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.
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.'”
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.’