The Sloth

Originally Performed ByPhish
Appears On
Phish Debut1987-08-09
Last Played2023-12-31
Current Gap12
HistorianChris Bertolet (bertoletdown)
Last Update2023-07-28


The penultimate song in Trey’s senior study The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday (a.k.a. the Gamehendge saga), “The Sloth” introduces a narrative section that relates the downfall of the evil King Wilson.

The titular anti-hero of "The Sloth" might be considered Phish's "Mean Mr. Mustard." Revolutionary leader Errand Woolf hired The Sloth to execute Wilson, quite simply because he was the only bad-ass motherfucker up to the task. This song is a sort of vanity piece sung by The Sloth himself, and a hubristic ode to his own most revolting qualities: sleeping all day, spending nights in bars, singing falsetto, and slicing nipples. Oh, and trading in contract assassination. It's a dirty business.

”The Sloth” – 4/5/91, Portland, OR

Early versions of “The Sloth” (including the one found on the studio tape of The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday) are more concise than later ones, as Trey beefed up the instrumental bridge after completing his senior study. 

Since 1989, “The Sloth” hasn’t varied much from version to version, other than the expected fluctuations in tightness and precision that occur in most of the densely-composed tunes in the band’s repertoire. Some particularly strong versions include 5/24/88, 5/1/92, 2/20/93, 3/22/93, 8/7/93 (ripping – segues out of “Avenu Malkenu”), 12/28/93 (short fuse, loud boom), 5/22/94 (surprise segue out of “Demand”), and 12/31/95 (a raging thrill). Although it was a pretty common song up through summer ‘94, “The Sloth” has hibernated more indulgently since, chalking up only a few appearances each year, including 2/22/03 (opening the show for the first time since 11/24/91), 9/2/11 Dick’s (the “S” show), the underrated 8/28/12 St. Louis gig, and after a 92-show absence, 8/9/15 Alpine Valley.

"The Sloth" – 6/15/12, Atlantic City, NJ

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