Vocals: Mike (lead), All (backing)
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2016-03-01
The opening theme of “Meat” is a hybrid of the basic groove core of the “old” “Ghost” and a stop-on-a-dime break-down jam – reminiscent of the Worcester (11/28/97) and Philadelphia (12/2/97) “Ghosts” and the Albany (12/13/97) “Mike’s” -> “Groove.” In the breakdown jams of fall 1997, one band member would be the featured funkmaster, getting down with his bad self while the rest of the band looked on in amusement. Unlike those breakdown jams, the full stops in “Meat” are deafeningly silent. They leave the listener hanging, with the sound of their heartbeat ringing in their ears.
The verses of the song feature the voice of Mike Gordon. The first is sung by Mike alone, and is followed by a chorus sung by Trey, Page, and Fish. Following verses are sung by Mike in unison with the chorus repeated by Trey and Page, with an alternate Fishman chorus in which he sounds like a member of Cameo during a particularly fly rendition of “Word Up.” In the Story of the Ghost album version of “Meat,” this Fishman chorus is processed and robotic, à la the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic.” The lyrics are mysterious ghosts of Gamehendge tales untold which have a distant kinship to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart.” They tell of a man deluded, convinced he is happy alone. Sitting in silence waiting for a call, he listens to the living, flocking outside, beyond his self-imposed wall.
“Meat” debuted on 7/2/98 at the Grey Hall in Freetown, Christiania, Denmark. It was at this show where the song was identified by Trey as the second part – or “duology” – of the Story of the Ghost trilogy (which includes “Ghost” and “Fikus”). The prince who thinks he has it all made, his only other appearance in Europe emerged from “Julius” of the second set of the 7/6/98 show in Prague. “Meat” was one of a host of new songs played at the 7/15/98 Portland Meadows U.S. summer tour opener, officially released as LivePhish 17. Another serving on 11/27/98 in Worcester was also released on LivePhish 06.
“Meat” remained a staple in the diet up through the first hiatus, with notable versions in the 12/30/99 performance at Big Cypress, and a reprised slice of “Meat” on either side of a “Maze” in Nagoya, Japan on 6/13/00. “Meat” was served up following “Runaway Jim” on 7/21/03 at Deer Creek for its only 2.0 appearance. “Meat” has remained a sparing part of the diet since Phish returned to the stage in 2009, in a very light rotation of once or twice per year – see 11/29/09, 10/12/10, 8/9/11, 7/1/12, 8/2/13, 9/1/13, 7/30/14, and 8/2/15. Of these recent performances, the 2013 BGCA “Meat” is the best cut.
Although Phish has trimmed down on "Meat," it became a repertoire staple of the Mike Gordon’s ‘other’ band. Among Mike’s early performances were a few special guests: 7/4/08 at High Sierra with Ivan Neville, and 7/6/08 at Rothbury with Trey. Be sure to also seek out 3/13/11 from Aspen, CO version with Victor Wooten on a second bass, or for a more recent version from Mike's non-pescetarian ensemble, seek out 3/9/14 at Madison’s famed Barrymore Theatre, or the thick slice of groundhog from the 2/2/16 Crystal Ballroom show in Portland.
Mike Gordon, “Meat” – 6/20/15, New Haven, CT