Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2014-06-17
Despite a mild distaste for mathematics, I have developed a curious interest in the power and symbolism of numbers and their use in ritualistic occult practices, engineering, and their most natural expression in the multivariate artform known as music. The number 555 is known alternately as the “highest death” and the numerologic symbol for mankind. When the number 555 appears before you, it is a sign for a life changing thought or event having just occurred. You may not like it, or you may. Whatever the case, your Spirit Guides are notifying you that a change in your life path direction has just occurred, and it is time for you to change too. Move with it, hop on this new train of thoughts. The universe is making changes for you whether you ask for it or not. Allow the rails to unwind before you and travel to a new future full of possibilities still hidden from you at this point of seeing. Hold the vision until you land at the next station.
It is therefore an incredibly powerful moment of numerologic and ritualistic magic that Phish would choose to unveil a song named “555” during their debut of Wingsuit (subsequently renamed Fuego) on Halloween 2013 in Atlantic City. Whether that magic was by intent or not, it augured a new change of direction and beckoned us to go along for the ride.
Phish, “555” – 12/29/13, New York, NY
“555” was the funkier of two (“Snow” being the other) new songs from the Gordon and Murawski songwriting duo that were included in the Wingsuit (uhhh Fuego) set. The song proper is a “Meaty” slab of classic down-tempo funk that is richly imbued with the essence of some stanky Feat. The lyrics tell the sordid tale of a modern day Dharma Bum looking to bail the switch, avoid the ditch, and safely hitch another ride on The 555. He’s been roughed up and robbed of his water and cash, he wants them back but he really ought to just dash. The outro to the debut version, consisting of a jam snippet that is at once “Tweezer Reprise,” a portion of the 8/19/12 “Light” jam, and Pink Floyd’s “Empty Spaces,” bespeaks an ominous conclusion to the train-hopper’s tale. Based on it’s second run down the rails (12/29/13 at MSG) an untimely demise is likely not the case for the rumbling freight train that was his ticket out of town as it certainly shows promise for some longer journeys in the future.
Although it was written by Mike and Scott, “555” is clearly a Phish song. It was in fairly regular rotation during Mike’s Overstep tour in early 2014, however, the song was not included on the album, and the MGB dirge-like performances evoked a surprisingly funereal atmosphere… something just seemed to be missing in the solo presentation. Exactly what was amiss was unclear until the 4/6/14 Higher Ground performance when Mike was joined onstage by Page and Fish and together they proceeded to put some pep back in the song’s step.
Mike Gordon (with Page and Fish), “555” – 4/6/14, South Burlington, VT
The Fuego studio track of “555” is augmented with a muscular horn section (Charles Rose trombone, Harvey Thompson saxaphone, Doug Moffet saxaphone, Vincent Ciesielski trumpet) arranged by Charles Rose and some glorious backing vocals featuring one or more (the album credits don’t specify which vocalists are featured on which songs) of such legendary vocalists as Vicki Hampton, Maureen Murphy, Marie Lewey, Cindy Walker, and Carla Russell, multi-dimensional producer Bob Ezrin, and his protege Josh Guillaume.
Further evolution of the tune is assured when Phish “Get Back on the Train” and take it for another ride. The triple nickel, a.k.a. the NS-555 (subsequently renumbered as NS-3555 in September 2013), is one of the 43 currently active 3,200 horsepower diesel locomotives operated by the Norfolk Southern railroad corporation. With that kind of power, the “555” could go far.