, attached to 1994-05-07

Review by life_boy

life_boy This is, of course, one of those legendary tapes. It never worked out for me to get my own tapes of the show when I got into tape collecting in 1999 and by the time the official LP release came out I wasn’t really into Phish at the moment. So it took years for me to come back around to listen to this historic show.

There are many jokes out there about how people forgot there even was a first set for this show but I think there’s a lot to like about Set I. The “Horn > Divided Sky” in particular stands out to me. I just love the pairing of those songs. “Split” is great, of course. It’s a solid set of music and it is a wonderful context for just how UNEXPECTED the second set would be.

Because this show arrives to me by way of acclaim, it was shocking to learn that a 70 minute block of interwoven, set-dominating “Tweezer” was actually the third song in the set and not the opener. I admit that on my first couple of listens years ago, I didn’t really get it. This wasn’t “the definitive Tweezer” I had imagined in my head. It had its moments but seemed to get lost at times too. It was all over the place. But a couple of nights ago (5/7/2020) I decided to give an anniversary listen and see if I could finally “get it.” I think I did.

The thing is, there are just so many ideas swirling around in that second set. It is an experiment so not everything works to craft a perfectly composed singular version of “Tweezer.” But even when it feels clunky for a bit the boys find their footing and build in an interesting direction from there. It is all about how the song morphs from moment to moment, the micro-decisions the band is making as the music progresses. They would have these moments in some of these 90s “Tweezers” that I only know how to describe as “the train breaking down.” That song deconstruction moment was heavily part of the Bangor “Tweezer” on A Live One, or at least it lives heavy in my memory of that version. Here that moment is part of the shift into the next phase of the song about 10 min in, perhaps the moment when it truly becomes Type II.

One reviewer described this set/“Tweezer” as a musical adventure and when you can set yourself there, listening in the moment rather than trying to hear “the definitive Tweezer” or something, this show really comes alive. The interplay between the band members as they jump from idea to idea, as “Tweezer” morphs from Phish song to heavy metal oddity to blues jam to all kinds of other things before finding its way into “Sparks” and then “Makisupa” and “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk Away.” It’s not an easy one to just grab without that commitment to actively listen—this is definitely not my background-while-I-work “Tweezer.” But I understand why it was such a historic moment for the band and why they wanted to honor part of that “playing without a net” legacy with the Bangor “Tweezer” immortalized on A Live One. It's not my favorite show of 1994 but I like it and can definitely understand its place in the legacy of that era and the formation of the band.
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