Punch You In the Eye
Also Known As: PYITE
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2016-02-21
When the lights go down, few sounds pump up the crowd more than an upbeat, muted riff from Trey’s guitar – the telltale sign that Phish is going to play “Punch You in the Eye.” “PYITE” is a pounding, invigorating, and yet astoundingly simple song. The beginning of the song is a steady pulse played in ‘A’. This one chord progression (yes, one chord) is all the song needs to light the fuse on one of Phish’s universally explosive eight-to-ten minute dance parties.
“PYITE” wasn’t unearthed until well after Trey completed The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, so it isn’t technically part of the Gamehendge saga. However, the song’s story – which took at least six years to be completely formulated – obviously takes place in that mythological land. The first traces of this tale materialized as part of the lyrics to “Punch Me in the Eye,” a curious one-timer performed on 4/24/87 Billings Lounge at UVM) that gave a completely different third person overview of the tête-à-tête between “Wilson” and his captive, then receded into the dismal fog for two years.
”Punch You in the Eye,” 8/17/96, Plattsburgh, NY
When our kayaking protagonist returns to The Front on 8/17/89, he recounts first hand the events of his voyage to the land of Prussia, his capture by the land’s evil king and his henchmen, their chair binding, nipple torture and shack imprisonment, and his subsequent Houdini and kayaked escape into the maw of the storm tossed sea. And, Scene! Cut to “Storm Dance,” the ensuing instrumental section, which is an elaborate composition consisting of a descriptive Santana-esque guitar melody over a Salsa beat. This instrumental segment was subsequently extracted and recorded as “The Landlady,” for A Picture of Nectar. The storm passes, the kayaker survives and reaches another chain of islands alee of that foul domain, all the while promising “Wilson, someday I’ll kill you ‘till you die!” “Punch You in the Eye” would appear five additional times in its 1989 rookie season, with the 10/26/89 The Wetlands performance delivering the most stunning blow for this weight class.
After the sluggish rope-a-dope delivered on 11/9/89 at Mission Park Dining Hall, the song disappeared from the live rotation for four years of strength training and fancy footwork drills to the tune of “The Landlady.” No doubt this clandestine training stage lead many fans to assume that the trials of the kayaker had been heard for the last time. However, after a 415-show absence, the now far more muscular pugilist returned to the ring at the Roseland on 2/5/93, a true second debut, complete with Trey narration featuring a demonstration of how to do the “Storm Dance” a.k.a. “The Landlady” is bitching at you dance. Upon its return, “PYITE” was a regular on the fight card, with a 37-show absence being the most notable gap between the song’s resurfacing and the band’s first hiatus.
”Punch You in the Eye,” 6/17/10, Hartford, CT
Although not considered a jamming tune due to having its fists encased in tightly laced gloves, most versions typically vary only by the precision of the jabs, “Punch” placement in the set, and the occasional mid-bout teasing. The only minor evolution since ‘93 has seen the opening groove become a minute or two longer and quite a bit funkier – see 8/16/97 for the apex of this trend – thereby allowing the tune to take up residence in the same space disco rave club scene as “2001.” Other notable sparring sessions from this welterweight era include the 11/9/95 Fox feint at “The Rover,” consecutive (11/30/96 Sacramento and 12/4/96 San Diego) “Get Up Offa That Thing” quotes, a “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” tease on 12/31/96 Boston Garden, a 7/9/99 MPP “Superbad” tease, Trey joining Page on keys 7/23/99 at Polaris, and the 5/6/99 Riviera Theater solo acoustic Trey debut wherein Trey whistled “The Landlady” segment.
“Punch You in The Eye” remained in a state of semi-retirement during the PED-era, only climbing inside the ropes on four occasions. In a time known best for its extended pain-killer fueled slugfests, the 2/20/03 Rumble at the Rosemont, the 7/22/03 Sheer Freak at Deer Creek, the 8/3/03 Shit Fit at IT, and the 8/10/04 Great Bloods at Great Woods were all atypically quick TKO’s considering the slam and jam boxing style of this dark and down phase of Fight Club.
Upon the band’s return from retirement in 2009, “PYITE” was a killing machine, stepping inside the Octagon a total of eleven times between the reunion run 3/7/09 Hampton and NYE run 12/31/09 Miami. Since enduring this exhausting schedule “Punch You in the Eye” has recorded six decisions in 2010, four in 2011, three in 2012, five in 2013, but only two each in 2014 and 2015. Over half of these 33 performances opened the segment (10 first sets, six second sets, and one third set) of the show in which they appeared. You just have to know when Phish takes the stage to this tune they are in effect announcing - in the style of Michael Buffer - “Let’s get ready to rumble!!!!”