Death Don't Hurt Very Long

Originally Performed ByPhish
VocalsFish (lead) Fish, Mike, Page, Trey (backing)
Phish Debut2018-10-31
Last Played2022-08-10
Current Gap56
HistorianBrian Crossen (TypeIIIJPD)
Last Update2023-11-22


When looking at all of the Halloween costume sets that Phish has undertaken over the years, a quick scan of the Song Histories page will reveal that their creation of the fictional Scandinavian progressive rock band Kasvot Växt has produced the one of largest crops of long lasting songs that continue to be revisited in live shows. 

The notable exception to this is 10/31/13 when a full album of Phish originals was debuted and performed, eventually leading to the official release of Wingsuit renamed as Fuego on 6/24/14. But what happened five years later is different in that the band was not just debuting an “album from the future” but had sought to create an entire mythology around a “forgotten” band, crafting a clever trick in the process, which paid off quite well in the treat that was the album í rokk.

Being comprised of all Phish originals, it stands to reason that this type of costume set would produce more songs the band continues to perform than when taking on the music of another artist. Generally speaking, the “cover” costume sets usually result in one or two songs that have continued to be performed in subsequent shows while the newer trend of creating entirely new music based on a theme allows for more replay value to the band. The songs of Kasvot Växt lend themselves well to this, and “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” has proven to be no exception.

Kasvot Växt ”Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” – from the album í rokk, recorded live 10/31/18 Las Vegas, NV.. Video by Phish

“Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” debuted as the eighth song of the set, filling the role of the Fishman sung tune in the costume. As with most (all?) of the other Kasvot Växt songs, the lyrics read as if poorly translated from another language or perhaps as if a non-native speaker would think to write them in English. Unlike many of the other songs in this costume, there is a dark edge to the matter at hand but also a bigger metaphysical message to be had. 

While the lyrics are brief and repetitive, the mantra that death don’t hurt very long can be interpreted to mean that in some sense pain is temporary and death is only a transition to a different form. After all, you are just “changing shapes” and this is all only perception. Trey even had a bit of a revelation about the lyrics of “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” when in attempting an acoustic version of it on 10/19/19, he stumbled a bit and then remarked “there’s really not much to that song” before moving on to something else entirely.

Whatever your interpretation of the lyrics may be, the song has found its role as a landing pad of sorts, often in the second set and in the wake of a larger jam vehicle. Due to its subject matter, it also works quite well for the people who look for meaning in setlist construction, either as denouement to a song that preceded, like “Soul Planet,” or to set up the punchline for the song that follows such as “Run Like An Antelope.”

One of the most notable uses of the song as a landing pad occurred during its second ever performance when in the middle of a considerable Tweezer jam on 12/29/18 “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” emerged after the first major peak. After a playful take on the song including Trey shouting out “Bob Weaver! Funk for the people!” in a nod back to the encore from 11/2/18 where Fishman twerked for the people as well as some Haunted House samples from Page they returned to “Tweezer” to bookend this raucous performance of the song. 

Phish ”Tweezer>Death Don’t Hurt Very Long->Tweezer” – 12/29/18, New York, NY. Video by Phish

Even while being a relatively straight forward song rooted in heavy funk and sporting those repeated lyrics, “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” has given Phish the opportunity to vary its performance somewhat on occasion in its brief history. This does not mean the song is a template for open improvisation, but there have been some humorous additions to the song, starting with the 12/29/18 version mentioned above. 

On 6/16/19 at Bonnaroo, Trey adds to the lyrical refrain by repeating “fast fast fast” and “last last last” behind Fishman’s lead vocal while the ending of the 8/10/21 version shows Trey foreshadowing that year’s Sci-Fi Solider Get More Down costume with a brief tease of what we would eventually learn to be “Egg In A Hole.” 

Similarly, on 10/31/21 in the third set after the costume reveal “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” includes a quote of “Thanksgiving,” which had debuted earlier in the show. Notably, along with the Get More Down songs this was also the only other song Phish had debuted during a Halloween show to be performed that night.

Outside of Phish, Trey has performed “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” in three other configurations, with the first being the aforementioned abbreviated acoustic version from 6/16/19. The Beacon Jams version on 11/20/20 includes an inventive horn line accompaniment and some wild Cyro Baptista vocal interjections. 

On 10/1/21, with Fishman sitting in for Russ Lawton due to illness, the longest performance of the song to date occurred as they stretched out the song and Cyro again added to the performance with a variety of musical toys including harmonica and his arsenal of atypical percussive tools.

“Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” also tends to be a song that can be teased or quoted at other points in the show in which it appears or even within the same run of shows at a venue. Towards the end of “Carini” on 11/3/18 Fish introduced a full quote of the song’s lyrics and then on 12/29/18 it was again quoted in the “Tweezer Reprise” encore. During the first section of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” on 2/21/19 Trey teases the melody to “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” several times and then later in the same Mexico Run during a “Martian Monster” full of teases Trey vocally reprised the song mashed up amongst lines from “Sanity” and more.

While “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” may not have become as regular a setlist-rotation staple as other songs from Kasvot Växt, it has settled into being a song that Phish will revisit when the mood fits, a trend that will likely continue whenever the need for a burst of non-serious energy demands it, which, considering this band’s history, tends to be more frequently than not.

Last significant update: 11/22/23


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