a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History

Keyboard Army

Also Known As: Keyboard Cavalry

Music: Anastasio/Fishman/Gordon/McConnell

Vocals: Instrumental

Albums: Live Phish 01

Debut: 1995-09-27

Historian: Mark Toscano, Phillip Zerbo

Last Update: 2015-09-07

It's name coined by fans who just didn’t know what the heck to call it, “Keyboard Army” was a phenomenon with half the life expectancy of its sister song, “Acoustic Army.” Whereas “Acoustic Army” was performed over the course of 1995’s two tours, “Keyboard Army” – also known as “Keyboard Cavalry” – only made appearances during the fall tour that year. 

At the tour’s opener on 9/27/95, after “Billy Breathes,” Page started repeating a pleasant piano riff over and over, while the rest of the band abandoned their instruments one by one. Fish, Mike, and Trey marched, slowly and single file across the stage, each of them stopping in front of one of Page’s other keyboards. The three of them then joined Page’s simple riff on their respective keyboards, each playing a distinct riff of their own. The short, four-voice song repeated many times, until a melodic ascent came out of nowhere and the music stopped. Then it began again. After the second stop, Fish, Mike, and Trey retreated back to their own instruments much in the way they had left them, with Page still repeating his initial riff as accompaniment.

“Keyboard Army” song surfaced fourteen times over the course of the fall ‘95 tour (on 10/8/95 it appeared twice!), often occurring in the middle or at the end of a jam. For interesting examples, check out THE “Mike’s Song” -> “Keyboard Army” -> “Weekapaug Groove” from 9/30/95 Shoreline, or coming out of a “Tweezer” jam on 12/14/95 Binghamton, which was officially released as Live Phish 01. The Binghamton version was seemingly the song’s final performance, swept up into the dustbin of Phish history.

Just a few months short of twenty years (and 684 shows) later on 9/6/15 at Dick’s, “Keyboard Army” would make a dramatic, unexpected return. As the encore of the final show of the summer ‘15 tour, Phish used the Dick’s “letter” tradition, spelling “THANK YOU” – ”Tweezer Reprise,” “Harpua,” “After Midnight,” “NO2,” “Keyboard Army,” “Your Pet Cat,” “Once in a Lifetime” and “United We Stand.” “Keyboard Army” won out over “Kill Devil Falls” and “Kung” for the “K” role, taking its place in what will go down as simply the greatest encore in Phish’s 32-year history.

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