That One Time… (Winter/Spring ’93)

Many songs Phish performs at their shows, especially during this period, vary little between performances. These songs are played in a ‘standard’ fashion, with one performance being more or less interchangeable with any other performance of the song. This can be because the song is tightly composed and leaves little room for improvisation (as is the case with, say, “Punch You in the Eye” or “Rift”), or because the song has a well-defined role in the setlist (i.e. “Cavern” is a set closer, “I Didn’t Know” is a Fishman comedy song, etc.). However, on rare occasion, the band will do something totally bizarre or unique with these songs that defies any expectations one might have for the song. It’s times like these that keep us fans coming back time and time again to Phish shows; those moments where the band takes us totally by surprise.

The below songs are tunes that Phish played in a ‘standard’ fashion for most of the Winter/Spring ’93 tour, except for “that one time” (or two or three times) where the band did something very different. By definition, this list excludes songs that generally contain lengthy jams (i.e. “Reba,” “Tweezer,” “Stash,” “YEM,” etc.) because the expectation is that those songs will vary considerably between performances. This list is organized alphabetically by song name.

Amazing Grace (May 8th – Field House, Durham NH – Set 2, song #12 – length: 5:30)

Phish’s a-cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace” debuted on this tour, and was a near-constant presence on setlists after its debut. As such, it’s appropriate that the band decided to jam out this spiritual tune as the last song of the final set of tour. Upon concluding the standard a-cappella performance at 1:43, the band picks back up their instruments, and Trey launches into an instrumental version of the song’s refrain. Fishman adds a “Weekapaug Groove” drum beat at 2:20 and the jam quickly builds in intensity. The result is a euphoric run through of an instrumental version of the song that is somewhat reminiscent of the “Auld Lang Syne” the band performs on New Year’s Eve. The jam breaks down slightly at 4:20 so Trey can remark: “Well, that’s about it for the tour. Thanks everyone…and see you during the summer!” The jam picks up again so Trey can deliver one more searing solo, before the jam wraps up at 5:30. A perfect way to end both a monumental show and a monumental tour.

Cavern (May 5th – Palace Theatre, Albany NY – Encore, length: 6:55)

This encore performance of “Cavern” is notable for a run-through of jazz standard “Take the ‘A’ Train” that is sandwiched between the first and second verses of the song. The transitions are a little sloppy, but it makes for a fun twist on a song that usually has no variation between performances. This is also the second of only two performances of “Take the ‘A’ Train” on this tour, reflecting the rapidly vanishing role for jazz standards in Phish’s setlists.

Good Times Bad Times (February 21st – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta GA – Encore, length: 3:25)

The first song of a triple-encore, Trey is inspired by the presence of guest banjo player Jeff Mosier to attempt an on-the-fly “bluegrass” version of “Good Times Bad Times.” The result is…actually pretty fun! Fishman comes in with the standard “GTBT” drum beat, but Trey scolds him by saying “Bluegrass, Fish! Bluegrass!” Fish instantly changes up his beat to a more uptempo, bluegrass-esque rhythm and the band is off to the races. Mosier takes two, fun banjo solos during this unfinished “GTBT,” the second of which leads leads the band smoothly into “Paul and Silas.” Guest sit-ins during Phish shows can often be unremarkable, but this is a genuinely cool moment of the band altering up the arrangement of one of their standard songs on the spot.

I Didn’t Know (April 18th – Ann Arbor, MI – Set 1, song #9 – length: 9:53)

“I Didn’t Know” served virtually one role throughout the whole tour: a vehicle for late first-set Fishman shenanigans, usually by way of a vacuum or washboard solo. However, none of these versions really hold a candle to this “IDK” as far as humor goes. The band stops playing entirely after the a-cappella intro, and Page welcomes the audience. He then asks the crowd what they thought about last night’s encore, which included a ridiculous 6+ minute pause during “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars.” Trey follows up and asks, “anybody want to come up here?” The band then proceeds to invite some audience members on stage to share their thoughts.

One audience member exclaims that he “was tripping last night, and I thought it was pretty fucking cool!” Fish responds, “Can we say that on stage?” A very excited fan confesses that she was not at the show last night, but adds “this is my first Phish show, and I’m really, really happy!” The final audience member simply asks the band if we can “ever get out of this maze?” At 4:40 the band moves on to crew reactions. Brad Sands, introduced as “balloon tech” confesses to throwing a guy out. Paul on the soundboard says, “it made me think of what a real, hardcore punk band would sound like” and actually plays a punk song for a few seconds over the PA. Chris simply exclaims “I loved it!” Finally, Page turns to Mike for his thoughts. Mike explains his heady thought process as he laid on the ground during the “BBFCM” and finally lays the blame on Trey for missing a cue. At that point, Trey admits to “dropping the ball” and accepts that he was at fault. Page ends the segment by saying “thank you for participating in our ‘how was last night’s encore?’ segment of the show!” Over 7 minutes after starting “IDK,” the band then proceeds to sing one more a-cappella verse before moving on to “Cavern.”

It’s Ice (March 19th – Greek Theatre, Redlands CA – Set 2, song #2 – length: 10:37)

As fans of the “Ice” are well aware, almost all of Phish’s occasional experimentation with the song occurs during the ‘underwater segment’ of the song (titled as such because it is intended to illustrate the song’s narrator falling through the cracks of the ice). This segment usually occurs about two-thirds of the way through the song and is characterized by Fishman’s tick-tock beat and sparse, eerie ambience from the rest of the band (usually led by Page).

This is the longest “Ice” of tour, and the underwater segment gets blown out to at least twice its normal length. The segment begins with very sparse ambience at 5:00 with Fishman’s tick-tock beat just about the only thing audible for the first minute. Trey starts wailing with his guitar at 6:20 with all sorts of scratching and sliding on his guitar. Once Trey is finished making noise, Page responds with thunderous chording (which leads into a Rhapsody in Blue tease) while Mike adds some scattered booms. Fish alters his beat back to the standard “Ice” progression at 8:00, but the rest of the band is slow to join him, taking another 30 seconds for the song to get back into full-swing. The song as a whole clocks in at over 10:00, with some extra flourishes from Page added to the end as well.

It’s Ice (March 22nd – Crest Theatre, CA – Set 2, song #2 – length: 8:38)

Just days after experimenting heavily with the song, the band uses the ‘underwater segment’ of “Ice” for an even grander purpose: using it as an introduction to the entire Gamehendge saga. Immediately after the start of the segment, over Fish’s tick-tock beat, Trey begins his narration by asking the audience to come along with him as he tells a story. He tells the audience this is occurring because they are the “most attentive” audience they have had in years. He tells the story of “Ice,” about a narrator falling through the ice, and how as this person falls through the ice he eventually falls into another world…Gamehendge, of course. “Ice” is left unfinished as the narration blends into the beginning of “The Lizards.” The rest is Phish history.

It’s Ice (May 8th – Field House, Durham NH – Set 2, song #5 – length: 9:28)

The last “Ice” I want to highlight for being unusual is another performance from the tour finale in Durham. As with the Redlands version, the band experiments heavily during the underwater segment. The segment starts at 4:58, and instead of dropping out immediately, Trey keeps strumming along with a dissonant chordal sequence. He starts picking a funky melody at 5:30 while Page plays some leads on top. This develops into a full-on jam by 6:00, with Trey playing a riff that is somewhat reminiscent of the eventual “Simple” melody. Fish snaps back to the next “Ice” rhythm at about 6:15 but Page and Trey keep jamming along. This works itself into a “Manteca”-esque jam from 6:50-7:15 before the band finally continues with the “Ice” composition at 7:20. The band adds some extra flourishes to the end of the song, as Page improvises a short but pleasant bridge between “Ice” and “Squirming Coil.” While this underwater segment is not quite as long as the Redlands performance, it contains a more fully fleshed out jam, and is thus probably my favorite “Ice” of tour.

The Squirming Coil (May 8th – Field House, Durham NH – Set 2, song #7 – length: 16:33)

Every performance of “Squirming Coil” on this tour followed the progression the song takes to this day: the composition leads into a Page solo during which the rest of the band drops out, leaving Page alone on his piano to grace the audience with a beautiful outro. However, during the Winter/Spring tour finale, the band rejoins Page and launches right into a lengthy, ‘type-II’ jam. Not only was this a unique “Coil” for this tour, I can’t think of a “Coil” from any era of the band’s sound that contains such deep exploration.

Page’s solo starts at 4:25, with the song seeming to take its usual course. Trey and Fish slowly drop out, leaving Mike and Page playing alone by 5:20. Mike finally drops out, leaving Page alone on the piano by 7:00; a typical performance so far. Page’s solo for the next couple minutes is notably exquisite, even for “Coil.” However, just as it seems the song is coming to an end, Fishman comes back in at 10:00 by playing lightly on the cymbals. This encourages Page to go all-out with an impressive run of playing. Mike turns up the volume on his bass and locks onto a groove at 11:00, Trey comes back in, and off we go. Trey builds on Mike’s groove with a simple riff as Page continues to solo on top. Page takes his foot off the gas by 12:30, causing Trey to assert himself with some wailing of his own at 13:00 over the full-band groove that developed. The tempo quickens suddenly at 13:55, and the excitement builds at 14:40 as Mike and Trey both lock into a passage of intense riffing. Trey finally launches into what seems to be a full-on solo by about 15:30, but this quickly peters out and the band starts segueing into “Big Ball Jam” at 16:20.

This is a very cool moment for the novelty factor, because as a rule “Coil” essentially never develops into a full-band jam like this. Listening closely it seems like the development took the band themselves by surprise, because the jam never really establishes a firm direction beyond the initial groove, despite some pushing in different directions by Trey. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating moment that’s worth a listen.

Wilson (March 13th – Balch Fieldhouse, Boulder CO – Set 1, song #10 – length: 7:49)

This “Wilson” features a super-extended intro featuring a very sly-sounding riff from Trey, a Simpsons Secret Language signal, and Wilson chanting from the band. The song doesn’t start proper until 2:30. Another mini-jam, starting with Spanish-inflected melodies from Trey, develops during the interlude before the “blat, boom!” scream. This develops into a brief but very cool full-band jam that is somewhat reminiscent of a Grateful Dead “Spanish Jam.” The band reprises this improvised melody from the interlude again at the end of the song before transitioning into “Run Like an Antelope.” “Wilson” often felt truncated and a little disjointed on this tour, but this version feels fully-fleshed out with some subtle but interesting improvisational moments.

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