, attached to 1994-11-16

Review by jwelsh8

jwelsh8 (first appeared on rec.music.phish on July 18, 2000, it seems, although I am not sure when it was originally written; please pardon the . . . youthful exuberance?)

On a cold night in November 1994, I my senses were opened to an experience like no other. I would have certainly called myself a fan of Phish at that point in my life, having purchased their new release (Hoist) and had begun to actively search out tapes for my growing collection. And I had seen the Dead three times, which I think somewhat prepared me for the experience. But on November 16, 1994 at Hill Auditorium on the University of Michigan's campus, I saw Phish live - and my life really has not been the same since. And it is kind of amazing how aspects of that night are clearer than memories of shows just a year ago.

When I read in the school newspaper earlier that fall that someone named Joel had an extra ticket for a Phish show up in Ann Arbor, I did not hesitate to call him. Little did I know that this music and theology major would later become a close friend of mine (and would play in his own jam band) - I just knew he had a ticket for me. I was going to see Phish!

The drive from South Bend wasn't too bad, and when we arrived at the venue, fans were milling about everywhere. I can still picture all of the tossle caps and wool sweaters filling the halls of that great venue in the center of the campus; I don't remember if I knew that the Dead had played here 23 years before, but I did feel a bit of awe entering the doors. We worked our way up the stair-wells, stepping over fans who were relaxing and chilling, and made our way to our seats - in the front row, upper balcony!

Looking back, I don't know if I could have asked for a better show. This had a bit of everything and anything, in just the right doses to get me hooked - first set Reba, an acoustic bluegrass "set" with Jeff Mosier, an amazing Mike's->Simple->jam to open the second set, Fee (with megaphone), Antelope, and an a capella Amazing Grace. It certainly was enough to hook me, that is for sure.

Set One: Sample In a Jar, Foam, Fast Enough For You, Reba, Axilla part II, Lizards, Stash, Pig In a Pen*, Tennessee Waltz*, bluegrass jam->Swing Low*

I look back on the Sample opener and laugh - I remember groaning to myself, thinking that they are just playing Sample to support Hoist and cater to the frat boys at U of M. What the hell? This was my first show and I was thinking this?! I really don't remember what I would have rather had as an opener, but I can't help but laugh at myself . . . Listening to it now, it was actually well played. A nice and rocking version, it worked well in getting everyone into the show.

The Foam that followed was my first taste of the "experience". From my balcony perch, I remember watching the light rings that Kuroda sent floating around the hall, gliding along the walls as Phish played Foam in the background. It really was an amazing site, and I felt myself getting sucked in . . .

The Fast Enough For You was just enough of a break, letting me catch my breath and get some air, before Reba would again pull me under. This Reba featured a nice quiet jam by Trey and Page - the playing was so subtle, making the most of the acoustics in the hall. This built and built, spiraling into the climax - whistling included (almost 15 minutes in length).

Axilla, part II was a nice rager. It is actually my only Axilla, part II - I have seen part I, though, three times.

Lizards was nice and fun, and features a really good Page piano solo in the middle which seems to contain a bit of the I Dream of Jeannie theme.

Picking up where the Reba left off, the Stash contained some quiet and subtle playing by Trey, only to be interrupted by synchronized hand-claps and "woos" from the crowd. ; ) As the "Maybe so, maybe not" section faded away, Trey quickly jumped in with a repetitious and dizzying jam, spinning around the main Stash theme. Around eight minutes in, the jam dropped into a minimal, droning jam, similar to the Jam out of Simple that would follow in the second set. Page and Trey set about to playing some staccato notes as Fishman works the cymbal. Similar to a jam you might find now in 2000, without the delay loops. As with the other jams this set, this got a bit quiet before the main theme bursts through. My love of Stash must have with this version.

While I am sure it was planned, the bluegrass set that followed was a great breather after the Stash. I had never heard of the Rev. Jeff Mosier before this show, but the fact that he was a guest and they were jamming out bluegrass tunes during my first show was enough for me. As the band stayed on their electric instruments, Jeff sang and played banjo. Pig in a Pen featured some nice solos by everyone in the band, including the "World's premier bluegrass drummer!" Again, Trey and Page took some nice solos in the slow, uh, waltzing, Tennessee Waltz. A nice and tight bluegrass jam segued nicely a rousing, set-closing Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

Wow. I must have had the biggest grin on my face at set-break! I went and purchased the token Phish shirt (plum colored, with the logo on the front and the tour dates on the back in orange) as Joel went to meet a taper. He had brought tapes with him to give to the taper - I would soon get 2ndGenAud's of my first Phish show! (I have only recently upgraded those tapes to CDR; thanks again, Greg!)

Second Set: Mike's->Simple->jam, Blue and Lonesome**, $2.00 Bill** , Chalkdust, Fee, Antelope
encore: Amazing Grace, Suzie Greenberg

I really didn't know what to expect for the second set; I don't think I was prepared for what was to come. Not in my wildest dreams was I expecting a Mike's to open the second set! Even then, at my first show, I felt the glory of Mike's Song - I was jumping up and down, yelling and smiling and hugging everyone. I probably looked kind of silly. I vaguely remember the trampolines (about 3:30 into the song), as they were still bouncing in 1994 during Mike's. Soon after the tramps segment, things got a bit dark with some held, distorting notes by Trey.

Through talking with Joel and my limited exposure to phish.net at the time, I knew that they were typically playing a new song called Simple out of Mike's Song. I hadn't heard it up until this point, but as they cleanly segued into it, I was able to ID from the lyrics. I still think today that this is one of the greatest versions of Simple played by Phish (I also enjoy the 11.08.96 version - from my second show, lol). After the last verse ("Skyballs and saxscrapers"), Simple takes on this glorious feel for about a minute or two - high and sailing above. And like with the Reba and Stash, it turns quiet and minimal - for just a bit. At this point (6 minutes or so), it slowly becomes dark. I remember somewhere in here Mike put down his electric bass to pick up this Rob Wasserman-looking bass; I don't know if it had just two strings or what, but Mike started to play this low, rumbling bass line. This really turned the jam dark. The slow jam quickly picked up with some quick playing by Page on the piano; Mike followed, and then Trey, and then Fishman. Faster it started to run; all the while, Mike was still on this bass. Trey started to repeat these higher, trumpet sounding notes, over and over. After a faster section, the jam progressed to something similar to the SOAMule Russian section. Phish was just moving from improvised section to improvised section - nothing was wandering, like we find in some of the more recent jams. It seemed as though each move had its own purpose. After some great keyboard work by Page, both on organ and piano, the jam progressed to a bit of a dissonant, distortion-filled section. This was sped up by Trey, and then slowed down, and then sped up by Fishman, with some piano by Page. Like we were getting yanked this way, then that. And then a new little melody was sounded (25 minutes into the Simple!) - so many textures, so many landscapes. They were flying all of us around and into every corner of the music hall. The jam closed with a Trey-led rocker, playing Clapton-e riffs, a bit like a slow Antelope jam, wrapping things up all very nicely as they just slowed down and stopped. Whew! 30+ minutes of aural landscape.

What better to follow this epic jam than with an acoustic set of Blue and Lonesome and $2 Bill, the first time played for each of those tunes. The band moved to the front of the stage, all on acoustic instruments, and played very good renditions of the two traditional songs. Even without Jeff Mosier, they showed their pickin' chops - and it was fun to hear their voices morph into a Bluegrass-y drawl.

After the brief interlude, Phish plugged back in and played a rockin' version of Chalkdust Torture - the version that appears A Live One, complete with yelps from Fishman.

The identifiable drum-beats of Fee quickly followed; I was very happy to hear this song, as it was actually the first Phish song I had ever heard (on WYEP here in Pittsburgh, in 1992, as they promoted the HORDE tour). I really enjoyed the fact that Trey used the megaphone that was sitting on one of his amps.

The beginning of Antelope actually began during the ending jam of Fee (a > rather than ->) to the delight of the crowd of 4-5,000. The song quickly picked up into the rockin' section; Page's piano worked well intertwining with Trey's blistering solos. Right before the "Set the gear-shift" line, there was a brief reggae break-down (I guess you can call it that). Great closer, with Trey thanking everyone, telling us all to drive safely (I would guess a number of the fans in attendance were U of M students . . . )

After much applause and cheering, they came out to do an Amazing Grace without mics. For the most part, people were quiet; not too many "Shhhs". And to wrap up a perfect show, well, Suzie Greenberg of course! Trey's voice is a bit tattered and scratchy, but that really didn't matter.

What else can I say? With Satchmo over the PA, we made our way out of the Hill Auditorium, finding an emergency exit in one of the stair-wells. It put us out in a service alley-way, and we debated for a bit if we should try to find their buses. But it was cold, and we didn't want to be a bother, so we headed back to the car.

I don't know if I realized my life had changed that evening, but looking back, listening to the show again, I can understand how I was hooked.


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