My Friend, My Friend
Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
Historian: Christian McKee, Craig DeLucia
“Is this a dagger I see before me?” -The Tragedy of Macbeth, William Shakespeare
"My Friend, My Friend” is one of the tunes in Phish’s repertoire that bridges the gap between compositional complexity and sing-along simplicity. The lyrics, with their references to knives and bombs are among Tom Marshall’s most unsettling, lacking the giddy smiles of so many Phish songs. Some have even written near-treatises drawing connections between “My Friend, My Friend” and that most unsettling of Shakespeare’s works, Macbeth.
The guitar intro recalls Phish’s earlier, composition-focused days. That distinct melody was written as a companion piece to portions of the music that would become “Guyute,” though the story of that ugly pig would take two more years to complete. The two related works were first performed as one by the Vermont Youth Orchestra; their version of the couplet appears on the Sharin’ in the Groove tribute album. Phish has only performed the completed songs side-by-side once, perhaps coincidentally, on 11/21/95, though "Guyute" was teased during the 7/31/98 "My Friend My Friend."
When played as a show opener (its most regular slot since 1994), the guitar tremolo gives the audience plenty of time to anticipate the musical chaos that is barreling its way. Featuring an introduction reminiscent of Jethro Tull and leading into a crunching, almost heavy metal groove, this piece gives Phish a great vehicle for warming up both the audience and their chops. Not only are there moments of tight composition and hard grooves, but also unstructured, viscous, spacey noise. In these measures of sonic assault, Fishman often takes the opportunity to shine (see 10/24/95). Trey’s playing can be equally frenetic, as on 7/3/95 when he used his microphone stand as a guitar slide. For folks who harbor fantasies about performing with Phish, this song provides a glimmer of hope: the chanting voices on the studio version are the voices of fans recruited with the help of a radio station near where Phish was recording.
Along with so many other songs from Rift, this one debuted on 3/6/92 in Portsmouth. At the time, Trey introduced it as “Knife,” and not until the album was released did the official title come to light. “My Friend, My Friend” varies little from performance to performance, with a few exceptions. Some versions have featured Trey on acoustic guitar for the opening (see 2/3/93), while the version from 5/5/93 was wrapped around “Manteca.” 6/21/94 is memorable for a couple classic rock teases and jams.
In recent years, “My Friend, My Friend” has become a charming rarity; after appearing regularly through 1996, it has only logged two or three appearances per year since. 7/25/99 is the most memorable, running through a rocking triplet of “My Friend, My Friend,” “My Left Toe,” and the breakout return of “Whipping Post," and 7/12/00 is notable for being unfinished.