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Performances Song History Lyrics

Waste

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall

Vocals: Trey (lead), All (backing)

Albums: Billy Breathes, Live Phish 12, Sharin' in the Groove, Still Phishin', Coral Sky, The Clifford Ball

Debut: 1996-06-06

Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)

Last Update: 2012-07-30

A quintessential example of Billy Breathes stripped down simplicity, “Waste” hints of a slacker anthem. Starting with Trey’s solitary guitar, the song’s protagonist casts aside the masks of role and occupation, expressing longing to waste time with the object of her love. An optimistic interpretation suggests a love song with a thinly veiled ironic twist because, in this view, love isn’t a waste at all. More cynical views hold that the song isn’t ironic in the slightest: both the song and love itself represent a “waste”; or, alternatively that the song represents a superficial sentimentality targeted to the lowest common denominator. 

Cherished by many fans, “Waste” certainly has its share of detractors. The potentially tender moments of the song and it's almost pop-like qualities gnaw at the soft underbelly of many in Phish’s hyper-geek fan intelligentsia. On the other hand, Billy Breathes in general – and “Waste” in particular – sparked an appreciation of Phish by mainstream media, who praised the “new-found accessibility” of both the music and lyrics. Rather than representing a temporary departure from the generally more complex and cerebral nature of their previous offerings, “Waste” in many ways represented a turning point, a new layer to Phish’s stylistic onion, and a precursor to later offerings such as “Bug,” “Secret Smile," and "Joy."



Phish, “Waste” – 2/16/97, Cologne, Germany

“Waste” made its Phish concert debut at a unique performance, the stealth “Third Ball” gig in Woodstock, NY on 6/6/96. At this show Trey noted that “Waste” still didn’t have an ending. While on all other occasions performed in Phish’s typical electric setup, “Waste” was performed as part of mini acoustic sets on 8/5/96, 8/13/96, and 8/16/96. An outstanding version of "Waste" can be found on 6/14/97 in Dublin, including an extended improvisational segment that led joyfully astray from the normal bounds of the song’s concluding jam. Representative versions can be found on 8/13/96 (Live Phish 12), 12/11/97 in the encore slot, prominently closing the second set at the 20th Anniversary gig on 12/2/03, late in the second set of the 3/6/09 comeback gig at Hampton, and in the middle of the highly-regarded second set from 6/3/11 in Clarkston, MI. “Waste” has remained in light to moderate rotation in Phish’s repertoire since its debut, with no notable gaps to date.



Phish, “Waste” – 5/23/00, New York, NY

“Waste” has also made a number of noteworthy appearances in contexts other than Phish. On the Mockingbird Foundation’s first CD, Sharin’ in the Groove, Dave Matthews offers a solo, acoustic interpretation of “Waste.” The Dave Matthews Band subsequently covered “Waste” seventeen times during 2001 and 2002. “Waste” also found prominent placement in Dave Matthews and Friends performances with Trey during their winter 2003-04 tours; Trey and Dave performed “Waste” acoustic and shared vocals during the encores of 12/16/03 in Boston and 1/12/04 in Seattle, among others. 

Co-authors Trey and Tom Marshall have performed the song as a duet twice, during Trey’s acoustic sets on 5/13/99 in Binghamton, NY, and on 11/14/05 in Princeton, NJ. Duets with Trey and Mike can be found on 5/14/05 Hammerstein Ballroom and 7/18/06 in Toronto during the G.R.A.B. set, the latter with Mike on banjo. The Phil Lesh & Phriends April ’99 lineup that included Trey and Page performed “Waste” during a private rehearsal on 4/12/99; however, it didn’t make the cut for any of the three live performances of this quintet at the Warfield Theatre. Trey has also performed "Waste" solo acoustic on the majority of his solo tours.

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JonStraw Reply
I always viewed this song as a message from the band to the phans as kind of a "thank you" for loving them for just who they are. The first two verses have the singer claiming to not want to do everything a working rock & roll band must do: Sometimes on a stage, other times writing songs, performing to people (sometimes during the day), always on the run from city to city, searching for the hit song that puts them on the top, but not knowing what to do if that peak doesn't come. Ultimately, it seems that the singer would just like to be playing to the listener, and hoping the listener wants to be there too.
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