Historian: Mark Toscano
"Leprechaun" has jigged around the stage of a Phish show only three times, and its hard-core appreciation among fans that have heard it makes it one of the rarest and most coveted gems in Phish’s canon.
This gentle, incandescent tune came out of Trey’s mid-’93 songwriting, a period that also gave birth to the first incarnation of “Guyute,” which wouldn’t debut at a Phish show until over a year later. The approach to composition in both songs is very similar. Trey’s extended instrumental pieces from years past (“Fluff’s Travels,” “The Divided Sky,” and “Reba,” to name a few) were more strongly constructed from interlocking, sharply defined melodic and harmonic bits to create a clever and complex sonic whole. Trey often played around with theoretical and intellectual properties of music in constructing these tight compositions, an approach that came both from his work with Ernie Stires and his interest in progressive rock bands like Genesis and King Crimson. As he grew compositionally, his influences expanded, and his approach to song composition gradually changed, though not nearly as much as in the years since 1993. With Rift behind them, the band sought out something new and different, as the complex and intellectual trappings of that album had bogged them down a bit. Songs like “It’s Ice,” “Rift,” and “All Things Reconsidered” are excellent, but all of them and more on one album sounded a bit too musically masturbatory, and the band felt it more than anyone.
In the move from complex, multi-part composition eventually to more simply conceived and strongly grounded songs like “Waste,” “Farmhouse,” and “Prince Caspian,” a few songs showed up that fit in neither category. “Guyute” and “Leprechaun” are still multi-part and complex, but in a more textural and substantive way than Trey’s earlier work.
“Leprechaun” glides, floats, dips, turns, and skips. It feels grounded in an earthy reality, not at all theoretical or heady. Both songs also suggest that Trey perhaps revisited the memories and experiences of his Ireland trip in 1987, thematically and compositionally. Additionally, both “Leprechaun” and “Guyute” are composed to encourage more cohesion between the four band members. His earlier compositions voiced each instrument in a more distinct, disparate way, while these two ‘93 songs were arranged to create an overall harmonious sound.
“Leprechaun” is a perfect moniker – the title alone evokes an image of the blissfully verdant travels of a leprechaun amidst the fields, trees, and streams of Ireland, a dance here, a nap there, and pausing to feel the cool breeze against his face. Comparisons to other songs include “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday,” “Acoustic Army,” “The Squirming Coil” (listen to Mike’s bass), and even to The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” (compare that song’s bridge to “Leprechaun’s” “chorus”).
“Leprechaun” runs about four and a half minutes in length, twice the length of “I Am Hydrogen,” its nearest counterpart in the peaceful instrumental category. The comparison is doubly just, as “Leprechaun” supplanted “Hydrogen” between “Mike’s Song” and “Weekapaug Groove” in the second and third of its three performances (7/17/93 and 7/31/93). Its debut, curiously following “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” and slipping into “Runaway Jim,” occurred on 7/15/93.