[Welcome To Weekly Catch With Osiris! A weekly series brought to you from the team at Osiris. Each Wednesday we're going to bring you a historic Phish show from that week with some commentary. Our goal is to go beyond official releases and well-known shows to bring you some of the overlooked gems throughout Phish history. If you like what you find, we'd encourage you to check out the assortment of podcasts at the Osiris! This week's catch comes from RJ Bee of Helping Friendly Podcast.]
Very few Phish tours are about specific instruments. But the Spring 1993 tour is different. It is 100%, completely about the addition of Page's baby grand piano. From the first notes of "Loving Cup" on 2/3/93 from Portland, Maine, you hear what this tour will bring. And this show, from a few days later in upstate New York, gives tons of ivory ammunition to dig into.
This was Phish's last show in Poughkeepsie, the last of 6 from 1989-1993. Although the Mid-Hudson Civic Center is still around, and was most recently used as the home of the Hudson Valley Bears (of the famous Eastern Professional Hockey League), it is perhaps most well-known for the last show of the 1989 Headbangers Ball Tour, featuring Anthrax, Exodus and Helloween. Maybe not. Anyway, on to the show.
It feels like Phish were diving straight into the new toy, Page's baby grand, with a "Golgi Apparatus" opener that has some nice piano work. There was a little secret language happening in this show, both in "Guelah Papyrus" and "Esther." And although "Split Open and Melt" is better known for the mind-bending improvisational versions in 1994, this one provides some brief but notable intensity. If you're into the evolution of this song, this is a nice early version to check out.
The first set highlight, for me, is the 5th ever version of "The Wedge." Punctuated by the really lovely intro and outro, this version is a perfect star for the baby grand, and this version gives us a window into a beautiful future for this baby song. Page is awesome on this, supplementing Trey's soloing really nicely. Another nice touch on this set is the "Take the 'A' Train" cover. Although this song was played 118 times, we haven't seen it since 1994. Don't we all want Phish to play more jazz? Come on guys. Fish, Page and Mike sound like a perfect jazz trio in this, with a nice transition at the end into "Antelope"—which is a typical, smoking early '90s version.
In the second set, we get a great "Reba." Aren't all '93 Rebas amazing? According to the Jam Chart on this song, in we have 11 versions in 1992, 13 in 1993, 23 in 1994, and 14 in 1995. Which year of "Reba" is the best one? Comment below if you have an opinion. This seems like a good topic for a podcast. But I'm really into the '93 versions, particularly 12.31.93. But this one is very good too. It's nice when a "Reba" seems like it's going to end but then Fishman lets it go on for another minute or so. Trey's soloing toward the end is really nice, and of course the baby grand adds a little more magic to the jam.
Here's my one gripe about this era. The fucking "Big Ball Jam." On tape, it's a travesty. A total waste of time. I’m sure all of you who were at those shows will comment about how cool it was in person, and that’s a sweet humble brag, but it’s cacophonous and boring to me. The "Fast Enough for You," on the other hand, is just so lovely. Again, with the piano. Who doesn't just love a mid-second set FEFY? I can imagine you crying.
The second set keystone is a "YEM." This song was played 53 times in 1993, which is fucking insane. By contrast, they've only played it 68 times in all of 3.0. But if you were at a show on this tour, this is one of your best opportunities to see some sweet jamming. Possibly your only chance, depending on what else is played. From those 53 versions in 1993, 24 are on the Jam Chart. This is not one of them, sorry to disappoint, but the ferocity with which they jump into the jam post-trampoline is admirable. This is the improv vehicle of the day, and they enjoy playing it. And the vocal jam transition into "Ya Mar" was pretty cool. A nice landing place that seems anachronistic today.
When I listened to this "Hood," the first word that came to mind is "swinging," which happens to be the same note for the Jam Chart. Great minds, I guess. But this version is a little different because there's not a lot of the soft melodic stuff, the jam started and remained more upbeat. But Trey drives the jam forward and lands it with a sweet peak. BTW, this was played in response to people chanting the song. Please don't take this as a rationale to do that at shows. It rarely works, they can't hear you anymore, and screaming in between songs is sort of lame. Anyway...
Here we get the "Harpua" 2nd set closer that everyone waits for in every big show of every tour. (As an aside, they talk in this song about the $1,000 bet Fishman has made about not being late to the bus, which we recently heard about on Under the Scales.) The story mentions Jimmy watching the Super Bowl halftime show, and then they play “Black or White” by Michael Jackson. Of course, 12 days before this show Michael Jackson did play the Super Bowl halftime show, which gave birth to the modern halftime show we know today. If only more could have been as good as this one. I think there was an encore to this show, but we've written enough here.
This was a really fun show to revisit, a band with a new repertoire of songs and renewed energy. Page becomes an even more important part of the band with the addition of this key piece of equipment. In 1993, Phish was getting bigger and touring all the time, but I assume that this was a big expense at the time and possibly even controversial in terms of an up and coming band with a limited budget. But it paid off, and then some.
Thanks for reading and hopefully you're enjoying this series. Another Weekly Catch with Osiris will be up next week!
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