Phish’s spring ’94 westward sprint ends today upon reaching the Pacific Ocean. The band played 10 shows in California during the winter/spring ’93 tour, and they’ll come close to matching that number by the end of the next couple weeks. A quick and typically-fiery “Llama” kicks off Phish’s California run. “Llama” is followed by “Wilson.” Despite a lengthy, two-minute intro the California crowd does not participate in the “Wilson” chant that has developed over the course of the tour; clearly the left coast crowd has some catching up to do. There’s no real jam or solo after the “blat! boom!” vocals, and the ending of “Wilson” instead disintegrates straight into the intro of “Down with Disease.” “Disease” in turn sticks to the same 6-7 minute script it has followed all tour. Trey’s solo is decent but not notable in any way. “Fee” provides a chilled-out landing pad to the energy of “Disease” and features a (very) short outro jam tonight featuring ‘plinko’-esque playing from Trey and pleasant baby grand playing from Page. This coda fades out into a mid-set “Reba.”
The “Reba” jam begins at 6:10 with Mike and Fishman establishing a smooth, languid groove. Trey comes in over this initially with clean, descending sweep picking runs. His playing shifts to clean soloing at 7:20, and the jam steadily gains momentum from there. Trey starts to hit melodic highs by 10:00, and pushes the jam to an initial peak soon after. At this point Trey unleashes the hose and pushes the jam through a few more exhilarating peaks before Fishman signals the song’s break and the end of the jam at 12:30. This is a very good “Reba”; the first few minutes of the jam are fairly typical but the peak is patiently reached and satisfyingly elaborated on. “Sample in a Jar” follows “Reba” and works well here as a straight-forward, high-energy counterpart to the jazzy intricacy of “Reba.” The second “My Sweet One” of tour is also similarly well-placed after “Sample,” providing the set with some quirky Fishman brevity. An acoustic and unamplified performance of “Ginseng Sullivan” (fortunately still audible on the audience recording) is the penultimate song of the set.
“David Bowie” returns to what I consider to be its classic position, set one closer, to bring an end to the first half of this show. Although largely standard, this “Bowie” packs enough fun and surprise to make for an exciting set one closer. The intro features some brief jamming and chordal vamping which ends at 1:15 with the beginning of the composition. The jam starts at 4:45 and is initially quite subdued as Trey sticks to clean picking. Mike shifts the jam’s root in a major key direction suddenly at 6:00 which Trey picks up on, causing a triumphant swell to emerge seemingly out of nowhere. The band roars back into the “Bowie” progression shortly after 7:00 as this swell peaks. From there the jam follows a fun but standard build to the song’s peak and composed ending.
This first set reminds me a little of yesterday’s first set: a good setlist flow, solid musicianship all around, and great type-I jamming, this time in “Reba” and “Bowie.” If the band builds on this set with more creative playing in the second frame this could be another great show.
“The Curtain” makes one of its rare but always-welcome appearances to start off set two, still sans the “With” segment. A decently-extended “Mike’s Song” follow. The band adopts a more sluggish tempo for “Mike’s” than normal, and the first jam appropriately begins at 2:50 with a swampy/sludgy feel driven by Trey’s chordal riffing. The band drags themselves out of this murky tone for a somewhat brighter groove at 4:35 that leads into a more traditional first-jam Trey solo. This peaks and transitions into the first set of end chords at 6:05, with a second jam beginning at 6:35. The band immediately quiets down and breaks the jam down at the beginning of this second jam, causing a bouncy, ‘plinko’-like groove to slowly emerge. Trey starts up some odd, carnival-sounding riffing at 8:00 that causes the energy to start to build, but the jam soon dissipates into nothing, as if the band is unsure where to go. Fishman switches to a half-time beat and the band descends back into sludgy, swampy riffs. This murky feeling remains until the transition back to the “Mike’s” progression at 11:00. A final solo over the “Mike’s” progression brings this one to the final set of end chords. This is a weird “Mike’s” that didn’t do a whole lot for me. The slower tempo seems to sap some of the band’s energy and the band doesn’t stray far from ominous riffing despite the decent length to the jam.
“I Am Hydrogen” claims its traditional spot as the Mike’s Groove sandwich and is decently well-played. The “Weekapaug Groove” jam begins at 1:25 with precise, descending lines from Trey that already sounds more focused than just about anything played during “Mike’s.” Before long Trey shifts from these bursts of notes to more prolonged passages of shredding. A lengthy tension jam takes up most of this track, and it resolves into a good peak at 4:00. The jam breaks apart entirely after reaching this peak at 4:40 as it breaks down to nothing but a repeating, muted Trey riff. This riff in turn slowly morphs into the beginning of the elusive “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” instrumental. “TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY” brings an end to this Mike’s Groove, as “Weekapaug” remains unfinished. While only featuring a couple minutes of improvisation, “Weekapaug” is high-energy and a lot of fun, and “TMWSIY” is always an appreciated treat, so I found this back half of the Mike’s Groove to be the more entertaining half tonight.
Phish makes a number of unusual setlist choices to close out the remainder of the set. First, they choose a number of largely through-composed tunes to finish the set. Second, they forgo any sort of Henrietta segment. “Punch You in the Eye > Fast Enough for You” are the first two songs of this sequence. In comparison to the sluggishness of “Mike’s,” the band positively blazes through “Punch” at a very quick tempo. “FEFY,” by contrast, is played at its typical mid-tempo pace and concludes with some great fireworks from Trey. The band must have enjoyed playing “The Lizards” two nights ago in Tucson, for the song returns tonight as the penultimate song of the set (though is unfortunately marred on playback by a tape flip). A quick “Cavern” ends the set, while “Bold as Love” is the lone encore.
This is one of those rare shows where the first set is clearly stronger than the second. “Reba” provides the best jam of the evening with its serene beginning, steady build, and strong peak, while “David Bowie” provides some neat surprises and improvisation as well. The second set, on the other hand, is strangely inconsistent for the time. “Mike’s” is of decent length but the band sounds somewhat lost in the jam, and “Weekapaug,” while fun, only features a couple minutes of jamming. The band then forgoes improv almost entirely for the remainder of the set. Hopefully with a day off tomorrow the band will be able to recharge their creative juices and deliver a more consistent show in Los Angeles on the 16th.
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Reba,” “David Bowie,” “Weekapaug Groove > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 62 mins.
- Second set length: 63 mins.
- Encore length: 5 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at Montezuma Hall.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “My Sweet One,” returning after a twenty-one show absence (4/17/94).
- The best represented studio album is Junta, Lawn Boy, A Picture of Nectar and Hoist (2 songs).