[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 Brian Brinkman of Beyond The Pond.]
It's April which means we are in full swing with early-90's Spring Tours! For our 10th edition of the Weekly Catch Series, we wanted to offer a dose of 1994 perfection to the round. I said it a few posts prior about Spring 1993, but I think it's fair to ask here once again: Is it possible that Spring/Summer 1994 is THE most fun Phish Tour of all time? Seriously, Phish was so good on this tour that a show like this with very high-highs and big song selections can just be left under the radar with little-to-no attention for a quarter century. It's a true testamant to how strong their best shows are, but also how consistently good Phish has been that they can play a show that unquestionably left people buzzing and has a few of their biggest fans still listening all these years later, but rarely is mentioned by the larger community when compiling a list of must-hear Phish shows.
Now, to be clear, April 8, 1994 is not the best show you've never heard. Rather it's a very solid outing for a band just four shows into a year that many fans consider their best ever. That it's a very solid outing this early in their 1994 touring year does raise its importance throughout their overall history. The first of three shows Phish has played in State College, PA, this picks up the energy from the excellent second set in Toronto two night's earlier to showcase some early themes in 1994.
The show opens with "Maze," a song that always seems better live and somehow has only opened 11 shows historically. In 1994, when Trey could shred faster than ten 3.0 Trey's, "Maze" is all-encompassing. One has to imagine the noobs that were dragged out on this Friday night from the dorms were wondering what the hell they wondered into about 6 minutes into the show. "Glide" and "Foam" follow and are perfect because it's Spring '94 and that's how those songs were played back then.
The set takes a spin with Mimi Fishman stepping in to crash cymbals during "I Didn't Know," before "Punch You In The Eye" - now firmly in the rotation for good - previews the funk rhythms the band would toy with in just three years time. "Down With Disease," in just its third ever performance, sounds so pure and raging, and reminds us all why the chorus coda from Hoist was such an ingeniuous production move by the band. "If I Could" is perfect and gorgeous and "Llama" closes the set - just one of 23 times closing Set 1 - in the most raucous and eardrum shattering way possible. As noted from the top, this is not the greatest set you've never heard, but if you are a fan of Phish and you haven't heard it...why? There is literally nothing not to love.
If the first set is a joyous example of everything that made Phish wonderful and loveable in Spring 1994, Set 2 provides the highs that make this show essential listening for anyone who's ever claimed they were a big Phish fan. The set opens with a Type-1.5 version of "Split Open & Melt." Now a year removed from it's breakthrough on April 21, 1993, the song is on the verge of psychedelic consistency in 1994, and this version really shines in its second performance of the year. The peak of the show is unquestionably the version of "It's Ice" that segues into the debut of "Digital Delay Loop Jam" and back to "It's Ice" in an unprecedented 15-minute version. It's an evil and prodding version that has a lot in common with the standout, and equally unprecidented jams off it from September 20, 2000 and July 23, 2017. Hear this at all costs.
"Harry Hood" is gorgeous even with the inexcusibly loud chompers discussing post-show plans on the tape - it's somewhat comforting to know that there were so many chompers in 1994 - and the version rides the Trey wave, hinting ever so subtly at the peaks we'd get from the song befor year's end. It's 1994 so there has to be a "Big Ball Jam," and this version is actually far from insufferable because it segues seamlessly into a tight, raging version of "David Bowie." In line with much of the show, this is but a figment of what the song would be by the end of the year, but it's still very much worth your time, if for nothing else, then it reminds you of how good a "Bowie" could be even without the jam. "Suzy Greenberg" closes the set with "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" teases before "Contact" and "Big Black Furry Creature From Mars" w/ Mimi on "1-2-3-4!!!!" sends us home.
Why hear this show? Because you like Phish and by definition like 1994 Phish and want to hear everything the band was up to that year, even when they weren't throwing down official release-quality shows. The band here is on a creative high that's been going since two years prior and will continue now, at a rapid pace, essentially without break, for another 20 months.
Thanks for reading and hopefully you're enjoying this series. Another Weekly Catch with Osiris will be up next week!
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