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

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“Tweezer” is the ultimate Phish bellwether song, in my opinion. From the ultra-psychedelic “Tweezer” jams of ’95, the porno-funk “Tweezers” of ’97, to the oxy-haze 2.0 “Tweezers,” no song in the Phish catalog better reflects the stylistic changes the band has gone through. With the possible exception of “Ghost,” no other song consistently excites me with the promise of open-ended improvisation like “Tweezer” does when the band starts it up at a show.

All that said, “Tweezer” was still in its infancy stage during this tour, in terms of its improvisational promise. The “Tweezer” jam during this period usually revolved around a straightforward tension/release jam that would last about 5 to 6 minutes before descending into the song’s composed ending. Nevertheless, several “Tweezers” do stand out for breaking from this ‘standard’ formula, or for delivering on that formula exceedingly well.

2/18/93 – Electric Ballroom, Knoxville TN (Set 1, song #4, length: 12:28)

The first standout “Tweezer” of tour occurs at the ill-fated Knoxville show (the band’s soundboard fries during the second set). This is also a very rare first-set “Tweezer,” and the only first-set “Tweez” I can recall occurring all tour. The jam begins at 4:50 and is initially centered on a repeating Trey riff. which evolves into melodic soloing by 6:00. The mood for the next several minutes is rocking and exuberant, with Trey playing breezy melodies that gives the jam a lighter mood than many “Tweezers” from this tour. This builds into an explosion of trilling at 9:00, after which Trey starts to settle into more of a riff-based groove. The jam breaks down almost entirely at 10:45, with Trey fading away into feedback and silence. Page steps up to play some leads as the mood descends into murkiness. Trey rejoins the proceeding by picking some clean, jazzy lines as the tempo begins to pick back up. This leads to a slightly messy but impressively ambitious segue straight into the beginning of “Foam.”

3/2/93 – Tipitina’s, New Orleans LA (Set 2, song #3, length: 12:03)

This “Tweezer” jam starts at 4:25 with some standard, funky riffing. This morphs into a catchy, melodic chord progression from Trey by 6:30 that he will stick with for several minutes. This progression is high-energy but remains rhythmic and danceable. Trey starts to solo around the edges of this riff before the jam starts to break down at 9:30, becoming very subdued by 10:30. Instead of transitioning from this breakdown into the composed ending, Trey continues to solo, this time with a clean, jazzy inflection. Page complements this solo with some great, atmospheric organ work. The jam begins to slow way down by 11:40, with Trey still soloing, before the jam slides into “The Lizards” as Trey’s last note rings out.

3/9/93 – Pike’s Peak Center, Colorado Springs CO (Set 2, song #3, length: 13:51)

Trey begins this “Tweezer” jam at 4:35 with a fun, infections riff that the band builds on. This transitions into a full-blown Trey solo by 6:00, which leads the jam into an early peak. The band brings down the energy at 7:00 and enters into a long, more subdued passage. Trey starts playing a really cool, swirling, up-and-down riff, which Page matches with some playing in a similar style at 8:00. Trey switches to a clean tone for some jazzy soloing before the energy builds back up by 10:00. The jam ends with a satisfying peak filled with thrilling soloing from Trey before the band lands into the composed ending of “Tweezer” at 12:15. This is a dynamic “Tweezer” that features a lot of great work from Trey.

4/1/93 – Roseland Theater, Portland OR (Set 2, song #6, length: 14:31)

This “Tweezer” is more stretched-out than most of the pre-May “Tweezers” from this tour. The jam is initially driven by driving rock riffs from Trey, and starts to get more tense at 6:00. Trey lands on some heavy metal-esque riffs at about 7:20 before the jam starts to quiet down. Trey starts to focus on a quick, three or four note riff. While the volume and energy is slowly being brought down by the rest of the band, the mood remains dark. Trey fades out almost entirely at 9:00, leading Page takes up some of the previously occupied space with some good fills. Trey rejoins at 9:30 with a clean tone and a jazzy solo. The mood starts to lighten, and the energy starts to pick up at 10:15. This leads into a final, celebratory solo from Trey before the composed end of “Tweezer” kicks in at 13:15.

5/3/93 – State Theatre, New Brunswick NJ (Set 2, song #3, length: 17:00)

While “Tweezer” never exceed the 15 minute mark prior to May, two performances from the last week of tour (of which this is the first) blew the figurative doors on the song’s jam wide open. This “Tweezer” jam starts with bluesy riffing and some good Trey soloing. Mike lands on a new tonal center at about 6:45, which is always a good sign that a jam might change directions, and the rest of the band picks up on it. Trey starts some swirling, ascending riffs that sound like they might be building into a peak, but the band instead settles back down into an upbeat, almost calypso-like groove at 8:30. The band is fully type-II at this point. The jam starts to break down a minute later, which leads into a full-on “Manteca” jam at 10:15. After a couple “crab in my shoemouth” refrains Trey starts up a cheery, major-key solo. The band shifts gears again at 13:40 as Trey rips into some hard-rock riffing, teasing the main “Tweezer” riff at times. This segment peaks at 15:00 as Trey launches into a quick, celebratory solo to wrap up the jam. The band collapses into the composed end of the song at 16:15.

Download the official release of this show here

5/6/93 – Palace Theatre, Albany NY (Set 2, song #2, length: 19:40)

Phish apparently enjoyed taking “Tweezer” for a wild ride on the 3rd, for they come back just days later to deliver what is quite possibly the longest jam of Winter/Spring, as “Tweezer” makes its final appearance of tour. The jam begins at 4:30, and Mike quickly latches on to a bass line that very clearly evokes Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” Trey delivers some ferocious riffing to build energy as Mike grounds the jam with the “Sweet Emotion” bass line, not departing from that song’s melody until about 7:00. The jam gets darker at 8:00 as Trey locks into some dissonant riffing. This peaks with a good Trey solo at about 10:00, at which point the band takes a left turn into free-jazz anarchy.

The band descends into chaos until about 13:00, at which point a tease of the “Crimes of the Mind” riff pulls the band out of murkiness and into a more straightforward, rocking segment. The energy recedes again a couple minutes later, as the band emerges into a very pleasant, serene soundscape. Trey starts to plays blissful arpeggios with a clean tone, and both Page and Mike match him with upbeat playing of their own. Trey starts playing the “Tweezer” riff at 16:40, which pulls the band out of type-II territory and back to the song’s structure. After a few triumphant guitar squeals, the band falls into the composed ending of the song at 17:40. This is, no doubt, a monumental “Tweezer.” As I wrote in my review of the show, this jam shows the band “working through psychedelic anarchy and emerging into a serene breath of fresh air. Absolutely worth a listen.”

Honorable Mentions:

  • 2/20/93: This performance is notable for a silky smooth transition into “Walk Away” early in the jam segment. While the “Tweezer” by itself is only an honorable mention, this second set in its entirety is a must-listen.
  • 2/22/93: Starts with funky riffing before moving in a more rocking direction. Great tension run at 6:50 with lots of trilling from Trey, and a fun breakdown at the end that leads to a satisfying peak.
  • 3/21/93: First couple minutes of jam have a solid funk feel, interspersed with a couple of soaring, almost uplifting breaks from progression. Gets darker and more tense at about 7:00, before resolving with a fun peak at 9:15. Nothing too crazy, but well-paced with some quality mini-jams.
  • 4/25/93: The band settles into a ‘plinko’ groove out of the gate with Trey playing lots of harmonics and Page accompanying with staccato playing of his own. The band stays in this tight groove for several minutes, before Trey brings the jam to a good peak at around 9:00. One of the straight-up grooviest “Tweezers” of this tour.
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