Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike and Page (backing)
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2016-02-10
At first listen – that being the Round Room version and/or its strikingly similar televised first Live (from New York…it’s Saturday Night) performance – “46 Days” appeared to be a chugging funk-rock stomp in the vein of “Character Zero.” Strikingly similar to “Sneakin’ Sally” in terms of structure and progression, it was seemingly nothing more than a tight, guitar-driven set closer with very little room for improvisational expansion. But as Phish proves over and over, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Between the surprisingly colossal second set opening Hampton (1/2/03) rendition and the 8/3/03 IT version that seemed to last about forty-six days, Phish 2020 rather infrequently steered this interstellar quantum-tunneling rock bulldozer into regions of jam space that had previously avoided regrading and wormhole emplacement. The passage through the tear in the fabric of space-time united by these two neutron star dense endpoints is rather pedestrian by comparison; however the versions from 2/25/03 Philadelphia, 7/10/03 Shoreline, and 7/21/03 (Deer Creek, which slid out of “Taste” - the fear - and into the freezer) further expanded the song’s versatility.
In 2004, the only particularly noteworthy version of "46 Days" was played by request ("give it to me!") during the second set on 6/17/04 at KeySpan Park. It was down and away, got launched into deep left field, rounded the bass, and then slid back into the plate in a cloud of dust. In the days between Phish, "46 Days" was a regular with the various incarnations of TAB in 2005-06 – visit the New Orleans Superjam from 4/30/05 with Mike on bass and Ivan Neville on keyboards, or 10/11/06 Philly, again with Mike. Trey and Phil Lesh also took “46 Days” for a spin at the now-defunct Vegoose festival on 10/28/06.
In 2009, "46 Days" strayed from a subtle (as a lead pipe to the skull) first set Jersey stomp on 6/7/09 in Camden, to a bluesy southern drawl in the glory daze of post-Boss Bonnaroo on 6/14/09, ultimately disintegrating entirely on 8/15/09 at Merriweather in glorious deep space exploration that never attempted to come back home. In 2010, "46 Days" made eleven public appearances, including notable offerings on 6/22/10 at Great Woods, 8/7/10 in Berkeley, CA, and 10/19/10 in Augusta, ME.
All but one of the six 2011 performances were placed in the first set and as such were typical radio friendly edits, with only the Tahoe 8/9/11 set closer clocking in over nine minutes in duration. The lone second set version in 2011 was unsheathed at MSG while “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley” on New Year’s Eve. Despite the prominent placement in the second first set of the night, it was the quickest one of the bunch, pumping and dumping into “Suzy Greenberg” a scant six minutes later. An entirely unsatisfying year, as far as “46 Days” was concerned. The seven 2012 versions were equally unadventurous filler, regardless of the slot into which they were inserted.
Three of nine 2013 performances found their way into the second frame. In keeping with the rule of thirds, one of the three second set performances (Tahoe 7/30/13) got an extra dose of mustard in the form of Mike’s electrified chocolate pudding effects that paved the way for the “Boogie on Reggae Woman” that followed. While the 7/5/13 SPAC performance featured a pretty smooth segue into “Steam” that is worth checking out, the rest of the year was largely paint by numbers… again.
“46 Days” displayed an astoundingly oversaturated quantity over quality frequency in 2014, with no less than fourteen mostly tepid appearances. This flock of lame ducks included getting trotted out in such high profile performances as the 4/26/14 Jazz Fest mainstage slot, and the 6/24/14 Live on Letterman stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater, to limited effect. Three of the fourteen performances were second set affairs, with two of these (7/8/14 Mann and 8/29/14 Dick’s) kicking off their respective second halves. Whereas the former quickly teed up a monster “Fuego,” the latter provided a more languid funky platform to Get “Back on the Train” and ride. The least of the three with the inherent second set placement jamming potential appeared as the filler in a fourth quarter “Cities” “Sand” on 10/18/14 at Seattle’s Key Arena, an uninspired second night of fall tour. Familiarity definitely bred some contempt for this tune during the fall of 2014.
Thankfully with the new year came new hope. The first “46 Days” of 2015 seemed infused with new swagger and was featured prominently in the midst of the mind-bending 1/2/15 Miami “Mike’s Groove” that opened the second set with a BANG! Confirming these early returns, no less than five of the ten subsequent versions that rounded out the year were noteworthy. The “46 Dogs” sandwich to open the second set at the Austin360 on 7/28/15 was slathered with Stubb’s sweet hot BBQ sauce. The 8/11/15 Mann version is short and stocky with a chiseled granite tone so beefy they had to just butter it up and “Taste” it. Speaking of tastes and how they can be different, play the 8/15/15 Merriweather and 8/22/15 Magnaball versions of “46 Days” back to back, and try to decide which one you like better. Definitely one of those “there are two kinds of people in this world” binary matrices. I’m going Magnaball, every time. Having reached a peak we coast downward through a quality first set version from 9/4/15 Dick’s and reach sea level right around the time Phish hit the beach in Mexico.
The lyrics of “46 Days” appear to be inspired by an undisclosed incidence of betrayal involving Phish lighting crew member Leigh Fordham (who was previously in the spotlight during the 11/16/96 Omaha performances of both “Axilla” and “Harry Hood”). Details are sketchy at best, but the enigmatic episode allegedly involved the chartering of a boat toward an unknown location somewhere south of the border. Further clues as to what actually did or did not go down, as the song also states, couldn’t be found. One way or another, on the 47th day, the coal, which had apparently run out, came home. The final warning of the devil’s approach makes reference to a passage from the New Testament (John 14:30) in which Jesus informs his apostles of his impending demise as precipitated by his own betrayal by Judas. Not so coincidentally, considering this biblical reference contained in the song, the duration of the Lenten period from midnight on Mardi Gras to the Easter morning celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is exactly 46 days.