a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History


Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Fishman/Gordon/McConnell

Vocals: Trey

Albums: Fuego

Debut: 2013-10-31

Historian: Parker Harrington (tmwsiy)

Last Update: 2014-07-19

Fans walked into Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ on 10-31-13 for the second run of Halloween shows at this venue and the first since the band played here for the 2010 run, with exceedingly high expectations and suspense as to what album choice Phish would don as their musical costume. Unlike past years, such as 2010, where the Halloween show culminated the run and tension built through the prior shows, this 10-31 show was the first night of the three night run. Yet, with increased social media, rumor mills and communication among fans and information purportedly coming from “those in the know," several albums raced to the top of the candidate list and anticipation and rumors were just as rabid as prior years. 

Early arrivers entering Boardwalk Hall quickly disseminated the news after digesting the Playbill. Wingsuit. Would Phish really be debuting an album’s worth of new material? Was “Wingsuit” really a song? Or was that too going to be a massive prank? After a lackluster first set, Phish delivered something that many fans had been anticipating for a long time: a slew of new Phish songs. Not one-off covers like the summer of 2010 (“Free Man in Paris,” “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea,” “Killing In the Name”), not side band songs that slowly trickled into Phish’s repertoire (“Architect,” “Babylon Baby,” “Show of Life”), and not even covers that have huge jamming potential (“Energy”). Just pure Phish. Every venue is numbered here on Boardwalk Hall happens to randomly be 777. Lucky number 7's. Anticipation was high for the second set to see if Phish would roll the bones and come up big… or crap out.

The 10-31-13 show of course is unprecedented in the annals of Phish’s Halloween history – covering an album “from the future.” Yet there are scores of shows where batches of songs have debuted. Even a show with just a few debuts is exciting to reflect back upon. I was at the 1-20-90 show for example – and hearing “Squirming Coil,” “Carolina,” “Caravan” and “Bouncing Around the Room” for the first time may not have seemed earth shattering at the time – but decades later, it resonates a lot louder. Likewise, 9-13-90 (“Stash,” “Landlady” and “Buried Alive” among others), 4-4-94 (“Scent of a Mule,” “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Down with Disease” and “Julius,” etc.) and 5-16-95 (“Strange Design,” “Free,” “Theme From the Bottom,” etc) all featured a bunch of debuts that became stalwarts in Phish setlists. Those shows too have intensely personal memories for me – like many Phish shows do for so many. 

While I was not in Boardwalk Hall, that second set opener with the presumed title-track of the new album, “Wingsuit,” will always resonate loudly with me. With tears trickling down my cheek, I listened intently and hung to every note and lyric. It was a powerful set opener: New Phish. The first of an unprecedented twelve new songs to debut. The band at their Phishiest – going out on a limb and forgoing the typical album pick. The band boldly stepping into the future after a particularly strong run of shows in their fall 2013 tour. And a song that instantly became a personal favorite.

Wingsuit? What suit? For those unfamiliar with the sport of wingsuiting, it’s similar to skydiving. Yes, you jump out of a plane or do a BASE jump (Building, Antenna, Span, Earth (like a cliff)). And yes you have a parachute that must be deployed to bring you back to terra firma. The difference is what happens between the initial jump itself and the landing. By wearing a special suit, the wingsuit, that drastically increases surface area and provides lift, the “flyer” can soar through the sky. While typical freefall has the skydiver falling practically vertical to the ground, a wingsuiter can travel forward close to three times whatever distance they fall. So for example, a wingsuit jump from an altitude of 18,000’ can have the wingsuiter travel over eight miles. Imagine jumping over Plattsburgh Air Force Base and landing in Vermont. An exhilarating experience. Man has always tried to fly. To be free. To soar like an eagle effortlessly. Wingsuiting gets us very close to that dream. Some think skydiving and wingsuiting are particularly risky and dangerous. While it is an extremely safe sport with very, very few fatalities, sadly, they do occur. On 11/11/09 I lost my precious identical twin brother, Steve, in a wingsuiting accident.

He had previously set a record earlier in the afternoon for the most amount of wingsuiters in a formation (known as a “Flock”). This was a celebratory sunset jump. He fell and landed on a ranch near Lake Elsinore, CA. A loving family came upon him soon after he fell. They formed a small circle around him, held his hand, spoke quietly to him and comforted him even though they knew he was deceased. One of them told of a spectacular sight in the sky. Several eagles formed directly over their heads and flew in tight formation for several minutes. And then, seemingly on cue and choreographed with precision, all flew off in straight lines in completely opposite directions. He said it was as if they lifted his soul to the sky and was a new beginning for Steve elsewhere. Powerful.

Steve (purple wingsuit) in a Flock over Lake Elsinore, CA

Would Phish’s second set opener, like wingsuiting itself and fraught with some risk and danger, bring a new beginning as well? Would it soar? Jam? 

Well, as one of the lyrics in the song said, it just felt good. Poignant lyrics and some soaring guitar work by Trey kicked off the set nicely.

And gliding away, you fly where you choose

There's nothing to say, and nothing to lose

Time to put your wingsuit on, time to put your wingsuit on

Every Phish show is filled with expectations and emotions. Some are over praised, some fly under the radar, some receive universal praise while others receive mixed reviews. Despite what anybody thought walking out of Boardwalk Hall on 10-31-13, one thing is absolutely certain. History was made that night. Wingsuit started the set and 11 more songs followed. Some may not make the album. Most probably will. Some may never be played again but many probably will. And with near certainty, a few of them will, one day, become true legends in the Phish canon. It is probable that countless future fans will look back on this show and wistfully wish that they had been there. Like the Lowell show. Like the Wetlands show. Like the Flynn show. I am happy Wingsuit kicked off this historic set. We'll see what the future holds for it and the other debuts.

On May 14th, 2014, Phish announced that the forthcoming album, the band's twelfth studio effort, will be titled "Fuego" and will be released on June 24th. As expected, most of the songs from the Wingsuit set made the cut. Wingsuit itself was the tenth and final track on the album as opposed to the first song on Halloween. Likewise, the first batch of performances in the "Wingsuit heavy" Summer Tour of 2014 saw the song slotted in a myriad of positions. It powerfully closed the first set of the tour opening show in Mansfield, was seen early second set at both SPAC and The Mann, served as the meat of the second set after "Ghost" at Randall's Island and a mid-first set rocker at CMAC.

"Blue Skies" is a quintessential skydiving term that is used both for "Hello" and "Goodbye" much like "Aloha" is used in Hawaii. It is also a term of love and good wishes.

Blue Skies Steve.

Blue Skies Wingsuit.

”Wingsuit” – 10/31/13, Atlantic City, NJ, photo credit © Andrea Z. Nusinov

”Wingsuit” – 10/31/13, Atlantic City, NJ

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listen4myHorn Reply
listen4myHorn My goodness that was a powerful read.

Beautiful and bittersweet, that of all concepts, phish chose wingsuit.

Amazing way for your brother to check in on you.

Score: 16
Doctor_Smarty Staff Reply
Doctor_Smarty WOW

I saved my second listen of this song for the moment I could nut up and read this song tears.

Thanks Parker

The bravery abounds
Score: 9
GordonStSG Reply
GordonStSG I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. Each time I hear "Wingsuit" I'll think of you and your brother.
Score: 7
I'm speechless after reading this. This is the most touching and profound editorial I've ever read on this site. Absolutely beautiful.

I have to wonder if the band knows your story. Thank you so much for posting this.
Score: 7
bertoletdown Staff Reply
bertoletdown Blue skies to one and all.

Score: 5
Piper72 Reply
Piper72 Wow, Parker. Your story puts this song and the entire second set into context. Phish, like your brother may he rest in peace (or rage on in a new adventure!), is all about taking risks and setting the bar higher for yourself each time. At that level you hope to meet or surpass your mark each time, or risk failure. Your brother achieved feats few mortals ever will in this lifetime, and the honor he was given in his death was profound and auspicious. I had to listen after reading and the tears came. It's like they knew and put it to music. Trey's solo captures it perfectly. This one's a keeper. Thank you for sharing and we're sorry for your great loss.
Score: 4
Trafficdiver Reply
Hi Parker. I read your story and was moved. I started skydiving in 2010, at your brothers home DZ in MA. He made a huge mark on this DZ and though I've never him his presence is still felt. The DZO (drop zone owner) speaks highly of him often and every year we have a boogie (skydiver party) is his honor and the vibe is incredible, though I don't know you, Parker, I'm sure you can attest to it.

I don't wingsuit, as I've caught the freefly bug, but I can tell you it is an alive and vibrant scene in New England, and there are folks who routinely wingsuit across Lake Champlain, by the bridge in Addison. The place is called VSA and is well worth checking out.

I'm glad to hear about your brother through this forum as I'm a long term Phishhead, and have heard stories about him from lots of wingsuiters in MA.

Hearing Phish have a song called wingsuit is pretty cool. I'm surprised not more wingsuiters have chimed in

I've found skydiving to be the best moves I've made ever, and love listing to phish early in the morning riding to the DZ.

Yeah so this is my first post.

Anyway BSBD Steve.


Score: 3
Fluffhead Reply
Fluffhead This is the best song history on Phish.Net. I'm sorry for your loss Parker. I can't imagine.

Blue Skies Steve.
Score: 3
tweezerobics Reply
Heartbreaking but incredibly moving. Will never be able to listen to Wingsuit and not think of your story. I cried when I was telling my husband your story.
Score: 2
nodiehl Reply
Thank you. Your writing enriched my experience of Wingsuit so much. Beauty like everything has two sides, just as tears can express grief or overwhelming beauty. See, my feeling is Phish have a commitment to this complexity, and strangely (for a musical group consisting of guys) they value empathy and emotion and caring, as well as kick your ass good times. Many phans criticize them when they go for a song with emotional content or a peak that is an emotional expression, and not a jam. This is one complex animal. Your sharing this history is an important piece of the puzzle.
Score: 2
Tommy8922 Reply
Tommy8922 What a wonderful review dude! I almost never post, but had to say something! You gave me goosebumps & brought a tear to my eye with that review! So sorry to hear about your brother, but I am sure he is proud of what you just wrote! Oh yeah, and the Phish stuff was great taboot! THANKS BRO!
Score: 2
Tripps86 Reply
This is a beautiful song history!
Score: 2
Matt_Leaf Reply
Matt_Leaf Parker,

I was reminded of your brother's story when I was fortunate enough to be at 10/31 and witnessed Wingsuit. The Kieve connection runs deep.

Thanks for the great write-up and insight. It's connections like this that help me remember how small our world actually is.

It feels good.
Score: 1
LawnMemo Reply
LawnMemo Parker, thank you so much for sharing this. I almost cried reading it. A stark reminder of how different songs can mean so much to some people.
Score: 1
psuphan Reply
psuphan Wow. Certainly changes the song for this listener. Thanks for sharing and a great history that I'm sure was both tear and smile filled when writing.
Score: 1
mgouker Reply
mgouker Thank you so much for sharing your story. We share the same outlook about the new material. This is a precious moment. I look forward to seeing how the future unfolds.

Blue skies for you too!
Score: 1
HarryHOODini Reply
HarryHOODini I am here to support the love that is spread.Time to put your wingsuit on, time to put your wingsuit on
Score: 1
bertoletdown Staff Reply
bertoletdown @FACTSAREUSELESS said:
I'm speechless after reading this. This is the most touching and profound editorial I've ever read on this site. Absolutely beautiful.

I have to wonder if the band knows your story. Thank you so much for posting this.
It will make its way to Trey and the rest if it hasn't yet.
Score: 1
TheSilentTrees Reply
Great history. Makes me feel better about not hearing a cover...Wingsuit is here to stay.
Score: 1
lifeundermoon Reply
lifeundermoon Beautiful. I'm pleased you of anyone could provide this Song History.
Score: 1
okdeadhead Reply
okdeadhead Interesting. Well done Parker.
Score: 1
yolfer Reply
Wow, so sorry for your loss (I'm the parent of twin boys). I'll never hear this song the same way again. Thank you for opening up to us.
Score: 0
Phescado Reply
Phescado I second the sentiment below. What a powerful read. Thank you.
Score: 0
jonesy_wales Reply
jonesy_wales Thank you for sharing that... I love this song, and now it takes on so much more after reading that.

This is my first post, by the by... thanks again.

Score: 0
weirdfishes Reply
This is such a beautiful take on this song/album. Couldn't be more happier I was to experience the song for the first time with so many other people around me. Powerful night!
Score: 0
johnnyd Staff Reply
johnnyd Speechless.

Thank you for sharing this connection.
Score: 0
jugglerswithfire Staff Reply
jugglerswithfire Brilliant, emotional and beautiful.
Score: 0
Carini83 Reply
Thanks for sharing!
Score: 0
scott_towler Reply
scott_towler What an incredibly penned song history. Well done, Parker. You have added an entirely new level of emotional resonance to this song for me (and what I gather, many others).

Call me crazy, but to me there are elements of this song that remind me of Lenny Kravitz's "Believe." Especially the musical coda. It also kind of reminded me of Genesis, so it was a fitting kick off to the set for that night. Will make a great title track when the album is released.
Score: 0
TugCaptPhan Reply
TugCaptPhan Great read thank you!!!!
Score: 0
TugCaptPhan Reply
TugCaptPhan Amazing song history and story
Score: 0
pistilstamen Reply
pistilstamen Good stuff here, man. Getting misty in pistilstamen's attic right about now.
Score: 0
phishatmsg Reply
phishatmsg Amazing....way to blow people's minds Phish! And Naturally AZN took this pic, some of the best shots I've seen on tour! Get some girl!
Score: 0
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