This summer has been packed with so many exciting events its hard to take it all in. The talk has been all about the new songs, new direction etc. But, perhaps because of its early return at Fenway, or its multiple appearances on the tour (Fenway, the Gorge), the importance of “Destiny Unbound” seems to have been missed completely. With so many things to talk about, and new songs being introduced, the song that was synonymous with “impossible” in the past, appears to have been overlooked.
Debuted live on 1990-09-14, the song made regular appearances in 1990 and 1991 before being shelved for 790 shows (12 years). During ’91, the song carved out a niche after the Landlady, and was an early fan favorite. Written by Mike, and featuring his signature quirky lyrics, the song is noticeably different to other Phish songs. It features a Lou Reed (Velvet Underground) style guitar intro with country-esque singing on top creating an interesting contrast.
Listen to “Destiny” from 1991-11-15 in Charlottesville, VA.
During the early 90′s after the song had been absent for a few years, Trey reportedly said that if the entire audience sang the song, they would play it. Efforts were arranged to have this accomplished, including the now famous “Death Chant” show from Hampton, VA on 1997-11-22. Before starting the second set, the band arrived on stage to find the entire crowd chanting the song’s lyrics. Trey responded by telling the crowd it sounded like some “death chant” and asked if it was the “ritual sacrifice” part of the show. There was some talk between Trey and Page, and a look over at Mike. Mike responded with a “no” head-nod, and the band launched into Haley’s instead (which is mentioned in our 10 Phish Jams You Should Hear). At Red Rocks in ’96 fliers were passed around to try and arrange a mass-chant. At Lemonwheel in ’98, perhaps the largest chant took place, with the mics picking it up and broadcasting it. However, none of these attempts ever brought any results, and the song became as rare as any.
Many people thought it would never be played again, and rumors began to swirl as to the reasons for this. One theory suggested that the song sounded too much like the Grateful Dead. Another said Mike simply didn’t like the song and chose to retire it.
In an interview with Relix this year Mike talked about how certain songs become irrelevant to him, and as a result are harder to perform. He specifically mentioned “Mike’s Song” and explained how such a song, written in his sophomore year in college, might be hard to relate to in his mid-40s. Perhaps “Destiny” was a similar case, or maybe they couldn’t achieve the sound they were trying to get out of the song. For whatever reason, “Destiny” was removed from Phish setlists and became the symbol for rare Phish songs.
When all hope seemed to have been lost for the song, after a failed chant revival in 2000, the band took the stage at Nassau coliseum on their second last show of the winter ’03 tour. After going through some rough patches on the tour, the band decided to try and spark some energy. Following the “Birds” opener, the band dropped into “Destiny”, with the instantly noticeable guitar intro. The crowd, and anyone checking the setlist in the following days was absolutely shocked. The song was jammed out nicely and seemed to be a good vehicle for the band’s new sound. The odd thing is the song sounded exactly like it did in ’91. So, clearly this song has some mystery to it. “Destiny” was not played after Nassau, until May 31st this year at Fenway Park.
By the time Phish reached Fenway this year, perhaps the reasons the song made its 12-year hiatus from setlists were no longer relevant. Phish no longer has to desperately separate themselves from the shadow of the Grateful Dead, an issue that loomed over much of their early career. Mike seems to be more confident with his songwriting these days and clearly the song has a new relevance. Being featured in one of Phish’s most important shows ever, Fenway Park, in a setlist that was mainly anthems, “Destiny” clearly has a place in Phish 3.0.
What other Phish rarities are you still waiting for? Post them in the comments section below.
Here’s the download for the show from 1991-11-15 from Charlottesville, VA. Featuring a classic “Landlady>Destiny” combo (with an incredibly smooth transition) as well as plenty of old Phishiness, this show is a great look at their style back in ’91.
Watch this video of Phish performing “Destiny Unbound” 1991-02-14 in Ithica, NY (featuring the famous van-giveaway).
Here’s “Destiny” from Fenway Park 2009-05-31.