Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Fishman/Gordon/McConnell/Dude of Life
Vocals: Trey (lead), All (backing)
Historian: Chris Bertolet (bertoletdown)
Last Update: 2015-06-04
From the uniquely twisted, post-punk psyche of the Dude comes this uniquely twisted march through madness. The structure is simple: our deranged narrator happily offers his contrary point of view (“I don’t care if the world explodes”) as synaptic chaos erupts on the heels of each verse. Suddenly, we’re back in the rubber room and all is quiet, save for the peal of a familiar guitar phrase. Yeah, that’s Jerry Garcia’s signature riff from the Grateful Dead classic, “Row Jimmy.”
Phish uncorked “Sanity” at Hunt’s on 10/15/86, played it about two weeks later on Halloween, and reprised it ten years later to the day before a slightly heftier crowd at the Omni in Atlanta. They played it rarely in between, and only a few handful of times since. In 1989, “Sanity” popped off like a hypoglycemic kid in a crank frenzy, and Phish sent it to the corner for a time out. After nearly three years of tough love and Ritalin treatments, the tune resurfaced at its original, lobotomized tempo.
"Sanity" – 11/28/09, Albany, NY
As a jamming tune, “Sanity” is rather straight-jacketed. Instead, it serves to create a special mood or energy, much like “BBFCFM” or “Icculus.” As such, it tends to rear its mercurial head at special shows, such as the 4/16/92 Anaconda gem, the legendary 12/31/95 MSG epic, the 8/15/98 Lemonwheel extravaganza (where it nestled snugly between “Gumbo” and “Tweezer”). Other notable versions include 2/13/87 UVM Slade Hall (with The Dude) and 9/13/88 at Sam’s Tavern in Burlington (Fishman’s first known public vacuum solo).
“Sanity” has remained a rare treat since Phish returned to the stage in 2009, when it served as the opener on the third night of the '09 Hampton reunion run. Other notables of recent vintage include 7/3/10 Atlanta (a loose but spirited reading in which Trey forgets the second verse and is reminded by a courteous fan down in front) and 9/2/11 at Dick’s as part of the “S” show. Curiously, the only performances in both 2013 (8/4/13) and 2014 (10/28/14) took place at the same venue, the cozy confines of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.
”Sanity” – 9/2/11, Commerce City, CO