Welcome back to tour! After a couple months off, Phish is back for 1993’s second, nationwide tour. Like the Winter/Spring tour, the band kicks off the tour in the Northeast (in the lovely-named town of Weedsport) before following the lines going south. A soundcheck circulates of tonight’s show, so the evening begins with a decent sounding “Nellie Kane.” The band debuted this song on the Winter/Spring tour but only it played it the one time. Nevertheless, judging by this soundcheck, it sounds like the band more or less has this tune down. Next up is “Leprechaun,” which will debut later tonight and make three appearances this tour before disappearing entirely. The instrumental song is…odd. The closest comparisons I can think of are the fugue-like arpeggios of “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” and the complexity of “Guyute.” One of the main melodies of the song also sounds conspicuously similar to the arpeggiated intro of the yet-to-be-written “Free.” From this soundcheck run-through it sounds like the band is still learning the song, so I’m surprised the band will choose to play it later tonight.
After some tuning and a soundcheck of Trey’s acoustic guitar is another song I’m not familiar with: “Pungee.” Some Googling reveals this to be a cover of a Meters song. It’s a mellow, jazzy instrumental jam that reminds me somewhat of “Cars Trucks Buses.” I wonder if we’ll hear it during a show proper on this tour? A rollicking “Paul and Silas” brings an end to a soundcheck that is a fun, but inessential, listen (unless you’re a big Meters fan).
“Rift” starts off the show, and the tour. The band sounds a little shaky at first, but they gather steam over the course of the song to deliver a strong finish. “Sample in a Jar,” a 1993 debut, is next. The kinks of this song are still not 100% worked out, for there’s a couple of very minor mistakes, but Trey’s solo at the end has some fire and kicks up the energy level of the set a couple of notches. Trey launches right from the end of “Sample” into an early “Divided Sky.” There’s not much I enjoy more than a first set “Divided Sky” at an outdoor venue in the middle of summer, and this “Sky” delivers the goods. The composition is well-played, and Trey’s solo at the end is strong, building to a good peak. This “Sky” is an early highlight of the show. “Good to be back,” both Page and Trey exclaim at the end of the song. “Mound” was usually played during the second set during the Winter/Spring tour, but it makes a first set appearance tonight following “Divided Sky.”
“Stash” anchors the middle of this first set, and this performance shows that the Winter/Spring MVP has not lost a step over the last couple months. The jam begins at 4:45, and Trey uses some distorted chords and riffing to start things off. A cool descending bass line from Mike leads Trey into a simple, dissonant riff that the band uses to quickly build tension at 6:30. This leads to an anarchic-feeling, early peak shortly after 7:00. Excellent wailing from Trey just keeps pushing this peak further and further, until the band suddenly starts to quiet down shortly after 9:00. A two-note theme emerges, and the band starts to break for the light (though Page keeps mashing on some sinister sounding chords in the background). This is the “Little Drummer Boy” jam Phish.net notes, but the tease of that song is subtle. Trey rips the band out of this digression as soon as it began, and the band lands into the end of the “Stash” composition at 10:30. The band covers a lot of ground quickly in this jam, and the peak is more rambunctious than normal. This is a great “Stash” that is an excellent first jab at improvisation on this tour.
“Foam” is a great choice to follow “Stash,” and is well-played. This version is notable for a (very) brief stop/start jam at the beginning of Trey’s solo around 5:30. “I Didn’t Know” is next and provides a nice moment of levity after a surprisingly heavy-hitting first set. Trey introduces Fishman’s washboard solo by explaining that this is the “First Madonna washboard solo of the entire summer” and that Fishman is the “greatest Madonna washboard player” in the world. “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” gets busted-out for the first time since the Atlanta Roxy shows in February before the debut of “Leprechaun.” “Leprechaun” sounds better than it did during the soundcheck but I still can’t shake the feeling that it’s a weird-sounding song. I think it’s because it doesn’t really build to anything…it just kind of exists, and then ends. I can see why the song was quickly dropped. “Runaway Jim” ends the set with Trey delivering a peak-filled solo, putting an exclamation point on the set.
This is a great, well-paced first set. “Rift” and “Sample in a Jar” sounded a bit shaky at times, so at first I thought this might be a warm-up set. That rust is quickly shaken off during “Divided Sky,” however, and the rest of the set is very entertaining. “Sky” has a good peak, “Stash” goes places, and even “Foam” has some extra sauce tonight.
“We’ll be right back, thank you…”
“David Bowie” opens the second set for only the second time of the year. The first time the song took this slot, on 5/8, the band took it for a wild ride. This “Bowie” is more constrained, but still packs a punch. The jam starts at 4:10 and follows a standard progression, but Trey’s phrasing and fretwork is impressive throughout. A series of quick ascending runs at 7:45 brings this “Bowie” to an early, but strong peak. Not the most memorable “Bowie,” perhaps, but still a fun listen and a great set opener. Normally I would say that hearing “The Horse > Silent In the Morning” as songs two and three of a second set would be a bit disappointing, as I consider them “breather” songs, but after the exciting “Bowie” they feel well-placed. “Sparkle” is next and brings the energy back up.
“It’s Ice” is standard tonight but sounds very good, and features a surprisingly smooth transition into “Lifeboy,” which was a rare treat on the Winter/Spring tour. Despite not being in heavy rotation earlier this year it sounds good as well. Despite being ‘standard’ performances, both “It’s Ice” and “Lifeboy” feature great fills from Page on his still-new baby grand. Between both “The Horse > Silent” and “Lifeboy” being played in the first 35 minutes of this set, the following “Possum” is a much appreciated turn in a more uptempo direction. This “Possum” doesn’t stand out much to me, however, and Trey’s solo did not impress me as much here as his work in the earlier “Bowie.” If you listen carefully, you can hear Trey sing the “Wilson” chant over the intro to “Possum.”
“Faht” makes a rare appearance after “Possum,” and unfortunately does not come across as much on tape. The psychedelic samples(?) of jungle and city nosies serve as an entertaining interlude though. “The Lizards” follows “Faht,” making for a somewhat strange transition. Like “Possum,” this “Lizards” did not stand out to me but is well-played. “Walk Away” makes only its fifth appearance of 1993, a song I always love to hear at a show. The band is still keeping this song on a super-short leash though, and it doesn’t even crack the four minute mark. Keeping with the somewhat disjointed vibe of the back half of this set, “Daniel Saw the Stone” then makes its debut appearance to close the set, sounding more or less like the band performs it to this day. At the end of the song Trey thanks the audience for coming out and says he hopes to see them the next few nights. A quick but fiery “Chalk Dust Torture” is the first encore, before the band debuts their a cappella rendition of “Free Bird” to end the night in a tounge-in-cheek fashion.
The first set of this show and the set 2 opening “David Bowie” are a great listen; the band sounds full of energy, any beginning of tour rust is shaken off within the first two songs, and “Stash” provides the first takeaway improvisational moment of the tour. There’s also a good amount of novelty value to this show, between the debuts of “Daniel Saw the Stone” and “Leprechaun,” and the bust-outs of “My Mind” and “Faht.” Nevertheless, I feel the second set has a bit of a disjointed flow (especially after “Possum”), and nothing in the second set really matches the excitement of the set opening “Bowie.” Nevertheless, this is a promising start to the tour, and I look forward to what the next couple of shows have in store.
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Divided Sky,” “Stash,” “David Bowie”
- Phish.net setlist
- Debuts: “Leprechaun” (Anastasio), “Daniel Saw the Stone” (Traditional)
- Soundcheck length: 25 mins.
- First set length: 67 mins.
- Second set length: 78 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Cayuga County Fairgrounds.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Free Bird,” returning after a five hundred and sixty-nine show absence (3/13/89).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (6 songs).