The Birds

Originally Performed ByPhish
MusicPhish
Lyrics ByJimmy Johnson
VocalsLaura Olsher (Narration Samples)
Phish Debut2014-10-31
Last Played2018-07-22
Current Gap67
HistorianTim Wade (TheEmu)
Last Update2014-11-17

History

Crows are considered one of the world’s smartest animals. They make tools. They solve puzzles. And when they gather, we call that a murder.

On Halloween 2014, Phish brought ten horrific stories to life, using the 1964 Disneyland Studios album Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House for inspiration. The penultimate tale of terror was one of ornithophobia: “The Birds.” Laura Olsher’s narration sets the scene... 

Some people keep birds as pets in their homes
Not you...
You fear the feathered creatures with their sharp beaks
and clutching talons
And the birds seem to sense your terror
For each time you step outside your house
They attack!

The birds that Phish then summoned were not the frantic, swarming mob of Hitchcock. These birds were organized, callous, and lethal. They were gangsters, out for profit or sport. Their eyes held no pity, but a cracked grin betrayed the glee of a fresh kill. Their weapon of choice was mechanical rather than beastly, talons traded for a top hat and a tommy gun. Propelled by bursts of fire from Fish, a Cactus strut, flagrant groove and ferocious licks, this was a prolonged, calculated, unrelenting assault by avian hit men.

Image
Image © Rachel Cooper (Curious Creatures @ Deviant Art)

The song is part funk-nasty, part Jimi, and altogether deadly. Though the entire set was steered by the diabolical MC Neon Cellgap, the samples he dropped during “The Birds” provided one of the night’s takeaway tropes. The exclamation “They attack!” instantly entered the fan lexicon, and along with “Your trip is short!” from “Martian Monster,” became the motto for the weekend. Phish reinforced this the following night by quoting the phrase (naturally) during “Birds of a Feather.” Given the placement of “They attack!” samples during stop/start segments of “The Birds,” it’s even possible that the ubiquitous “woos” will now have competition in the audience participation department.

Some fans think that the Haunted House compositions will be forever entombed in our memories of Halloween 2014, but if any of the songs are going to be part of the rotation, “The Birds” would be a top candidate. It has the kind of attitude and energy that could either kick off a set or take a jam to another level. A Phish crowd would be well advised to keep one eye on the sky. Be prepared, because it’s when you drop your guard that THEY ATTACK!!

”The Birds” – 10/31/14, Las Vegas, NV

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