[Welcome To Weekly Catch With Osiris! A weekly series brought to you from the team at Osiris. Each Wednesday we're going to bring you a historic Phish show from that week with some commentary. Our goal is to go beyond official releases and well-known shows to bring you some of the overlooked gems throughout Phish history. If you like what you find, we'd encourage you to check out the assortment of podcasts at the Osiris! This week's catch comes from Brian Brinkman of Beyond The Pond.]
Aside from Vermont, perhaps no other Northeastern State seems to encapsulate Phish quite like Maine. According to this site, the band has been playing Maine since January 1989, and have played some of the biggest shows of their entire career there. Shows like 8/3/1991, 2/3/1993, 12/30/1993, 11/2/1994, 12/11/1995, 8/17/1997, 12/7/99, 8/2/03, and 10/19/2010 impacted not only their immediate tours, but the overall trajectory of their sound and career in a number of ways.
Phish's performance from the Student Center at Colby College on Friday, May 10, 1991 is not a transformative show. It doesn't see the band break through musical barriers towards a new landscape where they'll never be the same again like a few other shows from this particularly week. What it is, however, is an exceptionally tight show with one of the finest setlists of the era. In a year that - aside from the Horns Tour/Amy's Farm - tends to be overlooked by most fans, this show features a band that is keenly aware of timing and pace, cultivating a fluid setlist and enough musical hijinks to keep you coming back for more.
Opening with the fifth-ever show-opening "David Bowie," there's a sinister and focused approach to the show out the gates. Listening here, it's clear the impact of Trey Anastasio on guitar at this point in Phish's career. College bar bands simply don't have lead guitarists like Trey. He's so deliberate, so far in front of the rest of the group - more on this later - and so capable of stringing together discordant musical ideas in a rising fashion that somehow, it still remains rock & roll.
"Cavern" > "Ya Mar" follows showcasing why these songs are still staples in the Phish catalogue. "Dinner & A Movie" > "The Sloth" are our early rarities before "The Landlady" moves us into "Bathtub Gin." If ever there was a Phish song that inexplicably shifted midway into it's career, it's "Gin." A song that's almost too bizarre to truly be good, early versions failed to showcase the power it would have in just a few short years. Hint's of it's Murat, Amherst, Rupp, Went, Riverport, et al, versions are not to be found. It's simply a quirky song by a quirky band that's almost too cute for it's own good.
The set ends with "The Lizards," which sounds just perfect during the halcyon days of the band, and "Possum" which wasn't the raw beast it would become just a year later once the concept of Secret Language became incorporated within the band's shows.
While I would argue Set I is certainly worth your time and ears, Set II is the reason this show is featured. Opening with "Golgi," the set reaches a magical peak in the second song "Harry Hood." A song that the band had long been capable of tapping into for an emotional peak to a set/show, this versions feels like a true step forward for the band. Still somewhat thin in it's make-up - more of a resut of equipment than band abilties, the song fattens up and achieves a new depth following the "Mr Minor" segment, as Trey latches onto the true emotional core of the song. What follows is one of the best examples of early-Trey locking in and directing the band forward. It's a solo you absolutely have to hear from a band peaking at the tail-end of a four month tour. The big "Hood's" of 1992 and 1993 are in direct lineage of this version. A song build around an achingly simple chord structure would not be what it were if Trey weren't able to guide the song into transcendence. This isn't the first BIG "Hood" but it's an early peek into what the band would soon become.
The rest of Set II features fantastic versions of "Wilson," "Foam," "McGrupp" and "Chalk Dust" before "Mike's Groove" closes things out. "Mike's" rocks with arena prowess like always, while "Groove" is akin to the "Gin" earlier in the show, except here, rather than being an obscure song that hasn't yet figured what it is, it's a simple fact that the band just cannot keep up with Trey in this song. The speed he wants to play with in 1991 just challenges the rhythm section, and the result is a song that the band just isn't yet ready to showcase. Come back one spring later & you'll hear the band absolutely destroy the song.
The show ends with one of the most bizarre encore pairings of all time: "Take The A-Train" and "Highway To Hell." When you show off your dexterity throughout a show like this, why not pair jazz with cock rock?
While this is not the best show of the Spring 1991, nor one of those transformative statements, it's yet another one of these gems that all diehards should hear for perspective and insight. These are the nights, like midlevel shows of 3.0, that showcase the incremental steps forward the band takes throughout a tour to reach the biggest shows that ultimately define them.
Thanks for reading and hopefully you're enjoying this series. Another Weekly Catch with Osiris will be up next week!
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March 27, 1993
25 years ago
Set 2: Buried Alive > Halley's Comet > It's Ice > Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin' Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Poor Heart > Golgi Apparatus
 Beginning featured Trey on acoustic guitar.
 Fish on trombone.
 All Fall Down signal in intro.
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