Show #2 of spring 94’s California run brings us northward from San Diego to Los Angeles. Although the band played two shows in L.A. during their winter/spring ’93 tour, Phish limits their appearance in the City of Angels to just one show this time around (though they will play in the surrounding area tomorrow night). The band strings together a number of shorter tunes to open the show: a “Buried Alive > Poor Heart > Sample in a Jar” sequence. This sequence sounds how you would expect it to on paper, and is well-played aside from Trey flubbing the brief guitar intro to “Poor Heart” as the band slams into the song straight out of “Buried Alive.” A solid reading of “Divided Sky” rounds out this opening sequence of songs. The composition of the song is near note-perfect and features about a 45 second crowd cheering pause, and Trey’s solo at the end is decent though unexceptional.
“Axilla (Part II) > Rift,” two songs in heavy rotation, follow “Divided Sky.” “Axilla” is well-played, but “Rift” sounds a bit rocker than in most recent performances (though the band does gain confidence over the course of the song). “Down with Disease” is next. “Disease” follows the typical path it has followed all tour, and though it’s largely standard, Trey’s solo during the “jam” is Trey’s best playing of the set so far. “Bouncing Around the Room” emerges smoothly out of the ending of “Disease” and leads into the penultimate song of the set, the first really great “Stash” of May. The audience claps along to Fishman’s woodblock parts during the song’s composition (still a rare occurrence), showing that this LA audience truly is in the know when it comes to Phish, and the jam starts at 5:05 with dark riffing from Trey.
The band wastes no time building the “Stash” jam’s energy, and Trey starts to shift to full-on shredding as early as 6:00. Trey quickly changes tacks again, however, and downshifts into muted, slightly monotone riffing to build tension. There is great melodic work from Mike during this segment as he steps up while Trey wails away. This middle segment of the jam develops into a nice, gooey, psychedelic feeling that releases at 7:45 into a very satisfying peak. The band then quickly works through several successive quick tension/release builds, as if they are heading towards the song’s composed ending, but the jam then breaks down instead at 9:00. The root note of the jam shifts, and the jam takes on a less-dark, almost upbeat feeling. A hazy tone develops, and Trey truly reaches for the light at 9:40. Fishman alters his beat at the same time to a more straightforward rhythm and Mike unleashes the melodicism we heard from him just minutes prior. The result is a surprising, triumphant swell right at the end of the jam that reaches a glorious peak at 10:00. Trey then leads the band back to the composed ending of “Stash,” which is played very quietly. An unamplified and inaudible on the audience recording performance of “Sweet Adeline” ends the set.
Some of the inconsistency of the San Diego show returns in this set when it comes to the band’s performances of their compositions–generally not an area of difficulty for Phish at this time. The band does struggle in spots with “Poor Heart” and “Rift.” These minor flubs, however, do not take away from some of the otherwise great playing in this set. “Divided Sky” is performed near flawlessly, which is a treat to hear, and the “Stash” at the end of the set packs quite a bang for its length.
Set two kicks off with another “2001”; the band seemed to be backing off of this song at the beginning of the tour but its frequency of appearances the last week or so has started to return to summer ’93 levels of prominence. This “2001” features a bit more of a spacey build-up to the initial drum kick than usual, but it still sticks to about 4 minutes. “Run Like an Antelope” takes the jam slot as song #2–and what an “Antelope” this is! The jam begins at 2:50 and is initially driven by high-energy riffing, but the jam soon starts to air out at 3:45. Mike and Page step up to briefly take the lead and switch the jam’s root for a middle-eastern sounding modal shift. Trey soon comes charging back in, however, with positively galloping chords, throwing the jam’s rhythm in flux. Some driving riffs push this jam to loud, noisy, heavy-metal territory. Trey teases the “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” riff during this segment at 6:00, steps back from that song for a quick solo, then fully commits to “BBFCM” at 6:50. Mike comes in with the vocals of the first verse of that song, but the band returns immediately to the “Antelope” jam after the verse instead of the typical pause in “BBFCM.”
The “Antelope” jam breaks down after the “BBFCM” verse with some neat interplay between Trey and Mike. Fish starts a half-time beat, and Trey begins to push the jam in an upbeat direction at 9:00 with melodic playing. The rest of the band soon joins Trey, and the jam emerges into a blissful, upbeat segment led by Trey, who shifts from melodies to full-on soloing. The band really commits to this type-II groove and rides it out for a couple glorious minutes before the jam starts to shift again at 12:30. The jam breaks down again, Fish returns to the full “Antelope” tempo, and Trey starts up a driving riff. They smoothly return to the “Antelope” progression, Trey unleashes the shred, and the band pushes this “Antelope” to an absolutely ferocious peak from 15:30-16:25, at which point the reggae segment of the song begins.
Wow! This isn’t the most fluid jam in the world, due to numerous instances of the band stopping, breaking down the jam, then searching for a new direction, but they work through a lot of interesting territory, throw in some quirky Phishiness (“BBFCM”), and wrap it up with a fantastic peak. I can say with no hesitation that this is the best jam Phish has played since the Bomb Factory show over a week ago.
A quick “Sparkle” leads into a mid-set “It’s Ice.” The ‘underwater’ segment of this “Ice” is a good three minutes, and it does feature full-band interplay throughout, but it’s also entirely dominated by Page soloing and similar in style to many of the recent “Ice” jams. Trey sticks to wah-pedal comping underneath Page’s solo, and Fishman largely just sticks to cymbal accompaniment. A typically ripping “Julius” leads into the last big song of the set, “You Enjoy Myself.” Page’s “YEM” solo begins at 8:45 and is pretty typical until the trade-off to Trey’s solo. Fishman begins to break down the jam’s rhythm at the end of Page’s solo, and the jam descends into a kind of low drone at 10:00. Trey’s solo thus appropriately starts with wails of feedback, and he goes straight into full-on shredding instead of the usual clean/jazzy build-up at the beginning of his “YEM” solo. He shifts from this shredding to more melodic leads at 13:00 with long, drawn-out notes, similar to the upbeat segments of the earlier “Stash” and “Antelope,” but he drops out soon after instead of really digging into this shift in tone. The bass and drums segment starts early at 13:40 and the vocal jam not long after. There’s some interesting spots during the solos in this “YEM,” but the (instrumental) jam is simply too short for the jam to have anything more than that.
This second set ends with a good dose of Phish silliness that also brings an end to the “BBFCFM” that was started during the “Antelope.” The band plows straight into the second verse of “BBFCM” after the end of the “YEM” vocal jam, sing an a cappella “Amazing Grace” during the second pause in the song, and then return again to “BBFCM” to end the set. I’ve written at least a few times before that ending a set with a straight rendition of “BBFCM” strikes me as an odd setlist choice, but it obviously works great tonight to bookend the “BBFCM” silliness at the beginning of the set. The band then makes an interesting setlist choice of playing “Fee > Rocky Top” as tonight’s encore (“Fee” is an extremely rare encore choice, this is literally the first “Fee” encore since I began writing this blog).
This show isn’t quite the mind-melting blow-out that the Bomb Factory show was; I found myself wishing for more freeform jamming in the second set after “Antelope” but besides for the “BBFCM” silliness the rest of the second set is played fairly straight and standard for the time. That said, great type-II jams have been far and few between on this tour, so this wide-open, super-extended “Antelope” is a great step in the right direction and hopefully is a sign that spring ’94 has a few more surprises in store before it ends at the end of the month. Throw in the best “Stash” in weeks in the first set and you have yourself a pretty great Phish show.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Stash,” “Run Like an Antelope -> Big Black Furry Creature from Mars -> Run Like an Antelope,” “You Enjoy Myself”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 58 mins.
- Second set length: 72 mins.
- Encore length: 8 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Wiltern Theatre. Trey Anastasio Band performed here on several occasions, first on 12/07/05.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Sparkle,” returning after a six show absence (5/7/94).
- The best represented studio album is Hoist (4 songs).