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Performances Song History

Avenu Malkenu

Also Known As: Avenu Malcanu

Music: Hebrew Prayer

Vocals: Mike, Page, Trey

Original Artist: Traditional

Albums: Colorado '88, Live Phish 09, Live Phish 10

Debut: 1987-05-11

Historian: Herschel Gelman, Saul Wertheimer

Walk into any synagogue on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur (and other times during the year), and you’re bound to hear this ancient Jewish prayer. To others, “Avenu Malkenu” is more recognizable from its appearance sandwiched between “TMWSIY” and “TMWSIY Reprise.” 

This Hebrew prayer has its roots in a Talmudic story (tractate Ta’anit, 25b). At a time of drought, after another Rabbi has made a fruitless attempt to pray for rain, the great sage Rabbi Akiva (second half of 1st century, and first half of 2nd century) initiates a prayer in the “Avenu Malkenu” – “Our Father, Our King” – format. His prayer is successful. 

The “Avenu Malkenu” that Phish performs is a later version of this efficacious prayer. It can be translated as, “Our Father, Our King, be gracious with us and answer us, even though we have no [worthy] deeds; treat us with charity and kindness, and save us.” Within the context of the Jewish liturgy, this prayer is interesting because it defines a relationship with God as both that of a Father-Son, as well as a Master-Servant. 

Phish almost always plays “Avenu Malkenu” (granted, a bit funkier than you’re likely to hear it in synagogue) preceded and followed by “TMWSIY.” There are exceptions; the band occasionally forgoes the “TMWSIY” reprise, in favor of another song, such as the fan favorite 8/7/93 (which launches into a raucous “Sloth”), 12/28/96 (straight into “Mike’s Song”!) and 10/3/99 (“BBFCFM”). 4/18/92 is also an interesting version, as it contains an extended “Happy Passover” bass solo. The “TMWSIY” > “Avenu” > “TMWSIY” trio replaced “I Am Hydrogen” in its traditional role as intermediary between “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug”on 2/4/93. Trey then proceeded to tease “TMWSIY” in “Weekapaug.” While the song has dropped from even semi-regular rotation, it made  one post-hiatus appearance on 7/7/03 (into "Walls of the Cave") and one Phish 3.0 appearance to date at Alpine Valley on 6/21/09

Finally, on 8/26/89, Trey announced that “Avenu” was written by “Pete Rose and God,” leaving many fans saying: “I knew he wasn’t just a ballplayer!”

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