Friday 06/28/2013 by SlavePhan


I previously wrote about how the summer of 1987 was a transformative period in Phish’s career - a point where the band would take the leap between playing occasionally at random bars, and becoming a full-time band. I think an equally important transition point for Phish was the summer of 1993. The 93 summer tour is definitively the most frequently mentioned date I hear when people talk or write about the band making the next leap, from a good touring band to a world-class act. So, as I became slightly overwhelmed by the monotony of reviewing shows from the late 80s, I decided that I may as well jump straight to this point in time. I figured it would give me a good foundation to start with, and also highlight a series of shows that will always have something of interest.

Phish played 15 shows in July, and they consisted of a northeast leg (from the 15th to the 25th) and a swing through the southeast (which would continue into early August). There really weren’t any new songs that debuted during this run that have lasted over the years, with the major exception of "2001," a workhorse of the tour that filled the set-opener slot nearly every show and has remained a Phish staple. However, the band began to open things up significantly for this tour, which led to increased spontaneity, longer and more diverse jams, and more teases than ever. While there’s a myriad of reasons that led to the band’s breakthrough during this summer, I’ll break down what I know about the band and compile them into three main points:

First, the band essentially severed its ties with "Hydrogen." The band would not play "Hydrogen" until April of 1994. This opened up a major space in the second set for the band, which they began to fill with a number of different things. They introduced a hydrogen-mimic ("Leprechaun," a criminally under-recognized instrumental). When that didn’t happen, they’d fill that space with a rarity ("Sparks," "Kung"). And later on, they’d fill it with another slower song ("Lifeboy"). I feel that for some shows, this broke the band free from their previous routine.

Secondly, the band routinely began to openly perform "hey"-exercises while on stage. This is very evident for some of the songs from the tour (notably the Murat "Gin" when Trey yells at Page to “Say Hey”). Previously, the band had practiced off-stage with "hey"-exercises, but it wasn’t that often when you could hear the whole band actively participating in the practice. Some new technological fixes (Page and Fish’s ear bugs) allowed the whole band to hear each other better and helped this cause. The act of direct improvisation that could end up anywhere opened the band up to nearly every direction. While before the band was somewhat concerned and focused on playing their shows consistently and to some degree safely as they grew, for this tour, Phish allowed themselves to meander with no end goal in sight - pretty much every night.

Thirdly, and this may follow up on the second point, is that the band began to incorporate nearly every musical idea that came into their head into their current performance. There’s a great bit about this from Mike’s journal from the release of the 8/14/93 Tinley Park show, where he mentions that everything was fair game (or something to that effect). You can hear this in the band’s playing, as there are numerous teases scattered throughout every show. I have been constantly finding new teases to put up on as I’ve listened to these shows, and I imagine there will be even more to find. But the important element was that this opened the setlists up in ways that had not been available previously.

As I did before, I’ve picked out some of the shining moments of this month as highlights. However, this time, I’ve put it all together in the form of a full show. Here’s the list:

Soundcheck: Guyute (7/18), Pungee Jam (7/18)

Set 1: Buried Alive (7/23), Foam (7/31), Poor Heart (7/16), Stash (7/30), Divided Sky (7/18), Lawn Boy (7/18), Maze (7/25), David Bowie (7/25), Sample (7/15)

Set 2: 2001 > SOAM (7/16), Runaway Jim (7/25), Fluffhead (7/30), Fast Enough (7/16), Chalkdust (7/30), Reba (7/30), My Sweet One (7/28), Antelope (7/18)

E: Leprechaun (7/15), Harpua (7/25)

Phish July 93 Mix Tape I
Phish July 93 Mix Tape I

Phish July 93 Mix Tape II
Phish July 93 Mix Tape II

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, comment by Lemuria
Lemuria RE everything being fair game, there was a clear, prominent, and explicit set of pressures throughout the summer to push envelopes. Lots of little things that it's easy to discount, but whose influence I witnessed at more than half of those 15 shows.

A couple of guys from San Diego were doing the full tour, up front and driving noise in support of heavy rocking, and the band loved it and rode it. They became somewhat known, and dialed-in to several roving groups, and definitely had an effect.

A couple of chicas were following the band, yelling for Makisupa every night until they finally played it, then started busting out of a trove of other rarities. They're on the rail in several published photos from the tour, spent time backstage, and, well, anyone who saw a show that summer, saw them.

I spent 7 or 8 of the shows mostly Page side, watching him blossom. The grand was added earlier in the year, as he'd said he wouldn't play Loving Cup til he had one, his setup evolved a bit in the Spring, and he really settled in that during summer.

Their range was expanding. The venues were growing. The fanbase was congealing. HORDE was emerging. Phish was head of the pack, clearly the ones in it for the long haul, and about to explode. There were being recognized explicitly as a model by up-and-comers, understood by all as having done it right but inimitably. It was a glorious time - and a great summer to, in GD parlance, hop on the bus.
, comment by jackl
jackl My first show was in May of 93 in a 2,200 seat theatre. My second was on July 15, the start of the summer tour on a stock car track dirtbowl at a county fairgrounds. That was the first show where Kuroda first used the "movers", a bunch of new light brand called Altstars, the laser and computer/motor controlled lights that spun around and made the light show the iconic look of Phish shows as "the fifth member of Phish".

Before that, the stage was only lit with the traditional "pars" or "cans", the stationary theatre lights with colored gel filters. (I believe that's when the vinyl backdrops designed by Mike's artist mother, the "Minkins" were also retired, because they didn't work well with the "movers" ;) .

While not a musical innovation, per se, like the "hey" improvisational technique, I have to believe this dramatic change in the stagecraft helped propel Phish to the next level as an arena rocking act rather than theatre and small venue performers.
, comment by MzRprz
MzRprz "Severed its ties with "Hydrogen".... I wish they would do this again. I think it's time for some songs to go on hiatus.
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @jackl said:
Before that, the stage was only lit with the traditional "pars" or "cans", the stationary theatre lights with colored gel filters. (I believe that's when the vinyl backdrops designed by Mike's artist mother, the "Minkins" were also retired, because they didn't work well with the "movers" ;) .
The Minkins actually returned (with additional panels) in Spring '94 and may have been in place that summer, as well.
, comment by Spreewell
Spreewell very poignant piece about '93. the summer of '93 is when I final y began to realize what was happening at phish shows and it was also a time when the air was still light and free.

one point that was overlooked in the piece is that Trey has mentioned, specifically, that 8.9.93 in Toronto was the pivotal point in which the band finally learned how to listen and jam cohesively. That lands right smack in the middle of summer '93 and boy can you hear the doors blow off after the peak of that show.

thanks for a great look back at what was, a spectacular moment in my life and phish's.

long live summer '93 tour!

, comment by SlavePhan
SlavePhan Hey All - I've been working with a friend to get remastered versions of all of these songs together in a sound-cloud format page, so that you can hear them. I'll put that up when it is ready!
, comment by paulj
paulj Nice review about an exciting time...but I think the MSO date is wrong. I was at 7/29/93 (my first show) and didn't hear my first MSO until 75 shows later, on 11/1/09.
, comment by Psylo_Joe1
Psylo_Joe1 I wish that Set list was real...great song choices man.
, comment by gratefulterp
gratefulterp Was July 93 the last time a show was canceled (pier six in baltimore) due to what was rumored to be lack of ticket sales?
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten first two comments are ace
, comment by kipmat
kipmat 7/24/93 II was one of the first 10 or so Phish tapes I ever received, so I may be biased. However, I still maintain that this show, their first headlining show at Great Woods, was a huge one for the band, and unfairly forgotten. It also illustrates many of the points made in the original post, IMO.
, comment by kevinumberger
kevinumberger @gratefulterp said:
Was July 93 the last time a show was canceled (pier six in baltimore) due to what was rumored to be lack of ticket sales?
that is correct from my knowledge........

i was living in columbia, maryland that year and had bought a ticket to the pier six show.....

went to the wolf trap show the night before, but the baltimore one got cancelled at the last minute......

and from what i heard (i think i might have called venue just to confirm cancellation) that it was due to low ticket sales......

, comment by Cerias
Cerias I like the choices for the set list as well! @SlavePhan - that would be nice to have that to access. For me, the Mann show was my first full-length show (I had first seen them the summer before at Holmdel opening for Santana). There was great energy at the show by both band and phans. My next show was at Waterloo, close to where i am from in Jersey. What I remember most about that show (besides how well-played it was) was, indeed, the "light and free" atmosphere...good times.
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