Tonight marks the 10th and final California event of the tour, as the band heads north near the California/Oregon border. This is also the 41st show of the tour (!!!) as we come up on the third full month of shows. We get two special treats tonight: a crisp soundboard recording and a recording of the soundcheck. The check starts with a track tagged “The Wedge Jam.” This jam begins with Mike and Fishman establishing a groove over “The Wedge” beat. Trey and Page join in at 0:50. The next seven minutes features the band cruising along this established groove with little variation. Up next is a sixteen minute “Dog Log,” which turns out to be less exciting than it sounds. Page takes a quick solo at 2:20 between the two verses, and Trey takes a solo ~5:00 after the second verse. Page steps up on the organ at 6:30 which leads into some funky riffing. This jam sounds looser than just about anything the band has played during a show on this tour. Trey takes another solo at 9:15 which leads into yet another Page-led funk groove. After several minutes of this Page starts teasing the theme to “Beverly Hills Cop” at 14:45. This leads Fishman to mistakenly shout “Ghostbusters!” at 15:30 before quickly correcting himself. The jam ends shortly after. This soundcheck is interesting to hear since it is so much looser than the band’s playing during shows and it’s fun to hear the band stretch out under no-pressure circumstances. That being said, I wouldn’t say that either jam is particularly great. They mostly just show the band playing around with different grooves.
The show proper starts with a fine reading of “The Landlady” before the band kicks up the energy level a few notches with the rare “Funky Bitch.” “Sparkle” keeps up the energy while “Split Open and Melt” provides the first opportunity for improvisation. The jam begins at 4:20 and breaks down in volume shortly after. Trey finds a unique melody that he repeats a few times, and the band slowly builds the song back up around this theme. I wish the band had explored further with this cool melody, though there are a few instances where it feels like the band is breaking down the song’s structure. A good, but short, “Melt.”
“The Lizards” is played well, as is the following “Sloth.” The solos tonight in “Maze” are fairly standard, though Trey’s sounds more exciting to my ears so he wins the duel. There’s a small flub from Trey around 3:00 in “It’s Ice” though he quickly recovers. Page steps up to the spotlight for “Lawn Boy” before the set-closing “Run Like an Antelope.” Trey unleashes great dissonant soloing at 5:00 that is the most exhilarating playing of the set. This culminates in a thrilling and energetic run to the song’s peak from 8:00-9:00 (with Fishman completely unleashing at 9:00). Overall, this is not the most exciting first set of tour. Both “Split” and “Antelope” are good, however, and hearing “Funky Bitch” is always fun.
“Walk Away” returns for the first time in over a month to open set 2, which is fun to hear. It’s kept very brief, just about 4 minutes long, so there’s not much in the way of solos. “Runaway Jim” follows and has a solid Trey solo that keeps the energy level high. “Mound” takes the three-slot, a position in the setlist the song is becoming increasingly familiar with. Up next is another rarity: “Bathtub Gin.” The jam of this song starts at 4:40 and immediately Fishman enters into a bizarre half-time accompaniment to Trey’s solo. The solo goes for a couple minutes, sticking largely to the “Gin” melody, and sound very messy due to the accompaniment of the rest of the band. Phish is still clearly figuring out what to do with this song. The jam ends abruptly with a quick shout of “Bathtub Gin!” I love “Gin”jams, so it’s nice to see this song in the setlist, but the band hasn’t quite cracked the code of this song yet.
“Big Ball Jam” brings us to “You Enjoy Myself.” About two minutes into the song, during the ‘bliss’ segment, Trey informs the crowd that someone backstage gave the band a bunch of Pez candy. This transitions into the one and only performance of “My Life as a Pez,” which consists only of Trey singing the lyrics over the rest of the band continuing to play the ‘bliss’ segment of “YEM.” It’s a fun interlude but nothing too interesting musically, and “My Life as a Pez” barely counts as a stand-alone song in the setlist. Page’s solo in “YEM” is fairly standard but I liked Trey’s quite a bit tonight. Trey’s solo starts very quiet and jazzy as the rest of the band brings down the volume. The band then kicks the volume back-up right as Trey starts shredding around 15:20. This passage sounds very tight. The bass and drums segment starts at 18:00 and is very brief, probably a minute at most, before the start of a very long vocal jam.
“Paul and Silas” is always a nice setlist treat and follows “YEM” tonight. Tonight’s Henrietta segment is lengthy and Fishman sounds unusually…giddy(?)…during his banter tonight. Perhaps indulging in some of that lysergic acid? Further possible evidence of this is a long vacuum solo with…interesting…sounds emanating from his Electrolux. After his vacuum solo he comments that this is a “very tense experience for me.” Oh Fishman. Never change. A long “Possum” closes out the set and is actually a highlight of the night. The band deftly weaves “McGrupp” teases throughout the intro and the early lyrics. Trey’s solo is an exhilarating end to the set; the first few minutes of the solo have a good build to them and there are several excellent passages of tension and release. Like “Antelope” earlier in the night, this is a great close to the set. The encore consists of “Contact,” which features a shoutout from Trey to his friend Shelby who is about to embark on a cross-country drive, and a particularly ridiculous “Big Black Furry Creatures from Mars.”
This show has too little notable improvisation coupled with too many average renditions of frequently played songs to be anything other than an average show. That being said, I still found this night to be a reasonably entertaining listen due to the loose playing during the soundcheck, the two exciting set-closers, the odd “My Life as a Pez,” and some fun setlist rarities (“Gin,” “Funky Bitch,” “Walk Away”).
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Run Like an Antelope,” “You Enjoy Myself > My Life as a Pez > YEM,” “Possum”
- Phish.net setlist
- Debuts: “My Life as a Pez” (Abrahams)
- Soundcheck length: 25 mins.
- First set length: 76 mins.
- Second set length: 92 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the East Gym.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Walk Away,” returning after a twenty-six show absence (2/20/93).
- The best represented studio album are Rift and Lawn Boy (4 songs).