Originally Performed ByPhish
Appears On
VocalsTrey (lead), Page (backing)
Phish Debut1992-11-19
Last Played2023-10-06
Current Gap7
HistorianCraig DeLucia (cdelucia); Mockingbird Staff
Last Update2023-10-23


Ever wonder how many obscure terms for body parts made it into Phish songs? “Chalk Dust Torture ” has a slew, and “Heavy Things” has a few, but “Axilla” and its successor, “Axilla (Part II),” are the only songs named for one (with apologies, of course, to “My Left Toe,” which is not at all obscure). The axilla is the armpit, or, more specifically, the cavity between the forelimb and the body. Given the warrior-esque mythology of the lyrics, some speculated that the song was a piece of the Gamehendge saga. Page made reference to the connection in The Phish Book, noting that “Axilla” was the last Gamehendge song written. There’s a definite but obscure lyrical connection – “axiluh” is the ancient Aztec word for “the lizard.” But now we’re digging really deep, aren’t we?

So, what does the song have to do with the armpit? No one is quite sure. The lyrics tell the story of a battle with a witch; one singular line refers to a particularly stinky axilla that makes the narrator lose his/her appetite. The word is cool enough that it gets shouted over and over at the end of the song. Musically, it and its brother were the hardest, heaviest originals to see the light of day in the ten years between “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” in 1987 and “Saw It Again” in 1997.

Phish “Axilla” 11-19-92, Denison, CO. Video by ThePhishFromTT
After its debut in 1992, “Axilla” was played regularly through the remainder of that year and into 1993. Given its heavy tones, it was often used as a set-opener to get the crowd moving. The appearance of the sequel, “Axilla (Part II)” in the early part of 1994 Spring Tour and soon after on Hoist, pushed the original to the shelf, except for a lone appearance on 10/16/94

Then, the sequel went in the can after 12/31/95, and the original entered re-runs until 2021. The band tagged the ending of “Part II” onto the original and sometimes performs “Axilla” in this manner, including four times even with the plea to "don't shine that thing in my face, man." It has ceased to be a set-opener and, similar to “Axilla (Part II)”, is likely to be heard just about anywhere in a set.

Phish “Axilla” - 11/16/96, Omaha, NE. Video by silverchair97
Most versions are fairly similar – straight ahead and rocking, balls to the wall. One notable exception is 11/16/96, where the lighting crew received a strange tribute from the band, in the vein of “Axilla (Part II)”. During that show, “Axilla” was teased during “Suzy Greenberg,” one of nine times the song has been used as a tease.

Since the re-emergence of “Part II” in Summer 2021 at Shoreline 21 days after the video below, “Part I” has been averaging one performance a year, each so far also including the “Axilla (Part II)” ending, even including Trey’s “Don’t shine that thing in my face” rant.

Phish “Axilla” - 08/10/21, Hershey, PA. Video by Like You Were There

Last significant update: 10/23/23

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