PHISH will open the Summer Tour on July 3 in Bangor, Maine. It has been almost twenty years since they played there, and in anticipation of the upcoming tour, we at Phish.Net will endeavor to revisit past Phish performances in cities and towns that the band will play this summer. In this first installment, I revisit the November 2, 1994, show in Bangor, the “Tweezer” of which was the first “experimental” version to both exceed 30 minutes and conclude with a return to the "Tweezer" theme. The highlights of that day and that evening I have not forgotten, and shall not soon forget.
After having had an incredible time at the Halloween show in Glens Falls, my friend Dead (a nickname) and I eventually made our way north and into Maine to see Phish in Bangor. We met other friends of ours who lived in Maine on the way, and the four of us got to the lot a good two hours or so early, in order to purchase tickets at the venue, and engage in a modest consumption of the region’s most highly regarded alcoholic beverages.
Weeks before the show, like everyone else, I had the option of buying tickets in advance. However, I naively thought that there was no way that Phish would sell out the Bangor Auditorium. I had been informed that they had come nowhere close to doing so in 1993 when they had last played there. And so I figured that it was extremely unlikely that Phish would sell the room out on a Wednesday and, specifically, on Wednesday, November 2, 1994. I was wrong. Very wrong.
After we got to the venue, I leisurely strolled (solo) through the lot and up to the window to buy tickets for me and my friends. I then got the news that they had “just” sold out. I was SHOCKED. It was November 1994 in Bangor, and the Bangor Auditorium purportedly held thousands of people. It was also a Wednesday. A WEDNESDAY!!! Humbled, I ran back to the car, and gave the unfortunate news to my three friends, promising them that any tickets that we could purchase in the lot would first go to them, because it was unquestionably my fault that we didn’t have tickets at that point. (I’d also seen Phish enough times that if I had to listen to the show from the doors, then so be it.)
My friend Dead insisted that he needed to make a LARGE SIGN, in order to increase the likelihood of securing tickets in a timely manner. If you attended this show, you may have seen Dead walking around the lot with a giant sign that he had just made using cardboard that he managed to score from a dumpster near the lot. The sign read, “DROVE FROM ARIZONA, HAVE CASH AND HALLOWEEN TAPES FOR YOUR EXTRAS.” (Dead had, in fact, driven from ASU to the east coast months before the show.) We had tapes of the Halloween show (three analog cassettes) because, after that show, I had stayed up on the floor of the Days Inn (or whatever dump we were in) making a copy of it off my friend Kevin’s masters. Kevin had either taped the show with his Sennheiser ME80’s or had patched out of someone else, I can’t remember, but those tapes sounded pretty damn good at 5am or so post show. So we really did have tapes of the just-performed Halloween show that we were able to use as bait to obtain extras; “bait” in the sense that we’d offer to make a copy of the Halloween show for anyone who would sell us a Bangor ticket, and we’d show them the actual tapes, so they could see that we really had them... and they'd just have to trust us that we'd send them a copy of the show.
This plan worked. Dead and his sign managed to get three tickets to the show at face in about an hour or so. Of course, we needed four tickets. My friends went in and (since this was before the time of cell phones) I told them that I would either see them inside, or not, and if not, then I would just see them post-show at the car. It then started to rain.
I heard the opening notes of “Suzy Greenberg” quite clearly from outside the front doors of the Auditorium, which were still largely open, because fans were still going inside. I had a finger in the air, and it was raining, but I had a pretty good buzz on. The “Suzy” sounded good, even while getting wet outside the venue. The version still holds up on tape.
When “Foam” started up, I took off jogging through the lot, yelling, resuming the search for an extra. At this point, it started to rain harder, and so almost all of the people that I was encountering were rushing (late) into the show. They did not have extras, and they looked at me like I was a raging, pathetic lunatic, which I was, because I had assumed that Phish wouldn’t sell out Bangor on a Wednesday. I deserved to get punished for doubting Phish's popularity in Maine in fall 1994. More important to me than getting into the show, though, was keeping the Halloween tapes dry that I was using as bait to get an extra, and so I looked ridiculous running around soaking wet and yelling with a beer in one hand and a plastic bag covering my other hand, firmly gripping the tapes close to my gut. About five or so minutes into “Foam,” however, I yelled out, again, weaving between cars, that I had Halloween tapes AND CASH, F’ING CASH, for an extra. This is when I met Jeff Drudge.
Jeff appeared out of nowhere. He was dreaded, skinny, white, stoned, wet, not very tall, looked familiar... in fact, you’ve seen him at a show before. Jeff said that he had an extra, and Halloween tapes sounded interesting, but he really needed cash, and he also wanted to hear the tapes so he knew that both they and I were legit, and hey would I be willing to pay a bit above face for the ticket. I said sure, come to my car (Dead’s car). It started to rain hard and so we rushed to the car, but got (more) soaked in the process. I sat in the driver’s seat, Jeff sat in the passenger seat, we drenched the seats of Dead’s car, and we listened to a few minutes of the Halloween show as it poured. I gave him a couple twenties for his extra ticket, and he wrote down his name and address (in Ohio) on a pack of matches, since that was somehow the only “paper” that we could find in Dead’s car. I promised to send Jeff a copy of the Halloween show, thanked him, and we parted -- him to his van, and me to the show.
I got in during “Maze.” The place was packed. The venue was GA and was basically just a floor in front of the elevated stage, with bleachers on either side of the floor (no bleachers behind the stage). There may have been bleachers at the back of the floor, I don’t remember. I entered Fishman-side (literally, this is where one entered the floor), and given the small size of the room, I was only like fifteen feet from Fish, which I thought was cool. I then started wading my way through the crowd toward the center floor, about 20 feet out from Mike, where the sound was quite good.
“Maze” was an intense version and, as I learned later after getting the tapes in December, it followed strong, very well-played versions of both “Foam” and “If I Could.” My friends were nowhere to be seen, which was unsurprising, if only because, having consumed countless libations from incongruous origins, I was not seeing well in the first place. At the time, the first set’s “Guyute” and “Stash” were fine, but listening to them again today, well. It's a real treat to get "Guyute" played this well, and this "Stash" is beautiful, and by today's standards would easily be an "above average" version. Also, at the time of the show, I thought the “Scent” (aka "Mule" or "SOAMule") was EXCELLENT. It was easily the finest version that I’d heard up until that point! It was lengthy with a lot of screwing around by the band members and just a blast to witness live. But listening to it today, it's not a remarkable version, and there are many far more inspired versions out there (see the jam chart for ideas). In any event, I was very psyched to get the “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” repeat to close the first set, with its soulfully siiiiiiiick Trey solo.
During setbreak, I looked around for my friends, and eventually saw them at the top of the Fishman-side bleachers, in the midst of an enormous quantity of smoke. I stayed put. I was camped-out on the floor, still moist from having been doused pre-show, and still about 20 feet out from Mike's monitor. I began to engage a large, hirsute Mainer in conversation, who was near me on the floor. He had long curly dirty blonde hair and a crazy beard and, if I recall correctly, had terrible breath and was wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt with torn-off sleeves. He had seen Phish in Bangor in ‘93, and we talked about that. I also learned that he was extremely pissed off at “a guy” who had tried to keep him away from the band pre-show (or maybe it was at another Phish show, I can’t be sure), but I was able to figure out that the "guy" in question was Brad Sands. I tried to explain that Brad was only doing his job, that Brad was himself a huge Phish fan, and while he was notorious in the scene for pissing off fans who tried to get access to the band at times, he was just doing his job, and he did it quite well, frankly, and hey, Brad was really a good guy from what I’d heard. At this point the metalhead became more irate, particularly at me, and I decided not to discuss Phish with him anymore. I wasn’t about to get punched in the face by a metalhead Mainer with halitosis, and potentially tossed from the show for fighting, while defending the honor of Brad Sands. I changed the subject to the greatness of Bon Scott, or maybe Judas Priest... possibly both.
If you’ve read this far, I bet you’ve already heard this second set, or at least its half-hour long “Tweezer.” This was the first enormously improvisational version of “Tweezer” that was finished (the typical closing theme was played, unlike at Bomb Factory) and, eventually, it was released on Phish’s first double live album, A Live One, in June 1995. I “reviewed” that “Tweezer” right after receiving the tapes of this show from legendary taper Mikey Perrott in December 1994, and you can still read that POS in this site’s dusty, moldy archives (I also got Bozeman from Mikey at the same time, if I recall correctly!).
At the show, my jaw was on the floor for a large part of this version of “Tweezer,” not because it was musically amazing (which it obviously was and is in part), but because (1) I had gotten my first live “Halley’s Comet” before it to open the set, and I was still glowing from that; and, (2) the “Tweezer” jam was at times recklessly improvisational, and I had never heard Phish play anything quite like it before, even though it arguably shared an affinity with the Bomb Factory version. I was astonished that they’d take a musical risk like it in front of a Maine crowd on a Wednesday. Most of the people in attendance had no idea what song Phish was still technically “playing” during the “Tweezer” jam, of course, and also didn’t seem to care all that much about it, either. But I cheered as loudly as I could when It was over, as one of my favorite tunes, “Mango,” began. I knew that I'd just seen something from Phish that I may never see anything quite like again.
The “highlight” of the rest of the set was that a fan started to crowd surf during “Lizards.” I am not making this up. The energy put-off by the “Axilla” and “Possum” was quite extreme at times, and the audience LOVED these versions, and I think the crowd and the dude who began to crowd surf were just still “vibing” off the energy level. (Listening back today to this show, the "Possum" is wonderful, with a delightful, descending, melodic theme repeated a number of times within it.) I found the crowd surfing during "Lizards" of all songs ridiculous, and it appeared to me that the band did as well (I could easily see their faces). It’s “Lizards” for Christ's sake, and it was only the second version that I’d ever seen live at that time, and I decided that the crowd surfing was disrespectful. (My memory about this may be off in that it is possible that the crowd surfing began during "Possum," which seems more appropriate with the benefit of hindsight.) I helped drag the crowd surfer down when he got to my part of the floor, as did the metalhead with halitosis, who then tried to pick a fight with the surfer, whose eyes were so vacant that he appeared to be many miles away. I thought this was hysterical, and I was still chuckling about it during the set-closing “Sample," a song that, even back then, I was too jaded to enjoy all that much.
Fish was on ukulele and washboard, Mike on banjo, Page on upright bass, and Trey on acoustic guitar for the highly enjoyable “My Old Home Place” and “Foreplay/Long Time” encores. I used to love seeing the band members up close on acapella and acoustic numbers, and hope I'll get the chance to see them perform up close again one day, perhaps this summer. “Tweezer Reprise” also helped end the show on an entertaining note, as it always has done and continues to do. Of course, I couldn’t help but think at the time how remarkable the 10/27/94 “TweePrise” had been -- I was lucky enough to have caught it during the previous week down in Charlottesville. If you have yet to hear it, check it out. It is among the few must-hear, drawn-out versions of the tune, and seeing it in that tiny room was unforgettable.
After the show, in a daze, I made it back to Dead’s car, and met up with my friends. Riding shotgun, I found a $20 bill on the floor, quickly realizing that Jeff Drudge had (presumably inadvertently) managed to leave it behind. I figured, oh well, his karma, he made me pay above face for the ticket, and I wasn’t even sure if he cared about Phish’s music all that much anyway. Did he even go to the show? I had no idea. I then thought that at least he had received some cash from me for the ticket, and he’d be getting Halloween tapes from me, too. And that’s when I went searching for the match book with Jeff’s address on it... and did not find it, because I then realized that I'd given the pack of matches with Jeff's address on it to the metalhead with halitosis.
To this day, Jeff Drudge of Ohio is the only person I knowingly failed to make tapes for whom I had promised to make tapes. So, if you know Jeff Drudge, give him my best regards, and tell him that I’m sorry I lost his address, and for the delay, but I’d still be glad to dub him tapes of the Halloween ‘94 show. See you in Bangor.
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Mike Gordon: December 10, 2016
5 hours ago
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