Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
Albums: The White Tape, At the Roxy, Live Phish 02, Live Phish 09, Live Phish 12, Live Phish 19, Live in Vegas, Colorado '88, The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday, Hampton/Winston-Salem '97, Alpine Valley, Niagara Falls, Chicago '94, The Clifford Ball
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo), Mark Toscano
Last Update: 2013-12-20
“AC/DC Bag” is one of the earliest Gamehendge tunes to appear in Phish’s live repertoire. “Bag” was initially its own tune, and appears on The White Tape. Trey’s Senior Study The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday – which incorporated “AC/DC Bag” – wasn’t completed until 1988. Still, “Bag” fits rather well in its place as the fourth song of the musical, right between “Wilson” and “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent.”
The tune’s lyrics have a loosely narrative, stream-of-consciousness feel to them. While interspersed with characters from Gamehendge and telling a well-developed story, the song’s lyrics are built with bricks of clichés: “The thousand dollar question”; “Sit up and take notice”; “Tell it like it is”; “Time to put your money where your mouth is”; “Let’s get down to the nitty gritty”; “Let’s get this show on the road,” and so on. Indeed, in writing the song Trey borrowed directly from The Dictionary of Clichés.
"AC/DC Bag" – 12/30/94, New York, NY
The title of the song derives from the chorus’s chord progression (well, almost – it’s actually an F-major, not a B-major). The lyrics to this groove-rock tune speak of a certain Mr. Palmer, who is most decidedly “concerned with the thousand- dollar question.” He is about to be hanged by the AC/DC Bag (the name of Wilson’s plug-in, robotized, bag-headed executioner) under orders from Wilson himself. Mr.Palmer is Wilson’s accountant, you see. However, he was also a member of the anti-Wilson revolutionary effort. Palmer helped support Errand Woolfe, Tela, and the other rebels by channeling funds from Wilson’s regime to bankroll the revolution. Of course, Wilson eventually found out, and sentenced Mr. Palmer to death, thus substantially crushing the revolutionary effort.
Hammered into the Gamehendge narrative, the song’s lyrics end up having meaning, however vague. In this context, the song is sung as a duet between Wilson and Palmer. In the first two verses, Wilson torments Palmer in a facetious manner. Palmer takes over the second two verses, defiantly challenging Wilson (“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”). The final lines of the fourth verse indicate Palmer’s steadfast resistance to Wilson as he shouts for the commencement of his own execution. Following this, Palmer muses over his complete lack of a future.
Back in the world of mortals, the “Roger” mentioned in this song (as well as in “Wilson”) is an old friend of Trey’s, Roger Halloway, with whom Trey shares credit on the band’s White Tape for the tune “Aftermath.” For the Gamehendge saga, Roger is the name of Errand Woolfe’s son, who was murdered by Wilson. The real Roger appeared on stage at the band’s 4/14/93 gig at the beginning of the second set and proposed to his girlfriend. She accepted, and the band happily responded by playing the song that made that “crazy little kid” Roger a star, “AC/DC Bag.”
"AC/DC Bag" – 9/14/99, Boise, ID (Part 1)
"AC/DC Bag" – 9/14/99, Boise, ID (Part 2)
For the longest time, “Bag” was clearly used by the band as a standard, compact rock tune. Versions through 1988 also feature a cute little intro preceding the song’s opening chords. Many early fan favorites exist; check out 4/1/86 (“Help on the Way” > “Slipknot!” > “AC/DC Bag”), 10/31/86 (with long intro), 8/6/88 (infamous first Colorado run), 11/4/90 (again in CO this time in Fort Collins), 5/3/91 (for the Boston sports fan), 4/14/93 (with a "My Woman From Tokyo" tease"), or 8/16/96 (Clifford Ball).
The myriad musical experiments in jamming out the most unexpected tunes that began in early 1997 propelled “Bag” to the most extraordinary of jam spaces. From that time and up to the hiatus, “Bag” served as a useful springboard for the band to launch into expansive and exciting jams, very seldom finding its way to the drizzle of escalating notes that makes up the song’s traditional, composed ending. Standout versions include 11/21/97 (Hampton epic), 12/7/97 (sweet segue into “Psycho Killer”), 12/30/97 (historic MSG NYE run), 8/9/98 (Virginai Beach "Terrapin Station" gig), 7/4/99 (for patriotic spirit), 9/14/99 ("Peaches" > "Bag"!), and 6/15/00 (fluid outro segue into “Uncle Pen”).
Post-hiatus versions have yet to display the full power potential of the song, though respectable versions can be found on 2/14/03 (for lovers and stage jumpers), 7/9/03 (between excellent versions of “Boogie On” and “Piper”), and opening IT on 8/2/03 (“put ‘em in a field and let ‘em fight it out”). This return to a more compact presentation remains in Phish 3.0, though respectable and punchy versions can be found opening 8/1/09 Red Rocks, during the Gamehendge-infused 8/14/09 Hartford gig, 12/31/09 Miami (with an "Auld Lang Syne" tease), and 7/2/10 Charlotte (with "Buried Alive" teases).
"AC/DC Bag" – 5/23/00, New York, NY
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"Errand Woolfe"? I always thought it was "Aaron Wolfe". Like Trey's friend Aaron Wolfe.The Gamehendge character is named Errand Woolf, whose name is derived from Trey's real-life friend Aaron.