PHISH: 10/21/95 Pershing Auditorium, Lincoln, NE essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (August 2007)

Phish 10/21/95

Like most touring bands, Phish returned to certain markets and venues habitually.  There were also certain stops along the way that were more unique.  Nebraska was one of those.  Phish played the state of Nebraska only twice - less often than almost anywhere else they performed.  There were some excellent shows on the fall tour leading up to the band's first visit to the Cornhusker State.  A number of new songs from the yet-to-be-recorded album "Billy Breathes" and some covers were debuted at the start of the tour as well as the chess game against the audience and the game of convincing fans that they had selected Michael Jackson's "Thriller" as the upcoming Halloween musical costume.  Baby Gramps opened back-to-back shows in Seattle followed by stops in Portland, Vancouver, Spokane and Missoula.  The band tore up Compton Terrace in Phoenix and played a few nights in Texas, where they traded licks with fellow musical sorcerers Medeski, Martin and Wood onstage in Austin and Trey sat in at MMW's gig afterward.  MMW opened in New Orleans where they again joined Phish for a jam out of Keyboard Army.  Last but not least they began a hot run of Midwest shows by bringing a rock and roll bag piper onstage in Cedar Rapids to jam on Amazing Grace.

From an archival viewpoint, perhaps the most notable fact about the shows leading up to Lincoln was the addition of a front-of-house video camera set up at the mix position for the first time in Cedar Rapids.  Under Mike's tutelage, band chiropractor and old friend Eric Larson took on the added role of regularly capturing live footage.  With the help of a technician sent out to teach him the gear, Eric began his on-the-job training as cameraman and video recordist.  There were some scrapes early on, but right from the outset he captured some classic footage that rounds out the band's video collection from a powerful time in Phish history.

When the band arrived in beautiful Nebraska for the eighteenth show of their epic 58-show fall tour, the nearby University of Nebraska campus was primed and ready - lit up with excitement from a key Homecoming Day Huskers football win against 8th ranked Kansas State Wildcats.  The Huskers led 42-6 after the third quarter, but a late Kansas State spurt threatened to close the score against the Huskers. Wildcats quarterbacks then suffered nine sacks and two interceptions allowing the Huskers to win 49-25 on their way to the NCAA championship. On a campus so devoted to football, this win had everyone in extremely high spirits.  Set atop a cauldron of Homecoming gusto, the Lincoln show had a special energy from the minute the band rolled into town. Mike noted in his journal that the band played along during soundcheck to the hammering of an apron-clad venue worker during a 20+ minute Dog Log that's included as filler with the CD.  The stage was a little lower than usual, which gave the audience an extraordinarily hyped feel on video.  Dancers' hands got right up in front of the lens and their footwork made the floor of the auditorium bounce along to the music, giving the Lincoln footage a very live feel and helping transmit the power of this show to the tapes.

After Page made the band's chess move, the show exploded out of the gates with the first-ever Tweezer Reprise opener.  The video camera shook along with the floor of the front-of-house riser when the crowd started moving to this unprecedented opener.  The floor kept bouncing with Chalk Dust Torture as the whole band linked up pretty much immediately.  The reggae-ish lilt of Guelah Papyrus awed the crowd and gave Trey and Mike a chance to display their special dance for the locals.  Reba, like many standout versions from 1995, was fast and well executed with a magnificent jam.  Reba is also the first strobe warning for this show – if you are prone to seizures, exercise caution as Lighting Designer Chris Kuroda cranked up the strobe lights liberally throughout this gig.  The Reba jam weaved sinuously into deeper territory with some tender discussion between Mike and Trey before Trey launched a staccato-fueled theme that lifted the room higher each time it was restated.  The band picked up the theme and stretched it out and back to Reba with a whistle-less ending.  Wilson came next and led straight into Cars Trucks Buses where the video footage reveals some good close-ups of Page banging it out on the piano. 

The set turned weird with the implementation of Fish's ancient ritual chant, Kung.  The raucous crowd was captivated – many shook their hands in the air toward the band to illustrate some of the more extra-terrestrial sounds.  The video caught some precious footage of Fish and Trey, who toyed with a drumstick slide and played his guitar behind his head before making Paul nervous by threatening to smash his Languedoc G2 through a speaker cabinet.  Obscuring the band with hands high, the crowd obediently stood up on their heels and called "From The Hills!" as they deftly revisited Gamehendge with a nice segue into The Lizards.  A dramatic and pretty Strange Design was next, then the band advanced to stools at the edge of the stage for Acoustic Army with its four-way acoustic guitar harmonics.  After that brief interlude, they ended the set with a rocking Good Times, Bad Times that Trey called before affectionately bluffing the upcoming Halloween gig by teasing Michael Jackson's Black and White.  A ripping Good Times ensued with a layered jam that got downright nasty before segueing perfectly into another Tweezer Reprise.  The unexpected Reprise exploded with cyclonic energy and lights leaving all present scrambling to reconstitute their reality.  They saved the full Tweezer for the next night in Champaign and the band never again attempted the set one Tweezer Reprise Sandwich (though in Philadelphia later in the tour they tried a similar trick, book-ending Tweeprise in set two).

After a "fifteen-minute" set break and a two-person audience chess move, set two blasted off with a quick 2001, which set a groove and showed off the light rig. Fender Rhodes and high-hat swirled together as 2001 segued into David BowieBowie led into a jazzy jam with lots of space and some interesting musical conversation (some J-licks by Trey and Page recalled Jingo and Jeopardy respectively).  The jam grew more frenetic with flashing lights to match and entered a dissonant section before resolving into the fiery ending licks of BowieLifeboy followed, changing the vibe from shredding to spiritual.  Sparkle lifted the spell to reveal the galloping dance party that was the Pershing.  As a testament to the heights of the dancing, the video during Sparkle's chorus is bouncing enough to give a cameraman a coronary.  Thankfully, Eric pushed on to capture it, realizing the power of that undulating auditorium floor and ignoring the tech's suggestion to steady the camera or turn it off.  For the sake of completeness, we left this somewhat dizzying footage as part of the release.  Sparkle fell directly into You Enjoy Myself as the roller coaster of the mind picked up speed.  Like some of the best-ever performed that fall, You Enjoy Myself was a testament to the band and fans growth into the arena rock era.  YEM was the perfect arena rocker even when it was played in a dorm room or corner bar.  In an arena full of raging college-aged Phishheads, YEM is simply incomparable.  Written by Trey while traveling abroad with Fish midway through their higher education, YEM synesthesiastically blends music theory, reggae, funk and trampolines into a psychedelic prog-rock rite of passage that primes the college Being for exactly that for which the composition is aptly named.  Blown away, the lively audience clapped along with a polyrhythmic vocal jam that became a pitch-increasing rotation of sound effects and lights (strobe alert #2) before sinking into a dynamic breathing-snoring exercise.  As the snoring subsided, You Enjoy Myself drifted away on cymbal rolls that allowed Trey to slide behind the drum kit while Fish grabbed his vacuum for Purple Rain.  Upon arriving center-stage, Fish crowned himself with a glow ring that he wore the rest of the show.  It's a shame the video of this song can't be released at this time because Fish, looking like a short Jesus or a white Hendrix with his head-ring and running slow motion in place as he guided you to the Purple Rain with an Electrolux solo was a sight to behold.  The crowd was spellbound, trying to figure out how this wave of madness translated so naturally into a Huskers Homecoming Game bash.

Harry Hood started with more Beat It teases from Trey followed by a playful and mellifluous introduction.  Strobe alert #3 took place during "Thank you Mr. Minor", which led to a dynamic jam section with some nice full-band improvisation.  The crowd erupted as Trey called Suzy Greenberg.  Fish continued the Harry Hood humor into his usual Greenberg commentary, making Trey and Mike laugh as they tore into the last song of the set.  Strobe alert #4 occurred just as Trey teased Beat It to the rhythm of Suzy.  Obviously feeling in the zone at that point, Trey fearlessly quoted the lead for Stairway to Heaven before making way for Page's inspired piano solo.  As Suzy drew to a close, Trey threw out one last stanza of Tweezer Reprise as a parting nod to the shared magic of the moment.  The crowd roared and ignited their lighters in a show of rock and roll solidarity as the band returned to the stage for the encore, Highway to Hell.  Due to licensing, we can't present the Highway to Hell video at this time, but like Purple Rain it warrants mention.  There is a combined glow from watching Fish wearing his head-ring, Mike mysteriously sitting down in a chair during the second verse and Trey in Husker red, pumping his fist and singing like a kid in a candy store.  As Highway to Hell drew to a close, the room exploded with lights flashing (strobe alert #5), heads banging and fists pumping in a classic display of arena rock power.

This was a championship show for Phish, for the Huskers and for those of us lucky enough to relive it now.  As with other livephish.com videos, the archival Beta-SP footage was sync'd with audio re-mastered by Fred Kevorkian from 2-track soundboard reference DAT.  Like New Year's Eve 1995, 12/29/97 New York, 11/14/95 Orlando and 12/1/95 Hershey, this recording crackles with energy and begs to be enjoyed over and over.  As with other recent livephish.com titles, this show is available as an environmentally friendly 3-CD set as well as FLAC and MP3 download.  In the quest for higher quality delivery, we have doubled our video resolution starting with Lincoln to a bit rate and frame size that max out specifications for 5th generation iPod and provide a great viewing experience on any device.

Enjoy!

--ks

Published 19 October 2010 11:59 AM by admin

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