Phish moves northward up the California coast today for a show in the ocean-side city of Santa Barbara. The audience recording I’m listening to begins during the first verse of the show-opening “Suzy Greenberg.” “Suzy” is standard except for a cool, ominous drone at the end of the song that bridges into the opening of “Maze.” Page’s “Maze” solo is fairly standard, but Trey’s ends up being a lot of fun. He works in both a dissonant build and a “Happy Birthday to You” tease into his solo before driving to a blistering peak, making this another strong spring ’94 “Maze.” Another “M” song, “Mound,” is next. The audience claps along to the beginning of “Mound” similar to the hand-clapping that accompanies the song’s intro today, showing that these California audiences truly are in the know when it comes to Phish (the Los Angeles crowd participated in some of the modern band/crowd interactions last night as well).
The set continues from there with two Hoist songs, “If I Could > Scent of a Mule.” This is a great, note-perfect reading of “If I Could,” while the ‘duel’ segment of “Mule” is still being kept fairly close to the vest. An acoustic mini-set consisting of “Ginseng Sullivan” and “Dog Faced Boy” is next. Both of the unamplified songs are (barely) audible on the audience recording, but I unfortunately could not make out the Trey banter between songs that elicits quite a crowd reaction. “Split Open and Melt” follows this acoustic sequence as the penultimate song of the set. Phish has thrown down a number of excellent “Melts” in recent weeks but, alas, this is not one of them. The jam starts at 4:30 and quickly gets dark and tense, before getting downright swampy as Fishman switches to a simpler beat and Trey wails about on top. The jam never really goes anywhere from there. Instead, Trey simply starts to work towards the ending progression at 7:50. There is a neat sequence of trilling om Trey at 8:40 as one of the ending tension/release builds peaks, but the band works towards the composed ending quickly from there. This “Melt” isn’t awful or anything, but there isn’t much interesting playing during the jam either. A relaxing “Squirming Coil” ends the set.
I would say just about this entire set is inessential listening. That’s not to say it’s a bad, “Maze” features some great Trey soloing and “Mound” and “If I Could” both sound great, for example, but the band doesn’t venture any further than territory already very well covered by this tour, and “Melt” turns in a somewhat disappointing performance that doesn’t really move past dissonant Trey wailing before moving into the ending of the jam.
A fun “Runaway Jim” starts off set two. Trey’s soloing is pretty typical for the song but it’s “Trey plays with his toys” time as he throws on some effects he usually does not use during the song (a phase-shifting pedal, I think). “Glide” is next and sounds rough tonight. There are some timing issues near the beginning of the song and it sounds like Trey is struggling to hit some of his lines. Not exactly a pleasant listen. The first “Tweezer” since the Bomb Factory blowout is next. The jam starts at 4:33 with wide open space as Trey lazily strums some arpeggios. An upbeat, driving feeling is established as the jam starts to gain momentum, with Trey sticking to breezy melodies. The jam takes a darker turn at 6:10 as Trey starts to repeat a heavy, descending riff. This leads to a hard-rocking groove that builds a good head of steam. The band transitions from this back to the main “Tweezer” groove at 8:00 but quickly shift gears again as they smoothly shift into the Phish debut and only-ever performance of “Earache My Eye” (a song I am entirely unfamiliar with). This is a heavy, hard-rocking song with riffs quite similar to the hard-rocking riffs Trey was playing earlier in the jam. Fish sings a verse or two, the band speeds up their playing to an ridiculous tempo, and the jam then implodes back into the ending of “Tweezer” at 9:50.
This “Tweezer” contains far less improvisation than the awesome “Antelope -> BBFCM -> Antelope” insanity of last night, but the band still manages to work through some fun grooves before the debut of “Earache My Eye.” “Earache” itself didn’t do much for me, but altogether it’s an entertaining sequence. The ending of “Tweezer” lands in “Lifeboy,” a pairing I always enjoy. “Lifeboy” is well-played tonight and is followed by an unexceptional sequence of “Uncle Pen, Big Ball Jam > Sample in a Jar.” The Henrietta sequence begins after “Sample in a Jar” and actually features some fun banter from Fishman (which has felt much more rare this tour than in ’93). He first informs the audience that his bass drum broke during “Sample” (very audible during the last minute or so–but he does an admirable job covering for it), and then also admits this vacuum cleaner is “on its last legs.” This doesn’t stop him, however, from delivering an exquisite vacuum solo during “Love You.”
Unfortunately for the guy yelling “Mike Song!” repeatedly from the audience after the Henrietta segment, Phish chooses to end the set with “Slave to the Traffic Light.” The jam starts at 3:45 and Trey sounds very tentative at first. He basically sits out the beginning of the jam, letting it drift into near-silence. It’s a bit of an awkward beginning to the jam (it doesn’t sound intentional). Nevertheless, the band manages to recover and once everything clicks about halfway through the track the band lights up. Trey pushes this “Slave” to one of those euphoric, life-affirming peaks only “Slave” can produce, lending some gravitas to a set that has been lacking in just that. “Highway to Hell” ends the show as the lone encore.
The band sounds tired tonight. There’s no way around saying it. When Fish talks about his equipment breaking it somehow feels fitting. Both sets are short (barely clocking over an hour each), “Melt” is disappointing, “Slave” manages to build to a good peak but sounds a little worse for wear, “Glide” is unpleasant…the band’s general level of musicianship is simply too high during this tour to truly put on a truly awful show (or at least it seems), but one definitely gets the sense during this show of a band going through the motions. There are some highlights, as the list below indicates, but this really does feel like an off-night. Phish has another night off tomorrow, so hopefully the band will come back sounding recharged for the northwest run of tour on the 19th.
- Show rating: 2/5
- Highlights: “Maze,” “Tweezer -> Earache My Eye -> Tweezer,” “Slave to the Traffic Light”
- Phish.net setlist
- Debuts: “Earache My Eye” (Chong/Delorme/Marin)
- First set length: 63 mins.
- Second set length: 61 mins.
- Encore length: 4 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Arlington Theatre.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Big Ball Jam,” returning after a sixteen show absence (4/25/94).
- The best represented studio album is Hoist (5 songs).