Autumn Leaves: Fall ’95
Today we bring you the second article of our ‘Autumn Leaves’ feature, as we take a trip back one of the greatest Phish tours ever – fall 95. Touring heavily through ’94 and ’95 put the band in a very exploratory phase. Constantly trying to push jams to their utmost limits, the band was seemingly reaching the height of the initial phase of their career. Prior to ’96, no specific style dominated the bands’ playing. Every show was an attempt at discovering new ways to improvise and to feed off the energy from the crowd. However, when September of 1995 came, the band was in the process of reaching a musical plateau which would propel them into the next phase of their career. This phase featured many of the best shows, and is considered to be one of the best Phish tours ever.
The tour kicked off on September 27th on the west coast at the Cal Expo Amphitheater in Sacramento, CA. This show, as with many other tour starters, featured the first performances several songs such as “The Fog that Surrounds”, “Cars Trucks and Buses”, “Keyboard Cavalry” and “Hello My Baby”. The band continued up the coast, playing shows in San Diego and LA before arriving at Shoreline for their second performance on the Dead’s home turf. The show at the Greek Theater in LA is noteworthy for the heavy “2001>Maze” that opened the second set. The Shoreline show brought added weight as it was only months before that Jerry Garcia had passed. That night, Trey dedicated “I’m Blue I’m Lonesome” to Jerry, which was an emotional moment for both the band and the fans. On a brighter note, Shoreline was also the first night of the band’s chess game versus the audience. Trey asked Chris to shine the lights on the chess board, and the first moves of the match were made.
Similar to what is happening now, Phish announced that they would be donning a musical costume on Halloween, and offered fans the chance to mail in votes. Rumors spread quickly of Thriller being the choice, a theory that gained steam all the way through to Halloween night.
Phish followed the west coast up to Seattle where they added steel guitarist Baby Gramps to their opening bill. Dropping a heavy “Tweezer” in Vancouver, and pushing jams to new heights, the band rolled on playing killer shows all through the west. On 10.11, the band headed south to Arizona where they played two rarities, “Mike’s>McGrupp>Weekapaug” and Crossroads (196 shows). The following night the band debuted Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” in the town Trey was born in, Fort Worth, TX. The show on the 14th saw the first appearance of MMW during “YEM” with a crazy mix up of instruments – Trey played guitar and mini drums, Fish played vacuum and trombone, Chris Wood played a one-string stand up bass, and Billy Martin played Fish’s drums. Three nights later in New Orleans, MMW returned during “Keyboard Cavalry” for a wild jam to close the set.
The musical costume speculation began to heat up as the tour progressed, and to add fuel to the fire, the band decided to feed into it. On 10.21 – the livephish release from Lincoln, NE – the band teased “Black or White” during “GTBT” and “Beat it” in “Hood” and “Suzy” (as we have mentioned before). On 10.25 the band teased Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” and encored with Jimi’s “Fire” mixing fans’ predictions up even further.
On the 27th, one of my favorite shows was performed at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, MI. The entire show is well played, and the second set features a monstrous “2001>Bowie” that is a wild piece of improv (check it out if you don’t know it). Trey adds some cult-like chanting to the dark “Bowie” jam before leading into a raging modal solo. The 29th in Louisville, KY featured more “Beat It” teases as well as the first “Shaggy Dog” since 5.6.92 (358 shows). The next show was Halloween, which is well known and has been released by Livephish. Phish and the horns tore through The Who’s Quadrophenia, encoring with a Who-style “My Generation” with instrument smashing and all. Clips from Thriller were played over the PA prior to the musical costume being performed, confusing the hell out of a lot of people.
Check out “2001>Bowie” from 10.27.95
Riding on the energy from Halloween night, the band headed to Atlanta to perform three, now famous, shows at the Fox Theater. The run opened with “Tweezer Reprise” setting the tone for the rest of the shows. Dropping too many killer jams to name, this run launched the band into the second phase of the fall ’95 tour which would reach its highest points in the following month. Phish killed every single show from this point on, without exception, 3 of which have become livephish releases. In Orlando on 11.14 Phish performed what is, in my opinion, the best version of “Stash” ever. The majority of the second set rides on the dark jam, segueing in and out. On 11.15, the band emerged victorious in the first chess match against the audience.
Continuing through the south, Phish played in West Palm Beach where they were joined by Butch Trucks on “Possum”, and Jimmy Buffet on “Brown Eyed Girl”. Heading into the Carolinas, Phish played three killer shows featuring a heavy “YEM” on the first night, a fiery “Tweezer” the second, and a dark “Bowie” on the third.
In Landover, MD on 11.22 after Trey accused Jon of messing up “Rift”, the band dropped one of the most exploratory versions of “Free” to date. On 11.25, the band played a killer show in their first visit to the mothership, featuring the first ever rotation jam. The second set of this show is wild, with “Kung” sung to a melody and a ripping “Mike’s”. On 11.29, Bela Fleck joined the band adding an interesting element to the jams.
December 1995 began with a bang as Phish returned to their stomping grounds in the northeast. In Hershey, PA on 12.1 (livephish release) the band reached new heights, paving the way for what would become one of the best months in Phish history. Every single show from December ’95 featured at least one jam that ventured into uncharted musical territory. Whether it be the “Tweezer” from 12.2 or 12.8, the “Gin” from 12.5 or the “YEM” from 12.9 etc., all of these jams pushed the music in a direction it had never been before. Intentionally lengthening jams to reach rich musical destinations was a focus at this time, and can be seen in many of the extended jams during this period. There are too many good jams to name from this month, and I highly suggest listening to every show from December ’95.
Check out “Bathtub Gin” from 12.5.95
This was a time that changed the face of Phish forever. Similar to the heights reached on Halloween ’96, or 12.31.99, Fall ’95 had a lasting effect on the band. After taking these jams to the rich musical places seen during ’94 and ’95 it was as though the band had reached the climax of the sound they were trying to achieve. Afterward, Phish headed in an entirely different direction. Check back for our next Autumn Leaves article, as we will look at Phish in the transitional period of fall ’96.
Set I: Sample in a Jar, Poor Heart, Simple> Runaway Jim> Fluffhead, It’s Ice, Acoustic Army, Prince Caspian, Good Times Bad Times1
Set II: Also Sprach Zarathustra> Tweezer> Kung> Tweezer> Love You> HYHU, Squirming Coil, Tweezer Reprise, Run Like An Antelope
Encore: Come Together2 3, A Day in the Life2
1 Dedicated to Jimmy Page
2 Played for anniversary of John Lennon’s death on 12.8.80
3 First time played
This show is a standout performance from December 1995. The second set is highlighted by a groundbreaking “2001>Tweezer>Kung>Tweezer” and a wild “Antelope” set closer. The encore, “Come Together”, pays tribute to John Lennon, whose death occurred on December 8, 1980.
“Free” from 11.14.95