That One Time… (Winter/Spring ’93)

Many songs Phish performs at their shows, especially during this period, vary little between performances. These songs are played in a ‘standard’ fashion, with one performance being more or less interchangeable with any other performance of the song. This can be because the song is tightly composed and leaves little room for improvisation (as is the case with, say, “Punch You in the Eye” or “Rift”), or because the song has a well-defined role in the setlist (i.e. “Cavern” is a set closer, “I Didn’t Know” is a Fishman comedy song, etc.). However, on rare occasion, the band will do something totally bizarre or unique with these songs that defies any expectations one might have for the song. It’s times like these that keep us fans coming back time and time again to Phish shows; those moments where the band takes us totally by surprise.

The below songs are tunes that Phish played in a ‘standard’ fashion for most of the Winter/Spring ’93 tour, except for “that one time” (or two or three times) where the band did something very different. By definition, this list excludes songs that generally contain lengthy jams (i.e. “Reba,” “Tweezer,” “Stash,” “YEM,” etc.) because the expectation is that those songs will vary considerably between performances. This list is organized alphabetically by song name.

Amazing Grace (May 8th – Field House, Durham NH – Set 2, song #12 – length: 5:30)

Phish’s a-cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace” debuted on this tour, and was a near-constant presence on setlists after its debut. As such, it’s appropriate that the band decided to jam out this spiritual tune as the last song of the final set of tour. Upon concluding the standard a-cappella performance at 1:43, the band picks back up their instruments, and Trey launches into an instrumental version of the song’s refrain. Fishman adds a “Weekapaug Groove” drum beat at 2:20 and the jam quickly builds in intensity. The result is a euphoric run through of an instrumental version of the song that is somewhat reminiscent of the “Auld Lang Syne” the band performs on New Year’s Eve. The jam breaks down slightly at 4:20 so Trey can remark: “Well, that’s about it for the tour. Thanks everyone…and see you during the summer!” The jam picks up again so Trey can deliver one more searing solo, before the jam wraps up at 5:30. A perfect way to end both a monumental show and a monumental tour.

Cavern (May 5th – Palace Theatre, Albany NY – Encore, length: 6:55)

This encore performance of “Cavern” is notable for a run-through of jazz standard “Take the ‘A’ Train” that is sandwiched between the first and second verses of the song. The transitions are a little sloppy, but it makes for a fun twist on a song that usually has no variation between performances. This is also the second of only two performances of “Take the ‘A’ Train” on this tour, reflecting the rapidly vanishing role for jazz standards in Phish’s setlists.

Good Times Bad Times (February 21st – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta GA – Encore, length: 3:25)

The first song of a triple-encore, Trey is inspired by the presence of guest banjo player Jeff Mosier to attempt an on-the-fly “bluegrass” version of “Good Times Bad Times.” The result is…actually pretty fun! Fishman comes in with the standard “GTBT” drum beat, but Trey scolds him by saying “Bluegrass, Fish! Bluegrass!” Fish instantly changes up his beat to a more uptempo, bluegrass-esque rhythm and the band is off to the races. Mosier takes two, fun banjo solos during this unfinished “GTBT,” the second of which leads leads the band smoothly into “Paul and Silas.” Guest sit-ins during Phish shows can often be unremarkable, but this is a genuinely cool moment of the band altering up the arrangement of one of their standard songs on the spot.

I Didn’t Know (April 18th – Ann Arbor, MI – Set 1, song #9 – length: 9:53)

“I Didn’t Know” served virtually one role throughout the whole tour: a vehicle for late first-set Fishman shenanigans, usually by way of a vacuum or washboard solo. However, none of these versions really hold a candle to this “IDK” as far as humor goes. The band stops playing entirely after the a-cappella intro, and Page welcomes the audience. He then asks the crowd what they thought about last night’s encore, which included a ridiculous 6+ minute pause during “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars.” Trey follows up and asks, “anybody want to come up here?” The band then proceeds to invite some audience members on stage to share their thoughts.

One audience member exclaims that he “was tripping last night, and I thought it was pretty fucking cool!” Fish responds, “Can we say that on stage?” A very excited fan confesses that she was not at the show last night, but adds “this is my first Phish show, and I’m really, really happy!” The final audience member simply asks the band if we can “ever get out of this maze?” At 4:40 the band moves on to crew reactions. Brad Sands, introduced as “balloon tech” confesses to throwing a guy out. Paul on the soundboard says, “it made me think of what a real, hardcore punk band would sound like” and actually plays a punk song for a few seconds over the PA. Chris simply exclaims “I loved it!” Finally, Page turns to Mike for his thoughts. Mike explains his heady thought process as he laid on the ground during the “BBFCM” and finally lays the blame on Trey for missing a cue. At that point, Trey admits to “dropping the ball” and accepts that he was at fault. Page ends the segment by saying “thank you for participating in our ‘how was last night’s encore?’ segment of the show!” Over 7 minutes after starting “IDK,” the band then proceeds to sing one more a-cappella verse before moving on to “Cavern.”

It’s Ice (March 19th – Greek Theatre, Redlands CA – Set 2, song #2 – length: 10:37)

As fans of the “Ice” are well aware, almost all of Phish’s occasional experimentation with the song occurs during the ‘underwater segment’ of the song (titled as such because it is intended to illustrate the song’s narrator falling through the cracks of the ice). This segment usually occurs about two-thirds of the way through the song and is characterized by Fishman’s tick-tock beat and sparse, eerie ambience from the rest of the band (usually led by Page).

This is the longest “Ice” of tour, and the underwater segment gets blown out to at least twice its normal length. The segment begins with very sparse ambience at 5:00 with Fishman’s tick-tock beat just about the only thing audible for the first minute. Trey starts wailing with his guitar at 6:20 with all sorts of scratching and sliding on his guitar. Once Trey is finished making noise, Page responds with thunderous chording (which leads into a Rhapsody in Blue tease) while Mike adds some scattered booms. Fish alters his beat back to the standard “Ice” progression at 8:00, but the rest of the band is slow to join him, taking another 30 seconds for the song to get back into full-swing. The song as a whole clocks in at over 10:00, with some extra flourishes from Page added to the end as well.

It’s Ice (March 22nd – Crest Theatre, CA – Set 2, song #2 – length: 8:38)

Just days after experimenting heavily with the song, the band uses the ‘underwater segment’ of “Ice” for an even grander purpose: using it as an introduction to the entire Gamehendge saga. Immediately after the start of the segment, over Fish’s tick-tock beat, Trey begins his narration by asking the audience to come along with him as he tells a story. He tells the audience this is occurring because they are the “most attentive” audience they have had in years. He tells the story of “Ice,” about a narrator falling through the ice, and how as this person falls through the ice he eventually falls into another world…Gamehendge, of course. “Ice” is left unfinished as the narration blends into the beginning of “The Lizards.” The rest is Phish history.

It’s Ice (May 8th – Field House, Durham NH – Set 2, song #5 – length: 9:28)

The last “Ice” I want to highlight for being unusual is another performance from the tour finale in Durham. As with the Redlands version, the band experiments heavily during the underwater segment. The segment starts at 4:58, and instead of dropping out immediately, Trey keeps strumming along with a dissonant chordal sequence. He starts picking a funky melody at 5:30 while Page plays some leads on top. This develops into a full-on jam by 6:00, with Trey playing a riff that is somewhat reminiscent of the eventual “Simple” melody. Fish snaps back to the next “Ice” rhythm at about 6:15 but Page and Trey keep jamming along. This works itself into a “Manteca”-esque jam from 6:50-7:15 before the band finally continues with the “Ice” composition at 7:20. The band adds some extra flourishes to the end of the song, as Page improvises a short but pleasant bridge between “Ice” and “Squirming Coil.” While this underwater segment is not quite as long as the Redlands performance, it contains a more fully fleshed out jam, and is thus probably my favorite “Ice” of tour.

The Squirming Coil (May 8th – Field House, Durham NH – Set 2, song #7 – length: 16:33)

Every performance of “Squirming Coil” on this tour followed the progression the song takes to this day: the composition leads into a Page solo during which the rest of the band drops out, leaving Page alone on his piano to grace the audience with a beautiful outro. However, during the Winter/Spring tour finale, the band rejoins Page and launches right into a lengthy, ‘type-II’ jam. Not only was this a unique “Coil” for this tour, I can’t think of a “Coil” from any era of the band’s sound that contains such deep exploration.

Page’s solo starts at 4:25, with the song seeming to take its usual course. Trey and Fish slowly drop out, leaving Mike and Page playing alone by 5:20. Mike finally drops out, leaving Page alone on the piano by 7:00; a typical performance so far. Page’s solo for the next couple minutes is notably exquisite, even for “Coil.” However, just as it seems the song is coming to an end, Fishman comes back in at 10:00 by playing lightly on the cymbals. This encourages Page to go all-out with an impressive run of playing. Mike turns up the volume on his bass and locks onto a groove at 11:00, Trey comes back in, and off we go. Trey builds on Mike’s groove with a simple riff as Page continues to solo on top. Page takes his foot off the gas by 12:30, causing Trey to assert himself with some wailing of his own at 13:00 over the full-band groove that developed. The tempo quickens suddenly at 13:55, and the excitement builds at 14:40 as Mike and Trey both lock into a passage of intense riffing. Trey finally launches into what seems to be a full-on solo by about 15:30, but this quickly peters out and the band starts segueing into “Big Ball Jam” at 16:20.

This is a very cool moment for the novelty factor, because as a rule “Coil” essentially never develops into a full-band jam like this. Listening closely it seems like the development took the band themselves by surprise, because the jam never really establishes a firm direction beyond the initial groove, despite some pushing in different directions by Trey. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating moment that’s worth a listen.

Wilson (March 13th – Balch Fieldhouse, Boulder CO – Set 1, song #10 – length: 7:49)

This “Wilson” features a super-extended intro featuring a very sly-sounding riff from Trey, a Simpsons Secret Language signal, and Wilson chanting from the band. The song doesn’t start proper until 2:30. Another mini-jam, starting with Spanish-inflected melodies from Trey, develops during the interlude before the “blat, boom!” scream. This develops into a brief but very cool full-band jam that is somewhat reminiscent of a Grateful Dead “Spanish Jam.” The band reprises this improvised melody from the interlude again at the end of the song before transitioning into “Run Like an Antelope.” “Wilson” often felt truncated and a little disjointed on this tour, but this version feels fully-fleshed out with some subtle but interesting improvisational moments.

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The Month Ahead

Hey everyone, I hope you’re all having a great summer so far! Phish will be performing their first shows of 2017 (excluding the January Mexico run) in just about a month, and I’m busy at work getting my reviews of the Summer ’93 tour ready. Phish’s  33-show summer 1993 tour began on July 15th, and you can expect me to post a full review and analysis of each show from that tour on the anniversary of each show, as I did with Winter/Spring ’93. I have only heard one or two shows from the tour previously, so I am looking forward to listening to it in full given its reputation among fans.

Since I’m busy working on these summer 1993 posts, expect a light schedule of posts between now and the start of that tour. I plan to publish two more posts analyzing the Winter/Spring tour this month. The first post, “That One Time…”, will take a look at songs that were played in a relatively standard manner for the majority of the tour, except, you guessed it, for “that one time” where the band did something weird and interesting with the song. Next, I will do one more “Songs of Tour” post and analyze the best “Tweezers” from the tour. I was hoping to do a “Songs of Tour” of “YEM” as well, but these posts take longer to write than I originally thought so I don’t think I’ll have the time. Maybe I’ll turn my lens to that song after the summer tour.

In addition to these two scheduled posts I’ll also hopefully write some shorter posts about current going-ons in the Phish world, so that this blog isn’t too inactive. I’m not going to schedule any posts for the beginning of July since I’ll be hard at work on the summer tour posts.

Scheduled June Posts:

  • June 16th: That One Time… (Winter/Spring ’93)
  • June 26th: Songs of Tour: Tweezer (Winter/Spring ’93)
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May 30th, 1993: Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey CA

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Welcome back to the fields of the Laguna Seca Raceway for day 2 of Laguna Seca Daze. Phish performs another one-set show tonight to close out their appearance at the festival. Will the band play it safe again, as they did last night, or will they take a chance and get a little weird? We shall soon see. “Lengthwise” makes a rare set-opening appearance to kick off the night’s festivities. The crowd picks up Fishman’s chant, carrying the band into “Maze.” There’s a good dynamism to “Maze” tonight, as evidenced by the rest of the band backing off at the beginning of Page’s organ solo to give him some breathing room. Page’s solo is good but not exactly barnstorming either. Trey ups the energy with his solo, but mostly sticks to standard “Maze” playing. I liked the difference in energy levels between the two solos, as opposed to both Page and Trey both following a similar progression of driving hard towards a peak. Overall a decent “Maze,” and one in which I can’t pick a winner in the Page-Trey duel.

The band brings the energy level back down a couple notches with a standard “Guelah Papyrus,” which occupies its usual early in the show setlist position. A quick “Poor Heart” then leads into “Foam,” the highlight of the show so far. Like in “Maze,” the band here shows an appreciated attention towards dynamics. Page’s solo sounds excellent as a result, Trey’s solo has a jazzy inflection, and the band as a whole sounds tight. The result is a very good “Foam.” Some setlist shenanigans follow “Foam” as the band performs “Silent in the Morning” without the “Horse” accompaniment for the first time ever. “Silent” leads into a rare mid-set “Run Like an Antelope.” “Antelope” provides this set with a much needed dose of improvisation. The jam gets going at 2:50 with quick, chunky riffing from Trey that quickly gives way to soloing. Trey locks into a nice melody at 3:50 that then builds into a brief passage of machine-gun soloing a minute later. There’s more ferocious shredding from Trey at about 5:45 during the most dissonant passage of the jam. “Antelope” is almost always driven by Trey’s playing, but that principle is really driven home during tonight’s performance. After the dissonant passage Trey drives the jam hard towards a final peak, with the song breaking down for the composed end by 7:20.

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Phish, 1993

“Ya Mar” makes a welcome and slightly surprising appearance following “Antelope” (surprising due to the infrequent nature of its performances on Winter/Spring ’93 tour). The performance here is relatively standard but Page once again crushes his organ solo; he’s clearly having a good night. Next, Trey dedicates Fishman’s “I Didn’t Know” washboard solo to the people at the top of the festival’s ferris wheel. (This reminded me of his joking about the people at the top of the ferris wheel at Super Ball IX in 2011.) “Split Open and Melt” follows “I Didn’t Know” and rivals “Antelope” for the most exciting improvisation of the set. The jam starts at 4:25 and follows the progression that carried most “Melts” played during the end of April/beginning of May. The jam starts with dissonant riffing from Trey, with the rest of the band slowly starting to push at the song’s structure under Trey’s playing. Trey begins a full-on solo by 6:00 as the rest of the band begins to flirt with key changes. The band doesn’t commit to any of these potential excursions, however, and the backing band slowly stats to coalesce around the ending groove of the jam. After a brief couple minutes of intense fretwork from Trey the band brings this “Melt” home. This is a good “Melt,” but it doesn’t quite achieve lift-off like the best “Melts” from the end of Winter/Spring ’93 did.

“Contact” serves as a pleasant interlude following “Melt,” while blistering performances of “Llama” and “Golgi Apparatus” serve as high-energy set closers. “Possum” is the lone encore tonight. While a relatively concise “Possum,” Trey takes one more great solo to add an exclamation mark to the end of the set. I’m sure Phish neophytes were left in a “daze” following this performance.

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Like last night, the band largely decides to play it safe tonight and does not get too experimental for the festival crowd. That said, I think tonight’s show is noticeably stronger. Both Page and Trey have strong nights, as is evidenced by Page’s playing in “Maze,” “Foam,” and “Ya Mar,” and Trey’s playing in “Foam,” “Antelope,” and “Melt.” “Antelope” and “Melt” are the night’s only serious improvisational forays, and both jams are driven almost entirely by the strength of Trey’s playing.

…and so ends Phish’s last public performance until July! I’ll continue to dissect the massive Winter/Spring ’93 with some posts between now and July 15th, the date of the band’s next show, so stay tuned. I’ll post a schedule of the posts I have planned for June in about a week.

  • Show rating: 3/5
  • Highlights: “Foam,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “Split Open and Melt”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 86 mins.
  • This is the second time Phish performed at the Laguna Seca Raceway. They will return on 5/28/94 for a second year at the Laguna Seca Daze festival.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Lengthwise,” returning after a nine show absence (4/30/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (4 songs).
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May 29th, 1993: Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey CA

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It has become something of a truism during 3.0 Phish that the band focuses on showcasing their songs and short, concise jams when they appear at multi-band festivals. In the modern era the band seems to structure their festival sets so as to present an appealing appetizer of what the band offers to the uninitiated, as opposed to diving deep into monster jams to appease the faithful. There have been some exceptions to this “rule”: for example, the 2016 Lockn’ sets served up some interesting jams. Nevertheless, introducing the band’s music to those unfamiliar with Phish seems to be the band’s primary focus during festival sets.

While this has been a truism for 3.0 Phish, the band’s first appearance at the Laguna Seca Daze festival suggests that this strategy has been employed by the band well before their 2009 comeback. Just glancing at the setlist, tonight’s set seems to focus on a lot of the band’s shorter, compositional showcases (“Rift,” “Sparkle,” “Cavern,” “Bouncing Around the Room,” “Chalk Dust Torture”), with only “You Enjoy Myself” showing jamming potential. We’ll see shortly if that’s the case.

Laguna Seca Daze was a three-day festival hosted at the Laguna Seca Raceway over Memorial Day weekend for at least two years (1993-1994). Judging by a quick Google search and the poster I have included below it seems that the Allman Brothers Band was the big draw. Of course, Phish just finished a nine-show run through California a couple months earlier, so it’s possible news of this funky band from Vermont had started to spread throughout California as well. Still, something tells me that Phish was not the main draw at this festival. The band plays two sets at this festival: one tonight and and one tomorrow night.

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The band’s first set at this festival opens with “Chalk Dust Torture” and “Bouncing Around the Room.” “Chalk Dust” is well-played and is appropriately energetic in the opening slot, but the band also keeps it concise at less than six minutes. “Rift” follows, and despite the song’s complexity and the band presumably taking it easy the last couple weeks, the song sounds tight. It seems like keeping this song in heavy rotation throughout the Winter/Spring tour has paid off in terms of being able to perform the song well. “Stash” is song number four, and the first real opportunity at this festival for the band to stretch their improvisational legs. However, my prediction at the beginning of this post holds true, and the band keeps this “Stash” close to the vest. The jam starts at 4:45 and has a standard, Trey-led beginning. The band works into an airy and almost uplifting groove at 6:30 that shows potential, but Trey quickly and forcefully rips the band back into the standard “Stash” build, which begins to peak at 7:40.

“The Squirming Coil” is well-placed as a cooldown after the always-intense “Stash.” Unlike the song’s last outing at the band’s last performance in New Hampshire, this “Coil” is standard and does not morph into a surprise, type-II jam. “Coil” melts into standard but solid performances of “Sparkle” and “Cavern.” Likely due to time constraints, Fishman takes a brief vacuum solo at the end of “Cavern” in lieu of a full Henrietta segment. A very brief “Big Ball Jam” (~80 seconds) leads into the sure centerpiece of the set, “You Enjoy Myself.” Like “Stash,” this “YEM” fails to stand out. The highlight of the jam is probably Page’s brief but fiery solo from 8:30-10:00, complete with some wicked scat vocals. Trey takes over at 10:00 with quiet and delicate jazzy lines. From there his solo works into a standard build, with the bass and drums segment beginning at 13:00 and the vocal jam at 14:20. All said, a quick “YEM” without much exploration. The band once again shows their ability to craft great, flowing setlists with “Runaway Jim” smoothly flowing out of the end of the “YEM” vocal jam. “Jim” ends the set with a good but standard Trey solo.

After thanking the audience the band sends the crowd out into the night with an a cappella “Amazing Grace” and a rocking “Good Times Bad Times” as the encore. The band leaves the stage for the night just 80 minutes after playing their first note.

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5/29/93

The last week of the Winter/Spring tour was wild, with the band blowing past the constraints they had been working within the rest of the tour and taking some of their songs on lengthy improvisational rides unlike anything we had seen so far this year. Don’t expect anything like that from this show. This is as standard a Phish set as Phish sets can be in 1993. To my ears, the band is playing to the uninitiated and trying to introduce the crowd to their songs. If this was your first Phish show I’m sure it was an amazing time, but to the already-converted there’s not much here to recommend. I can’t go lower than a 3 because the playing is tight and the setlist well-crafted, but I can’t go higher than a 3 for the lack of memorable moments. With the crowd adequately warmed up by this set, hopefully the band will be willing to spring a few surprises tomorrow night.

  • Show rating: 3/5
  • Highlights: None

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 80 mins.
  • This is the first time Phish performed at the Laguna Seca Raceway. They will return tomorrow night.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Good Times Bad Times,” returning after a twelve show absence (4/24/93).
  • The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (3 songs).
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Songs of Tour: “Stash” (Winter/Spring ’93)

To be perfectly honest, “Stash” is not a song I typically get very excited about when the band starts playing it in the modern era. In 3.0 the song typically always appears mid-to-late first set, and almost never goes ‘type-II’ in any sort of meaningful way. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy hearing it, but my expectations for where the jam will go are never that high. Instead, I tend to view “Stash” as an improvisational warm-up for the band that, for the astute listener, can give an indication of how connected the band is sounding on any given night. At best, “Stash” will result in some good tension/release playing or an unexpected but brief passage of ‘bliss’ jamming.

By April of Winter/Spring ’93, however, “Stash” became one of the songs I was most looking forward to hear during a show, and it consistently contained some of the most exciting and experimental improvisation of the night any time it was played. Below I’ll highlight some of my favorite performances from the tour, and track how the song evolved over the course of the 71-show Winter/Spring tour.

2/9/93 – Auditorium Theatre, Rochester NY (Set 2, song #9, length: 10:21)

The first standout “Stash” of tour, appearing in an otherwise average show. The jam starts by breaking down to nothing but Fishman’s bass drum. Trey delicately joins in with some subtle riffing as Mike makes weird slapping noises with his bass. This builds over several minutes into an intense, melodic climax driven by Trey which threatens to descend entirely into noisy feedback. Instead of playing the composed ending the band lands gently into “The Lizards,” just as “Stash” feels like it’s going to fall apart completely. This is essentially the aural equivalent of clouds suddenly clearing in the middle of an intense storm. An unexpectedly dark “Stash” that hints at the possibilities for this song. Quoting from my review of the show: “these few minutes of jamming are probably my highlight of an otherwise uneven set.”

3/25/93 – Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz CA (Set 1, song #6, length: 11:02)

For the rest of February and the beginning of March, “Stash” generally colored within the lines of what you would expect from the song (see the ‘honorable mentions’ below for the best of this period). This isn’t to say there weren’t great versions, for there were, but no performances reached the upper echelon of “Stash” jams. That began to change, however, at the end of March. While not as wild as some of the April performances to come, this “Stash” from Santa Cruz shows the band starting to crack the song open. The jam of this “Stash” takes a dark turn almost immediately, with Trey unleashing demented, heavy-metal riffing. The band then returns to more typical “Stash” territory before going sideways into dissonant-anarchy a couple minutes later, with Page and Mike taking the spotlight as Trey unleashes low-end feedback. Trey slowly rejoins to lead the band to a satisfying climax and a transition to the ending of “Stash.” From my review of the show: “This is a very good jam that easily makes this one of the best (if not the best) “Stash” of tour to this point!” Little did I know what was to come…

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3/30/93 – Hilton Ballroom, Eugene OR (Set 1, song #8, length: 14:26)

If I had to point to one “Stash” on this tour that marked the turning point of the song’s evolution into a full-on jam vehicle, it would be this performance in Eugene. The jam takes a downright ‘grungey’ turn immediately, with Trey hammering away at a simple, dissonant riff. The band settles into this swampy groove, with Fishman altering his rhythm more than usual and Trey refusing to turn towards a traditional solo. Trey starts to experiment with different riffs over this dark groove, lending an almost “Tweezer”-esque feeling to this jam. He settles into a driving riff that slowly drags the band out of the swamp and into a more traditional “Stash” solo. The band doesn’t stay in this ‘typical’ territory for long, however, and the jam breaks down into a quiet segment. Page briefly takes the spotlight with some “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin'” (Rolling Stones) quotes as Trey once again starts up some thundering riffs. These riffs disintegrate into a full-on ‘wall of noise’ from Trey as the band builds up into a final, intense peak before bringing the song home. A must-hear “Stash” for fans of the song. The Phish.net description of this jam notes that the band takes the song “WELL beyond” any other “Stash” performed to date.

4/5/93 – HUB Ballroom, Seattle WA (Set 1, song #7, length: 14:10)

Just days after breaking the song open in Eugene, Phish takes “Stash” for another wild ride in Seattle. This “Stash” starts to go sideways shortly into the jam at 6:30 when Trey starts repeating a dissonant riff. Despite the dissonance of the riff it’s played with a clean tone, thus distinguishing this performance from the swampy Eugene “Stash.” The rest of the band is initially quiet as they lock on to this riff, but quickly start build up the volume and energy. Page asserts himself as a co-leader of the jam, coloring around Trey’s riff with a lot of tasty fills. After an initial swell of energy the jam starts to break back down between 9:30 and 10:00, with Page still doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Another groove is established, and the energy once again begins to swell. Trey retains his clean tone through 11:00, which helps this jam retain a jazzy feel throughout despite its twists and turns. Once Trey kicks on the distortion he begins to lead the band back towards the “Stash” ending, though not in a way that sounds rushed, and not before unleashing a final rush of excellent soloing from 12:00-13:00. While perhaps not quite as experimental as Eugene, this Seattle “Stash” nevertheless shows that the Eugene “Stash” was not a one-off fluke and that the band intends to continue to explore with the song.

4/14/93 – American Theater, St. Louis MO (Set 1, song #6, length: 15:31)

This “Stash” jam turns dissonant quickly after a standard composed section, driven by riffing from Trey. Page accompanies this playing well and stays prominent in the mix. Trey gradually begins a more traditional solo, taking the band firmly back to “Stash” territory by 8:00. This builds to a swirling, guitar-led peak a minute later. Instead of transitioning from that peak into the end of the song, as one might expect, the jam breaks down to a very quiet passage. Mike takes advantage of the extra space in the mix and drops some melodic leads of his own. An eerie ambience is created, leading to the beginning of the “Kung” chant at 11:00. The background ambience slowly increases in volume as the chant progresses, driven by plinko-esque, staccato playing. The chanting ends by 13:00, though Trey adds some extra vocal wailing as the tension of the long build reaches a peak. The peak finally comes, and the band crashes back into the ending of “Stash” at about 14:15. An excellent, “Kung”-ified “Stash.”

Check out the recent official release of this show for a tasty recording of this “Stash!”

4/17/93 – Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor MI (Set 1, song #4, length: 11:55)

Trey locks onto a simple but catchy riff right at the beginning of this “Stash” jam at 4:50. As Trey repeats this riff for the next minute or so the rest of the band begins to quiet down, and Trey follows along. Page, Mike, and Trey then all lock into a repeating two-note passage that they slide in and out of. Trey leads the band by alternating between the original riff the jam began with and this new two-note theme. This slowly bleeds into a chromatic and jazzy passage with great group-improvisation. Each member of the band is listening intently and responding to the others’ playing, as is the case with most great Phish jams. After a few minutes of this subdued but interesting and experimental playing Trey seamlessly slides into a more traditional “Stash” solo that begins to peak by 11:00, leading to the song’s close.

4/22/93 – The Agora Theatre, Cleveland OH (Set 1, song #7, length: 12:32)

Trey begins this “Stash” jam at 5:30 with solo shredding before quickly settling into a dissonant groove that features great interplay between Page and Trey. Mike switches up his playing at 7:20 with a simple melodic line, which encourages Trey to start ratcheting up the tension. By 8:00 the band is locked into a dark, high-energy, rhythmic pulse you might expect from a “Melt” jam. The band builds up this tension to an insane degree before finally bringing the jam to a peak at about 10:00. It sounds like Trey is roaring into his end-of-jam-solo at about 10:20 but this turns out to be a fake-out, and the band breaks down the jam into a sparse segment at about 10:50. Page takes the lead with staccato playing, Mike matches this with sharp playing of his own, and Trey adds some chordal jabs. This ‘second jam’ breaks down again at about 11:50 to almost silence. The band starts whispering the “maybe so, maybe not” ending, as the band brings the song to a quiet close. The dynamics in this jam are impressive, as is the energy of the first jam. As I say in my recap of the show, “Wow!”

5/8/93 – Field House, Durham NH (Set 1, song #5, length: 15:35)

This “Stash” from the wild tour finale in Durham, NH is a reprise of the”Kung-ified Stash” from St. Louis. The jam begins at 5:00 and immediately enters into a dissonant groove led by Trey and Mike. Trey kicks up the distortion and volume of his playing at 6:30, and brings this segment to a peak at about 7:45. This peak is longer than most “Stash” peaks from this time and features some great fretwork from Trey. Instead of transitioning into the composed end, the jam breaks down at 11:00. Page takes the lead as Trey quietly improvises around the “Stash” theme. Trey latches onto a simple, staccato riff, then lets this riff dissolve into feedback, leaving Mike’s bass groove as the main driver of the music. The “Kung” chant begins at 12:35, and the volume of the backing jam starts to increase at the end of the “Kung” chant. The energy swells, and the band transitions into the composed end of “Stash.”

Check out the official release of this show for an excellent recording of this “Stash.”

Honorable Mentions:

  • 2/21/93: Standard progression to the jam, but the tension/release dynamic is particularly intense and anarchic. Transitions into first “Manteca” of tour before returning to the composed end of “Stash.”
  • 2/23/93: Notable largely for an uncharacteristic explosion of trilling from Trey a couple minutes into the jam, and an intense climax at the end.
  • 3/27/93: A concise but very tight jam that organically develops into a tense groove reminiscent of a “Split Open and Melt” jam. Builds into a wild sliding riff from Trey to close out the song.
  • 4/3/93: Extra dynamism during the verse. Very satisfying progression to the jam, with some subdued experimentation with the song’s groove at the beginning, an exciting build-up of energy around a repeating Trey riff, and an anarchic-sounding finish.
  • 4/9/93: Interesting segment of jam between 6:30 and 8:45 as Trey recedes into the background with crunchy droning and Page takes the lead with choppy and jazzy playing. Smooth transition back into composed ending of “Stash.”
  • 5/2/93: Shortly after the band enters into a dark groove, Trey unleashes some wickedly dissonant shredding. This solo builds into a great peak before the band brings the song home.
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Winter/Spring ’93: Stat Breakdown

For all of the following calculations I only used data from songs/shows I actually listened to, so the early March show and the first set of the Montreal show for which there are no circulating recordings are not counted. Also not included are songs that were missing from the tapes I listened to (thankfully, not too common a problem). These statistical anomalies should more or less disappear for any future stats post, because the tape record for subsequent tours is more or less complete.

With that caveat aside, the following are some interesting statistical observations from Phish’s longest ever tour.

Most-Played “Songs”:

  1. Hold Your Head Up (57 performances – played in 82% of total shows)
  2. Big Ball Jam (53 – 76.3%)
  3. Rift (41 – 59.0%)
  4. Sparkle (38 – 54.7%)
  5. It’s Ice, Maze, Poor Heart, You Enjoy Myself (tie – 36 – 51.8%)

Four Rift songs make the top “five,” reflecting the ubiquity of the album’s songs on this tour’s setlists.

Top 5 Most-Played Songs*:

  1. Rift (41 – 59.0%)
  2. Sparkle (38 – 54.7%)
  3. It’s Ice, Maze, Poor Heart, You Enjoy Myself (tie – 36 – 51%)
  4. Amazing Grace, Stash (tie – 35 – 50.4%)
  5. Cavern (34 – 48.9%)

*excludes Hold Your Head Up and Big Ball Jam.

I’m actually surprised that Hold Your Head Up wasn’t played at more shows. As it stands, the HYHU “song” was played at 82% of shows I listened to on this tour. I’m curious to see how this evolves over the next couple years, and whether they stop playing this theme gradually or suddenly. It does not surprise me that almost every song on these lists was played at least more than one of every two shows; given the size of the band’s repertoire in 1993 many songs were on heavy rotation. However, running the numbers it did surprise me that the jam-focused Stash beat out other, more concise and seemingly ubiquitous songs played on this tour like “Guelah Papayrus,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” and “Golgi Apparatus.”

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Average Show Rating by Month:

  • February: 3.524 (21 shows)
  • March: 3.619 (21 shows)
  • April: 3.65 (20 shows)
  • May: 4.286 (7 shows)

No surprise here, it reflects my overall feeling of the tour trajectory that I discussed in my debrief post.

Shows Rated 5/5: 2/20 (Roxy Theatre, Atlanta GA), 3/14 (Paul Wright Gym, Gunnison CO), 3/22 (Crest Theatre, Sacramento CA), 4/14 (American Theater, St. Louis MO), 5/3 (State Theatre, New Brunswick NJ), 5/6 (Palace Theatre, Albany NY), 5/8 (Field House, Durham NH).

Shows Rated 2/5 or lower: 2/10 (Smith Opera House, Geneva NY), 3/24 (Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, Santa Rosa CA)

It’s pretty impressive that I thought only 2 shows of the 70 I reviewed were “off-nights” that had little to offer a listener.

Best Rated Multi-night Stands:

  1. Palace Theatre (Albany – 4.5 avg. – 2 nights)
  2. Roxy Theatre (Atlanta – 4.333 avg. – 3 nights)
  3. Newport Music Hall and Tower Theatre (Columbus/Philadelphia – 4 avg. – 2 nights)
  4. Roseland Ballroom, Tipitina’s, The Palace, Warfield Theatre, Roseland Theatre (New York/New Orleans/Hollywood/San Francisco/Portland – 3.5 avg. – 2 nights)
  5. Michigan Theater (Ann Arbor – 3 avg. – 2 nights)

Poor Ann Arbor. Every other multi-night stand on this tour resulted in at least one great show.

Number of Shows Appearing as Show Highlight*:

  1. Weekapaug Groove, You Enjoy Myself (tie – 24 times featured as show highlight – 34.5% of total shows)
  2. Stash (23 – 33.1%)
  3. Mike’s Song, Tweezer (tie – 17 – 24.5%)
  4. Reba, Run Like an Antelope (tie – 15 – 21.6%)
  5. David Bowie (14 – 20.1%)

*excludes I Am Hydrogen, which only was ever listed as a highlight for being part of a great sequence.

No surprises here, I feel. I should note that I found “Harry Hood” to be a highlight of every show it was played at, but the band only played it during 11 shows. “Hood” was a rare treat on this tour.

Biggest “Bust-Outs”:

  1. Have Mercy (674 shows since last appearance)
  2. Halley’s Comet (475)
  3. Satin Doll (417)
  4. Punch You in the Eye (415)
  5. Makisupa Policeman (322)

I consider “Halley’s Comet” and “Punch You in the Eye” to be quintessential Phish songs, so it was good to see them revived on this tour. And while “Makisupa” might not be quintessential, I certainly enjoy its brand of goofiness. I hope it makes an appearance or two this summer. Noticeably absent this tour: “Slave to the Traffic Light” did not make a single appearance. I assumed this song never dropped of Phish’s rotation at any point, but clearly I was wrong. I’m now wondering if it will make an appearance in 1993 at all.

Most Common “Mike’s Groove” Interlude (29 total):

  1. I Am Hydrogen (24 – 82.8%)
  2. The Great Gig in the Sky (3 – 10.3%)
  3. Multiple song sequence (2 – 6.90%)

The multiple song sequences are from the 2/4 and 2/20 shows. For this list I only considered songs that appeared between the band playing “Mike’s Song” and “Weekapaug Groove.” There were a couple instances on this tour where “Mike’s” was played without “Weekapaug” later making an appearance.

Longest Songs of Tour:

  1. You Enjoy Myself (May 5th, Albany NY) – 32:33
  2. You Enjoy Myself (April 3rd, Vancouver CAN) – 27:11
  3. You Enjoy Myself (March 28th, Arcata CA) – 26:05
  4. You Enjoy Myself (April 24th, Potsdam NY) – 26:04
  5. You Enjoy Myself (April 22nd, Cleveland OH) – 25:38

I sense a trend here. I wonder if any song not named YEM will crack this list during the summer tour.

ntonsfh

Average Venue Capacity (by month):

  • February: 2011.4
  • March: 1746.6
  • April: 2107.2
  • May: 2818.3

The venue size remained relatively consistent across the tour. Some very small venues in California (under 1000 capacity) bring down the March average.

Most Played Debuts:

  1. Amazing Grace (25 performances – 36.0% of total shows – First Time Played: 2/3/93)
  2. Sample in a Jar (14 – 20.1% – 2/4/93)
  3. Loving Cup, The Wedge (tie – 8 – 11.5% – 2/3/93)
  4. The Great Gig in the Sky (7 – 10.1% – 3/18/93)
  5. Lifeboy (5 – 7.19% – 2/3/93)

Top Show Openers:

  1. Buried Alive (11 times played as show-opener – 15.9% of total shows)
  2. Chalk Dust Torture (9 – 13.0%)
  3. Llama, Runaway Jim (tie – 7 – 10.1%)
  4. Golgi Apparatus, Suzy Greenberg (tie – 6 – 8.70%)
  5. The Landlady (5 – 7.25%)

Top Set 1 Closers:

  1. Run Like an Antelope (23 times played as first set closer – 33.3% of total shows)
  2. David Bowie (16 – 23.2%)
  3. Cavern (13 – 18.8%)
  4. Golgi Apparatus (9 – 13.0%)
  5. Possum, Runaway Jim (tie – 3 – 4.35%)

Less diversity among set 1 closers than openers. A fierce battle between “Bowie” and “Antelope.”

Top Set 2 Openers:

  1. Axilla (10 times played as second set opener – 14.3% of total shows)
  2. Runaway Jim (8 – 11.4%)
  3. Chalk Dust Torture, Wilson (tie – 5 – 7.14%)
  4. Llama, My Friend, My Friend, Rift, Suzy Greenberg (tie – 4 – 5.71%)
  5. AC/DC Bag, Golgi Apparatus, Loving Cup, The Landlady (tie – 3 – 4.29%)

This list reflects the band’s strategy on this tour of opening the second set with a relatively concise composition (“Axilla,” “Chalk Dust,” “Wilson,” “Llama,” “Rift,” etc.) before diving into something with greater compositional or improvisational heft. The sole exception to this would seem to be “Jim,” which often featured an impressive guitar solo from Trey.

Top Set 2 Closers:

  1. Tweezer Reprise (14 times played as second set closer – 20.0% of total shows)
  2. Cavern (11 – 15.7%)
  3. Golgi Apparatus (7 – 10.0%)
  4. Amazing Grace, Possum, The Squirming Coil (tie – 5 – 7.14%)
  5. Big Black Furry Creatures from Mars (4 – 5.71%)

Top Encores:

  1. Amazing Grace (24 times performed as encore – 37.3% of total shows)
  2. Sweet Adeline, Tweezer Reprise (tie – 11 – 16.4%)
  3. Good Times Bad Times (10 – 14.9%)
  4. Carolina (8 – 11.9%)
  5. Fire, Rocky Top (tie – 7 – 10.4%)

If there’s any stat you would like to see that I didn’t post, just drop a comment below. As long as I can compute it with the data set I built, I’ll include it in a follow-up post responding to any requests I get.

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Winter/Spring ’93 debrief

As I look back over Winter/Spring ’93 as a whole, a clear arc of the tour emerges. The tour began in February with the band focusing on breaking in the new Rift material. These Rift songs were kept in heavy-rotation throughout the month (as they were for the whole tour), and the band worked on figuring out what roles in future setlists the Rift songs would play. In addition to the songs from the new album, the first couple shows of tour also featured new songs not on Rift: future “Hoist” songs “Sample in a Jar” and “Lifeboy,” as well as a cover of “Loving Cup” to inaugurate Page’s new baby grand piano. Many of these newer songs did not catch on immediately: “Loving Cup” was not played after the end of March and “Lifeboy” made only 5 appearances. “The Wedge” felt like the most frequently played song of the first week of tour before dropping out of setlists entirely just a couple weeks later. One tour debut, however, did end up sticking around. It took a couple weeks for the band to nail the timing of “Sample in a Jar,” but once they did the song stuck around through the end of tour.

With the band focusing on breaking in an album’s worth of new material (and then some), February feels comparatively light on big improvisational highlights. You could depend on moments of full-band jamming in “Tweezer,” Mike’s Groove (particularly “Weekapaug Groove”), and “You Enjoy Myself,” and the band usually played one or two of those sequences at any given show. Full-band improv outside of those clearly defined segments, however, is rare. The clear highlight of February is the Atlanta Roxy run, which is capped by a ridiculous Saturday night segue-fest as “Tweezer” and Mike’s Groove weave in and out of songs like “Walk Away,” “Kung,” “Have Mercy,” and “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own.”

The trajectory of the tour begins to shift in March. By the New Orleans shows at the beginning of the month the band sounds increasingly confident with their songs, which leads to an increased sense of adventure and fun throughout March. The band sounds particularly feisty during the Colorado run in the middle of the month, which features the return of the long-absent “Halley’s Comet,” the debut of “Great Gig in the Sky,” and a great “YEM.” The long, ten-show California run is spottier, with a number of average (or worse) shows, but the highs are high (see: the Gamehendge set on 3/22). Volume restrictions at the Redlands show on 3/19 led to an odd show on that night, but forced the band to pay more attention to the dynamics of their jams, which led to interesting playing during the following shows.

Painting in broads strokes then, I characterize February as focusing on breaking in new songs. This leads to an increased confidence in March that manifests in an increasing energy level at shows and sense of fun. The end of March, however, is the big turning point for the tour. The reason the end of March is the big turning point is because the band starts experimenting with full-band improvisation outside the context of the marquee jam vehicles (“YEM,” “Tweezer,” and “Weekapaug.”). This experimentation starts to occur primarily with “Stash” and “Mike’s Song.” Both of these songs were largely predictable during the first month-and-a-half of tour, with only a couple of standout performances from that time period. However, at the end of March, both songs hit a hot streak that lasts throughout the rest of tour. The big turning point for “Stash” occurs on 3/25 (I write in the review of that show that the 3/25 “Stash” is “easily…one of the best…if not the best “Stash” of tour to this point”). 5 of the next 6 “Stash” performances I marked in my notes as standout performances of the song. The song remains a fertile ground for creative improvisation for the rest of the tour, and it became one of the songs I most looked forward to hearing at a show.

“Mike’s Song,” similarly, often left me less than impressed during the first half of tour. The first jam is almost universally short on this tour, usually only 2-3 minutes in length, so most of the experimentation occurs in the second jam. During the first half of tour, this second jam was often a noisy, messy, sometimes incoherent mess. While the evolution of “Mike’s Song” occurs at a slower pace than that of “Stash,” standout performances start appearing more frequently at the end of March, and become the norm by the end of April. The “Mike’s Song” from 3/30 is the clear beginning of this trend, as the band eschews the second jam entirely in favor of digging into a dissonant groove. The band continues to creatively experiment with the song for the remainder of tour, often leading to great results.

During April all of these developments start to come together in exciting ways, making for an excellent month of tour that stands above both February and March. The Rift songs are fully integrated in setlists, the sense of fun and adventure that developed by March is still in effect, and the band continues to develop full-band jamming outside of the clearly defined sequences it was largely limited to during February and early March. “Stash” and “Mike’s Song” continue to impress, and the band adds a song to this list when they blow-out “Split Open and Melt” on 4/21. Like “Stash” and “Mike’s Song,” “Melt” was a predictable song for the first half of tour that featured a guitar solo from Trey and not much else. At the 4/21 show the band carves out an intense, dissonant groove that today we would characterize as a classic “Melt” jam. At the time, however, it was not a ‘classic’ “Melt” jam but the first time the band realized greater possibilities for the song. Reflecting the importance of this development, the band will use an excerpt of this “Melt” jam as the outro to next year’s Hoist album. While usually less free-wheeling than “Stash” or “Mike’s” (perhaps due to the song’s unusual time signature), the song continues to impress for the rest of tour.

All of this culminates in an absolutely terrific last week of tour that shows the band firing on all cylinders. I have not listened to much of the summer ’93 tour before, but I think we start to hear the genesis of that famed tour’s sound during these May shows. Among the highlights are a 30 min.+ “YEM” dance party on 5/5, a twenty-minute, type-II “Tweezer” on 5/6, and a 20 min. “David Bowie” that dives deep before emerging into the light with a “Have Mercy” jam on 5/8. Each of these performances is the longest performance of that song on this tour, which is an indication of how creative and experimental this last week is. While the Bangor show on 5/7 is solid but relatively unmemorable, every other May show I rated as a 4/5 or higher.

Broadly speaking then, these are my thoughts about the development of Phish’s playing on this tour. To fill the time between now and the start of summer tour in mid-July I’ll be diving deeper into different aspects of the tour in follow-up posts. Below is a (rough) schedule of the posts I’ll be working on for the rest of May, starting with a statistical breakdown of the tour on the 16th. As you’ll see, the band makes two festival appearances at the end of the month, and I’ll be covering those shows as I would any other show they played so far. I did find a recording of some jamming at a private party at Fish’s house on 5/15, but as it features both guest musicians and not the full band (Page doesn’t appear on the recording) I decided not to treat it as a Phish performance for the purposes of this blog.

Absent any unplanned post between now and then, you’ll hear from me again on the 16th…

May Blog Schedule:

  • 5/16: Winter/Spring ’93: Stats Breakdown
  • 5/23: Songs of Tour: “Stash”
  • 5/29: Laguna Seca Daze festival appearance, Monterey CA
  • 5/30: Laguna Seca Daze festival appearance, Monterey CA
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