PHISH: 5/8/93 Durham, NH essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (6/1/04)

Phish's May 8, 1993 concert in Durham, New Hampshire capped a seventy-show tour supporting the band's fourth studio album, Rift. The tour began February 3rd and led south from Maine (including the first Florida shows), up through Colorado and along the West Coast and eventually across the Midwest where the band finally reached New Hampshire via Canada. They played mostly theaters and college gymnasiums along with a few clubs and ballrooms. By now, Phish consistently sold out a majority of their shows as word of their musical skill and adventure spread quickly through tapers, word of mouth and an increasing Internet presence.

In addition to increasing popularity and a larger footprint travel-wise, the tour brought equipment changes as well. Trey integrated an acoustic guitar to his setup for the tour, adding acoustic introductions and codas to classic Phish tunes like Fluffhead and Rift compositions like My Friend, My Friend. Fish debuted a Madonna-style washboard (with metal breasts) along with his drums and "traditional" vacuum. The most significant gear change was Page adding a grand piano, which he still plays. The piano cuts through with a natural sound that helped inform the band's increasingly democratic, textural jamming style. The band was becoming increasingly adept at weaving in and out of their growing repertoire, playing songs within songs and turning on a dime while further extending jams and debuting a variety of new original songs and lots of covers. During the tour, Phish performed Trey's entire "Gamehendge" saga for the first time in nearly two years in Sacramento, played Mike's Song throughout an entire set in Atlanta and took a ten-minute silent pause in the midst of a single version of Big Black Furry Creature From Mars in Ann Arbor. Carefully planned set lists were often abandoned in the early part of the show. It was clear Phish enjoyed accelerating the mental joust among themselves, and between band and audience, to a higher level. To better set the stage for their exponential musical growth the band also employed increased moving lights and improved sound reinforcement. The full package that tour resulted in some of Phish's finest and most celebrated performances as well as fast growing popularity.

The longest tour ever finally ended May 8th reaching a crossroads at sold out UNH Fieldhouse in Durham, New Hampshire. As the band and road/office crew gathered backstage for a rare group photo shoot, the mood in the venue was electric and the crowd restlessly waiting for the lights to go down. The band came out strong, opening the first set with Chalk Dust Torture followed by Rift and Mound, both from the new album. Stash followed with the still recent phenomenon of the audience clapping along when Fish played his wood blocks. Stash gelled into an exploratory jam with Trey and Mike repeatedly accenting the "one" as Page weaved piano around them. Stash found its way into Kung, a bizarre Fishman-penned ancient chant, and then back to Stash. Glide came next with a sufficiently pregnant pause at the end to confuse the uninitiated. My Friend, My Friend, which featured acoustic guitar during the introduction, followed Glide as the excitement of the night flowed through Trey's long, eerie notes. My Friend flowed from its giggling end refrain straight into Reba, which was stretched into its usual soaring jam. The jam in Reba was highlighted by syncopated playing and even included some classic Trey "water" licks over the quietest portion as the excited audience clapped along in rhythm. Trey then thanked the audience and the crew, introducing the crew in detail including "big ball thrower" Brad, Amy and Greenpeace Mike. Expressing the band's gratitude for their hard work on the tour, he dedicated Satin Doll, a song Phish rarely played, to the crew. Page sang the Duke Ellington song in traditional style before they ended the set with a spirited Cavern.

Set two kicked off with a twenty-minute David Bowie with an introduction that included teases of the Allman Brothers Band instrumental, Jessica before the song developed into a heavy jam with vocal chanting and soaring leads by Trey and Page. Bowie then calmed into a piano, bass and drum-led groove that morphed into The Mighty Diamonds' Have Mercy, a song which Phish has tackled only a half dozen or so times and seemingly only at pinnacle moments. Have Mercy flowed seamlessly back into Bowie by way of a double-time groove and the song ended as if the inspirational detour never happened. By the time anyone could process what happened, Trey began a beautifully extended rendition of The Horse on his acoustic guitar, which drew appreciative yells from the crowd as it flowed into its partner Silent in the Morning. Silent, with its layered vocals led by Page, rolled directly into It's Ice and Page took his third vocal lead of the night as Trey and Mike's Simple-esque licks signaled a heavy jam reminiscent of the pre-Have Mercy Bowie. Ice segued into one of the most improvisational versions of The Squirming Coil ever played. Page's usual piano solo at the end of Coil floated into a potent and unusual jam segment that recalled the heavy grooves in It's Ice and Bowie. During the Coil jam the licks of Robert Johnson's Crossroads started to emerge only to descend into a funky Big Ball Jam, which jumped sharply into a mid-set Mike's Song. Mike's featured pronounced bass and organ work as the jam developed into the band's debut of Crossroads, proclaiming the theme that had developed throughout the set. After Crossroads, the energy was palpable as they dropped back into the remainder of Mike's Song. As the band segued back into I Am Hydrogen, Page played a signature organ lick from Rainy Day Women #12 and 35, adding a humorous moment to the mix. After Hydrogen, the band settled into a concise Weekapaug Groove with textured interplay between the band members leading to a light reggae groove. At that point Page began to play Amazing Grace on the piano and Mike picked it up on the bass. After a second's pause, the band began to sing Amazing Grace acapella (through microphones). As soon as the Amazing Grace vocals faded, Mike and Trey picked up the song on their instruments and Page joined on organ in Phish's first instrumental rendition of the spiritual. Fish started the beat for Weekapaug Groove as Trey played the melody and soon the band was playing a full-bore electric instrumental version of Amazing Grace over the groove. Trey thanked the audience again over the music and they wrapped up the song and the set. Phish returned for the encore -- a spirited AC/DC Bag and a nod to days gone by. Ironically they closed this amazing show and tour with Bag's refrains of "no future at all" as the audience was treated to a guitar solo complete with hammered strings and interjected piano and bass licks. Closing the epic spring tour and effectively the theater era, Durham was a crossroads and an inspiring crossroads at that.

Published 19 October 2010 08:02 PM by admin

Essays by Kevin Shapiro



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