Split Open and Melt
Also Known As: Melt, SOAM
Music/Lyrics: Trey Anastasio
Albums: Lawn Boy, Stash, Hampton Comes Alive, At the Roxy, Live Phish 01, Live Phish 04, Live Phish 07, Live Phish 09, Live Phish 12, Live Phish 18, Live Phish 20, Walnut Creek, Hampton/Winston-Salem '97
Historian: Charlie Dirksen, Mark Toscano
Last Update: 2013-04-10
Since entering Phish's repertoire in 1989, “Split Open and Melt” (“SOAM”) has thrilled fans with its ferocious jams. “SOAM’s” complex improv segment is notorious for its time signature, which involves three sections of eight eighth-notes and then a fourth section with nine eighth-notes in a steady pulse (listen to Fishman’s hi-hat). This tune – now an integral jam tune often used to close first sets – first debuted in early 1989. The Lawn Boy version has curious origins: the band actually recorded “SOAM” and “Bathtub Gin” with the money and studio time they won at the 4/21 and 4/22/89 “Rock Rumble” in Burlington, a local battle-of-the-bands-style competition.
It was not uncommon for horn players to sit in on “SOAM” during its early years, as Trey was especially proud of the horn charts he wrote for the song. Check out the notorious 10/20/89 version, the first to include horns. During the intro, Russ Remington and Dave Grippo’s lights went out, preventing them from reading the music. Not to have the first horn-augmented version of his pet project be ruined, Trey stopped the tune and started it again. The first Phish album release to feature musicians outside the band, the Lawn Boy “SOAM” featured Joey Somerville on trumpet, Russell Remington on tenor sax, Christine Lynch on vocals, and Dave “The Truth” Grippo on alto sax. For their July 1991 Giant Country Horns tour, Phish performed a number of strong versions of “SOAM,” playing on its strengths as a horn tune while they had the chance.
Trey has mentioned multiple times that for a while, “SOAM” wasn’t really meeting its potential in their live performances, and as a result had been dropped out of rotation for some time. This all changed on the night of 4/21/93, when the band played an awesome, stretched-out “SOAM” that forever changed the way the band felt about the song, not to mention the approach taken to perform it. “SOAM” again became a regular part of the live show, re-invented for a new jamming outlook. The band thought highly enough of this change and the version that sparked it that they used the 4/21/93 “SOAM” jam as part of Hoist’s finale, tacked onto the end of the otherwise stunted “Demand.” Since ’93, the song has had its ups and downs, but consistently produces some of the band’s sickest and most mind-bending Type I jams. It’s the kind of song that seems to just get better with every version experienced.
“SOAM” has split open and melted the minds of fans on many occasions. Exciting, notable versions include: 4/15/89 and 10/22/89 (both with drum solos), 11/30/89 Boston (heavy “Dave’s Energy Guide” teasing); 12/30/92 Springfield; 4/21/93 Columbus (the “Demand” version); 5/13/94 Tempe; 12/7/95 Niagra Falls ("In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" tease); 12/28/95 Worcester; 7/23/97 Atlanta; 8/2/97 The Gorge; 8/10/97 Deer Creek (King Crimson’s “Larks Tongues in Aspic (Part II)”); 7/15/99 Holmdel (strong improvisation, with “Kung”); 12/30/99 Big Cypress; 7/22/03 Deer Creek (opening the second set, melting into “Free”); and 8/15/04 Coventry. Although most versions since Phish returned to the stage in 2009 are unremarkable, the 6/25/10 version from Camden showed flashes of the song's past brilliance. Also, the version on 10/20/10 in Utica, though not itself all that remarkable, sandwiched an amazing version of "Have Mercy" and a decent "Piper" (with a "Birds of a Feather" jam). Nevertheless, "SOAM" continues to be a strong tune in Phish’s repertoire.
"Split Open and Melt" 11/21/97 Hampton, VA (Part 1)
"Split Open and Melt" 11/21/97 Hampton, VA (Part 2)
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