August 16th, 1993: American Theater, St. Louis MO

Tonight is Phish’s sixth show in as many nights, and the third of those to be given the special treatment with an official Live Phish release. The first “Axilla” of the month starts off the show in high-energy fashion, and is followed by an early “Possum.” I’ve been generally impressed with the band’s playing in “Possum” throughout this entire year, but tonight’s may be one of the best of the bunch. Trey’s solo starts at 2:55 and is initially quiet and jazzy. Trey takes the opportunity to stretch out and builds the energy patiently. The band goes sideways through a couple of increasingly intense tension/release builds starting at 6:40, leading into an an anarchic breakdown about a minute later. Trey comes roaring back at 8:00 with a celebratory solo before the band breaks the jam down again a minute later for a stop/start sequence. The band starts to wrap up the song at 11:00, but adds a weird outro jam to the end of the song after the composed ending. This dissonant outro jam, complete with whistling, gradually disintegrates into “Horn.” The band largely stays within the “Possum” structure during this jam, but they certainly bend that structure about as far as they can. This is an exciting and improvisational “Possum” that is encouraging sign of what the rest of the evening may have in store.

“Horn” is song three, and works well here as a relaxing, through-composed landing pad from the musical workout of “Possum.” The band keeps rolling after “Horn,” moving straight into a near-20-minute “Reba” (the longest “Reba” of the year so far). The “Reba” jam begins at 6:10, and instead of typical “Reba” pleasantness, the band adds some dissonance with chromatic runs from Page, Trey, and Mike. This leads into a downright menacing, chordal build at 8:00. The band starts to coalesce around a swaggering, upbeat rock groove by 8:30 that finally dissipates into a mellow, “Reba”-esque jam a minute later. This quickly builds into a blissful Trey solo, which becomes pure ‘hose’ by 11:30. After riding out this incredible peak, the band breaks the jam back down into a pleasant “Reba” groove at 13:00. Some more typical “Reba”-style soloing leads into another euphoric peak at 15:00, punctuated by ferocious trilling from Trey. The jam segment comes to an end at 16:15. As with “Possum,” the band adds an outro jam to “Reba,” as Page leads the band through a transition from the end of “Reba” into the beginning of “Sparkle.” This is a wonderful “Reba”; the jam begins with more experimentation than one would usually find in a “Reba” jam, and it then proceeds to build to several, incredible peaks.

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“Sparkle” serves as a mid-set breather, before the band jumps into “Foam.” “Foam” is a bit extended tonight; both Page and Trey take their time with their solos. The band also adds some extra dynamism, breaking the song down to near-silence by 9:00 before building back up to the song’s ending. “I Didn’t Know” provides a brief moment of levity before “Split Open and Melt” starts up as the penultimate song of the set. The “Melt” jam is underway by 4:15 with standard “Melt” riffing from Trey. An intense and dissonant chordal build begins at 5:00, before the jam starts to air out at 7:00. The band is searching for where to take the jam next at this point, and as in “Reba,” the start to coalesce around a swaggering, somewhat upbeat groove. The band sticks with this somewhat funky groove for the next couple minutes, going through a couple rounds of ‘Hey Hole’ jamming. Trey starts to introduce the “Melt” progression back into the jam at about 9:30, and the band slowly and smoothly transitions back into the song’s ending.

“Melt” has been having a very hot month, and while I found this “Melt” enjoyable, it didn’t wow me as much as some of the other monster August “Melts,” like the wooly Toronto “Melt” or the unexpectedly-blissful performance from a couple nights ago. That said, this is a fun and gooey “Melt” that does a good job anchoring the end of the set. A pleasant “Squirming Coil” ends a long, almost-90-minute first set.

Tonight’s first set continues the trend of the band including substantial improvisation in set one. The first set “Stash” from last night was the longest jam of the night, and the same goes for tonight’s revelatory “Reba.” “Reba” is the must-listen, take-away moment of the set, but both the beginning and end of the set feature highlights as well, with “Possum” and “Melt” both making fine showings tonight. These improvisational highlights aside, this set also features a good setlist flow and great playing from everyone in the band. A very good first set, all said.

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American Theater

“Mike’s Song” opens the second set. Over the course of this month, Phish has started to explore and improvise as much in “Mike’s” as they usually do in “Weekapaug,” and tonight’s “Mike’s” continues that trend. It takes the band about a minute to gel during the song’s intro, but once the first verse starts they sound locked in. The jam begins at 3:05. After the initial bass groove, Trey jumps in at 3:55 with a melodic solo. Trey’s quick solo leads into the first round of ending chords at 5:20 and a second jam at 5:40. Trey initially leads this second jam with melodic, upbeat riffing, which the rest of the band picks up on. This evolves into moves into major-key chording at 7:00 that reaches for the light. The jam begins to air out, and Trey begins playing blissful, descending lines. There’s great interplay between Mike and Trey here as the energy begins to build back up. The jam crashes back into darker, more familiar “Mike’s” territory at 10:00, and is firmly within the song’s progression by 11:20. A final, thrilling solo from Trey brings the band back into the final set of end chords at 12:20. Feedback after the song’s end serves as an ambient bridge into the Mike’s Groove-anchoring “Faht.”

“Faht” did not do much for me during its other appearances this tour, but the song’s placement here works as a relaxing and psychedelic interlude between big jams in both “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug Groove” (as the band continues to ignore “I Am Hydrogen”). The band jumps right back into the improvisational deep-end with the “Weekapaug” jam, which starts at 1:05. Trey leads the jam initially with typical-“Weekapaug” soloing, and Mike throws a particularly funky filter on his bass at 2:30. Trey’s fretwork throughout this set so far has been fantastic, which makes this initial, Trey-led segment of the “Weekapaug” jam a delight to listen to. Trey starts to settle on a rocking chord progression, and starts trading fours with Fishman at 3:55. Fishman takes complete advantage of this solo opportunity to deliver some very impressive fills. Fish’s solo sequence ends with Trey launching back into soloing at 5:00.

The jam begins to break down about a minute after Trey began his second solo, and the band begins to search for new ideas. The band lands on a bar-room rag sound at 8:45, which gradually evolves into an upbeat, rocking groove. An intense build at 11:00 darkens the mood of the jam, before the band starts to disperse and the jam begins to air out. There’s extensive “Possum” quoting at 11:55, and I thought for a moment the band might go into a full reprise of that earlier-played song. Instead, a blissful, chordal build led by Trey brings the band back into “Weekapaug” territory. The band is firmly back into the groove of “Weekapaug” by 14:30, and ends the song a minute later.

This is another excellent, highly improvisational Mike’s Groove with lots of quality jamming spread across the 30+ minute sequence. I prefer the “Mike’s Song” slightly, as the jam felt more focused and had a greater sense of direction, while the “Weekapaug” felt a little more haphazard in its evolution. The segment as a whole, however, is very satisfying. “Mound” is a welcome compositional reprieve from the non-stop improv of the Mike’s Groove, and carries the momentum of the set well. “It’s Ice” is next, and sounds very well-played tonight. Page dominates the ‘underwater’ segment of “Ice” again tonight, and delivers an awesome solo right in the middle of the song. This sequence is only about a minute long, but it elevates this “Ice” above a standard performance.

Trey picks up his acoustic for the intro to a mid-set “My Friend, My Friend,” which rounds out the duo of largely through-composed Rift songs. The furious tempo that characterized some of the early summer tour shows reappears at the end of this set, as the band blazes through both “Poor Heart” and “Big Ball Jam.” “Take the ‘A’ Train” makes its first appearance of tour and only third of the year as the penultimate song of the set. Despite the absence, the band sounds tight in this song. “‘A’ Train” works well as a mellow bridge between the high-energy of “Poor Heart”/”BBJ” and the set-ending “Good Times Bad Times.” Trey’s playing has been impressive all night, so “GT,BT” is a great choice as a set-closer to give him one more opportunity to shred. Shred he does, as he leads the band through a surprisingly dissonant passage at the beginning of his solo before building the song to a strong peak. A snappy encore pairing of “Amazing Grace” (performed without microphones) and “Rocky Top” sends the crowd home for the night.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the first time I award consecutive shows a 5/5 rating comes right in the middle of this vaunted month in Phish history. But I feel the praise is deserved: it’s hard to find any flaw with either set of this show. The band’s playing is rock-solid throughout (except perhaps the first minute of “Mike’s Song”), the improvisation in both sets (particularly in “Reba” and “Mike’s”) is adventurous and contains big pay-offs for the listener, and even songs that are typically more standard, like “Possum” and “It’s Ice,” shine tonight. This “Reba” deserves to be on everyone’s must-listen list, but this show as a whole is also absolutely worth a listen. It’s truly wild that the band sounds this great on the sixth night in a row of playing. The endurance and stamina the band must have developed during the intense touring schedule of the winter/spring tour is clearly paying off.

  • Show rating: 5/5
  • Highlights: “Possum,” “Reba,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Mike’s Song > Faht > Weekapaug Groove

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 86 mins.
  • Second set length: 70 mins.
  • Encore length: 5 mins.
  • This is the second and last time Phish performed at the American Theater. They last performed here on 4/14/93. Trey Anastasio Band performed here on 5/7/99.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Take the ‘A’ Train,” returning after a thirty-one show absence (5/5/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 15th, 1993: The Macauley Theater, Louisville KY

Like the return to Toronto’s Concert Hall on the 9th, tonight’s show brings Phish back to a venue played just a few short months prior (4/16/93). The audience tape I’m listening to doesn’t begin until the opener, “Sample in a Jar,” is well underway. I’ve always enjoyed “Sample” as an opener at the shows I’ve been to, as it’s a good slot for the straight-forward and catchy song. “All Things Reconsidered” follows “Sample” before the second “Caravan” of the tour. It’s fun to hear this song again, and the band digs slightly deeper into the jam than they did at the song’s last outing. There’s some subdued growling from Trey, and a full-on drum solo from Fishman at 5:00.

The set kicks into a higher gear with song #4, “Runaway Jim.” This is one of the longest “Jims” of tour, and Trey takes the opportunity to really stretch out. He patiently builds his solo up and down, before bringing it to a fiery peak at 8:00. Some more wailing and a final, wild build causes the song to explode with energy at 9:00 before the ending chorus. While straightforward in structure, this is a high-quality “Jim” that is an early highlight of this first set. “Fee” is next. For the first time this year, the band tacked a notable jam onto the end of “Fee” at the song’s last appearance in Toronto. In a welcome turn of events, it turns out that this development was not a one-off, for the band once again jams out the end of the song. After the finish of the song, the band continues along with a pleasant, melodic, and head-bopping groove, before the song dissipates and fades into “Paul and Silas.” Even the generally standard “Paul and Silas” receives some extra attention tonight with added dynamism. The band breaks the song down at about the halfway point, allowing Trey to take a quiet solo over a sparse Fishman beat.

“Stash” anchors the middle of the set, and the song’s jam begins at 4:45. After some initial space, the jam quickly starts to quiet down at 5:20. Trey begins repeating a vaguely dissonant riff. Mike steps up with melodic playing, and begins a full-on solo at 7:00. As Mike’s playing grows more intense, the rest of the band begins to build (with Trey still repeating his initial riff). As Mike’s solo becomes lighter in mood, Trey makes a sudden turn at 7:30 with a melodic turn of his own. As quickly as a snap of the finger, the band manages to fluidly transition from a slightly ominous vibe at the beginning of the jam into full-on bliss. Trey delivers some swirling, psychedelia before the jam begins to air out at 10:00. Page briefly takes a turn in the spotlight here with some soloing on his baby grand, though Trey jumps back in with more joyous playing at 10:30. This evolves into a “Mango Song”-esque groove by 11:20 that is similar to the full-tease of that song in the “David Bowie” from the 13th.

Trey builds this “Mango Song” segment into a peak with a quick solo, and the band begins to break the jam down at 12:30. They fade the music in and out, as the sound gets messier and more anarchic. Trey unleashes some menacing chords at 14:30, bringing the jam back down into the ominous depths of a typical “Stash” jam” after a solid 5+ minutes of bliss. This darker segment builds in energy, before the band crashes back into the “Stash” progression at 16:55. The song wraps up quickly from there, coming to an end at 18:03.

In my humble opinion, this might be one of the most impressive and well-developed ‘type-II’ jams of the year so far. The band fluidly transitions into a joyful, blissful, psychedelic space and stays there for several minutes, delivering beauty and peaks in equal measure. They then manage to return to the darker tone of “Stash” without the sound getting too messy. A must-listen jam. The band shifts gears after “Stash” from musical improvisation to spoken word improvisation with a very entertaining “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird” segment. The narration begins with a zen focus, as Trey tells the audience that their ego and every part of themselves that is not part of their physical being is being sucked out of their bodies. Someone in the crowd starts screaming and exclaiming “Oh my god!” Trey then takes those in an attendance through an incredibly voyage through the human body, ending with a narration of a heart stopping. “You are nothing,” Trey repeats over and over. Someone in the crowd starts answering him “I am nothing!”, and Trey says “Yes, YOU are nothing,” which gets the rest of the crowd to cheer in approval. After this unexpectedly intense narration containing some hilarious band/audience interaction, Trey positively rushes through the Gamehendge portion of the story, telling it in a minute flat. This leads him to comment “I hope you got all of that,” which caused me to burst out laughing. This “Forbin’s” is a memorable and amusing journey.

A typically-ripping “Chalk Dust Torture” brings this set to a close. This is an energetic but standard “CDT,” but it works great here as a more straight-ahead rocker after the headiness of the middle of the set. Overall, this is an absolutely top-notch set. Only the set-opening songs and the closer could reasonably be described as standard. Everything other song is stand-out, with “Stash” in particular being a strong contender for the best jam of a month filled with groundbreaking jams. Top this off with an excellent narration, and you have yourself one hell of a set.

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A standard but well-played “Rift” opens set 2. The real fireworks begin with the second song of the set, a “Tweezer” that falls just short of 20 minutes.  Simple, hard-rocking riffing begins the “Tweezer” jam at 4:25. This riffing builds to an early peak at 6:20, which doesn’t last long before Trey begins to break the jam down by transitioning into dissonant chordal playing. The sound gets anarchic here, before the jam begins to coalesce around another, rocking Trey riff by 8:30.  This builds again, and Trey erupts into soling at 9:45. A ‘Hey Hole’ segment begins at 11:20; the jam’s tempo begins to slow as a mellow, funky groove emerges. This funk plods along for a couple notes as Page takes a turn in the spotlight with lots of tasty organ soloing. Trey smoothly works the main “Tweezer” riff into this groove at 14:20, but the band quickly turns away from the song’s composition with the jam instead airing out into near-silence. A chordal build brings the volume back up, and serves as a transition into the jam’s final solo segment. Trey brings this “Tweezer” home with a satisfying, triumphant, big rock solo. The jam breaks down one final time at 17:30, as the band transitions from this peak into a pleasant, funky riff. The band slows this riff down into nothing, as they do when they play the composed ending.

“Tweezer” is more experimental and focused on mind-games than the first-set “Stash.” I found the earlier jam to be more emotional and cathartic, and thus more to my personal liking, but this is still an impressive jam (especially considering that taking two different songs other than YEM into near 20 minute territory has been essentially unheard of this year). “The Lizards” follows “Tweezer,” as it has on several occasions this year, and works great as a mellow, composed landing pad from the experimentation and excitement of the previous “Tweezer.”

A fun “Landlady” and standard “Bouncing Around the Room” fill out the middle of the set. A better than usual “Maze” follows. “Maze” breaks way down at the beginning of Page’s solo, and he takes his sweet time building it back up. Trey adds some appropriately eerie ambience to this segment. Page builds his solo to an exciting peak, with Trey not coming in with his own (more standard) solo until after 7:00. “Maze” definitely gets stretched out a bit here, and it’s quite an enjoyable listen. “Glide” is next, and the band leaves the song unfinished as they move to an acoustic set-up during the song’s extended pause.

An ‘acoustic mini-set’ ends the second set. An a-cappella “Sweet Adeline” performed without microphones kicks off this ‘mini set,’ before acoustic performances of “Ginseng Sullivan” and “Nellie Kane.” (“Ginseng” has entered into a regular rotation far quicker than “Nellie Kane” did; both are ’93 debuts). “Free Bird” ends the set. I’m sure this was an awesome part of the show to experience in the intimate settings of the Macauley Theater (the crowd goes wild during “Free Bird” in particular), but it’s not a very exciting segment to listen to on tape.

Luckily for us, however, the band returns to their instruments for the lengthy encore: a treat in the way of “Harry Hood!” The “Hood” jam begins at 5:35, and is very delicate and subdued for the first couple of minutes. Trey starts to build the energy at 7:00, which leads to great dynamics as the band fades in and out around a reaching Trey riff. The jam airs out entirely at 10:00 to nothing except some quiet feedback from Trey and lovely piano work from Page. This starts to build again about a minute later, and a glorious peak is underway by 12:00. After a satisfying and deserved celebration, the band begins to bring “Hood” home at about 13:00. This is one of the more subdued “Hood” jams of recent memory, which makes the triumphant peak at the end even sweeter. Don’t sleep on this “Hood” because it’s in the encore slot; it’s another beautifully executed ’93 “Hood.”

I understand why last night received the Live Phish treatment from an archival standpoint; the 30-minute “Antelope” shenanigans are certainly noteworthy. However, I think tonight’s show easily surpasses last night in terms of successful improvisation. “Stash” is a beast tonight and one of the most successful type-II excursions of the year, while “Hood” ends the show on a very cathartic note. I would rank “Tweezer” a tier below those jams, but it’s still a very entertaining and adventurous jam that contains the most experimental playing of the night. And that’s not even to mention the wonderful narrative diversion of “Forbin’s > Mockingbird,” and the extra attention given to “Jim,” “Fee,” and “Maze!” This is a classic August ’93 show worthy of the highest praise.

  • Show rating: 5/5
  • Highlights: “Runaway Jim,” “Fee,” “Stash,” “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird,” “Tweezer,” “Maze,” “Harry Hood

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 79 mins.
  • Second set length: 75 mins.
  • Encore length: 14 mins.
  • This is the second and last time Phish performed at the Macauley Theatre. They last performed here on 4/16/93.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Caravan,” returning after an eighteen show absence (7/23/93).
  • The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 14th, 1993: World Music Theatre, Tinley Park IL

Tonight’s show has the distinction of being the first show I’ve written about for this project that was released as part of the initial run of Live Phish releases (Live Phish Vol. 7), and it is the only ’93 show released as part of the series. An energetic “Chalk Dust Torture” opens the show. “CDT” briefly goes sideways with a dissonant, tension-building passage before building to a solid peak. “Guelah Papyrus” reclaims its once-standard spot as second song of the evening, and gives everyone a chance to settle in after the fiery start. “Divided Sky” is next, and a full-band pause with audience cheering returns tonight. The pause is of substantial length, reaching at least 30 seconds. That example of band/audience interaction has really started to blossom this tour. “Sky” is performed flawlessly tonight, and the solo at the end of the song both builds to a good peak and is of decent length.

“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” serves as a mid-set breather before one of the longest “It’s Ice” performances of the tour so far. The ‘underwater’ segment begins at 4:45 with all of the band besides Page quickly dropping out. Page starts up a simple groove on his baby grand, and Fish followed by Trey quietly come back in. This mini-jam builds in energy and culminates in some dark power chords from Trey. Fishman starts up the segment’s tick-tock beat at 6:30 and the rest of the band drops out. Fish then transitions into the beat of the next portion of the song, but the rest of the band waits on jumping back into the song. Page first takes one more solo, before the band finally launches into the ending of “Ice” at 7:30. It’s a neat couple minutes of improvisations stashed into a song that quite often contains next-to-no jamming.

“Sparkle” serves as a quick bridge between “Ice” and the most significant song of the set: “Split Open and Melt.” “Melt” has been on something of a streak recently, with the last couple of performances being both experimental and thrilling. That trend continues tonight, with this “Melt” being the most melodic of the August “Melts” so far. The jam begins at 4:10 with quick, crunchy riffing from Trey. There’s some nice variation here from Mike as the band searches for the next idea to explore. They find it at 5:55 as both Trey and Mike hammer on an ominous note, pushing the jam in a darker direction. After exploring this space, it sounds like the band might be heading back into the “Melt” ending. Trey starts repeating a strangely uplifting and melodic riff at about 8:00, however, which pushes the band in a new direction.  This evolves into a downright blissful jam by 8:30, which is built into a peak as Trey solos and unleashes a flurry of trills on the audience. The band slowly and smoothly transitions back into a “Melt” groove after this bliss jam. Trey takes another thrilling solo at 10:30 over this more typical groove. It briefly sounds like the band could head sideways again at 11:30, but the band instead brings this jam home.

I mentioned in a recent post that I like “Melts” that are dank and deep, but I also dig ones that unexpectedly break from the song’s ominous vibe and reach for the light. The band does both in this “Melt”: initially diving into some dark territory before smoothly transitioning into a joyful passage. This “Melt” is a serious contender for best “Melt” in a month that is becoming filled with great “Melts.”

“Esther” appears next, lending some compositional heft to the late half of the set. It’s a great reading of the song, and is a nice counterpoint to the intensity of “Melt.” A quick pairing of “Poor Heart” and “Cavern” closes the set. This set takes its time to build; “Chalk Dust” and “Divided Sky” are good but not necessarily standout performances either. Things become more memorable once the band turns on the improvisational tap, with the mini-jam in “Ice” and unexpected bliss of “Melt” making for an impressive middle of the set. The band carries this momentum through the end of the set, with a well-played “Esther” and energetic pair of closers. Probably not my absolute favorite first set of August, but still pretty damn good.

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Set 2 opens with a standard “2001,” which is tightened up from its performance a couple nights ago (i.e. Trey hits all his notes). After a brief moment’s hesitation, the band launches into “Run Like an Antelope.” “Antelope” has appeared in this position a few times this summer, but the band goes in an entirely different direction with this “Antelope” than they typically have on this tour. The jam is underway by 2:50. Trey begins with primarily chordal playing, but he starts repeating a simple, cheery riff at 3:30. This groove begins to break down at 4:45, and leads into an intense build in which Fishman almost loses the beat. The sound of the jam is quite messy as the band emerges from this build, as they clearly search for an idea to latch onto. Page briefly plays a progression that reminds me of “Fly Famous Mockingbird,” which pushes the jam in a lighter direction. The jam airs out, breaking down to almost complete silence by 6:00.

Mike starts dropping some melodic, tuneful notes that Page quickly picks up on. Fishman locks into a steady beat, firmly establishing this new groove. The tempo quickens, and a full on ‘Hey!’ jam begins. This breaks down into a stop/start segment at 8:10 complete with added screaming. A big, rocking groove somehow develops out of this stop/start segment at 9:30, and Trey begins soloing a minute later. Trey’s soloing finally brings this jam to a thrilling peak, after several minutes of deep exploration. Despite this segment building to a big peak, it’s not a typical “Antelope” peak but instead is built to out of a groove that is firmly outside of the standard “Antelope” progression. Fishman deserves a nod during this segment, for he goes absolutely wild dropping fills left and right. The energy levels out as Trey begins some funky scratching and Page steps up to deliver an organ solo of his own. This airs out again, allowing for a smooth transition into the second “Sparks” of tour!

“Sparks” serves a similar role here as it did on the 2nd, working as an energetic landing pad from an intense segment of improvisation. The band continues this rocking, uptempo vibe by slamming right into “Walk Away” out of the ending of “Sparks.” “Walk Away” has been kept close to the vest every time it has been played so far this year, but that trend is disrupted tonight as the band launches right into a type-II jam after the conclusion of the song. This jam quickly breaks down into another stop/start segment. The stop/start playing quickly breaks down into a very sparse soundscape, with Trey and Fish each adding only the occasional note, and Mike dropping almost entirely out of the picture. Page and Trey start playing some swirling, interlocking lines to slowly bring the band out of this murk. Mike drops some deep notes as Page lays down some drones with his organ. Trey starts up a driving riff; the energy slowly builds, before exploding into a hard-rocking groove that transitions back into the “Antelope” progression at 8:00 (from the beginning of “Walk Away”).

Over 20 minutes after initially beginning “Antelope,” the band here finally works through a traditional “Antelope” build and peak. Instead of ending the song, however, the band breaks the jam back down at 1:40 for another smooth segue, this time into the first “Have Mercy” of tour! After playing through “Mercy” the band subtly transitions right into the reggae segment of “Antelope,” with Trey singing the verse of “Antelope” over what still sounds to be the backing groove of “Mercy.” Finally, a half hour after beginning the song, the band brings an end to a wild “Antelope.”

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Comparisons to the full-set hijinks of February 20th are obvious, though this sequence feels more focused on experimentation and improvisation and a little less off-the-wall and silly than the earlier show. That’s not a knock against this show, but simply a distinction between the two sets. The beginning of the “Antelope” jam is messy as the band is searching for an idea of what to do, but once they lock into the type-II, melodic groove and drive the initial jam to a peak it’s off to the races. “Sparks” and “Walk Away” are a joy, the jam back into “Antelope” is interesting, and the return of “Have Mercy” as a reggae interlude is a lot of fun.

“Mound” brings everyone, band included, back down to earth before “The Squirming Coil” provides a chance for some mid-set rest and reflection. “Daniel Saw the Stone” brings the energy back up. During the sequence of the song in which Trey typically would thank the audience, he instead updates the audience with the score of some sports game occurring at the moment. “You Enjoy Myself” is next, and the last big musical moment of the show. The intro and composed portions of the song are largely standard, and Page’s solo begins at 7:15. Page’s solo is fun, but largely standard. Mike has some fun with a couple of solo runs of his own before Trey takes the jam over at 9:05. Trey begins his segment with some tasteful and jazzy descending lines as the rest of the band breaks down to near silence. A chordal build brings the jam back to full-steam by 10:15. Some chunky riffing leads into a “Smoke on the Water” jam at 11:30. The tempo quickens after this at 13:20, and another substantial tease begins at 15:00 as Trey begins playing “Mystery Achievement” with vocals. The vocal jam begins not long after.

This is a fun “YEM,” but it’s notable more for the teases of other songs contained within than for full-band jamming. The vocal jam bleeds into the beginning of “Purple Rain,” which serves as the night’s Henrietta segment. A quick run-through of “Hold Your Head Up” (mysteriously not tracked separately on the Live Phish release) leads to the set-closing “Golgi Apparatus,” while the always-fiery “La Grange” returns to the encore slot to end the show.

This is a great show and fully worthy of the Live Phish treatment. That said, I do think last night’s show is more to my personal taste. Last night’s show contained some impressively coherent and deep jams, whereas tonight’s show relies more on teases and setlist hijinks. Different strokes for different folks. My favorite improvisation tonight is actually probably found in the first set “Split Open and Melt,” and the unexpectedly blissful jam that song contains. The second set is a wild ride, with the whole “Run Like an Antelope” sequence worth hearing. Initially the “Antelope” jam is a bit messy, but once the band locks into what I described as the ‘big rock’ groove at the end of the first “Antelope” track the rest of the sequence is gravy. I’m giving this show a 4 because I feel the experimentation in the second set doesn’t always lead somewhere, and because the “YEM” is a little too reliant on teases for my taste. That said, I wouldn’t argue with someone that gives this show a 5 because of the “Melt” and “Antelope” alone – ultimately, we would be splitting hairs about what is yet another excellent slice of August ’93 Phish.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “It’s Ice,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Run Like an Antelope > Sparks > Walk Away > Run Like an Antelope > Have Mercy > Run Like an Antelope,” “You Enjoy Myself”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 76 mins.
  • Second set length: 87 mins.
  • Encore length: 5 mins.
  • This is the first time Phish performed at the World Music Theatre. They will return on 8/8/97.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Have Mercy,” returning after a twenty-six show absence (5/8/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 13th, 1993: Murat Theatre, Indianapolis IN

Midwest tour continues tonight with the second show of tour to receive an official LivePhish release. The first set begins with a solo Fishman spot, as he croons “Lengthwise” to the fans. The rest of the band adds a neat little ambient jam under Fishman’s singing, which builds into the beginning of “Llama.” Like “Lengthwise,” “Llama” has a little extra juice tonight, with a couple of cool mini-jams/break-downs spread across the song. It has felt like the band has recently been using “Makisupa Policeman” as a landing pad for big jams, but the band starts the song up cold tonight in the three spot. This is a fun and mellow “Makisupa” that contains some groovy, spacey funk jamming and multiple references to smoking herb. Page adds some heady sound effects to the end of “Makisupa” to bridge the end of the song into the beginning of “Foam,” making for a surprisingly slick segue. Keeping with the trend of the night, “Foam” is very well-played and features an impressive attention to dynamics.

You can hear Trey call out “Stash?” at the end of “Foam” on the official recording, and the rest of the band quickly decides to go along with Trey’s call. The band has had no issue playing the composition of this song all year, so it’s a bit odd to hear Trey flubbing his way through the song, as he does tonight. Perhaps the references to herb in “Makisupa” were an indication of Trey’s headspace tonight. Issues with the composition aside, Trey is locked-in for the entirety of the song’s jam, which begins at 4:50. The band breaks the song down at the beginning of the jam, as Trey wails away with some feedback. Eventually this coalesces around a tension-building, ascending riff. The band starts to pick up steam and is cooking by 7:30. Mike steps up here with some melodic leads of his own on the bass. This pushes Trey into a shredding, hammer-on/pull-off riff, which builds the jam’s energy even further. This peaks, briefly, at 9:50, before a final tension/release build brings the song to a final peak at 10:30. The band transitions into the composed end of “Stash” soon after, and the song is over by 11:15. After the band has finished, Trey remarks that this was the “special Friday the 13th jam!”

This is a very good “Stash”; the jam follows a similar progression to other “Stash” jams from this tour, but it’s executed very well and high-energy from beginning to end. The second performance of “Ginseng Sullivan” is next after its debut two nights prior. Trey continues to play this one on his acoustic, which he stays on for the intro to the following “Fluffhead.” “Fluff” has impressed during its previous few outings, and that continues to be the case tonight. The composition sounds note-perfect, Trey’s solo explodes with energy, and the band even improvises an extended outro for the song. Pleasant readings of “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” and “Horn” work well as an interlude between “Fluff” and the last big moment of the set: a near-20 minute “David Bowie!”

The “Bowie” intro is very long tonight. The band’s playing here has a moody feel that makes this “Bowie” intro much more atmospheric than is typical. Mike is leading the band during this segment, soloing on the bass and delivering a very impressive solo run at 1:55. The intro jam resets to just Fishman’s beat at 2:10. The rest of the band starts adding some sparse, ominous ambience that develops into ‘plinko’-esque jamming by 3:00. The band finally drops into “Bowie” proper at 4:10, with the song’s jam starting at 7:40.  Initially the band’s playing is subdued, with great interplay between Page on his baby grand and Trey. Trey adds some crunchy dissonance at 8:50, but quickly returns to the subdued feeling of the earlier portion. A loud, intense build begins about a minute later, with the sound becoming increasingly anarchic by 10:00. Out of this chaos, the band locks into a fast, driving, hard-rocking riff. This becomes a half-time jam at 10:50, and the band breaks down the jam into almost nothing.

The band is fully ‘out-there’ at this point, and is searching for ideas on where to take the jam next. A direction emerges as Trey starts playing the ending of “The Mango Song” at 12:20. The band rides out this “Mango Song” tease, which dissipates into a weird jam that gets increasingly jazzy. This jazz segment transitions into another elaborate tease at 14:10, this time of “Magilla.” The band finally transitions back into a hard-rocking direction at 15:10, with the jam entering recognizably “Bowie” territory a minute later. An energetic and satisfying peak concludes the improvisation, and the band begins to take this “Bowie” home to the composed end by 17:50. This is a hyper-kinetic “Bowie,” with the band rarely sticking with one idea for long and bouncing between teases of other songs, noisy builds, and solos. It’s an exciting listen, and definitely a “Bowie” worth checking out.

This is another excellent first-set. The opening of the show feels unique, featuring both a “Lengthwise” and “Llama” that contain some unusual playing and a rare, stand-alone “Makisupa Policeman” that transitions smoothly into “Foam.” The jams start to flow from there, with an intense “Stash” and an exploratory “David Bowie” surrounding another perfectly performed “Fluffhead.” Trey flubs a few composed sections here and there throughout the set, which is very unusual for him at this time, but he’s locked-in to the jamming and delivering where it counts.

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“Buried Alive” opens the second set, and lands in “Rift.” Both songs are standard performances, but they are well-played nonetheless. The third song, “Bathtub Gin,” is anything but standard. The jam begins at 4:30 with a vocal jam over the song’s progression. Gradually the music starts to break-down behind this vocal jam. It seems like Trey is going to break for a solo at 5:50, but instead he starts riffing along to the vocal wackiness that continues. The band returns to the main “Gin” melody at 6:50, before a new, blissful groove develops shortly after. Page and Mike initially lead this segment, as Mike’s bass line sets the upbeat mood and Page builds energy through his forceful chordal work. Trey joins with melodic chording of his own at 8:20. Fishman is yelling/ranting at this point, screaming “drinking that Gin in the bathtub!” and other nonsense. The jam goes full-on ‘hose’ as Trey unleashes with his solo at 9:00. This peak is brief, as the band starts up the composed ending of “Gin” at 9:35. This turns out to be a fake-out, as the band launches straight into a second jam at 10:00 with more yelling from Fish. The tempo quickens and the band quickly builds energy again. Trey starts trilling at 11:00, turning the tap on the hose right back on again. This builds to a huge, blissful peak, before the jam starts to break down again at 12:30 and turn in a darker direction.

The band turns on the funk at about 13:00 in “Gin,” and Trey solos tastefully over this new direction, adding some “Hey!” shouts of his own. The tempo quickens, Trey starts the “Ya Mar” chords, and the band transitions smoothly into that song. Much ink has been spilled about the “Murat Gin,” and it deserves it. The 8/2 performance was revelatory, but tonight’s “Gin” just builds on the promise of that earlier version and delivers incredibly huge peaks. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this “Gin” sets the bar for all “Gins” to come. A must listen, and probably one of the most (if not the most) successful instance of type-II improvisation this year.

“Ya Mar” works well as a landing pad here, just as “Makisupa” eased the band out of the 8/2 “Gin.” Some of the energy from the prior song spills over, with some extra vocal silliness here as well, but this is otherwise a fairly standard “Ya Mar.” The band doesn’t rest long, however, for they jump right back into the deep end with the subsequent “Mike’s Song.” The “Mike’s” jam begins at 2:30, and Mike goes to town immediately, delivering an impressive bass solo. The crispness of the LivePhish release probably adds to this perception, but Mike has really been impressing me all night long, with his bass work driving several big improvisational moments.

Trey comes in at 3:10, and the first jam follows its standard progression in quickly building to a peak. Despite following the typical path of the song, this first jam reaches an intense and satisfying peak, before the first round of ‘end chords’ come in at 4:30. The second jam starts quickly after at 4:50, and immediately turns in a darkly psychedelic direction. The jam gradually breaks down to almost nothing except Mike and Fishman’s kick drum. The tension airs out, and Mike’s melodic playing pushes the jam in a mellower direction. Page’s subtle organ work contributes to this contemplative change in mood. The vibe here is almost similar to “I Am Hydrogen.” Trey comes back in at 6:50 with playing to match this new, relaxed direction. Trey starts singing…something. (Perhaps this is the “Strangehold” quotes Phish.net mentions?). The energy starts to build at 9:00, as Trey hammers on a riff and the band keeps yelling. This riffing evolves into full-on heavy-metal intensity by 10:20 as the band patiently builds. Trey finally breaks for a quick solo, before the band crashes back into the “Mike’s Song” progression at 11:10. A little further soloing from Trey brings us to the “Mike’s” ‘end chords’ at 11:40.

This “Mike’s Song” is about the same length as the performance from two nights prior, but it contains a much more full-fledged and successful jam tonight. The band blisses out, returning to territory not too far afield from the earlier jam in “Gin,” before building back up the intensity of “Mike’s.” So that’s what, three big type-II jams this evening alone? I think I’m being converted to August ’93 fandom as we speak.

“Lifeboy” emerges out of “Mike’s Song” to make one of its rare appearance. It’s a much appreciated chance to relax after a relentless set so far. “The Oh Kee Pah Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg” are the last two songs of a very short second set (less than one hour in length). “Suzy” is standard, but the band kills the peaks, as you might expect. (Everyone’s been having a great night tonight). The song works well as an exclamation point on an incredible set. “Amazing Grace” and “Highway to Hell” are the encore choices tonight. I appreciate the dichotomy in lyrical themes between the two songs, and I wonder if that is just a perfect coincidence fitting for such a monumental show, or if it was part of the reason the songs were chosen.

The amount of this show that is dedicated to big, deep jams is pretty much unprecedented. There has been a few other big ‘type-II’ improvisational moments this year, but arguably not a show that has been packed so full of them. On other nights, one could point to the “Stash” from this show as being a legitimate musical highlight. But throw in the “Mango Song/Magilla” laced “Bowie,” the mountains of peaks in “Gin,” and the blissed-out intensity of “Mike’s Song,” and you have a show for the ages.

  • Show rating: 5/5
  • Highlights: “Stash,” “Fluffhead,” “David Bowie,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Mike’s Song > Lifeboy”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 80 mins.
  • Second set length: 59 mins.
  • Encore length: 7 mins.
  • This is the first time Phish performed at the Murat Theatre. They will return on 6/24/94.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Lifeboy,” returning after an eleven show absence (7/29/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (4 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 12th, 1993: Meadow Brook Music Festival, Rochester Hills MI

Night 2 in Michigan brings us to Phish’s last ever performance at the Meadow Brook Music Festival, an amphitheater on the campus of Oakland University. The show opens with the rare “AC/DC Bag.” The song sounds good in what I think of as its traditional show-opening position, and features a slightly extended, jazzy outro. This outro provides a perfect set-up for a very early-in-the-show “Reba.” The “Reba” jam begins at 6:20, with great interplay between Mike and Trey kicking things off. Mike sticks with the groove he develops here, as Page and Trey begin to swirl about on top. This playing between Page and Trey builds up a good amount of energy and forward-momentum by 8:00. After treating the audience to several minutes of glorious, beautiful playing, the band begins to break the jam down at 9:35. The jam becomes very quiet again, before building up around a repeating Trey riff. The attitude of the band’s playing is much more aggressive here than in a typical “Reba,” and gets increasingly dark as Trey kicks on some pitch-shifting effects. Some terrifying shredding from Trey brings us back into the “Reba” progression with a burst of energy at 12:45. A quick peak brings the jam to a close at 13:15.

This is an incredibly adventurous “Reba,” and certainly the most experimental performance of the song I can think of this year. The band goes essentially full-on ‘type-II’, pushing the jam in an aggressive and dark direction after some initial bliss. I highly recommend this “Reba,” and it’s all the more impressive for being only the second song of the evening.

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8/12/93

“Chalk Dust Torture” is song three, and works well as a straight-ahead, energetic rocker after the extended excursion of “Reba.” “Guelah Papyrus” and “Nellie Kane” follow, both of which are played with technical precision. The first “Split Open and Melt” since the highly improvisational performance of the song in Toronto anchors the middle of the set. The jam begins at 4:20, and is initially driven by a forceful, energetic “Melt” groove. Trey has been on-point all night long, and that continues here with lots of quick, precise solo runs. The jam seems to be breaking structure and reaching for the light at 7:00, but rather than totally breaking from the “Melt” groove the band instead weaves in and out of the song’s theme. This is an intense segment, and driven primarily by Trey. The jam breaks way down at 8:55, before being built back up around a growling, dissonant Trey riff. This leads into a series of fake-outs at 10:30 as the band teases the end of the song without actually committing (fans of the fantastic 7/6/13 “Melt” will know what I’m referring to). The band begins to jam in and out of the ending of the song, before playing a soft, mellow version of the song’s outro at 11:50.  While this is less ‘out-there’ or experimental than the previous “Melt,” the way the band manages to continuously weave in and out of the “Melt” progression throughout this jam is very exciting to hear, making this another high-quality outing of the song.

“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” provides a welcome breather after the intensity of “Melt.” A quick “Poor Heart” gives way to a very pleasant “Squirming Coil” closer. “Coil” is extended a bit tonight, with the rest of the band sticking with Page for a while at the end of the song instead of dropping out immediately, creating an excellent coda for the set.

This is an excellent, flowing first set. Both “Reba,” the second song of the evening, and “Split Open and Melt” deliver impressive jams, while even the ‘standard’ songs (e.g. “Chalk Dust,” “Squirming Coil”) pop tonight. There’s not a lull in the setlist. Trey is definitely the MVP so far, but the rest of the band sounds on their game as well. Altogether, a very good show far.

“We’re gonna take a break, thank you! Stick around…”

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Set 2 opens with the longest “2001” yet. It’s still less than five minutes in length, but it has an extended, spaced-out intro and more of a Page solo than usual. This may be because Trey seems to have some guitar issues at the beginning of this set. His guitar drops out entirely during one of the “2001” builds. The issues are resolved by the end of the song, however, and no more issues arise the remainder of the night.

The band drops into “The Landlady” at the end of “2001,” which makes for a somewhat awkward transition. “Tweezer” takes the three slot. The jam starts at 4:20, and after some initial space, Trey locks into a hard-driving riff at 4:50. This riff propels the first segment of the jam. Fish is really a star here; he goes to town with a thick, funky groove that gives this jam a lot of bounce. At 6:30 the band begins to search for new ideas. This develops into an intense build. After the build it sounds like the band is going to take the jam home to the composed “Tweezer” ending, but there’s instead a sudden shift at 8:40. Arising from dissonance is a blissed-out, upbeat, sparse groove. The band rides this out for about a minute, and the reggae feel of the segment makes a segue into “Makisupa Policeman” seem possible. Instead, the band crashes back into “Tweezer” at 10:00. The band plays some mind games at this point, moving back and forth between a high-energy “Tweezer” solo and reprises of both the sparse, reggae segment and “The Landlady,” before finally bringing “Tweezer” to a close at 12:42.

There’s a lot to like in the first half of this jam, but the transition at about 10:00 out of the cool, blissed-out groove the band had developed into “Tweezer” is jarring in the same way that the “2001 > Landlady” transition was jarring. This is still a cool “Tweezer” with some quality jamming, but I wish they had explored that interesting space they found in this jam a bit further.

“The Lizards” is next, and a nice compositional counterweight to the hijinks of “Tweezer.” Songs named after animals continue, with a standard, mid-set “Sloth.” “Maze” follows, in a somewhat unusual late second-set position. “Maze” follows its standard progression. Everyone has been sounding great tonight though, so it’s no surprise that both Page and Trey deliver excellent, high-energy solos. Instead of a Henrietta segment tonight we get a Page segment instead, with the chairman of the boards taking the spotlight for a soothing “Lawn Boy” interlude.

“Big Ball Jam” leads into the penultimate song of the set, “Golgi Apparatus.” “Possum” closes the set. Trey’s solo begins with a “Tweezer Reprise” tease in lieu of a performance of that song in full. After the “Tweeprise” fun, the song becomes very quiet and sparse. Trey takes his time building his solo over the next several minutes, delivering an exciting and satisfying end to the set. Trey’s relentless playing has been a strength of this show from the very beginning, so “Possum” is a fitting choice to end the set. The band chooses to encore with a Hendrix song two nights in a row, with “Fire” taking the first encore slot. Another a-cappella ‘performance’ of “Free Bird” sends the crowd home.

I found the first set of this show to be more consistent than the second, and another chunk of excellent, August ’93 goodness. “Reba” and “Split” contain tasty jams, and the rest of the set pops too. The second set contains highlights too: the “Tweezer” is a wild ride, even if I didn’t find it as satisfying as the first set jams, “The Lizards” is always a treat, and the set-ending “Possum” has some real fire. I would definitely rank some other sets from this month higher than the second set of this show, but given the quality of the shows this month, that’s hardly a complaint.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “Reba,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Tweezer > The Landlady > Tweezer”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 72 mins.
  • Second set length: 65 mins.
  • Encore length: 10 mins.
  • This is the second and last time Phish performed at the Meadow Brook Music Festival.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Fire,” returning after a thirty-six show absence (4/23/93).
  • The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 11th, 1993: Eastbrook Theatre, Grand Rapids MI

After this tour’s first of two Canadian sojourns, we return stateside with a Wednesday night show in Michigan. Trey experimented a bit with his lines in “Buried Alive” earlier on this tour, but tonight he sticks with a note-perfect, traditional reading of the song to open the show. The most interesting and experimental “Runaway Jim” of tour follows. At the beginning of his solo, Trey starts repeating a quick, almost-shrill, repeating melody. Mike picks up on this riff and starts matching it with his bass playing. These developments push the Trey solo segment of “Jim” into an almost full-band jam, with a more jazzy vibe than the song typically has. An intense chordal build-up and shredding from Trey brings the song back into more typical “Jim” territory at 6:30. Trey continues to rip on his guitar, and builds the jam into a fire peak not long after 7:00. The experimentation here is brief and subtle, but this “Jim” stands out on close listen.

A looser-than-usual “Weigh” occupies the three slot, with Trey coming in too early with some vocals and adding extra notes on guitar. “Weigh” drops into “Ice.” Reprising the band’s approach to the song on the 8th, Page once again takes over completely during the ‘underwater’ segment. The rest of the band drops out, leaving Page to enjoy his solo spot. This segment is not quite as long as on the 8th, and Page is not quite as thundering, but it’s still a neat moment.

The debut of “Ginseng Sullivan” is next, a pleasant song I don’t really have strong feelings about. Trey is on acoustic guitar for this debut, which combined with a relaxed tempo makes for a somewhat subdued reading of the song. Trey stays on acoustic for the beginning of “My Friend, My Friend.” Between songs, Trey mentions that they “just learned [Ginseng] on the bus on the way over.” He then flat out lies and jokes that “we’ve never played this song before either!” as he starts “MF,MF.” “MF,MF” is played well tonight, and features an extended outro for one of the first times this tour. The band goes through a brief stop/start segment, adds some “Friend, friend, friend…” chanting, and…ends the song with a brief, “YEM”-like vocal jam? It’s a strange hodgepodge of ideas, but it’s a fun enough sequence.

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8/11/93

“Stash” is the big improvisational moment of set 1. The jam starts at 4:55, and goes sideways a minute later. Matching his ripping playing in the earlier “Jim,” Trey goes completely bonkers on the fretboard as the band enters into an intense, dissonant passage. While Trey is going wild on the guitar, the rest of the band stays tight and locked-into a driving groove. This segment erupts into a satisfying peak at 8:00, but the band quickly transitions back into a dissonant groove. Instead of unleashing a flurry of notes, Trey starts to break the jam down by messing with the volume of his guitar somehow and fading in long, drawn-out notes and chords. The jam breaks down a bit and gets kinda spacey for a minute or so (primitive ’99-’00 era playing?). The energy picks up at 10:15, and a final peak leads the band back into “Stash” at around 11:00. This is an awesome and very Trey-driven “Stash”!

A snappy and standard pairing of “Sparkle > Cavern” closes out this short first set. So far this has been a very good show. The set gets cooking with an interesting “Jim,” has some interesting moments in “Ice” and “My Friend, My Friend,” and drops a big moment of improvisation in “Stash.” Hopefully this creativity is a sign of a big set 2 to come!

“Mike’s Song” kicks off the second set for the first time this year. The jam begins at 2:45, and Trey comes in shortly after. Trey plays repeats a cool little riff a few times during the initial jam, but it’s brief and relatively standard. Trey starts playing the ‘end chords’ at 5:40, before the band jumps into a second jam at 6:00. They step off the gas here a bit, and let the jam air out. Trey shifts into major-key playing. The jam breaks way down, before the band starts to build it back up again around a Mike groove. Page plays some long, drawn-out organ chords as Trey moves in an increasingly blissful direction. Mike sings…something, at 8:40. Fishman picks the tempo back up at 9:40, and the sound becomes very anarchic as everything starts doing their own thing. Mike locks back into the “Mike’s Song” groove at 10:40. One final solo from Trey brings the band back to the ‘end chords’ at 11:40.

This is one of the longest “Mike Song’s” of the year, but that doesn’t automatically make it the best. The middle segment where the band breaks the song’s structure entirely is exciting for that reason. However, while the band works through a lot of ideas here, they never really stick with and develop one theme. As such, a lot of it just doesn’t really stick. This is a good “Mike’s Song,” but it’s also a bit messy.

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“Great Gig in the Sky” serves as the middle of the Mike’s Groove sandwich tonight, which means we get treated to a vacuum solo before “Weekapaug Groove” starts up. The jam starts at 1:40, and is initially propelled by great soloing from Trey. He starts repeating a riff based around a bending note at about 3:00. A ‘hey’ jam begins shortly after, centered around a descending Trey melody. This breaks down at about 6:00. The next segment begins with dark, menacing chordal work from Trey, but it quickly gets very sparse as Page and Trey quiet down and trade ideas. Fishman starts the “Weekapaug” groove back up at 8:30, though Trey continues with his quiet, trailing-away soloing. Page really gets things going again with a stunning piano build at 9:00, as he thunders some powerful chords while going wild with trilling at the same time. This brings Trey back, as he comes in with tremolo picking of his own (never one to be outmatched). He quickly builds the jam into a satisfying peak, before the band transitions back into the “Weekapaug” verse at 10:55.

“Mike’s Song” is good, but “Weekapaug” is great. The lengthy jam is just as experimental as the earlier song, but the sequences the band works through after breaking the song’s structure are more interesting and more successfully worked into a cohesive whole. Together, it makes for an incredibly improvisational opening half hour to the set. It’s probably not too much of an exaggeration to say that there’s more ‘type-II’ jamming in this sequence than in several consecutive weeks of the winter/spring tour combined.

The band shifts to composed songs for the middle of the set. “Esther > All Things Considered” is well-played tonight, as is the subsequent “Bouncing Around the Room > Rift.” The most notable aspect of this sequence is probably the smooth segue between “Bouncing” and “Rift.” Trey starts up the tremolo-opening to “Rift” over the ending of “Bouncing,” which makes for a cool moment. “Jesus Just Left Chicago” begins the homestretch of the set, making its tour debut. The band takes the song nice and slow, which is just how I like my “JJLC,” with Trey in particular delivering a scintillating blues solo at the end. “My Sweet One” is the penultimate song of the set, and the band runs through a ridiculous number of Secret Language signals during the song’s pause. The band’s Secret Language will end up influencing the set closing “Run Like an Antelope” in a big way.

“Antelope” has a long intro tonight, with lots of Secret Language signals and hijinks. Page in particular is feeling feisty. The jam starts at 2:35. The next several minutes are built around the Simpsons Secret Language signal. Trey works that signal melodically into the rhythm/structure of the jam, and each time he plays it slightly more people react to it. It’s a cool moment, and somewhat reminiscent of the 3.0 “Woo!” jams. The jam takes a dark turn at about 3:50, with Trey moving towards his guitar’s register and growling out some riffs. These riffs are still subtly based around the Simpsons signal. Trey finally switches gears from this influence at 5:00, as he shifts to a new, driving riff. This breaks down at 5:50, and Page and Trey once again have a great musical conversation with some back and forth. Excellent Trey shredding brings this jam home, as he builds to a wild peak at 7:35. The ‘reggae’ verse segment of “Antelope” begins at 8:30.

This is a shorter “Antelope” than some of the others from this tour, but it packs a lot of punch and ideas into its length. The initial jam is very unique, being centered around the Simpsons signal, and it then builds to a very satisfying peak. Top-notch playing. Two more tour-debuts comprise the encore: “Sweet Adeline” (performed without microphones), and an exquisite “Bold as Love,” which feels like a perfect ending to the evening.

Excuse me for sounding like a broken record, but this is another fine August ’93 Phish show. Both sets are well-paced with great highlights, with the “Stash” and “Weekapaug” being the biggest moments in my eyes. The first half hour of the second set is also one of the most improvisational sequences of the whole year; hopefully a sign of even bigger things to come! With several officially released shows coming up, I’m optimistic as to what the week ahead has in store.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “Runaway Jim,” “Stash,” “Mike’s Song > The Great Gig in the Sky > Weekapaug Groove,” “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” “Run Like an Antelope

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • Debuts: “Ginseng Sullivan” (Blake)
  • First set length: 65 mins.
  • Second set length: 75 mins.
  • Encore length: 8 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Eastbrook Theatre.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” returning after a forty-eight show absence (4/3/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (6 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 9th, 1993: Concert Hall, Toronto CAN

Wow, it feels like we were just here! The band played this same venue less than four months ago on April 27th. Tonight’s show starts with a memorable “Chalk Dust Torture.” Immediately after Trey’s solo begins at 3:30 he begins to tease a Jimi Hendrix song I was previously not familiar with, “Who Knows.” Trey sings a short verse of the song at 4:20, before the band quickly transitions back into “CDT” at 5:05. It’s a fun little moment, though it’s less than a minute long. “Who Knows” will never again be played at a Phish show (at least, to date – never say never). A solid “Mound” follows up this entertaining, high-energy opener. “Fee” is song four. The composed portion of the song is well-played, but for the first time this whole year the band actually jams out the end of the song as well! This brief jam begins at 5:00. After some initial space, Trey begins to repeat a slightly dissonant riff while Page continues with pleasant “Fee”-esque melodies. This quickly develops into a swirling, psychedelic groove. This fades out as quickly as it began, leading Fishman to starts up “Split Open and Melt” at 6:10. The jam out of “Fee” is yet another improvised transition between songs that succeeds wildly in creating a real sense of setlist flow. I’m glad this has developed into a full-on trend and was not an abnormality limited to a couple shows early in the month.

Phish seems boosted by the energy of this transition, for there’s a lot of fun little flourishes added to the “Melt” composition tonight. There’s some extra vocal inflections early on, and a short ambient-noise interlude at 3:00. The jam begins at 4:30, and Trey quickly turns on some sort of effect (sounds like delay or chorus?) that I don’t recall him using much at all before. He repeats a melodic riff while using this odd tone, and adds some scat singing to it as well. This morphs into a full-on ‘Hey!’ jam shortly after (named for the band’s infamous Hey-Hole practice exercise). Trey’s playing here largely consists of sharp, dissonant chording, while Mike grooves away in the low-end. This is some intricate, heady playing that ranks as one of the more psychedelic moments of tour so far. The jam returns to more “Melt” sounding territory at 7:00. Trey starts to solo some, but also keeps playing a lot of chords as remnants of the earlier ‘Hey’ jam remain. The band begins to return to the composed “Split” theme at 9:30, and it initially sounds like the band is headed home. However, the jam goes sideways again at 9:30. Trey suddenly starts wailing away with long, drawn-out descending lines. The rest of the band slows down the tempo, and a jazzy, subdued sequence emerges from the depths. Trey drops out entirely, leaving Page and Mike to drive this section. The guitar comes back in with sparse, eerie ambience, and the jam starts to get increasingly spacey at the very end. The band transitions smoothly from this atmospheric sequence into “Glide” at 13:11.

This is easily the most improvisational “Melt” of the tour so far, and I love it. The whole jam flows well, which is not something I always say about the experimental jams from this year. The early part is very psychedelic and ‘type-II.’ The band returns to more traditional “Split” territory for a while, before blowing out the end of the song into a hazy, second-jam. “Melt” leaves some debris over “Glide” as well, for a dissonant mini-jam is snuck into the middle of the “Glide” composition at 2:30. The band includes several Secret Language signals in the exaggerated pause at the end of “Glide.”

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“Nellie Kane” serves as a nice breather after the intense vibe of the middle of this show, before the band impresses again with a note-perfect “Divided Sky.” Like with “Fluffhead” from last night, the band simply sounds virtuosic and professional during this composed tune, and Trey’s solo at the end erupts with energy. The audience gets treated to an early a-cappella tune, with “Memories” being performed for only the third time of the year as the penultimate song of the set. A soothing “Squirming Coil” closes out an impressive first set.

I think if you really want to understand how Phish has evolved over the course of the year, comparing the first-set “Fee > Split Open and Melt” on 2/26 to the same sequence tonight would be more instructive than words could ever be. There’s a lot more on-the-spot creativity unfolding in those songs tonight than in that earlier show. While that sequence is certainly the highlight of the set, the rest of the set is high-energy and entertaining as well. From the opening “Chalk Dust Torture > Who Knows > CDT” fun to the excellent “Divided Sky” near the end, this is a great listen top-to-bottom.

The first “Dinner and a Movie” of tour opens set 2. This song has only been played a small handful of times this year, and it shows some rust. Trey flubs pretty badly at about 2:45, as he struggles to remember one segment of the composition. Flaws aside, for the sake of setlist variety it’s still fun to hear this song. The band launches right into the deep end after “Dinner,” launching into the second big jam sequence of the evening via “Tweezer.” The “Tweezer” jam begins at 4:20 and is initially driven by a driving Trey rock riff. This develops into an upbeat, melodic solo by 5:45. The band leans into the cheery vibe of this segment, and Trey goes all-out in building to an unusually blissful “Tweezer” peak. After this initial peak, the jam takes a dissonant turn at 7:30. The jam breaks way down, before being built up around this new, ominous vibe. This collapses into a free jazz freakout, complete with stop/start dynamics, by 10:30. Then, as if on cue, the band explodes back into a triumphant “Tweezer” solo at 11:30 for a final, satisfying peak. The band ends the jam with the composed “Tweezer” ending at 12:50, and transitions into a well-placed “Tela.”

“Tweezer” is very good tonight, with two distinct and interesting segments that work well as counterpoints to each other. The jam initially drives towards a blissful, thrilling peak before collapsing into a dissonant freakout, before the band brings it home with a final satisfying peak. One of the better “Tweezers” of the tour so far. Like the earlier “Dinner in a Movie,” this is the first “Tela” of tour. Unlike “Dinner,” however, there’s no signs of rust in this one. The band sounds great here, and Trey stretches out a bit with his solo at the end of the song. The pleasant atmosphere of “Tela” is a great follow-up to the intensity of “Tweezer,” and the delicate ending of the song makes the segue into the acoustic intro of “My Friend, My Friend” work very well. “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” works well as a fun little interlude, before the band drops into the last big moment of the evening: “You Enjoy Myself.”

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Trey strangely drops out of “YEM” during the intro arpeggios, but quickly comes back in and sounds fine after that. (I’m used to the band having this intro locked down). Page starts getting creative before his solo even begins, initiating a cool little mini-jam at 8:00 before the end of the song’s “verse.” Page’s solo itself is similarly fun tonight. He brings the heat with his keyboard playing, and the rest of the band serves up a funky backing track. Trey takes over at 11:15. Initially Trey’s solo is soft and jazzy, but the energy quickly builds up as Trey teases “Theme from Speed Racer” at 12:45, complete with vocals. An absolutely roaring sequence of guitar playing from Trey builds the jam to a peak before the bass and drums sequence starts at 14:20. Mike turns on a ridiculous filter for his bass, and Fishman appropriately stops playing to scream “Mike Gordon on the bass, lady and gentlemen, Mike Gordon on the bass!” The largely Mike-led bass and drums sequence gets increasingly weird from there, before the vocal jam begins at 16:40. The vocal jam contains more silly hijinks, with the band teasing a good portion of a “Psycho Killer” verse at 18:20. Overall this is a very fun “YEM,” though that’s due as much to its hijinks (“Speed Racer,” Mike solo, “Psycho Killer) as it is to improvisation. Both Page’s and Trey’s solos are good, but they’re rather concise. A good “YEM,” but go to “Tweezer” or “Split Open and Melt” if you’re looking for heady jams.

At the end of the “YEM” vocal jam the band transitions into “Contact” by singing an a-cappella intro of the latter song, which makes for a fun minute of quirkiness. Trey introduces the “Dude of Life” to come on stage to sing the final song of the set, a huge bust-out of “Crimes of the Mind.” I’ve heard this song a couple times prior (thanks 11/28/03), and I think it’s a fun, hard rocking song somewhat in the vein of “Chalk Dust Torture.” It works well here as a high-energy closing song for what shaped up to be a very fun second set. “Rocky Top” is the lone song of a very short encore.

This is another great August show, with significant and creative highlights in both sets. The mid-first set sequence of “Fee > Melt > Glide” is still probably my favorite part of the evening. I like my “Melts” dank and dark, and this highly-improvisational version serves just that. The second set might be ever-so-slightly less awesome than the first, but it’s a close call. The “Tweezer” jam goes through a couple very different, distinct segments, and the transition into “Tela” works great. “YEM” doesn’t contain a lot of significant improvisation, but it does feature a lot of fun silliness, and the “Crimes of the Mind” bust-out is an excellent way to close out the evening. Don’t listen to the naysers on Phish.net – this show easily holds its own against the other great performances of the past week.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “Fee > Split Open and Melt > Glide,” “Divided Sky,” “Tweezer > Tela,” “You Enjoy Myself”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 67 mins.
  • Second set length: 69 mins.
  • Encore length: 2 mins.
  • This is the second time Phish performed at the Concert Hall. They last played here on 4/27/93, and will return on 4/6/94.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Who Knows,” returning after a five-hundred and ten show absence (10/26/89).
  • The best represented studio album is Junta (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment