a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History

Keyboard Army

Also Known As: Keyboard Cavalry

Music: Anastasio/Fishman/Gordon/McConnell

Vocals: Instrumental

Albums: Live Phish 01

Debut: 1995-09-27

Historian: Mark Toscano

It's name coined by fans who just didn’t know what the heck to call it, “Keyboard Cavalry” was a phenomenon with half the life expectancy of its sister song, “Acoustic Army.” Whereas “Acoustic Army” was performed over the course of 1995’s two tours, “Keyboard Cavalry” only made appearances during the fall tour that year.

At the tour’s opener on 9/27/95, something odd happened after the band’s debut of the still-incomplete “Billy Breathes.” Page started repeating a pleasant piano riff over and over, while the rest of the band abandoned their instruments one by one. Fish, Mike, and Trey marched, slowly and single file (as if possessed), across the stage, each of them stopping in front of one of Page’s other keyboards. The three of them then joined Page’s simple riff on their respective keyboards, each playing a distinct riff of their own. The result was a pleasant tune that was sweet and bucolic, all the while leaving the crowd dumbstruck. The short, four-voice song repeated many times, until a melodic ascent came out of nowhere and the music stopped. Then it began again. After the second stop, Fish, Mike, and Trey retreated back to their own instruments much in the way they had left them, with Page still repeating his initial riff as accompaniment.

No one was quite sure what to make of this one, although it was apparently related to “Acoustic Army” (which had debuted 6/7/95), another experiment in combining individual musical parts to produce a pleasant aural composite. This song surfaced 15 times over the course of the fall ‘95 tour (on 10/8/95 it appeared twice!), often occurring in the middle or at the end of a jam. For interesting examples, check out 9/30/95 Shoreline (“Mike’s Song” -> “Keyboard Cavalry” -> “Weekapaug Groove”) or 12/14/95 Binghamton (its final performance coming out of a “Tweezer” jam).

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Recommended Versions: 1995-09-30, 1995-12-14

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