Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall
Vocals: Mike, Page, Trey
Historian: phish.net song history staff
Last Update: 2014-09-16
On I-70 in central Utah, there’s a particular piece of Interstate known as “The Wedge.” On this stretch of road, the highway funnels and squeezes through two massive, pyramid-shaped blocks of sandstone. Perhaps not coincidentally, Tom Marshall’s lyrics to “The Wedge” reference taking the highway to the “great divide,” an image punctuated by the thought of that sandstone on I-70.
With a catchy sing-along chorus (which, in The Phish Book, Tom noted was inspired by Neil Young’s “Thrasher”) punctuated by an infectious beat and featuring some wonderful bass bombs, “The Wedge” was a longtime resident in a select group of songs: always requested but rarely played. Following its 1993 debut it roared out of the gates, but was on the shelf by the end of summer and was bypassed entirely in 1994. After its breakout in the summer of 1995 “The Wedge” was only played once in 1996 and twice in 1997 before coming back to rotation in 1998.
The band had continuously made minor modifications to “The Wedge” until 1998. They experimented with a drum intro and a piano intro, with numerous 1993 soundchecks circulating as testament to the ongoing experiment (see the 8/24/93 soundcheck, complete with Trey’s comments on the band’s tinkering.) A representative version on Hampton Comes Alive (from 11/21/98) demonstrated the complete evolution of the song.
Tom Marshall’s own band, Amfibian, frequently played “The Wedge” and recorded a studio take for Sharin’ in the Groove. This version, at 8:30, clocks in slightly longer than the average Phish version… but far shorter than their first studio take, which reached 45 minutes in length! Trey joined Amfibian to assist in their live rendering of the song on 11/18/00 at Higher Ground. Beginning in 2011, Trey has also performed "The Wedge" during several of his solo acoustic sets.
"The Wedge" – 6/12/11, Columbia, MD
Certain Phish versions of “The Wedge” are notable for their lyrical references, such as 8/17/97 (“Limestone blocks so large” in Limestone, ME) or any of the Red Rocks versions (8/20/93, 6/9/95 and 7/30/09), where the venue literally sits after one takes the highway to the great divide. At the 20th Anniversary show on 12/2/03, the band seemed to acknowledge that they definitely had come so very far in the last twenty years.
For whatever reason, "The Wedge" came back into favor in 2009, as it was performed more times than in any year since its debut in 1993. Thankfully, recent versions are not merely plentiful, they are also quite good. Recommended versions include 6/3/11 (a powerful first set closer), 12/31/12 (with a very atypical closing jam) and 7/12/13 (a silky segue out of “Cities,” which itself was littered with “Wedge” beats from Fish). On 7/20/14 at Chicago’s Northerly Island, “The Wedge” went type-II for the first time, exploding out of its shell after emerging as the meat of “Mike’s Groove," unleashing a completely unexpected and thrilling type-II jam that rivalled the best from that three-day weekend stretch.
"The Wedge" – 7/20/14, Chicago, IL