, attached to 1994-06-11

Review by MrPalmers1000DollarQ

MrPalmers1000DollarQ As I gear up to catch TAB at Red Rocks in a few months, I figured it was time for a deep inspection of what has been often heralded "the greatest Phish show ever." I'll cut to the chase: I'm skeptical of this title. Having said that, I'm not sure what alternative I could confidently serve up as hands-down contender (maybe 12/14/95?). Perhaps my hesitancy to hand the crown to this show comes from my status as relatively well-versed 3.0 Phan and a subconscious desire to reject the notion that I've heard the best there is (there must be something more than this!). If this is the case, then I doubt I'll ever really be able to steadfastly declare any one show the best ever. Nevertheless, 6/11/94 certainly deserves the hype and has earned its seat at the table for any discussion of GOAT status. The band approaches every single song here with musical expertise and untamable energy, harnessing the essence of what it means to be Phish to the very utmost through two ripper sets and a blazing encore. Though I may not be ready to admit it myself, I cast no judgement on he/she who stands by this night.

Setlist Thoughts
- Wilson is one of my favorite set openers, as it immediately demands the attention and participation of an eager audience. From the second the first verse begins, the band fires on all cylinders. Beyond Trey's above average soloing here, I took most note of Fishman and Mike's irregularly prominent roles on this tune (see Mike's harmonic play during the second call/response section, which gets an audible laugh out of Trey).
- Generally, I think Phish fans justifiably salivate more heavily over a -> transition than a mere > when looking at a .net setlist. However, there's something so powerful about the more subtle transitions when one tune finishes on an unresolved chaos and the next comes in to bring us back home. That's exactly what Trey does here, parading in Chalk Dust Torture to sort of continue the shredding left unfinished by Wilson. Trey is absolutely ridiculous here (probably going to be saying that a lot this time). This is a great example of his ability to start a solo on a high octane note, yet tread carefully as to not burn through the tank too quickly. With the help of the rest of the band, he spins out an ever-rising energy that doesn't reach the ceiling until the very end.
- I'll restrain myself from diving too deep into this YEM, as I'm not sure what hasn't been said. This is what y'all came to the show for, and boy did you get it: a tight composed intro section; a beautifully atmospheric and droning minute before Page's piano solo that meanders from serenely Ionian to more dissonantly ominous harmonies; a stellar round of spotlight moments from Page and Mike (the latter is especially active in the section following his solo); characteristically soaring and piercing sustain from Trey before the big drop; shredding organ riffs; drum fills galore; a patiently building guitar solo that begins with the tone knob on 0 and builds to form the icing on absolute shredfest; meaty, meaty octave pedal Mike during DnB; a continuously grooving vocal jam; and even what I would venture to call a -> Rift. This YEM is fucking 10/10.
- Rift is one of the few Phish tunes for which I hold the studio version as my comparison point. I think it's because I've heard enough bad ones (or at least subpar enough as to not retain the studio version's magic). Despite a couple of forgivably minor missteps, this Rift performance passes my test. Trey and Page absolutely crush this piece with precision and soul. Mike and Fish can't be overlooked, either, as both bring the same high-quality musicianship to this piece. The residual YEM VJ quotes in the intro are a nice touch.
- This DwD is a sneaky highlight for me. The vocals retain all the spirited fun that I love in the studio and the solo section is absolutely gripping. There are several ""stank face"" moments as Trey flies around the fretboard, and many of these are due to the rest of the band. Fishman's use of the cymbal hits is so god damn nice here. These guys could ride this one off into the sunset and I'd be happy. It only gets better when the now-rare ascending vocal riffs come back in around the 6-minute mark.
- As with Rift, this It's Ice passes the initial test of ""can they pull off the complicated lines?"" There are several reasons to love this performance beyond this, though. Most notable in my opinion are Mike's busy bass in the verses and Page's absolutely dirty piano licks that birth a sweet funky groove in the breakdown.
- Tela is absolutely beautiful from beginning to end. Bass, piano, and drum flourishes aplenty dot this performance with numerous moments of bliss. When the peak finally arrives, it's as emotionally moving--as utterly triumphant and powerful--as ever. I can only imagine the energy in the rocks during the last couple of minutes here.
- Set 1 ends with a Stash that clocks in at just under ten minutes (more on this later) and bears many of the same qualities of the other great Stash's that don't evolve definitely into Type II territory. That said, Mike brings some unique elements here that make this version stand out to me. Namely, there's a lot of amazing harmonic build and tension here that is not directly derived from the song's form itself (see the ascension from 5:33 - 6:13). On top of this, we get a lot of the familiar offbeat emphasis that can be found in other rhythmically playful performances of this tune, cacophonous and looming harmonies across Page/Mike/Trey, storm-like drumming from Fishman, and a fucking tight finish.

*Going to take a moment now to point out two elements that immediately stood out to me about this show other than the absolutely phenomenal musicianship. First, take a look at this setlist. The song choice is diversified across the band's (admittedly young) timeline, and every single song is a crowd pleaser (other than MAYBE Contact for the select few Contact haters...though I wholeheartedly disagree with you). Second, take a look at the durations of each song. Other than YEM, Fluffhead, and just barely Antelope, every song is under ten minutes. We don't get any crazy behemoth jams from this show like Bozeman, no insane segue fests like the 6/22/94 Simple. YEM and Fluffhead are always that long anyway. Yet, this show is widely considered the peak of live Phish. As someone who has always championed the view that longer does not equal better, I appreciate having this in the back pocket.*

- I've written before about the function of Also Sprach Zarathustra as a shorter tune. While I absolutely love the longer funk jams that evolve out of this tune, I have also noticed a pattern associated with the tighter, melody-focused versions: they are usually followed by a fantastic jam. This performance is no exception to the rule, and a quick 4-minute 2001 (with some sweet Mike fills) gives way to a fiery Antelope.
- The whole band is absolutely on point throughout this Antelope. Fishman's crash cymbals left and right drive the jam forward with freight train momentum, Mike and Page play with some counterpoint harmonization as Trey slips in and out of dissonance with his fancy fretwork. Following the main peak, the band fools around with various fills and chords before Rye Rye (I'd even say that Trey throws in a London Calling tease around 8:10). This jam's gotta be heard.
- At the request of the crowd, the band pulls out Fluffhead and passes yet another test of their ability to navigate tricky composition in a live setting. Page's piano solo is stanky, alternating with some crazy sharp drones coming from Trey's rig. Trey and Fishman's ad libs in Arrival give the celebratory peak that much more energy on top of an outro jam that is drawn out slightly longer than usual. Trey and Fish are attached at the hip here, and it's awesome.
- Scent of a Mule features a ton of awesome interplay between Page and the rest of the band in the beginning of the Duel. As young as the tune is here, Page's improvisation here is as if he's been training on this particular piece for years and truly highlights his musicianship. Trey holds his own extremely well as the tempo launches sky high before the final verse.
- From SoaM we move to SOaM. As the jam charts call out, we get an incredible amount of tension and release here. It's about as evil-sounding and thunderous as any other Melt I've heard, so if you're into that sort of stuff you should definitely give it a listen. Not much uniqueness that I could hear, but certainly a well-played performance.
- More Page features! Squirming Coil's outro is blissfully beautiful (more so than usual, in my opinion). I hesitate to even say more on this for fear of diverting attention away from any one moment of the 5-minute piano solo.
- Maze's intro grows from the final chord of Page's Coil solo, with Trey's ascending sirens and gurgling drones foreshadowing a killer performance to come. The verses expertly alternate between the crazy energetic and the more subdued measures, switching on a dime. Both Page's organ solo and Trey's guitar solo reach insane points of intensity that make me feel like my heart is going to leap out of my chest just listening. An A+ Maze.
- Contact is well-played and straightforward. Set 2 Page continues to pop off on a super funky piano solo. Following Contact, we get a sizeable bust out with Frankenstein, which subsequently become a staple cover over the band. Though there have been crazier Frankensteins, this is an excellent selection to cap off a historic night of Phish.
- Page wasn't quite finished it seems, as the Suzy encore gives him a platform for even more shredding on his grand piano. the jam section here grows in energy in a microversion of Darien Jam #1. What's super cool here is the purposefully quiet and sparse third verse coming out of Page's solo.

This show is fucking killer. Give it a listen.


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