forbin’s>Mockingbird>Zero, SSB

II  Born Under Punches>C&P>The Great Curve, Once in a Lifetime>Houses in Motion->Seen and Not Seen->Listening Wind>The Overload

III  Brother, 2001>Maze, Simple->Swept Away>Steep>JJLC>Suzy

E  Frankenstein

 

Ah, Halloween. We have dipped our toe into this most holy of high Phish holidays before to break down the band’s performance of The Velvet Underground’s Loaded album but two years before that night — and the last time they had played Halloween before then — the band graced the stage of The Omni for an evening that would perhaps do more to shape the future trajectory of the band than any other single show. That’s a pretty hyperbolic statement to make on the surface but as we go along here I think it will be more clear why I speak so assuredly on this subject. Of course, I tipped my hand a bit on this front with the last show review but that was but that was almost like the preamble before the real speech. The opening band before the main attraction. The fluff… I’ll stop there. I think you get the point.

 

Phish by this time already had a quite healthy history in Hot ‘Lanta and Georgia in general, having first played in the state way back in February 1990 for a trio of shows supporting Widespread Panic. These shows (The Georgia Theatre in Athens for 02.01.1990 and 02.02.1990 and Atlanta’s Cotton Club — another in the long line of clubs now closed that Phish once played — on 02.03.1990) don’t offer us much considering all are one setters and none of them has a fully known setlist. They continued visiting these two venues later in 1990 and into 1991, playing seven shows alternating between the two rooms starting in Athens with 05.31.1990 opening for the Aquarium Rescue Unit, then 06.01.1990 for a fun one with ARU members sitting in (check out the Antelope and the Col. Hampton’s Ascent>Mockingbird), then 10.18.1990 for an okay one, 10.19.1990 for an odd single setter with two encores, 03.01.1991 for a show most notable for the DEG fun in a few tunes, 03.02.1991 opening for The Grapes (a 90s era ATL-based jam/rock band), and 07.26.1991 for a Giant County Horns tour show that ARU opened (please please check out the YEM and Tweezer from this one if nothing else!). The string was finally broken with their first visit to the Variety Playhouse (though the Athens/Atlanta streak was still intact!) for 07.27.1991, a single set show opening for ARU that marked the end of the famed GCH Tour (and another with a double encore). They returned to the Variety on 11.09.1991 for a show best known for the ‘gospel My Sweet One’ then back to Athens (for the last time ever…) for the fun 11.12.1991 show that has two quite lengthy encores (must be some great cheering going on back then at these shows to ellict all these double encores…). The band’s last visit to the Variety Playhouse came the following Spring on 03.28.1992 for a show best know as the “Flood Show” as they had a quite abbreviated 2nd set where they performed four songs unplugged (three songs and IDK) before giving up. There’s also a Secret Language Instructions and the one time performance of Lullaby of Birdland, both tucked into the first set Bowie. Perhaps wanting to satisfy the fans who had been robbed of their second set in 1992, Phish returned in February 1993 for a three night stand at the Roxy Theater (yup. it’s closed) that really needs no introduction considering there is an official release and everything. Besides, we already covered those amazing shows. All I will say is if you don’t know them already get on it, dude.

 

Don’t worry, we are almost caught up. I can’t be held responsible for the band playing awesome music in this area so often.

 

Later in 1993, in the middle of Summer Tour and on the cusp of what is known to be one of the more important months musically for the band’s future development they played at the Masquerade Music Park on 07.31.1993 for a show that has a big Mike’s Song and the last Leprechaun ever (sad). On 04.23.1994 they played the Fox Theater for the first time, bringing out Col. Bruce Hampton and Merl Saunders in a great one that includes debuts of High Heel Sneakers to close the first set and Who by Fire out of YEM (more of a VJ intonation than anything) not to mention an epic Stash. Around this time (04.26.1994) they also visited Purple Dragon Studios for a promo set supporting the Hoist release, a set that is mostly straight forward by that also includes the singular performance of Sun Ra’s Carefree (a song I still long to hear Phish bring to the big stage). That Fall they played the Atlanta Civic Center (10.25.1994) for one of those great Fall 94 shows, this one highlighted by big takes on Melt and Paug, not to mention a slew of teases and some fine segue work throughout. On 06.15.1995 Phish played Lakewood Amphitheatre (a venue that has seen quite a few name changes in the 20 years the band has been playing there…) for the first time, dropping a wildly psychedelic Stash->IDK (one of the first instances of Mike using a power drill that I know of) and the first of the big time Summer ’95 Bowies. Fall 1995 saw another three night run — this time at the Fox — for three more great shows, first on 11.09.1995 for one that has jam highlights all over (Simple>Reba and the Gin are probably the biggies), then 11.10.1995 which continues the jamming trend (Mule, YEM->Crossroads->YEM, Hood), and finally 11.11.1995 which has big Mike’s Groove elements and fun Ya Mar. Keep in mind that these were the first shows following the triumph that was 10.31.1995 and the energy from that night seemed to carry over to this stand. That gets us up to date for this next Halloween show and I appreciate you bearing with me in getting through all of the varied and wonderful history that the band has in The Big Peach (and Athens!).

 

Now, on to the show!

 

Oh yeah. One more thing before we get going here. If you don’t already have a copy of this show here are a couple of options for you. Since there is an official release, you can always grab it from LivePhish it or listen on the LP+ app if you have that. You can also stream the release on Spotify. There is also some video out there with an incomplete set I and the full set II (note that there are some large gaps in the video that are filled with iconic Phish imagery but that the audio never falters. oh, and don’t mind the shirtless dude in the first row who gets focused on a lot. he was just feeling IT, maaaaaaan. and the audio cuts out during The Overload which kinda sucks but you should be spinning the soundboard for the audio anyway) though I have yet to find anything of set III. There’s also the streaming resources like phish.in, phishtracks.com, and relisten.net but those will be auds and perhaps not quite up to autidory snuff for your needs.

 

1996 marked the third consecutive year that Phish would be playing a “musical costume” for its Halloween show and the first year where the band made the choice without any influence by fan voting. This was also the first year that they produced a Phishbill (see here for a doc that includes all of the phishbills up through 2010), a humorous mock up of a Broadway playbill that included some information on the night to come, an essay by Parke Puterbaugh, and some humorous fake ads referencing Phishy themes. It is all a tongue-in-cheek reference to what you would get when seeing a show in New York City or something at the same time shedding some light on the album they would cover. They have since continued this tradition with the Phishbill effectively confirming what the cover album would be for the night — even though many a wook has decried it as a ruse with the confident stance that they just know, man, that Trey is gonna totally do Zeppelin this year cuz the energy from this new tourmaline I scored is just radiating those vibes to me, man. Dig it?

 

Thankfully for us, we don’t have to sit through the first sets of Halloween shows wondering what the costume might be (I must say, it was a bit distracting wondering about all that 10.31.1995) and we can instead focus entirely on the music at hand. Each of the past two Halloween shows had opened with a nod to the season, first with Frankenstein for the Glens Falls show in 1994 and then with Icculus for the Rosemont Horizon show in 1995. The trend continued here with a Sanity opener (a 43 show bustout) that segues right into a likewise suitable Highway to Hell (41 shows). Nothing like setting the mood with a couple of somewhat unhinged tunes, both which were apparently birthday requests by Brad Sands.. They keep the string going by segueing into Down With Disease, getting the jams going nice and early. Once through the song itself they take the typical Disease jam out for a ride, bringing it to a pocket jam of sorts. Trey and Page flavor this one nicely and even though it is decidedly type I the jam is fresh and novel and could be the best one of the tour to date (it is). Even though he isn’t on stage with them you can almost feel the presence of Karl Perazzo here as the percussive nature of this jam helps to push it forward all while Trey gets his fingers moving and Page gets the boogie going. I am a fan of all of this. The wrap-up then segues right into You Enjoy Myself, a bit of a surprise choice here in song four of the first set. The start is not the cleanest one you will ever hear but once they settle in the nirvana section takes off well. Trey’s solo gets a bit of clap-along-with-Trey to it before the transition to the D&B which tonight is a bit plodding, honestly. If you are into VJs this one is pretty high energy which is always fun in person but can definitely get the heads a scratching upon relisten.

 

We get our first full stop of the night here and looking back you have to wonder what is in store when a set starts out this big. Phish in this era isn’t exactly known for front loading shows so that points to great things, generally. These thoughts maybe took a back seat when the next song starts up as Prince Caspian isn’t exactly the most loved tune in the canon but they do cap it with one of those soaring, peaky finishes that are typical of the ’96 Caspians. They continue on into the start of Reba, first working cleanly through the entirety of the composed bits. The start of the jam is that patient sort of Reba we beg for with a fantastic build towards the peak. Trey is playing ALLTHENOTES but Mike has just as much to say as they take this one for a thrill ride that begs to be played over and over. After this we get to have a bit of Story Time With Trey as they go into Colonel Forbin’s Ascent>Fly Famous Mockingbird for the first time this tour. The songs are about what you’d expect but the story is topical and humorous as our protagonist encounters the David Byrne rock face on his climb of Mt. Icculus whose big shoulders and dance moves swat the Colonel off into the air, only for him to be caught by the evil, death, killing mockingbird who takes Forbin’s eyes. Nice imagery for the spunions, Trey. I’m sure the trip tents were a bit more full this set break than usual. Now on to closer land we get yet another crunchy Character Zero (our seventh Zero already this tour) and then a nice a cappella take on the Star Spangled Banner as they continue to work on this song in advance of performing it at a Minnesota Timberwolves game in a couple of weeks. This provides an oddly fitting cap to a quite explosive first set and now everyone can continue those conversations they started preshow about the relative merits of covering Talking Heads albums and trying to figure out which song on this album was the one with that one video you used to always see on MTV (remember, this was in the years before MTV forgot what their letters stood for).

 

Even in knowing what the album to come would be there is definitely a lot of excitement to be had in wondering how Phish would tackle it. Up to this point they had stuck to costumes a bit more in their classic-rock-fed roots as The White Album is a collection of so many wonderful Beatles’ songs and Quadrophenia is bombastic arena rock (with a theme) to the core. But here was an album of music pretty far afield from anything the band had taken on up to this stage with only one Talking Heads song ever having been covered by Phish prior to this night. That song is Cities, a tune we now hold dear as a song the band does well in making it their own (just listen to the original version as compared to one of the more highly lauded recent takes on it from 08.06.2010 in Berkeley). Now, the original versions Phish played were a bit closer to the original tempo and feel for the song (and the Mike Gordon Band versions of it are very true to the roots of the song – here’s one with Trey from 04.04.2014) but here in 1996 that song had long gone to the shelf with but one performance of it on 07.05.1994 (a unique version that benefits from Trey’s nimble fingers in the end solo bits) since it had last been played on 03.01.1989 (an equally unique version in its own right considering the DEG dropped in the middle of it). Anyway, the song was still a few months away from returning to the Phish fold but that landmark show is for another time and a different tour review. The main point is that at this period in phishtory the majority of the fanbase would have no frame of reference for hearing Phish play this band’s songs short of some hissy late generation tapes or word of mouth.

 

UPDATE/EDIT: Eagle-eyed reader MikeinAustin noted that the band had played another Talking Heads tune prior to this date but I somehow completely forgot that which is odd considering I wrote about it in covering the 03.30.1993 show from Eugene, OR. It is not a complete version, but enough that I should have remembered it. Plus, they have toyed with it since with a VJ on 08.09.1993 in Toronto, ON and quoted in the YEM on 05.23.1994. So yeah. A bit of swiss cheese memory going on for me there. HOWEVER, it still does not change the main point that I was making there above about people not really knowing what to expect with Phish covering the Talking Heads. There may have been a few more people who knew of it occurring though which I think is important to point out. Thanks for catching me on that, MiA. Now back to the review…

 

The second set begins with the band joined on stage by Karl Perazzo (which we now know was part of the plan with his joining the band in Tallahassee) on percussion, Gary Gazaway on trumpet/flugelhorn/trombone, and old friend Dave “The Truth” Grippo on alto saxaphone. The first track of the album, Born Under Punches, provides everyone with our first dose of the varied stylings this set will offer, combining independent yet interlocking parts from each player into a catchy song that is more than the sum of its parts. Phish plays this one true to form, mimicking the album version well while also sounding like Phish the whole time. This serves as set up for the first big moment of the set as they drop into Crosseyed and Painless, a cover tune that fans have come to know and love quite well. This initial version benefits greatly from Perazzo and Fish putting down an addictive beat that the other players match, creating a groove pocket unlike anything Phish has ever done up to this point in their history. Trey and Mike are practically dancing their are so affected by this groove, all while Page and the horn players adding flavorings on top. They carry this groove forward for several minutes before Karl takes a solo, allowing for the transition directly into The Great Curve. A groove monster in its own right, this song hits hard and fast with Page singing the verses all while the frenetic groove takes off. Trey nails the Adrian Belew lines here and when they hit the big chorus the thing pretty well explodes into this joyous ball of energy. Trey goes off again after the chorus playing the guitar god leads we love all while the pocket beneath seems to pulse and flow in a way that almost feels like it is at risk of flying off the tracks into something wholly different. The energy builds to the finish and we finally have our first chance to catch our breath.

 

You can tell the band is feeling it when Fish lets out an audible woo/sigh and Trey hops up and down a few times to release some of the pent up energy. Next up is the most famous song on the album, Once in a Lifetime, the song made popular due the re-release of it in conjunction with the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense and its inclusion on the soundtrack for the movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Phish’s take is true to the song (and definitely more practiced than the bustout version they recently played as part of the amazing “THANK YOU” encore on 09.06.2015), eventually coming down to a muted transition point. Next up is Houses in Motion which — similar to the opener Born Under Punches — has lyrics that seem to almost counterpoint the groove they lay down underneath. Grippo gets a couple of solo moments here between the verses and Page layers in more effects while Gazaway throws in some echoed trumpet lines in the back half. Trey gets a Tweezer tease in along the way as this jam goes out for a bit before they make a full segue into Seen and Not Seen, a track that gives Mike his chance to take the lead vocals while sitting in a chair on stage as Trey plays his bass. It is pretty funny to see Mike (in marching red shirt and pants) rocking away in a barcalounger while providing the spoken word to accompany the minimalist groove. That’s something I could see happening in a Phish set without it being a costume which makes it even more humorous to see it in this context. All the while Trey paces back and forth behind him in his gold velour shirt doing those knee bends he tends to do during the YEM D&B section. Eventually Trey hops back on the guitar, putting up some extended notes that offer the opportunity for transition to Listening Wind, an atmospheric song that has nature sound effects, haunting yet lovely lyrics sung primarily by Page, and more of that groove. Here in the back half of the album the songs are more ethereal and the grooves a bit less “punishing” perhaps but the more you listen to these “side B” songs the more you can hear the obvious influence they had on the band, just as much as those in the first half. Just listen to the solo Trey takes at the end of Listening Wind which is made up of sustained, somewhat drone-y notes that work with the groove pocket and sound effects to create the vivid image of the words being sung (check out the words if you have never have). As Trey continues to wail away Fish makes his way to the center stage for The Overload, a song with a somewhat menacing tone that takes things into a darker direction. Trey plays similar lines to what he had going in Listening Wind but Mike is lower down and the overall tone is much more menacing than anything else we have heard thus far. Trey sets a whirling loop and Fish adds in some vac as someone (tour bus driver Dominic Placco) comes on stage to bark out “time to get to work” as he points to various band members and eventually they are all playing different “tools” (Trey on skilsaw, Fish on vac, and Mike on that power drill again) that contribute to the cacophony of machine noises being made. If you watch the video you might even catch Col. Bruce Hampton up there on the jackhammer. Page is still on his rig adding to the whirl but this is post modern Phish here as they have tv screens, the nameless worker overlord, and some repeated sound samples adding to the sensory overload (get it?). As the sounds drop out one my one, the band members leave the stage and our costume set is ended.

 

In the moment it is a wonderful take on a classic album that really deserves your time in its original format as much as here as a cover. This is an important album in the time it was released due to the unique way it melded rock, funk, African polyrhythms, electronic music, sampling, and more in a time when that just wasn’t happening. Brian Eno provided his influence and expertise with other notable guests including Adrian Belew (mentioned previously) and Robert Palmer (yes, that Robert Palmer). While it was not a chart topping record at the time, its influence on music cannot be overstated. Within the context of Phish it stands as a major moment in the band’s history, marking the move from the open psych “precision” to a time where the band focused on creating grooves that allowed for a new way to experiment with their jamming. This is not to say that overnight the band changed completely but from here on out nothing would be quite the same (for better or worse depending who you ask). Heck, even the shows that follow this one on the Fall Tour are mostly still in that 95/96 percussive psych precision phase but as we go forward you will start to get more ‘pocket jams’ and other inklings that this album has laid its influence on the band. And from this night we took one song into the semi-regular rotation as Crosseyed and Painless has now been performed 36 times – with 26 of those coming in 3.0. I personally would love for them to bring The Great Curve back for another dip but as we have seen with every Halloween show played there is usually one and perhaps 1-2 more songs that will get future play from Phish. But short of more songs for the repertoire this costume paid dividends for the band in what they could take from it more than the tracks themselves. Lastly, before we get to the third set I want to give you a link to a quite interesting video from just before the Fall 1998 tour where Phish was interviewed by David Byrne himself for the show that he was the host of, Sessions at West 54th, a PBS series where they would intersperse bits of interview with in studio live performance. This is the raw interview video which includes a lot of stuff not in the final show. There is a section (starting around 25:33 of the raw video) where they discuss Halloween costume albums including the cover of Remain in Light which I think is quite interesting and worthy of your time if you have never checked it out. Knowing that this interview was taped only a couple of weeks prior to their cover of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded (which we have discussed…) adds a bit to me but the salient points here about their intent and takeaways from playing Remain in Light are the main reason for linking this. Enjoy.

 

Geez, we have a third set to go here? <-Easily something you may have overheard at a show before. Okay, well, let’s get to it then…

 

So after the pageantry of the costume set we are back to Phish again but as tends to happen we will have some guests as Karl Perazzo sits in for the entirety and the horn players drop in at the end of the set. First up is a brief Feel Like A Stranger tease by Trey (the only ever to my knowledge) before they crank out a fun Brother to get everyone back in the Phish frame of mind. Next they get a bit funky with 2001, offering a taste of what might be to come for this song while still keeping it truer to the Deodato version than some of the extended workouts we will see in coming years. This segues into Maze for yet another quite engaging Fall ’96 version. Trey shreds the crap out of this one and the addition of more percussion only serves to amp this one up more than normal. While perhaps not as big as the one earlier this tour from Pittsburgh, this is a solid take on the straight ahead jammer. Now we have Simple which in three previous performances this tour has proved itself to be one to keep tabs on each and every time. The prior versions had sections of percussive jamming as Trey hopped on the mini-kit for a bit in each one but tonight’s takes it to another level as Fish and Perazzo pound away, allowing Trey to stay at home on the guitar. There is a Mama Told Me Not to Come tease to be found amongst the rhythmic groove here as well. In a show where it becomes difficult to pick out the real peak jams because everything is played well this one stands out. They execute a great move into Steep>Swept Away for the second time this tour, playing that pairing as you know it before seemingly suddenly arriving in the bustout of Jesus Just Left Chicago, last played one year prior during the third set of 10.31.1995. Dave Grippo and Gary Gazaway come out here and add in to the bluesy jam as everyone takes a turn at a solo. This bleeds into Suzy Greenberg, easily one of the most horns-friendly tunes Phish has ever written (personally, I insert the horn lines in my head pretty much every time I hear it). This is a similar pairing as that last Halloween show except for the ADITL they sandwiched in there in 1995 as these two tunes seem to be becoming the de facto post-costume-get-the-horn-section-involved songs for the third set. Tonight’s Suzy goes away from the typical rocking peaky take for a bit as the horn players influence things in a jazzy manner but in the end it is good times Suzy bringing the party home once more. Following the encore break we get the seasonally appropriate Frankenstein to cap this show (a full mirror to last year’s Halloween which opened with Frank), sending everyone out into the night with one last bit of rocking the heck out.

 

I’ve spent a lot of time (and words) discussing this one so I won’t belabor the point too much further but I think it is pretty obvious how important this show was to the future development of Phish. By no means am I suggesting that they needed this impetus to push them forward as there were no signs of stagnation coming into this night. They were already riding the crest of a peak year (’95) to take on new challenges including their first festival, a well received album, and more. This moment simply provided them with another avenue to explore, one which they have taken and made a part of who they are as a band. Never before had Phish grooved like this. Never before had they mixed musical styles as fluidly as what this new way of playing allowed for. But all through it they are still Phish and sound like no other band in the world. I had a hard time cutting the highlights list for this show down to a respectable size but that’s what you get with a canonical performance. So with that in mind your takeaways are:  Disease, Reba, C&P, The Great Curve, Houses in Motion, Simple, and Suzy with honorable mentions including Forbin>Mockingbird, Born Under Punches, Listening Wind, and perhaps Caspian if we are feeling gracious.

 

I apologize for this post taking as long as it did but hopefully my words make up for that. I really enjoyed re-spinning this show a few times to make sure I got a lot of the necessary nuance. We will start cruising again here shortly with a couple more Perazzo Phish shows before we head to some seriously crushing Phish in the Midwest portion of the tour. As always, the takeaway tracks are now part of the playlist in the sidebar.

 

I Chase the Backbeat – Tallahassee, FL 10.29.1996

Phish — Leon County Civic Center — Tallahassee, FL 10.29.1996

I  CDT, Guelah, CTB, Taste, Bouncin’, Stash, Train Song, Billy Breathes, Poor Heart>Bowie

II  Rift>Mike’s>Horse>Silent, Paug, Wedge, Zero, Suspicious Minds>HYHU, Slave, HMB

E  GTBT

 

As fans of this band, we kind of have this reputation for being a bit obsessive and complete-ist with regards to our appetite for the music they have produced over the years. I know I know. That’s just a bit of an understatement. We can recite setlists, know show dates based on a particular run of songs, have websites (and apps) devoted to letting you know how many times you saw them play Bouncin’ in 1994, refer to infographics about song rotation, track the timing of when tour dates drop, endlessly argue over which version of a song is the best or what year is the best or whether Mike should wear scarves or is Page hitting the sandwiches too hard again or can Fish really support all of those kids or whether people should be allowed to ‘woo’ and so much more useless shit, search endlessly for teases/quotes, blather on incessantly to the twitters about so many stupid things about our scene and the band, and much much more. I haven’t even touched the taper minutiae, PT, PhishTwitters and a lot of other typical goings on in this weird world of ours. Heck, we have a deserved reputation for attacking anyone who dares to speak ill of something (Phish) that they may not like which . I guess what I am saying here is that we are quite devoted to this band so any time something major happens — particularly with their music — everyone takes notice. And there is something that I have been teasing and hinting at for quite some time now that, lo and behold, is finally here.

 

First things first though! Phish had only played Tallahassee one time before, for a Monday night show during their inaugural visit to Florida in Spring 93 (which we have covered here previously). That one is probably most notable for having the second to last ever Secret Language Instructions (something that is wholly unnecessary these days, unfortunately), a couple of soundcheck gems (first known takes on Nellie Kane and Guy Forget), and… um… two Fish Fun Time tunes I guess? Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a legendary show. But when the band came back they were in a MUCH different place having become a well known national touring act and all that. This visit would be to the Leon County Civic Center (now called the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center or “The Tuck” – a rare case of returning to an original name as when Florida State University took over ownership of the venue from the Leon County Civic Center Authority in 2012 they brought back the name). It sits on the main campus of FSU and is primarily used for college basketball and other university activities along with outside concerts and other typical events for venues in this size range (12,500). But on this night it was where PerazzoPhish was born and the band started something that we still reap the benefits of today.

 

You are probably asking yourself what the hell “PerazzoPhish” is and that is a reasonable question to ask. Well, there’s this guy named Karl Perazzo who the band met way back on the Summer ’92 tour when they opened all those shows for Santana (after leaving the OG H.O.R.D.E. tour). Along with the times various members of Phish sat in with Santana there was that 07.25.1992 show in Stowe, VT when the favor was returned (by Carlos, Raul Rekow, and Karl Perazzo)  for the last three songs of Phish’s set opening the night. The Summer ’96 Euro Tour also saw some crossover including on 07.03.1996 Carlos and Karl joined in for a fantastic Taste->Llama. So when the band opened up here in Tallahassee with five people on stage it was definitely a surprise for the crowd but not necessarily uncharted territory for the band. It would take a few songs for Trey to clue everyone in on their guest for the evening but by then it is pretty clear that no one has any issue with what he is adding to the mix.

 

Things get started out in a rocking way as they play Chalkdust Torture for the second time in as many sets (opening both, in fact). The added percussion here amps things up even a few more notches than normal and the crowd responds with triumphant roars of approval for the slamming entry into the night. Our old pal Guelah Papyrus is back in its familiar two slot tonight, serving the role nicely before they bounce into a punchy take on Cars Trucks Buses. There’s nothing major going on here except that buoyant dance vibe but just three songs in you can already tell something is up with Phish tonight. It isn’t just that there is an added player. Something seems… new here. But we haven’t quite hit it yet. So the fourth song starts up and it is Taste and being that this is one Karl is definitely familiar with he can play around even more than some of the other songs here, resulting in some syncopated madness as they spiral through the jam towards the peak. Fish and Karl are lock-and-step in all of this, putting down a beat that pushes the rest of the band forward. I may have hit repeat on this one more than once. Trey takes time to mention how excited they are to share the stage with Karl for the night and then Bouncin’ keeps the people moving and singing along. Next up is Stash, a tune that wouldn’t seem to lend itself too well to an added percussionist. Well, it does in this case, particularly when that added percussionist helps to push the band a bit resulting in a jam that feels fairly familiar while also being something new. The familiar comes from the chugging leads by Trey which sound a lot like something from Fall ’95 (perhaps a bit like this famous Stash from 11.14.1995?) and the new is that percussive build that they craft bringing this up to be an all Type I jam but one that provides a satisfying bit of T&R. It isn’t a Stash that will be on anyone’s mind when thinking of the biggies but it is a good sign of what is happening here in this set.  After that they bring it down a bit for a pair with the ballads Train Song and Billy Breathes, two songs that don’t really need the extra player but oh well. They bring the energy back up following these two with Poor Heart and then drop right into the set closing David Bowie. Getting right to the point here, they forgo the typical style of jam for Bowie, opting instead for a bit of groove pocket jamming. This is something you don’t get too often with Bowie and it is just another example already of the band’s sound shifting, seemingly as this set progresses. By the time they wrap it up (and give us the obligatory “we’ll be back in fifteen minutes” LIE, you lying liar, Trey!!) you have to start wondering what is in store for the next set. Obviously, a lot of the conversation here would have been around Perazzo but whether it is his influence or just coincidental with what they were already putting in motion is not really clear. I tend to think the latter combined with the still-unknown-to-the-crowd trick about to come in Atlanta but there is a bit of chicken/egg here as well.

 

Following the break, with the crowd anxiously anticipating their next move, Perazzo is the first to start up, playing a calypso-tinged beat that Trey comes in over with the start to Rift. This is one of the more unique versions of this song that you will hear (save the original, slow version of the song) as it is part Calypso Rift and part rocking shred Rift. This seems like a disparate pairing but it really works well. They drop right into Mike’s Song following Rift, working through the classic tune and heading off into a patiently crafted first jam. This jam gets a bit dark and soupy as both Trey and Page try out a few ideas over the big time bass and percussion pocket with Perazzo offering up some nice fills of his own as well. Trey is soloing with drawn out notes over the pocket, begging it to get over the hump and into deeper waters in a way that feels quite comfortable in that Mike’s way but also feels like they are poised for bigger things here. After pulling back for the main riff to signal us into the 2nd jam the crowd recognizes this could get special and gives a bit of cheer feedback in that regard as Trey breaks out the siren loop and really goes off with these wailing lead lines. He drops out to start something we simply have not heard him do before which is to do some funk comping over that pocket while Page toys around with some proto-funk lines of his own. Mike changes up the bassline to match the feel and we are fully into our first ever cowfunk pocket jam! Holy crap! This is the moment. Here is where we go from a band of precision and otherworldly psychedelic openness to one that can put down the funk and get a real live dance party going. You can hear the joy in the music here as they all bounce around the groove. Just before the 15 minute mark (yeah, I know. RIP, long Mike’s jams…) Trey starts hinting at something before playing a quite recognizable line around 15:15. Everyone hops on board and they are now in a place that hints at the classic Mind Left Body (MLB) theme while also having hints of The Wedge. Trey peaks this out with more wailing lines and we have finished the transition from the dark groove of the first jam over to the lightness of this peak. Admittedly, when they do hit the return to wrap up the song it is pretty rough going but after that jam they can be forgiven for any perceived misstep in this regard. This is a tipping point jam for the band, one that cannot be undersold with regards to the importance it holds in where we go from here.

 

Call it Patient Zero (thanks, MiA), the moment, example one, whatever. There simply was NO indication at all that the band would play this sort of jam here and now after what had come before it on the Fall 1996 Tour (or before then, clearly). With Phish the points of change seem to be more gradual that distinct as the band works out new ways of doing things over the course of a tour or sometimes even longer. Up until this jam if asked to define “The Phish Sound” here in Fall 1996 I would have said something like “percussive precision with moments of open musical abandon” but that description won’t work from here forward. Granted, we are still a long way from where the sound will go in six to nine months and eventually to the massive changes that came out of Summer ’97 and into the legendary Fall ’97 Tour but this is the birthplace of all of that. While not fully formed or even perhaps recognized by the majority of the fanbase in the moment, this is a wholly new way of crafting jams for the band. This takes what was up to this point a largely average tour and offers a new vocabulary for us to start to unpack, a new way of furthering the conversation between band and crowd. You may be saying “this dude needs to take it down a notch cuz Phish has always had some funk in their trunk” and to that I’d reply “yeah, but not like this. this is loose and tight at the same time and oh so fresh.” I really don’t think that I am overselling it to say that this jam marks our move from the open psych era of Phish to the cowfunk/groove period. This is not to say that every show would become a dance party of one dimensional groove jams though because at the root Phish is still a group of music nerds who just had found a new ‘costume’ to wear. Seriously, if Phish went fully to funk I doubt everyone would have lauded it as highly as they did. It is the ability to use it to counterpoint their other styles that makes it so effective as a tool. They are not a funk band but rather a band that can play funk. And in that one Mike’s jam that previous statement became real.

 

I suppose I need to now move on to the rest of the set because I am starting to get a bit repetitive and unfocused. So how do you follow up that Mike’s then? Well, being ’96 it probably means not Hydrogen considering they only played that pairing twice in the year (07.23.1996 and 08.05.1996) so instead we get one of only three times they have gone Mike’s>Horse>Silent>Paug. The other two are 12.30.1993 and 10.15.2010 but there are also a couple of times they have included Horse>Silent within the Groove (07.01.2011 at Superball and 08.26.2012). This interlude and lost-marbles-search segment is followed by the expected Weekapaug Groove which picks back up to the energy of the Mike’s but lacks anything more than a fairly standard take on that tune. Next they bust out The Wedge after a 70 show gap for a fun version with the extra percussion, perhaps having tipped their hand that it was coming earlier in that Mike’s 2nd jam. Another mid set Character Zero punches through with a big rocking version and then we get Fish Fun Time for the first time since that IDK in Hampton with the cover of Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds (with light up cape, naturally). That video of Elvis doing the song in 1970 is great for more than just the music but the Fish take on the song was fairly straight forward unless you feel that vac solos aren’t supposed to be part of the song. They played Suspicious Minds 11 times along Fall ’95 Tour before it hit the shelf only to be busted out here after a 48 show absence. We will hear from this song again at the end of the tour but let’s go ahead and file it as another one of those songs it would be nice to have them play again. After the HYHU bit and Trey again calling him “Norton Charleston Heston” Fish returns to the kit as the band starts up Slave to the Traffic Light, providing one more collective peak for the crowd. The addition of Perazzo doesn’t really do much here but oh well. A quick a cappella Hello My Baby acts as closer and then a raging Good Times Bad Time encore (after a 34 show gap) sends everyone off into the night to wonder about what just happened and to prep for the drive north to Atlanta for the Halloween show.

 

In total, this show is probably on the high side of pretty good as the addition of Karl Perazzo helps to push some of the more mundane stuff forward. The takeaway jams here though are of the highest quality that we have seen so far on this tour and not just due to the added beat maker. Taste and Stash from the first set hint at it but the Rift>Mike’s is where new Phish dreams are made. Throw in the groove Bowie for good measure and you have a solid idea of what this show offers. I know I spent a lot of words on it above but you really cannot undersell the importance of this show and that Mike’s jam in particular in how it would shape the future of the band. It is evident that they had clearly been working on this sound before that moment but by pulling the curtain back on what was to come in Atlanta (and beyond) we are shown the roots of what their groove-based ‘cowfunk’ would become.  If you have never listened to that Mike’s jam I would highly recommend doing so if you are the sort who has interest in seeing these music evolutions in real time. This jam, but an inkling of what is to come, would make a lot more sense in context after the show two nights on and even more so as the tour progresses. For that you can thank not just their decision to take on the costume of a legendary polyrhythmic group of musicians but also because they brought in Karl Perazzo to help them get ready for that night. And seeing as how Karl stayed with them for a few shows even after Halloween, it should come as no surprise that everything changes from here on out. If you were a bit bored with the shows on this tour so far, stick around. I think you will soon agree that the remaining tour is anything but boring…

You Keep It Very Clean – Hartford, CT 10.23.1996

Phish — Hartford Civic Center — Hartford, CT 10.23.1996

I  PYITE, Poor Heart, Bag, Foam, Hello My Baby, Zero, Rift, Theme>Lope

II  Brother, Ya Mar, Tweezer>Lizards, Llama, Suzy>Slave, Julius

E  CDT

 

Phish has a long history with Connecticut, stretching back to the not quite verified 05.08.1988  show at a place called CD’s in Norwalk, CT, a venue I cannot find any information on anywhere which means it probably doesn’t exist anymore because you’d have to think there would be some mention of it on these here intrawebz. As with that show, the next visit to the Constitution State is one that has no known setlist but is at least confirmed to have happened on the noted date (04.02.1989) at The Nightshift Cafe in Naugatuck. Their first show in Hartford would come about six weeks later on 05.27.1989 for a fraternity party at Trinity College. This is still a somewhat incomplete record, however, as only the supposed first set of this show circulates. The next visits to CT would be in 1990 to the famed Toad’s Place first for a show on 03.01.1990, then the classic Woodbury Ski & Raquet Club show from 04.29.1990 which circulates on video in full, and then back at Toad’s Place again on 05.06.1990 for a show that was heavily circulated back in the day. You may know it for the Hood or Bowie but the Jagermeister Song is the comical aspect of this one (dedicated to WSP who opened) or perhaps the odd show ending where YEM pretty much just ends without the vocal jam and they had no encore due to the venue curfew. There was one more show in CT on the Fall Tour that year at Wesleyan University in Middletown (09.16.1990) which was a free single set affair that has a super shreddy Trey-heavy Weekapaug and then they wouldn’t return to the state until the following Spring Tour.

 

1991 would produce only three shows in the Nutmeg State with two at The Sting in New Britain (05.16.1991 and 11.19.1991) and a banter-heavy affair from The Salisbury School on 05.19.1991 that was organized by a few prep schools in the area. Oh, to be able to book Phish to play your boarding school… what a different time that was. There is a humorous note that the show was apparently cut short by the powers that be due to suspected drug and alcohol use by the students in attendance, something one would never expect from prep school hippies! Quite honestly, none of these shows are overly noteworthy except in establishing Phish’s affinity for playing in the area but things started to ramp up with Phish performances here in The Land of Steady Habits in 1992. While there are only three shows for Phish here in 1992 they are all quite solid and all were performed at the Palace Theatre in New Haven. The first is the 03.19.1992 show which has one of those rare Bowie ‘tease medley’ versions and a lot of that high energy, tight shred stuff they did back then (not to mention the original arrangement of NICU). The 12.28.1992 show is a bit of table setting for the NYE Run but is a worthwhile listen all the same. Then, on 12.29.1992 they dropped a classic Tweezer in a tease-heavy show that sounds more like Spring ’93 than anything from ’92 or earlier. Of course, there are two BBJs in that show which immediately drops it down a few pegs, unfortunately…

 

1993 had only two CT shows, first for the 04.30.1993 stop in West Hartford and then back to New Haven for the second show on the NYE Run, this time at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum show on 12.29.1993. The playing here is quite good as they had pretty well moved on to the 1994 psych jazz sound at this stage. Stash is quite unique if you have never heard it. After skipping the Provisions State in 1994 Phish returned along the path of the epic Fall ’95 Tour for a great one (again) in New Haven, one best known for the Tweezer it birthed but also for the overall quality of the performance (not to mention being the first time – of four ever – where Prince Caspian has opened the show). I’ll now stop the history lesson to get into the single CT stop for 1996 but it is notable that the band has returned here in almost every year of touring since with an additional nine shows scattered between 1997-2000 and 2009-2013. With the exception of 2000 and 2010 these are all single night stops and in toto Phish has played solid shows here throughout their history. And this one from 10.23.1996 is certainly no exception…

 

The first set starts off well enough with some energy tunes to get things moving as they rip through decent takes on Punch You In The Eye, Poor Heart, and ACDC Bag. The Bag has a bit of extra sauce on it but stays within form and then they add to that energy some more with the first Foam since summer tour. Four songs in there is nothing major to take away but the playing is tight and the band seems ready to go bigger. Before doing so we get the a cappella Hello My Baby and then another couple rockers in Character Zero and Rift. The set seems to be flying by without much of note but then they start up Theme for a soaring, crisp take on the type I vehicle. Trey uses the distortion pedal well here as he plays with the peak and then upon resolution we drop into the Antelope closer you could have seen coming a mile away if you had been watching setlist trends at this stage of tour. This Lope has some solid dissonant shred jamming and tension building, bringing the crowd to a frenzied peak but it otherwise largely straight forward. And that might be one of the shortest first set recaps I’ve done which kinda makes sense here what with the quite un-notable nature of it all (and the fact that this is only a one hour set…). Which probably had a lot of people scratching their heads unless that itch was just their super hetty dreads being a little dry this time of year, brah.

 

And your confusion would have been further amplified had you gandered at the stage during the break rather than heading out to the concourse to chat up that cute spinner gal you met on lot earlier that day as a second drum kit was brought out! What the heck?!? Well, maybe if you were up on your side projects and whatnot you would realize once they came out to the stage that the guest second drummer is none other than Bob Gullotti, drummer for such projects as Michael Ray’s Cosmic Krewe (who is still in fine form, I must say, having just seen him as part of the James Brown Dance party thing post Phish on 01.02.2016), George Garzone’s The Fringe (free jazz improv), Surrender to the Air (remember that Trey thing we mentioned not too long ago?), and as support for a variety of folks over the years. He also has the distinction of being a drum instructor for Fish over the years so all told he has some history with the band. This would be the first of three times Bob joined the band on stage with the other two being during shows in Texas (07.25.1997 and 07.26.1997) on the Summer 1997 Tour. For this night in Hartford he sat in for the entirety of the 2nd set and encore.

 

The set starts out with a punchy Brother, another tour first timer, and this one apparently played by request for Trey’s brother-in-law’s birthday. Right after this Trey introduces their guest and then they drop into a quite fun Ya Mar which has a bit of a drum duel/solo in the end before they come back to the song itself. Considering that Fish virtually never takes actual drum solos this is notable, particularly since with two talented players on the kits it doesn’t ever get jumbled or showoff-y like some big arena rock hair band drummer trying to get the chick in the front row to throw her unmentionables at him. Next up is our first Tweezer in a bit and here is our first real open jam of the night. Trey and Page plug along with the rhythm section setting the beat, with Trey soloing over the time changes as they build momentum here. Trey gets a siren wail going with his sustain, looping it as Page offers up some funky fills and Mike bombs away in the back. Trey drops out to hop on the mini-kit and now we are into the most percussive Tweezer jam that I know of considering there are now three people on drums. Page takes over the lead here with Mike providing some unique lines as well and the jam goes sideways for a few minutes as they explore this open territory. Trey eventually heads back to the guitar for the last couple minutes, building towards the Reprise-ish return to the classic slow Tweezer ending. This segues right into The Lizards which gives us that lovely cautionary tale of our friends from Gamehendge. As usual, this version is bright and danceable and even with two drummers it does not feel overwrought as both Page and Trey nail their respective solos.

 

Backing this up with Llama you might think that the second drummer would get in the way of the beat here but that never happens. Bob and Fish work quite well together which makes sense considering their shared history. Trey shines here, of course, as they turn the civic center into a head banging good time for a few brief minutes. This is followed up by good times Suzy Greenberg that manages to amp the energy up even further even in being about as standard of a take on the song as is possible. Moving towards the back part of the set now, they transition into Slave to the Traffic Light with both drummers offering up the tell tale stop and go beat of the song. The journey to the peak here is nice but nothing new tough it does elicit a rousing cheer from the patrons in the room. Trey then starts up Julius and we are clearly on our way to the end of the set here. As I have mentioned previously, these ’96 versions of Julius really smoke with Trey shredding the shit out of them but this one has that added drummer kicking it up another notch. The swanky groove they lay down for Trey to solo over mandates chair dancing at the very least, assuming you can resist the urge to rise up and give in to the beat. This serves as a solid closer for this guest-enabled set, bringing the crowd up once more to join in the dance party. A suitably fiery Chalkdust Torture with a fun build to the final Trey solo is spurred on by the double drummers, providing the encore tonight and then we are off to discuss the relative merits of bands that have multiple drummers/percussionists while trying to get gathered to begin the trip headed south for that next stop in Hampton.

 

This show seems to continue the pattern set so far in this first seven shows which are high on energy and dexterous playing but light on big jams. And that is not entirely inaccurate but might perhaps be an oversimplification of what is going on at this point. With the new album out (and one that isn’t exactly full of big jam vehicles) the focus is on that material as well as getting back into touring form after about two months off following The Clifford Ball. I would maintain that we haven’t yet had a “bad” show necessarily but that doesn’t mean we have had any great ones either. Most of the jam structures so far are either true to form or in their infancy (e.g. Simple) and we are about to see a whole heck of a lot of development in that respect. This show is a fine enough Wednesday nighter coming on the back end of three straight nights after the pair in New York that preceded it. By the time the following weekend is through we will start to see bigger jams and more noteworthy takeaways, not to mention some more variation in setlist construction and song choice in general. I personally like this show because of the uniqueness the second drummer offers and the overall clean play by all involved throughout but that doesn’t mean it has all-timer jams I’m putting on the big list. With that said, your takeaways tonight are rather light but solid all the same:  Ya Mar, Tweezer, and Theme as the add-in if you so choose. Viewed within the context of the tour progression it is in line with what you might expect at this stage even if we still have yet to hear the inklings of the big things to come in just a few weeks. Maybe they are holding back or maybe they just don’t want to show their hand yet. I can’t really answer that for certain but with the benefit of hindsight I can say for certain that the prevailing trends of this tour are about to be turned on their head… and that is going to be quite exciting indeed.

Trying to Make A Woman That You Move – New York, NY 10.22.1996

Phish — Madison Square Garden — New York, NY 10.22.1996

I  The Curtain>Jim, Bouncin’, Ice, Talk, Melt, Sparkle>Free>YEM

II  2001>Disease>Taste, Mango, Lawn Boy, Mule, Mike’s->Swept Away>Steep>Paug

E Watchtower

 

Fresh off a night of rocking out at The Garden Phish returned for round two in this most venerable of venues. This is one of the most storied venues in the band’s long history with 31 shows having already taken place here along with another four to start TONIGHT! WOOOOOOOO!!!!! Yeah, dude! Phish at the Garden!!!! YEMSG, YO!!!!

 

Ahem.

 

Sorry about that. I’m just a little excited for Phish to bring us more new music. Let’s get back to the review…

 

Okay, so as I was saying Phish has a long history with this venue, first playing a single show along the 1994 NYE Run before a pair capped by the epic 12.31.1995 show preceded this pair we are here to discuss. Over the years certain shows here have stood out for one reason or another, be it the overall awesomeness of the show (such as that 12.31.1995 masterpiece), one particular jam or possibly an entire set that just goes to another level. Some have gone as far as to try to boil down each show played here into one or a few big takeaways, which is admittedly a difficult task. I bring all of this up because if you ask phans what they know of the October 1996 MSG Run the most common answer you will get is something like “oh, yeah, the Freakapaug show!” Now, we have a lot to get through before coming to that memorable part of this one but suffice it to say that this is the moniker by which most fans know 10.22.1996. Now that I have sufficiently teased that, let’s get down to the nitty gritty…

 

In the lore of Phish, certain songs just seem to fit best as set and show openers. I probably mentioned this somewhere along the Spring 1993 path but to me, the pinnacle for this is The Curtain. For those of us who cut our Phish teeth in the 90s we had only bad tapes to tell us of this thing called “The Curtain (With)” as the band put the (With) on the shelf from 1988 until 07.12.2000 (1,178 shows if you are counting) with versions of the song including the (With) becoming more of the norm from there (and particularly in 3.0 where The Curtain (With) has been performed 13 times to the scant 2 that The Curtain has. Even still, we now have to wait to hear whether they will continue With or Without and move on to something else, preferably something with a bit of jam to it. I’m going to skip the full breakdown of songs-that-follow-Curtain but if you guess Tweezer, Sample, Mike’s Song, or Jim you would be in the right ballpark. So in 1996 when we heard The Curtain kick off the first set the first thing you got to do was to get down to that old school classic and then start to prep for what the song following would be. On this night, that would be Runaway Jim, a song that had some of its biggest versions in Fall 1995 — like, seriously, check the 06.16.1995 one from Raleigh if’n you don’t already know it, not to mention a big chugger from that 12.31.1995 show — but also had a couple of keepers from the previous summer tour, first with the one that sandwiched Gypsy Queen at Red Rocks on 08.07.1996 and then for the beaut from Hershey on 08.14.1996 (featuring our friend the mini-kit). While this one doesn’t reach the heights (or depths) of the monsters from ’95 it does give us our first little jamlet which also has a quite nice ‘quiet’ section if that makes any sense. From here we get Bouncin’d before they drop It’s Ice on us. Page is on top doing great work as is typical while Trey scratches out these dissonant, almost feedback-y lines to counterpoint the piano work. This one doesn’t go full darkness like some of the best ones but it is a nice bit of work before we get Talk. Whoopee. Talk.

 

Okay, moving on now they do bring the darkness in the form of Split Open and Melt. This one stays mainly within the framework of the ‘standard’ progression but Trey finds a lead line that is quite satisfying. Working this towards the peak, Trey misses it by a half-step and therefore brings it back around to build a bit more tension before re-peaking the song. The rest of the band catches this with ease and if you aren’t listening for it you might not even notice but it is just another of one of those really cool things you hear when they are connected and improvising in the moment. A quick romp through Sparkle and a brief but crunchy Free serve as appetizers to the set closing YEM that drops next and from the start this feels like a big one is coming. While it might not reach epic status it is quite solid with Trey’s jam being the strength followed by a funky D&B section. I’ve definitely seen much worse first set closers than that. And now you have time to head to the concourse to fight the masses in the bathroom line and grab some water and a pretzel before heading back into the fray.

 

So once settled back into whatever lovely spot in the Garden that you habitated that night you have to wonder if there will be any really big fireworks to come out of this run now that we are minutes from the final set of the run. Sure, that first show was fun and the first set offered up a bit more jamming than the night before but you want big time music and stuff! Everyone loves stuff, right?? Well, stuff you will get in this set, my phriend (sorry, I promise to never do the ‘ph’ thing like that again). After a punchy and funky 2001 to open things up (another song like The Curtain that first lived its life as a precursor to other things rather than as the vehicle it later became) they drop into that telltale soupy intro to Down with Disease. As has been hinted at with the prior two versions on this tour, this one starts to shed the Disease skin a bit while still staying mainly within the theme. Fish is a veritable metronome throughout this one and Mike is going big while Page and Trey throw out ideas. Page heads to the effects board and plays around for a bit while Trey hops on the mini-kit before they bring it all back to the Disease finish. Disease is shaping up to be another song to watch on this tour. Next is a finely executed Taste and then our first Mango Song of the tour, always a welcome one to hear. As always seems to happen at MSG, Page then takes a turn serenading the crowd with Lawn Boy and now we are itching for something in the key of “jam” again… only to get Scent of a Mule all over us. Now, this one is certainly unique as Trey opts for a scat jam solo and rumor has it a guy who is well known as a scatter (Otiel Burbridge) was standing side stage laughing his head off for this so that in and of itself makes it more interesting than the typical Mule (and Page shines in his turn to solo too) but still. It’s Mule. In a prime slot for a big Tweezer or something. But Mule is a song that they seemingly love to play and we already covered this topic so let’s just enjoy it for what it is, mm’kay?

 

Now, to their credit, Phish does have a solid habit of following up Mule with a big jam vehicle (or Cavern but let’s just forget about that) as the most frequent dance partners for that alien adventure are YEM, Tweezer, Stash, Hood, and Mike’s Song. And Cavern but we aren’t talking about that, remember? Tonight gets Mike’s Song and from the start they attack this one with intent, dropping into a menacing jam as soon as possible. They opt out of a second jam for a full segue to Swept Away>Steep, capping it with the yelling thing that is in a few of these early versions before dropping into what is assuredly the set closing Weekapaug Groove. I should probably just go ahead and link the (shaky) video from this whole thing since if you haven’t seen it it might not seem as exciting as it undoubtedly was in the moment. First you get the band playing a really tight and fun version of one of their best loved oddball songs and then, well, then the freaks come out. You have dancers in unique garb, people being quite acrobatic, and… more all while Phish rocks out this Paug. Keep an eye out for Mimi Fishman making her first non-vac stage visit with Phish towards the end of this madness. I mean, nowadays this wouldn’t even cause one to bat an eye what with the crap that Miley is pulling and such but back then this was enough have this version crowned the Freakapaug. It’s a clever name and one that has stuck enough that people know this show for that bit of musical theater and everything else is mere footnote. It is definitely a fun thing to watch so check it out.

 

You’d be excused if you thought that after that they would head to a straight forward encore like Julius or Suzy or maybe even something a cappella and Rocky Top but NOPE! There are more tricks in store for you, oh faithful fan. Let me set things up for you a bit by providing a quite entertaining series of videos that detail the backstage goings on that night as there were several notable guests in attendance. Two of those people, the focus of those videos (and I’m not sure why there is a full rip of Bittersweet Motel at the end of that playlist but hey that’s nice, right?), end up on stage with Phish for the encore, Merl Saunders and Buddy Miles. Now, you a wisened music vet that you are probably already know who these two luminaries are but just in case you do not Buddy Miles was in Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield before becoming best known for his association with Jimi Hendrix in his Band of Gypsys while Merl Saunders also has a long history with many notable musicians but is most associated with his time working with Jerry Garcia on various projects. This night the two came out to help on the encore bustout of All Along the Watchtower, the song written by Bob Dylan buy made (more) famous by Jimi Hendrix. The only other time Phish had played this tune (excepting sit-ins with other bands and stuff like the Ritz Power Jam which followed their 1993 visit to the Roseland Ballroom across town) was with members of the Dave Matthews Band on 04.21.1994 (check out that full encore for a drum duel between Fish and Carter Beauford that evolves into a full two band jam and then eventually the DMB-type take on Watchtower) making this one with Buddy and Merl a 227 show bustout which is nice. But it is strong also for the music made which starts out as a loose exploration with Buddy offering up some vocal stylings while everyone gets comfortable (Merl joined Page on the keys and Fish gave his kit to Buddy and hopped on Trey’s percussion mini-kit) before Buddy introduces Watchtower and they crank into it for a really fun take on the tune. The dancers came out as well to add to the party and everyone has a blast putting a nice finish to this MSG run. As encores go, this is the sort of thing you could only hope might happen in your weirdest Phish fantasies.

 

When looking at this show and the MSG run in toto it may not be to the level that we have come to expect from our visits here but it still has some solid moments and points to the continuing upward trend on this early part of the tour. Of the two shows, this second one is probably the more “complete” one but that is not to say that we didn’t find value in that first night. Here on night two the takeaways are bigger (Melt, Disease, Paug, Watchtower, and perhaps the Jim if you are feeling gracious) and the stage is grander what with the spectacle they created there at the end. I hate comparing shows to each other because each one has its own special unique snowflake-ness but as with the first night by the time we get to recapping this tour this one will pale in comparison to others yet to come. For now though we have a wild night where the freaks joined the band and the band played a quite fun Tuesday night show for the round room.

 

I’m off to MSG for the back half of this upcoming New Year’s Run so don’t expect any new posts until next week at earliest… unless I decide to drop in to overly fluff the shows I will have just seen. Happy New Year!

 

Don’t You See Anything That You’d Like To Try?

Fall 98 Takeaways

You see that little spreadsheet above? That’s the tracking for our takeaways from this here Fall 1998 Phish Tour. This is the raw data from the end of each post where I identify what songs are potentially worthy of the highlight reel, based on a highly scientific set of criteria that is all subject to my personal and quite subjective preferences. The songs highlighted in yellow are the ones I throw in as “add ons”. Any time you see a segue notation (> or ->) that denotes that the song following it here is part of the sequence. There ends up being a lot of songs here to work through but this is what we do as scarily obsessive fans. I do not expect that another person’s list would be the same as mine but then they aren’t the guy writing this blog now are they?

 

Over the next few posts I will be taking these “takeaway jams” and categorizing them a bit, perhaps tiering them in some fashion. The goal here is really to revel in the wonderful music, not to offer anything that could be mistaken as ranking art. For simplification and ease of digestion it becomes more expedient to break them into groups but that is more convenience than anything. That said, there are some versions of songs here that are “next level” Phish and as such we will focus on them more than the relatively straight forward or otherwise not srs bns epcot level jams. If you feel that there is anything that I have missed here, leave it in the comments. That way we can all point and laugh at whoever puts forth the proposition that there should be more Wadings in the list (just as an example, of course…).