Songs of Tour: “Stash” (Winter/Spring ’93)

To be perfectly honest, “Stash” is not a song I typically get very excited about when the band starts playing it in the modern era. In 3.0 the song typically always appears mid-to-late first set, and almost never goes ‘type-II’ in any sort of meaningful way. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy hearing it, but my expectations for where the jam will go are never that high. Instead, I tend to view “Stash” as an improvisational warm-up for the band that, for the astute listener, can give an indication of how connected the band is sounding on any given night. At best, “Stash” will result in some good tension/release playing or an unexpected but brief passage of ‘bliss’ jamming.

By April of Winter/Spring ’93, however, “Stash” became one of the songs I was most looking forward to hear during a show, and it consistently contained some of the most exciting and experimental improvisation of the night any time it was played. Below I’ll highlight some of my favorite performances from the tour, and track how the song evolved over the course of the 71-show Winter/Spring tour.

2/9/93 – Auditorium Theatre, Rochester NY (Set 2, song #9, length: 10:21)

The first standout “Stash” of tour, appearing in an otherwise average show. The jam starts by breaking down to nothing but Fishman’s bass drum. Trey delicately joins in with some subtle riffing as Mike makes weird slapping noises with his bass. This builds over several minutes into an intense, melodic climax driven by Trey which threatens to descend entirely into noisy feedback. Instead of playing the composed ending the band lands gently into “The Lizards,” just as “Stash” feels like it’s going to fall apart completely. This is essentially the aural equivalent of clouds suddenly clearing in the middle of an intense storm. An unexpectedly dark “Stash” that hints at the possibilities for this song. Quoting from my review of the show: “these few minutes of jamming are probably my highlight of an otherwise uneven set.”

3/25/93 – Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz CA (Set 1, song #6, length: 11:02)

For the rest of February and the beginning of March, “Stash” generally colored within the lines of what you would expect from the song (see the ‘honorable mentions’ below for the best of this period). This isn’t to say there weren’t great versions, for there were, but no performances reached the upper echelon of “Stash” jams. That began to change, however, at the end of March. While not as wild as some of the April performances to come, this “Stash” from Santa Cruz shows the band starting to crack the song open. The jam of this “Stash” takes a dark turn almost immediately, with Trey unleashing demented, heavy-metal riffing. The band then returns to more typical “Stash” territory before going sideways into dissonant-anarchy a couple minutes later, with Page and Mike taking the spotlight as Trey unleashes low-end feedback. Trey slowly rejoins to lead the band to a satisfying climax and a transition to the ending of “Stash.” From my review of the show: “This is a very good jam that easily makes this one of the best (if not the best) “Stash” of tour to this point!” Little did I know what was to come…

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3/30/93 – Hilton Ballroom, Eugene OR (Set 1, song #8, length: 14:26)

If I had to point to one “Stash” on this tour that marked the turning point of the song’s evolution into a full-on jam vehicle, it would be this performance in Eugene. The jam takes a downright ‘grungey’ turn immediately, with Trey hammering away at a simple, dissonant riff. The band settles into this swampy groove, with Fishman altering his rhythm more than usual and Trey refusing to turn towards a traditional solo. Trey starts to experiment with different riffs over this dark groove, lending an almost “Tweezer”-esque feeling to this jam. He settles into a driving riff that slowly drags the band out of the swamp and into a more traditional “Stash” solo. The band doesn’t stay in this ‘typical’ territory for long, however, and the jam breaks down into a quiet segment. Page briefly takes the spotlight with some “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin'” (Rolling Stones) quotes as Trey once again starts up some thundering riffs. These riffs disintegrate into a full-on ‘wall of noise’ from Trey as the band builds up into a final, intense peak before bringing the song home. A must-hear “Stash” for fans of the song. The Phish.net description of this jam notes that the band takes the song “WELL beyond” any other “Stash” performed to date.

4/5/93 – HUB Ballroom, Seattle WA (Set 1, song #7, length: 14:10)

Just days after breaking the song open in Eugene, Phish takes “Stash” for another wild ride in Seattle. This “Stash” starts to go sideways shortly into the jam at 6:30 when Trey starts repeating a dissonant riff. Despite the dissonance of the riff it’s played with a clean tone, thus distinguishing this performance from the swampy Eugene “Stash.” The rest of the band is initially quiet as they lock on to this riff, but quickly start build up the volume and energy. Page asserts himself as a co-leader of the jam, coloring around Trey’s riff with a lot of tasty fills. After an initial swell of energy the jam starts to break back down between 9:30 and 10:00, with Page still doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Another groove is established, and the energy once again begins to swell. Trey retains his clean tone through 11:00, which helps this jam retain a jazzy feel throughout despite its twists and turns. Once Trey kicks on the distortion he begins to lead the band back towards the “Stash” ending, though not in a way that sounds rushed, and not before unleashing a final rush of excellent soloing from 12:00-13:00. While perhaps not quite as experimental as Eugene, this Seattle “Stash” nevertheless shows that the Eugene “Stash” was not a one-off fluke and that the band intends to continue to explore with the song.

4/14/93 – American Theater, St. Louis MO (Set 1, song #6, length: 15:31)

This “Stash” jam turns dissonant quickly after a standard composed section, driven by riffing from Trey. Page accompanies this playing well and stays prominent in the mix. Trey gradually begins a more traditional solo, taking the band firmly back to “Stash” territory by 8:00. This builds to a swirling, guitar-led peak a minute later. Instead of transitioning from that peak into the end of the song, as one might expect, the jam breaks down to a very quiet passage. Mike takes advantage of the extra space in the mix and drops some melodic leads of his own. An eerie ambience is created, leading to the beginning of the “Kung” chant at 11:00. The background ambience slowly increases in volume as the chant progresses, driven by plinko-esque, staccato playing. The chanting ends by 13:00, though Trey adds some extra vocal wailing as the tension of the long build reaches a peak. The peak finally comes, and the band crashes back into the ending of “Stash” at about 14:15. An excellent, “Kung”-ified “Stash.”

Check out the recent official release of this show for a tasty recording of this “Stash!”

4/17/93 – Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor MI (Set 1, song #4, length: 11:55)

Trey locks onto a simple but catchy riff right at the beginning of this “Stash” jam at 4:50. As Trey repeats this riff for the next minute or so the rest of the band begins to quiet down, and Trey follows along. Page, Mike, and Trey then all lock into a repeating two-note passage that they slide in and out of. Trey leads the band by alternating between the original riff the jam began with and this new two-note theme. This slowly bleeds into a chromatic and jazzy passage with great group-improvisation. Each member of the band is listening intently and responding to the others’ playing, as is the case with most great Phish jams. After a few minutes of this subdued but interesting and experimental playing Trey seamlessly slides into a more traditional “Stash” solo that begins to peak by 11:00, leading to the song’s close.

4/22/93 – The Agora Theatre, Cleveland OH (Set 1, song #7, length: 12:32)

Trey begins this “Stash” jam at 5:30 with solo shredding before quickly settling into a dissonant groove that features great interplay between Page and Trey. Mike switches up his playing at 7:20 with a simple melodic line, which encourages Trey to start ratcheting up the tension. By 8:00 the band is locked into a dark, high-energy, rhythmic pulse you might expect from a “Melt” jam. The band builds up this tension to an insane degree before finally bringing the jam to a peak at about 10:00. It sounds like Trey is roaring into his end-of-jam-solo at about 10:20 but this turns out to be a fake-out, and the band breaks down the jam into a sparse segment at about 10:50. Page takes the lead with staccato playing, Mike matches this with sharp playing of his own, and Trey adds some chordal jabs. This ‘second jam’ breaks down again at about 11:50 to almost silence. The band starts whispering the “maybe so, maybe not” ending, as the band brings the song to a quiet close. The dynamics in this jam are impressive, as is the energy of the first jam. As I say in my recap of the show, “Wow!”

5/8/93 – Field House, Durham NH (Set 1, song #5, length: 15:35)

This “Stash” from the wild tour finale in Durham, NH is a reprise of the”Kung-ified Stash” from St. Louis. The jam begins at 5:00 and immediately enters into a dissonant groove led by Trey and Mike. Trey kicks up the distortion and volume of his playing at 6:30, and brings this segment to a peak at about 7:45. This peak is longer than most “Stash” peaks from this time and features some great fretwork from Trey. Instead of transitioning into the composed end, the jam breaks down at 11:00. Page takes the lead as Trey quietly improvises around the “Stash” theme. Trey latches onto a simple, staccato riff, then lets this riff dissolve into feedback, leaving Mike’s bass groove as the main driver of the music. The “Kung” chant begins at 12:35, and the volume of the backing jam starts to increase at the end of the “Kung” chant. The energy swells, and the band transitions into the composed end of “Stash.”

Check out the official release of this show for an excellent recording of this “Stash.”

Honorable Mentions:

  • 2/21/93: Standard progression to the jam, but the tension/release dynamic is particularly intense and anarchic. Transitions into first “Manteca” of tour before returning to the composed end of “Stash.”
  • 2/23/93: Notable largely for an uncharacteristic explosion of trilling from Trey a couple minutes into the jam, and an intense climax at the end.
  • 3/27/93: A concise but very tight jam that organically develops into a tense groove reminiscent of a “Split Open and Melt” jam. Builds into a wild sliding riff from Trey to close out the song.
  • 4/3/93: Extra dynamism during the verse. Very satisfying progression to the jam, with some subdued experimentation with the song’s groove at the beginning, an exciting build-up of energy around a repeating Trey riff, and an anarchic-sounding finish.
  • 4/9/93: Interesting segment of jam between 6:30 and 8:45 as Trey recedes into the background with crunchy droning and Page takes the lead with choppy and jazzy playing. Smooth transition back into composed ending of “Stash.”
  • 5/2/93: Shortly after the band enters into a dark groove, Trey unleashes some wickedly dissonant shredding. This solo builds into a great peak before the band brings the song home.
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