Autumn Leaves: Fall ’94
As fall rolls in, it brings with it memories of fall tours past. Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting some of the best moments from past fall tours. Historically, the fall has been one of Phish’s finest seasons. Moving from the large outdoor venues to the more intimate surroundings of the indoors, the band performs unlike any other time of year. Showcasing a darker, more improvisational style than the summer, the fall has always been one of the most exploratory seasons. For many, fall has held some of the greatest Phish shows, and entire tours in the history of the band. Autumn has consistently been a period where the band tries new things, experiments, and journeys into the depths of the unknown.
Fall is a special time for Phish. In their time off after summer, the band has time to assess the highs and lows, and to recalibrate. Often debuting new material, new gimmicks, or a new direction, fall tours are packed with great moments, which have included some great moments on Halloween. The fall ’94 tour is one of the best examples, showcasing the band on one of their finest tours ever.
The fall of ’94 is one of my favorite Phish periods, and one of the most experimental. This was a point where the band was playing as tight as ever, hearing each others every move, segueing in and out of songs without notice. The fluidity behind each members’ playing is instantly noticeable when listening to a show from this period. Before the band had entered its effect-laden intergalactic funk jams, they used to jam with no boundaries whatsoever. Unimpeded by any style or direction, this era was a time of pure musical discovery.
Beginning in Pennsylvania and playing all the way down to California, it was clear to everyone the type of performances that were occurring on a nightly basis. Including a musical cover of the Beatles White Album in Glen Falls, NY the early fall began with some special moments including a guest-appearance by Bela Fleck and Dave Matthews Band. However, perhaps the most special moments came in November of ’94. The band was in a phase of playing acoustic music, and were also preparing to release A Live One. In fact, the first show in November ’94 in Bangor, Maine contains the “Tweezer” that was chosen for the album. “Tweezer” was taken to perhaps some of its greatest heights during this period, with each version providing a different and interesting musical journey.
November ’94 saw the appearances of “The Vibrations of Life” multiple times, as well as the addition of Rev. Jeff Mosier, of the Aquarium Rescue Unit, to help teach the band bluegrass. With the Reverend’s help, the band developed their bluegrass abilities and invited Jeff to sit in on multiple songs. The band changed their instruments putting Trey on acoustic guitar, Page on upright bass, Fish on mandolin, and Mike on banjo. With a new sound they learned traditional bluegrass numbers, and explored the offerings of a new musical genre.
On 11.4.94 the band played “The Curtain>Mike’s Song-> Simple-> Mike’s Song-> Tela-> Weekapaug Groove”, a monsterous “Groove” from the tour. On the 16th in Ann Arbor, in a show packed with bluerass and sit ins from the Reverand, Phish played incredible versions of “Reba” and “Chalkdust” both which appeared on A Live One. This show is one of the finest from a tour with so many incredible shows. The highlight of this amazing show is the killer “Mike’s” that leads into one of the best versions of “Simple” ever. In East Lansing on the 18th, Phish performed the first ever acoustic rendition of “Runaway Jim”.
The show on the 19th at the University Auditorium in Bloomington, Indiana saw the culmination of the bluegrass experience the band had gained during the fall. After the show, the band gathered with the Rev. Jeff Mosier and other guests for an impromptu bluegrass session in the parking lot of the venue. Running through the songs they had been working on throughout the tour, the band gave the fans a rare treat.
On the 23rd, the band played at the intimate Fox Theater in St. Louis, MO unleashing one of the finest “Tweezers” of the tour. As mentioned above, the song was taken to heights unlike any other period during the fall of ’94. This version is a perfect example. At the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on the 25th, an incredible groove with “2001>Mike’s>Simple>Harpua> Weekapaug>Mango Song” took place, nearly bringing the venue to the point of liftoff.
Many more incredible gems came in the following shows, including the “Funky Bitch” from Jesse Auditorium on 11.22 (highly recommended if you have not heard it), “Slave” and “Bowie” from the Orpheum Theater on 11.26 (both appear on A Live One, “Montana” is an excerpt from “Tweezer”). “Tweezer” from the Fieldhouse at Montana State University on 11.28, another version of the song demonstrating the incredible peaks it was constantly being taken to. This version is one of mine, and many others’, favorites. It shows the unbounded energy that was flowing through the band at the time. Releasing into the dark melodies that fill the jam, their improvisational limits seem endless. The tour was finished at the Boston Garden, a show which was highlighted by a great “Antelope” featuring the song’s lyricist, Tom Marshall.
This period is one of the finest and most exploratory in Phish’s career. Some of the jams that occurred, are considered by many to be among the finest of all time.
Here’s one of the best jams from the Fall ’94 Tour,”Simple” from 11.16.94 in Ann Arbor, MI.
Here’s the video of “Reba”, in two parts, from the Halloween ’94 show in Glen Falls, NY.