, attached to 1993-02-20

Review by fhqwhgads

fhqwhgads This was one of my earliest tape (actually, by the time I became a phan--in 1998--we were using CD-Rs or SHN files--Shorten was a lossless precursor the now-standard FLAC) trading acquisitions, and I chose it for 3 reasons: 1. it was available in soundboard quality well before the 2008 release of the At the Roxy box set, 2. it has what was then to me and still is an appealing setlist, and 3. the seguefest hijinks that comprise the bulk of Set II. Those are all still reasons that this show stands out to me as a 5-star show, but let's talk about a few themes and nuances of the music therein.

2/20/93 was 18 days after the release of Phish's Rift album, and some of the songs representing that LP in this show are now pretty rare in live performance. Weigh, All Things Reconsidered, The Horse, and Fast Enough for You don't get played often nowadays, or in the case of ATR, at all. The band is characteristically limber but not to the point of sacrificing the rigorous technical demands of the material that they were showcasing nightly during this exciting time in Phishtory. It would be hard to say that 2/20/93 contains any "big jams" in the mold of which we've become accustomed by 2015, but the amazing rollercoaster ride this show takes even the newest phan on just goes to show that Phish cannot be limited by the description "jamband," even if it does pretty accurately describe what I presume has been their modus operandi nearly ever since, if jamband means eclectically improvisation-oriented and willing to surrender to the flow.

Reba had debuted in a prototypical form on 10/1/89 if memory serves, and by this point was honed into the glorious, melodic, spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, to quote William Wordsworth from his Preface to Lyrical Ballads; the quote goes on,

"For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: and though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply. For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and, as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other, we discover what is really important to men, so, by the repetition and continuance of this act, our feelings will be connected with important subjects, till at length, if we be originally possessed of much sensibility, such habits of mind will be produced, that, by obeying blindly and mechanically the impulses of those habits, we shall describe objects, and utter sentiments, of such a nature, and in such connexion with each other, that the understanding of the Reader must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, and his affections strengthened and purified."

Phish are certainly "possessed of more than usual organic sensibility," as evinced by their thematic, song-suite like series of segues that begins in 2/20/93 with Tweezer and doesn't stop until the conclusion of--or thirdly notated--Weekapaug Groove. I'm satisfied that the members of Phish have "though long and deeply," which may be why the site you're visiting now exists at all, to wit: Phish inspires contemplative and often rapturous, or transcendent, states in susceptible listeners, which we find ourselves encouraged to share a refraction of through the--apologies to Mr. Wordsworth--medium of mere words, which can only approximate the "continued influxes of feeling." Thankfully, Phish have never "obey(ed) blindly and mechanically the impulses of (their) habits," instead proving themselves always willing to experiment, even to strip or desconstruct themselves for the sake of the sacred journey whose frame-tale is life itself, and whose beginning, middle, and (this has yet to be seen) end were and will be virtue expressed through refinement of that spontaneous overflow using the tools available to all humans, namely wonder, fellowship, and eventually a Zenlike humor that hopefully serves to strengthen the wonder and fellowship even further (it's déjà vu all over again!)

If it seems I've riffed too much on the existential nature of this show, and if that seems silly for such a gleefully, tensely spun musical narrative as the seguefest in Set II, I plead no contest to any apparent pontification, and apologize if I've used your time in a way such that you feel it was wasted. A mutable hermeneutics lends itself well to my listening experience in this show, as a variety thereof always does with Phish, because their virtuosity begs involvement on the part of the listener(s), and in trying to get "inside" the music--as well as the living, breathing conduits of it that I feel I've gotten to know somewhat since 1998--I keep learning more about myself and how I appreciate/respond to art. God bless those who love Phish for any reason at all, whether it's because Phish makes good art, or because the person listening at the show or on recording can take pleasure in any aspect of the yes, sometimes silly spectacle that is inimitably known as Phish.


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