a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics


Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall, Herman

Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)

Original Artist: New York!

Albums: Farmhouse, Alpine Valley, Ventura, Lullaby Versions of Phish V2, Amsterdam

Debut: 1997-06-14

Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)

Last Update: 2015-09-15

"Dirt" is one of the most simple – and decidedly dark – songs in the Phish repertoire. The sparse lyrics evoke images of death, perhaps suicide; a radical disconnect from love, and life itself. In a typical Anastasio twist, these gloomy lyrics are juxtaposed against “ho-hum, happy-day” whistling intro. Trey once noted that the swirling, soaring guitar refrain against the “shout your name into the wind / never hear your voice again” of the song’s conclusion was influenced by the composer Maurice Ravel. The result is a song of ethereal beauty that belies the song’s morbid theme of ultimate escape.

"Dirt" – 6/22/97, Koblenz, Germany

“Dirt” made its public debut on 5/21/97 at Burlington’s Club Toast by the one-off band ‘New York!’; this initial live version is difficult for performers and listeners alike. Fans of the song should also check out the acoustic demo by Trey and Tom Marshall on Trampled By Lambs, or the 6/14/97 Phish debut to visit the song’s early roots. 

“Dirt” saw heavy rotation in its debut year (twenty appearances in the six months after its debut alone) and it remained in setlist fixture through 2003. Absent from rotation in 2004, "Dirt" returned in Phish 3.0 on 6/4/09 at Jones Beach, and has since been in two-to-three appearance per year rotation, excepting 2014 when it was not played at all. A mood piece with no improvisational expansion to date (or likely), representative versions can be found in otherwise outstanding shows including 7/1/97 Amsterdam, 12/29/97 MSG, 10/10/99 Albany, 8/1/09 Red Rocks, 10/25/13 Worcester, and 8/23/15 at Magnaball.

Fans of the song will also want to visit Trey’s solo acoustic performances, including 2/15/99 Higher Ground, 11/5/05 Cincinnati, or 2/27/11 Chicago.

"Dirt" – 8/23/15, Watkins Glen, NY

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