The Spirit of the North
In their career, Phish has made a total of 19 trips to Canada. Each time, the band has delivered performances that stand out amongst the other shows on the tour. We’ve said it before, and so have they: when Phish performs off the beaten track, they seem to play some of their best shows. The Canadian shows have consistently exhibited creative improvisation and stage gimmicks. Coupled with the freedom and beauty of Canada, these shows have made for some incredible moments.
The band’s first trip to Canada was all the way back in ’89 at Les Founfounes Electriques in Montreal, Quebec (7.1.89). They would return three years later on 12.12.92 for a performance at The Spectrum in Toronto. This show features a monstrous “Tweezer” that constantly delves back and forth between dark and light. Starting in Toronto, and continuing the following night in Montreal, it was clear that the band felt in-tune with the freedom of their surroundings.
The following year, 1993, the band made five trips to Canada, each show following the trend of the past. The Canadian shows consistently stand out as some of the best, and ‘Phishiest’. In Montreal on 4.29.93, the band launched into a now legendary version of “Reba”, adding to the show a “Mike’s Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove > Makisupa Policeman > Weekapaug”. Prior to this, “Makisupa” had not been played for two years. The show closed with a rare “My Friend, My Friend” encore. The “YEM” and Dude of Life appearance in Toronto on 8.9.03, or the “It’s Ice” from 8.24.93 are also worth mention. Attempting to stretch their fan base wider, the band treated the Canadian audiences to evenings that gave those in attendance a dose of what the Vermont quartet was all about.
The band continued to spread their magic in the north in ’94. Playing five shows between Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver, the crowd and the band became more familiar with each other. As the shows began to feel more like Phish shows, and less like field-trips, the band opened up, offering more psychedelic improv and stage antics. The show from Montreal on 7.06.94 is simply one of the best. Featuring outstanding versions of “Reba” and “Tweezer”, this show is one of the finest from ’94.
1995 saw a drop in Canadian shows, as the band only made one trip to Vancouver on 10.6.95. ’96 followed with only one trip to the north, also to Vancouver. The band took a Canadian hiatus after ’96 until their return in 1999 with two fiery shows in Toronto and Vancouver. The Toronto show was the band’s first at the larger, outdoor, Molson Amphitheatre. Removed from the smaller theaters that had hosted their previous shows, the band played to a much larger audience, and strayed from their wild stage antics. However, continuing to treat the Canadians, the band busted out “Misty Mountain Hop” for the first time, a song that had been played in soundcheck since ’93. The show in Vancouver was the first after the Fuji Rock Festival, and opened the fall ’99 tour. The Vancouver show saw the first of “The Inlaw Josie Wales”, “First Tube”, as well as “Free Thought” (or “Third Tube”) which later became “Mozambique”, showcasing Trey’s new ‘Fluorescent Tube’ material. In 2000, Phish played their last Canadian show in Toronto, where Trey commented on how ‘beautiful Toronto is’.
Clearly influenced by the free spirit of the north, and the unassuming audiences, Phish has let loose every time they have performed north of the border. Due to the large number of fans unwilling to make the trip, these shows have become sleepers, aside from maybe the ’94 Montreal show. The atmospheres have been noticeably more accepting towards the fans and their behavior, creating a better experience for everyone. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it’s been almost a decade since Phish has played in Canada. It’s about time for another one of these northern shindigs.
Here’s a couple of our favorite Canadian Phish moments:
“Tweezer” from 12.12.92 The Spectrum, Toronto, ON.
“Reba” from 7.6.94 Theatre St. Denis, Montreal, QC.