Tweezer

Originally Performed ByPhish
Appears On
Music/LyricsAnastasio/Fishman/Gordon/McConnell
VocalsPhish
Phish Debut1990-03-28
Last Played2016-10-29
Current Gap2
HistorianCharlie Dirksen (icculus), Shaul Wertheimer
Last Update2016-03-05

History

If there is a single Phish song that can be said to evolve with and exemplify Phish’s sound and artistry over the decades, it’s “Tweezer.” “Tweezers” from each consecutive era have yielded very different styles of improvisation and, in fact, even tour-to-tour “Tweezer” can change rather profoundly. After several decades, the song’s funky intro continues to serve as a launching pad for some of Phish’s most experimental playing. “Tweezer” has been jammed in excess of 50 minutes (6/14/95 Memphis), has been woven like a fine shirt (5/7/94 Dallas, 12/1/94 Salem), and has yielded some fiery Hose-inducing jams (11/30/95 Dayton, 12/2/95 New Haven, 9/3/11 Dick’s, 7/31/13 Tahoe, 8/7/15 Blossom).

Making its debut as “Tweezer So Cold” in March 1990, “Tweezer” allegedly grew out of a soundcheck jam that occurred before the 12/31/89 New Year’s show. It was toyed with a little bit before the “Bowie” on 2/25/90 in Baltimore, before being finalized during the 3/3/90 Wetlands soundcheck. Mike comments in The Phish Book that not only did he invent the “Tweezer” bass line, but also that the “freezer” of the song’s lyrics is the state of Vermont. (He was kidding.) Apparently, upon hearing Mike’s bass line, Trey came up with the guitar part instantly.

”Tweezer” – 12/30/94, New York, NY

The earliest “Tweezers” featured a closing segment (a few measures of the opening theme) after the jam segment died out. Although shortened around April 1991 (compare 3/29/91 with 4/27/91), this slow, dying-out-of-the-main-melodic-theme ending appeared consistently in "Tweezer" throughout most of its history when the jam failed to segue or fade-out into another song. Early “Tweezers” of note include 4/27/91, which contains strong “Sweet Emotion” jamming and “Dr. Q on bass." Another excellent version was played on 4/21/92, featuring a charming, melodious jam segment. Many fans also love the Roxy version on 2/20/93. While Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” appeared on occasion in early “Tweezers,” most early versions were dark and dissonant, and not particularly melodious.

The first “Tweezer” that strayed unusually far from home – but which was not a monster of epic proportions, like 11/2/94 – is 5/6/93 Albany. After a somewhat traditional groove for the first few minutes, including some intense “Sweet Emotion” quoting, particularly from Mike, the jam takes on a frighteningly aimless and peculiar mood for several minutes. It returns to a powerful rock theme, however, just before a spine-tingling, mellifluous improvisation develops. “Tweezer” would be forever changed, and the August 1993 versions bear this out – behold the unusually inventive 8/15/93 version.

One of the most popular “Tweezers” was performed on 5/7/94 at the Bomb Factory. Jammed off and on for almost an entire set, the "Bomb Factory Tweezer” is immersed in several other great tunes and jams (“Sparks,” “Sweet Emotion,” “Walk Away” and “Cannonball”), which weave in and out of a “Tweezer” jam. The set concludes with a magnificent jam based on the “Hold Your Head Up” theme, and a strong “Tweezer Reprise”. Although a fan favorite to this day, it is not the only “Tweezerfest.” Phish performed one twenty years after the “Bomb Factory” behemoth, when on 7/27/14 at Merriweather Post “Tweezer” was performed in and out of “Back on the Train,” “Free,” and other songs for half of the second set.

"Tweezer" – 11/22/97, Hampton, VA

1994 yielded a number of excellent “Tweezers” in addition to “Bomb Factory,” such as 6/10/94 (unusually powerful jam); 7/6/94 (jams on “2001” and “HYHU” and "Who Knows" teasing); and, of course, 7/13/94 (“Tweezer” > “Julius” > “Tweezer” -> “BBFCFM” -> “Tweezer”). But even greater excitement came on 11/2/94 in Bangor, Maine. Featured on A Live One, the 11/2/94 “Tweezer” is spectacularly playful and just over 30 minutes long. “Tweezer” had never before been jammed out in such a loose, experimental manner.  And then, shortly thereafter, Phish performed other highly improvisational "Tweezers" on 11/23/94, and again on 11/28/94 in Bozeman (approximately 45 minutes long), a two minute, four second portion of which appears on A Live One as “Montana.” Phish was not over, however, performing several legendary versions in December as well: the 12/1/94 version sandwiches “BBFCFM,” “Makisupa Policeman,” and “NICU;” and the 12/9/94 “Tweezer” switches back and forth from intense space to typical rock jamming numerous times, and also features a full-blown jam on “Slave to the Traffic Light.”

The experimental “Tweezer” also showed up several times in summer 1995, and has appeared far more recently as well. The momentous 6/14/95 Memphis “Tweezer” is around 50 minutes long, and is more a symphony with movements – a masterpiece of improvisational artistry – than simply a rock song. It contains some great space, and Mike lays down a captivating bass line. At the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center on 6/22/95, “Tweezer” was jammed for almost the entire set. The "FLeezer," as it came to be called, featured some “My Generation” (The Who) vocals, heavy exploration, and a nice segue into “Tweeprise.” The “Tweezer” on 6/28/95, which (like 11/2/94) is around a half-hour long, featured the most serious “Dave’s Energy Guide” jam of the decade about 19-20 minutes into it, as well as a “Cannonball” jam (see also 5/7/94). More recently, Phish performed a spectacular “Tweezer” in Lake Tahoe on 7/31/13. It soars through a host of improvisational landscapes for 36 minutes, the longest version on record since the “FLeezer.” 

”Tweezer” – 11/24/98, New Haven, CT

Among the most inspired tours that Phish has ever performed, fall 1995 contained astounding musical explorations in “Tweezer” and numerous other songs. You will likely revisit the 10/22, 11/19, 11/3012/212/8, and 12/14 versions to hear them again. Their intense jams are often more reminiscent of “Antelope,” “Bowie” and “Possum” than “Tweezer’s” typically discordant jams. 

“Tweezer” was relatively calm in 1996 and most, but not all, of 1997. A “Norwegian Wood” jam graced the Red Rocks 8/6/96 “Tweezer.” In Gainesville on 11/3/96Karl Perazzo from Santana wailed away on percussion in what was arguably the finest version of that year. While still riding the tsunami caused by Halloween, this version portended the Funk Renaissance that took full effect in 1997. Its jamming is dense and heavy with a textured feel, much like the Remain in Light 10/31/96 set, and the “Crosseyed” -> ”Antelope” from 11/2/96. The 11/27/96 “Tweezer” harkened back to the “Old Days” with a brief “Sweet Emotion” quote. And the summer 1997 Gorge and Great Went “Tweezers” signaled the song’s rescue from a brief retirement.

Fall 1997 “Tweezers” raged with a funk so deep that many fans became stuck in its licentious depths, able only to mutter “Step into the Freezer,” while grinning in wild-eyed wonder. Traditionally a second set jamming tune, “Tweezer” began appearing in the first set of fall ‘97 shows, even opening the show on two occasions (11/17 and 11/26) much to the surprise and excitement of fans. The 11/22 Hampton “Tweezer” is a part of one of the most thrilling sets in Phish history, and its segue into “Black-Eyed Katy” is ferociously funkalicious. The 12/6 version is not only the longest “Tweezer” of ‘97, but also probably the most popular ‘97 version. It is essentially a hybrid of the 11/30/95 Dayton “Tweezer” and James Brown’s “The Payback.”

”Tweezer” – 7/31/13, Stateline, NV

Though it appeared less frequently in 1998 than in most previous years, “Tweezer” nevertheless continued to serve as an exciting opportunity for the band to jam (see, for example, 8/1, 10/30, and 11/24). “Tweezer” in 1999 was no slouch, either (check out 12/16), and in 2000, visit the 6/9/00, 6/24/00 and 10/07/00 versions.

During Phish’s “2.0” period (2003-2004), "Tweezer" was never as magnificent as the finest versions from the 1990s, with one notable exception. At Nassau Coliseum on 2/28/03, the band proved that they could still take “Tweezer” to spectacularly beautiful places. And more recently, in the “3.0” era, “Tweezer” has often been stupendous. In fact, there are a host of “must hear” versions, including Tahoe 7/31/13 noted above, that moves hearts and minds for over a half-hour; Camden 6/7/09, with its “old school” beauty to conclude the second set; the “Zeppeleezer” in Atlantic City on 10/30/10, when "Tweezer" included various (incomplete versions of) Led Zeppelin tunes, specifically, “Heartbreaker,” “Ramble On,” and “Thank You,” before closing with "Stairway to Heaven;” Dick’s 9/3/11, which even a JadedVet™ could love given its melodic, transcendent interplay; MSG 12/28/12, a 20-minute wild ride that peaks as awe-inspiringly well as the best; Magnaball 8/22/15 (aka “Tweezerpants”), that segues mightily into “Caspian” and then passionately vanquishes it, tweezerfying its jam; and MSG 1/2/16, that arguably gets better with every listen.

”Tweezer” > “Prince Caspian” – 8/22/15, Watkins Glen, NY. Video © Phish.

For more information on the development of "Tweezer," including ratings and reviews of numerous Phish songs, please visit the Phish.Net legacy reviews site. And for a chart-based listing of excellent versions, please visit the “Tweezer” Jamming Chart.

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