Vocals: Mike (lead), Page, Trey (backing)
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2016-03-01
The pubescent faces of many prairies of the American west are inflicted with a curious pimple-like geomorphic feature called Mima Mounds. The origin of these mounds, which are typically about seven feet high and several dozen feet across, is a hotly contested issue. Explanations for their existence range from the burrows of giant prehistoric pocket gophers, to seismically coalesced piles of loose surface sediments. These mounds are fairly uniform in size and shape, and few if any are markedly different from their pimply peers. The same can be said for the Phish song “Mound,” though any relationship between the song and the Mima Mound is purely coincidental.
“Mound” was written by Mike Gordon as a brain-freeing exercise. The result of this exercise is arguably the most poetic of his compositions, telling the tale of an old man suffering the grand rewind of his life as he faces death and his own burial mound.
"Mound" – 11/16/95 West Palm Beach, FL
The lyrics were developed through the brain-freeing exercise that involved Mike taping himself as he vocalized to the tune of the song. He then listened to the tape of his spontaneous vocalization and wrote lyrics from what he heard. This process was repeated many times until the song, which was recorded for Rift, was compiled. Some of the lyrics which did not make it into the song are included in the liner notes of the album. Another lyric that did not make it either into print or the final version of the song (for not so obvious reasons) was “The dangling bearded crab-man has hoofs coming out of his ass. They surround his turds like birds, coming out from other guys’ asses.”
“Mound” debuted at the spring 1992 tour opener (3/6/92) in Portsmouth, NH, and was in fairly frequent rotation from then until fall 1995. The 5/7/94 “Mound” lurks in the first set shadows beneath the legendary mountain of music that was the second set at The Bomb Factory; this show was thankfully released as Live Phish 18. “Mound” was played only four times in 1996 and did not reappear for the duration of the pre-hiatus Phish era. Oddly enough, the simple blues progression that opens the song is now found in the intro to “Dogs Stole Things,” which (although itself a relative rarity) debuted in 1997 shortly after “Mound” disappeared. Quite comically, unlike “Dogs Stole Things” which stays locked into the standard blues timescale that opens both of the songs, the pace of “Mound” begins to accelerate and results in a brief period of frustration for clapping fans that were unable to keep the beat.
Mike Gordon, "Mound" – 3/5/11 Eugene, OR
Over six years and 276 shows later, “Mound” resurfaced during the first set of the 12/31/02 hiatus-ending New Year’s Eve festivities at MSG; it disappeared as suddenly, and went unplayed for the years that followed. Inexplicably, "Mound" was not performed during either of the KeySpan Park shows in 2004 or the 2009 tour opener at Fenway Park. Rather than bust it out in the home of the Red Sox, "Mound" was saved for the Red Rocks of Morrison (8/1/09). "Mound" made its only 2010 appearance during the 12/27/10 Worcester, MA portion of the NYE run.
Most of the live performances of “Mound” by Phish is not much different than the original studio version; however, several other other “must hear” versions of the song do exist. “Mound” made its non-Phish debut with Mike's "other" band on 3/5/11 at the McDonald Theatre in Eugene, OR, a few minutes before the song turned nineteen years old. This extended version of "Mound" starts with Mike leading the crowd through some arm-stretching exercises to prepare for clapping, an elongated bluesy intro, and throughout the song there were a few too many notes for a standard version from Tom Cleary's keys, Mike's bass, and Scott Murawski's guitar. The crowd was last seen "Taking it to the Streets" of Eugene with big smiles on their collective "Mound"-covered faces.
"Mound" – 6/5/11, Cincinnati, OH
Another unique version of “Mound” was played by Phish at the Electric Ballroom in Knoxville, TN (2/18/93) and featured Fishman on Trombone and Mike and Trey playing through their monitors after the soundboard shorted out. If you seek further improvisation (governed by the crowd no less!) the “Mound” from Bloomsburg, PA (2/11/93) was followed by a “Big Ball Jam.” More recently, on 6/15/11, some inclement weather served up the first divided “Mound” to an Alpharetta crowd besieged by thunderstorms. As the storms rolled in for safety purposes both the song and the first set were abruptly ended. When the storm was gone, the band picked up “Mound” where they had left off to open the second set. The next performance of the song (7/3/11 Superball IX) was also noteworthy for an atypical outro jam. In the dozen or so performances that followed through the 7/3/14 SPAC version exactly three years later, the musical landforms have regained their more uniform structure and regular appearance. The lone 2015 performance, though back on the infield at The Glen (8/22/15 Magnaball), was similarly unremarkable.