Vocals: Trey (lead), Fish, Mike, Page (backing)
Original Artist: Amfibian
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2016-03-01
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" – 12/31/99, Big Cypress, FL
In keeping with the who came first dilemma (Trey or Tom?), the first hatch of “Bug” was actually in Amfibian form on 2/3/99 Princeton Campus Club featuring Scott Metzger driving a pretty sick jam. Trey subsequently inspected a few specimens with TAB (check out 5/8/99 Madison or 5/10/99 Asheville) prior to the song’s Phish debut.
A little over a month later and sounding like a hybrid of Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” and the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See,” “Bug” made its first appearance in a Phish setlist during the opening show of the summer tour on 6/30/99 at Sandstone Amphitheater. 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).
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.
"Bug" – 6/11/00, Tokyo, Japan
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 on 12/2/03.
Despite the fact that insects are usually attracted to decaying flesh, there were only two appearances of “Bug” in 2004 (6/18/04 Brooklyn and 8/9/04 Hampton). Since the revivification of Phish, “Bug” has resumed the semi-regular rotation it had enjoyed prior to the breakup, with four versions in 2009 and 2010, five versions each year from 2011 through 2013, three in 2014, two in 2015, and one so far in 2016. Twenty of the recent specimens have appeared during the second set with four of those being set closers (6/6/09 Great Woods, 8/14/10 Alpine Valley, 12/28/10 Worcester, and 12/28/11 MSG). Five other performances were tagged as encores (3/8/09 Hampton, 6/24/10 Camden, 8/9/11 Lake Tahoe, 7/19/14 Northerly Island, and 8/5/15 Starlight Theatre), two were hatched during the opening frame (7/6/13 SPAC and 8/3/13 BGCA), and the 10/31/13 Atlantic City and 12/31/14 Miami performances found “Bug” in the rare third set slot the tune had previously occupied at IT.