This is Phish’s first-ever stop in the state of Kentucky. The tape starts with Trey informing the audience that Fishman is “late again!” Once Fishman does show up the night begins with a solid “Chalk Dust Torture.” The band doesn’t sound like they need a warm-up period tonight; they sound tight from the start, and Trey delivers a good solo to kick up the energy right away.
“Guelah Papyrus” returns to its usual setlist position as runner-up and sounds good, as does the following “Sparkle.” The night gets a little more interesting with the next song, “Split Open and Melt.” The “Melt” jam begins at 4:15, and for the first minute is fairly standard. The jam builds in intensity as Trey starts to experiment with his riffing, and breaks down in volume at 7:15. A new, dissonant groove develops. Fishman sounds rock solid here as he holds down the beat. As cool as this second section is, the band quickly works back into more typical “Melt” territory at 8:15. The jam doesn’t as much peak as blend back into the composed ending of the song. While I would have liked them to push further, since what they played was sounding so good, this is still a good “Melt” that I would rate higher than the average performance this tour.
“Esther” makes her first appearance in a couple weeks before a typically strong “Llama.” “Sample in a Jar” follows and is a nice change of pace after a run of more technically demanding songs. “Rift” is next, and like “Sample,” sounds good. The band has one final trick up their sleeves for this set: a rare, first-set “Harry Hood.” This is the first “Hood” of the month. There’s a Simpsons Secret Language signal during the intro at 1:45, before the jam begins at 5:45. The feel is very delicate and subdued at first, and the volume barely rises above a whisper at 6:40. Despite the quiet volume there’s good runs from Trey here. The jam starts to patiently build back up by 7:45, and starts to peak around 9:10. This is a very blissful “Hood” peak that goes for a substantial length of time before transitioning into the composed ending at 11:30. This “Hood” contains the most fluid improvisation of the set and is the clear highlight of the night so far.
A quick and fun “Cavern” closes out another excellent first set. The “Split” is better than average and a nice appetizer before the excellent “Hood” near the end of the set. Outside of these big moments the band sounds tight and the setlist is well constructed. A solid show so far, to say the least.
Set 2 starts with “Axilla,” which is about the only place in the setlist “Axilla” has been appearing lately. There’s a reason the band plays it here though, and it fulfills its purpose of instantly kicking up the energy level. The always-pleasant “Curtain” follows. As every “Curtain” this tour so far has been performed without the “With” segment, I’m rapidly losing hope that we’ll hear it at all until at least the summer. A rare second-set “Maze” is next. There’s a little extra riffing from Trey during the intro, and Page’s solo feels nice and extended tonight. He experiments more than usual, and there’s a nice passage of interplay between Page and Trey at 5:30 for a dissonant end to Page’s solo. Trey’s solo also feels a little longer than normal and has a nice peak, but it’s more standard than Page’s. As such, I award Page the winner of tonight’s “Maze” solo duel. It’s a very good “Maze” overall that hopefully primes the band’s improvisation for the rest of the set.
“The Lizards” follows “Maze,” a good placement for the song. The band sounds great for most of the song, but the crowd starts clapping around 8:50 during the quiet part near the end of the song, and it throws off Trey. He botches a part of the outro solo as well. So it’s a good, but not perfect, “Lizards.”
A big “Mike’s Groove” anchors the middle of the set. I didn’t catch the timing of the beginning of the jam, but Trey comes in at 3:35 and immediately launches into some driving riffs. After a quick, blistering solo from Trey the end chords come in at 5:20. This gives way to the F-key “Simple” jam at 5:45. The band doesn’t stay in that groove for long though, and by 6:20 it feels like the jam is about to go completely sideways. They don’t totally break through to the other side though, and the sound of the jam grows increasingly anarchic. Like in “Melt” earlier in the show, Fishman is largely responsible for keeping the jam coherent with his solid rhythm. The band works into a strange, dissonant groove at 8:50 before arriving back in the “Mike’s” solo at 9:40. The end chords take this one home at 10:00. This is a long (for the time) and weird “Mike’s Song,” but like I said, it largely remains coherent and sounds more interesting than a lot of the other noisy “Mike’s” jams from this tour.
A shaky sounding “I Am Hydrogen” bridges us to “Weekapaug Groove.” The jam begins at 1:40, and Trey takes a brief, introductory solo at 2:10. Page quickly takes over at 2:55. Trey provides minimal comping, while Mike and Fish quiet their playing. Page delivers a good solo before he quiets down and a segment of sparse, full-band jamming begins. The band quiets to just the bare beat of the song at 5:20. They then bring the jam back up into loud, rhythmic chording that morphs into a short segment that reminds me of a Grateful Dead “Spanish Jam” but more sonically intense and with Trey’s playing style. This emerges triumphantly back into the “Weekapaug Groove” theme. Trey delivers one more, great solo to wrap up the jam and bring us to the final verse of the song at 9:00.
Overall, this is an excellent Mike’s Groove full of creative playing (minus the mistakes in “Hydrogen”). “Mike’s Song” sounds close to breaking completely out of structure at least once, and has an anarchic yet enjoyable jam. “Weekapaug” moves through several interesting segments before wrapping up with a celebratory solo. It’s a solid 25 minutes of 1993 Phish improvisation. The band cools us down from Mike’s Groove with a well-played “Horse > Silent in the Morning” before “Big Ball Jam” and the night’s Henrietta segment. Fishman introduces the band before singing “Bike.” The set closes in fun fashion with “Highway to Hell,” returning after a huge bust-out just a couple nights ago. Trey dedicates the song to the band’s truck driver Terry, who was referenced in Kansas during the “Forbin’s” narration. The encore begins with “Gumbo,” last played in 1991. The band launches into a ridiculous outro sequence at 3:30 that riffs on the ending of “Free Bird,” to provide one last laugh for the evening. “Amazing Grace” sends the crowd home on a more spiritual note.
I went back and forth between a 4 and 5 for this show. Ultimately, while there’s great moments spread throughout the show, most of them fall closer to the ‘typically-great’ end of the great spectrum than the ‘mindblowing’ end. There’s also some brief but uncharacteristic sloppiness, notably during “Lizards” and “Hydrogen.” That being said, there’s creative improvisation in both sets and the circulating recording sounds good. Combine that with a decent setlist and a good bust-out that hopefully returns to rotation, and you have a great top-to-bottom show. The “Harry Hood” and the Mike’s Groove are my favorite sequence of each set.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “Harry Hood,” “Maze,” “Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 68 mins.
- Second set length: 91 mins.
- This is the first time Phish performed at the Macauley Theater. They will return on 8/15/93.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Gumbo,” returning after a two hundred and twenty-eight show absence (7/25/91).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).