May 17th, 1994: The Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara CA

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.

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Pretty place!

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”

Show stats:

  • 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).
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Posted in 1994, Review, Spring 1994 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

May 16th, 1994: The Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles CA

Show #2 of spring 94’s California run brings us northward from San Diego to Los Angeles. Although the band played two shows in L.A. during their winter/spring ’93 tour, Phish limits their appearance in the City of Angels to just one show this time around (though they will play in the surrounding area tomorrow night). The band strings together a number of shorter tunes to open the show: a “Buried Alive > Poor Heart > Sample in a Jar” sequence. This sequence sounds how you would expect it to on paper, and is well-played aside from Trey flubbing the brief guitar intro to “Poor Heart” as the band slams into the song straight out of “Buried Alive.” A solid reading of “Divided Sky” rounds out this opening sequence of songs. The composition of the song is near note-perfect and features about a 45 second crowd cheering pause, and Trey’s solo at the end is decent though unexceptional.

“Axilla (Part II) > Rift,” two songs in heavy rotation, follow “Divided Sky.” “Axilla” is well-played, but “Rift” sounds a bit rocker than in most recent performances (though the band does gain confidence over the course of the song). “Down with Disease” is next. “Disease” follows the typical path it has followed all tour, and though it’s largely standard, Trey’s solo during the “jam” is Trey’s best playing of the set so far. “Bouncing Around the Room” emerges smoothly out of the ending of “Disease” and leads into the penultimate song of the set, the first really great “Stash” of May. The audience claps along to Fishman’s woodblock parts during the song’s composition (still a rare occurrence), showing that this LA audience truly is in the know when it comes to Phish, and the jam starts at 5:05 with dark riffing from Trey.

The band wastes no time building the “Stash” jam’s energy, and Trey starts to shift to full-on shredding as early as 6:00. Trey quickly changes tacks again, however, and downshifts into muted, slightly monotone riffing to build tension. There is great melodic work from Mike during this segment as he steps up while Trey wails away. This middle segment of the jam develops into a nice, gooey, psychedelic feeling that releases at 7:45 into a very satisfying peak. The band then quickly works through several successive quick tension/release builds, as if they are heading towards the song’s composed ending, but the jam then breaks down instead at 9:00. The root note of the jam shifts, and the jam takes on a less-dark, almost upbeat feeling. A hazy tone develops, and Trey truly reaches for the light at 9:40. Fishman alters his beat at the same time to a more straightforward rhythm and Mike unleashes the melodicism we heard from him just minutes prior. The result is a surprising, triumphant swell right at the end of the jam that reaches a glorious peak at 10:00. Trey then leads the band back to the composed ending of “Stash,” which is played very quietly. An unamplified and inaudible on the audience recording performance of “Sweet Adeline” ends the set.

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Some of the inconsistency of the San Diego show returns in this set when it comes to the band’s performances of their compositions–generally not an area of difficulty for Phish at this time. The band does struggle in spots with “Poor Heart” and “Rift.” These minor flubs, however, do not take away from some of the otherwise great playing in this set. “Divided Sky” is performed near flawlessly, which is a treat to hear, and the “Stash” at the end of the set packs quite a bang for its length.


Set two kicks off with another “2001”; the band seemed to be backing off of this song at the beginning of the tour but its frequency of appearances the last week or so has started to return to summer ’93 levels of prominence. This “2001” features a bit more of a spacey build-up to the initial drum kick than usual, but it still sticks to about 4 minutes. “Run Like an Antelope” takes the jam slot as song #2–and what an “Antelope” this is! The jam begins at 2:50 and is initially driven by high-energy riffing, but the jam soon starts to air out at 3:45. Mike and Page step up to briefly take the lead and switch the jam’s root for a middle-eastern sounding modal shift. Trey soon comes charging back in, however, with positively galloping chords, throwing the jam’s rhythm in flux. Some driving riffs push this jam to loud, noisy, heavy-metal territory. Trey teases the “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” riff during this segment at 6:00, steps back from that song for a quick solo, then fully commits to “BBFCM” at 6:50. Mike comes in with the vocals of the first verse of that song, but the band returns immediately to the “Antelope” jam after the verse instead of the typical pause in “BBFCM.”

The “Antelope” jam breaks down after the “BBFCM” verse with some neat interplay between Trey and Mike. Fish starts a half-time beat, and Trey begins to push the jam in an upbeat direction at 9:00 with melodic playing. The rest of the band soon joins Trey, and the jam emerges into a blissful, upbeat segment led by Trey, who shifts from melodies to full-on soloing. The band really commits to this type-II groove and rides it out for a couple glorious minutes before the jam starts to shift again at 12:30. The jam breaks down again, Fish returns to the full “Antelope” tempo, and Trey starts up a driving riff. They smoothly return to the “Antelope” progression, Trey unleashes the shred, and the band pushes this “Antelope” to an absolutely ferocious peak from 15:30-16:25, at which point the reggae segment of the song begins.

Wow! This isn’t the most fluid jam in the world, due to numerous instances of the band stopping, breaking down the jam, then searching for a new direction, but they work through a lot of interesting territory, throw in some quirky Phishiness (“BBFCM”), and wrap it up with a fantastic peak. I can say with no hesitation that this is the best jam Phish has played since the Bomb Factory show over a week ago.

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A quick “Sparkle” leads into a mid-set “It’s Ice.” The ‘underwater’ segment of this “Ice” is a good three minutes, and it does feature full-band interplay throughout, but it’s also entirely dominated by Page soloing and similar in style to many of the recent “Ice” jams. Trey sticks to wah-pedal comping underneath Page’s solo, and Fishman largely just sticks to cymbal accompaniment. A typically ripping “Julius” leads into the last big song of the set, “You Enjoy Myself.” Page’s “YEM” solo begins at 8:45 and is pretty typical until the trade-off to Trey’s solo. Fishman begins to break down the jam’s rhythm at the end of Page’s solo, and the jam descends into a kind of low drone at 10:00. Trey’s solo thus appropriately starts with wails of feedback, and he goes straight into full-on shredding instead of the usual clean/jazzy build-up at the beginning of his “YEM” solo. He shifts from this shredding to more melodic leads at 13:00 with long, drawn-out notes, similar to the upbeat segments of the earlier “Stash” and “Antelope,” but he drops out soon after instead of really digging into this shift in tone. The bass and drums segment starts early at 13:40 and the vocal jam not long after. There’s some interesting spots during the solos in this “YEM,” but the (instrumental) jam is simply too short for the jam to have anything more than that.

This second set ends with a good dose of Phish silliness that also brings an end to the “BBFCFM” that was started during the “Antelope.” The band plows straight into the second verse of “BBFCM” after the end of the “YEM” vocal jam, sing an a cappella “Amazing Grace” during the second pause in the song, and then return again to “BBFCM” to end the set. I’ve written at least a few times before that ending a set with a straight rendition of “BBFCM” strikes me as an odd setlist choice, but it obviously works great tonight to bookend the “BBFCM” silliness at the beginning of the set. The band then makes an interesting setlist choice of playing “Fee > Rocky Top” as tonight’s encore (“Fee” is an extremely rare encore choice, this is literally the first “Fee” encore since I began writing this blog).

This show isn’t quite the mind-melting blow-out that the Bomb Factory show was; I found myself wishing for more freeform jamming in the second set after “Antelope” but besides for the “BBFCM” silliness the rest of the second set is played fairly straight and standard for the time. That said, great type-II jams have been far and few between on this tour, so this wide-open, super-extended “Antelope” is a great step in the right direction and hopefully is a sign that spring ’94 has a few more surprises in store before it ends at the end of the month. Throw in the best “Stash” in weeks in the first set and you have yourself a pretty great Phish show.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights:Stash,” “Run Like an Antelope -> Big Black Furry Creature from Mars -> Run Like an Antelope,” “You Enjoy Myself”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 58 mins.
  • Second set length: 72 mins.
  • Encore length: 8 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Wiltern Theatre. Trey Anastasio Band performed here on several occasions, first on 12/07/05.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Sparkle,” returning after a six show absence (5/7/94).
  • The best represented studio album is Hoist (4 songs).
Posted in 1994, Review, Spring 1994 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May 14th, 1994: Montezuma Hall, San Diego CA

Phish’s spring ’94 westward sprint ends today upon reaching the Pacific Ocean. The band played 10 shows in California during the winter/spring ’93 tour, and they’ll come close to matching that number by the end of the next couple weeks. A quick and typically-fiery “Llama” kicks off Phish’s California run. “Llama” is followed by “Wilson.” Despite a lengthy, two-minute intro the California crowd does not participate in the “Wilson” chant that has developed over the course of the tour; clearly the left coast crowd has some catching up to do. There’s no real jam or solo after the “blat! boom!” vocals, and the ending of “Wilson” instead disintegrates straight into the intro of “Down with Disease.” “Disease” in turn sticks to the same 6-7 minute script it has followed all tour. Trey’s solo is decent but not notable in any way. “Fee” provides a chilled-out landing pad to the energy of “Disease” and features a (very) short outro jam tonight featuring ‘plinko’-esque playing from Trey and pleasant baby grand playing from Page. This coda fades out into a mid-set “Reba.”

The “Reba” jam begins at 6:10 with Mike and Fishman establishing a smooth, languid groove. Trey comes in over this initially with clean, descending sweep picking runs. His playing shifts to clean soloing at 7:20, and the jam steadily gains momentum from there. Trey starts to hit melodic highs by 10:00, and pushes the jam to an initial peak soon after. At this point Trey unleashes the hose and pushes the jam through a few more exhilarating peaks before Fishman signals the song’s break and the end of the jam at 12:30. This is a very good “Reba”; the first few minutes of the jam are fairly typical but the peak is patiently reached and satisfyingly elaborated on. “Sample in a Jar” follows “Reba” and works well here as a straight-forward, high-energy counterpart to the jazzy intricacy of “Reba.” The second “My Sweet One” of tour is also similarly well-placed after “Sample,” providing the set with some quirky Fishman brevity. An acoustic and unamplified performance of “Ginseng Sullivan” (fortunately still audible on the audience recording) is the penultimate song of the set.

“David Bowie” returns to what I consider to be its classic position, set one closer, to bring an end to the first half of this show. Although largely standard, this “Bowie” packs enough fun and surprise to make for an exciting set one closer. The intro features some brief jamming and chordal vamping which ends at 1:15 with the beginning of the composition. The jam starts at 4:45 and is initially quite subdued as Trey sticks to clean picking. Mike shifts the jam’s root in a major key direction suddenly at 6:00 which Trey picks up on, causing a triumphant swell to emerge seemingly out of nowhere. The band roars back into the “Bowie” progression shortly after 7:00 as this swell peaks. From there the jam follows a fun but standard build to the song’s peak and composed ending.

This first set reminds me a little of yesterday’s first set: a good setlist flow, solid musicianship all around, and great type-I jamming, this time in “Reba” and “Bowie.” If the band builds on this set with more creative playing in the second frame this could be another great show.

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“The Curtain” makes one of its rare but always-welcome appearances to start off set two, still sans the “With” segment. A decently-extended “Mike’s Song” follow. The band adopts a more sluggish tempo for “Mike’s” than normal, and the first jam appropriately begins at 2:50 with a swampy/sludgy feel driven by Trey’s chordal riffing. The band drags themselves out of this murky tone for a somewhat brighter groove at 4:35 that leads into a more traditional first-jam Trey solo. This peaks and transitions into the first set of end chords at 6:05, with a second jam beginning at 6:35. The band immediately quiets down and breaks the jam down at the beginning of this second jam, causing a bouncy, ‘plinko’-like groove to slowly emerge. Trey starts up some odd, carnival-sounding riffing at 8:00 that causes the energy to start to build, but the jam soon dissipates into nothing, as if the band is unsure where to go. Fishman switches to a half-time beat and the band descends back into sludgy, swampy riffs. This murky feeling remains until the transition back to the “Mike’s” progression at 11:00. A final solo over the “Mike’s” progression brings this one to the final set of end chords. This is a weird “Mike’s” that didn’t do a whole lot for me. The slower tempo seems to sap some of the band’s energy and the band doesn’t stray far from ominous riffing despite the decent length to the jam.

“I Am Hydrogen” claims its traditional spot as the Mike’s Groove sandwich and is decently well-played. The “Weekapaug Groove” jam begins at 1:25 with precise, descending lines from Trey that already sounds more focused than just about anything played during “Mike’s.” Before long Trey shifts from these bursts of notes to more prolonged passages of shredding. A lengthy tension jam takes up most of this track, and it resolves into a good peak at 4:00. The jam breaks apart entirely after reaching this peak at 4:40 as it breaks down to nothing but a repeating, muted Trey riff. This riff in turn slowly morphs into the beginning of the elusive “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” instrumental. “TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY” brings an end to this Mike’s Groove, as “Weekapaug” remains unfinished. While only featuring a couple minutes of improvisation, “Weekapaug” is high-energy and a lot of fun, and “TMWSIY” is always an appreciated treat, so I found this back half of the Mike’s Groove to be the more entertaining half tonight.

Phish makes a number of unusual setlist choices to close out the remainder of the set. First, they choose a number of largely through-composed tunes to finish the set. Second, they forgo any sort of Henrietta segment. “Punch You in the Eye > Fast Enough for You” are the first two songs of this sequence. In comparison to the sluggishness of “Mike’s,” the band positively blazes through “Punch” at a very quick tempo. “FEFY,” by contrast, is played at its typical mid-tempo pace and concludes with some great fireworks from Trey. The band must have enjoyed playing “The Lizards” two nights ago in Tucson, for the song returns tonight as the penultimate song of the set (though is unfortunately marred on playback by a tape flip). A quick “Cavern” ends the set, while “Bold as Love” is the lone encore.

This is one of those rare shows where the first set is clearly stronger than the second. “Reba” provides the best jam of the evening with its serene beginning, steady build, and strong peak, while “David Bowie” provides some neat surprises and improvisation as well. The second set, on the other hand, is strangely inconsistent for the time. “Mike’s” is of decent length but the band sounds somewhat lost in the jam, and “Weekapaug,” while fun, only features a couple minutes of jamming. The band then forgoes improv almost entirely for the remainder of the set. Hopefully with a day off tomorrow the band will be able to recharge their creative juices and deliver a more consistent show in Los Angeles on the 16th.

  • Show rating: 3/5
  • Highlights: “Reba,” “David Bowie,” “Weekapaug Groove > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 62 mins.
  • Second set length: 63 mins.
  • Encore length: 5 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at Montezuma Hall.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “My Sweet One,” returning after a twenty-one show absence (4/17/94).
  • The best represented studio album is Junta, Lawn Boy, A Picture of Nectar and Hoist (2 songs).
Posted in 1994, Review, Spring 1994 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

May 13th, 1994: Hayden Square, Tempe AZ

The final non-west coast performance of spring ’94 brings Phish to Hayden Square in Tempe, Arizona following a string of shows since the Bomb Factory that have been solid but unexceptional. A very good “Runaway Jim” opens the show. Even by this era’s standards this is a relatively short “Jim,” but Trey wastes no time in lighting up his fret board and unleashing flurries of shredding. He builds this “Jim” to a big, satisfying peak, which makes for an excellent start to the show. An extended “It’s Ice” follows “Jim.” The ‘underwater’ segment of this “Ice” begins at 4:55 and almost immediately becomes a full-band jam. Page usually dominates this segment, but Trey actually asserts a leading role early in this one with loud, wah-drenched funky riffing. Due to the full band sticking with the jam, as opposed to dropping out initially, this full-band interplay instantly has a good deal of momentum behind it. Page reasserts himself after a minute to solo, but the rest of the band sticks around. Page leads the group through a fun, funky groove for some time before the jam breaks down around a dark chord from Trey at 8:20 that marks the transition back into the “Ice” composition. Phish has been exploring “Ice” consistently for some time, but this is one of the most fully-developed and energetic “Ice” jams in some time.

“Julius” is next, and Trey uses the song to provide another high-energy solo that does a great job of maintaining the set’s energy. “Mound” does its thing before a mid-set “Stash” provides another opportunity for group improvisation. The “Stash” jam begins at 5:15 with a moody, drawling, mid-tempo Trey riff that the rest of the band plays with for a couple of minutes. The jam starts to pick up momentum shortly after 7:00 as Trey shifts towards solo playing. He pushes the song to an initial peak at 8:40, but the band quickly breaks down into a subdued groove. Page steps to briefly take the lead, but Trey quickly reasserts himself. Mike pushes the group into a droning wall of noise that gets pushed to absurd levels of intensity until resolving to the ending of “Stash” at 10:45. This all struck me as typical fare for “Stash” until that second and final build, but that last build is quite exhilarating and makes this “Stash” a legitimate mid-set highlight.

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Hayden Square

“If I Could” is perfectly placed next as a soothing landing pad for “Stash,” and transitions into a well-played “My Friend, My Friend.” “MFMF” in turn gives way to a surprise “Slave to the Traffic Light,” which is still something of a setlist rarity! “Slave,” as always, delivers the goods. Mike leads the band at the beginning of the jam at 3:50 with deliciously melodic playing that Trey gradually comes in over. Fishman doesn’t come in with the full beat until 5:45, and Trey holds off until the very last minute of the song to fully unleash the shredding hose. The “Slave” peak is short and sweet, with the band quickly transitioning into the ending of the song and the set-ending “Suzy Greenberg.” “Suzy” is standard besides for some entertaining “Layla” teases smoothly worked into solos throughout the song.

Overall, while I wouldn’t characterize any of these jams as must-hear, I found this to be the most entertaining first set in some time. The set gets off to a great start with a strong “Jim” and a jammy “Ice,” “Stash” delivers some mid-set fireworks, and “Slave” is always a treat to hear.

“…Keep it clean!

A short but typically-ripping “Chalk Dust Torture” starts off set two before an early breather by way of “Bouncing Around the Room.” The set doesn’t really kick into high gear until the following “Split Open and Melt.” I often don’t agree with Phish.net’s jam chart selections, but their description of tonight’s “Melt” as one that will “kick your ass” is apt. The jam starts at 4:25 with catchy, somewhat aggressive riffing from Trey. The band loses no momentum in the shift to improvisation and immediately gets to work building the jam’s energy behind Trey’s playing. They reach a blistering peak at 7:00 with Trey opting for a repeating, swirling riff instead of straight-up shredding. He throws on a delay effect after some time while still playing this riff, creating a psychedelic wall of noise before the transition back to the “Melt” progression at 8:00. The band gradually works back to the composed ending of the song from there, but Trey keeps his playing interesting with dissonant variations on the “Melt” themes and healthy doses of feedback wails. While “mostly ‘type’ I,” as Phish.net writes, this “Melt” produces some great, dark psychedelia and the most impressive improvisation evening of the show so far.

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Screengrab from a Phoenix News Times article on notable Tempe music venues

The always appreciated “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” is next after “Melt” before the similarly rare and welcome “Peaches en Regalia.” “Scent of a Mule” follows “Peaches.” While still relatively tame and short by today’s standards, it did seem to me that there was perhaps a little more hamming it up during the duel segment than in prior performances. “You Enjoy Myself” is the last big song of the evening. Page’s solo begins at around 8:40, and he waits for a nice, funky groove to be established before coming in. He builds his solo to a good peak then settles into quotes of the “Mission: Impossible” theme, during which Fish contributes some great drum fills. Fish then drops out almost entirely during the handoff between Page and Trey at around 11:00. The jam gets very quiet here and there’s some great interplay between the two soloists. Trey begins his solo as usual with quiet, clean playing, and quickly builds his solo to a fun and satisfying peak by 14:00. The bass and drums segment begins soon after. I’d still like to see the band dig deeper with “YEM,” or even just take longer solos, as they have been playing the song close to the vest for seemingly all of tour, but this “YEM” is still a lot of fun despite its short length.

“Purple Rain” provides its usual gravitas after “YEM” before a short reading of “Good Times Bad Times” ends the set. The band’s a cappella version of “Free Bird” is the lone encore. This is the strongest of the New Mexico/Arizona run of shows to my ears. The band doesn’t really go any further out of the box here than during the other two shows, but they sprinkle so much high-quality playing and type-I jams across both sets that they deliver a great, high-energy show regardless. The jam I’m most likely to return to in the future is the darkly psychedelic and powerful “Melt,” but several other songs deliver entertaining jams as well. The setlists of both sets are well-scripted, and the appearances of lesser-played songs like “McGrupp,” Peaches,” and “Slave” keep the whole affair feeling fresh. This all combines to make for a very fun show to listen to.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “It’s Ice,” “Stash,” “Slave to the Traffic Light,” “Split Open and Melt,” “You Enjoy Myself”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 69 mins.
  • Second set length: 73 mins.
  • Encore length: 4 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at Hayden Square.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” and “Peaches en Regalia,” both returning after a nine show absence (4/30/94).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift and Hoist (3 songs).
Posted in 1994, Review, Spring 1994 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

May 12th, 1994: Buena Vista Theater, Tucson AZ

Spring tour continues westward tonight with the first of two shows in Arizona. A big bust-out of “Catapult” (last seen early February ’93) opens the show, consisting solely of Mike “singing” the song sans accompaniment. This quirky tune ends as soon as it began, and is followed by a more traditional opener by way of “Rift.” A short “Down with Disease” is next. Despite its short length (just 6:35 total), “Disease” sounds punchy and the band energetic, particularly Trey who delivers a good early solo. A pleasant “Fee” follows “Disease” before the band delivers an excellent mid-set “Maze.” Page takes his time with his solo before working into an exciting build and is accompanied by great, funky comping from Page. His solo reaches a peak at 6:00, with Trey taking over shortly after. Fish has fun with some rhythmic experimentation during the beginning of Trey’s solo before Trey really goes to town with shredding at about 7:30. Trey sounds great here, but I think I would actually give the edge to Page in tonight’s “Maze” duel. Whoever you decide has the better solo, however, the audience is a clear winner: this is a great “Maze.”

The third “Axilla (Part II)” in as many shows follows “Maze,” keeping the energy level of the set high, and drops straight into “Foam.” “Foam” is both well-played and dynamic, and features a silent jam from 6:05-6:35 during the transition between Page’s and Trey’s solos. The first “Bathtub Gin” of the month follows “Maze.” Although tonight’s “Gin” is not memorable as the prior “Jump Monk”-infused performance, it’s another jammy rendition of the song that shows the band’s commitment to improvising with the tune. The jam begins at 4:20 and quickly settles on mid-tempo Trey riffing. The band rides a choppy groove for a little while, leading Fish to shift to a half-time feel at about 5:50. The energy begins to swell, and Trey slowly and reluctantly shifts to a lead solo role. A wash of chords at 8:00 brings this jam to a peak, after which the band breaks the jam down into a quiet reading of the composed ending of the song. The ending drifts off into the beginning of “The Lizards.” This “Gin” produces a good first set jam featuring a touch of exploration and a solid peak.

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“The Lizards” in turn is very well-played and bursts with energetic playing. This high-quality musicianship combined with the relative rarity of “The Lizards” contributes to make this “Bathtub Gin > The Lizards” sequence the clear highlight of this set. A concise performance of “Sample in a Jar” ends the set after “Lizards.” This is a solid first set: the band sounds great throughout, there’s some great solos spread across the set, “The Lizards” is always a treat to hear, and “Gin” produces a decent sequence of jamming. I wouldn’t say anything here is going to set your world on fire, but the second set clearly holds some promise.


Although not as dominant in this position as it was last summer, Phish has continued to open second sets with “2001” on this tour and do so again tonight. The intro to this “2001” is a little odd as Trey repeats an ascending riff before the rest of the band comes in, but the performance is otherwise standard. The band slams right into the intro of “Run Like an Antelope” out of “2001,” just as they did a couple shows ago in Bee Cave, Texas. This is a thoroughly type-I “Antelope,” but it’s an exhilarating ride nonetheless, making this a legitimate highlight of the show. The jam begins at 2:50 with good, driving riffs from Trey. He first introduces dissonance at about 4:15, and quickly moves from there into exhilarating, shredding tension builds. The jam reaches an initial peak at 5:50, but Trey quickly initiates another, even more noisy unhinged build that he brings to another peak before the beginning of the reggae segment at 7:20. Trey contributes an interesting, slightly dissonant chordal progression over the reggae segment unique to this performance. Perhaps not the most memorable “Antelope” in the world, but a fun and exciting ride while it lasts.

The pairing of “The Horse > Silent in the Morning” makes its first appearance in almost three weeks to calm everyone down after “Antelope” before the set rolls along with a snappy performance of “Uncle Pen.” Phish then chooses a compositional heavyweight, “Fluffhead,” to anchor the middle of the set. This is a decent “Fluff”; there’s a couple of minor timing issues throughout, but the song ends with a good burst of energy and dissipates pleasantly into the beginning of “Lifeboy.” A decently extended “Possum” follows “Lifeboy” that is solid if not exceptional. Trey’s solo is nice and stretched out, but he sticks to standard “Possum” fare and refrains from really shredding until the last minute or so.

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R.I.P. Buena Vista Theatre

A Henrietta segment featuring “Love You” follows “Possum” before a set-closing pairing of “Contact > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars.” Fish has been restrained lately when it comes to banter during the Henrietta segment, but we get some good lines tonight. First, he introduces “Love You” as a “really great song” after apparently checking with Page to see if the band can play it, then proceeds to introduce the band during the song itself. A concise pairing of “Amazing Grace” and “Rocky Top” is tonight’s encore.

This is another show that features solid playing from all members of Phish and a decent setlist, but also a lack of really memorable or notable jamming. The show is still a good and entertaining listen thanks to high quality soloing and type-I playing in “Maze,” “Gin,” and “Antelope,” and these jams almost make up for the lack of more adventurous playing, but at the end of the day I need some playing that is a little more out-of-the box for me to rate a show higher.

  • Show rating: 3/5
  • Highlights: “Maze,” “Bathtub Gin > The Lizards,” “Run Like an Antelope”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 69 mins.
  • Second set length: 77 mins.
  • Encore length: 4 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Buena Vista Theater.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Catapult,” returning after a 134 show absence (2/10/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Junta, Rift, and Hoist (4 songs).
Posted in 1994, Review, Spring 1994 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May 10th, 1994: Paolo Soleri Amphitheatre, Santa Fe NM

Phish skipped New Mexico entirely during their lengthy winter/spring ’93 tour, but they make one stop in the state tonight during this year’s spring tour. Tonight’s show is the only show separating two (deserved) days of rest for the band and, unfortunately, the audience recording of the show that I’m listening to is one of the poorer quality tapes from this tour so far. Between the show not in circulation from last year and the quality of Houston’s and tonight’s recordings from this year, the southwest is clearly not as on board with the whole Phish taping thing as other regions. The show starts with a raucous take on the instrumental “Buried Alive” that segues without missing a beat into a similarly up-tempo “Poor Heart.” Together these two songs make for a very high-energy opening to the show. A perfunctory take on “Sample in a Jar” rounds out the opening trio of songs before a solid reading of “Divided Sky.” “Sky” features virtually no pause/crowd cheering segment tonight, but the composition is well-performed and Trey’s solo at the end of the song sparks with a good amount of energy.

“Axilla (Part II)” does a job of maintaining the set’s momentum at this point in the show, and is immediately followed by “It’s Ice.” Phish is hot on both of these songs at the moment; both were also played last night. The ‘underwater’ segment in tonight’s “Ice” is very similar to last night’s. Page dominates the jam, but Trey contributes throughout with wah-drenched chords. Some funky full band interplay develops, and a brief calypso-like groove is established before the band finally returns to the composed ending. This is another fun “Ice,” but it does generally represent the band’s standard approach to the song at this point. The same can largely be said of of the following “Split Open and Melt.” “Melt” is decently extended tonight and features some great Trey moments, but it generally sticks to the script as well.

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The “Melt” jam begins at 4:20 with some standard “Melt” riffing from Trey and after a brief, almost contemplative, sequence, a dark tension build begins at 6:00. After some anarchic shredding Trey settles on a catchy and repeating descending riff. This segment threatens to collapse into a subdued, structure-breaking groove, but Trey instead steps on the gas and starts to shred his way to a “Melt” peak. There’s a particularly intense build from 9:20-9:45 as Trey’s playing descends into heavily-distorted wails of feedback. The jam disintegrates into the ending from there instead of peaking. This “Melt” definitely features the most substantial improvisation of the set and some great soloing from Trey, but the band doesn’t stray from standard “Melt” fare.

“If I Could” works great next as a relaxing, sincere counterpoint to the intensity of “Melt” before a quick “Cavern” brings an end to another short first set. This first set reminds me a lot of yesterday’s first set: generally tight playing from the band, a setlist with a decent flow, and one entertaining but fairly standard jam. It all makes for a good, but not great or very memorable, first set.


A standard but spirited rendition of “Maze” opens set two. Both Page and Trey take their time in building their respective solos to satisfying peaks, making “Maze” a good way to start off the set. “Wilson” follows as song #2 and, for one of the first times ever, the crowd chants “Wilson” back at the crowd during the intro! This occurred for the first time during the Beacon Theater run on the 15th, but I don’t remember hearing it again since. It takes a good 40 seconds or so for the audience to come in, but once they do they seem pretty into it. “Wilson” is otherwise short, and the song’s ending drops immediately into “Reba.” Like the “Melt” in the first set, this is a very good “Reba” that nevertheless fails to distinguish itself from recent performances. The “Reba” jam begins at 6:10, and after an initial, pleasant groove, the song dissipates into near-silence by 7:20. Trey smoothly but steadily builds the song from there, bringing the jam to an initial peak by 9:50. The next couple minutes are Trey’s brightest of the set so far, as he shreds all over the song’s peak before bringing the jam to an end at 12:00. Again, very much in line with the band has been doing with “Reba” recently, but a very good performance regardless.

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Two recent Hoist debuts, “Julius” and “Scent of a Mule,” fill out the middle of this set; both are played similarly to how they have been played all tour. The first “Harry Hood” of May is next. The “Hood” jam begins at 5:50 with a couple minutes of serene noodling. No one sounds in a particular rush to build the jam’s energy, and Fishman drops out almost entirely at 8:30 to highlight some delicate interplay between Trey and Page. The band quickly begins to move towards the song’s peak after this sequence. I appreciated Trey’s restraint during the build, he sticks to a simple, repeating riff in the lead-up to the initial peak, which makes his release of shredding all the more satisfying. Trey goes wild during the last minute or so of the jam to bring this “Hood” to a huge peak at 12:20. The jam ends shortly after. This “Hood” felt more dynamic and patient than the “Reba” just a few songs earlier, and it thus feels like the most successful improvisation of the evening.

An acoustic mini-set follows “Harry Hood.” Unfortunately, the first song of this mini-set, “Ginseng Sullivan,” is absent from my recording. The other songs performed acoustically in this segment are “Dog Faced Boy” and “Nellie Kane.” “Dog Faced Boy” is essentially performed solo by Trey, while “Nellie Kane” is a full-band affair. “David Bowie” is the lone song in the set after this acoustic sequence. The “Bowie” intro is very abbreviated tonight, consisting of only a few seconds of Fishman’s hi-hat, so the jam begins early at 3:55. The jam starts with vaguely upbeat riffing and soloing from Trey. The rest of the band doesn’t ease off too much during this, so the backing groove retains a fair amount of momentum. Trey gradually starts to shift towards a more typical “Bowie” build, the band effectively builds energy around repeating Trey riffs. This leads into a wild tension build from 7:35-8:20 during which the band descends into a demented hellscape before Trey shreds his way back to the “Bowie” progression. A good “Bowie” and an effective set-closer. Trey comments on the “beautiful” venue before the encore and expresses a wish to return “next year” (they won’t – this is the band’s only appearance at this venue). “Squirming Coil” sends the crowd home as the sole encore.

Phish drops a lot of their big songs at the moment during this show, including “Melt,” “Reba,” “Harry Hood,” and “David Bowie,” and they turn in solid readings of all these songs. That said, these performances also didn’t stand out much to me compared to recent performances, and there wasn’t much in this show that I think I’ll return to in the future (which is a key indicator for me when deciding between giving a show a 3 or 4). If this were the only spring ’94 show you attended you would definitely would have left feeling satisfied and having witnessed a fairly representative cross-section of the band’s repertoire at the time, but I wouldn’t say there’s much in this show that deserves seeking out. If you did want to listen to some highlights from this show, the dynamism of “Harry Hood” stood out the most to me.

  • Show rating: 3/5
  • Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “Reba,” “Harry Hood,” “David Bowie”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 57 mins.
  • Second set length: 76 mins.
  • Encore length: 11 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Paolo Soleri Amphitheatre.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Dog Faced Boy,” returning after an eight show absence (4/29/94).
  • The best represented studio album is Hoist (6 songs).
Posted in 1994, Review, Spring 1994 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

May 8th, 1994: The Backyard, Bee Cave TX

Tonight’s show in the interestingly named town of Bee Cave is the night after the “big one” in Dallas yesterday and the final of three Texas shows. Will Phish engage in free-wheeling, long-form improvisation like last night? Or will tonight’s show be a return to more typical territory for this tour? Time will tell. The show gets started with a very good “Runaway Jim.” The band sticks to the usual script for the song, but Trey sounds on from the beginning of this show and wastes no time getting down to some shredding. He brings his solo through multiple blistering peaks to begin the evening on a high note. A standard-good “Foam” and well-performed pairing of “Axilla (Part II) > Rift” rounds out the opening salvo of tunes.

The “Down with Disease” with perhaps the spaciest-ever intro of the song’s brief history to date is next. Said intro is only about 30 seconds or so long, but it’s nice to see Mike already having some fun with the segment. The song itself is the same length as it has been the whole tour, though as in “Jim,” Trey is sounding particularly sharp with his soloing tonight and shreds his way around the song’s main progression in satisfying fashion. A quick “Bouncing Around the Room” bridges “Disease” and the most substantial song of the set, “Stash.” The jam begins at 5:15 with a couple of minutes of standard Trey soloing/riffing and a couple of tension/release builds. Then, at 7:50, the band locks into a driving Trey, and Page starts to dance around Trey’s playing on his baby grand. This develops into a bouncy groove that almost veers into a full-on tease of “Manteca” (at least to my ears). This delightful sequence seemingly comes from nowhere and swells in momentum before crashing back into the standard “Stash” progression at 9:30. Some final soloing from Trey brings this one to a close from there. A pleasant “Squirming Coil” brings a close to this short first set.

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This set definitely feels like a come-down of sorts after the insanity of the night before, with Phish largely sticking to shorter songs. That said, they still sound tight and Trey in particular absolutely shreds his way through his solos. Most of the playing is unremarkable otherwise, including most of the “Stash” jam, but that once bouncy groove in the “Stash” jam helps that song stand apart some. A good, but not great, first set.

“We’re going to take just a short, short break, stick around…”

“2001” makes its first appearance in over two weeks to open set two, with the band sticking to the same sub-four minute rendition of the song they have been playing since last summer. “2001” drops straight into a second set “Run Like an Antelope” that is the longest “Antelope” of this tour to date. Although Phish extends “Antelope” to close to sixteen minutes today, they choose to use the song as a solo showpiece rather than as a launching pad for ‘type-II’ exploration. But what a solo showpiece it is! Page initially leads the jam with bright, upbeat playing on his piano, though Trey quickly steps up as well. Page never really stops, however, and both him and Trey shred up a storm throughout the ~10 minute “Antelope” jam. Mike does begin to alter his bass line at one point, establishing a groove that is only tenuously linked to “Antelope,” but the band never does more than threaten to leave the “Antelope” structure. Nevertheless, between the numerous peaks and tension/release runs this is the most impressive jam of the evening so far.

“It’s Ice” follows “Antelope.” The ‘underwater’ segment jam in “Ice” follows a similar progression to recent “Ice” jams, but reaches about three minutes in length tonight and features some fun full-band interplay. The ‘underwater’ segment starts with Page taking the lead, but Trey keeps playing by shifting to wah-pedal chords. This interplay gets quite funky by 6:30, by which point Mike and Fish have joined the mix as well. The jam breaks down soon after, but a full-band build then brings the band back to the composed ending of the song at 7:45. I wouldn’t say this “Ice” needs to be sought out, but it’s entertaining and carries the momentum of the set well after “Antelope.” “Fee” provides a welcome opportunity to chill out after “Ice” and features a brief, 30-second outro jam filled with ambient bass swells from Mike and ‘whale calls’ from Trey that dissipates into “Julius.” It should be no surprise to hear, given how terrific Trey’s solos have been tonight, that “Julius” pops quite a bit tonight and is a lot of fun to listen to as a result.

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A quick (and somewhat sloppy) mid-set “Cavern” leads straight into the last big song of the evening, “You Enjoy Myself.” The composition is well-played tonight, and Page’s solo starts at 8:30. Trey steps up just a minute later with some aggressive comping that I feared might cut Page’s solo short, but Page reasserts himself after some full-band funk interplay and builds to a good peak at 11:00. The jam then breaks way down, and Trey begins his solo with clean, jazzy picking. The jam reaches near-silence at 12:15. Unfortunately, the band transitions into the bass and drums segment just a couple minutes later at 14:00 without much in the way of a guitar solo. The bass and drums segment is more energetic than normal tonight thanks to some added guitar scratching from Trey and keyboard fills from Page, but it doesn’t make up for an otherwise truncated jam segment. The vocal jam begins at about 15:20.

Despite producing a somewhat disappointing jam tonight, the end of “YEM” does lead into a couple of cool set-ending segues. First, the band segues straight from the ending vocal jam of “YEM” into the a cappella intro of the relatively rare “Halley’s Comet.” Then, after a standard but fun reading of “Halley’s,” the band smoothly slides straight into a rocking, high-energy, set-closing “Good Times Bad Times.” Again, these are unremarkable performances of these songs, but the way the band connects them together here makes for an entertaining end to the set. A standard pairing of “Sweet Adeline” and “Golgi Apparatus” comprises tonight’s encore.

This show doesn’t sound like the band taking a rest after the insanity of the night before, largely because Trey sounds terrific throughout the night and puts on a master class of rock solo musicianship. His intent focus on non-stop shredding results in the longest “Antelope” of tour and a lot of other great solo moments throughout the show. Nevertheless, the band reins in the free-form improvisation of last night a great deal and sticks almost entirely to type-I jamming and soloing tonight. The band plays it safe and opts to take the path more traveled when reaching a fork in the road in the middle of a jam. “YEM” is perhaps the biggest casualty of this approach, with the band once again turning in a very truncated reading of that song. It’s hard not to see this show as a sort of reset after yesterday’s madness. The band will take a day off tomorrow as they continue to travel west, so I’ll talk to you again on the 10th!

  • Show rating: 3/5
  • Highlights: “Stash,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “It’s Ice”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 57 mins.
  • Second set length: 79 mins.
  • Encore length: 7 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Backyard.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “2001,” returning after a fourteen show absence (4/21/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Junta (4 songs).
  • One year ago today: 5/8/93 (Field House, Durham NH) – Rating: 5/5 – Highlights:Stash > Kung > Stash,” “Reba,” “David Bowie > Have Mercy > David Bowie,” “It’s Ice,” “The Squirming Coil,” “Mike’s Song > Crossroads > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove >Amazing Grace > Amazing Grace Jam
Posted in 1994, Review, Spring 1994 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment