Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland, ME
Soundcheck: Dog Log (x2), Funky Bitch
Set 2: 2001Also Sprach Zarathustra > Mike'sMike's Song -> HorseThe Horse > SilentSilent in the Morning > PYITEPunch You In the Eye > McGruppMcGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > WeekapaugWeekapaug Groove > Purple Rain > HYHUHold Your Head Up, SlaveSlave to the Traffic Light
 Dream On and DEG jams.
 Trey on acoustic guitar.
 Vocal jam; unfinished.
Notes: Dream On and Dave’s Energy Guide were both jammed during Bowie. The Horse featured Trey on acoustic guitar. Weekapaug contained a vocal jam and was unfinished. Slave was played in response to a chant from the front row.
This show was part of the "1993 NYE Run."
Later in the set, we got a great "Forbin." I think the narration was about the floor of the hockey arena breaking apart and floating through space on the planks. Or something. In any event, the arena just might have gone into orbit several times that night. It wouldn't surprise me at all. The "Famous Mockingbird" took flight (somewhat sloppily) and "Bathtub Gin" followed. Having not heard the Murat "Gin" at the time, I was pleasantly surprised at the improvisation at the end of this version. Looking back on it, it really doesn't go anywhere that interesting and certainly doesn't compare to the Murat version. "Free Bird" was next and, as always, was pretty damn funny.
All in all, the first set was pretty strong -- better than anything they had played the night before. But they were just getting started. The familiar introduction to "2001" started up and they went right into "Mike's Song." The "Mike's" jam just seemed to keep going and going. It went on for about fifteen minutes (which was pretty long for '93, especially if, like me, you hadn't heard any August '93 shows at that point) and never seemed to let up. As the composed part of the jam gave way to improv, they locked into a groove led by some sustained, melodious noodling by Trey. Just great stuff here -- I don't know what else to say. As the jam becomes more bass dominated, Trey starts playing his acoustic and before long they've segued -- yes, segued -- into "The Horse." "The Horse" and "Silent" are their usual selves and "PYITE" -- still a pretty major treat in 1993 -- follows. Nothing much to say about "PYITE" except that looking back on it, it seems to be a pretty tight version, especially at the end where they go in and out of "The Landlady."
"McGrupp" immediately starts up and the next fifteen minutes of the set are pretty much perfect. The Page and Mike duet out of "McGrupp" is absolutely gorgeous -- yet another highlight in a set filled with them. The crowd is absolutely silent. Mike's anchoring bass line fades into nothing and then comes back, along with the rest of the band, as they crescendo back into the "McGrupp" theme. "Weekapaug" starts smoothly out of out of this and what else can be said about this "Weekapaug"? It's pretty short and certainly straight ahead, but the entire song is one long machine gun Trey-fest. After the hilarity of "Purple Rain", a "Slave" chant started up near the stage. And sure enough we got it in all its glory. The build starts very slowly with Page and Trey playing beautifully off of each other. Right up until the peak, Page is banging away on the grand piano, perfectly complementing Trey's screaming leads. All the while, Kuroda's lights are swirling around the arena in a siren-like effect. Just another one of those Phish show moments that's permanently imprinted on my brain -- talk about a smoking crater. "Rockytop" and "Good Times Bad Times" sent us out into the sub-zero Maine night. What a set! Sure, there have been better musical moments in Phishstory, probably even better sets. But there are few sets that hold up as a whole the way this one does almost 16 years later. Not a single boring moment, every song executed perfectly, gorgeous segues, exploratory jamming. I knew as soon as I walked out of the civic center that night why I had seen eleven other shows in 1993 and why I was about to see one more -- to see that show.
Portland was a nice treat for our group because we could stay at Bowdoin, just a half-hour away. Getting from Boston to Maine was a cinch; the roads were clear by morning. We hooked up with some guests and got to the show no problem. Like the Bender show, Portland was general admission. The lines to get into the venue were long and it was quite cold out. However, we managed to head in at just the right time so that we weren't stuck out in the cold for too long but still able to snag some really nice seats. We ended up in the stands in the section just in front of the stage, Page side, fairly low.
The Cumberland County Civic Center is simply a great venue, seating around ten thousand, general admission, with excellent acoustics. I don't believe that the show sold out, and if it did, the last ticket was sold within an hour of the performance. Anyone who could have hit this show but missed it just blew it. So it goes.
Set I begins with a grand version of “Bowie”, highlighted by two passes through Aerosmith's “Dream On”. The ending is tight and glorious. “Weigh” is a rare and welcome treat. I suppose it's not rare any longer with the release of Slip Stitch and Pass, but in any case this version is executed well. “Curtain” is also a rare and welcome treat. It’s one of those songs that was on my wish list for the tour that I had enough sense not to be waiting for because I couldn't really expect to hear it. This version is tight. And the opening chords to “Sample” sound so sweet! This transition is just perfect. And this “Sample” is great. I once said that comparing “Sample”s is somewhat pointless, but I was wrong. This is a hot, smoking “Sample”, one that gives reason to its being played so much the next year. “Paul and Silas” is an upbeat bluegrass tune, but nothing special to note.
The “Forbin's” is really nice, one of my favorite songs (great drum part). The narration between the two songs involves the Civic Center washing out into to ocean so that the fans can surf; a better-than-average narration with nice sound effects from the band. The “Mockingbird”, however, is seriously flawed because Trey flubs the timing between the first and second major melodic sections. The band actually has to stop playing and try to re-coordinate, and even then they aren't quite on the same page. The rest of “Mockingbird” is fine, but this flub is sad, the only low point of the night. A “Rift” is a “Rift”. This is no exception.
This “Bathtub” doesn't compare to some of the more recent monster “Bathtub”s, but it still has some interesting improvisation. This version caused one in my touring clan to identify a distinct Phish jam type as "deconstruction-reconstruction." And that is exactly what happens here. They break down the “Bathtub” until it is totally unrecognizable (Hey Hole territory), before piecing it back together. It is somewhat akin to a fairly spacey “Stash”. My only complaint is that the “bottom” of the jam does sound a bit like an exercise. So just an okay “Bathtub” even though “Bathtub” is always a treat.
Why Phish hasn't pulled this one off the shelf in recent years is a mystery to me, because the a cappella “Freebird”s played in 1993 are very creative, fun, unique Phish in my opinion. Although Fish is a little off-key for a while (one of the band members motioned with their hand at the show and he caught on), toward the end the whole band's crazy scat jam/a cappella guitar solo is just out of this world. Wow. Great first set.
“2001” opened many a second set in 1993, especially in the summer as an opportunity for Chris to show off the new lights (before Summer ‘93, Phish didn't have the moving/color changing variety, just stage lamps, strobes, and a few other goodies). This version is what people would now call “standard” because there isn't any real funked-out jam between passes by the main theme. Page gets a few bars at the keys but that's it. Still enjoyable of course, and the “Mike's” that followed…wow! I cannot say enough about this golden hose. It is a platinum hose. A five-carat diamond hose. An all-time-great “Mike's Song”: my favorite, hands down, on tape or in concert. Everyone in the band contributes in a meaningful way. Trying to describe the melody is pointless — you must hear it for yourself to understand its beauty. And the segue into “The Horse” is perfectly seamless, a feat made all the more astounding when you realize that Trey switches over to an acoustic guitar that was brought onstage by a roadie.
“Punch You in the Eye” was another song on my wish list that I didn't really expect to hear. Page's ascending keys part near the beginning is executed perfectly (on the piano as it should be) and everything is tight throughout. And then “McGrup” follows. Already a stupendous setlist and then this! This “McGrupp” is nicely played (note the choice drum fills) and Page's solo is better then its usually awesome self. This is my second-favorite “McGrupp”, next to 12/31/91.
The “Weekapaug” is high-energy and includes some fabulous guitar shredding by Trey. He hits upon a theme from the “Mike's Song” earlier in this set that, after hearing it in both contexts, seems more apropos to “Weekapaug”. This “Weekapaug” dissolves into a short but sweet vocal jam segment that segues into the music for “Purple Rain”. Then Fish takes the stage!
This “Purple Rain” is very long. It is an amusing Fishman number, but he wasn't in control of his vacuum to quite the same degree as the night before. Compared to most of the rest of the show, this is a tad weak. Fun in concert, but not really interesting on tape.
“Slave” is quite possibly played by request; you can hear fans chanting "Slave, Slave, Slave" before the opening chords on my tape. This “Slave” does not have one of the all-time-best endings (e.g., 4/9/94, 7/13/94) but it does have the all-time-best build toward the ending. Absolutely mesmerizing! And the height of the jam (Trey solo, really) is quite high. I was not very familiar with this song when I heard it at the show, but it blew me away with its melodic majesty and still does five years later.
The encore, “Rocky Top”, is tight and fun. “GT/BT” rocks the house down; Trey nails the jam with a Mack truck. Wonderful encore!
This is one of the all-time-great Phish shows, hands down. It has height (“Mike's” super hose, also great versions of “Bowie”, “McGrupp”, “Weekapaug”, “Slave”, and “GT/BT”), a great deal of width (every song except “Mockingbird” and “Freebird” played flawlessly), and a setlist full of Phishy candy. In my experience, it ranks as one of my two favorite concert experiences ever (with 12/31/95, which has its own flub during “Coil”) and is still my favorite Phish tape. If you don't have this show in your tape collection, get it now. Your collection isn't worth talking about without it.
the bowie opener starts this one off in style. there are some nifty aerosmith/dream on teases in this bowie. also, trey has some nice exploration throughout this one, especially for so early in the show. weigh, one of my favorite odd ball phish tunes, turns the dark bowie vibe upside down. the curtain>sample combo works well, as does a nice hot take on paul and silas. you gotta love this forbin's>bird. trey comments on how this stadium is normally a hockey arena and how they are all standing on ice. he also gives a warm welcome to some late comers to the show. sounds like weather was a bitch.... maine in december...no way! anyway, they kick down a quick rift after a hot mockingbird. then, we get the first real jam fire works of the night. this is a nice free-wheeling, rollicking bathtub gin. they end this one in rousing fashion. free bird sends the masses into set break happy.
here we go. they do a quick one through 2001 before blasting into a monster mike's song. this groove really seems to have it all, but it all starts with a very strong mike's song. page and trey are very much in sync here. this eventually skips hydrogen as it peters out, but it does find it way into a lovely version of horse>silent. i love these early 90's punches. page stays on the piano, and i always thought that sounded a little cooler than synthed out sound he uses now. still love punch, but love the old ones better. punch finds its way into an inspired take of mcgrupp that drives into a really gordon' centric hot hot hot weekapaugh. trey tears through his solo hear too. very good ending to a classic mike's groove. weekapaugh eventually falls into a "lovely" purple rain before going to hold your head up. what should they close with... how about the newly rejuvinated slave to the traffic light. this one overflows with emotion and energy. this is one of my favorite slaves. i don't know if its the stand alone performance that gets me or if it's how it fits in with the rest of the set. great slave, great closer.
this second set does not just have the tight, focused jamming that we all know and love, but it has remarkably good flow. every song works extremely well with the one played before and after it. remarkable flow.
bowie, paul and silas, forbin>bird, gin
really the whole thing. how do i narrow it down. i'll try...
Getting into a show in 1993 involved nothing more than a cursory search, and since it was so cold, we went in way early just to take it all in (and also, being 16, we weren't going to hang out at a bar or anything). The anticipation I felt at this show was something I'll cherish forever - any song they played was going to thrill me, because I was finally seeing Phish live! I had no idea what had been played the previous couple of nights, and in fact had no idea what a Phish concert even looked like - there were no videos available.
Now, I have listened to this show so many times that I can't really remember how I first reacted to the music. I remember being thrilled at David Bowie (which still ranks among my favorite versions, especially fiery). The Forbin's narration was just awesome to me - I had nothing like it in my limited tape collection and I thought it might be a unique thing that I was seeing for the first time. Freebird is a novelty tune that I love, but thinking about it, it is a novelty tune that they put a lot of effort toward. The lights during 2001 just blew my mind. The Mike's Groove is just spectacular with an awesome Weekapaug vocal jam. Purple Rain might be my favorite Fishman cover. This show just hit all the right buttons with my newbie self - a great mix of songs I knew and songs I didn't but that were awesome and made me want to get ever more tapes.
Listening to the show today, it is just amazing how tight they are, how well Trey nails some of the tricky runs in Mockingbird, they way they feel so damn locked in. Whether it really is or not, things like Rift feel a good 10-20bpm faster than today, like Trey wanted to show off how fast he could play. Classic, classic stuff, and available as a SBD online in the usual places, so there is really no excuse not to grab it.
Digression aside, obviously this is one of the great shows; every time I pull it out (even that's an anachronism, as I am listening to mp3s) I find myself asking why I don't listen to it more often. The first set is as good as many second sets, with a ferocious Bowie (Bowie's a song I think belongs more to the mid-90s than most), a charming Forbin's/Mockingbird (it's interesting how much Gamehendge played into early Phish history and was more or less left behind by 1997 as the band got big), a Gin that clanks and clatters and displays Phish's still-fermenting ability to get weird while staying interesting (no sign of the Big Gin Jams of later years), and a great/goofy/stupid/awesome/no, kinda stupid/but okay, still awesome set closer in their a capella (but still intricately detailed!) Free Bird. The second set is a full-on masterpiece, with a heartstopping Mike's Song that features some of the most thrilling holy-shit-these-guys jamming of any era and a groove at the 10:30 mark that feels like a wall of sound just pushing its way towards the horizon before dying away and *beautifully* segueing into The Horse, a Mike-driven super-charged Weekapaug (with a goofy vocal jam) that leads into f'n Purple Rain, and a capital-G Gorgeous Slave with an awe-inspiring peak. I don't know what else to say about this show - I'd probably have worn my Maxell copy down to nothing too.
18 years later, i can still listen to this gig and really smile. Aerosmith the next night at Boston Garden. Nuts...