Winter/Spring ’93 debrief

As I look back over Winter/Spring ’93 as a whole, a clear arc of the tour emerges. The tour began in February with the band focusing on breaking in the new Rift material. These Rift songs were kept in heavy-rotation throughout the month (as they were for the whole tour), and the band worked on figuring out what roles in future setlists the Rift songs would play. In addition to the songs from the new album, the first couple shows of tour also featured new songs not on Rift: future “Hoist” songs “Sample in a Jar” and “Lifeboy,” as well as a cover of “Loving Cup” to inaugurate Page’s new baby grand piano. Many of these newer songs did not catch on immediately: “Loving Cup” was not played after the end of March and “Lifeboy” made only 5 appearances. “The Wedge” felt like the most frequently played song of the first week of tour before dropping out of setlists entirely just a couple weeks later. One tour debut, however, did end up sticking around. It took a couple weeks for the band to nail the timing of “Sample in a Jar,” but once they did the song stuck around through the end of tour.

With the band focusing on breaking in an album’s worth of new material (and then some), February feels comparatively light on big improvisational highlights. You could depend on moments of full-band jamming in “Tweezer,” Mike’s Groove (particularly “Weekapaug Groove”), and “You Enjoy Myself,” and the band usually played one or two of those sequences at any given show. Full-band improv outside of those clearly defined segments, however, is rare. The clear highlight of February is the Atlanta Roxy run, which is capped by a ridiculous Saturday night segue-fest as “Tweezer” and Mike’s Groove weave in and out of songs like “Walk Away,” “Kung,” “Have Mercy,” and “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own.”

The trajectory of the tour begins to shift in March. By the New Orleans shows at the beginning of the month the band sounds increasingly confident with their songs, which leads to an increased sense of adventure and fun throughout March. The band sounds particularly feisty during the Colorado run in the middle of the month, which features the return of the long-absent “Halley’s Comet,” the debut of “Great Gig in the Sky,” and a great “YEM.” The long, ten-show California run is spottier, with a number of average (or worse) shows, but the highs are high (see: the Gamehendge set on 3/22). Volume restrictions at the Redlands show on 3/19 led to an odd show on that night, but forced the band to pay more attention to the dynamics of their jams, which led to interesting playing during the following shows.

Painting in broads strokes then, I characterize February as focusing on breaking in new songs. This leads to an increased confidence in March that manifests in an increasing energy level at shows and sense of fun. The end of March, however, is the big turning point for the tour. The reason the end of March is the big turning point is because the band starts experimenting with full-band improvisation outside the context of the marquee jam vehicles (“YEM,” “Tweezer,” and “Weekapaug.”). This experimentation starts to occur primarily with “Stash” and “Mike’s Song.” Both of these songs were largely predictable during the first month-and-a-half of tour, with only a couple of standout performances from that time period. However, at the end of March, both songs hit a hot streak that lasts throughout the rest of tour. The big turning point for “Stash” occurs on 3/25 (I write in the review of that show that the 3/25 “Stash” is “easily…one of the best…if not the best “Stash” of tour to this point”). 5 of the next 6 “Stash” performances I marked in my notes as standout performances of the song. The song remains a fertile ground for creative improvisation for the rest of the tour, and it became one of the songs I most looked forward to hearing at a show.

“Mike’s Song,” similarly, often left me less than impressed during the first half of tour. The first jam is almost universally short on this tour, usually only 2-3 minutes in length, so most of the experimentation occurs in the second jam. During the first half of tour, this second jam was often a noisy, messy, sometimes incoherent mess. While the evolution of “Mike’s Song” occurs at a slower pace than that of “Stash,” standout performances start appearing more frequently at the end of March, and become the norm by the end of April. The “Mike’s Song” from 3/30 is the clear beginning of this trend, as the band eschews the second jam entirely in favor of digging into a dissonant groove. The band continues to creatively experiment with the song for the remainder of tour, often leading to great results.

During April all of these developments start to come together in exciting ways, making for an excellent month of tour that stands above both February and March. The Rift songs are fully integrated in setlists, the sense of fun and adventure that developed by March is still in effect, and the band continues to develop full-band jamming outside of the clearly defined sequences it was largely limited to during February and early March. “Stash” and “Mike’s Song” continue to impress, and the band adds a song to this list when they blow-out “Split Open and Melt” on 4/21. Like “Stash” and “Mike’s Song,” “Melt” was a predictable song for the first half of tour that featured a guitar solo from Trey and not much else. At the 4/21 show the band carves out an intense, dissonant groove that today we would characterize as a classic “Melt” jam. At the time, however, it was not a ‘classic’ “Melt” jam but the first time the band realized greater possibilities for the song. Reflecting the importance of this development, the band will use an excerpt of this “Melt” jam as the outro to next year’s Hoist album. While usually less free-wheeling than “Stash” or “Mike’s” (perhaps due to the song’s unusual time signature), the song continues to impress for the rest of tour.

All of this culminates in an absolutely terrific last week of tour that shows the band firing on all cylinders. I have not listened to much of the summer ’93 tour before, but I think we start to hear the genesis of that famed tour’s sound during these May shows. Among the highlights are a 30 min.+ “YEM” dance party on 5/5, a twenty-minute, type-II “Tweezer” on 5/6, and a 20 min. “David Bowie” that dives deep before emerging into the light with a “Have Mercy” jam on 5/8. Each of these performances is the longest performance of that song on this tour, which is an indication of how creative and experimental this last week is. While the Bangor show on 5/7 is solid but relatively unmemorable, every other May show I rated as a 4/5 or higher.

Broadly speaking then, these are my thoughts about the development of Phish’s playing on this tour. To fill the time between now and the start of summer tour in mid-July I’ll be diving deeper into different aspects of the tour in follow-up posts. Below is a (rough) schedule of the posts I’ll be working on for the rest of May, starting with a statistical breakdown of the tour on the 16th. As you’ll see, the band makes two festival appearances at the end of the month, and I’ll be covering those shows as I would any other show they played so far. I did find a recording of some jamming at a private party at Fish’s house on 5/15, but as it features both guest musicians and not the full band (Page doesn’t appear on the recording) I decided not to treat it as a Phish performance for the purposes of this blog.

Absent any unplanned post between now and then, you’ll hear from me again on the 16th…

May Blog Schedule:

  • 5/16: Winter/Spring ’93: Stats Breakdown
  • 5/23: Songs of Tour: “Stash”
  • 5/29: Laguna Seca Daze festival appearance, Monterey CA
  • 5/30: Laguna Seca Daze festival appearance, Monterey CA
Posted in 1993, Debrief, Winter/Spring 1993 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

May 8th, 1993: Field House, Durham NH

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5/8/93 (Source: Phish.com, photo credit: Allan Dines)

I have to be honest: when I first started this blog, I would have put the odds of making it this far at 50/50. But here we are, at the end of Phish’s longest tour, and I have to say I’ve had a lot of fun with this project. I’m going to post a ‘debrief’ post tomorrow where I reflect on this tour as a whole, so for now I’m going to put aside reflection and get on with tonight’s show. An official LivePhish recording of this show is available, bringing the total of officially released shows from this tour to six (currently). I would highly recommend the CD version if you can find it; it includes the “Shaggy Dog” soundcheck from this show as well as the incredible “Tweezer” and “You Enjoy Myself” from the Albany shows as filler. “Shaggy Dog” appeared during at least one other soundcheck on this tour, but was never played during a show proper. The song is a fun listen for that novelty, but there’s not much improvisation to speak of.

“Chalk Dust Torture” opens the show, a slot the song has increasingly called home over the course of the tour. No complaints about that from me, I think it’s a great show-opener. Tonight’s performance is typically-great. “Guelah Papyrus” follows in its usual number two slot. “Rift” and “Mound” follow and both sound good, as has everything the band has played so far tonight. “Stash” is the centerpiece of the set, and opens up the show considerably. The “Stash” jam begins at 4:55 and quickly takes a dissonant turn at 5:30. While still recognizably a “Stash” jam, the band breaks from the song’s main progression. The jam takes a sinister feeling, which is accented by tom fills Fish starts to add. This groove builds for a couple of minutes before Trey starts to break out of it with his soloing at 7:15. From there the jam returns to more familiar “Stash” territory at 8:00, and Trey brings the song to an initial peak at 8:30. The next couple minutes feature great playing from the whole band with a lot of fun flourishes as the band embellishes the peak they built to. You can faintly make out the band returning to the “maybe so, maybe not” refrain at 10:45, but they instead take a hard left turn and begin breaking the jam down.

The jam once again takes a dissonant feeling, led by anarchic and jazzy playing from Trey. Gradually Trey’s playing dissolves into feedback, and the “Kung” chant begins at 12:45. The feedback swells in the background so that by the end of the “Kung” chant the jam has built into a giant ball of energy, which propels the band back into the end of “Stash” at 14:30. Trey takes a brief, triumphant solo before wrapping up the song. An excellent “Stash,” without a doubt! The band really began to break this song open during this tour, so it’s fitting that we get another great performance on the final night (with an assist from “Kung,” of course).

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“Glide”  brings the set back to earth with its own quirky brand of fun before a solid “My Friend, My Friend,” which lacks an extended outro tonight. “Reba” is the second big moment of the set, after “Stash.” The “Reba” jam quiets way down around 7:45 for a section of exquisite soloing from Trey. He starts repeating a delicate, ‘sweep picking’ riff, which is quite an unusual style for him. From there the jam builds to a somewhat standard “Reba” peak. Overall I would say this is only a good, not a great “Reba,” but that middle quiet segment is really sweet.

After “Reba” Trey thanks the crew for their hard work throughout the tour, which he slightly exaggerates as “three and a half months” long (he does correctly identify the number of shows: 71). He notes that there are “more [crew] each year” and lists Paul, Chris, Pete (monitors), Brad (“big ball thrower,” but actually band manager), Mark and Stew (lights), Terry and Charlie (truck drivers), Bob (sound), Amy, and Andrew (tour manager). “Satin Doll” makes only its second appearance of tour and is dedicated to the crew. “Cavern” provides a snappy end to the first set. Between the excellent “Stash,” the good “Reba,” and the overall solid playing and setlist flow this is a great first set.

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5/8/93 (Source: Phish.com, photo credit: Allan Dines)

“David Bowie” opens the second set for the first and only time this tour (though it was played as song #2 of the second set during one of the Colorado shows). The band takes the opportunity to deliver the most adventurous “Bowie” I have heard so far writing this blog. The fun starts with “Jessica” (an Allman Brothers song) quotes during the “Bowie” intro, initiated by Page. The rest of the band joins in, and the result is a three-way combination of Secret Language signals, eerie “Bowie” intro ambience, and “Jessica” teases. While LivePhish tracks “Jessica” separately from “Bowie” that’s a bit misleading; it’s far from a full (or even partial) performance of the song. “Bowie” begins proper at 3:00, and the main jam starts at 6:40. There may have been some timing issues going into the jam for it sounds like Trey missed a change. The band doesn’t let the mistake rattle them, however, and they use the dissonance introduced by the mistake to set the tone for the beginning of the jam.

The first few minutes of the jam are dark and power-chord driven. Once the band has fully established this heavy metal-esque groove, the tempo begins to rapidly increase at 9:00. Trey begins to unleash passages of truly metal shredding, and the rest of the band joins him in singing/screaming. This is an intense and very unusual-for-“Bowie” segment. Trey starts taking a full solo by 10:30 and delivers a lot of good shredding until 12:30, where the jam starts to break down. You can faintly make out Trey starting to play the intro “Llama” chords, but he abandons that as quickly as he begins. Instead, the jam breaks down further to just drums and bass. Mike starts a new groove, and the band segues smoothly into a full verse of “Have Mercy” at 13:30 (only the second “Mercy” of tour). After the “Have Mercy” verse Trey takes back the lead of the jam at 15:00 and quickly brings the band back into the standard “Bowie” progression. After a standard but energetic build to the “Bowie” peak the band transitions into the song’s end at 16:20.

Looking at the setlist one might write off this “Bowie” as only receiving a lot of praise because of the “Jessica” and “Have Mercy” shenanigans, but that would be selling this jam short, for the best part is really the first ~5 minutes of the jam where the band establishes a dark, quasi-type-II groove that builds into terrific, metal shredding from Trey. The “Have Mercy” verse only works as well as it does because it lets the band emerge into the light after the initial darkness. “Bowie” gets the treatment here that “YEM” and “Tweezer” got earlier in the week, and to equally awesome results. Definitely one of my favorite “Bowies” from this tour.

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For some reason Bill Clinton is swamping the Google image search results for “field house durham nh.” So here’s a picture of Bill Clinton.

“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” is next and provides a welcome breather for band and audience alike. “It’s Ice” follows and has one of the longest and coolest ‘underwater’ segments that I have heard. The segment starts at 5:15 with lots of extra playing from Page, and Mike introduces a dark bass line that he plays throughout. Even Trey joins the fun with actual riffing, not just added ambience. A bluesy groove is established by 6:50, and Trey makes a move like he’s about to take a full solo, which would effectively blow this “Ice” out into a full type-II jam. Alas, he restrains himself, so the jam ends at 7:20 with the transition back into the end of “Ice.” Despite the opportunity to take this “Ice” for a wild ride, there’s still an awesome, extra 2 minutes of jamming in this “Ice” that fans of the song will enjoy.

If an “It’s Ice” with a lot of extra embellishment wasn’t enough for you, the band follows it with a seventeen minute “Squirming Coil” with a full-band, type-II jam (!!!). Like…when does that ever happen? When the band is taking extra risks with songs like “Coil” and “Ice” you know they’re feeling it. Page takes a normal solo, without band accompaniment, as usual. At 10:00 Fishman comes back in on cymbals, and Trey gradually starts introducing feedback. Page just starts going absolutely crazy as Mike and Fish work on establishing a structure for the forming jam. The rhythm section locks into a groove by 11:10 that Trey manages to latch on to. Page keeps soloing on top before settling down at 12:20, letting Trey lead the jam with his chording. Trey starts to solo at 13:00, and works into an almost “Tweezer”-like riff. After riffing on this for a few minutes the band segues smoothly right into “Big Ball Jam.”

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5/8/93 (Source: Phish.com, photo credit: Allan Dines)

The band just doesn’t let up this set, and goes straight into “Mike’s Song” after “Big Ball Jam.” While relatively short tonight, “Mike’s” packs a lot of punch. The jam starts at 2:35 and goes through a standard first build before the second jam begins at 4:50. Initially this jam is driven by the “Simple” riff Trey often plays here, but Page goes nuts on the organ and the mood becomes more major-key-feeling than the second “Mike’s” jam usually is. Trey starts playing a very catchy riff that quickly builds to a very fun peak and a seamless transition into the debut of “Crossroads,” which was briefly teased during “Harpua” last night! “Crossroads” is full of energy and features a good, though brief, blues jam. After a full run through “Crossroads” the band briefly returns to “Mike Song” and the end chords of that song.

“Hydrogen” is a welcome reprieve from the anarchic and energetic feeling of this set, and sounds decent tonight. The “Weekapaug” jam starts at 1:30. After Trey plays some initial soloing he settles into upbeat riffing at 2:30. The jam breaks down from there into a reprise of the “Have Mercy” groove, sans lyrics.  Page starts playing the “Amazing Grace” melody shortly after 4:00, which leads the band to gradually fade the jam into nothing and begin singing “Amazing Grace” proper (leaving “Weekapaug” unfinished). After the usual, a cappella performance of “Grace,” the band begins to play instrumental refrains of the song. Trey solos over the “Amazing Grace” verse, creating a euphoric jam similar to the type of playing that emerges from “Auld Lang Syne” at a New Year’s Eve show. Trey thanks the crowd as the band continues to jam, remarking that the band is “going home” tomorrow and “taking a vacation” until summer. I hope they did take it easy; they deserve it after this tour. Considering “Grace” was performed so frequently on this tour, in the same manner at every appearance, ending the last set of tour with a fun twist on the song feels very appropriate, and ends the night on a blissful note.

There’s only one encore tonight, but it’s a good one. “AC/DC Bag” ends the tour, and is a great symbolic choice as the song was busted-out this tour and slowly crawled back into an infrequent rotation.

“See you guys in July…” – Trey

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5/8/93 (Source: Phish.com, photo credit: Allan Dines)

This last week has been a thrilling one to listen to. While listening to these May shows it felt like the band managed to pull together everything they had been working on for a run of incredible homecoming shows. As great as the shows have been, this one might take the cake. The second set is a non-stop trip with a highlight reel including: a twenty-minute opening “Bowie” that takes a detour through a “Have Mercy” after a dark, intense jam, extra jamming in “It’s Ice,” a full-band, type-II “Squirming Coil,” a fun “Mike’s Song” that goes into the”Crossroads” debut, and a full-band jam on “Amazing Grace.” Outside of “Horse > Silent” and “Hydrogen” the set is unrelenting. The first set is no slouch either, with good energy throughout and excellent jamming in “Stash.” I don’t think Phish could have ended this tour on a much higher note.

…and that’s a wrap, folks! 71 shows in the bag (though only 69 and a half had circulating recordings). As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, and because this post is already well past 2000 words, I’ll be saving my overall reflections on the tour for a post tomorrow. I’ll also start to lay out my schedule of posts over the next couple months, so that you can learn what plans I have for this blog between now and the band’s next shows (festival appearances on May 29th and 30th, and then summer tour in mid-July). So, until tomorrow…

  • Show rating: 5/5
  • Highlights: “Stash > Kung > Stash,” “Reba,” “David Bowie > Have Mercy > David Bowie,” “It’s Ice,” “The Squirming Coil,” “Mike’s Song > Crossroads > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove > Amazing Grace > Amazing Grace Jam”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • Debuts: “Crossroads” (Johnson)
  • First set length: 73 mins.
  • Second set length: 91 mins.
  • This is the fourth and last time Phish performed at the University of New Hampshire Field House.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Have Mercy,” returning after a fifty-six show absence (2/20/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (6 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Winter/Spring 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May 7th, 1993: Bangor Auditorium, Bangor ME

Show #70 of Winter/Spring ’93 brings us just a couple hours north from where show #1 was played. At a capacity of 3200 the Bangor Auditorium is one of the larger venues Phish plays on this tour. Most venues the band played on this tour have been either one-off venues (only visited on this tour) or never visited again by the band after this tour. The band will return to Bangor Auditorium, however, for the first show following the 1994 Halloween ‘musical costume’. The common opening pairing of “Buried Alive” and “Poor Heart” opens this show. The band’s playing sounds good from the beginning of this show.

Next is “Split Open and Melt,” making its second appearance in as many nights. Tonight’s performance is shorter than last night’s but is wilder and better executed. The jam starts at 4:15 with a heavy-metal Trey riff. This works into a good, repeating Trey riff. Shortly after 6:00 both Trey and Mike begin to push in different directions at almost the same time. The result is a partial breaking with the “Melt” song structure and a couple minutes of the signature, psychedelic intensity that this song can bring. It takes about 30 seconds for the band to coalesce again but once they do the rest of the jam is excellent. They start to settle back into the “Split” groove around 7:40 but there’s more exciting tension/release runs before the end of the song shortly after 9:00. Again, this one is a little on the shorter side, but the band covers a lot of ground quickly. This “Split” is definitely up there with the other great “Splits” from the last couple weeks.

I like the placement of “Sparkle” tonight, for it works as a nice transition between the intensity of “Melt” and the following “Caravan.” As usual, “Caravan” is fun to hear. Page has his best moment of the night so far with his solo, and the band throws in a very brief “Manteca” tease at 3:45. (I wonder why the band decided this week was the time for “Manteca” jams? ) “The Lizards” kicks off a more composition-orientated back half of the set. The song is well-played and a treat to hear in the first set (“Lizards” have more commonly lurked in the second set this tour). “Horn” keeps to its “once every 10-to-12” day rotation, which is a long enough gap to keep the song sounding fresh each time they play it. “Divided Sky” also is a quality performance tonight. The song has a solid 30 second pause and crowd cheer that feels more significant than any other pause that occurred this tour. Did I just listen to the first real “Sky” pause? I’m curious to see where that crowd/band interaction goes from here.

“I Didn’t Know” takes its usual penultimate spot before the set-closing “Run Like an Antelope.” “Antelope” has a little extra jamming during the intro tonight, before Trey starts the jam proper with catchy riffing at 3:00. From there the song goes through a standard but good build highlighted by intense fretwork from Trey. “Melt” is the easy highlight of this short first-set, but the back half of the set is still enjoyable thanks to good performances of classic songs.

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Set 2 opens with a solid “Rift” before “Bouncing Around the Room” makes an appearance. “Bouncing” feels a little odd in this slot; it often feels like a breather song and we’re only six minutes into set 2, which feels early for a breather. “Maze” is next and brings the energy level up. Page takes an unusually good and extended solo tonight that builds to a fierce peak. He doesn’t hand off to Trey until 6:30. Trey’s solo, by contrast, feels fairly standard. Page wins the “Maze” duel tonight. “Fee” is nice to hear, having not been played in a week, and works well in the setlist following the intensity of “Maze.” “Big Ball Jam” brings us to the first “You Enjoy Myself” since the huge Albany performance.

Page’s solo begins at 8:00 of “YEM,” and in comparison to his “Maze” solo it sounds fairly standard. Trey takes over at 10:40 and his segment also feels like a typical “YEM” solo until 12:45 at which point Trey and Mike lock onto a carnival-esque sound. The band starts to break the jam down and Trey takes a jazzy solo at 13:30 that is clean and melodic. From there the band breaks the jam down into almost nothing before building back up around a heavy-metal Trey riff. This develops into bluesy riffing at 15:30 that quickly picks up in tempo. Trey starts to drift off and scratch his guitar as they slowly transition into a funky drum and bass segment. The vocal jam starts at 18:40. I wouldn’t put this “YEM” in the top tier from this tour as a good portion of it is standard fare, but the few minutes during Trey’s solo where the band breaks the jam down and quickly moves through a few distinct passages does add some improvisational excitement to this performance.

“The Great Gig in the Sky” emerges from the “YEM” vocal jam and serves as the Henrietta segment of the evening. Phish treats the Maine crowd to”Harry Hood” tonight, which makes one of its irregular appearances tonight and is the highlight of the evening. The jam begins at 5:10 and the first couple minutes are calm and peaceful. Trey steps on the gas at 7:00, quickly kicking up the intensity of the jam a few notches. He goes through some great runs before starting to bring the song to a peak at 8:35. Trey holds a note for a good 30 seconds before a thrilling set of ‘machine-gun’ runs brings this “Hood” to a truly euphoric peak, culminating in a blissful melody from 10:30-10:50 before the band brings the song to a close. Another excellent 1993 “Hood” that will bring a smile to the face of any Phish fan.

The band just keeps rolling with another crowd-favorite: “Harpua.” Trey remarks that the band has “just finished a big national tour.” Tonight’s narration begins with Trey describing  one “Ravishing Rick Rude,” a Maine resident and lumberjack that has a dog named Harpua. The two characters share a growing hatred of the ever-growing and constantly encroaching suburbs. The narration becomes more standard as Trey begins describing Jimmy and his cat Poster Nutbag, residents of said suburbia. When Jimmy turns on his record player Trey begins playing Eric Clapton’s “Crossroads” for about 20 seconds. After the tease Trey tells the audience that it’s “obvious you’ve never heard that song,” before instructing them that “you all should.” Harpua kills Poster not long after. “Highway to Hell” makes for a perfect closer after “Harpua” as the band exits the stage with tongue firmly in cheek.

Before the first encore, “Amazing Grace,” Trey introduces his dog Marley to the audience. “Golgi Apparatus” sends the crowd home for the evening. I’m giving tonight’s show a 3 because I feel it doesn’t quite hit as many of the highs that this last week or so has been filled with, and because good chunks of the show feel fairly standard for the tour (particularly the back half of set 1 and the beginning of set 2). That said, the end of set 2 almost pushed this back up to a 4 for me because “Harry Hood” is once again excellent and worth hearing and “Harpua” is very entertaining. “YEM” is good as well and has a few minutes of interesting and unusual improvisation. Regarding the first set, “Split Open and Melt” has a great, tight jam that serves as a good example of where the song is at, and “Caravan” has some good solos and a “Manteca” tease. The list of highlights runs long, so a 3 might seem harsh, but this show is up against some stiff competition at the end of this tour. On it’s own it’s certainly a good and enjoyable Phish show.

  • Show rating: 3/5
  • Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Harry Hood,” “Harpua”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 67 mins.
  • Second set length: 93 mins.
  • This is the first time Phish performed at the Bangor Auditorium. They will return on 11/02/94.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Harpua,” returning after an eighteen show absence (4/14/93).
  • The best represented studio albums are Rift and Junta (4 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Winter/Spring 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May 6th, 1993: Palace Theatre, Albany NY

Night 2 at the Palace Theatre is Phish’s final show at this venue, and it gets off to a much stronger start than last night. There’s very little shakiness or mistakes throughout the first set; the band sounds nice and settled in. The soundboard source of my recording for the night also has a better mix and sounds more dialed in than yesterday’s source. “Chalk Dust Torture” is the first song of the evening and is standard but typically high-energy. “Mound” is next, appearing unusually early in the setlist. The song works well in this slot though. “Split Open and Melt” takes its normal (early/mid-first set) position.

The “Melt” jam starts at 4:15 and is driven by Trey riffing and Page comping until about 5:45, where Trey begins to vary his playing and take more of a solo. He starts to push at the “Split” progression with a more upbeat melody shortly after 7:00, but the rest of the band remains locked in to the “Melt” groove. Because of this the jam never breaks the song’s structure. Instead, Trey starts to peak his solo about 9:30. The peak is my favorite part of the jam and provides some of the “Melt” intensity the song is known for. After great playing from the entire band the group heads into the song’s ending at 11:30. The first part of the jam feels fairly standard for the song at this point and is neither particularly experimental nor intense, but the peak is satisfying and makes for an early highlight of the night.

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“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” serves as a breather after “Melt” before Trey leads the group into the “All Things Reconsidered” fugue. Trey struggles with the first section of “ATR” until about 0:40, so the song doesn’t pick up the energy level of the set after “Morning” as much as it could have. Thankfully, a ripping “Llama” is next, which more than makes up for the mistakes in “ATR.” A solid “Fluffhead” kicks off the back half of the set in fine fashion, followed by another good “Possum.” There’s a mini-jam during the “Possum” intro led by Mike that induces Secret Language signals and a very brief silent jam. The song proper doesn’t start until about 2:30. Trey delivers a very good solo during the jam that is probably his best playing of the set, going through interesting twists and driving to a satisfying peak.

A guest sit-in takes up the remainder of the set. Dick Solberg, a local musician, joins the band on violin. Trey comments that he met Dick while “taking a break in the Virgin Islands.” The band starts up “Lawn Boy,” and while Dick does not add much to the song at first, Page gives him the nod for the solo and he delivers some ripping violin playing. Fans of “Lawn Boy” will definitely want to check out this performance. Jeff Walton on vocals and acoustic guitar then takes the stage for three Phish debuts to close the set, two of which are never played again. Those two are “Why You Been Gone So Long?” and “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train.” The third, “Tennessee Waltz,” will only be performed at one more proper show. Like many guest sit-ins at Phish shows, your enjoyment of this segment will largely derive from how much you appreciate the band’s country/bluegrass diversions and the underlying songs. I found it to be a fun but inessential listen. Overall, I found this to be a good, though not great, first set. While nothing here is truly exceptional the playing is generally solid and there are a number of highlights: the peak in “Melt,” “Fluffhead,” “Possum,” and the novelty of the guest sit-in at the end of the set.

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“Suzy Greenberg” makes an increasingly rare appearance to open up set 2. It’s a standard performance, but is followed by anything but. “Tweezer” takes the number 2 slot, and like they did with “YEM” last night, the band blows the song open in a way we haven’t seen so far on this tour. The result is a 19-minute “Tweezer” with a multi-part, type-II jam. The jam starts at 4:20. Trey drops out to let Mike set the initial direction. Mike responds by almost immediately playing something that sounds quite similar to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” The band locks into this and the rides this groove for several rocking minutes. Trey solos and brings the jam to an initial peak from 7:00-7:30. The jam takes a more dissonant turn after that and sounds like its heading back towards the composed ending of “Tweezer.”

Instead of ending “Tweezer,” however, the band fakes us out and takes a left turn around 10:00 into a very anarchic sounding free-jazz segment led by Page’s intense playing. The band starts to coalesce around a simple Trey riff at 12:00 that builds up into an entirely new groove outside of the realm of “Tweezer.” This takes another big turn at 15:45 as the groove dissipates into a very blissful sound led by clean, melodic playing from Trey (think of the big shift that occurs near the end of the Hampton ’97 “Halley’s Comet”). The rest of the band quickly shifts direction along with Trey for a short but very sweet passage of bliss. Trey could have kept riding this section out for another five minutes, at least, in my opinion, but quickly works back into the main “Tweezer” riff. We’re back in the main “Tweezer” groove at 17:00. Trey adds in a little bit of celebratory soloing before going into the composed end of the song at around 18:00.

Suffice to say, this “Tweezer” is on another level from just about any other standalone “Tweezer” from this tour (that is, putting aside the 2/20/93 segue-fest). Most “Tweezer” jams of late have been in the 5-10 minute range and contain a similar tension/release feel. At first it sounds like this performance is just going to be a very good version of one of those, built around Mike’s “Sweet Emotion”-esque riff, but the band then goes entirely in a different direction, working through psychedelic anarchy and emerging into a serene breath of fresh air. Absolutely worth a listen.

Following this landmark “Tweezer” the band treats the crowd to the first “Tela” in over a month. Despite the absence the song sounds good and is great to hear again. “Uncle Pen” and “Big Ball Jam” quickly bring the tempo and energy back up. A good “Squirming Coil” provides a moment of reflection before “Mike’s Song” kicks off the last improvisational journey of the evening, and tonight’s performance continues the song’s hot streak in a really unique way. The first jam is its short, standard self, building to a quick, rocking peak and going into the end chords at 5:20. The second jam starts at 5:40 with “Simple”-esque riffs and is dissonant for about a minute before shifting directions at 7:00. Trey leads the band into the melody of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and the band commences to essentially play an instrumental version of most of the song through 9:45. The band starts to jam over the feel of “Ob-La-Di” while the violinist that sat-in during the end of the first set comes back onstage and joins the band mid-jam! The tempo of the jam increases and takes on a more bluegrass feel. They build to a fun, bluegrass peak before segueing seamlessly into the start of “Rocky Top” at 12:00. Altogether, a very fun and memorable sequence.

A Henrietta “Cracklin’ Rosie” segment brings us to the final song of the set, and another Phish debut, “That’s Alright Mama.” The violinist stays and they are joined by the second guest from the first set on vocals. The band comes back onstage sans guests to encore with a standard “Contact > Tweezer Reprise” pairing. This show has just about everything you could ask from a show of this tour, and then more. There’s great performances of classic songs (“Fluffhead,” “Possum”), a decent first-set jam (“Split Open and Melt”), and a huge second-set jam (“Tweezer”) that is one of the most adventurous of the tour. On top of that there’s the guest-sit, which results in a couple of genuinely cool moments (“Lawn Boy”, the “Mike’s Song” jam). Phish’s playing overall is tight, there’s some great improvisation, and the whole show is just a lot of fun. There’s still two shows to go, but this last week of tour is shaping up to be the most exciting week of the whole three months.

  • Show rating: 5/5
  • Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “Possum,” “Lawn Boy,” “Tweezer,” “Mike’s Song > Rocky Top”

 Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • Debuts: “Why You Been Gone So Long?” (Newbury), “Tennessee Waltz” (King/Stewart), “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train” (Shaver), “That’s Alright Mama” (Crudup)
  • First set length: 82 mins.
  • Second set length: 85 mins.
  • This is the third and last time Phish performed at the Palace Theatre. Trey Anastasio Band will perform here on seven separate occasions from 5/15/99 through 1/26/13, and Trey joins Medeski, Martin & Wood at this venue on 12/1/00.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Tela,” returning after a thirty-three show absence (3/22/93).
  • The best represented studio albums are Rift and A Picture of Nectar (4 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Winter/Spring 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May 5th, 1993: Palace Theatre, Albany NY

This is it folks. The final run of tour. Four nights, Wednesday through Saturday. Half of those remaining shows occur at tonight’s venue: the Palace Theatre in Albany. After these two Palace shows we’ll be ending the tour exactly where we began with a night in Maine and the tour finale in New Hampshire. All of these shows are an easy drive from the band’s home in Burlington. Perhaps we’re in store for an end of tour blowout as the band celebrates their return to home after a grueling three months on the road? We’ll soon find out.

I have a soundboard recording to listen to tonight, but unfortunately the mix sounds a little off throughout the show. Fishman’s drums in particular are on the quiet side and Mike is just as, if not louder, than Trey. It’s nice to hear Mike with such clarity but he drowns out Trey at times. None of this is the band’s fault, of course. The show opens with “Rift” and “Guelah Papyrus,” both which sound fine but not particularly great either. “Foam” is nice and dynamic with a quiet middle section, and it sounds like the band has finally picked up steam by the end of the song. Fishman messes up his timing at the end of the song though, making for an awkward transition into the following “Sparkle.”

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“Stash” is next. Continuing the trend of not sounding 100% locked-in, the band struggles in spots with the composition of the song. Fish and Mike especially sound off. Despite these problems the band does deliver a decent jam. The jam starts at 5:30 and immediately sounds eerie and tense due to a repetitive riff from Trey and some great comping from Page. Trey and Mike lock into a riff at 6:40 that shifts the direction of the jam and moves it further from the “Stash” progression. This builds into a small peak before another transition around 9:00 into a segment driven by a Trey solo. After some good fretwork from Trey it sounds like the band just limps towards the end of the song. Trey saves the day by throwing in some dark, evil-sounding chords to inject some energy back into the song, but it’s still a slightly awkward ending to the jam. There’s some great moments in this jam but it’s hampered by the overall lack of tight playing so far tonight.

The next two songs are an improvement: both “Bouncing Around the Room” and “It’s Ice” sound great (especially “Ice”). If the band was struggling to even play “Bouncing” that would be troubling indeed, but “Ice” is a fairly complex song so nailing that is a sign of progress. The ‘underwater’ segment of “Ice” is slightly extended and features some real nice playing from Page, who might be the MVP of the set. A solid “Glide” brings us to “Maze.” “Maze” has an extended intro tonight with extra chording from Trey akin to the mini-jams that sometimes occur during the “David Bowie” intro. Page’s solo is decent but only builds to a so-so peak. Trey’s solo has more swagger and a more intense peak, so he easily wins the “Maze” duel tonight. “Golgi Apparatus” takes its familiar role of set-closer.

Phish doesn’t exactly come out firing on all cylinders tonight, and there are some rocky moments during the first half of this set (especially “Foam” through “Stash”). There are some interesting passages during the “Stash” jam, but the technical issues keep this one from being a true highlight. Thankfully, the band’s playing does improves from there, and the standout of the set is actually the well-executed “It’s Ice” and the nice Page fills during the ‘underwater’ segment. This is otherwise an unremarkable first set.

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Local review of the night’s show. Hard to read, but definitely overdoing the Dead comparisons

The band returns to stage to open set 2 with “Runaway Jim,” and at first it worryingly seems the problems of the first set are going to return as well. Trey returns to the chorus too early around 3:00, throwing off the rest of the band in the process. The band recovers quickly though, and I’m happy to report that the rest of the set is mostly flub free and has a good energy – a clear improvement over the first half. “Jim” follows its standard progression at first with Trey leading his solo to a solid peak. From there it departs from the usual as Page steps up for a mini-solo as Trey wails away on feedback. The band starts to break down the jam at 7:30. Trey puts down his guitar and picks up his acoustic for the intro to “My Friend, My Friend,” leaving “Jim” unfinished for the first time this tour. The transition between the songs is surprisingly smooth due to the rest of the band continuing to jam over Trey’s intro to the song.

The fun segues continue with the second full-on “Manteca” jam in as many shows during the “My Friend” outro. Almost immediately as the the “my friend, my friend, he’s got a knife” outro begins Mike begins teasing the “Manteca” progression. The rest of the band quickly picks up on this and a full-on “Manteca” with lyrics emerges. It’s only about a minute long, so shorter than the more fleshed-out jam in New Jersey, but it’s still a very amusing twist to the “My Friend” ending. The band blazes through a number of quicker songs after “My Friend,” starting with two Mike tunes: “Poor Heart” and “Weigh.” Both songs sound solid. “Weigh” lands into the always frantic “Big Ball Jam,” keeping the energy of the set high.

Trey dedicates the following “Ya Mar” to his future wife Sue, who is at the show tonight, wishing her a happy birthday and telling her he loves her. Knowing how their relationship evolves it’s a sweet moment. “Ya Mar” is standard but it’s nice to hear it returning to a somewhat regular rotation. “Ya Mar” brings us to the set-closing “You Enjoy Myself.” “YEM” clocks in at well over a half hour, the first time any song from this tour has reached such a length, and it’s an outright party tonight. Strap-in, because you’re in for a good time. The opening ‘bliss’ segment is slightly extended tonight, not ending until 3:15, and sounds like it features a little extra instrumentation from Trey and Page. Page’s solo begins at 9:10 and is decent but nothing special. Trey starts comping at 10:15 and takes over from Page at 10:50. Shortly after Trey starts his solo The Aquarium Rescue Unit, whom I have never listened to before, slowly start taking the stage. A second guitarist comes in at 11:20, picking right up from Trey. Several minutes of great, multi-guitar interplay follows.

The jam starts to move away from the “YEM” progression but maintains a very groove-focused feel for the rest of the jam. A second percussionist and bassist are in by 13:15. Trey starts singing at 15:15 but I can’t make out exactly what he’s saying. The rest of the band, guests included, is tightly locked into a funky, danceable groove. The jam gets increasingly psychedelic as one of the guitarists starts shredding away and someone is yelling on top. After this segment peaks the groove resets a bit at 17:15, and Page takes the spotlight again at 19:00. The jam breaks down and becomes increasingly sparse at 20:00, beginning a rhythm section solo. The bassists keep playing but eventually drop out, leaving Fish and the guest percussionist rocking out and keeping the dance groove alive. The bassists and piano come back in, as well as a saxophone player at 21:45. Obviously, any semblance of “YEM” has been completely abandoned at this point. Fishman starts ‘playing’ the vacuum at 24:00 as the other percussionist keeps playing. The guitars come back in at 26:00 for a final intense round of soloing before the jam starts to fade out with a lot of scat-singing at 30:00. This mammoth jam finally comes to a close without a traditional vocal jam at 31:50.

The first encore song, “Amazing Grace,” is not present on my recording. That’s okay though, because the final encore is another fun setlist quirk. After the first minute or so of “Cavern” the band segues straight into the jazz-standard “Take the ‘A’ Train,” and then back into “Cavern” after playing through that tune. The transition back into “Cavern” is a bit rough but the novelty of the segue makes up for it, adding a final exclamation point to the second set.

I thought the first set of this show was on the weak side, but I honestly considered giving this show a 5 for the “YEM” jam alone. Phish simply did not jam on super-extended, funky grooves at this point, but the Aquarium Rescue Unit manages to slide right into the feeling of the “YEM” jam and draw out the party band, blue-eyed soul side of Phish before Phish themselves had fully embraced it. The result is a long, groove-based jam that must have been an absolute blast to have witnessed live but still holds up well on the recording. As cool as the “YEM” is though, it’s not the only highlight of the set. “Runaway Jim” has followed the same progression the entire tour, but tonight the band experiments with leaving the song unfinished and segueing right from the solo into “My Friend, My Friend,” making for a fun and encouraging experiment. And while it’s a brief sojourn, the “Manteca” inside “My Friend” is fun as well. While I can’t recommend the first set of this show, the second set is another excellent chapter in what is shaping up to be an exciting final week of tour.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “Runaway Jim > My Friend, My Friend > Manteca > MFMF,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Cavern > Take the ‘A’ Train > Cavern”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 69 mins.
  • Second set length: ~74 mins.
  • This is the second time Phish performed at the Palace Theatre. They last played here on 11/20/92, and will return tomorrow night.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Take the ‘A’ Train,” returning after a fifty-nine show absence (2/12/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift and A Picture of Nectar (6 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Winter/Spring 1993 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

May 3rd, 1993: State Theatre, New Brunswick NJ

Apart from the Atlanta Roxy run, tonight’s show is the only Winter/Spring ’93 show I had heard prior to commencing this project. This is because of the excellent sounding, official LivePhish release of the show that the band put out to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief. An essay written by Phish’s archivist Kevin Shapiro both about tonight’s show and the tour as a whole can be found here. One interesting tidbit from the essay is that while both Trey and Page “have roots” in New Jersey, this is only the second headlining show Phish played in New Jersey.

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Show #67 of ’93 starts with “Buried Alive,” which has a solo piano intro tonight. Good performances of “Rift” and “Weigh” follow. The band sounds locked-in tonight and have no trouble with these compositions. A ripping but otherwise typical “Chalk Dust Torture” is next before the set slows down with the relatively elusive “Esther.” “Esther” is delivered with a conviction that the band isn’t always able to pull off, and sounds especially nice due to the quality of the official recording.

“Split Open and Melt” anchors the middle of the set and is the first real opportunity tonight for the band to engage in open-ended jamming. The jam starts at 4:13, and Trey latches on to a riff at 4:30 that drives the jam. The rest of the band starts to experiment within the “Split” progression. There’s great chordal comping from Page on his baby grand at 5:30. The jam is only tenuously linked to the “Split” theme at this point, and takes a dissonant turn at 6:30. After a couple minutes of building tension the band transitions into the end of the song at 8:40. Though not as experimental or wild as some recent performances of this song, tonight’s “Melt” is still high-energy and rocking and a highlight of the show so far.

The band launches straight from “Split” into a long “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird” segment. The narration begins with Trey telling the audience that Paul on the soundboard has been working on an “experimental gas” that is being emitted into the crowd. Together with the “Vibration of Life” that the band begins playing, Trey says the gas will put the crowd into a trance. After the “Vibration of Life” Trey continues and tells the crowd that they will not remember the next 10 to 15 minutes and have only a hazy recollection. He then proceeds with a relatively standard “Forbin’s” story about the venue slowly ascending into space and the audience members becoming stretched out before falling gradually falling into Gamehendge. At the end of the narration Trey remarks that “you’ll think this was just a story I told you because of the gas in your head, but it actually happened!” I wouldn’t go as far as to say this sequence is essential, must-hear Phish, but it’s very amusing nonetheless and a nice twist on the standard narration.

A good “Possum” takes us into the homestretch of this set. Trey’s solo starts at 3:15 of “Possum” and is cooking by 6:00. The solo just gets more intense from there and comes to a very thrilling end at 8:30. A very quick-paced “Lawn Boy” brings us to the set-closing “Cavern.” While there’s no segment of this set that is truly extraordinary, there’s a lot of great playing throughout. The “Split” is an intense mid-set jam, the narration is very entertaining, and the “Possum” at the end builds to a great peak. This is surrounded by overall tight playing that is further highlighted by the pristine audio. Overall, I would rate this as a better-than-average first-set for this tour.

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Nice looking place

“AC/DC Bag” opens set 2 for only the third time this tour, and “The Curtain” follows. Both opening songs sound good. The set really gets exciting, however, with the next song: a big, seventeen minute “Tweezer.” This is easily the longest “Tweezer” jam of the tour so far, and a big development for a song that hasn’t been surprising me much of late. The jam is initially based around a bluesy Trey riff. A different groove begins to develop at 6:50, led by melodic playing from Trey that is unusually free of dissonance. After an intense first peak, the jam morphs again at 8:35 into a blissful, upbeat groove that is totally free of the usual “Tweezer” groove. Trey locks into a pleasant, repeating riff that segues smoothly at 10:18 into the first full refrain of “Manteca” since the February Atlanta run. Once finished with a couple of refrains of the “crab in my shoemouth” lyrics the band resumes the rocking, upbeat groove. After some brief soloing from Trey the jam starts to break down at 13:20 and lands back in a dark sounding “Tweezer” groove. There’s one final peak with some good soloing from Trey before the composed ending of “Tweezer” begins at 15:50.

Unlike most recent “Tweezers,” which have been fairly predictable exercises in tension and release, this “Tweezer” breaks structure fully and does so early on, going through several distinct melodic sections over the course of 17 minutes. My initial reaction: probably the best “Tweezer” of the tour so far. A standard “Contact” emerges from the end of “Tweezer,” which leads into a decent “It’s Ice.” “McGrupp and the Watchful Horsemaster” makes only its third appearance of tour and the first time since March, lending some freshness to tonight’s setlist. The song is very well played and the delicate middle segment is treated with loving care by Page, making for a memorable performance of the song.

The set rolls on from there with “Runaway Jim,” making an unusual mid-second set appearance. The performance is typically-solid with a good, patient solo from Trey. “Big Ball Jam” brings us to the night’s “Love You” Henrietta segment. There’s not much banter tonight outside of band introductions. “My Sweet One” keeps the goofy Fishman spirit alive before the set-closing “Tweezer Reprise.” New Brunswick gets treated to a triple encore that begins with two a cappella numbers: “Memories” and “Amazing Grace.” “Highway to Hell” wraps up the show firmly tongue-in-cheek.

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Undoubtedly, the big moment of this show is the break-out “Tweezer.” Most “Tweezer” jams this tour have been based around a similar-sounding “Tweezer” groove, but this one breaks free for about ten minutes of freeform improvisation. That’s a kind of improvisation that has been very rare this tour, especially for such an extended length of time, and it’s exciting to hear. If the band starts jamming songs out regularly this summer, I think tonight’s “Tweezer” can be pointed to as a big step in that direction. Over the last couple months we have seen the band ‘crack the code’ with “Stash” and “Split Open and Melt,” turning relatively unremarkable performances early in the tour into nightly opportunities for experimental jamming.  If tonight starts a trend, the same can be said now about “Tweezer.” Truly an exciting time for Phish!

That being said there’s a lot of strong moments elsewhere in this show, though of a kind more typical to this tour. The “Split” in the first set has a rocking if not particularly experimental jam, the “Vibration of Life”/”experimental gas” “Forbin’s” narration is entertaining, and the second set “McGrupp” is particularly well-played. Lastly, but importantly, the general quality of the band’s playing is high. All of this makes for a classic Phish show worth a listen.

  • Show rating: 5/5
  • Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > Vibration of Life > Fly Famous Mockingbird,” “Possum,” “Tweezer > Manteca > Tweezer,” “McGrupp and the Watchful Horsemaster”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 78 mins.
  • Second set length: 86 mins.
  • This is the first and last time Phish performed at the State Theatre.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Manteca,” returning after a fifty-one show absence (2/21/93).
  • The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Winter/Spring 1993 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May 2nd, 1993: Tower Theatre, Upper Darby PA

It’s time for night 2 at the Tower Theatre, which means that Phish’s run in Upper Darby is the first multi-night stint at the same venue since Ohio. This last week of tour is awash with good circulating recordings: both 5/3 and 5/8 have official LivePhish releases, and these two nights in Philadelphia have circulating soundboards. I believe I also downloaded soundboards of the two forthcoming Palace shows as well. There is a caveat though: at least one of the shows in the next week has an entire set missing, and a couple songs are missing tonight too (though nothing that would have been a show highlight).

“Axilla” has been absent for over a week but makes an appearance tonight. The song has frequently appeared as a set two opener but rarely as an opener, so it’s nice to hear it in that role tonight. Like the eventual “Carini,” the song is an instant kick-in-the-face, so it’s a natural opener. “Sparkle” follows and is another quick, high-energy song. “Divided Sky” usually appears mid-to-late first set, so it too appears early in the setlist tonight. The performance is solid tonight, as is the case with “Mound.” “Mound,” of course, is usually a set-2 song (notice a trend?).

The first opportunity for the show to open up appears next with “Stash.” I thought the Hartford “Stash” was a little weak compared to the standout April performances, but tonight is a true return to form. Trey is out of key slightly during the composition of “Stash” at 3:10, but he’s back into shape by the beginning of the jam at 5:30. The beginning of the jam is built around a dissonant, descending Trey riff. The band locks into a dissonant passage at 7:30 that morphs into a full-on (but brief) type-II jam at 8:00 that is similar to the “Melt” jams of late. After a wild and chaotic minute, Trey leads the band back into the “Stash” progression at 9:00, though the mood of the jam remains intense. After some great shredding from Trey, the band works back into the composed end of the song by 10:30. Though shorter than some of the experimental performances from earlier this tour, this “Stash” drives a laser-focused path through a chaotic, essentially type-II jam that resolves in a satisfying manner. It’s a very strong first-effort at group improvisation tonight.

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“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” follows “Stash,” and unlike the duo’s placement during the Hartford show, the release in tension is appreciated at this point in the setlist. “Poor Heart” brings the tempo back up before a “Maze” that is the highlight of the back-half of the set, largely due to Page’s solo. Page’s solo segment sounds better than average tonight and leads to a strong peak. Trey’s solo feels largely by-the-numbers, so Page clearly wins the “Maze” duel tonight. “I Didn’t Know” with Fishman on washboard and a quick “Golgi Apparatus” close the first half of the show.

The first half of this set through “Stash” is excellent. The setlist feels fresh, with numerous songs appearing earlier in the set than typical, and the playing is solid as well. This culminates in another excellent Spring ’93 “Stash” that has a very intense, dissonant jam that feels influenced by the breakthroughs the band had in “Melt” recently. The second half of the set is slightly more standard, though a strong “Maze” and a decent setlist flow makes for a fine listen. A good first set, overall.

“Llama” begins set 2. The band doesn’t sound in-sync at the beginning of the song, but they quickly pull it together. “Llama” ends with some added screaming from Trey. “Punch You in the Eye” appears for the first time in well over a week, and is a nice funky counterpoint to the fire of “Llama.” Speaking of funk, “You Enjoy Myself” appears very early in the set tonight, and has an awesome funk jam of its own. Page’s solo begins at 8:45. As Page solos the rest of the band starts to jam behind him. Mike starts adding some leads of his own, and within a couple minutes the band has locked into a unique groove centered around a descending Mike riff. Trey’s playing becomes more prominent at 13:00, but he doesn’t begin to solo fully and instead plays with the groove that has been established. He starts to take a traditional solo at 16:00 and leads the song to a peak at 16:55. After a satisfying end to the jam segment, the bass and drums solo starts at 18:30. The vocal jam feels a bit shorter than normal night, perhaps due to the long instrumental jam. I really enjoyed the funk jam in this “YEM” and think it’s a great “YEM” for the period.

“The Lizards” works well as a follow-up to “YEM,” and this is a typically-great performance of the song. There’s a brief tape patch or something for “Big Ball Jam,” because the source sounds different for this track. Unfortunately, due to further tape issues, the following two songs are absent from the circulating recording (“Bouncing Around the Room” and “Uncle Pen”). Next is…a mid-second set “Run Like an Antelope?” Okay, I’m down. I really am enjoying the subtle changes to the ‘usual’ setlist positions these last couple nights of nights at the Tower.

The “Antelope” intro is extra dynamic tonight, with the band fading in and out completely around 1:10. The jam segment starts at 2:50 and is immediately driven by ‘machine-gun’ riffing from Trey. The intensity doesn’t relent for several minutes, and Trey continues to riff at an incredible speed until about 5:00, where he starts to solo. More dissonance is introduced at 5:45, and similar to “Stash,” the band breaks into an anarchic, mini-type-II jam. They return to the “Antelope” progression at 7:30. Trey goes through a series of wild modulations at 7:55 before delivering a final, thrilling solo before the song’s reggae breakdown at ~8:50. This reggae part is jammed out a bit as well and I believe contains a Secret Language signal. If Phish is going to play “Antelope” in the middle of the second-set, I want them to play a particularly intense rendition of the song (like at the “Coral Sky” show in ’96). That’s exactly what they do tonight. This is one of the best, and most experimental, performances of the song in recent memory.

After “Antelope” we’re firmly in the home stretch of the show. A “Cracklin’ Rosie” Henrietta segment with some brief but entertaining banter from Fishman is next. There’s a long pause on the recording, and Fish remarks that it takes a “good deal of effort to determine…which of the 5 songs” he knows how to play he should perform. The prankster song “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” closes the set. “Sleeping Monkey” is the first encore of the night. The band vamps over the chord progression for about a minute before Trey finally bursts out admitting “I’m sorry,  I forgot the lyrics to this song,” much to the crowd’s delight. He goes on to mention that it’s extra embarrassing tonight because lyricist Tom Marshall is in the audience. Some advice Trey: if you want to remember the lyrics, play the song more often! “Amazing Grace” ends the evening on a spiritual note.

This is another great show at the Tower Theatre, which I might, if pushed, rank slightly higher than last night. There’s standout jams in both sets (“Stash,” “YEM,” “Antelope”) that are surrounded by good playing. I also enjoy the variety the band introduced to their setlists the last couple nights. The only real reason I’m not giving this show a 5 is because I think it’s just a little too lacking of that intangible “IT” to push it over the line. Nevertheless, this is an excellent late-tour show that I easily recommend.

  • Show rating: 4/5
  • Highlights: “Stash,” “Maze,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Run Like an Antelope”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 66 mins.
  • Second set length: 86 mins.
  • This is the second and last time Phish performed at the Tower Theatre. Trey Anastasio band performs here on 2/24/01, 11/15/05, and 12/13/14.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Sleeping Monkey,” returning after a thirty-one show absence (3/21/93).
  • The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).
Posted in 1993, Review, Winter/Spring 1993 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment