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.
“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.
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“
- 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).