The Silver Anniversary of arguably the purest live performance of Trey's Gamehendge saga, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, offers us the ideal occasion to unveil this new project. And, we have to admit, the rigid deadline definitely helped expedite the process.
Legend has it that, much like the song cycle’s subsequent performance at what has come to be called the “GameHoist” show, the venue was under-sold. The crowd clearly gave the band its patient, undivided attention. Whatever prompted the band to finally immerse their live audience in the full story in Sacramento 25 years ago today, the tape of the show became a rite of passage for nearly every fan, thanks to the widely shared and very crispy SBD.
Born inside a .net forum thread, a group of regular contributors committed to what seemed to us a worthwhile endeavor to compile transcriptions and summaries of every narration available on audio recordings. The thread began shortly after the release of St. Louis '93, prompted by my listening to the powerful “Harpua” from the April date. As soon as the thread got legs, I knew I would have to put my money where my mouth is.
Fortunately, I am among the contingent of the fanbase that sincerely enjoys this component of Phish’s live performances. My first tape included a “Rhombus Narration” that it turns out was among the best of that particular narration, cementing my affection for Trey’s narrative excursions from the beginning. Furthermore, as soon as I began chipping away at transcriptions, I felt certain it was worthwhile work.
Thankfully, I was most definitely not alone. This project could never have come together without major contributions from some high quality .netters. Five of the first six replies in that thread were from people volunteering to help. That’s just the way the forum is. @Franklin, @DaleCooper, @illbuyyouaewe, and @paulj jumped all-in right off the bat. Reed (aka @DaleCooper) and Jeremy (aka @Franklin) produced nearly 60 transcriptions between them!
As the work continued, our team would come to include five more people: @kmd711, @raidcehlalred, @Capt_Tweezerpants, @mshow96, and @sevenpounds. Last, but certainly not least, this would never have worked without the creative vision and technical prowess of @ucpete, who built the powerful spreadsheet linking these transcriptions and became the primary motivator encouraging its completion. Our volunteered time enabled this idea to become a completed project.
This would be the perfect place to also extend our gratitude to Yance Davis, who compiled transcriptions for many of the greatest versions of “Harpua” to share on rec.music.phish under the title “Harpua Files” Thankfully, @kipmat pointed us towards that work early-on, which is now contained in the phish.net review archive, saving the team many hours of work while confirming we weren’t so crazy as to be the first to ever attempt this undertaking. If you're out there or if anyone happens to know Yance, please let him know his work was surely not for naught and do share this project with him!
So, almost exactly 12 months after we began, we have compiled transcriptions for 173 versions, of songs featuring Phish's unique storytelling style, representing our best attempt to catalog every available performance, at least 20,000 words worth. The team cumulatively put in over 200 hours to complete this project.
While there remain a significant number of versions that we can’t currently transcribe because tapes do not circulate, there are fortunately very few currently unavailable versions from the years when the narrations were the most elaborate, and we hold out hope that we locate recordings of those one day, especially 1993-03-08.
That all of these narrations concern Gamehendge should come as no surprise, nor will the common tropes, but the variety of settings and plots will likely impress even the crustiest JadedVet™. Outside the five Gamehendge performances, the songs most represented are easy to name: “Fly Famous Mockingbird” and “Harpua.” The only other songs in double digits are “Icculus”and “Divided Sky” (aka “Rhombus Narration”). Nevertheless, the diversity of the content is pretty astounding. These songs represent early anchors to the band's live performances, and the expansive journeys have helped establish powerful impressions upon first-time listeners since the beginning.
While not every one holds up to repeated listening, many versions reveal new qualities with each review. In the transcriptions, we sought to reflect Trey's enthusiastic inflection and rambling style, while also presenting these narratives in a pleasant, readable format. We excluded at most every other "and," which Trey uses like punctuation, and we even retained quite a bit of his other filler words for effect. The transcriptions provide good scripts to follow while listening, but we hope they provide enjoyable reading on their own.
Indeed, we view this project as a significant addition to the encyclopedic collection of resources compiled here at phish.net. We hope that it contributes to the continued erudite examination of the history of our favorite band by providing a resource to explore a vital and unique facet of the experience, while helping to promote the important charitable mission of the Mockingbird Foundation to expand access to music education across the United States.
We hope you enjoy the Narration Chart! If you haven’t already clicked on it hiding in one of the links above, just click this link right here. Like everything around phish.net, this remains a work in progress. The next phase of the project will likely see the content migrate from the spreadsheet into a permanent home within the website. Please stay tuned for updates about that process.
Of course, we encourage and appreciate your interest so please let us know if we’ve overlooked something, included a glaring mistake, or otherwise need guidance. You may email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope everyone enjoys this new resource because we have certainly enjoyed the process of putting it together. Thanks to everyone with phish.net and the Mockingbird Foundation for giving us this opportunity!
If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.
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