Sleeper Shows II
Today, we bring you the second part of our ongoing Sleeper Show feature. We picked some gems last time, and today we will carry on the trend. Finding off-the-radar Phish shows is a very rewarding experience. You stumble across a date that seems unfamiliar, then check the setlist only to realize something magical happened that night, and all this time you were unaware. The feeling of discovering this hidden magic is incredible. Today, we hope to bring some people those feelings by sharing a few shows that have fallen off the beaten track. In our last Sleeper Shows article, we had a great response from readers who suggested some killer shows, including a few of my favorites. I have included two of these shows in my article today. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for reading.
1993.8.2 The Ritz Theater, Ybor City, FL
They’ve said it, we’ve said it – whenever Phish plays off the main circuit they perform their best shows. In a very random location – Tampa – Phish performed one of their best shows. I am largely of the opinion that “Chalkdust” is a great way to start a show, as it feeds life into the first set. This show is a perfect example of this, and set I rides this energy to a blissful musical plateau.
The first set, while packed with energy, is also packed with complex music. After a rockin’ version of “Chalkdust” the band dives into “Guelah” (including secret language ques) which features the first fugue of the night. By the fourth song, “Brother”, it becomes apparent that this is no ordinary Phish show. Trey takes the solo for a modal journey into the depths of the dark, clinging to the dissonant theme of the song. When the band arrives at the second fugue of the night “All Things Reconsidered” they play it without the slightest flub. A great example of the musical level the band had reached by ’93. The “Gin” is one of the best jams of the night, featuring a very unique, bright, jam. The melody of the song carries into a bluesy groove. Eventually the jam takes on a bluegrass rhythm before sliding into the reggae vibe of “Makisupa”. A trip through multiple musical journeys that is a must hear.
The second set rides the free energy of the first, leading to a very unusual event. The set begins with “2001″ which is kept short as it was only debuted a month earlier on 7.16.93. The song had yet to reach its potential, and was merely used as a launchpad to get the psychedelia started. The second set includes a “Heavy Metal Jam”, where a heavy-metal singer from the band First Born jumps on stage for some brief vocal accompaniment. Trey has commented on this night and how funny it was to see this guy jump on stage and start screaming. The magic carries through the set, which is packed with fun. The “Antelope” screams with energy, and is full of shredded licks. A great, under-rated show from the summer of ’93.
Check out “Run Like an Antelope>Makisupa Policeman (Reprise)>Run Like an Antelope” from 8.2.93.
1999.9.14 Boise State University Pavilion, Boise, ID
This is a reader recommendation that has been a favorite of mine for some time. Known for the “Bag>Gumbo” combo in the second set, this show oozes with the spacey, ambient textures that defined the band’s jamming style in ’99. With Phish playing in Portland two nights before, and at Shoreline two nights later, many fans decided to skip this show. As a result, the arena was less than half full, providing a great atmosphere for the devoted fans.
The first set is great, and again starts with a powerful “Chalkdust” to get things going. The “Waste” is standout, and features Trey’s heavy uni-vibed noodling. “Loving Cup” is played the way I remember it being played. It used to be a song I would hope for at a Phish show, not just an encore. I love the way Trey solos over the melody, often leading into a spacey sort of jam. This is the perfect example. The effect-heavy jam leads into my favorite track from The Siket Disc, “What’s the Use” – a lesson in outside ambiance. I have always loved this song, and hope is rears its dark head again. “Taste” is also played exceptionally well.
The meat of this show, as with so many others, comes in the second set. I can’t say enough about this set, and so I will let the music do most of the talking. Starting with “Peaches”, which had not been played since 2.28.97, the crowd was instantly energized. Feeding off this energy, the band launched onto one of the finest jams of ’99. The “ACDC Bag”, just under a half hour, is a ride on the intergalatic express. With Trey on his set of keys during the jam, the band pushes this spacey jam to the brink of musical exploration. Following into “Gumbo” out of a series of looped effects, the rest of the set is pure magic. The band rides this high wave all the way into the encore, with features a divine “Simple”. Every song is worth mention. Those who haven’t heard this show, enjoy.
Listen to the legendary “ACDC Bag” from 9.14.99.
1995.11.19 Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC
Another reader recommendation, and another great sleeper. This show came at a very experimental time in Phish’s career. Sandwiched in the middle of a three night run in the Carolinas, the band was intentionally trying to push jams to their limits, both in length and in musical discovery. They have said that by exploring their songs through extended jams, they would arrive at rich, new musical places. This show has everything. The first set begins with “Makisupa”, to get the good vibes going. However, like the shows above, the energy starts early with a raging “Maze”. Following “Maze”, the band introduced the slow-arrangement of “Poor Heart” for the first time. The rest of the set is high quality ’95 improv.
The second set begins with a soaring “Theme” that leads into “2001″ and then “The Curtain”. The highlight of the show comes with the heavy version of “Tweezer”. Featuring Trey on his mini drum-kit the jam takes a rhythmic focus. Attempting to push the jam to new heights, the jam progresses through multiple sections of free-form improv. Again, this show flies under the radar and is worth checking out if you don’t know it.
Listen to “Tweezer” from 11.19.95.
Tell us your favorite sleeper show in the comments section! If you mentioned a show last time that I did not include, I will get to it in a future article. Keep the suggestions coming, we truly appreciate them.