Vocals: Trey (lead), Fish, Mike, Page (backing)
Original Artist: Amfibian
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
To the entomologist in all of us, the life of an insect can seem blissfully simple. A “Bug” likely does not spend significant portions of its day pondering the infinite. The meaning of it all does not weigh heavy on the brow of the dung beetle. The existence of God is inconsequential in the everlasting search for the freshest heaving pile of waste. The lyrics of “Bug” evoke images of a much more complex being in the throes of existential wondering. As the swirl of their thoughts regarding God and (karmic?) debt faded, the grand conundrum of consciousness was best answered through the eyes of an insect.
Chicken or egg? To the “Bug” it doesn’t matter which came first. Worry? Don’t need it. Ego? Don’t feed it. Further compounding the meaning of it all is the variability in the lyrics between individual performances of “Bug.” Sometimes (I wonder), the chorus contains the phrases “don’t need it, don’t feed it, my thoughts faded, overrated” between the exhortations of the bug; and sometimes they don’t. The message appears to be the same either way… “It doesn’t matter!”
“Bug,” which musically sounds like a hybrid of Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” and the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See,” first scurried from its mound at the summer tour 1999 opener at Sandstone Amphitheater (6/30/99). Early specimens had been inspected prior to this Phish debut on several occasions by TAB (check out 5/8/99 Madison or 5/10/99 Asheville). Subsequent infestations during 1999 worthy of further inspection by budding Phish entomologists include the specimens uncovered at Great Woods (7/13/99), Vancouver (9/9/99), and the glorious late night Scarab Beetle which scuttled out of the Technicolor bouquet of roses plucked from the swamps of Big Cypress (12/31/99).
"Bug" – 12/31/99, Big Cypress, FL
The swarm of “Bugs” that followed the release of the Farmhouse studio version suggested that the hive was thriving .“Bug”-hungry “Birds of a Feather” should flock to the Radio City (5/22/00), Tokyo (6/11/00), and Toronto (7/6/00) versions for a tasty meal. Another “Bug” unleashed by TAB during the Phish hiatus (5/31/02 Vegas) included a guest appearance by Page.
The first glistening wet “Bug” to emerge from the cocoon of the hiatus belied its “Amfibian” origin as it wriggled from the powerful “Waves” that broke open the second set on 2/15/03 Vegas; unfortunately the insecticide was applied much too soon, its life was extinguished and the bright and shiny “Bug” became a “Ghost.” “Bug” made fairly frequent appearances throughout the summer 2003 tour, provided a perfect set three closer for the first night (8/2/03) of IT (doesn’t matter!), and held the distinct honor of being the final sentiments to be expressed at the 20th anniversary Boston show (12/2/03).
"Bug" – 5/23/00 New York, NY
Clearly the life of a “Bug” is far from overrated. More recent appearances of "Bug" have been in keeping with the late second set or encore setlist placement for the song; see for example 6/18/04 Brooklyn or 8/14/10 Alpine Valley. Be sure to visit the Alpine "Bug" (6/21/09), an early second set exception which was deeply embedded within the guts of a diseased worm.
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Cool article. Just one question though....who's Amfibian? It says they were the original artist. Did Phish cover this song?Amfibian is Tom Marshall's band.