Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Goodman
Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Last Update: 2016-03-17
“Bathtub Gin” is one of Phish’s most distinctive songs. Drawing together diverse influences, it marries a composition by Trey to the unique lyrics of his old friend Susannah Goodman. Page’s opening piano part quotes heavily from George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” as do his fills later in the song. Fish’s beat is unique among Phish songs, and gives the “Gin” jam much of its character. The slow, loping feel of this song forces Trey and Page to play less frantically, leading to more interesting, contemplative offerings. The presence of such a strong central theme also provides a springboard for Trey’s solos, much as a poet often chooses to write according to a form instead of in free verse.
“Bathtub Gin” – 10/31/89, Plainfield, VT.
The first few years of its life in the Phish repertoire, “Gin” offered few great improvisations. Far too odd to be described as “in the box,” early versions oozed power-geek, but still generated more heat than light. The first known “Gin” took place on 5/26/89 at Rutland, VT’s Valley Club Café. During this era, the “Gin” jam was invariably short, and firmly anchored in the song’s main theme. For an important early variation be sure to visit the four performances of “Gin” from the summer ‘91 tour with The Giant Country Horns: 7/12/91 Keene, NH (LivePhish 19), 7/14/91 Townshend Family Park, 7/20/91 Arrowhead Ranch, and 7/24/91 Trax, Charlottesville.
August ‘93 was a major turning point for Phish, and “Gin” played a key role in this transformation. The month kicked off with a historic night of jamming and huge bust-outs on 8/2/93 in Tampa, FL, with an eleven-minute “Gin” that included strong “Sleeping Monkey" and “Rift”-like jams. On 8/13/93 at the Murat, Phish filled the “Bathtub” to overflowing. The Murat version charted new territory for “Gin” when, for the first time, the jam strayed to Type-II improvisation and is required listening for the tub aficionado. From then on, the opening notes of “Gin” signaled the possibility for glorious, improvisational bliss.
“Bathtub Gin” – 8/17/97, Limestone, ME.
Though “Gin” broke through the wormhole in ‘93, Phish’s improvisational efforts in ‘94 focused on other songs – “Antelope,” “Bowie,” “Mike’s,” and “Tweezer,” among others. That said, strong Type-I versions of “Gin” can be found on 5/20/94 at Evergreen College, 7/5/94 in Ottawa, and 10/14/94 in New Orleans.
It was late ‘95 that solidified “Gin’s” place on the top shelf of Phish’s improvisational vehicles. 11/9/95 Atlanta, 11/24/95 Pittsburgh, and 12/5/95 UMass versions all deserve attention, but in the end were mere warm ups for 12/29/95. On this night in Worcester, Phish jumped into an earth-shattering “Bathtub.” Clocking in at over twenty-three minutes, the jam got harder, faster and more grating, until the fluid segue through the chorus of The Who’s “The Real Me” and back into “Gin.” This Gin and Tonic essential is better known as “The Real Gin.”
‘96 is an often-overlooked vintage for “Gin” but don’t leave the bar before checking out The Rupp “Gin” from 11/7/96, made available as a LivePhish archival release in early ‘16. ‘97 was a huge year for the tub: be sure to visit 7/25/97 that poured bottles of gin down deep, funky grooves that build to a fast, techno-funk and eventually encounter the “Makisupa Policeman.” The Went “Gin” (8/17/97) is viewed by some as among the most outstanding jams in Phish's entire history/ The thrilling “Gin” from Winston-Salem (11/23/97) alone demands visiting the Hampton/Winston-Salem '97 boxed set; the longest “Gin” to date – at a splash more than thirty minutes – this second set-opening version leads the band into heart-pounding rock and roll traditionally more suited to “Antelope.”
The Riverport “Gin” poured on 7/29/98 is often noted as the best of the amazing “Gin” year of ‘98, preserved on LivePhish 17. ‘99 kept the pressure on, with excellent versions to be found on 7/26/99 and 12/2/99. Of course, it would have been unseemly to not have a glass of “Gin” during The Show at Big Cypress. This version ranks among the most delicious ever, as Page, Mike and Trey scatted along with their instruments for most of the jam, draining the bottle, then passing the mints before turning on the television lights for “Heavy Things.” 6/28/00 GSAC anchored an outstanding first set, and the tour – and Phish 1.0 – closing 10/7/00 “Gin” electrified Shoreline with a thrilling jam of pure energy.
A little over two years on the wagon, post-hiatus found a crowd still thirsty for exotic “Gin” flavors. February ‘03 has a lifetime Hall of Fame “Gin” roster all its own: 2/14/03 The Forum, 2/22/03 Cincinnati, and 2/28/03 Uniondale each rank among the best ever.
Early Phish 3.0 witnessed many excellent versions, including 7/31/09 at Red Rocks, and the must-hear 8/7/09 offering at the majestic Gorge. Bethel Woods (5/28/11) gave us the “GoldenGinTeca” (a mash-up of “Golden Age” and “Manteca” teases). 6/8/12 is yet another fine pour from the Centrum, while Dick’s was splashed nicely on 8/31/13. The finest of “Gin” sprinkles the ‘14 landscape, including standout versions on 7/3/14 at SPAC, 7/11/14 at Randall’s Island, and 11/2/14 in Vegas. 2015 saw “Gin” in the lead-off slot of one of the best sets in 3.0, 8/12/15 II at The Mann. The pride of 3.0 “Gin” is clearly that offered on the biggest possible stage, the 21-minute monster to close the first set on 8/21/15 at Magnaball; while certainly the class of 3.0, this is an all-time top version… no qualifier, full stop. The 12/30/15 MSG version runs in excess of fifteen minutes, anchoring a strong NYE run opening gig.
Don’t forget, you can’t fill up the “Bathtub” without The Hose. However, when enjoying “Gin,” please do so responsibly.