Happy New Year’s Eve! NYE is a time for reflection, celebration….and three sets of high-energy Phish. This is the band’s first appearance at the Worcester Centrum, a venue they will continue to play until the current day (and one of my personal favorite venues). The Centrum is strucured in such a way that all the of the crowd’s energy seems funneled to the stage, fueling the band. 10/25/13 at the Centrum is the one of the most energetic non-festival, non-holiday Phish shows I’ve had the pleasure of attending, and I think the venue certainly played a role in that. The intensity of the in-venue atmosphere and the general lawless-ness of the surrounding area outside combines to create an explosive atmosphere for heady Phish (downtown Worcester feels worlds away from mid-town Manhattan and MSG and generally has a sizeable, lively Shakedown Street).
It’s incredible to recall that less than 12 months ago Phish was engaged in a nationwide tour of venues with capacities of 1000-5000, and is now the single artist on the bill of a three-set, New Year’s Eve show at a venue with a capacity of near 15,000. Phish has gradually been graduating to larger venues over the course of the year, but this feels like a real threshold moment. The band is threatening to become more than a club band, and at this point, the band has to realize that.
The crowd seems to realize it too, judging by the roaring crowd cheer that begins the excellent circulating recording of this show (a high-quality FM radio rip). A tight, fiery “Llama” opens the show that, together with the crowd enthusiasm, positively sparks with energy. The band has generally sounded perfectly-rehearsed and precise during composed portions of songs this run, and that seems to be holding true tonight. “Llama” is no longer than usual, but Trey’s solo does twist and turn through some delightfully knotty territory. “Guelah Papyrus” follows in it’s classic #2 slot, and works great here to bring everyone back down after the intensity of “Llama.” Trey asks the crowd “Everybody in yet?” during the pause in “Guelah,” which can be interpreted in a couple different ways. The band doesn’t rest for long, as they dive right back into high-energy playing with an early “Stash.”
The “Stash” jam begins at about 5:00 with a repetitive, thrilling groove driven by riffing from Trey. This groove gradually grows more and more dissonant, with Mike eventually departing entirely from the root-note of the jam and pushing at the song’s structure. The band crashes back into the “Stash” progression by 8:15 as the intense groove peaks in energy. This “Stash” reminded me a lot of the 12/29 “Stash” from two nights ago. Neither jam is very exploratory, but they are both tightly wound and build up a lot of excitement. It’s a fun “Stash” that caps off an impressive year for the song.
A bluegrass diversion follows “Stash” as the acoustic arrangement of “Ginseng Sullivan” returns from August. I continue to really enjoy this arrangement, and like “Guelah,” “Sullivan” provides a nice counterpoint to the intensity of the previous song. As entertaining as everything to this point has been, however, it all turns out to be a warm-up for what comes next: a big mid-set “Reba.” The “Reba” jam begins at 6:25 with unusual tremolo runs from Trey, which give this “Reba” a distinctive sound from the outset. This segment lasts until 7:40, when a more traditional “Reba” jam begins. It doesn’t take long for energy to build, however, and the band has a full head of steam by 9:00. They never really stop building steam; Trey drives the band through a series of progressively more intense and blissful peaks. He shreds his way through a flurry of trills at 11:00 that launch the band into a final, euphoric peak. Fishman signals the end of the jam at 11:25, and the crowd simply erupts with approval as the band falls silent.
“Peaches en Regalia” makes its third appearance during this four show run after “Reba,” perfectly placed here to carry the momentum of the set. The band eases off the gas ever so slightly next with the comedic diversion of “I Didn’t Know,” but head straight back to the races for the set-closing “Run Like an Antelope.” The “Antelope” jam begins at 2:50 with typical, driving riffing from Trey. While Trey is still locked into this driving groove, the mood begins to shift at 4:00 as Mike and Page begin to drift into melodic, almost major-key territory. Fishman develops a nice pocket for himself, and there’s a few very cool seconds here as the band members all seem to be doing their own thing while still remaining in lockstep. Instead of breaking for bliss, the the sound grows more intense and develops into a ball of energy by 5:30. Trey shreds his way to a satisfying and exciting peak at 5:50, which the band rides for a while before breaking down in the song’s reggae segment at 6:30.
Tom Marshall is brought up at this point to sing the “first lines he ever wrote for a Phish song.” What a trip it must have been for Tom to sing these lines he wrote in high school for a roaring crowd at the Centrum! While only an hour long, this first set is a non-stop, relentless high-energy set filled with big moments. Trey really deserves a spotlight here; after warming up with some great riffing in “Stash,” he absolutely shreds his way through huge peaks in both “Reba” and “Antelope,” delivering standout versions of the respective songs. This is an excellent first set that feels to me like the band picking up right exactly where they left off at the end of last night’s fantastic show.
Set 2 opens with “Tweezer,” a song which has been strangely absent from setlists since mid-August (LTP: 8/15/93). The jam begins at 4:55 with an initial space in which Page and Trey trade ideas. Trey gradually settles into a somewhat funky groove by 5:50, and begins to repeat a catchy, melodic riff that will drive the jam for the next couple minutes. This segment has a “let’s party”-vibe to it (appropriate, given the date) and is quite entertaining. Some dissonance begins to creep in at 7:50, but the jam resolves in satisfying fashion by 8:45. The energy continues to build until the band reaches an exciting peak at 9:50. Trey’s playing here again deserves a mention; he graces the peak with some unusually melodic lines before melting faces with outright shredding. Trey’s soloing brings this one home, with the composed ending beginning at 11:20. This “Tweezer” is greater than the sum of its parts. It maintains a fluid progression throughout, builds steadily, has a great pay-off, and is an awesome start to the second set.
“Halley’s Comet” emerges from the end of “Tweezer,” which in turn gives way to a snappy and precisely delivered “Poor Heart.” Without stopping, the band next starts up “It’s Ice.” The ‘underwater’ segment of “Ice” continues to be explored tonight, with the band busting it open to a couple minutes in length. The segment starts at 5:00, and Trey quickly leads the band through a lengthy “Peaches en Regalia” reprise. There are some delightful runs from Page at 6:00 as Trey recedes from the “Peaches” melodies. This leads into a Random Note signal and more “Peaches” shenannigans, before the band finally returns to the “Ice” composition at 7:00. It’s a neat segment that the band manages to smoothly fit within the song. “Fee” follows “Ice,” and features virtually no outro jam. It dissipates almost immediately into a long, late-set “Possum.”
The band breaks down the “Possum” groove at the beginning of Trey’s solo, which leads into a very cool segment of interplay between all four band members that is based around a staccato Trey riff. The band transitions back into the standard “Possum” groove and is gradually building energy by 4:45. It sounds like Trey is about to bring the song to a peak at 8:30, but the band instead breaks down the jam again to go through a final, ridiculous build. The band finally reaches the very satisfying peak at 10:00. Trey has been having a ridiculously good evening, and this extended “Possum” benefits mightily from that fact. After “Possum,” “Lawn Boy” provides an opportunity for both the band and audience to take a breath before the set-closing “You Enjoy Myself.”
The ‘bliss’ segment at the beginning of “YEM” is a decent length tonight (roughly 1:30-3:30), and while it starts pleasant enough, it actually descends into a dark and ominous atmosphere due to Page’s ascending drones. Page’s solo begins at 9:00 with interplay between him and Trey, who’s locked into a staccato riff reminiscent of his playing in “Possum.” Trey drops out quickly, however, leaving Page the spotlight. Perhaps tired of playing second fiddle tonight, Page steps up here to deliver an awesome (though relatively brief) solo. Trey comes back in at 10:30 with some cool funk. After a brief passage of full-band funk, Trey takes over with a jazzy solo. Trey puts on an absolute clinic of solo construction here, as he darts and zigs and zags his way up and down and across his fretboard. He’s playing “a lot of notes,” as Mike might put it, but each one feels thoughtfully chosen and placed with purpose. It’s as if in each jam tonight Trey is pushing himself to one-up his last solo, and it’s kind of stunning. His solo builds into a great peak by 14;00, and after some final, thrilling theatrics, the bass and drums segment begins at 14:45. Mike’s solo is nice and chunky tonight, and gives way to the vocal jam at 15:40. As the vocal jam slows to as stop, Trey tells the audience the band is going to “go on a little excursion here…in 15 minutes we’ll be back…”
I suppose one could knock this set by saying it doesn’t have a jam quite as cathartic as “Reba” in the first set, but that’s about the only criticism you could make. This is a tightly scripted set (the band doesn’t pause until 45 minutes in) with a lot of big moments. “Tweezer” starts off the set with some quality jamming and an energetic groove, “Ice” gets extended with a cool ‘underwater’ segment, “Possum” features a great Trey workout, and “YEM” ends the set on a huge high-note. The band generally aims in this set for a party-vibe rather than deep exploration, but they succeed wildly in creating such an atmosphere. And with that, we’re on to the final set of the year!
“…Five…four…three…two…one…Happy New Year!” The recording of this show begins with the countdown to midnight, at which point the band takes the stage for the annual performance of “Auld Lang Syne.” After a couple triumphant refrains of this traditional tune, the band segues into…the debut of “Down with Disease?” Not quite: the next track is an instrumental jam based around the main progression of “Disease.” Trey departs from the “Disease” theme at 1:00 and launches straight into more high-octane soloing. He reaches a soaring peak and then transitions smoothly into an “Auld Lang Syne” tease at 2:00. After a little more soloing he returns to the “Disease” theme at 3:10, which winds down and drops into “Split Open and Melt.” While short, this “Disease” jam is a joyous and exciting way to start the new year.
This “Split Open and Melt,” as well as the previous “Auld Lang Syne > Disease,” have been officially released on Live Bait Vol. 3. The “Split” jam begins at 4:20 with repetitive, vaguely dark riffing from Trey. This leads the band to fully lock into an intense groove by 5:15. As opposed to the furious shredding that has characterized Trey’s playing in most of this show’s jams, he here instead sticks to only minimal variations to the riff he has developed. The rest of the band gradually ratchets up the intensity, with Fish and Mike in particular impressing with their fills. A tension and release build, stretched to ridiculous proportions, leads the jam into a raging peak from 8:15-9:00. Trey goes absolutely wild here with tremelo picking and shredding, finally breaking from his minimalism at the beginning of the jam. This leads the band to crash into the song’s ending at 9:45. This is a dark and intense “Split” that is a great counterpoint to the bliss of the previous “Disease” jam.
“The Lizards” brings everyone back down to earth following a non-stop and exciting beginning to this third set. As should be expected at this point, the band plays the song near-flawlessly. “Sparkle” bridges “Lizards” and an extra-silly “Suzy Greenberg” that features “Smoke on the Water” and more “Peaches en Regalia” teases, as well as an extended Page solo. Fishman steps up to the microphone after “Suzy” for the night’s Henrietta segment featuring “Cracklin’ Rosie.” The band isn’t finished after the Henrietta segment, however, for they have one more heavy-hitter up their sleeve: “Harry Hood.”
The “Hood” jam begins at 5:45. Trey quickly, and tastefully, brings the band through a quiet “Auld Lang Syne” tease. Trey then falls back into mellow, arpeggiated playing at 6:55. The rest of the band slowly starts to add some urgency into the jam at 7:55, which pushes Trey into “Hood”-esque melodies. This slowly and patiently swells into a blissful, euphoric groove. The energy reaches a peak at 11:00, pushing Trey to finally depart from the arpeggiated style into full-on soloing. He unleashes a hose of trills and shredding to push this “Hood” to absurd peaks and transition into the song’s ending at 12:55. This “Hood” matches, and perhaps exceeds, the cathartic “Reba” of the first set, and is yet another big moment from this show. The set ends with just about the only song that could follow that “Hood”: the leave-it-all-on-the-stage, hard-rock of “Tweezer Reprise.” Trey acknowledges before beginning the encore that this is “10 years for us” and asks the audience to join them for “ten more.” “Golgi Apparatus” and a poignant “Amazing Grace” comprise the double encore that sends the crowd off into a new year.
Phish is hungry during this show. It’s simply impossible not to sense. The sets are perfectly scripted, the band digs in to just about every jam to bring them to soaring heights, and Trey simply shreds from beginning to end, putting on a master class of rock solo musicianship. The result is a perfect synthesis of 1993 Phish distilled into three, near-flawless sets. This show has long been part of the Phish pantheon of classic performances, and upon re-listen, is deservingly so. The band ends a transformative year with a bang.
It has been a joy discovering 1993 Phish over the last year and documenting that journey here. I plan to do the same over the next year with 1994. Phish takes several months off from touring after this show, with the spring 1994 tour not beginning until early April. During this time off the studio follow-up to Rift, Hoist, will be released in March. I’ll be taking some time off from blog posts, but you can expect a couple of posts reflecting on 1993 as a whole during this time between shows. The first of these posts, a ranking of my favorite shows of 1993, will be posted on January 25th. Until then, may 2018 be kind to you and yours!
- Show rating: 5/5
- Highlights: “Stash,” “Reba,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “Tweezer,” “It’s Ice,” “Possum,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Auld Lang Syne > Down with Disease Jam > Split Open and Melt,” “Harry Hood“
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 54 mins.
- Second set length: 72 mins.
- Third set length: 58 mins.
- Encore length: 8 mins.
- This is the first time Phish performed at the Worcester Centrum Centre. They will return on 12/28/95.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Auld Lang Syne,” returning after a one hundred and ten show absence (12/31/92).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (6 songs).