Last Update: 2016-03-06
The Vienna Sausage, also commonly known as the Summer Sausage, long held the ignominious distinction of ranking second (behind a boys' choir) for the best thing to come out of the Austrian capital. All this changed one fateful evening in the summer of 1997, when a two-day session of tour break revelry and an empty hotel mini-bar led to the emergence of the “Meatstick.” The sausage was once again king.
The first public exposure of the “Meatstick” came about a week later (6/25/97) in Lille, France, as the now unforgettable chorus of the tune spurted out of a “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” tease at the end of a blistering diseased worm known to its friends as “Piper.” Later that year (11/19/97 Champaign, IL), this fragment of the “Meatstick” popped its head out of the tail end of a surprisingly extended “Fee” before it plunged into an equally aroused “Antelope.” During the Bearsville sessions for Story of the Ghost, additional lyrics were added and a studio version of “Meatstick” was recorded. Unfortunately for carnivores everywhere, the track did not make the album. Perhaps hanging its head in shame, the “Meatstick” was a no-show for all of 1998.
"Meatstick" – 12/31/99, Big Cypress, FL
However, it soon became apparent that 1999 was to be the year of the sausage. The new and improved “Meatstick,” featuring the added verses and an intro that is vaguely reminiscent of “Fire on the Mountain,” moved from its formerly vulgar lyrics to a more family friendly tone with "shocks" replacing "cocks" in the “whoa shocks my brain” lyric. “On a string” was still sung in the song, something that would be phased out after Big Cypress. "Meatstick" proudly emerged from the abattoir at the Lakewood Amphitheatre on 7/3/99. The now-legendary international dance craze – the “Meatstick” dance – was unveiled by the entire crew the following day in a reprise of the song at the conclusion of a monstrous “Carini” encore. It was suggested by Trey that the “Meatstick” dance would be bigger than the “Macarena.”
Representatives of the Guinness Book of World Records were on hand to film the 7/18/99 Oswego, NY performance; unfortunately the effort of the 60,000 on hand fell short. The first west coast performance of the “Meatstick” followed the inspired debut of “Sand” at The Gorge on 9/11/99. The “Meatstick” dance was introduced to west coast fans during the next performance of the tasty treat at Chula Vista (9/18/99). Be sure not to miss the version from 12/5/99 Rochester, a 14+ minute offering that jettisons the song structure entirely for Type-II exploration.
Those lucky enough to make it down to Big Cypress would find that 1999 was indeed forever to be known as the year of the “Meatstick.” A large copper “Meatstick” time capsule on display in the delta (of Venus?) just across a creek from the enchanted forest invited fans to deposit items that may be of interest to our descendants in the year 4020. Treats left in the capsule (which could be viewed through a porthole in its side) ranged from the sublime (psilocybin food of the gods) to the ridiculous (a ticket to Gloria Estefan’s New Year’s Eve show). The Show itself was to be a double-ended “Meatstick” that would please even the most insatiable. To the tune of a pre-recorded version “Meatstick,” the well aged tube steak that was first flown around the Boston Garden on NYE 1994 emerged from a giant fan boat and carried the band to the stage where they revived father time with a fresh supply of sausage they had brought along. As the hot dog (which has subsequently been donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland) was hoisted to the rafters above the stage, Phish began to play along to the taped “Meatstick” before sliding into “Auld Lang Syne.” The greatest of all Phish sets was finally brought to a close about seven and a half hours later as the “Meatstick” once again waded out of the gorgeous velvet sea that was the first sunrise of 2000.
The Meatstick Dance
Surely the “Meatstick” was to remain buried from then until 4020. Not so apparently, as a new flavor of the summer sausage was unveiled at the opening show of the Japan leg of summer tour 2000 (6/9/00 Tokyo) where a new verse of “Meatstick” was sung in Japanese. The Japanese lyrics, as taught to Phish by The Boredoms (who covered “Free” on Sharin’ in the Groove), are: “Meatosticku Jiuando, Meatosticku Kakushite, Meatosticku Toridashta, Jiuan, Do Do Atamaga Shock, Do Do Atamaga Shock.” Subsequent versions on the U.S. leg of the tour included both the original recipe (7/12/00 Deer Creek) and the new sushi-flavored (6/29/00 Holmdel, NJ, 9/29/00 Las Vegas and 10/7/00 Shoreline) varieties of Vienna’s grandest sausage of all. The Holmdel version is worth checking out for the additional lyrics regarding Pete Carini and the rest of the crew. The Deer Creek version is the last one to date to not have the Japanese lyrics – it appears to have become a permanent part of the song. By 9/22/00 Rosemont, it was clear that the crowds were huge fans of the song, as evidenced by the arena singing the chorus several times as the band dropped out of the song. Trey would go onto tease "Meatstick" multiple times in the subsequent "Antelope."
The placement of the first post-hiatus “Meatstick” suggests that it may have been elevated to the status of a rare delicacy, as the 8/2/03 IT version which included the Japanese lyrics and a brief yet interesting jam was clearly a treat for a special occasion. This notion was reinforced by the second set opening 4/17/04 Las Vegas performance of “Meatstick” which followed an en-masse set-break request from the crowd, included Japanese lyrics and a performance of the dance, and was followed by inclusion in both “You Enjoy Myself” and “Tweezer Reprise.” “Won’t you step into the Meatstick?”
"Meatstick" – 12/31/10, New York, NY
Phish decided it was time again for the “Meatstick” shortly after returning in 2009, with the only version that year coming at the 6/4/09 Jones Beach show. Played in a higher key than normal, this “Meatstick” planted thoughts of "Fire on the Mountain" in many a fan who was at the show. “Meatstick” has also served as a springboard for some excellent segues, charging into a blazing "Saw It Again" on 6/27/10 Merriweather and flowing beautifully into "Mango Song" on 8/13/10 Deer Creek, among others.
Shortly before midnight on 12/31/10, Phish transformed MSG into the International House of “Meatstick” as first a foursome of African tribesmen, then a Mexican mariachi band, then Hasidic rabbis, then Swedish ski bunnies, then German Oktoberfest celebrants emerged onto the stage to sing the lyrics in their native tongue. The multicultural celebration of the sausage that ensued as what appeared to be a representative from every nation on Earth took the stage; would be best described as a performance of “It’s a Small Meatstick After All!”
As this artfully crafted Broadway enhanced version of the "Meatstick" continued, the band was spirited offstage to the the other end of the arena where their trusty "Meatship" was waiting to transport them back to the stage. As the "Tropical Hot Dog Night" stunt dog, having been retrieved from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was unveiled and the clock counted down to midnight, the vocal arrangement for the climactic exclamation of “The Meatstick!” was borrowed from the final portion of the the song “Nobody Mourns the Wicked” from the musical Wicked. No doubt a vague tip of the “Meatstick” to The Doors’ song “Lament.” Nobody mourns the "Meatstick" for the song endures despite this over the top performance.
"Meatstick" – 7/30/14, Portsmouth, VA
All five of the 2011 performances of “Meatstick” were stuck in a second set slot, with the 8/5/11 Gorge version being most notable for coming behind the brain shocking “Rock and Roll” that opened the set. Similarly well placed was the last of four 2012 performances (8/31/12 Dick’s) which paired up with “Grind” as the encore of the “Fuck Your Face” show. The fourth of six performances in 2013 saw “Meatstick” reprise its role as part of the encore to the annual Dick’s joke, playing the part of the final “M” in the setlist which read in reverse spelled out “Most Shows Spell Something.” Whereas the last of the year Boardwalk Hall “Meatstick” (11/1/13) was a “bush and kush” infused edible that was quite tasty. On 7/30/14 in Portsmouth, VA, the sausage again escaped its structured casing and splattered the assembled guests with an atypical jam. Considering the tendency toward sophomoric Dick’s jokes, the last “Meatstick” of summer 2014, although in the right show (8/30/14), should have followed Trey’s explanation for “In A Hole.”
Four of the five subsequent “Meatstick” performances have been been in encore slots. Three of the four bonus frame performances (1/1/15 Miami being the exception) preceded “Character Zero.” The lone non-encore performance of this string of sausages was the third set opening 8/22/15 Magnaball “Meatstick” which served as the sustenance for the late night at the Drive-In which was to follow.