Original Artist: Trey Anastasio
Historian: Jeremy D. Goodwin
The desire for salt and other spices motivated much of the sea-borne world exploration of past centuries, a historical trend that resulted eventually in the extension of the European sphere of influence to the Far East, and the conquering of North America by white nations. Although the New World was rife with natural resources to be exploited for profit, it was spice that inspired Columbus to seek a better trade route. The allure of spices seems mysterious to the school child who ponders the matter. However, considering that there were in these times no efficient means of refrigeration, and that the only way to preserve meat over any length of time was to salt it heavily, the desire for spices is understandable.
The quest was fraught with danger, and often futile. It’s easy to understand the difficulty. For instance, if Columbus had traveled across the expanse of the Atlantic to North America during 2003, he would have had to end up specifically in Phoenix or Shoreline to receive any “Spices.”
Indeed, this new song was sprinkled heavily on the first week of tour (appearing in two of the first four shows), but after that the Phish stew went unseasoned by this Trey/Tom composition. Whereas several Round Room songs and other summer ’03 debuts remained in rotation through much of the year, “Spices” would not be played again in 2003. The song entered the Phish canon by way of a broken promise. “Spices” originated in the repertoire of Trey’s solo project, appearing three times as a solo acoustic number. At San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre on 5/30/03, Trey remarked to the crowd that he wouldn’t play the song with his main gig until the band returned to local shed Shoreline Amphitheatre. However, on the first night of summer tour ’03, in the sweltering environs of Phoenix, Arizona, Phish indeed played “Spices.” Trey atoned for this indiscretion by opening the show in Shoreline three nights later with “Spices,” in a new-school duo of “Spices” > “Waves.” In fact, both appearances of the song have come either preceding or following “Waves ”– a tic that never became a trend, but one that reminds of the nautical history of the quest for spices.
There’s no obvious reason why these rare “Spices” should be jettisoned over the side of the ship of Phish exploration. The song includes an instrumental introduction that reminds of “Pebbles and Marbles,” a “tag/you’re it” prog-rock section, some delightfully jazzy drumming from Fish throughout, and a jam that’s already bursting with flavor in its early state. It also includes intriguing lyrics about a woman from the speaker’s past descending before him upon a rain cloud, and themes of loss, regret, and temptation.