Punch You In the Eye
Also Known As: PYITE
Historian: Michael Preston, Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
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.” A favorite of many, “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 set the scene of one of Phish’s most stimulating songs.
“PYITE” wasn’t fully developed until well after Trey completed The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, and so it isn’t technically part of the Gamehendge saga. However, the song’s story obviously takes place in that mythological land. Introduced in 1989, “PYITE” follows the story of an aimless kayak journey whose narrator and protagonist suddenly finds himself in the land of Prussia. After a hostile encounter with the evil king Wilson, he’s enslaved and tossed into a tiny shack. The feelings and thoughts that he experiences are illustrated through the instrumental section, which is an elaborate composition consisting of a descriptive guitar melody and a Latin beat. This instrumental section was later performed by itself as “The Landlady,” and can be heard on A Picture of Nectar. Beginning in 1993, Mike and Trey perform ‘The Landlady Dance’ while the drums and keys hold down the groove.
The narrator manages to escape by heading back out to the rough sea. As he leaves Prussia, he chants his hatred towards Wilson by saying: “Wilson, someday I’ll kill you ‘till you die!” He does not make his getaway unscathed, however. Wilson holds a piece of paper to the poor guy’s tender nipple before he gets away.
After 11/9/89, “Punch You in the Eye” disappeared from the live rotation for four years. “The Landlady” section was excised from the song, and many figured that the trials of the kayaker had been heard for the last time. However, after a 413-show absence the song reappeared on 2/5/93. Since its return “PYITE” has been a fixture in the setlist, with no notable gaps to date.
The song is not considered a jamming tune due to its tightly woven structure, and versions typically vary only by precision of execution. The only minor evolution since ‘93 is that the opening groove has become a lot longer and a bit funkier. Some strong versions of "PYITE" appear in widely available shows you should definitely check out anyway, such as 12/31/95, 12/13/97, 12/30/97, 8/9/98, 10/31/98, and 12/31/99.
As was the case with several songs that rely on focused energy and precise execution, “PYITE” lost a bit of its vitality as the band "loosened" considerably as the band headed into the hiatus, and it only made only four appearances in "Phish 2.0." Conversely, "PYITE" seems to have regained some of its lost spunk in Phish 3.0, with solid representative versions to be found on 6/14/09 at Bonnaroo and opening the highly-regarded 8/14/09 Gamehendge-infused Hartford masterpiece.