a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics

The Moma Dance

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Fishman/Gordon/McConnell/Marshall

Vocals: Trey, Fish

Albums: The Story of the Ghost, Live in Brooklyn, Live Phish 17, Sharin' in the Groove, Live in Brooklyn DVD, Ventura

Debut: 1998-06-30

Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)

Debuted at the opening show of the 1997 fall tour as a delicious funk groove instrumental called “Black Eyed Katy,” “The Moma Dance,” by the summer tour of 1998, had become what may be the finest sailing song since “The Good Ship Venus.” Rather than describing a debaucherous crew of diseased pirates frigging in the rigging; the lyrics of “The Moma Dance” can be seen as the metaphorical sailing orders for those on board the flagship of the Phish armada; but that of course depends on your interpretation.

At face value, “Moma” is one of many songs in the Phish repertoire which in some way explores perhaps the most incredible boundary to be found on spaceship Earth: the surface of the sea. Closing out Story of the Ghost (“End of Session” notwithstanding) and actually containing a “Ghost” reprise, “Moma” is the cathartic response of the album’s protagonist to the implications of “Wading in the Velvet Sea.” Realizing he won’t find moments (when he is) in the box, faced with a biting rain blowing in his heartbroken soul, he rejects “the big swim” as an option, he chooses life, his “Ghost” tells him to get up that rigging, take in the sail, mind the skipper and we’ll not fail, he’ll bring out wine, all will be fine, just hear the order, watch the sail! The moment ends. Each of us faces these seemingly crucial increments of time every day. Perhaps an attempt to subvert millennial paranoia, the song is an assurance that the Gamehendge Time Factory is still in good working order, no matter how bad (or for that matter good) a moment may be, the moment ends, while yet another begins.

A second interpretation is that the song is in fact all about sex; either that involving a partner or even of the autoerotic variety. The pornofunk groove of the song certainly supports this interpretation; but what about the lyrics? Moma could easily be your hot loving “momma,” the dance would then no doubt be of the horizontal bop variety. “The steady slap” is obviously the sound of flesh on flesh. “The frothy cap” could point towards a well foamed diaphragm or an amyl nitrate popper. “The rigging” would certainly be familiar to anyone who has engaged in some form of bondage. Clearly “The Moma Dance” is all about sex. Or is it drugs instead? With talk of lines and rails, frothy caps, and taking (it) in the main, the idea of being blown far from shore takes on a whole new meaning. Either way, it’s all rock and roll to me.

"The Moma Dance” is sung by Trey and Fish, and the first live performance on 6/30/98 in Copenhagen, Denmark also included a demonstration by Trey of the dance itself. The title of “Moma” is another example of Phish Phonetics, cleverly transforming the moment ends lyric into a reference to a display of “The Rhombus” at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). In keeping with the groove oriented jamming style of 1998, “Moma” was in frequent rotation and was typically extended well beyond the length of the album version. Often the song would slowly evolve out of a “Black Eyed Katy” instrumental groove, finally kicking into the song itself. Other times “Moma” would begin with a brief funky intro, slide almost immediately into the song, and then close with the extended funk groove.

A live version of “Moma Dance” from the 7/15/98 Portland Meadows show was released on Live Phish 17. Other exceedingly danceable pre-hiatus moments which unfortunately had to end include: 7/19/98 Shoreline8/6/98 Atlanta; 8/15/98 Lemonwheel; 11/2/98 The “E” Center12/30/98 MSG7/18/99 Oswego; 9/24/99 Austin; 12/30/99 Big Cypress5/21/00 New York; and 7/11/00 Deer Creek.

"The Moma Dance" 10/3/98 Farm Aid

Despite the migration of “The Rhombus” from the MoMA to another museum in Houston (then eventually back home to its undisclosed location near King of Prussia), and a clear decline in the percentage of “cow funk” that was being stirred into the post-hiatus Phish sound in 2003, “The Moma Dance” was no stranger to the stage. With the exception of the 2/18/03 version, which opened set two and danced its way into “Limb By Limb, ”all of the 2003 “Momas” were placed in first sets, not unlike the bulk of the pre-hiatus versions.

The role of “The Moma Dance” has and will likely continue to be as a mid-set energy regulator; if the energy is low it will raise it, if the energy is high it will undoubtedly sustain it. The 4/15/04 Las Vegas “Moma” gave a nod to her black-eyed instrumental sire by opening with an extended introductory groove that bounced and jiggled around her Thomas & Mack Center birthplace. The version that followed at KeySpan Park (6/17/04) saw "Moma" get launched into the right field bleachers, unquestionably the MVP performance of 2004. Subsequent  performances have all been short, tight, sweet, and funky.

"The Moma Dance" 8/16/09 Saratoga Springs, NY

Submit notes/corrections

Recommended Versions: 1998-07-15, 1998-07-19, 1998-08-06, 1998-08-15, 1998-11-02, 1998-12-30, 1999-07-18, 1999-09-24, 1999-12-30, 2000-05-21, 2000-07-11, 2003-02-18, 2004-04-15, 2004-06-17

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majikpresto Reply
Clearly, someone heard the song being played (before it had a name), and thought they were saying "The Moma Dance, The Moma Dance" when they were actually saying "The moment ends, the moment ends". I think they named it The Moma Dance as a joke.

This is only a guess, but I think a better one than "the rhombus" reference above.
Score: 2
loclay Reply
Clearly it's a fan mishearing of "the moment ends" that stuck and became cannon. This is a fav song, and the least favorite "song history" i've read. It's imaginative, but could use a rework, IMO.
Score: 1
28rebounds Reply
I doubt the lyrics are a nod to the MoMA.

Tony Smith generally made 3 editions of each original piece. The sculpture that visited MoMA was not The Rhombus. Also, the piece mentioned from Houston is part of the permanent Menil Collection on display with other works by the artist.
Score: 0
makisupaman Reply
makisupaman The most recommendable version of 3.0 to my ears comes from 2011-07-01 @SBIX for its extended B-section, a novel treatment other songs received that weekend (Wilson, Mound).
Score: 0
MasterKung Reply
MasterKung how is Farm Aid not listed as recommended versions?? it RIPS!!
Score: 0
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