August 24th, 1993: Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver CAN

Welcome back after another two day break! Phish has relocated to the Pacific Northwest for the final run of summer ’93 shows. Tonight’s show is the second and final Canadian show of tour, and is the first show in some time to have a circulating soundcheck. The first track of the soundcheck is a ten-minute, free-form jam. The jam begins with a mellow, funky groove. At first I thought the track may end up being nothing more than a pleasant but noodling funk exercise, but the jam starts to break down at 3:45 as Page steps up with impressive leads. Mike turns on a fun, chunky filter that we have not been hearing much (at all) during shows, and Page and Trey both lock in to a beautiful, uplifting melody at 5:00. The band sticks with this new theme for the next several minutes, before the jam begins to dissipate into soundcheck chatter at 9:00. While far from the most adventurous or impressive jam of the month, this soundcheck jam nevertheless showcases the band’s increasing ability to fluidly change course mid-jam, and is otherwise a pleasant, head-bopping slice of improvisation that I certainly found to be an enjoyable listen.

“Leprechaun” will never again be played during a Phish show proper, but apparently the band has not yet given up on it for it makes another appearance as song two of this soundcheck. The song sounds better rehearsed than it did during its first couple of appearances, but my feelings for it have not really changed. A lengthy “Wedge” is next, long in part due to the band working on the song’s intro. Trey comments as they rehearse the song that he “screwed [the intro] up” during their last performance of the song. The recording of the last song of the soundcheck, “Funky Bitch,” unfortunately cuts about two minutes into the song, so I don’t have any comments to add regarding that tune. Overall, I would definitely say this soundcheck is worth a listen; largely because of the very solid and entertaining jam, but the relatively rare “Leprechaun” and “Wedge” are entertaining as well.

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Commodore Ballroom

“Chalk Dust Torture” opens the show. Trey’s solo is longer than usual tonight, and he briefly takes the song into dark territory at 4:40 before an exciting build takes the band back to the song’s ending. A high-energy, exciting opener. “All Things Reconsidered” leads into an early “Bouncing Around the Room.” Trey asks the audience at the beginning of “Bouncing” to use the song as an opportunity to test the venue’s “spring-loaded floors.” An extended “It’s Ice” is next. The ‘underwater’ segment of “Ice” begins at 4:40, and Page immediately dominates the segment as the rest of the band drops out. After delivering some tasty soloing, Page starts to settle on a groove. This causes the rest of the band to jump back in at 6:15. Trey starts soloing over this groove, until the band starts to break down the jam at 7:30. Only Page and Fish are playing at this point, and after some interplay between the two the “Ice” composition starts back up at 7:50. This is one of the longest “Ice” performances of tour so far, and the ‘underwater’ segment contains a well-developed jam. The consistent experimentation during this segment of “Ice” has been a much-appreciated development this tour. “Nellie Kane” is well-placed after “Ice” and carries the momentum of the set before “Split Open and Melt.”

The “Melt” jam begins at 4:25 and is initially led by driving, catchy riffing from Trey. Trey starts to vary his playing at 5:30 and transitions into a full-on solo. Mike begins to vary his lines as well, which leads the jam to slowly pull apart from its tight, tense beginning. The sound of the jam is quite anarchic by 7:30, though it’s still loosely connected to the “Melt” progression. As the band plays around with the remaining tatters of the “Melt” structure, a trippy Mike bass line leads into some psychedelic interplay between Trey and Mike at about 9:00. The band crashes back into more-typical “Melt” territory from there, and quickly wrap up the song. This is less adventurous than some recent “Melts,” as the band never fully leaves the song’s structure. That said, the band sounds incredibly locked-in and tight throughout the jam, and they manage to break down the “Melt” structure about as far as possible without leaving the song entirely. Together it all adds up to being the biggest highlight of the set so far.

“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” follows “Melt” to give everyone a breather before the band launches into the second “Uncle Pen” in as many shows. “Maze” is next, and the penultimate song of the set. While the song follows its normal course, the solos from both Page and Trey build to exciting, satisfying peaks, leading me to rank this “Maze” slightly above average. “Golgi Apparatus” closes the set. The highlight of this set is definitely the middle third, from “Ice” through “Melt.” Both songs feature interesting diversions, with “Melt” delivering the most impressive improvisation of the set. The rest of the set isn’t bad either, however, with the solos in “Chalk Dust” and “Maze” both impressing. A very good, if not amazing, first set.

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The band picks “Llama” to open set 2. “Llama” almost never fails to disappoint, but this performance does receive some extra attention in the way of a couple of a very intense builds. “Horn” jumped to the second set in Salt Lake City, and returns to the same slot tonight after “Llama.” The longest “Ya Mar” of the year so far (by a smidge) is song three. Page takes his time in “Ya Mar” to deliver a very enjoyable, relaxed solo. He succeeds in creating a pleasantly hazy atmosphere in his segment.

Mike’s Groove anchors the middle of this set. The “Mike’s Song” jam begins at 2:40 with Mike and his rocking bass line. Trey comes in at 3:35 for a decent-length solo. He works through a couple of satisfying builds before the first set of ending chords kick in at 5:20. A second jam begins at 5:40. The band gradually coalesces around a driving Trey riff, Mike throws on his funky bass filter that made an appearance during the soundcheck jam, and this “Mike’s” takes a turn for the memorable. A half-angry, half-funky groove develops, with Mike’s bass work taking the spotlight. Trey starts to solo again at 8:20, while Page adds some great background psychedelia. Page gradually takes over for some soloing himself. A final build brings a close to this very cool jam segment, with the band returning to the “Mike’s” progression at 10:00. A final Trey solo brings the band to the final set of ending chords at 11:15.

A neat organ bridge from Page guides the end of “Mike’s Song” into another acoustic performance of “Ginseng Sullivan.” I continue to enjoy this arrangement, and the song works well here after the intensity of “Mike’s.” “Weekapaug Groove” starts right up after “Sullivan.” The “Weekapaug” jam starts at 1:15, and is initially led by Trey. The jam begins to air out at 3:00. Page takes over for a solo on his baby grand, and the band settles into a funky groove. This groove starts to get choppy at 5:00. The jam grows noisy and dissonant, and gradually begins to dissipate. Over the next couple of minutes the band alternates between angry, chordal builds and moody, sparse playing. This ominous vibe brings the band smoothly into the intro of “Wilson” at 10:05, leaving “Weekapaug” unfinished. Similar to the earlier “Split Open and Melt,” the band doesn’t as much explore new ground in this “Weekapaug” as much as deconstruct the song they came out of. For that reason, the earlier “Mike’s” song is more my cup of tea. Like the earlier “Melt,” however, this “Weekapaug” is still very interesting and intense to listen to.

“Wilson” is very short, with Trey starting up “Rift” almost immediately after his end-of-song “Wilson” solo began. “Suzy Greenberg” follows “Rift.” “Suzy” can be hit-or-miss with me, but it hits tonight. The song follows its standard progression, but Trey throws in some “Tweezer” teases and Mike kicks on his funky bass filter again during Page’s second solo, which gets pretty raging. This fun “Suzy” leads into the night’s Henrietta segment, this time featuring “Cracklin’ Rosie.” “Run Like an Antelope” is the set’s final song, and is dedicated by Trey to the band’s newest crew members.

‘Machine-gun Trey’ is about all that needs to be said about this “Antelope” jam. The band eschews experimentation for a straightforward drive towards a peak, but what a drive it is. Trey unleashes anything he had left in him at this point of the evening, and shreds through a number of increasingly intense builds. After a blistering peak, the band stops on a dime together to begin the reggae segment at 7:40. “Antelope” is a thrilling end to what has shaped up to be quite an enjoyable set. The double-encore tonight consists of the always-welcome “Halley’s Comet” and a snappy, show-ending “Poor Heart.”

While a step below the highest highs of this month, tonight’s show is a clear step up over the night before and delivers a lot of interesting moments. The soundcheck jam is a relaxing, fluid jaunt, “Mike’s” song is a heavy-metal dance party, and “Run Like an Antelope” positively shreds. There’s also a lot of other cool moments spread across both sets, making the entire show a great top-to-bottom listen.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “Jam,” “It’s Ice,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Mike’s Song > Ginseng Sullivan > Weekapaug Groove,” “Run Like an Antelope

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • Soundcheck length: ~26 mins.
  • First set length: 65 mins.
  • Second set length: 78 mins.
  • Encore length: ~8 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Commodore Ballroom.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “Halley’s Comet,” both returning after a thirteen show absence (8/6/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (7 songs).
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August 21st, 1993: Saltair Pavilion, Morrison CO

The western leg of summer tour continues tonight with Phish’s first Salt Lake City show of 1993. A snappy but well-played pairing of “Buried Alive” and “Poor Heart” opens the show. “Foam” is song three. While relatively standard tonight, “Foam” does give both Page and Trey an opportunity to warm up their soloing chops and contains a brief silent jam at 6:15. The through-composed vibe of the set continues with a straightforward reading of “Guelah Papyrus,” and a fast-paced and immaculately performed “Rift.” A mid-set “Stash” provides the first real opportunity of the night for improvisation, about 25 minutes into the show.

The “Stash” jam begins at 4:45, and the band begins by bringing down the energy of the song a couple notches. Trey starts to experiment with some sliding riffs, which leads to a build beginning at 6:15. The mood of the jam remains ominous. A murky groove begins to be established by 7:00. Mike is leading the jam at this point with melodic playing, while Page and Trey swirl about in the background. This airs out at 8:20, as the band departs from the darkness of the beginning of the jam and instead reach for the light. The band briefly explores this light and upbeat space, but the jam quickly moves in a harder-edged direction as it picks up steam. Trey returns to some slide riffing here, and the mood of the jam at this point is somewhat reminiscent of the elusive “Sparks.” An anarchic breakdown begins at 10:15, and begins to build back up again around Trey’s growling, droning playing that emerges from the depths of the jam. This builds, transitions back into “Stash” territory at 13:45, and reaches a noisy and satisfying peak. This “Stash” perhaps does not reach the same ecstatic highs of the performance from the 15th, but it’s certainly another adventurous and highly-successful excursion that is more than worth a listen.

“Sparkle” carries along the momentum of the set after “Stash” before dropping right into “The Landlady,” which makes for a fun combination of songs. “I Didn’t Know” occupies its usual penultimate-song-of-set position and gives Fishman an opportunity to wow on the washboard before the set closing song, “Runaway Jim.” “Jim” receives special treatment tonight, with the jam getting way woolier than is typical. Trey begins to repeat a shredding, slightly dissonant, descending line, which sets off a series of exciting tension/release segments. He adds some scat vocals at about 7:15 as the jam breaks down around chordal playing. The band briefly breaks the song’s structure here as another dissonant, somewhat ‘hey hole’-esque segment emerges. The band brings this “Jim” home at 9:00 as they return to the song’s structure for a final, triumphant Trey solo.

The first half of this set feels very standard, as the band runs through a number of largely through-composed songs that are in heavy rotation (“Foam,” “Poor Heart,” “Guelah Papyrus, “Rift”). The set starts to pick up from there, however, with another exciting and highly-improvisational “Stash,” a fun pairing of “Sparkle > Landlady,” and a notably experimental set-closing “Runaway Jim.”

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The curious architecture of the Saltair Pavilion

“Possum” opens set 2. While not quite as experimental as the last performance of the song, tonight’s “Possum” nevertheless goes through a number of interesting diversions before crashing into a satisfying, high-energy peak. “Horn” escapes from its familiar first-set confines to follow “Possum” before a pleasant “Uncle Pen.” “Fee” is next, a song that has received some special treatment over the last couple of weeks. That trend continues tonight, for Trey introduces guests on stage as the “Fee” outro begins at 5:00. Béla Fleck, Victor Wooten, and Roy Wooten join Phish on-stage for the remainder of the set, and contribute to a mellow “Fee” groove that lasts for about a minute before Fishman plunges the group into “Llama.”

“Llama” opens up to allow the band and their guests opportunities to solo, and they actually take a hard turn at 3:30 to briefly open up the song’s structure. They return from this brief excursion to the ending of “Llama” not long after 4:00. Page steps up to center stage for a mid-set “Lawn Boy,” which is followed by “David Bowie.” The jam starts at 4:20, and the first couple minutes feature the rhythm section plodding along as Fleck, Page, and Trey all exchange interlocking lines. The result is a more laid-back sound than a typical “Bowie.” An intense, locked-in groove develops by 7:00. The jam breaks down a bit after this build, with the two bassists going wild in the low-end as the rest of the group settles on a direction. The band finally settles back in firmly-“Bowie” territory by 10:30. Fleck drives the final segment of the jam with a mellow banjo solo, before Trey gently guides everyone into the composed ending of the song at 14:00. This “Bowie” is less adventurous than many of the recent performances of the song, and it has a much more relaxed feel than the often dark and frantic nature of the song. While it’s not a “Bowie” I expect to return to very much, it definitely has a very unique feel due to the guests.

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Béla Fleck

The Henrietta segment follows “Bowie,” and is centered around the first “If I Only Had a Brain” of tour (a welcome break from “Purple Rain”). There’s a track labeled “Jam” after the second refrain of “Hold Your Head Up” – but don’t get your hopes up for truly mind-bending improvisation; this short track is largely just a drum solo between Fishman and one of the guests. Page and Trey come in at the end of the track to create a brief, tense build that resolves into the intro of “Harry Hood.” As with the earlier “Bowie,” while this might not be one of my favorite “Hoods,” the guest musicians definitely give this performance a unique flavor. The jam begins at 4:55, and the band quickly makes way for Fleck to lead the jam. Fleck delivers a delicate and quality solo that perfectly matches the tone you would expect from a “Hood” jam. He continues to drive the jam up to the end, with Trey finally taking over shortly after 8:00. Trey delivers a concise but blissful and energetic solo to wrap up a short but very enjoyable “Hood” jam. I think the guest musicians do a better job of blending into the rest of the band here than they did in “Bowie,” with the general progression of the “Hood” jam giving them more to latch onto than the relatively open-ended nature of a “Bowie” jam. A quick “Daniel Saw the Stone” closes the set.

This set, including its big improvisational moments, is largely dominated by the guest sit-in. Your feelings on this set will therefore ultimately be determined by how you feel about the guests. Personally, I would rank this sit-in somewhere between an average guest sit-in and the craziness of the Aquarium Rescue Unit sit-in on May 5th from earlier in ’93. While not my favorite versions of these songs, the guests do add a unique flavor to both “Bowie” and “Hood” that’s interesting to hear. Fleck is also clearly a talented player, and a joy to listen to. However, the guests also do not inspire Phish to engage highly-improvisational anarchy like they did during “YEM” from the aforementioned May show (still the longest jam of the year). Phish instead keeps the songs pretty close to the vest outside of “Bowie” to ensure the guest musicians can follow along. “Amazing Grace” is the first encore of the evening, before Fleck rejoins the band for the show-closing “Nellie Kane.”

I would say that “Stash” is the big take-away moment of the evening, as the band uses the song to deliver another lengthy and highly-successful type-II excursion. The second set, on the other hand, I would rank as fairly inessential compared to some of the amazing sets the band has dropped over the last couple weeks. If you’re a big Béla Fleck fan, or a fan of listening to Phish jam with other musicians, this set is definitely worth a listen. Otherwise, I would recommend diving into and exploring the gold mine of music from this month before taking the time to listen to this show in full.

  • Show rating: 3/5
  • Highlights: “Stash,” “Runaway Jim,” “David Bowie,” “Harry Hood”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 61 mins.
  • Second set length: 74 mins.
  • Encore length: 6 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at Saltair Pavilion.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “If I Only Had a Brain,” returning after a thirty-eight show absence (4/30/93).
  • The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 20th, 1993: Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison CO

This is my 100th review for this blog! Cheers!

After a couple of deserved days off, Phish’s 1993 summer tour moves west for its final leg. For this show the Phish gods have blessed us with a good sounding soundboard recording that can be found in circulation. This is Phish’s debut at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a venue they will return to many times over the years to come. I’ve had the pleasure of driving right by Red Rocks as some friends and I road-tripped through the Rocky Mountains with some friends on our way from Denver to Salt Lake City, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see a show there myself. Despite this, I can vouch for how beautiful the surrounding area is, and the venue is definitely at the top of my list of places where I would like to see a show someday.

The setlist tonight reads like something of a ‘greatest hits’ of summer tour, with many songs that were played at the band’s last show in Kansas reappearing tonight. For evidence of this, one need look no further than the show-opening “Divided Sky.” It’s rare to see “Sky” opening a show, but apparently a storm cleared in the Red Rocks area right before show time, making the song an appropriate choice. Someone flubs at about 6:45 (Trey, I believe), which briefly throws the band off. The playing is otherwise solid, however, and the jam at the end both is of decent length and contains some great warm-up soloing from Trey. This “Sky” didn’t quite impress me as the one from the last show, but it still makes a statement as the first song of the evening.

The band is serious about setting the bar high early tonight, for they immediately follow up “Divided Sky” with a very rare, early-in-the-show “Harpua.” Trey begins his narration by commenting that Red Rocks is “the most incredible place I’ve ever played music.” The narration is Red Rocks-centric from there, as Trey describes how the venue’s dressing rooms are caves that have been carved into the rocks. The walls of these caves contain writing in an ancient language that tell the story of a dog named Harpua that used to live at Red Rocks before it was a venue, hundreds of years ago. This dog lived with an old man that the townspeople hated, so they kicked the two out. The old man and dog journeyed to the top of the nearby mountains, where the gods spoke to them and gave Harpua special powers. Harpua could now change into any animal he wished to be, and after some experimentation settled on being an iguana. Poster and Harpua-as-iguana then have their fateful encounter. In a surprising twist to the normal course of the story, Poster manages to turn Harpua into stone with his deadly glare just as Harpua was about to pounce on the cat. Trey tells the audience that the Harpua stone is still in the venue today, presumably while pointing to some rock in the venue. The story is a bit hard to follow from there – somehow everyone in the town dies, including Poster, and the narration transitions into the standard conclusion. This is a really fun sequence, and you can tell from how heavily the narration focuses on Red Rocks that Trey is pumped to be performing here tonight.

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Together “Divided Sky” and “Harpua” reach almost 30 minutes in length, so the band’s decision to lighten up after “Harpua” with a snappy reading of “Poor Heart” is not unwelcome. The band tests the improvisational waters next with a mid-set “Maze.” Like the “Maze” from the last show, despite thoroughly enjoying both Page and Trey’s solos, this performance nevertheless didn’t stand out much to me. “Bouncing Around the Room” is next and serves as a mid-set breather. A very tasty, Page-heavy pairing of “It’s Ice” and “The Wedge” follow. “Wedge” debuted during the first show of the year, but quickly dropped out of rotation and hasn’t been seen since March. I’m a big fan of the song, so it’s return is very much appreciated.

The ‘underwater’ segment of “Ice” is a long two minutes tonight. Consistent with the recent trend, Page dominates this sequence of the song with an excellent solo as the rest of the band drops out almost immediately. They don’t leave Page hanging entirely, however, for Trey and Fishman accent a particularly intense build during Page’s solo, to great effect. Fishman starts the tick-tock beat back up at 6:45, but we get treated to a brief though very entertaining full-band jam before the band fully transitions into the composed ending of the song. All said, a very good “Ice.” Not to be overshadowed, “The Wedge” impresses as well. Some changes have been made to the intro of the song, as it has a funkier feel today than it did early this year. The structure remains the same though, with the song beginning with a Page solo. Another Page solo begins at 2:50, and he begins it with absolutely filthy playing. This gets the rest of the band amped up, and a rocking (for “The Wedge”) jam develops before the band jumps back into the chorus at 4:40.

The band sticks to the acoustic format for “Ginseng Sullivan,” which is dedicated to Brad Sands tonight. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been hearing it pretty frequently lately, or because I finally saw “Ginseng” for myself on 8/2/17, but I’m really starting to enjoy this song. If I try not to think about who it is I’m listening to, this acoustic version of “Ginseng” sounds like something you might hear during the first set of a Dead show (which, to me, is a compliment). An expertly performed “Rift” leads to the set-ending “Run Like an Antelope.”

The band saved their best first-set improvisation for the last song of the set tonight. This “Antelope” positively rips, and holds its own against some of the best “Antelopes” from this tour. The jam becomes intense very quickly, as the band locks into a monotone, chordal build at 3:15 that they use to start and push at the structure of the song. The band does not release the tension but continue to build as Trey breaks into a solo, and Mike matches him with melodic playing of his own. This segment finally comes to a head at 6:00. Fishman starts going wild on the fills, Page is all over the place, and Trey locks into a dark, descending riff. The band drops the energy back down a notch at 7:15. Trey dives into some hard-edged riffing, but he allows Page to co-lead and the jam very gradually starts to subdue and turn in a funky direction. After mellowing out for a minute or two, the band smoothly switches gears in an instant and shoots right back into an intense “Antelope” build shortly after 10:00. This builds to a strong peak, and the transition into the reggae sequence of the song at 12:45.

It’s not often I write 1200+ words on a first set, and I think that speaks to how eventful this long first-half is. “Sky” as an opener is simply a treat. A second song “Harpua” is ridiculous, and the venue-focused narration is very cool. The mid-set “Ice > Wedge” sequence is surprisingly powerful. And the incredibly high-energy “Antelope” closer is fluid and contains a good chunk of that August ’93 improvisational prowess that has made this month so memorable to listen to. Altogether, an excellent first set that is a big step-up from the first set of the previous show.

 

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The eighteenth set-opening “2001” of summer tour opens set 2. “2001” is its normal sub-four minute length, but the band sounds on-pint and energetic. The first “Slave to the Traffic Light” since the song’s bust-out on the sixth is next. The “Slave” jam begins at 3:35, and is very sparse at first. Mike is playing the most melodic lines, while Page adds some accents and Trey limits himself to background ambience. The band begins to patiently build up the energy at 5:00, and the peak arrives at 6:45. Full-on cathartic bliss is underway before long, with Trey unleashing trill-punctuated ‘hose’ at 8:40. The band begins to bring “Slave” close to an end at 9:15, and follow the song by dropping right into “Split Open and Melt.”

“The Melt” jam begins at 4:05. Instead of launching into a build, the band keeps the mood reserved for several minutes. Trey sticks to palm-muted riffing, which leads Page to gradually step up. Mike also takes advantage of the space left open by Trey to unleash some melodic playing of his own. This doesn’t quite sound to me like a true ‘hey hole’ jam, but it’s close in style. Trey starts to solo at 6:45, and leads the jam through a couple of entertaining diversions before driving to a peak at 8:45. This peak gets wild in a satisfying way as Trey delivers some downright demented ascending slide-solo theatrics at 10:30. The band brings this “Melt” home shortly later. This isn’t the most experimental “Melt” of the month, but it trades that experimentation for patience and grooviness seemingly inspired by the previous “Slave,” making the result no less impressive.

You know the band is feeling it when even “Squirming Coil” pops, and that happens to be that’s the case tonight. The initial jam before Page completely takes over is extra funky because of the rest of the band contributing a pleasant groove under Page’s soloing. Trey picks up his acoustic after “Coil” for a standard but high-energy, mid-set “My Friend, My Friend.” The placement of “Chalk Dust Torture” after “My Friend” in the middle of the set seems somewhat unusual, as the song seems to more often be played at the beginning or end of a set. “Chalk Dust” is its usual self, which is to say very high-energy and containing a straightforward but exciting Trey solo. “Chalk Dust” is followed by the last big musical moment of the evening, “You Enjoy Myself.”

Like his earlier playing in “Wedge,” Page’s solo in “YEM” (which begins at 8:00) is positively filthy. Mike’s playing underneath is also notable, and the soundboard recording really highlights his contributions to the emerging jam. Trey stays out entirely until Page drops out, as Mike bridges their respective solos segments. Trey finally comes in at 10:25 with clean, jazzy playing. The jam quickly breaks down to near silence. A groove begins to be established, and the band is moving at full steam by 12:15. Trey leads the band through a thoroughly satisfying build to a peak. In many recent “YEMs” Trey’s segment has ended quickly after reaching a peak, but they ride it out through several glorious minutes tonight. The bass and drums segment begins at 14:45. Mike’s segment is fun, but short, with the vocal jam beginning quickly after.

This “YEM” is not very experimental, but as the trend has been this set, the band displays a commendably patient approach to the jam. This makes for a great overall listen. “Purple Rain” emerges from the vocal jam, and Fishman takes the opportunity to introduce his mother, who apparently is in attendance. “Cavern” closes the second set for the second show in a row. The Red Rocks audience gets treated to a double encore, as the always-welcome (IMO) “Mango Song” celebrate sits return to semi-regular rotation and the band runs through their now-standard a-cappella interpretation of “Free Bird.”

I was skeptical of this show before I began listening to it. Maybe this was because of the familiarity of the setlist, or maybe because the last show kind of felt like a comedown. Perhaps this was show where this month’s magic would begin to wane. I was happily proven wrong; this show quickly converted me to fandom. The opening half hour is impressive, the middle of the first set is more interesting than it looks on paper, and the closing “Antelope” positively rips. Phish then manages to follow this with a stunning opening half-hour to the second set, with standout performances of only the second “Slave to the Traffic Light” of 1993 and “Split Open and Melt.” The “YEM” that anchors the back-half of the set is no slouch as well. This show is stuffed with great moments from beginning to end, and with the soundboard recording in circulation, an easy recommendation for listening.

  • Show rating: 5/5
  • Highlights: “Harpua,” “It’s Ice > The Wedge,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “2001 > Slave to the Traffic Light > Split Open and Melt,” “You Enjoy Myself”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 83 mins.
  • Second set length: 80 mins.
  • Encore length: 13 mins.
  • This is the first time Phish performed at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. They will return on 6/10/94.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “The Wedge,” returning after a sixty-three show absence (3/25/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

August 17th, 1993: Memorial Hall, Kansas City KS

Phish continues their return to venues previously visited on the long winter/spring tour tonight with a stop at Memorial Hall. This is also the band’s seventh night of playing shows in a row; they will finally get a couple days off after tonight. Tonight’s show opens with a slightly-extended “Wilson,” which features a long intro and a cool, dissonant mini-jam before the “blat! boom!” ending. “Wilson” crashes into a short but very fiery “Llama.” “Llama” contains a fun slide solo from Trey and “Wilson” chanting over the song’s ending. “Guelah Papyrus” brings the energy down a couple notches after “Llama” to round out the opening sequence of songs. “Guelah” is played a bit looser tonight than normal, with Trey experimenting with his chordal work during the song’s verses, and some droning during the song’s extended pause that leads into an “Oom Pa Pa” Secret Language signal.

“Divided Sky” is next, in its familiar mid-first-set slot. This is a very good “Sky,” with great embellishment both during the composition and during Trey’s solo. There’s a pause with crowd cheering in “Sky” tonight (though it’s a brief segment), and some quiet jamming before that moment as well. Trey goes to town at the end of the song, unleashing an impressive run of shredding and theatrics from 11:30 through 12:30 that culminates in a peak driven by descending tremelos. Very cool! “Weigh” provides some more through-composed goodness, and is followed by “Maze.” Both Page and Trey take their time with their solos in the always-exciting “Maze,” and build their segments to solid peaks, but this nevertheless struck me as a largely standard performance of the song.

The band follows one compositional epic with another tonight, anchoring the back-half of the set with a long “Fluffhead” just a couple songs after performing “Divided Sky.” The outro solo of “Fluffhead” is not quite as extended as the earlier song, but Trey does cap the song with some impressive, melodic soloing at about 13:00. “Fast Enough for You” follows “Fluffhead,” providing an opportunity for some late-set reflection. The band has been quietly crushing this song throughout the tour, and tonight’s performance is no exception. Trey does a great job of matching the song’s contemplative vibe, before building the song to an exhilarating peak with his solo at the end. A quick “Daniel Saw the Stone” closes out the set.

Phish has treated the audience to impressive segments of lengthy, type-II improvisation during the first sets of the last three shows. That’s not the case tonight. This first-set sounds like it could have been plucked from a February or March show, with its emphasis on lengthy compositions (“Divided Sky,” “Fluffhead”) and type-I jamming (“Maze”). The songs are well-played, and Trey sounds on-point. That said, this set feels like a bit of a comedown from the impressive week the band is coming to an end of. “Divided Sky” fans will definitely want to check out this excellent performance, but this is otherwise a decent but largely standard set.

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A standard “2001” opens the second set, and is followed by a “David Bowie” that is anything but standard. The “Bowie” intro is brief tonight (“2001” was essentially the intro), so the jam starts early at 4:00. The first couple of minutes are subdued as the band searches for a direction. Trey and Page co-lead as they exchange ideas. The jam swells in energy, then breaks back down. At 8:30 the band begins to build the jam up again as they coalesce into a dreamy, blissful haze. This wonderfully melodic sequence lasts a couple minutes before Trey introduces a harder edge back into the jam at 10:20. This leads to a melodic and intense Trey solo as he drives the band to a big, mid-jam peak. The tempo increases, but the jam breaks back down after this drive to a peak. Another melodic groove emerges at 13:30. Page begins to steer the band back towards the typical “David Bowie” progression with chords on his baby grand, but the mood of the jam remains mellow until 15:30, at which point the band really begins to build back into the intensity of the composed endings. The band does a great job of milking the composed ending for all of the excitement it can produce, making for a satisfying end to an awesome and adventurous type-II “Bowie.”

The band blew out “Bowie” during its last performance as well, reaching almost 20 minutes with the song on 8/13, but I think tonight’s performance is more successful musically. As entertaining as the “Mango Song” jam sequence was in that earlier “Bowie,” tonight’s “Bowie” is both more free-flowing, as it is not based on any other Phish songs or teases, and successful in flowing fluidly through epic, melodic sequences. This is definitely a jam that is worth mentioning in the same breath as other great jams from this month.

“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” serves as a nice breather after the intensity of “Bowie,” and leads into a solidly performed mid-set “Rift.” A fun but standard “Suzy Greenberg” is next and keeps the energy level high before a big “You Enjoy Myself” (the longest of the tour so far, at just shy of 26 minutes). The ‘bliss’ segment at the beginning of the song is of decent length tonight, but also fairly standard in approach. Page’s solo begins at 9:35, but he makes way for Trey to take over very quickly. Trey starts his segment with descending, jazzy lines, but instead of moving from this into a rocking solo as usual, a full-band jam develops. Fishman drops into a half-time beat at 13:20 as the sound of the jam becomes increasingly chunky. The energy starts to build as Trey begins to quicken the tempo with his riffing. After this swell, the energy evens out briefly to allow Page and Trey to exchange interlocking, staccato melodies. This leads into a quick build to a big rock solo at 17:40. Trey shreds for a minute to wrap up this very improvisational “YEM” jam. The bass and drums segment begins at 19:00. Fishman cuts back into half-time here, which encourages Mike to deliver an unusually funky and melodic solo. The vocal jam begins at 20:30.

More than once on this tour I’ve criticized the band for moving too quickly through each “YEM”solo sequence, which I feel has the effect of limiting the amount of improvisation the song can contain. This “YEM” is a great example of why I feel that criticism is deserved; the solo sequences here blend together into one, lengthy full-band jam that covers some interesting ground before driving to a big, satisfying peak. Each member still has a chance to shine, but the jam contains a lot more significant improvisation.

“Purple Rain” follows “YEM” as the night’s Henrietta segment, before a snappy pairing of “My Sweet One” and “Cavern” closes out the set. The band somewhat successfully manages to hush the audience for an a-cappella “Memories” that is barely audible on the audience recording for the first encore, before an always-welcome and always-ripping cover of Hendrix’s “Fire” ends the show.

This show, and particularly the first set, does feel slightly like a comedown from an incredible, non-stop week of performances. Besides for some quality Trey shredding in “Divided Sky,” not much in the first set stood out much to me. However, the band does deliver another successful, long, and highly type-II August ’93 jam in the second set “David Bowie,” which goes deep and fluidly works through a number of melodic sequences. “YEM” is perhaps less notable, but it too contains a meaty, full-band jam, which makes this the most significant “YEM” since the beginning of the month. If the band had dropped this show at the beginning of the tour, or during the winter/spring tour, it would have been revelatory. After the last couple weeks of music, however, the bar has been raised considerably. This show is still a good listen, and the highlights are worth checking out, but it doesn’t quite reach the classic status as so many shows from this month have.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “Divided Sky,” “David Bowie,” “You Enjoy Myself

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 73 mins.
  • Second set length: 81 mins.
  • Encore length: 5 mins.
  • This is the second time Phish performed at Memorial Hall. They last played here on 4/13/93, and will return on 6/13/94.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Wilson” and “Fast Enough for You,” both returning after an eight show absence (8/8/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (6 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 16th, 1993: American Theater, St. Louis MO

Tonight is Phish’s sixth show in as many nights, and the third of those to be given the special treatment with an official Live Phish release. The first “Axilla” of the month starts off the show in high-energy fashion, and is followed by an early “Possum.” I’ve been generally impressed with the band’s playing in “Possum” throughout this entire year, but tonight’s may be one of the best of the bunch. Trey’s solo starts at 2:55 and is initially quiet and jazzy. Trey takes the opportunity to stretch out and builds the energy patiently. The band goes sideways through a couple of increasingly intense tension/release builds starting at 6:40, leading into an an anarchic breakdown about a minute later. Trey comes roaring back at 8:00 with a celebratory solo before the band breaks the jam down again a minute later for a stop/start sequence. The band starts to wrap up the song at 11:00, but adds a weird outro jam to the end of the song after the composed ending. This dissonant outro jam, complete with whistling, gradually disintegrates into “Horn.” The band largely stays within the “Possum” structure during this jam, but they certainly bend that structure about as far as they can. This is an exciting and improvisational “Possum” that is encouraging sign of what the rest of the evening may have in store.

“Horn” is song three, and works well here as a relaxing, through-composed landing pad from the musical workout of “Possum.” The band keeps rolling after “Horn,” moving straight into a near-20-minute “Reba” (the longest “Reba” of the year so far). The “Reba” jam begins at 6:10, and instead of typical “Reba” pleasantness, the band adds some dissonance with chromatic runs from Page, Trey, and Mike. This leads into a downright menacing, chordal build at 8:00. The band starts to coalesce around a swaggering, upbeat rock groove by 8:30 that finally dissipates into a mellow, “Reba”-esque jam a minute later. This quickly builds into a blissful Trey solo, which becomes pure ‘hose’ by 11:30. After riding out this incredible peak, the band breaks the jam back down into a pleasant “Reba” groove at 13:00. Some more typical “Reba”-style soloing leads into another euphoric peak at 15:00, punctuated by ferocious trilling from Trey. The jam segment comes to an end at 16:15. As with “Possum,” the band adds an outro jam to “Reba,” as Page leads the band through a transition from the end of “Reba” into the beginning of “Sparkle.” This is a wonderful “Reba”; the jam begins with more experimentation than one would usually find in a “Reba” jam, and it then proceeds to build to several, incredible peaks.

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“Sparkle” serves as a mid-set breather, before the band jumps into “Foam.” “Foam” is a bit extended tonight; both Page and Trey take their time with their solos. The band also adds some extra dynamism, breaking the song down to near-silence by 9:00 before building back up to the song’s ending. “I Didn’t Know” provides a brief moment of levity before “Split Open and Melt” starts up as the penultimate song of the set. The “Melt” jam is underway by 4:15 with standard “Melt” riffing from Trey. An intense and dissonant chordal build begins at 5:00, before the jam starts to air out at 7:00. The band is searching for where to take the jam next at this point, and as in “Reba,” the start to coalesce around a swaggering, somewhat upbeat groove. The band sticks with this somewhat funky groove for the next couple minutes, going through a couple rounds of ‘Hey Hole’ jamming. Trey starts to introduce the “Melt” progression back into the jam at about 9:30, and the band slowly and smoothly transitions back into the song’s ending.

“Melt” has been having a very hot month, and while I found this “Melt” enjoyable, it didn’t wow me as much as some of the other monster August “Melts,” like the wooly Toronto “Melt” or the unexpectedly-blissful performance from a couple nights ago. That said, this is a fun and gooey “Melt” that does a good job anchoring the end of the set. A pleasant “Squirming Coil” ends a long, almost-90-minute first set.

Tonight’s first set continues the trend of the band including substantial improvisation in set one. The first set “Stash” from last night was the longest jam of the night, and the same goes for tonight’s revelatory “Reba.” “Reba” is the must-listen, take-away moment of the set, but both the beginning and end of the set feature highlights as well, with “Possum” and “Melt” both making fine showings tonight. These improvisational highlights aside, this set also features a good setlist flow and great playing from everyone in the band. A very good first set, all said.

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American Theater

“Mike’s Song” opens the second set. Over the course of this month, Phish has started to explore and improvise as much in “Mike’s” as they usually do in “Weekapaug,” and tonight’s “Mike’s” continues that trend. It takes the band about a minute to gel during the song’s intro, but once the first verse starts they sound locked in. The jam begins at 3:05. After the initial bass groove, Trey jumps in at 3:55 with a melodic solo. Trey’s quick solo leads into the first round of ending chords at 5:20 and a second jam at 5:40. Trey initially leads this second jam with melodic, upbeat riffing, which the rest of the band picks up on. This evolves into moves into major-key chording at 7:00 that reaches for the light. The jam begins to air out, and Trey begins playing blissful, descending lines. There’s great interplay between Mike and Trey here as the energy begins to build back up. The jam crashes back into darker, more familiar “Mike’s” territory at 10:00, and is firmly within the song’s progression by 11:20. A final, thrilling solo from Trey brings the band back into the final set of end chords at 12:20. Feedback after the song’s end serves as an ambient bridge into the Mike’s Groove-anchoring “Faht.”

“Faht” did not do much for me during its other appearances this tour, but the song’s placement here works as a relaxing and psychedelic interlude between big jams in both “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug Groove” (as the band continues to ignore “I Am Hydrogen”). The band jumps right back into the improvisational deep-end with the “Weekapaug” jam, which starts at 1:05. Trey leads the jam initially with typical-“Weekapaug” soloing, and Mike throws a particularly funky filter on his bass at 2:30. Trey’s fretwork throughout this set so far has been fantastic, which makes this initial, Trey-led segment of the “Weekapaug” jam a delight to listen to. Trey starts to settle on a rocking chord progression, and starts trading fours with Fishman at 3:55. Fishman takes complete advantage of this solo opportunity to deliver some very impressive fills. Fish’s solo sequence ends with Trey launching back into soloing at 5:00.

The jam begins to break down about a minute after Trey began his second solo, and the band begins to search for new ideas. The band lands on a bar-room rag sound at 8:45, which gradually evolves into an upbeat, rocking groove. An intense build at 11:00 darkens the mood of the jam, before the band starts to disperse and the jam begins to air out. There’s extensive “Possum” quoting at 11:55, and I thought for a moment the band might go into a full reprise of that earlier-played song. Instead, a blissful, chordal build led by Trey brings the band back into “Weekapaug” territory. The band is firmly back into the groove of “Weekapaug” by 14:30, and ends the song a minute later.

This is another excellent, highly improvisational Mike’s Groove with lots of quality jamming spread across the 30+ minute sequence. I prefer the “Mike’s Song” slightly, as the jam felt more focused and had a greater sense of direction, while the “Weekapaug” felt a little more haphazard in its evolution. The segment as a whole, however, is very satisfying. “Mound” is a welcome compositional reprieve from the non-stop improv of the Mike’s Groove, and carries the momentum of the set well. “It’s Ice” is next, and sounds very well-played tonight. Page dominates the ‘underwater’ segment of “Ice” again tonight, and delivers an awesome solo right in the middle of the song. This sequence is only about a minute long, but it elevates this “Ice” above a standard performance.

Trey picks up his acoustic for the intro to a mid-set “My Friend, My Friend,” which rounds out the duo of largely through-composed Rift songs. The furious tempo that characterized some of the early summer tour shows reappears at the end of this set, as the band blazes through both “Poor Heart” and “Big Ball Jam.” “Take the ‘A’ Train” makes its first appearance of tour and only third of the year as the penultimate song of the set. Despite the absence, the band sounds tight in this song. “‘A’ Train” works well as a mellow bridge between the high-energy of “Poor Heart”/”BBJ” and the set-ending “Good Times Bad Times.” Trey’s playing has been impressive all night, so “GT,BT” is a great choice as a set-closer to give him one more opportunity to shred. Shred he does, as he leads the band through a surprisingly dissonant passage at the beginning of his solo before building the song to a strong peak. A snappy encore pairing of “Amazing Grace” (performed without microphones) and “Rocky Top” sends the crowd home for the night.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the first time I award consecutive shows a 5/5 rating comes right in the middle of this vaunted month in Phish history. But I feel the praise is deserved: it’s hard to find any flaw with either set of this show. The band’s playing is rock-solid throughout (except perhaps the first minute of “Mike’s Song”), the improvisation in both sets (particularly in “Reba” and “Mike’s”) is adventurous and contains big pay-offs for the listener, and even songs that are typically more standard, like “Possum” and “It’s Ice,” shine tonight. This “Reba” deserves to be on everyone’s must-listen list, but this show as a whole is also absolutely worth a listen. It’s truly wild that the band sounds this great on the sixth night in a row of playing. The endurance and stamina the band must have developed during the intense touring schedule of the winter/spring tour is clearly paying off.

  • Show rating: 5/5
  • Highlights: “Possum,” “Reba,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Mike’s Song > Faht > Weekapaug Groove

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 86 mins.
  • Second set length: 70 mins.
  • Encore length: 5 mins.
  • This is the second and last time Phish performed at the American Theater. They last performed here on 4/14/93. Trey Anastasio Band performed here on 5/7/99.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Take the ‘A’ Train,” returning after a thirty-one show absence (5/5/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 15th, 1993: The Macauley Theater, Louisville KY

Like the return to Toronto’s Concert Hall on the 9th, tonight’s show brings Phish back to a venue played just a few short months prior (4/16/93). The audience tape I’m listening to doesn’t begin until the opener, “Sample in a Jar,” is well underway. I’ve always enjoyed “Sample” as an opener at the shows I’ve been to, as it’s a good slot for the straight-forward and catchy song. “All Things Reconsidered” follows “Sample” before the second “Caravan” of the tour. It’s fun to hear this song again, and the band digs slightly deeper into the jam than they did at the song’s last outing. There’s some subdued growling from Trey, and a full-on drum solo from Fishman at 5:00.

The set kicks into a higher gear with song #4, “Runaway Jim.” This is one of the longest “Jims” of tour, and Trey takes the opportunity to really stretch out. He patiently builds his solo up and down, before bringing it to a fiery peak at 8:00. Some more wailing and a final, wild build causes the song to explode with energy at 9:00 before the ending chorus. While straightforward in structure, this is a high-quality “Jim” that is an early highlight of this first set. “Fee” is next. For the first time this year, the band tacked a notable jam onto the end of “Fee” at the song’s last appearance in Toronto. In a welcome turn of events, it turns out that this development was not a one-off, for the band once again jams out the end of the song. After the finish of the song, the band continues along with a pleasant, melodic, and head-bopping groove, before the song dissipates and fades into “Paul and Silas.” Even the generally standard “Paul and Silas” receives some extra attention tonight with added dynamism. The band breaks the song down at about the halfway point, allowing Trey to take a quiet solo over a sparse Fishman beat.

“Stash” anchors the middle of the set, and the song’s jam begins at 4:45. After some initial space, the jam quickly starts to quiet down at 5:20. Trey begins repeating a vaguely dissonant riff. Mike steps up with melodic playing, and begins a full-on solo at 7:00. As Mike’s playing grows more intense, the rest of the band begins to build (with Trey still repeating his initial riff). As Mike’s solo becomes lighter in mood, Trey makes a sudden turn at 7:30 with a melodic turn of his own. As quickly as a snap of the finger, the band manages to fluidly transition from a slightly ominous vibe at the beginning of the jam into full-on bliss. Trey delivers some swirling, psychedelia before the jam begins to air out at 10:00. Page briefly takes a turn in the spotlight here with some soloing on his baby grand, though Trey jumps back in with more joyous playing at 10:30. This evolves into a “Mango Song”-esque groove by 11:20 that is similar to the full-tease of that song in the “David Bowie” from the 13th.

Trey builds this “Mango Song” segment into a peak with a quick solo, and the band begins to break the jam down at 12:30. They fade the music in and out, as the sound gets messier and more anarchic. Trey unleashes some menacing chords at 14:30, bringing the jam back down into the ominous depths of a typical “Stash” jam” after a solid 5+ minutes of bliss. This darker segment builds in energy, before the band crashes back into the “Stash” progression at 16:55. The song wraps up quickly from there, coming to an end at 18:03.

In my humble opinion, this might be one of the most impressive and well-developed ‘type-II’ jams of the year so far. The band fluidly transitions into a joyful, blissful, psychedelic space and stays there for several minutes, delivering beauty and peaks in equal measure. They then manage to return to the darker tone of “Stash” without the sound getting too messy. A must-listen jam. The band shifts gears after “Stash” from musical improvisation to spoken word improvisation with a very entertaining “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird” segment. The narration begins with a zen focus, as Trey tells the audience that their ego and every part of themselves that is not part of their physical being is being sucked out of their bodies. Someone in the crowd starts screaming and exclaiming “Oh my god!” Trey then takes those in an attendance through an incredibly voyage through the human body, ending with a narration of a heart stopping. “You are nothing,” Trey repeats over and over. Someone in the crowd starts answering him “I am nothing!”, and Trey says “Yes, YOU are nothing,” which gets the rest of the crowd to cheer in approval. After this unexpectedly intense narration containing some hilarious band/audience interaction, Trey positively rushes through the Gamehendge portion of the story, telling it in a minute flat. This leads him to comment “I hope you got all of that,” which caused me to burst out laughing. This “Forbin’s” is a memorable and amusing journey.

A typically-ripping “Chalk Dust Torture” brings this set to a close. This is an energetic but standard “CDT,” but it works great here as a more straight-ahead rocker after the headiness of the middle of the set. Overall, this is an absolutely top-notch set. Only the set-opening songs and the closer could reasonably be described as standard. Everything other song is stand-out, with “Stash” in particular being a strong contender for the best jam of a month filled with groundbreaking jams. Top this off with an excellent narration, and you have yourself one hell of a set.

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A standard but well-played “Rift” opens set 2. The real fireworks begin with the second song of the set, a “Tweezer” that falls just short of 20 minutes.  Simple, hard-rocking riffing begins the “Tweezer” jam at 4:25. This riffing builds to an early peak at 6:20, which doesn’t last long before Trey begins to break the jam down by transitioning into dissonant chordal playing. The sound gets anarchic here, before the jam begins to coalesce around another, rocking Trey riff by 8:30.  This builds again, and Trey erupts into soling at 9:45. A ‘Hey Hole’ segment begins at 11:20; the jam’s tempo begins to slow as a mellow, funky groove emerges. This funk plods along for a couple notes as Page takes a turn in the spotlight with lots of tasty organ soloing. Trey smoothly works the main “Tweezer” riff into this groove at 14:20, but the band quickly turns away from the song’s composition with the jam instead airing out into near-silence. A chordal build brings the volume back up, and serves as a transition into the jam’s final solo segment. Trey brings this “Tweezer” home with a satisfying, triumphant, big rock solo. The jam breaks down one final time at 17:30, as the band transitions from this peak into a pleasant, funky riff. The band slows this riff down into nothing, as they do when they play the composed ending.

“Tweezer” is more experimental and focused on mind-games than the first-set “Stash.” I found the earlier jam to be more emotional and cathartic, and thus more to my personal liking, but this is still an impressive jam (especially considering that taking two different songs other than YEM into near 20 minute territory has been essentially unheard of this year). “The Lizards” follows “Tweezer,” as it has on several occasions this year, and works great as a mellow, composed landing pad from the experimentation and excitement of the previous “Tweezer.”

A fun “Landlady” and standard “Bouncing Around the Room” fill out the middle of the set. A better than usual “Maze” follows. “Maze” breaks way down at the beginning of Page’s solo, and he takes his sweet time building it back up. Trey adds some appropriately eerie ambience to this segment. Page builds his solo to an exciting peak, with Trey not coming in with his own (more standard) solo until after 7:00. “Maze” definitely gets stretched out a bit here, and it’s quite an enjoyable listen. “Glide” is next, and the band leaves the song unfinished as they move to an acoustic set-up during the song’s extended pause.

An ‘acoustic mini-set’ ends the second set. An a-cappella “Sweet Adeline” performed without microphones kicks off this ‘mini set,’ before acoustic performances of “Ginseng Sullivan” and “Nellie Kane.” (“Ginseng” has entered into a regular rotation far quicker than “Nellie Kane” did; both are ’93 debuts). “Free Bird” ends the set. I’m sure this was an awesome part of the show to experience in the intimate settings of the Macauley Theater (the crowd goes wild during “Free Bird” in particular), but it’s not a very exciting segment to listen to on tape.

Luckily for us, however, the band returns to their instruments for the lengthy encore: a treat in the way of “Harry Hood!” The “Hood” jam begins at 5:35, and is very delicate and subdued for the first couple of minutes. Trey starts to build the energy at 7:00, which leads to great dynamics as the band fades in and out around a reaching Trey riff. The jam airs out entirely at 10:00 to nothing except some quiet feedback from Trey and lovely piano work from Page. This starts to build again about a minute later, and a glorious peak is underway by 12:00. After a satisfying and deserved celebration, the band begins to bring “Hood” home at about 13:00. This is one of the more subdued “Hood” jams of recent memory, which makes the triumphant peak at the end even sweeter. Don’t sleep on this “Hood” because it’s in the encore slot; it’s another beautifully executed ’93 “Hood.”

I understand why last night received the Live Phish treatment from an archival standpoint; the 30-minute “Antelope” shenanigans are certainly noteworthy. However, I think tonight’s show easily surpasses last night in terms of successful improvisation. “Stash” is a beast tonight and one of the most successful type-II excursions of the year, while “Hood” ends the show on a very cathartic note. I would rank “Tweezer” a tier below those jams, but it’s still a very entertaining and adventurous jam that contains the most experimental playing of the night. And that’s not even to mention the wonderful narrative diversion of “Forbin’s > Mockingbird,” and the extra attention given to “Jim,” “Fee,” and “Maze!” This is a classic August ’93 show worthy of the highest praise.

  • Show rating: 5/5
  • Highlights: “Runaway Jim,” “Fee,” “Stash,” “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird,” “Tweezer,” “Maze,” “Harry Hood

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 79 mins.
  • Second set length: 75 mins.
  • Encore length: 14 mins.
  • This is the second and last time Phish performed at the Macauley Theatre. They last performed here on 4/16/93.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Caravan,” returning after an eighteen show absence (7/23/93).
  • The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Summer 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August 14th, 1993: World Music Theatre, Tinley Park IL

Tonight’s show has the distinction of being the first show I’ve written about for this project that was released as part of the initial run of Live Phish releases (Live Phish Vol. 7), and it is the only ’93 show released as part of the series. An energetic “Chalk Dust Torture” opens the show. “CDT” briefly goes sideways with a dissonant, tension-building passage before building to a solid peak. “Guelah Papyrus” reclaims its once-standard spot as second song of the evening, and gives everyone a chance to settle in after the fiery start. “Divided Sky” is next, and a full-band pause with audience cheering returns tonight. The pause is of substantial length, reaching at least 30 seconds. That example of band/audience interaction has really started to blossom this tour. “Sky” is performed flawlessly tonight, and the solo at the end of the song both builds to a good peak and is of decent length.

“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” serves as a mid-set breather before one of the longest “It’s Ice” performances of the tour so far. The ‘underwater’ segment begins at 4:45 with all of the band besides Page quickly dropping out. Page starts up a simple groove on his baby grand, and Fish followed by Trey quietly come back in. This mini-jam builds in energy and culminates in some dark power chords from Trey. Fishman starts up the segment’s tick-tock beat at 6:30 and the rest of the band drops out. Fish then transitions into the beat of the next portion of the song, but the rest of the band waits on jumping back into the song. Page first takes one more solo, before the band finally launches into the ending of “Ice” at 7:30. It’s a neat couple minutes of improvisations stashed into a song that quite often contains next-to-no jamming.

“Sparkle” serves as a quick bridge between “Ice” and the most significant song of the set: “Split Open and Melt.” “Melt” has been on something of a streak recently, with the last couple of performances being both experimental and thrilling. That trend continues tonight, with this “Melt” being the most melodic of the August “Melts” so far. The jam begins at 4:10 with quick, crunchy riffing from Trey. There’s some nice variation here from Mike as the band searches for the next idea to explore. They find it at 5:55 as both Trey and Mike hammer on an ominous note, pushing the jam in a darker direction. After exploring this space, it sounds like the band might be heading back into the “Melt” ending. Trey starts repeating a strangely uplifting and melodic riff at about 8:00, however, which pushes the band in a new direction.  This evolves into a downright blissful jam by 8:30, which is built into a peak as Trey solos and unleashes a flurry of trills on the audience. The band slowly and smoothly transitions back into a “Melt” groove after this bliss jam. Trey takes another thrilling solo at 10:30 over this more typical groove. It briefly sounds like the band could head sideways again at 11:30, but the band instead brings this jam home.

I mentioned in a recent post that I like “Melts” that are dank and deep, but I also dig ones that unexpectedly break from the song’s ominous vibe and reach for the light. The band does both in this “Melt”: initially diving into some dark territory before smoothly transitioning into a joyful passage. This “Melt” is a serious contender for best “Melt” in a month that is becoming filled with great “Melts.”

“Esther” appears next, lending some compositional heft to the late half of the set. It’s a great reading of the song, and is a nice counterpoint to the intensity of “Melt.” A quick pairing of “Poor Heart” and “Cavern” closes the set. This set takes its time to build; “Chalk Dust” and “Divided Sky” are good but not necessarily standout performances either. Things become more memorable once the band turns on the improvisational tap, with the mini-jam in “Ice” and unexpected bliss of “Melt” making for an impressive middle of the set. The band carries this momentum through the end of the set, with a well-played “Esther” and energetic pair of closers. Probably not my absolute favorite first set of August, but still pretty damn good.

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Set 2 opens with a standard “2001,” which is tightened up from its performance a couple nights ago (i.e. Trey hits all his notes). After a brief moment’s hesitation, the band launches into “Run Like an Antelope.” “Antelope” has appeared in this position a few times this summer, but the band goes in an entirely different direction with this “Antelope” than they typically have on this tour. The jam is underway by 2:50. Trey begins with primarily chordal playing, but he starts repeating a simple, cheery riff at 3:30. This groove begins to break down at 4:45, and leads into an intense build in which Fishman almost loses the beat. The sound of the jam is quite messy as the band emerges from this build, as they clearly search for an idea to latch onto. Page briefly plays a progression that reminds me of “Fly Famous Mockingbird,” which pushes the jam in a lighter direction. The jam airs out, breaking down to almost complete silence by 6:00.

Mike starts dropping some melodic, tuneful notes that Page quickly picks up on. Fishman locks into a steady beat, firmly establishing this new groove. The tempo quickens, and a full on ‘Hey!’ jam begins. This breaks down into a stop/start segment at 8:10 complete with added screaming. A big, rocking groove somehow develops out of this stop/start segment at 9:30, and Trey begins soloing a minute later. Trey’s soloing finally brings this jam to a thrilling peak, after several minutes of deep exploration. Despite this segment building to a big peak, it’s not a typical “Antelope” peak but instead is built to out of a groove that is firmly outside of the standard “Antelope” progression. Fishman deserves a nod during this segment, for he goes absolutely wild dropping fills left and right. The energy levels out as Trey begins some funky scratching and Page steps up to deliver an organ solo of his own. This airs out again, allowing for a smooth transition into the second “Sparks” of tour!

“Sparks” serves a similar role here as it did on the 2nd, working as an energetic landing pad from an intense segment of improvisation. The band continues this rocking, uptempo vibe by slamming right into “Walk Away” out of the ending of “Sparks.” “Walk Away” has been kept close to the vest every time it has been played so far this year, but that trend is disrupted tonight as the band launches right into a type-II jam after the conclusion of the song. This jam quickly breaks down into another stop/start segment. The stop/start playing quickly breaks down into a very sparse soundscape, with Trey and Fish each adding only the occasional note, and Mike dropping almost entirely out of the picture. Page and Trey start playing some swirling, interlocking lines to slowly bring the band out of this murk. Mike drops some deep notes as Page lays down some drones with his organ. Trey starts up a driving riff; the energy slowly builds, before exploding into a hard-rocking groove that transitions back into the “Antelope” progression at 8:00 (from the beginning of “Walk Away”).

Over 20 minutes after initially beginning “Antelope,” the band here finally works through a traditional “Antelope” build and peak. Instead of ending the song, however, the band breaks the jam back down at 1:40 for another smooth segue, this time into the first “Have Mercy” of tour! After playing through “Mercy” the band subtly transitions right into the reggae segment of “Antelope,” with Trey singing the verse of “Antelope” over what still sounds to be the backing groove of “Mercy.” Finally, a half hour after beginning the song, the band brings an end to a wild “Antelope.”

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Comparisons to the full-set hijinks of February 20th are obvious, though this sequence feels more focused on experimentation and improvisation and a little less off-the-wall and silly than the earlier show. That’s not a knock against this show, but simply a distinction between the two sets. The beginning of the “Antelope” jam is messy as the band is searching for an idea of what to do, but once they lock into the type-II, melodic groove and drive the initial jam to a peak it’s off to the races. “Sparks” and “Walk Away” are a joy, the jam back into “Antelope” is interesting, and the return of “Have Mercy” as a reggae interlude is a lot of fun.

“Mound” brings everyone, band included, back down to earth before “The Squirming Coil” provides a chance for some mid-set rest and reflection. “Daniel Saw the Stone” brings the energy back up. During the sequence of the song in which Trey typically would thank the audience, he instead updates the audience with the score of some sports game occurring at the moment. “You Enjoy Myself” is next, and the last big musical moment of the show. The intro and composed portions of the song are largely standard, and Page’s solo begins at 7:15. Page’s solo is fun, but largely standard. Mike has some fun with a couple of solo runs of his own before Trey takes the jam over at 9:05. Trey begins his segment with some tasteful and jazzy descending lines as the rest of the band breaks down to near silence. A chordal build brings the jam back to full-steam by 10:15. Some chunky riffing leads into a “Smoke on the Water” jam at 11:30. The tempo quickens after this at 13:20, and another substantial tease begins at 15:00 as Trey begins playing “Mystery Achievement” with vocals. The vocal jam begins not long after.

This is a fun “YEM,” but it’s notable more for the teases of other songs contained within than for full-band jamming. The vocal jam bleeds into the beginning of “Purple Rain,” which serves as the night’s Henrietta segment. A quick run-through of “Hold Your Head Up” (mysteriously not tracked separately on the Live Phish release) leads to the set-closing “Golgi Apparatus,” while the always-fiery “La Grange” returns to the encore slot to end the show.

This is a great show and fully worthy of the Live Phish treatment. That said, I do think last night’s show is more to my personal taste. Last night’s show contained some impressively coherent and deep jams, whereas tonight’s show relies more on teases and setlist hijinks. Different strokes for different folks. My favorite improvisation tonight is actually probably found in the first set “Split Open and Melt,” and the unexpectedly blissful jam that song contains. The second set is a wild ride, with the whole “Run Like an Antelope” sequence worth hearing. Initially the “Antelope” jam is a bit messy, but once the band locks into what I described as the ‘big rock’ groove at the end of the first “Antelope” track the rest of the sequence is gravy. I’m giving this show a 4 because I feel the experimentation in the second set doesn’t always lead somewhere, and because the “YEM” is a little too reliant on teases for my taste. That said, I wouldn’t argue with someone that gives this show a 5 because of the “Melt” and “Antelope” alone – ultimately, we would be splitting hairs about what is yet another excellent slice of August ’93 Phish.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “It’s Ice,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Run Like an Antelope > Sparks > Walk Away > Run Like an Antelope > Have Mercy > Run Like an Antelope,” “You Enjoy Myself”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 76 mins.
  • Second set length: 87 mins.
  • Encore length: 5 mins.
  • This is the first time Phish performed at the World Music Theatre. They will return on 8/8/97.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Have Mercy,” returning after a twenty-six show absence (5/8/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).
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