, attached to 1992-03-13

Review by conormac

conormac A great early show from 1992 (especially Set 1!) and only the 5th show into the Winter/Spring Tour. This is considered one of the bands best early tours, especially as they tear across the west coast in mid-April. But even in March things were heating up. There are debated GOAT versions of Phish classics like Fluffhead and Antelope, and some great readings of newer songs that would eventually make it on the Rift album (Maze, Mound, The Horse>Silent, Rift). The technical prowess of the band is on full display, and they are still playing small enough rooms to indulge in funny stuff like the secret language and Fishman extravaganzas on a daily basis.

Phish comes out of the gates strong with the Curtain. It is perfectly played, and sets a great tone for the show. Immediately out of The Curtain comes the SOAM drum beat. At this point, to my ears, you can hear what separates 1991 from 1992. The band seems so relaxed, yet so tight and in the pocket. The sound (system) has improved, and the band just has a fuller sound in general than previous years. For me, it's why I enjoy 1992 so much, cuz it really is the band taking all they've learned from the past 5 years, and combining it into a well-oiled machine. They are still such a young band, but their sound is maturing, even if it takes another year for them to start breaking their own boundaries. Anyway, SOAM is played very tight and as they enter the jam, things heat up. Things stay in the pocket with Gordo really thumping away on the bass line. Trey's maturing, yet still nasty, tone is on full display here, as he builds tension against the band’s groove. At the 6.5 min mark, things start to grow thick under Trey's repeating guitar line, Page hammers away, and Gordo starts walking the bass underneath, until Trey trills to a peak, perfectly in sync with Fish. A great energetic take!

Next comes a well-played Poor Heart (albeit a little slower than other, better, versions) and Guelah Papyrus, which is executed nicely, but nothing extraordinary (They sure did like this song pre-94). Up next is Maze which is the first new song of the bunch. This version is played pretty much by the book, but that's fine. Trey and Fish are a little more subdued during the verses, not popping off aggressively each time they hit the lyrics, but as they enter the jam, Trey wakes up and shreds this one in classic machine-gun style, though, in general, it is all a little tentative in comparison to versions to come. However, Maze truly was an instant classic Phish song, even during its debut tour performances, and this version is highly enjoyable, if only for its newness, and it seems, to my ears, like a pleasant surprise for the crowd.

The band next treats us to the oldie but goodie, Dinner and a Movie. The song is its great self, with added energy of Trey's screams, and the Ahhs from the crowd are very enjoyable as well. They next jump into an average take on Divided Sky. The crowd shouting Possum during the break is comical, as you wouldn't hear that in 3.0, but back in the early nineties, Possum was a highly requested song, and often played with some of the highest energy of the night. Anyway, the Divided Sky itself is standard good, nothing too special or memorable.

Up next is the 2nd new song, this time from Mikey, with Mound. Fishman starts it off, his snare tone sounding great IMO, and the claps from the band/crowd making a meager performance. The band enters, Fish changes the drum beat, and we are off and running through the song proper. The music is fine, but the vocals are still developing at this point (Trey/Page harmonies in particular are not as well-executed as in later versions). The band successfully navigates this difficult tune, and rewards themselves with jumping into, whatdoyaknow, another difficult song! Fluffhead is a definite highlight from set 1, and is often referred to as the GOAT by many. The song is played with both emotion and precision, and the tension built throughout the composition is truly appreciated once they hit the Arrival section, which has some of the best energy release I've ever heard! Though it's Trey that gives us that peak we love (and of course the Yellow Brick Road tease at the close, starting many OZ references), Mike is the MVP throughout IMO. This is a keeper for sure! "Ssssccchhheck it out" for yourself.

The band wastes no time and jump right into a historic Antelope, with Mike continuing to tease the Wizard. Trey cues the Simpson tease, and the "Doh!", but the crowd doesn't know what hit them (they may not all be in on the secret language...yet). Antelope continues, and we quickly slide into the Em jam. Things start to get interesting right away, as Page and Trey repeat syncopated notes against each other, with Mike playing the closest thing to melody, and Fishman just slinking along in the back. The jam becomes more tense and especially swirling, feeling like Dorothy herself is getting sucked up into the tornado. At the 6 min mark the swirling nature reaches its climax, with Trey nailing long ascending and descending runs, and hitting a quick peak at 6:40 mark bringing the band back into more standard 'Lope territory. But then surprisingly, as if the storm has cleared, the band breaks down at the 7:20 mark. It's kinda like the end, but not really, cuz someone is chanting/screaming, and then Trey randomly comes back in firing with a highly distorted lead. But, alas, they break it down again, more chanting/screaming, and then Trey treats us to some nice reverse delay/echo parts, the band breaking down around him. We end in a slow yet chaotic jam, with Page playing chromatic organ leads over top. All of a sudden the band starts to speed up, and we are in BBFCFM!! "Oh why?" repeated from Gordo at 1st chorus comically becomes "Hawaii" and then "How are ya?" (in a kinda RI accent), then Trey suddenly cues the band back into the closing part of the Antelope jam. But, of course, the band slows things down again, as if they are going to go to the end of Antelope, but Gordo keeps bringing back the BBFCFM lyrics ("Why do I try to kill you?") Then Trey again brings us back to the 'lope jam one last time, which finds itself into the end of the song proper-like. A Simpson's signal at the end really says it all ("DOH!"). What a mind fuck! A fantastically strange and exciting way to end the 1st set (one of the best of the year IMO).

Set 2 opens with some pleasant, jazzy noodling, then Over the Rainbow teasing, adding to the Wizard of Oz nature of this show. Then Trey quickly jumps into Wilson, the rest of the band falling in behind him. More Over the Rainbow teases follow, jabs and stabs by each band member, then the classic Wilson chant. From here, the boys run through a standard reading of Wilson, and immediately dive into Brother. Brother gets a Hawaii reference from Trey before jumping in to shred this solo to pieces. This Brother is not extraordinary, but a very good, high energy version. Up next is The Horse > Silent, which is a new tune at this point, and gives Trey a chance to give a shout out to "Matilda" in Horse. Silent is well played, even if, like Mound, the harmonies are still getting smoothed out, finding the voice that brings us to our knees if you will. Regardless, this song is a great addition to Phish's "slow song" category.

After a short break, Phish busts into The Landlady, which gets the crowd moving. The band provides an energetic ending to the tune (with a typical big Fish fill) and lands right in the start of Lizards. The band immediately locks into this version, which goes through the typical motions to much success. The crowd claps fanatically before the final section, which entertains Trey and Fish as they know it will be difficult for them to play along with the clap. The crowd ceases, and we are treated to an excellent rendition to the close. Phish then jumps into My Mind's Got A Mind Of Its Own, which is also a new cover tune, with Mike taking the lead. This one is very well-executed, and seems to me to be a reference to the crazy Antelope from Set 1, and also a hat tip to the Scarecrow from OZ.

The 3rd Gamehendge song of the set comes in next. The Sloth features some excellent interplay from the band, as they float through the changes and feels. The reworked version of Rift is next, and is executed nicely. Fun to hear the song change from the slow and misguided infant 1990 versions to the one we know and love today (see http://phishtracks.com/shows/1990-04-28/rift if ya wanna spin the old version).

After Rift comes Fishman's part of the show. For this, he picks the "old standard" Love You which is fine, but kinda wished they had stuck with the Wizard of OZ theme and done If I Only Had A Brain, but that's OK. The bagpipe adds to the comedy, with proclaiming "Isn't this a fucking great invention?!" Then he "feels like suckin", so he plays the vacuum over a fun groove. Fish wraps up the tune and retreats to his cold as ice throne.

To close the set, Phish picks Possum (satisfying the phans that screamed for it during Divided Sky) and also giving Trey the opportunity to once again explain the secret language (Trey tests the "All Fall Down" signal and no one falls down, so he must explain again). It's a riot to listen to Trey explain all the signals. Too bad the band got too big too fast and they couldn't see the social experiment truly come to fruition. Trey then jumps into Possum proper. During Trey's solo, he does the Simpsons signal and the crowd joins in. The jam starts build as normal, a Turn Turn Turn tease comes, and according to Trey, the crowd reaction is very weak. Regardless, Trey continues ratcheting up the tension as they move along. The final round is very bluesy and ripping, but not extraordinary, making this an average version made better due mostly to the signals.

The encore is Contact > Fire. Contact is unique (and funny quite frankly) with the addition of Mike on accordion during the intro and outro. Trey then rages in to Fire, which ends the show on a very high note, and has the crowd hooting. Trey absolutely shreds it Jimi style to close the night.

This is a great show from 1992, a perfect combination of technical prowess and antics. Set 1 especially is a must listen for all fans of classic Phish, with Fluffhead and the Antelope from Mars really standing out as all-time versions. Set 2 is great, but not quite the treat as set 1. Happy Phishin'!!
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