Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Goodman
Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Last Update: 2013-12-20
"Bathtub Gin" is one of Phish’s most distinctive songs. Drawing together many 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. Fishman’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.
The first four years of its life, “Bathtub Gin” offered few great improvisations. This particular libation first flowed on 5/26/89 and was warmly received. In its early years, it provided Page with an opportunity to shine on the piano, and Mike a chance to bellow “Bathtub Gin!” at “the bottom” of his lungs. During this era, the jam following the song was short and centered around the song’s main theme.
"Bathtub Gin" – 10/31/89, Plainfield, VT
All this changed in 1993. On 8/13/93 at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis, Phish filled the Bathtub to overflowing. The Murat version charted new territory for “Gin” when, for the first time, the jam led to sundry and diverse improvisation. Featuring enthusiastic cries of “Riding in the Bathtub!” from the whole band, “Weekapaug” teases, and stop-on-a-dime tempo shifts, the Murat “Gin” is required listening for the tub aficionado. From then on, the opening notes of the tub signaled the possibility for glorious, improvisational bliss.
Even though the Murat “Gin” broke new barriers, Phish did not seem completely comfortable jamming on the song until 1995. While the occasional “Gin” fulfilled the hopes of fans, 1994 was a spotty year overall, as most versions failed to meet the high water mark set on 8/13/93. One notable exception is the short but most sweet performance on 5/20/94 at Evergreen College.
It was 1995 that solidified “Gin’s” place among songs like “Tweezer” and “You Enjoy Myself ” on the top shelf of improvisational vehicles. “Gin” had great moments in November (see 11/24/95), but in December it carved a deep notch at the table. The 12/5/95 UMass version quickly left the limping tub jam in favor of hard rock and roll, followed by tight, syncopated interaction between Mike, Page and Fishman. 12/5/95 was great, but this was only a warm-up 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 “Real Me.” After a pounding ride through that song, the music that emerged slowed, more “Gin” was poured, returning to the main “Bathtub” theme. This Gin and Tonic essential is better known as “The Real Gin.”
1996 is an often-overlooked vintage for “Gin” but don’t leave the bar before checking out 11/7/96 at Lexington’s Rupp Arena. 1997 was a huge year for the tub, reaching and surpassing the expectations that had been set in August of 1993. Be sure to visit 7/25/97 that poured bottles of gin down deep, funky grooves that built to a fast, techno-funk that eventually had a run in with the “Makisupa Policeman.” The 8/17/97 Great Went version gradually built and grew from beginning to end and is viewed by some as one of the most outstanding jams in Phish's entire storied history.
The “Bathtub” from Winston-Salem (11/23/97) sat down at the table of all-time great jams. 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” than “Gin.” The jam eventually quiets down to feature beautiful, understated interaction between Trey and Mike, before dissolving into space, out of which emerges “Down with Disease.”
In just a few short years, “Gin” had transformed into a museum-worthy improvisational showcase. The “Gin” poured on 7/29/98 is often noted as the best of the amazing “Gin” year of 1998; this bottle was so special that it was placed on the Shelf of Honor as filler for Live Phish 17. 1999 kept the pressure on, with excellent versions to be found on 7/26/99 and 12/2/99.
“Bathtub Gin” also made an appearance at Big Cypress during The Show. 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.” The Big Cypress version propelled “Gin” into “Phish 2000!” Some components of the Phish world slowed and sputtered on the way to the hiatus; “Bathtub Gin” didn’t get the memo, and hurdled toward interstellar space. 6/28/00 anchored an outstanding first set, and a few days later (7/3/00) “Gin” caught the attention of the thunder and lightening gods. The tour closing 10/7/00 “Gin” electrified Shoreline with a thrilling jam of pure energy.
"Bathtub Gin" – 2/14/03, Inglewood, CA (Part 1)
"Bathtub Gin" – 2/14/03, Inglewood, CA (Part 2)
A little over two years on the wagon, post-hiatus found a crowd still thirsty for exotic “Gin” flavors. 2/14/03 was poured so well that it prompted Fishman to note immediately afterward that it “sounded awesome” – a commentary that can be heard on the Live Phish download. 2/22/03 anchored a second set so good that even “Friday” couldn’t put out the fire in Cincinnati. The 2/28/03 version stands as one of the best ever, and would be the highlight of hundreds of other shows; we checked, and “Gin” is thankfully not hungover for being overshadowed by the “Destiny” breakout and the asteroid-crash “Tweezer” from the same gig. The offering in Miami on 12/30/03 was compact but energizing, opening the door to “2001” and setting the stage for the crowd to get all funked up.
Phish 3.0 has already witnessed several excellent versions including 7/31/09 at Red Rocks; the must-hear unfinished 8/7/09 offering at the majestic Gorge; flowing out of "Jibboo" on 8/12/10 at Deer Creek; and 10/30/10 Atlantic City (with a "Whole Lotta Love" tease). Summer ‘11 saw a string of very strong versions: the “GoldenGinTeca” (mash-up of “Golden Age” and “Manteca” teases) from 5/28/11 Bethel; 6/12/11 Merriweather; and 6/14/11 Alpharetta (scorching jam followed by a thrilling “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone”).
"Bathtub Gin" – 10/30/10, Atlantic City, NJ
Not just for breakfast anymore, “Gin” is occasionally poured in contexts other than Phish. Trey brought the bottle to his solo acoustic sets in 1999, first breaking it out on 5/4/99 at the scene of the original improvisational crime, the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis. On 5/11/99 in Washington, D.C. Trey dedicated “Gin” to the author of its lyrics, Susannah Goodman. Solo acoustic performances by Trey are comparably common and can be found on 2/26/01 in Cleveland, 7/18/01 Red Rocks, as part of the encore closing the 1st annual Bonnaroo Music Festival on 6/23/02, 8/10/05 Chicago and 10/23/08 Boston, among others. On 8/3/01 at Jones Beach, “Gin” was poured uniquely as a duet with Mike on electric bass and Trey on acoustic guitar. Finally, Trey and Dave Matthews offered acoustic duets at several of the performances of Dave Matthews and Friends including 12/17/03 at MSG and 1/14/04 in San Diego.
Don’t forget, you can’t fill up the “Bathtub” without The Hose. However, when enjoying “Gin,” please do so responsibly.