, attached to 1993-07-27

Review by GitDown

GitDown The early mainstage sets were highlighted by the only full-lineup (including Count Mbutu but not Jeff Mosier) Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit set I would ever see. I knew their live album well, and would leave that day with their new studio album. Unbelievable musicians. Big Head Todd's "Bittersweet" was ubiquitous on the radio that summer, and the ladies swooned for that one. The Samples flew right over my head, so I wandered during their set (found that ARU album). I think it was then that I waited in line for a lemonade behind the hulk of a man that was Blues Traveler's Chan Kinchla, though I didn't realize it until later because he had cut his long hair, plus I had no idea he was so big up close.

This was my fourth or fifth time seeing Blues Traveler, and though I of course didn't realize it at the time, the last for eight years. Seems another band was destined to take up more of my live music attention. Their set was the expected and by then familiar jam- and segue-filled tightness, but after having seen them in smaller clubs, I felt a little disconnected halfway back in the 3/4-filled pavilion. As darkness set in, the southern crowd got pretty excited for Panic, and though I was familiar with the "Space Wrangler" album, they were for me simply the band between Traveler and the highly-anticipated Phish.

The boys opened their single set with 2001, the new standard 2nd set opener for that summer, even though I didn't know that at the time. In fact, I was so geeked out that I was finally seeing my new favorite band and they were playing something I wasn't familiar with, I actually somehow didn't even recognize the Strauss theme. It was just a funky little instrumental intro tune to me, much more faithful at the time to the Deodato arrangement they were actually covering.

Being a first show, I was happy with whatever I got, but looking back in jaded vet mode, I'm sure somewhere in my subconscious I was thinking that there were four tunes I would have rather heard than the next four to follow. This is not to say they weren't great renditions. The boys were the ridiculously tight, well-oiled machine by this point in their careers (though Trey did ripcord into Rift a bit, catching Fish off guard). Stash was a healthy ten minutes, with a bit of the signature Trey-led full-band dissonant exploration of the time. Coil was played with an expert ease of familiarity and had the extended Page solo that we would come to expect from set-closing and encore renditions in the future, and here was this right in the middle of this one. Perhaps it was their way of breaking up this single-set appearance.

It's Ice featured the set's first truly Phishy stage antics, though obviously there would be much more to come. I wrote about this on the song's history page too, but I distinctly remember that during Page's solo in the middle when the only accompaniment was Fish on wood block, Trey and Mike stepped back onto "As Seen on TV" lateral gliding exercise contraptions, gliding back and forth in time with Fish. They evoked not only the obvious ice skating of the song's lyrical content but also the pendulums of a grandfather clock.

After It's Ice wrapped up, Mike took a brief solo that I excitedly thought could lead anywhere. Turns out it was just a time-saving substitute for a full HYHU intro. I'd heard tale of Fish playing the vacuum, but other than a previous summer's HORDE set where he played it during the intro of a Bowie, I don't think I'd procured any sets with one of his featured tunes. Imagine my surprise when not only would I get a Fish tune next, but the Prince smash Purple Rain, another (unbeknownst to me) new addition to the Henrietta repertoire. Even though it was an enormously popular hit in the '80s, I was still very surprised to look around and see sections of the crowd joyously singing along word for word. Those would obviously be the tour kids, having already seen this five times in the last two weeks. It would take me a few years to get to that status, but I remember feeling vaguely jealous of being on the outside looking in of that community in-joke. I can't remember if in the hilarious novelty of seeing Fish belt out this ballad and play the vacuum, I made a point of noting that Trey was pretty damn able behind a drum kit.

I was of course psyched to get a YEM at my first show, and one that promised to be special since Trey noted beforehand that guests would be coming out. You'd think I'd remember something like seeing Mike and Trey do their tramp routine, but I can't remember if they did or not, considering the stunt that was to come. Listening back, it sounds like Mike plays a lot more notes than he normally does during that section, so I'm thinking maybe not.

The other reviewer here noted that the guest-filled jam doesn't really come across on tape, and it didn't really hit that hard at the show either. It was much more about the spectacle of the stage filling up with guests and the stunt to follow. Besides those specifically noted above, I know there was at least one person (probably the Monster keyboardist) behind Page's rig with him. They probably served primarily as misdirection so Popper (wheelchair-bound from a motorcycle accident) could wheel back off stage unnoticed, but still blowing all the while. In later years, I'd spend much more time dancing in hallways and corridors than paying attention to what was visually going on onstage, but this night I happened to notice Popper make his exit, and I had definitely noticed earlier the conventional-sized trampoline behind the band setup.

With all due respect to the guys at phish.net, I think "effigy" is a bit of a misnomer since I definitely think the intent was to have the crowd believe it was actually him as he was lowered, wheelchair and all, over the big tramp. I guess it was fairly obvious it wasn't, but it was still a fun gag, especially with the cord coming loose just as the band hit the last chord. I'm sure at least a few people's hearts caught momentarily in their throats as they saw the virtuoso harpist plummet 20 feet down into a springless tramp (acting more as a fireman's catch). Being familiar with Popper's sense of humor, I ate it up as he repeatedly called out to everyone leaving the stage for "a little help" getting out of the tramp. I think he may have even made a Bobcat Goldthwait in Police Academy reference, saying "That didn't hurt."

Kudos if you've read this far, but considering it was a one-set festival show, I thought I was pretty lucky for a first show, getting early renditions of 2001 and Purple Rain, and some uncommon yet distinctly Phishy stage antics first in It's Ice, then on a much larger scale in the memorable albeit musically jumbled YEM. It would be almost a full year before my next show, which would come as a junior counselor group day off from my aforementioned summer camp, ironically enough. And it was SOOO worth the wait: Sugarbush '94.


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