a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics

Guelah Papyrus

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Marshall

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

Albums: A Picture of Nectar, Hampton Comes Alive, Live Phish 07, Live Phish 10, Chicago '94

Debut: 1991-02-01

Historian: Jeremy Welsh, Julia Mordaunt

Since first appearing on setlists in early 1991, “Guelah Papyrus” has become a favorite original over the years, and more recently, a relative rarity. During the early nineties “Guelah” rarely went more than two or three shows before being performed again, but as the band’s original song list grew, the fly was slowly disappearing. The song consists of three distinct sections – “Guelah Papyrus,” “The Asse Festival,” and “Guelah (The Fly).” Despite one last solitary performance of “The Asse Festival” at the Capitol Theater on 4/27/91, these three sections have not been played separately since the trio’s initial performance. “Guelah” regularly appeared at shows from 1991 to 1994 before steadily allowing more time to lapse between each performance. 1995 through 1997 saw only a handful of “Guelah” performances. At the Hampton Coliseum in 1998, fans were treated to a super tight rendition, forever engraved in Phish history on Hampton Comes Alive. “Guelah” has made five subsequent performances to date – 7/17/99, 9/22/99, 7/3/00, 9/18/00, and 3/7/09. During the interlude between “The Asse Festival,” and “Guelah (The Fly),” the band often inserts a pause. A rather humorous instance of this occurred at the 10/7/94 gig, where the band decides to take an extra long pause. Trey takes full advantage of the silence by slipping in some banter, thanking everyone for coming to the show, and reminding them that they are going to debut a new tune later in the evening. And, of course, there is the dance that goes along with this song, performed by both Trey and Mike. It involves a knee lifting, hoping and swinging motion, that fits perfectly into play with the beat. At the Great American Music Hall on 10/18/91, Trey gave a brief explanation of “Guelah Papyrus.” “This is a song about a Mother,” he confesses. Trey then continues to explain that when he was younger and hanging out with Tom Marshall and Dave Abrahams, Dave’s mother -- whose name was Geulah (pronounced the same as Guelah) --would knock on the door to his bedroom, come in and pull Dave out into the hallway, spoiling all the fun they were having. Hence the lines, “And through the bedroom door intrude / A fretful frown and spoil the mood.” Other meanings that are drawn from the song include a ballad about a fly and her journey around the planet, absorbing all she can for every member of her clan. See Also:The Asse Festival

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seag1508 Reply
I was watching "Carl Sagan Cosmos" recently and the 11th episode of the series entitled "the persistence of Memory" talks about how books made humans the first species to be able to store information outside their bodies. this made me think that "guelah papyrus"(specifically the refrain section) told the story of how we collected knowledge over the centuries. "aboard a craft bereft of oar I rowed upstream to find Lenore. Abducted by a bandit or. A king from some forgotten war" We are lost in life and have to find our way with out any help (aboard a craft bereft of oar). and then through researching history and learning the past we paddle upstream. then the refrain "This is the work of the guelah papyrus" paper is papyrus so because of paper we have history. "Stranded for a moment on the ocean of Osyrus" Osyrus is the god of death so we are lost in a see of the knowledge of our past ancestors and of course we all die.
"Absorbing all she can for every member of her clan" trying to learn as much as possible to benifit all man kind from paper and the past
"Expanding exponentially like some recursive virus" our knowledge is ever growing and at a faster and faster rate. And last "maybe i could be a fly and feed arachnid as I die" we have almost no significance in the cosmic universe about as much as a fly and very little significance compared to preserving our species as a whole so why not just be a fly and feed a spider. when you study history and the natural world. this is the conclusion we come to. that's my take

Score: 6
JuggleuUu Reply
'Geulah' is a Hebrew name meaning redemption. It fits in very nicely to what seag1508 wrote.
Score: 1
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