Phish’s repertoire is considerably larger these days than it was in ’93, but that didn’t stop the band from springing a setlist surprise or two (or three, or four…) during the summer tour. A total of 13 songs were ‘busted-out’ for the first time this tour, which I define as an appearance after a gap of over 50 shows. Due to the huge length of the ’93 winter/spring tour, a few songs on this list were ‘busted-out’ after being played early on that tour, but going forward this standard for a ‘bust-out’ will usually equate to a song being absent from at least a full tour.
The summer ’93 bust-outs were generally clustered at the beginning and middle of the tour, with three coming from the fantastic 8/2 show alone. Below I rank the tour bust-outs from best to worst from the perspective of the impact the songs had on the tour. Obviously, this ranking is impacted substantially by how I feel about these songs in general, so it’s a necessarily subjective endeavor.
Without further ado!
1. “Slave to the Traffic Light” (Date of bust-out: 8/6/93 – Cincinnati OH, 3 total appearances, gap returning from: 241 shows)
Without a doubt, “Slave to the Traffic Light” was the most conspicuous absence from setlists during the winter/spring tour. The bust-out and first ’93 rendition of “Slave” on 8/6 was thus quite a treat. “Slave” emerged deep in the second set of that show, building patiently into a euphoric, ‘hose’ peak from Trey in one of the biggest moments of the night. The song only made one more appearance on the tour, but in an even more prominent position: “Slave” arose out of the second set-opening “2001” on 8/20 in similarly stunning fashion. In my eyes, “Slave” is in the rarefied echelon of quintessential Phish songs shared by the likes of “You Enjoy Myself” and “Fluffhead,” and its return is very much a significant development this summer.
2. “Crimes of the Mind” (8/9/93 – Toronto CAN, 2 appearances, gap: 234)
As far as I’m concerned, “Crimes of the Mind” provides a straight shot of energy into a set whenever it appears. The Dude of Life-penned song may be straightforward, but it makes up for that with lots of hard rock energy and a great sense of momentum. These qualities and the song’s true rarity (only two appearances in all of ’93) make its appearances on 8/9 and 8/28 a real treat. The Dude of Life himself joins the band onstage for the Toronto performance, and it’s easy to see that the song was written for his voice, as his singing fits the song and elevates it even further. Phish also placed this song well, saving it for the role of capping off otherwise-great shows.
3. “The Mango Song” (7/24/93 – Mansfield MA, 3 appearances, gap: 150)
Similar to “Crimes,” your thoughts about this ranking for “Mango Song” will largely depend on how you feel about “Mango Song” as an actual song, for the band didn’t attach any improvisation to the song on this tour. I have a soft spot for this tune, because the catchy refrain of “Your hands and feet are mangos/But you’ll be a genius anyway” stuck in my head in my early days of getting into Phish at a time when some of the long jams went over my head. In the years since I’ve retained an appreciation for the song’s quirkiness and technicality. Accordingly, I was disappointed when the song was not played during the winter/spring tour, and it’s reappearance this tour was a delight. “Mango Song” was busted out late in the first set of the excellent Great Woods show, and according to my review, helped add “some freshness to the setlist of this first set, which is otherwise stacked with songs currently in heavy rotation.” The song appeared twice more in August, similarly contributing positively to the show on each occasion.
4. “La Grange” (8/2/93 – Tampa FL, 3 appearances, gap: 310)
I’ve never been much of a ZZ Top fan, but this fiery, rocking tune fits perfectly in Phish’s repertoire. The song lights up setlists whenever it appears, similar to Hendrix songs like “Fire” and “Izabella.” Also similar to “Izabella,” Trey saved this song for high-profile occasions. Phish used this song as an exclamation point to an incredible first set on 8/2 and two amazing nights of music on 8/7 and 8/14 (both, not by coincidence, available as high-quality LivePhish downloads). The band stayed consistent in their approach towards “La Grange” on these three occasions, with the song varying little between performances. Don’t mistake consistency as a negative, however, for the band brought a ripping intensity to the song on each occasion. Hearing this high-energy song bring a close to an excellent set of music is always a treat.
5. “Brother” (8/2/93 – Tampa FL, 1 appearance, gap: 143)
“Brother” ranks this high largely because I really love “Brother” as a song. The blend of vaguely absurd lyrics with interesting and technical musicality reminds me of “The Mango Song,” but “Brother” also contains more jamming potential and is more open-ended than the latter. Because of this appreciation for the song, I was bummed when “Brother” sat out the entire winter/spring tour. Phish finally ended the “Brother” drought alongside a slew of other bust-outs on 8/2. Unfortunately, however, this appearance ended up being something of a tease. The song did not reappear the remainder of the tour and was kept fairly concise on 8/2. In my review of the show I wrote that “Brother” showed some signs of rust, but that it was an “overall good performance.” Hopefully Phish will show their “Brother” a little more love in ’94, and open this song up further.
6. “Nellie Kane” (7/16/93 – Philadelphia PA, 13 appearances, gap: 57)
This is the first of four songs on this list that were ‘busted-out’ on this tour despite actually appearing early on the winter/spring tour. These songs were never going to be ranked very high here, simply because they weren’t gone long enough to truly be missed. As a general matter, I enjoy Phish’s bluegrass interludes, and view “Nellie Kane” favorably within that category. I was excited to hear Phish debut the song on 2/23 right in the middle of a “Weekapaug Groove,” but the song vanished from sight for the remainder of that tour. The song came back with a vengeance this summer, entering heavy setlist rotation and making a total of 13 appearances. “Nellie” never exactly is a huge contribution to a show, but a set is never worse off for having it, so it lands square in the middle of this list.
7. “The Wedge” (8/20/93 – Morrison CO, 1 appearance, gap: 63)
Similar to “Loving Cup,” “The Wedge” debuted early during the winter/spring tour and seemed designed to capitalize on Page’s new baby grand piano, but quickly fell out of rotation regardless. Also like “Cup,” the song only made one appearance this tour, during the excellent Red Rocks show on 8/20. The arrangement of “Wedge” that debuted in the winter is significantly different than the song’s current incarnation, and this Red Rocks performance falls somewhere in the middle of those two approaches. I note that the song here has a “funkier feel,” but retains the earlier structure and Page-led intro. “The Wedge” is a legitimate highlight of this show’s first half, holding its own against an otherwise-stacked set thanks to Page’s “absolutely filthy playing.” “Wedge” fans will find this performance worth checking out (though Phish fans should find this whole show worth checking out…so keep that in mind!).
8. “Loving Cup” (8/8/93 – Cleveland OH, 1 appearance, gap: 50)
“Loving Cup” memorably opened the winter/spring tour on 2/3 as a vehicle for Page to introduce us to his new baby grand piano. The song seemed perfectly suited to the new addition to the band’s instrument arsenal, but “Cup” nevertheless quickly fell out of rotation. The song made its last winter/spring appearance on 3/30, and only graced the stage once this summer, on 8/8. I note in my review of that show that Mike seems to re-learn “Cup” on the spot, but that Trey delivers “a good solo at the end of the song.” Despite this bust-out causing a fairly minimal impact on the tour, I have a surprisingly deep appreciation for the Stones (I blame my father) and for Phish’s rendition of this song (blame me for being a child of 3.0), so I was glad to see this song not vanish entirely.
9. “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” (7/15/93 – Weedsport NY, 7 appearances, gap: 59)
“My Mind’s” Got a Mind of Its Own” is one of the rarer Phish bluegrass songs. It was busted-out early in the winter/spring tour but only made two total appearances before vanishing again until 7/15. Like “Nellie Kane,” this song made quite a comeback on this tour for seven total appearances. I haven’t looked up the stats, but I bet this might be the tour in which this song is in heaviest rotation. “My Mind” began to take backseat to the newly-ascendant “Ginseng Sullivan” the second half of the tour, making only two appearances after 8/2.
10. “Faht” (7/15/93 – Weedsport NY, 4 appearances, gap: 80)
Poor “Faht.” Prior to listening to this tour I had never before heard a live performance of this song (at least, as far as I can recall), and I was looking forward to seeing how Phish interpreted this esoteric Picture of Nectar track live on stage. The result seemed to be, at least at first…that it was that was kind of a bummer. At least on tape. I’m sure this song was quite an experience in person, but at least on tape, “Faht” straight-up killed the momentum of the second set of tour-opening 7/15, and adds little to 7/17. Thankfully, the band did get better at placing this song over the course of the tour, which saves it from falling further on this list. The song worked alright as an ambient come-down to an intense “Run Like an Antelope” on 7/23, and its true saving grace comes on 8/16, when the song is used as a neat “I Am Hydrogen”-replacement in the middle of a hot Mike’s Groove. Still, the Weedsport bust-out of “Faht” left something of a bitter taste in my mouth.
11. “Who Knows” (8/9/93 – Toronto CAN, 1 appearance, gap: 510)
This bust-out comes and goes so fast that you’ll miss it if you blink! I almost considered treating this “Who Knows” as just a tease in “Chalk Dust Torture,” but as the ‘tease’ features vocals and at least kind-of one verse I decided to count it as an actual performance (which is consistent with Phish.net). The ‘song’ appears in the middle of Trey’s solo in the show-opening “Chalk Dust Torture” from August 9th. It’s a fun but inessential sequence that adds some novelty to an otherwise-standard “CDT.” To date this is the final Phish performance of this Jimi Hendrix song.
12. “Dog Log” (8/2/93 – Tampa FL, 1 appearance, gap: 283)
While the August 2nd bust-out of this song is the only public performance of this song all year, the song appeared during at least four widely-circulated soundchecks from the winter/spring tour that I listened to while making my way through that tour. On all those sound-check occasions but one the band used the song as an opportunity to really stretch out their improvisational muscles, taking the song to nine minutes on 2/17 and a somewhat unfocused, but still interesting 16 minutes on 3/28. Maybe it’s a bit unfair to compare this condensed, straightforward reading of “Dog Log” to those private performances, but in context it’s a bit disappointing. Upon hearing a concise reading of the song I was reminded why the band probably relegates it to soundcheck status to begin with – the song is a fun diversion, but there’s not a lot to it either.
13. “Free Bird” (7/15/93 – Weedsport NY, 13 appearances, gap: 569)
I’ll admit I chuckled the first time the band performed their a-cappella, satirical-gag rendition of “Free Bird” during the tour-opener in Weedsport, as the band played “what song y’all want to hear?” in the way no one intends it to be played. As such, I can’t really fault the band for incorporating the gag as a regular schtick in their show, as anyone experiencing it for the first time would probably react similarly. But after the thirteenth time of listening to this gag, I was pretty done with hearing it. A clever satire does not necessarily equate into good music, and I can only listen to Fishman’s somewhat off-key, mock-guitar solo so many times and enjoy it. The band may have felt similarly, as the interval between performances began to increase as the tour wore on (thankfully).
This is my last post specifically dissecting Phish’s summer 1993 tour, I hope they have been of some interest! You can quickly find all of them by clicking “Summer 1993” in the menu bar beneath the header image. I will be posting at least a couple more posts at the beginning of next year relating to 1993 as a whole. And before then, reviews of the New Year’s Eve 1993 run beginning on 12/28!