Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Phish on Phish

I've been listening to the recordings from Phish's reunion shows last month in Hampton, Virginia, which were available for free download for a limited time. Wow. I never thought this day would come. I was at the Last Phish Show Ever, in August 2004, and it seemed like the end, but it ended up being just a second hiatus. At first it looked like the Hampton shows would just be a brief reunion, but Phish has scheduled an extensive cross-country summer tour, with 27 more shows! It looks like Phish is back.

And they're not messing around. They opened with Fluffhead, which hadn't been played since 2000; it was heavily requested in the post-hiatus period (2002-04) but the requests were never honored ("Mike says no"). (Not only that, but they opened the third night with Sanity, not played since 1998. What's next, Union Federal?)

I scored tickets to what I thought would be the next Phish show, June 4 at Jones Beach. Now it turns out that it won't be the next one, since they've added two more before that, one at Fenway Park and another one at Jones Beach. So it's a good thing that I didn't post my predicted setlist for that show, which is now worthless - I had started to make an awesome list, mostly songs that weren't played at any of the Hampton shows (and therefore won't have been played in almost 5 years), and making sure to include ocean/beach-themed songs (Waves, Drowned, etc.). But now it would be impossible to make any predictions about June 4 without knowing what they play at the two preceding shows.

It has often been said that lighting designer Chris Kuroda is the 5th member of the band, and one could add that the audience is the 6th. In addition to the scripted lines that the audience chants or yells ("Wilson!", "Hood!", etc.), the audience also cheers particularly loudly at certain points, some predictable and some not, and this becomes part of the song in the live experience and live recordings. This includes cheering at just about every transition in popular multipart songs such as You Enjoy Myself and Run Like An Antelope, and (quite understandably) through basically all 16 minutes of Fluffhead on the Hampton recording.

There also seems to be a tradition of cheering at specific lyrics that are perceived to refer (in addition to their contextual meaning within in the song) to the Phish experience in some way - the music, the concert, etc. (The Phish equivalents of "What a long, strange trip it's been", if you will.) Examples include:
  • "Let's get this show on the road" (AC/DC Bag)
  • "Sharing in the groove" (Mike's Song)
  • "The trick was to surrender to the flow" (Lizards)
But then I noticed a whole new set of lyrics on the Hampton recordings that got cheers for (I think) the first time. These shared the common thread that they can be understood as referring to Phish's return after a long hiatus. These include:
  • "Look back on those days when my life was a haze" (NICU)
  • "It took me a long time to get back on the train" (Get Back on the Train)
  • "I feel the feeling I forgot" (Free)
Did anyone else notice this? What else goes on either of these lists? Will the lyrics on the second list join the first list permanently, or was it just a one-time thing for the reunion shows? (And how about Fluffhead - is it back to stay? That question seems to have been answered for Phish itself.)


  1. I would like to know when was the last time they played aveinu malkenu or yerushalayim shel zahav....

  2. 7/7/03 and 12/31/94, respectively. It seems that Yerushalayim Shel Zahav was a flash-in-the-pan Hoist-era thing and probably won't be back, but it would be great to see Avenu Malkenu* again!

    * the standard spelling in Phish setlists. I know it's bad transliteration.

  3. I would think Avenu Malkenu will be played at some point on the Summer tour. It always comes sandwiched in the theme/narration music from The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday (Gamehenge).

  4. I also noticed a new website coinciding with their return - Phish.TV