Songs of Tour: “Split Open and Melt” (Summer ’93)

I would definitely rank “Split Open and Melt” as one of Phish’s most obviously psychedelic songs. Even relatively ‘straightforward’ “Melts” can lead the band through dark, gooey, and intense terrain during the song’s jam segment. The band started to learn at the end of the Winter/Spring tour how to really carve out space during the song’s jam, and the band continued to expand their approach towards the song over this summer tour. The July “Melts” largely hewed to the script that the band developed at the end of the W/S tour, but in August the band cracked “Melt” open even further with the song consistently ranking as one of the biggest improvisational highlights of the night each time it was played. August ’93 was just as big a step for this song as April ’93 was.

Phish performed “Melt” 13 times during the summer ’93 tour: 5 times in July, and 8 times in August. Of these thirteen performances, only one “Melt” was not included in my list of show highlights (the standard “Melt” from 8/6). That means that I considered “Melt” to be a show highlight over 92% of the time it was played, an impressive record. Below is a list of my favorite “Melts” from the landmark month of August ’93.

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8/9/93 – Concert Hall, Toronto CAN (Set 1, song #5, length: 13:11)

This “Melt” is the highlight of an impressive mid-first-set sequence of “Fee > Melt > Glide,” and the first standout “Melt” of August. This “Melt” begins to stand out before the jam even begins, with some extra scat vocals during the composition and some added space between 2:50 and 3:00. The jam begins at 4:30 with a quick tempo, driving Trey riffing, and improvised vocal melodies. Fishman introduces a half-time groove at 5:00 as Trey moves to sharp, chordal bursts, which begins to break down the jam. The tempo begins to pick back up at 7:00. Trey is still belting out his aggressive, chordal bursts, but he begins to play more major-key inflected melodies as well.

Trey eventually transitions into full-on shredding as he gradually makes his way back to the “Melt” theme. The band coalesces around the main “Melt” progression, and instead of driving the song to a hard peak, gradually lets the song dissipate into the ether and the beginning of “Glide.” While not as exploratory as some of the later “Melts” from this month, this “Melt” is an easy recommendation for those who like their “Melts” intense, rhythmic, and gooey.

8/12/93 – Meadow Brook Music Festival, Rochester Hills MI (Set 1, song #6, length: 12:26)

It doesn’t take long for Phish to strike gold again with “Melt” after the Toronto performance, as the song’s next appearance just four sets later impresses once again. The jam here starts at 4:25, and is again initially driven by hard-rocking Trey riffs. Instead of quickly breaking down the jam with a half-time tempo, however, the band instead just lets Trey rip. The band lets Trey build the energy for a couple minutes. At 6:10 the band takes a left turn through a dissonant excursion, which Fishman uses as an opportunity to unleash some particularly intense fills.

The so-far tight structure to the jam begins to loosen, and Trey flirts with some major-key departures at ~7:20. The rest of the band begins to coalesce around the “Melt” progression at this point, but Trey keeps them from getting too comfortable in that structure with explosions of trills and the occasional major-key departure from “Melt’s” tension. The next couple minutes of the jam are particularly wild and impressive, as the band constantly flips between the main “Melt” progression and brief, structure-breaking excursions. The jam collapses into a quiet, subdued segment shortly after 9:00. This segment builds slowly back to the end of the “Melt”, with the band teasing the audience with several fake-outs along the way.

 

8/14/93 – World Music Theatre, Tinley Park IL (Set 1, song #8, length: 12:35)

The third consecutive impressive performance of “Split Open and Melt” comes from the first set of this officially-released show. The song is easily the improvisational highlight of the first set. The jam begins at 4:15, and has been the trend, is initially driven by quick Trey riffing. Mike contributes some upbeat, head-bopping melodic lines as Trey lets loose a solo. The mood of the jam begins to shift at 6:00 as both Mike and Trey begin to hammer on the same note. This loosens up the song’s structure, and the band grows more subdued. The energy begins to build back up a minute later, and the sound gets increasingly thick and chunky. This swell of energy crests just as Trey reaches for the light with a major-key shift at about 8:45. Trey leads the band through a downright blissful series of trills, making this the most euphoric “Melt” of the month. After this peak, Trey gradually leads the band with some fiery shredding through a transition to the main “Melt” progression and the end of the song.

The unexpected emergence into a blissful space really makes this “Melt” stand out; as I wrote in my review of the show: “This ‘Melt’ is a serious contender for best ‘Melt’ in a month that is becoming filled with great ‘Melts.'”

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8/20/93 – Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison CO (Set 2, song #3, length: 11:26)

The Red Rocks “Melt” is the one “Melt” on this list to come from the second set. Phish drops straight into this “Melt” out of the stunning, set-opening sequence of “2001 > Slave to the Traffic Light.” The jam starts shortly after 4:00, and while initially driven by Trey riffing, this jam begins unusually subdued. The rest of the band very gradually builds energy behind Trey’s repeating riffing. Trey finally starts to transition into a ripping solo at 7:00, as the mood of the jam begins to subtly darken. Despite this push towards darker territory, Trey quickly starts to unleash some major-key-inflected runs in a move somewhat similar to the 8/14 performance. The band doesn’t commit to this direction, however, and instead begins to push through several, increasingly wild peaks. The backing band gets a lot of kudos here for appropriately tampering with the song’s progression as Trey goes nuts with guitar theatrics.

After some final, scintillating builds from 10:20 through 10:40, the band brings this one home, bringing an end to an excellent opening sequence to this set two. From my review of the show: “This isn’t the most experimental ‘Melt’ of the month, but it trades that experimentation for patience and grooviness seemingly inspired by the previous ‘Slave,’ making the result no less impressive.”


Hopefully in this post I’ve managed to highlight some impressive summer ’93 “Split Open and Melts” that fans of the song may have overlooked. Each of these jams (and the sets they are from) are easy to recommend. I’ll continue to analyze Phish’s summer ’93 tour on November 2nd with another “That One Time…” post, in which I will take a look at songs that were more-or-less the same throughout the tour except for ‘that one time.’

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Summer ’93: Stat Breakdown (Part II)

This is the second and final part of my statistical analysis of Phish’s summer ’93 tour. For the first half of this post, and for the explanation of the various notations I use, click here.

With that out of the way, let’s dig in!

Number of Shows Appearing as Show Highlight:

  1. Split Open and Melt (*), Stash (∧1) (tie – 12 times featured as show highlight – 36.4% of total shows)
  2. You Enjoy Myself (∨1) (11 – 33.3%)
  3. Run Like an Antelope (∧1) (10 – 30.3%)
  4. David Bowie (∧1) (9 – 27.3%)
  5. Mike’s Song (∨2), Tweezer (∨2) (8 – 24.2%)

Delisted: Weekapaug Groove (1)

The movement in this chart definitely illustrates some of the differences between the winter/spring and summer tours. Phish definitely started to crack the code with “Melt” during the Winter/Spring tour, but the fruits of that effort did not become fully apparent until this summer. By August the song was frequently the site of the most adventurous improvisation of the night, and one of the songs I most looked forward to hearing. “Stash” was consistently impressive, but except for a few occasions, perhaps not quite as wild as it could be during late March and May. The decline of “Mike’s Song” and “Tweezer” is not due to the songs being less impressive this tour, but is simply due to the band simply playing those songs less frequently overall. “Mike’s” led to some impressive and deep jams in August, while the band’s approach towards “Tweezer” was more or less in line with their approach to it during the spring.

“Weekapaug” definitely felt de-emphasized this tour. While the most consistently experimental song for a good chunk of W/S, most the band’s experimentation this tour came from other songs, and even the best “Weekapaugs” of tour were shorter and less adventurous than their W/S counterparts (see: the fun and energetic but less than five minute “Weekapaug” from 8/2).

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Some melty goodness definitely came out of “SOAM” this tour.

Average Venue Capacity:

  • Tour average: 6906
  • July average: 8468
  • August average: 5754

Phish seriously started to crack into the summer shed size of venues during their run through the northeast. The northeast portion of tour featured debut headlining performances at Philadelphia’s Mann Center on the 16th (capacity: 14000), Jones Beach Amphitheater on the 23rd (capacity: 10800), and Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts on the 24th (capacity: 19900). However, during August, the band toured regions where they were less well known, leading to the overall lower capacity average for that month. For example, the shows on August 24th, 25th, and 26th all had venue capacities of under 3000.

My Rating Breakdown:

  • Five Stars: 8 shows – 24.2% of total shows
  • Four Stars: 15 – 45.4%
  • Three Stars: 8 – 24.2%
  • Two Stars: 2 – 6.06%
  • One Star: 0 – 0.00%

I’m doing this calculation mostly to keep myself in check, and to make sure I’m being honest and not too gushing in my reviews. I think this is a pretty reasonable allocation of ratings for what is such a praised tour. The Vegas ’04 “Down with Disease” is what I have in mind for a 1/5 rating, and while I haven’t given a show 1/5 yet, nothing I’ve heard from 1993 even compares to the sloppy playing, mindless jams, and depressing lack of effort that characterizes that ill-fated 2004 run of shows.

Longest Songs of Tour:

  1. You Enjoy Myself – 25:59 (8/17 – Kansas City KS)
  2. You Enjoy Myself – 23:07 (8/28 – Berkeley CA)
  3. You Enjoy Myself – 22:43 (8/25 – Seattle WA)
  4. You Enjoy Myself – 22:10 (7/18 – Pittsburgh PA)
  5. You Enjoy Myself – 21:54 (8/9 – Toronto CAN)

Still waiting…still waiting…(for anything besides “YEM” to crack this list). Nothing from this summer could match the length of the the awesome, party-all-night “YEM” from May 5th in Albany, which shot past 30 minutes.

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YEM continues to reign supreme when it comes to length.

Top Set 2 Openers:

  1. 2001 (*) (18 times played as set 2 opener – 58.1% of total second sets)
  2. Buried Alive (*) (3 – 9.68%)
  3. Mike’s Song (*) (2 – 6.45%)

Delisted: Axilla (1), Runaway Jim (1), Chalk Dust Torture (1), Wilson (1), Llama (1), My Friend My Friend (1), Rift (1), Suzy Greenberg (1), AC/DC Bag (1), Golgi Apparatus (1), Loving Cup (1), The Landlady (1).

Eight other songs were all played once as set 2 opener. In order of appearance, these are: David Bowie, Maze, Wilson, Lengthwise, Dinner and a Movie, Rift, Possum, Llama.

While “2001” was an ubiquitous presence here, it was more so in July than in August. By the end of the tour the band was mixing it up in this slot quite a bit. That said, “2001” opened ten consecutive second sets between 7/16 and 7/28, and opened the first set of the two one-set shows in that period. That’s impressive.

Most Played Debuts:

  1. 2001 (20 performances – 60.6% of total shows – First Time Played: 7/16)
  2. Daniel Saw the Stone, Purple Rain (tie – 14 – 42.4% – 7/15, 7/16)
  3. Leprechaun (3 – 9.09% – 7/15)
  4. Nothin’ But a Nothin’, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (2 – 6.06% – 8/25, 7/16)
  5. Piano Duet, Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home? (tie – 1 – 3.03% – 7/28)

Not much to say here, except that the only debut this summer that is an original song (“Leprechaun”) vanished about as quickly as it appeared. Two future-Hoist songs debuted during the spring (“Lifeboy,” “Sample in a Jar”), but the band was either not finished working on more or wanted to save them for later (perhaps to continue to break-in and promote the Rift material).

Top Set 2 Closers:

  1. Good Times Bad Times (*) (6 times played as set 2 closer – 19.4% of total second sets)
  2. Run Like an Antelope (*) (4 – 12.9%)
  3. Cavern (∨1), Chalk Dust Torture (*) (tie – 3 – 9.68%)
  4. Daniel Saw the Stone (*), Rocky Top (*), Highway to Hell (*), Tweezer Reprise (∨3) (tie – 2 – 6.45%)

Delisted: Golgi Apparatus (1), Amazing Grace (1), Possum (1), The Squirming Coil (1), Big Black Furry Creature from Mars (1)

Six other songs were all played once as set 2 closers. In order of appearance, these are: David Bowie, Golgi Apparatus, Crimes of the Mind, Possum, Suzy Greenberg, Free Bird.

I don’t have much to say here other than “Good Times Bad Times” is an excellent way to end a second set. Other than that it’s interesting to see “Antelope” appear here while dropping in the set 1 closer chart, whereas “Squirming Coil” is delisted here and appears in the set 1 closer chart.

Top Encores:

  1. Free Bird (*) (12 times played as encore – 37.5% of total encore sets)
  2. Amazing Grace (∨1) (9 – 28.1%)
  3. Daniel Saw the Stone (*), Rocky Top (∧2) ( (3 – 9.38%)
  4. Chalk Dust Torture (*), Poor Heart (*), La Grange (*), Fire (∧1), Bold as Love (*) (2 – 6.25%)

Delisted: Sweet Adeline (1), Tweezer Reprise (1), Good Times Bad Times (1), Carolina (1),

Eighteen other songs were all played once as encores. In order of appearance, these are: Llama, Tweezer Reprise, Golgi Apparatus, Cavern, Piano Duet, Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home?, Walk Away, AC/DC Bag, Sleeping Monkey, Carolina, My Sweet One, Sweet Adeline, Highway to Hell, Harry Hood, Memories, The Mango Song, Nellie Kane, Halley’s Comet.

I’m actually surprised “Amazing Grace” only fell one spot here, despite the frequency of “Free Bird.” The band still certainly seems to be enjoying their a-cappella numbers! As the long list of songs played only once indicates, there was a lot of variety in the encores this tour.

If you have any questions about my methodology, or would like me to calculate something that I haven’t included here, please drop a comment below and I’ll see what I can do. Otherwise you’ll hear from me again on October 14th, when I’ll a post a ‘Songs of Tour’ article analyzing the best “Split Open and Melts” of summer ’93.

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Summer ’93: Stat Breakdown (Part I)

I noticed as I was working on this post that it was beginning to become very long, so I’ve decided to split it into two posts. The second half, with the remaining computations, will go live exactly one week from today on September 28th.

All of my prefatory comments to the Winter/Spring ’93 stats post apply here; namely, that the data I used for all of these calculations comes from what I actually listened to, so any songs that were missing from audience tapes I listened to were also not included here. Unlike that earlier tour, however, no full sets or shows are missing from the summer ’93 tape record, so at most a couple openers and encores are missing from my data set. These small discrepancies between the data I used and the data on, say, Phish.net, shouldn’t have too much of an impact on these rankings.

In addition to tracking what songs had the greatest impact on the tour (one of the main reasons I find these posts interesting), I’m also interested in how the importance of songs changes across tours. I’ve thus added some notations to indicate how songs have moved up or down in these charts since the Winter/Spring tour. So, for example, (∧2) indicates a song has moved up two spots on the chart since the last tour, (v1) indicates a song has dropped one position on the chart since the last tour, (*) indicates a song that did not appear on the chart during the last tour, and (-) indicates a song is occupying the same slot it did on the last tour. The “delisted” line beneath a chart lists songs that were ranked during the last tour but got knocked off on this tour. The number in parentheses indicates the number of consecutive appearances on the chart before being knocked-off (as I have only done one prior stats post, this number is 1 for all delisted songs in this post). I know this all sounds somewhat jargony, but I think it’s pretty comprehensible once you start reading the lists.

So without further ado, here is my stats breakdown of Phish’s summer 1993 tour!

Most-Played “Songs”:

  1. Rift (∧2) (23 performances – played in 69.7% of total shows)
  2. Hold Your Head Up (∨1) (21 – 63.6%)
  3. 2001 (*) (20 – 60.6%)
  4. It’s Ice (∧1) , Maze (∧1), Poor Heart (∧1), Sparkle (-) (tie – 16 – 48.5%)
  5. Chalk Dust Torture (*), Stash (*) (tie – 15 – 45.5%)

Delisted: Big Ball Jam (1), You Enjoy Myself (1)

Rift songs continue to dominate, as “Rift,” “It’s Ice,” “Maze,” and “Sparkle” all at least maintain their chart positions. “Stash” only barely missed the cut-off during the last tour, and ekes its way in this time. I really do like “Rift,” but after hearing it so many times both this tour and last, and because of the almost complete lack of variance between performances, it’s basically become background noise to me at this point. I wouldn’t mind if they eased off that particular song a bit next tour. I’ll be curious to see if “2001” is as prominent during the next tour, or if its set-opening prevalence will be a gimmick limited to this tour.

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This album continues to hold tremendous sway over setlists

Most-Played Songs*:

  1. Rift (-) (23 – 69.7%)
  2. 2001 (*) (20 – 60.6%)
  3. It’s Ice (-), Maze (-), Poor Heart (-), Sparkle (∨1) (tie – 16 – 48.5%)
  4. Chalk Dust Torture (*), Stash (-) (tie – 15 – 45.5%)
  5. Cavern (-), Daniel Saw the Stone (*), The Squirming Coil (*) (tie – 14 – 42.4%)

*excludes Hold Your Head Up and Big Ball Jam.

Delisted: You Enjoy Myself (1), Amazing Grace (1)

Nothing too surprising here, except perhaps the delisting of “YEM” (the song only barely missed the list, making 13 total appearances). “Big Ball Jam” really started to fall out of rotation this tour; making only four appearances each month. It’ll be interesting to see if this “song” continues to fall out of fashion or if it makes a resurgence in ’94. I thought “Amazing Grace” might disappear entirely after its ubiquity during the winter/spring tour, and while the band’s a-cappella “Free Bird” did displace it somewhat, the spiritual still made a healthy 10 appearances.

Shows Rated 5/5: 7/24 (Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts, Mansfield MA), 8/2 (Ritz Theatre, Tampa FL), 8/7 (Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Center NY), 8/13 (Murat Theatre, Indianapolis IN), 8/15 (The Macauley Theater, Louisville KY), 8/16 (American Theater, St. Louis MO), 8/20 (Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison CO), 8/26 (Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland OR)

I gave more shows a 5/5 this tour than I did during the winter/spring tour, despite the W/S tour containing over twice as many shows.

Shows Rated 2/5 or 1/5: 7/21 (Orange County Fairgrounds, Middletown NY), 7/29 (Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville TN)

I gave the same number of shows a 2/5 or lower during the W/S tour, suggesting that while the W/S tour might not have reached the highest of peaks as often as this tour, it may have actually been more consistent in quality.

Best Rated Multi-night Stand: There were no multi-night stands on this tour! 33 shows, 33 venues. That compares to 10 separate multi-night stints during the Winter/Spring tour.

Biggest “Bust-Outs”:

  1. Free Bird (569 shows since last appearance, date of bust out: 7/15)
  2. Who Knows (510, 8/9)
  3. Sparks (392, 8/2)
  4. La Grange (310, 8/2)
  5. Dog Log (283, 8/2)

“Free Bird” reappeared in a major way this tour, making a total of 13 appearances, but was more or less nothing but a gag (giving the crowd the what of “what song is it you want to hear?”, but not the how the crowd expected). “Who Knows” was fun, but short and unfinished (to the point that I debated considering just a tease). “Sparks” and “La Grange” are always awesome, and I was glad to see the latter make more than one appearance. “Dog Log” is one of those quintessentially quirky Phish songs that I always enjoy hearing. While it may not have been one of the top 5 “biggest” bust-outs in terms of shows since last appearance, certainly the most important bust-out of summer ’93 was the return of “Slave to the Traffic Light.” “Slave” made two stunning appearances in August, after being absent from the stage since 1991.

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“What song is it you wanna hear?”

Most Common “Mike’s Groove” Interlude (7 total):

  1. Leprechaun (*) (2 – 28.6%)
  2. Faht (*), Ginseng Sullivan (*), Multiple Song Sequence (∧1), The Great Gig in the Sky (-), Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (*) (tie – 1 – 14.3%)

Delisted: I Am Hydrogen (1)

“I Am Hydrogen” dominated this category last tour, but in a complete about-face, was not played once this entire tour. Instead, the band kept things varied and played something different in this slot just about every Mike’s Groove. This might be the one slot I actually enjoyed “Faht” in, as it worked well on 8/16 as an ambient interlude between epic performances of both “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug.” I also particularly enjoyed the acoustic “Ginseng” on 8/24. The multiple song sequence is from 8/2, and the setlist for that Mike’s Groove was: “Mike’s Song -> Sparks > The Ballad of Curtis Loew > Rift, The Squirming Coil, Weekapaug Groove.”

And hey, at least “Leprechaun” is #1 in something, right?

Top Show Openers:

  1. Buried Alive (-), Llama (∧2), Chalk Dust Torture (∧1) (4 times played as show opener – 12.1% of total shows)
  2. Rift (*), 2001 (*), Wilson (*), Runaway Jim (∧1), AC/DC Bag (*) (2 – 6.06%)

Delisted: Golgi Apparatus (1), Suzy Greenberg (1), The Landlady (1)

Eleven other songs were all played once as show opener. In order of appearance, these are: Daniel Saw the Stone, The Landlady, All Things Reconsidered, Funky Bitch, Contact, Split Open and Melt, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Lengthwise, Sample in a Jar, Axilla, and Divided Sky.

As you can see, I will only be considering songs that were featured in this spot at least once for these lists. The only “2001” show-openers were during one-set shows. I’m happy to see “AC/DC Bag” slowly moving towards its classic (IMO) spot. Otherwise, nothing too surprising here.

Top Set 1 Closers:

  1. Cavern (∧2) (10 times played as set 1 closer – 30.3% of total shows)
  2. David Bowie (-), The Squirming Coil (*) (4 – 12.1%)
  3. Golgi Apparatus (∧1) (3 – 9.09%)
  4. Runaway Jim (∧1), Run Like an Antelope (∨3), Daniel Saw the Stone (*) (2 – 6.06%)

Delisted: Possum (1)

Six other songs were all played once as set 1 closer. In order of appearance, these are: You Enjoy Myself, Possum, La Grange, Suzy Greenberg, Chalk Dust Torture, Crimes of the Mind.

It really felt like “Cavern” dominated this slot, so I’m not surprised to see that reflected by the numbers. “Coil” continues to make mid-set appearances, but also is becoming increasingly comfortable here. “Antelope” slipped quite a bit due to it becoming a second-set mainstay, instead of being an almost exclusively set one affair.

Okay, that’s enough for today! Another 1000+ word post will be incoming in exactly a week as I continue to dive into the numbers behind Phish’s summer ’93 tour.

 

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Summer ’93 Debrief

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The opinion I formed after listening to the first couple weeks of Phish’s summer ’93 tour was that the band had more or less picked right back up where they left off at the end of the marathon winter/spring tour. Or, more accurately stated, they picked up where winter/spring left off, putting aside the stellar and improvisational week of shows in May that ended that tour. Most shows from early summer – through the end of July – show the band focusing on breakneck tempos, technical precision, and structured chaos during the ‘jamming songs’ (“Stash,” “David Bowie,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Tweezer,” etc.). To be sure, the tempos were somehow cranked up even further for this tour (for example: check out the blistering first set from Philadelphia!), and the dedication to precision made nearly every performance of compositional-heavyweights like “Divided Sky” and “Fluffhead” a pleasure to listen to. However, the band’s approach through the end of July towards their style of playing and construction of setlists largely echoed the approach from March and April.

Phish’s approach towards their shows may have been more of an incremental development from the end of winter/spring than a huge departure, but some differences between summer and spring nevertheless became apparent quite quickly. One of the most obvious changes between tours was the impact that the new song debuts made on setlists night to night. “2001” and “Purple Rain” both became ubiquitous presences on the stage after their debuts on the 16th, and neither song varied between performances. “2001” became the de facto set 2 opener, usually serving as rave up before the band dropped into deeper cut, whereas “Purple Rain” became the most common ‘Henrietta’ segment of the tour. “Daniel Saw the Stone” also debuted at the beginning of the tour and became a constant setlist fixture, though its position in the setlist on any given night was much more varied. The biggest moments of the show still usually came from the songs that they came from during the winter/spring, with one huge exception: “Run Like an Antelope.” “Antelope” was often performed in a standard, typical-great fashion throughout winter/spring, but the song absolutely exploded with energy on a nightly basis this summer, and that trend began right at the beginning of tour. Additionally, while the band had begun to crack the code of “Split Open and Melt” by the end of winter/spring, the song impressed on a much more consistent basis from the very beginning of summer tour.

The highlight of the pre-August shows of tour comes on July 24th, Phish’s debut headlining performance at Great Woods. This Great Woods show feels like the culmination of everything the band had been working towards – a tightly constructed setlist with lots of compositional weight, high-energy rocking, and impressive improvisational diversions. I would point to this show as the highest peak of July, but the surrounding shows on the 23rd and 25th, in Wantagh NY and Stanhope NJ respectively, are very fun and entertaining as well.

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Rift promotional video (1993)

Before moving on to August, I would be remiss to not discuss the band’s final H.O.R.D.E. appearances on the 21st and 27th. Consistent with the band’s approach to their festival appearances in May (and throughout 3.0), they largely play it close to the vest during these shows. This lack of risk-taking combined with an uncharacteristic sloppiness (for the time) leads the H.O.R.D.E. appearance on the 21st to be perhaps the least impressive set of the entire tour. The set on the 27th is much more solid, and ends with a “You Enjoy Myself” that is the clear highlight of the H.O.R.D.E. sets. Guests join the band during “YEM,” and the song gets blown out into an awesome free-jazz freak-out (and is left unfinished). Fans of unusual “YEMs” will definitely want to check this one out.

And then August begins. As I said above, the Great Woods show felt like the culmination of the winter/spring + early-summer approach towards shows (as did the winter/spring tour-ending May shows). So where does the band go next? Listening to the August 2nd show, it kind of feels like the band is asking that question as well, because during that show they essentially throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. Fortunately for us listeners, virtually everything they throw at us during that show is awesome. The band surprises the audience with not one, not two, but four of the biggest bust-outs of the tour so far (including great cuts like “La Grange,” “Brother,” and “Sparks”), and also present the tour-debut of “Bathtub Gin,” which they promptly break open and take for the longest and most glorious ride of the song’s brief history to this point. This is the kind of show where a ridiculous and highly-entertaining “Antelope > Makisupa Policeman Reprise > Antelope” at the end of the second set is almost an afterthought, because of how mind-melting the show to that point has been. It’s a fiery, risk-taking show that is full of everything that makes Phish awesome. The August 2nd show instantly raises the stakes for the rest of the tour. If the band can jam outside a song’s structure on the snap of a finger, like they do in this “Gin,” what’s them to stop them from doing it again?

This monumental show is followed by one of the weakest of the month, as the band seems to come-down from the outflowing of creativity the night before. After this brief night of relative rest, however, the band begins to return to the same well they visited on the 2nd on a nightly basis, and the explanation for this tour’s legendary status becomes increasingly and obviously apparent. Picking favorites from the next few weeks is a fool’s errand, as virtually every show between August 6th and August 20th contains stunning improvisation and creativity. In particular, the band simply barnstorms through seven incredible nights in a row in the middle of the month; a run of shows that led me to give out three 5/5 ratings (8/13, 8/15, 8/16). I’ll deconstruct some of the highlights from this period in more detail in blog posts to come. Suffice to say, pick a date from this period and you’ll find some great music to listen to.

After a superb performance at Red Rocks on the 20th, the band hits a bit of a late-tour lull as they tour the northwest. The band reins in their newfound spontaneity just a smidge, perhaps in part due to some exhaustion after being on the road for over a month, and undoubtedly influenced by the almost full-set guest sit-in on 8/21. The tour finishes strongly, however, with a ‘greatest-hits’ vibe to the Portland show on the 8/26 and a high-energy tour finale in Berkeley on the 28th.

So, just as I asked after the Great Woods show, what now? During August, Phish dug deeper into some of their songs than they ever had previously, and proved they were able to break songs open into wild, type-II excursions on a regular basis. Will this become the new norm going forward? Or will the band fall back into a more July-esque style of playing after a few months of rest? The long jams of August were often chaotic, lurching between ideas every couple of minutes. Will the band work on creating more fluid and organic jams, or will they push the hyperkinetic style into even more psychedelic heights? I was even less familiar with ’94 going into this project than I was with ’93, so I can honestly say I don’t know the answer to those questions. My personal encyclopedia of Phish knowledge largely does not start until ’95–I’m very interested in how we get to there from here over the next year and change.

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Hoist photoshoot (1993)

It will be sometime before these answers to these questions come, for Phish takes the fall off from touring after summer ’93, presumably as work on what will become Hoist picks up team. We will get some hint as to how August ’93 will impact Phish going forward during the New Year’s Eve run, which will start on December 28th and feature the band circling several major northeast cities.

To fill the time between now and the start of that New Year’s Eve run I will be posting several posts dissecting different aspects of the summer ’93 tour in greater detail. The next of these will be a statistical breakdown of the tour on September 21st, so stay tuned!

Posted in 1993, Debrief, Summer 1993 | Tagged | Leave a comment

August 28th, 1993: William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre, Berkeley CA

Phish played 10 shows in California during their winter/spring tour earlier this year, but will only play one show in the Golden State over the summer – tonight’s tour finale in Berkeley. A fiery “Llama” opens the show, a position this song is always welcome in, before an early “Bouncing Around the Room” settles the crowd down. Another dynamic “Foam” takes the three slot. The song gets very quiet during the transition between the Page and Trey solos, with a full, minute-long silent jam beginning at 5:20. As has been the case virtually all month (and largely all tour), the band sounds locked in from the beginning of the show and the compositions so far have been played with finesse. Trey mentions to the audience after “Foam” that the band will “be taking a long time off after this,” and thanks the audience for joining them this evening.

The now-standard acoustic arrangement of “Ginseng Sullivan” follows “Foam.” “Ginseng” has been in heavy rotation for over a week now, and the practice has paid off; this arrangement sounds very well rehearsed at this point. A typically-great “Maze” is next after “Ginseng,” featuring decent length solos from both Page and Trey, before the band starts up a mid-set “Fluffhead.” Like “Maze,” I wouldn’t say this is a particularly notable performance of “Fluff,” but the band continues to sound rock solid. Trey’s solo in “Fluff” is relatively short tonight, lasting less than two minutes before the song’s acoustic outro. The band lands in “Stash” following “Fluff,” providing them with the evening’s first opportunity for open-ended improvisation.

The band adds some extra dynamism to the “Stash” composition tonight, quieting the song to a whisper in certain parts. Audible on the generally excellent-sounding soundboard recording of tonight’s show that circulates are audience hand-claps during Fishman’s woodblock lines. The song’s jam begins at 5:15, and Mike and Trey begin to modulate away from the “Stash” tonal center almost immediately. Trey begins repeating a quick, shredding riff that dissipates into some cool sliding work at 6:45. Mike and Trey lock into an intense build shortly after that airs out into a dissonant, free-jazz-esque space by 9:00. The band begins to re-enter the “Stash” progression by 10:00, and Trey leads the group to a satisfying peak at 11:15. It sounds like the song is headed toward the composed ending at this point, but the band breaks the jam back down at 11:45 for another decent-length build that brings the song to another peak at 12:50. The band takes this “Stash” home quickly after that final peak. As a whole, I would say this “Stash” follows a fairly typical path and is less memorable than some of the stand-out “Stash” jams of tour. I would still rank it as better than average, however, due to the overall high-quality of playing and excellent interplay between Mike and Trey.

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A relaxing “Squirming Coil” is next, and the song works well as a breather after the substantive, almost half-hour pairing of “Fluffhead” and “Stash.” The Dude of Life takes the stage after “Coil” to sing his original song, “Crimes of the Mind,” which makes its second appearance of tour to close the set. I found this closing song to be quite a treat, for I really like this simple, straightforward, and rocking tune, and wish Phish would perform it more often. The energetic song ends the set on a high note.

This first set is obviously not as stunning as last night’s incredible first set and its MVP-stacked setlist. However, this set is still a perfectly enjoyable listen. “Llama” starts the night off the on right foot, “Foam” and “Fluffhead” are both played very well, and “Stash” gets the improvisational juices flowing. Hopefully the band will leave it all on the field for the final set of tour, and dig even deeper in the second set.

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The Greek Theatre

How else to start the final second set of summer ’93 than with the 18th second-set opening “2001” of tour? That’s exactly what Phish decides to do tonight, as the tour-ubiquitous song makes yet another appearance. The standard arrangement of “2001” slides right into just about the only other song to be played as frequently this summer, “Rift.” While “2001” and “Rift” might be among the most played songs of the summer, there’s no song I’ve come to associate more this tour than “Run Like an Antelope,” which has left my jaw-dropping just about every time it has been played. It’s therefore fitting that Phish drops one of the most adventurous and exciting “Antelopes” as song three during the tour’s final set.

The “Antelope” jam begins at 2:50, and quickly begins to break down as Trey repeats a descending, chordal riff. The band uses this riff to begin to move away from the “Antelope” song structure. Trey leads the band briefly through a brighter, uplifting segment at 4:30 before the jam turns in a very noisy and dissonant direction at 6:45. The jam basically just sounds like a giant ball of energy at this point as the band lets the nearly structure-less, anarchic segment develop. After a wild build the band lands back into the “Antelope” progression by 8:00, but the jam quickly airs back out and becomes very sparse. The band explores this space for a while, drops a Secret Language signal, and then begins to build around a tense but melodic groove, still remaining outside the traditional “Antelope” structure. This build drops back into the “Antelope” progression at 12:00. A final, exciting tension/release segment brings an end to the jam as the reggae segment begins at 14:00. This is a long and exploratory “Antelope” that fluidly moves through several distinct improvisational segments, and builds through several exciting peaks that are as intense as the the peaks from some of the finest summer ’93 vintage “Antelopes.” A must-listen “Antelope,” and easily the biggest highlight of the evening so far.

“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” cools everyone off after the fiery, 16+ minute “Antelope.” “Sparkle” gets everyone back to their feet, and drops into a mid-set “It’s Ice.” “It’s Ice” sounds great tonight, and features another extended ‘underwater’ segment, which focuses this time on a number of Secret Language signals instead of being entirely Page-dominated. The first “Big Ball Jam” in almost two weeks appears after “Ice,” and leads into the night’s Henrietta segment. Just as it was fitting for “2001 > Rift” to open the set, it seems fitting that tonight’s Henrietta segment feature “Purple Rain,” which is making its 14th appearance tonight after debuting earlier this tour.

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Usually on this tour the Henrietta segment is followed by one or two relatively concise songs, and as we’re nearly an hour into this set, it would be reasonable to assume the same would occur tonight. Instead, the band takes rare move of performing “You Enjoy Myself” after the Henrietta segment, not before. This late placement seemingly does not constrain the band, for the song reaches 23 minutes – a healthy length for “YEM” at this time. Page’s solo begins at about 9:00 and gets nice and funky before Trey starts to take over at 10:45. Following the typical path of the jam, Trey’s solo begins quiet and jazzy with a clean tone. He builds the jam up so that it has a nice head of steam by 12:45, and drives towards a straightforward but blistering peak from there. The band really rides this peak out and milks it for all its worth, with 14:00 through 15:00 being particularly intense. The bass and drums segment begins shortly after that, and is fun tonight but not particularly standout or noteworthy. Overall, I would say this is a typical-great “YEM”: the set and show are better for it being here, and it’s a lot of fun while it lasts, but it doesn’t really go anywhere particularly unusual or special either.

The band improvises a neat vocal segue from the “YEM” vocal jam into “Contact,” which makes only its second appearance of the month. “Chalk Dust Torture” closes the second set for the second consecutive show. Trey stretches out a bit during his solo and takes the song through a couple knotty passages before bringing the song, and the set, to a thrilling end. Tonight’s second set is as much a marathon as Portland’s first set, reaching a beastly 94 minutes in length.

“See you guys next spring, or New Year’s Eve, or something…”

“Daniel Saw the Stone” is the first encore, and features a lengthy section of banter as Trey lists and thanks all of the crew and production staff members. Road manager Brad Sands is introduced as the man that “sets up those basketball hoops and brings the trampolines on stage.” Trey thanks Paul Languedoc for the soundboard work, moves on, and then returns to Paul to point out that he built a bunch of the band’s equipment and saying “Paul, you’re a hell of a guy.” He saves Chris for last, and allows Kuroda to take a ‘light solo’ before finishing “Daniel.” “Amazing Grace” is the final song of tour, and Trey claims before they perform it unamplified that this is the largest venue they have attempted to perform a song in without microphones.

This is a high-energy, highly-entertaining tour closer that showcases a band firing on all cylinders. The pinnacle of the evening is an “Antelope” that ranks among the best “Antelopes” of the tour (no small praise, considering “Antelope” has been a defining song of tour), but lots of great moments abound in both sets.

And with that said, that’s a wrap on tour! I had my doubts as to whether I would even be able to get through the winter/spring tour, but here we are. I’m 100+ shows into this blog and still enjoying it and in for more. I’ll be taking a (very) brief hiatus from listening to Phish to regain some distance and collect my thoughts. After that break I’ll post a debrief on September 5th in which I’ll share my feelings on this tour in its entirety (spoiler: July picked up where winter/spring left off, August was some real good shit). With that post I’ll also set a schedule for posts in which I’ll analyze certain aspects of the tour, like I did with my “Songs of Tour,” stats, and “That One Time…” winter/spring posts. Of course, you can also expect me to review and dissect Phish’s next run of shows, which will be the New Year’s Eve ’93-’94 run which starts on December 28th.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “Stash,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “You Enjoy Myself”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 77 mins.
  • Second set length: 94 mins.
  • Encore length: 11 mins.
  • This is the first time Phish performed at the Greek Theatre. They will return on 8/5/10.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Crimes of the Mind” and “Contact,” both returning after a thirteen show absence (8/9/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (6 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 26th, 1993: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland OR

Northwest tour continues tonight as Phish reaches the penultimate show of their summer ’93 run. The band last performed in Portland on April 1st, and for their return they have graduated to a venue nearly double in size. A decently extended “Runaway Jim” opens the show. Trey spends a lot of time scratching his guitar strings during his first solo, and reaches some unexpectedly blissful peaks during his second solo. The “Jim” jam airs out at 7:00 into a pleasant space. Trey starts up a harder-edged, driving riff at 8:00 that pushes the band towards the song’s final peak. While I think I slightly prefer the danceable grooves of last night’s “AC/DC Bag,” this is the second show in a row to feature significant improvisation during the show opener. That’s a trend I can get behind!

“Guelah Papyrus” fills its familiar setlist role as second song of the evening, bringing down the energy a notch after “Jim.” Trey announces “ladies and gentlemen…Mr. Neil Young!” during  the song’s extended pause, undoubtedly a reference to the April Fool’s prank in Portland earlier this year. The end of “Guelah” slyly melts away into the opening riff of “Reba.” This is the first “Reba” since the stunning performance of the song in St. Louis on the 16th. While not quite as revelatory at that earlier performance, this “Reba” does not disappoint. The “Reba” jam begins at 6:20, and airs out almost immediately into near-total silence. The only sound coming from the stage is a stray note here or there. While still playing very quietly, a blissful and melodic groove begins to coalesce by 8:00. The playing from everyone here is very delicate and beautiful, with Page leading the jam as much as Trey with his excellent work on the baby grand. This transitions into a more standard “Reba” groove at 9:45. Trey takes over, and quickly brings the jam to a peak. This peak reaches some impressive heights, with Trey unleashing his shredding skills by 12:30. The jam ends at 12:50. The initial space and groove that develops in this jam is very beautiful and delicate, even by “Reba” standards, and Trey brings the song to a satisfying peak after the initial excursion.

Next up is “Fee, “which serves as a mellow bridge between “Reba” and the next big moment of the evening, “Split Open and Melt.” As has become the trend, the band tacks on an extended, improvised outro to “Fee.” Unlike recent performances, this outro jam has a dark edge to it tonight. The outro jam is based around a Trey riff that both Mike and Page both pick up on, and it builds up a good amount of steam before quickly cutting out at 6:15 for the intro to “Melt.” The “Melt” jam begins at 4:25 and is quite experimental tonight. Initially the jam is high-energy, as Trey leads the band with quick, intense riffing. The jam starts to subdue at 5:45 and turn in a murkier direction. Trey starts hammering on dark-sounding notes at 6:30, and the band increasingly starts to push at the “Melt” structure. This leads into a long, exciting tension build that comes to a peak at 9:30 before immediately breaking back down into a psychedelic, carnival-esque segment. The band is pretty far removed from the “Melt” progression at this point. Another dark build begins at 11:20, and this time Trey uses the build to guide the band back towards the ending of “Melt.” The band is firmly within the ending of “Melt” by 13:00.

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Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

“Melt” is definitely interesting tonight, with the band quickly moving through a number of different ideas. Ultimately it feels a little more disjointed than the most memorable “Melts” of the month (or the earlier “Reba”), but the knotty trip it provides the listener certainly makes for a memorable middle to the set. The ominous vibe of the “Esther” intro works perfectly here, as that song emerges from the end of “Melt.” “Esther” sounds good tonight, and is followed by another interesting “Ice.”

Once again, the band spends about two-three minutes to jam and develop the ‘underwater’ segment of “It’s Ice.” The band’s short but interesting excursions in this song has become something I’ve consistently looked forward to over the course of this tour. The beginning of the ‘underwater’ segment is drawn-out and exaggerated tonight, but Page does eventually take over almost completely. He keeps his solo ominous and tense, and as he builds the rest of the band joins back in to accent the jam’s intensity. Trey(?) even adds some vocal wailing over Page’s playing at some point. The band returns to the composition of “Ice” at 7:20, but experiments further with the song’s ending. To bridge “Ice” and the following “Harry Hood,” Trey begins playing dark and dissonant washes of echoing chords at the end of “Ice.” This leads into an altered version of the “Hood” intro, as the washes of chords return over the beginning to “Hood,” giving the song an uncharacteristically ominous vibe at the outset.

The “Hood” jam begins at 5:45 with very pretty and delicate, clean tone soloing from Trey. This gradually quiets down to the point of becoming very sparse by 7:30. Fishman’s bare bones drum work and very light playing from Page are the only audible sounds here. Trey leads the band through a couple of wonderfully blissful swells in energy to bring the volume of the jam back up. He then throws the crunch on his guitar at 9:00 as the jam steadily picks up steam. An intense, full-band peak comes shortly after as Trey drones on notes and chords and the rest of the band swells behind him. Trey launches into a joyous solo at 10:30, pushing the band into a big and powerful peak that feels well-deserved after the initial restraint shown by the band. The band fully transitions into the composed ending of “Hood” by 13:00. This is an excellent “Hood” that would be a treat at the end of a second set, and is even more remarkable from coming so early in a show.

The high-energy, straightforward rocking of “Golgi Apparatus” is a fitting end for a behemoth of a set; notable both for its length (at just shy of 90 minutes it’s the longest first set of the tour so far), and for the large number of standout moments it contains. This first set almost has a ‘greatest hits of tour’ vibe, with the band dropping jaw-dropping blissful jams in “Reba” and “Hood,” and more experimental improvisation in “Melt” and “Ice.” The last few shows have felt slightly like a lull after an impressive mid-August run of performances, but this set feels like a statement that the band intends to end the tour on the highest note possible.

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Phish’s standard arrangement of “2001” for this tour opens set two, and drops right into the intro of “David Bowie” upon its conclusion. Like the “Melt” and “Weekapaug” from Vancouver, the jam in this “Bowie” is more about breaking apart and deconstructing entirely the song’s normal structure than it is about exploring new territory. That’s said, it’s very successful at doing this, and is particularly wild and intense even by “Bowie” standards. The jam begins at 4:15 with a repeating Trey riff that builds, and builds, and doesn’t really ever stop build. Trey begins to modulate his playing at 7:00, and reaches a shredding height at 7:45. The jam then airs out briefly for a roaring, unhinged build to another peak at 9:20. The band is pretty firmly back in “Bowie” territory by 10:30, but Trey continues to unleash absolutely filthy crunch over the rest of the band’s attempt to return to the composed ending. A thrilling “Bowie,” to say the least.

“Lifeboy” is next, making one of its ever-elusive appearances. As I often say about this song, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the song works well here as a serene counterpoint to the intensity of “Bowie.” “Lifeboy” flows right into a standard, mid-set “Rift,” before the also-elusive “Jesus Just Left Chicago.” The band sticks within the “Jesus” structure during the song’s solos, but the song gets quite a workout with both Trey and Page delivering notable solos. “The Lizards” is the final pre-Henrietta song, and is performed flawlessly tonight. To my ears, this is one of the best sounding “Lizards” of the tour, with the band building to a cathartic peak as Page belts it out during his solo in the back half of the song. The song works great as a cap to the substantive portion of the evening.

Fishman introduces Neil Young yet against after “Hold Your Head Up, “which is appropriately met by the audience with boos. Baby Gramps is then actually introduced to the stage for the second night in a row for an encore performance of “Nothin’ But a Nothin.'” The song is still as goofy and weird as its last time out. “Chalk Dust Torture” is the lone post-Henrietta song of the set, and a fun and typically-ripping close to a short second half. “Free Bird” is the lone, short encore (perhaps the extra-long first set created some curfew issues).

This is one of those rare shows where the first set is longer, jammier, and flat-out better than the second. The band drops standout performances of “Reba” and “Harry Hood” in set one, and complements those with a long “Melt” that doesn’t quite reach the same highs, but is nevertheless creative and experimental. Set one is truly an August ’93 tour de force. The second set only contains one stand-out jam, “Bowie,” and it doesn’t even go type-II. Don’t read that as a knock against the “Bowie” or the set, however. The “Bowie” structure gets deconstructed to the point of absurdity and builds back up to a dark, intense peak, and the whole set flows well, containing quality performances of rare songs (“Lifeboy” and “JJLC”) and one of the best performances of “Lizards” this tour.

Phish’s third Portland show of the year shines the brightest, and is easily my favorite show since the Red Rocks show on the 20th. I’ll talk to you all again on the 28th for the tour finale in Berkeley.

  • Show rating: 5/5
  • Highlights: “Runaway Jim,” “Reba,” “Split Open and Melt,” “It’s Ice > Harry Hood,” “David Bowie,” “The Lizards”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 88 mins.
  • Second set length: 65 mins.
  • Encore length: 4 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Trey Anastasio and the Oregon Symphony Orchestra performed here on 9/9/14.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” returning after an eleven show absence (8/11/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Junta (4 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

August 25th, 1993: Paramount Theatre, Seattle WA

We head back stateside tonight for the second and last Seattle show of ’93. “AC/DC Bag” was busted out earlier this year, and has mostly stuck to second set or encore placement since then. That changes tonight, however, as Phish treats the audience to a show-opening “Bag.” I generally think of this as the most ‘classic’ placement of “Bag,” due to the “let’s get this show on the road!” lyrics. The song really pops tonight and receives some extra attention, which sets the bar high early in this show. Trey starts the song with “Punch You in the Eye”-style scratching, which leads into an interesting, full-band mini-jam/vamp-up before “Bag” even starts proper at 1:00. Echoing this full-band approach, the “AC/DC Bag” jam showcases some interesting playing from more than just Trey. Mike throws on his punchy, funk bass filter that I commented much on yesterday, which gives this “Bag” a very groovy feel. The song doesn’t reach its peak until about 9:00. “AC/DC Bag” sounds excellent tonight, and definitely starts this show off on the right foot.

“Daniel Saw the Stone” is second, and like “AC/DC Bag,” this song has usually been appearing much later in shows. During the break in which Trey often thanks the audience for coming, he instead welcomes the crowd and mentions that there’s “only 2 shows” left on the tour, “so let’s kick some ass” (or something to that effect, he trails off at the end). “Sample in a Jar” rounds out the opening sequence of songs. A standard “Sparkle” is next, which is followed by a good “Foam.” “Foam” is extra dynamic tonight, and starts to get very quiet by the end of Page’s solo. A ‘silent jam’ begins at 5:50 and lasts a full minute before Trey quietly continues with his solo. He quickly builds to the song’s peak from there. Perhaps inspired by the silent jam, Trey announces after “Foam” that the band will play a few songs without amplification because of the quiet and attentive audience.

An acoustic mini-set thus begins with “Ginseng Sullivan,” which is firmly in heavy rotation at this point. Despite the lack of amplification, this and the following acoustic song are surprisingly audible on the audience recording. “Nellie Kane” and “Amazing Grace” round out this mini-set. While not essential listening, these few songs are definitely an entertaining mid-set diversion. The band launches straight into the deep end after this mini-set with “Stash.” The “Stash” jam begins at 5:05, and the first couple minutes are centered around tense, repetitive Trey riffing. Mike starts to play more melodic lines at 7:20, which shortly begins to shift the mood of the jam in a lighter direction. A swirling, locked-in passage of upbeat playing begins, which airs out into a glorious Trey solo at 8:40. The jam gradually becomes more subdued by 9:20, but Trey continues to solo with soaring lines and Mike sticks with his melodic playing. The band lands softly in the “Stash” progression at 11:15, and builds from there into a shredding Trey peak with wicked, descending lines at 13:00. They crash back into the ending of “Stash” shortly after that. This is yet another excellent and adventurous August “Stash” that is easy to recommend.

The quirky “Glide” makes an appearance after “Stash” before a standard set-closing “Cavern.” While “Stash” is the only big jam of the set, this is still a thoroughly entertaining set to listen to. The opening “AC/DC Bag” packs a good punch, the acoustic mini-set is an interesting diversion, and “Foam” is stretched-out and dynamic. Not the most intense or exciting first set of tour, but certainly not a bad first half in Seattle.

“We’re going to take a quick break, we’ll see you in about 15 minutes…”

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“Buried Alive” opens set 2, and lands in a lengthy “Possum.” “Possum” follows a straightforward progression, building from a quiet beginning to Trey’s solo to a rocking peak. Despite following the song’s normal course, the band has been crushing “Possum” for the entire tour and that trend continues tonight. “Possum” gives way to song #3, a standard “Mound.” Trey picks up his acoustic after “Mound” for the intro to the following “My Friend, My Friend.” The song is well-played and has a slightly extended outro, as the band slowly quiets down into silence as they repeat the “my friend, my friend, he has a knife…” line, not coming in with the ending “myfe” line until after a substantial pause.

“Paul and Silas” serves as a quick bluegrass bridge between “My Friend” and “You Enjoy Myself,” and receives an altered treatment tonight as the band throws in a brief but entertaining vocal jam after the second verse. “YEM” is very good tonight, and the clear highlight of the second set. The song begins with a decent-length ‘bliss’ segment that gets unusually dark and does not end until close to 4:00. Page’s solo begins at 9:20, and Mike throws on his funk filter immediately into the segment. This pushes both Page and Trey to take their playing in a funky direction, and nice full-band interplay is underway by the time Trey takes over for his solo at 11:20. The funk feeling of the jam continues underneath Trey’s quiet, jazzy soloing. Trey starts repeating a catchy, descending line at 12:30 that encourages the audience to join along with hand-clapping. The jam starts to build at 13:45 as Trey throws some crunchy distortion on and Mike begins to go wild all over the fretboard as he continues to use the funk filter on his bass. This all culminates in a satisfying, ripping Trey solo that brings an end to a very enjoyable, funkified “YEM” jam. The bass and drums segment begins at 17:50, and is a decent length.

Guest musician ‘Baby Gramps’, who apparently opened for Phish tonight, joins the band on stage during the “YEM” vocal jam. His scratchy voice helps to transition the band out of the vocal jam and into the debut of a Baby Gramps cover, “Nothin’ But a Nothin’.” This song is…something. With Gramps’ scratchy voice, it kind of sounds like an ultra-weird, psychedelic, screwball Tom Waits song. It’s certainly not a performance I would say one should seek out, but it’s nevertheless an interesting song to hear on the Phish stage. “Squirming Coil” provides an opportunity for late-set reflection after “Nothin’ But a Nothin’,” before “Good Times Bad Times” ends the set. Trey brings some fire to his “Good Times” solo, but the song is kept quite short. The somewhat rare and always appreciated “Bold as Love” is tonight’s first encore, before a quick “Rocky Top” sends the crowd home.

This show has one big moment in each set (“Stash” and “YEM”), a  very cool mini-jam that deserves a shout-out (“AC/DC Bag”), and an interesting acoustic mini-set in the first set. However, the rest of the show, including the entirety of the second set outside of “YEM,” seemed rather by-the-books to me, at least compared to other excellent shows from the last month. It may be the case that after quickly burning through the August shows for purposes of reviewing them for this blog I’ve begun to get a little burned out, but I feel this is a fair and reasonably objective view of this show, especially considering how much the band has raised the bar over the last month. The highlights of this show are worth a listen, but as a whole the show feels a bit below average for the period; not for being bad, but for being relatively standard.

  • Show rating: 3/5
  • Highlights: “AC/DC Bag,” “Stash,” “You Enjoy Myself

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • Debuts: “Nothin’ But a Nothin'” (Baby Gramps cover)
  • First set length: 67 mins.
  • Second set length: 75 mins.
  • Encore length: 7 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Paramount Theatre. Trey Anastasio Band performed here on 5/21/02 and 11/29/05.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Bold as Love,” returning after a ten show absence (8/11/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift and A Picture of Nectar (3 songs).
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