Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2016-02-16
Trey and Tom Marshall composed “Grind” while they were in the Cayman Islands writing songs for Billy Breathes. “Grind” was eventually left off the album – something Tom considered to be a “bad decision” – and did not appear until the encore of a 1998 Madison Square Garden holiday run show (12/30/98) where it was dedicated to a friend of Tom’s. Tom and Trey subsequently revisited the song as an acoustic duet during the 3/31/01 Amfibian show at Higher Ground. In 2004, it finally made the cut for Undermind.
Being an original composition, the first performance of the song was a slight departure from the holiday tradition wherein Tom would sing a typically tongue-in-cheek version of a cover song with the band. The brief yet profound “Grind” consists of a short poem set to a delicate lounge-y piano tune. The poem describes a person who can bend in 68 ways, someone who has lived for 12,000 days, who has 28 teeth inside of their head, which grind 3 types of things, and is sad that they’re dead.
"Grind" – 8/8/09, George, WA
Doing the math finds that Tom was about 12,000 days old when the song was written. The 68 degrees of bending suggest that he is perhaps a practitioner of yoga (or in search of the 69th way of bending). Though no dental charts have been inspected in the preparation of this document, he presumably has 28 teeth. The final mystery in this sphinx-like riddle is: what are the three types of dead things that his teeth grind? Perhaps they are animal, vegetable, and mineral.
Tom reprised his guest vocals with Trey on acoustic guitar at Trey's 11/14/05 McCarter Theater show in Princeton, NJ. The Undermind a cappella version of "Grind" debuted at Hampton (3/6/09) with each member of Phish recounting their individual (each now over 16,000) and the band's cumulative (over 65,000) days alive. “Grind” was in fairly regular rotation throughout both legs of the summer 2009 tour, before dropping off in frequency. Just when it appeared “Grind” would not be played at all in 2010, it closed the third set of the New Year's Eve show at Madison Square Garden, which, strictly speaking, occurred in 2011, technically making it the only time the song appeared that year as well. Let’s split the difference.
The subsequent 1000 or so days was far less difficult to divide evenly. “Grind” would appear three times each of the following years from 2012 through 2014. The set placement distribution of these nine versions was less fair however, with more than half appearing within their respective show’s encores, including during both of the next two (12/29/12 and 12/31/13) NYE runs at MSG. The four remaining performances of this nonet were perfectly balanced between first and second sets, with both of the first set performances opening their respective shows (7/7/12 SPAC and 8/3/13 BGCA) and both of the second set performances closing those second frames (10/29/13 Reading and 4/26/14 New Orleans). Always seemingly open to try new positions, the 8/11/15 Mann “Grind” served as first set closer for the first time.
"Grind" – 12/31/10, New York, NY