On 4/16/92, Phish began a legendary five night run (4/16-21/92). Each of these shows is listed among people's favorites, and I never saw any other Phish shows that came close to this level of playing or intensity. I felt they were out to prove something...to sell themselves.
A little Anaconda history: I grew up in Los Angeles, and would spend a week each summer (for ten years, starting when I was five years old) in Santa Barbara at the UCSB family camp. I loved it there, and I really liked hanging out in Isla Vista (the UCSB college "town"). My first memories of the Anaconda were when the place was a Bank of America. After the bank closed, the place became a pool hall / arcade which I would spend many hours in during each of my summer visits. My last time at the place was during the summer of 1987, and I had no idea that Phish would be playing the same room five years later.
I showed up in the middle of the afternoon before the show. Instantly we were hassled by UCSB cops. We weren't actually doing anything but waiting in the lot before the show, but the cop caught a glance of our pipe and needed to threaten us for a while. Soon after the pig walked away, the bands showed up at the venue. I then spent the afternoon with Trey, his dog Marley, and Dave Schools (Widespread Panic bassist).
At the time it seemed like nothing special; we were all just killing time waiting for the show. This was back in the days when the band actually hung out with folks before and after the show. During this tour, the only one in the band who didn't hang with random fans was Page.
So showtime rolls around, and we walk in. No more than 100 people in the venue, plenty of space. You could walk to the stage and hang out, or drop back fifteen feet and have lots of dancing room.. Plus, it was a bar and the place had arcade games all along the walls. By the time WSP finished their opening set, I'd say the crowd had grown to about 200 people total. I remember being stoked that I could leave the venue during setbreak and get pizza across the street, and then come back for Set II.
The show starts off with a great combo of "Buried Alive" and "Possum". No warm-up time needed for this show, they come out of the gate at "11". By the opening notes of "Possum" they've got the crowd in their hands and they're playing with us - building crowd anticipation until they finally start playing the song. "Bouncing Around the Room" was great fun, followed by a really funky version of "Split Open and Melt" (the tape that I have is really bass-heavy, and Mike really pounds out the groove in this version). Trey's solos in this version are completely on fire; it's the second peak of the first set.
The band easily transitions from "Split Open" to "Rift", and the solid playing continues. "Maze" is easily the third peak of the first set, with Trey just tearing it up. It was so good that it seems like he was inspired to do some Gamehendge stuff, including a quick introduction about Gamehendge before he transported the crowd there. I guess he could sense that most members of the crowd had never seen the band before and were unfamiliar with the story. The narration is classic!. The whole Gamehendge mini-set is epic with a fantastic version of "Mockingbird"; I had no idea how rare this was at the time, we were just having a blast! The set ends with the forth peak of the set, a dance till-you-drop version of "Antelope".
Second set starts with a great set of tunes. The "Sanity" is goofy, but at the time it seemed perfect. The "Llama" and "Lizards" are both played well, but the peak of the set was the "Mike's" > "Hydrogen" > "Weekapaug". This version is one of my personal favorites and really floored me at the show. I was totally blown away by the sheer power of the music and by how tight and together the band was playing. The show slows down after the "Weekapaug"; I guess we all needed a break after something that intense. The rest of the show was solid, but nothing spectacular.
We walked out of the show that night drenched in sweat, happy to have seen Phish play at their full potential. It was a totally different experience than my first show the night before, regarding both the music and venue. This was the show where I "got it" as far as Phish was concerned - I was hooked. We drove the four hours back to Santa Cruz after the show, getting very excited to see Phish play at the Warfield the next night.