Historian: Chris Bertolet (bertoletdown)
Last Update: 2016-02-15
“Fuego,” the second track of Phish’s 2013 Halloween performance of Wingsuit and the opening title track of the band’s 2014 studio release, arrived with the markings of a Phish classic. It evokes a small handful of cherished dance-rock originals like “Birds” and “Character Zero,” but it’s more ambitious in structure – built on a series of movements that are distinct from one another, yet consistently danceable.
The title “Fuego” refers to an actual sports coupe produced by French car company Renault between 1979 and 1995. Apart from its outstanding gas mileage (it was rated at 39 mpg on the highway) and its shock-proof sticker price, the Fuego was perhaps best known for a quasi-sleek body design that suggested a DeLorean’s malformed sibling. Renault discontinued the Fuego in the United States market in 1985, the year Trey turned 21.
The automotive motif marries “Fuego” to “Contact” and “Cars Trucks Buses” in Phish’s tidy little “car song” family. Like “Guyute” and “Vultures,” the lyrics paint a disturbingly hilarious vision that manages to cram in Dracula, madness, The Book of Revelation, and the larcenous exploits of a fellow named Diego. As for the rest, you’ll just have to wrestle with it a while, and you’ll probably change your mind quite a few times. You know the drill.
The main riff that precedes the verses in “Fuego” is lifted from a soundcheck jam performed before the flood recovery benefit show in Essex Junction, VT, on 9/14/11. The studio version of “Fuego” introduced a new and final verse, but otherwise retained the song’s spirit of absurdist grandeur. In a radio interview shortly after the album’s release, Fishman described his opening drum part as “‘50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ played really loosely and kind of wrong... slowed down.”
Three versions of “Fuego” – all played in July of 2014 during a summer tour in which all stops but one were graced with the song – are considered must-hears: SPAC 7/4/14, Mann 7/8/14, and Portsmouth 7/30/14. Hint: Mann’s the longest, so start there. Sometimes, but not always, bigger is actually better.