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Performances Song History

The Overload

Vocals: Fish

Original Artist: Talking Heads

Original Album: Remain in Light (1980)

Albums: Live Phish 15

Debut: 1996-10-31

Historian: Mark Toscano

If "Listening Wind" is a bittersweet requiem for the purity of unsullied life and culture, then “The Overload” is a death dirge for the same, a depressing epilogue in which jackhammers, televisions, and interchangeable-blade hand blenders emerge victorious over trees, breezes, and birdsongs. This song tells us that something unknown and horrible is coming – or has it already arrived? It’s a drone, one repetitive, shattering chord, the nihilist, zombie twin of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” We’re doomed. The song is imperfect, marred by occasional tears and holes in its sonic weave. On the original, David Byrne’s vocals just barely float above its leaden waters, in a sort of insomniac haze, like Caligari’s Somnambulist telling us we’ll all die at dawn.

All misery aside, Phish’s version to close the second set on 10/31/96 went in a completely different direction. They made it into theatre, choosing a U2 meets Brazil way of expressing the song’s feelings. Chaos slowly erupted onstage, and many fans present can’t remember what exactly happened. Whatever did happen, it featured a jackhammer, Phish bus driver Dominic Placco, a megaphone, all the band’s instruments, lights and smoke, four multi-media screens, a power drill, an Electrolux vacuum cleaner, a Black and Decker skillsaw, and Colonel Bruce Hampton. Draw your own conclusions.

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