Also Known As: Fuckerpants
Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Last Update: 2015-10-02
“Prince Caspian” borrows liberally from the mythical prince in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, specifically the second book in the series, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, which in 2008 was made into a movie. The song’s lyrics speak of a man who yearns to be the boy prince, “afloat upon the waves.”
Fans were not sure what to make of “Caspian” when it first debuted on 6/8/95 in Salt Lake City and on the subsequent appearances that summer and fall. Glass half full, the song featured a pretty melody and often built to a strong conclusion; glass half empty, “Caspian” stops a positive show flow dead in its tracks. Twenty years later it feels much more natural, but when “Caspian” was new, this type of attempt to reach for the “big arena anthem” was still a bit of a stretch, and would often fall somewhat flat. Phish altered the song in the summer of 1996, adding the jam and the false ending that appear on Billy Breathes. While most early versions cover similar ground, some versions worth hearing from 1996 include 8/6 Red Rocks, 11/22 Spokane (flowing into “McGrupp”), and 12/4 San Diego (sandwiched in between “Mike’s Song” and “Sparkle”).
“Caspian” has endured its share of abuse from fans, though most of it being of the good-natured ribbing variety. Some love the song, while others view it as a bathroom break; even the song’s most ardent detractors will concede, however grudgingly, that the jam portion can sometimes be great. Still others dubbed the song “Fuckerpants” for reasons that are simultaneously obvious and laughable. There can be little doubt, though, of Trey’s affection for “Prince Caspian” – a defining repertoire fixture, “Caspian” has never had anything close to a notable performance gap in over twenty years, with a one-time max of eighteen shows separating setlist appearances.
”Prince Caspian” – 11/6/98, Madison, WI
“Caspian” didn’t really catch the cow funk wave, but the band began stretching the jam segment in select spots in 1997. Notable versions include 6/19/97 Vienna, Austria; closing the third set of The Great Went on 8/17 (the third set setlist was perplexing, but it was a good “Caspian”); 11/21/97 (first-set closer in Hampton); and the monster 12/12/97 Albany version that featured a “Llama”-esque jam section before yielding to “Izabella”.
“Caspian” had still yet to take a place alongside beloved Phish jamming classics, but the late 1.0 period saw a wealth of excellent type-I versions of “Caspian” in high-profile slots, including: 4/5/98 Providence (Island Tour classic with a sweet segue from “Ya Mar”); 7/20/98 Ventura (on the Ventura box set); 12/30/98 MSG (at a shade over fourteen minutes the longest to date, with extended intro and outro segments); and the stunning offering on 7/31/99 from the Field of Heaven Stage at the Fuji Rock Festival in Niigata, Japan, which was made available as a LivePhish download to benefit victims of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
The most memorable “Caspian” from this period, though, is from 11/6/98 in Madison, WI, when a naked guy jumped onto the stage and was taken away by security, which sparked a scorching jam segment that really needs to be seen and heard to be believed. This event scarred the band severely enough that some future versions of the song “Carini” included lyrics referencing the event.
This period also saw “Caspian” as one of only a handful of Phish songs performed at the legendary Warfield “Phil Lesh and Friends” run, on 4/16/99 wedged between “Bertha” and “St. Stephen.” Curiously it has never taken hold in Trey’s projects outside of Phish, though for the true “Caspian” aficionado, be sure to check out Trey’s solo acoustic performances within TAB gigs including 5/7/99 St. Louis, 11/18/05 Albany, or 2/22/11 New York.
”Prince Caspian” – 7/31/99, Niigata, Japan
“Caspian” remained in regular rotation in 2.0, but didn’t make much of a mark on an era focused on so many other jam vehicles. A few of those that reached a little higher include 2/14/03 at the LA Forum, 7/19/03 Alpine Valley, and 7/27/03 Raleigh. When Phish returned to the stage in 2009, they kept “Caspian” on an especially tight leash. If you are really itching for that classic early 3.0 “Caspian” one could visit 7/3/10 Alpharetta or 5/27/11 Bethel Woods. Then there was the curious case of 8/17/11 Chicago, when “Caspian” completed in a brisk 3:36, by a good margin the shortest known version, in the same set with by far the shortest known version of “Ghost.” It wouldn’t be until the middle night of the massive Dick’s run of 2012 (9/1/12) for “Caspian” to leave a mark, a very strong version offering more than a solid bridge between “Golden Age” and “Light” and forming what was at the time one of the best improvisational third quarters of 3.0.
A few years passed with perfectly pleasant but mostly benign versions… until a funny thing happened, on the biggest stage, on 8/22/15 at Magnaball. During the second of what would turn out to be four sets on the day – which had already featured an extended romp through “46 Days” – Phish wound down a soaring seventeen-minute “Tweezer” jam, and Trey settled in on “Caspian.” The set was 55-minutes in and had featured two massive jams, so one might have expected “Caspian” to do its business and set up a rocking closer. Instead, the irresistible force of the jamming vibe was too thick to ignore, and suddenly the fact they were playing “Caspian” was a very movable object. They essentially dropped back into the main jamming themes present in the leading “Tweezer” and even included a full “Tweezer” tease for good measure. This “Caspian” (dubbed “Tweezerpants” by some fans, though “Tweezpian” by Kevin Shapiro on the next day’s From the Archives show on The Bunny) is the real deal, the first “Caspian” to truly “go huge” in terms of extended improvisation. Twenty years a Phish song, by far the best version played was in 2015. Chew on that. Your bathroom break is no longer safe, jaded vet!