, attached to 1994-04-04

Review by pistilstamen

pistilstamen It’s interesting, the second live concert recording I had acquired (and the first through snail mail trade) was 4-4-94. A friend of mine, “Mad Dog” Meg Davis (don’t ask) had a copy of 8-7-93 that I dubbed first.

Before I got into Phish (or even knew who the hell they were) a friend and I would drive around, smoke dope, listening now and then to If I Could and Sample in a Jar (I know, how cliché). Once I had matured, saw Phish live, in concert, and realized that there were recordings of EVERY SHOW (WTF?!), for some reason (maybe sentimental?) I wanted a copy of the first If I Could ever played.

At this point (fall 1996) I had collected all of the commercial releases, so I was familiar with a number of songs that were strewn throughout both sets.

My digital copy of this show starts abruptly in the middle of “Hometown”…my analog copy did not…so much for technology making everything better. The band, clearly fired up to be back on the road again after a 7 months off (sans NYE '93) tears through Divided Sky with a soaring grace. Trey’s playing is particularly inspired during the post “silence” composition. Divided Sky is certainly a “standard” type of song, but this one is bursting at the seams with excitement. Please keep in mind that I’m not one to typically go ‘ga-ga’ over Divided Sky, but this being the initial post/show on this journey, I feel it necessary to expand upon the fantastic playing by the band here. What a great way to start things off.

The world debut of Scent of a Mule is a wholly standard affair…with what may be the shortest “duel” on record. Strangely enough, one would expect a lot of debuts during this show, what with the new album with all new material, out. Coincidentally, (spoiler alert) this first set only contains one new song.

The energy from Divided is carried over in the Page-led portion of Maze. I can see him rising to his feet to dig deep into the last few measures prior to transition to the Trey-led portion. Good stuff here. There is absolutely nothing patient at all about this version of Maze. Much like a sports team looking to set a “tone” early, coming out of the gate in April 1994 Phish has made the declaration that “yes we look like four dorks, but we are not going to waste time getting around to whipping your ass”.

Alas, Maze isn’t really anything special, but (as we will continue to discover as we expand upon this tour) it wasn’t always about the “jam” at this point in their career. The emphasis was often placed on the quality of ‘songs’ and not excessive “Type II” explorations in this era. Fear not, they had dipped a toe into that pool in throughout (and, especially, August) 1993 and would go back there as they rounded back into the swing of things in Spring 1994.

If 2003 Phish is your thing, these likely will not be the most improvisationally stimulating shows you have ever heard…actually if you have two functioning ears, you will come to that conclusion. This journey is more about perspective than it is about comparing one era to another (even though I’m certain there will be plenty of the latter in future writings…maybe even in the next paragraph [spoiler alert]).

Reba is one of my favorite Phish songs. Renditions since 1998 (imo), have fallen on hard times. I literally cannot name a single version since 12-30-98 that I would consider worthy of consideration as “great” (see, I told you). Anyway, this Reba contains a very unique jam segment. Slightly reminiscent of “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, turns out it’s actually “A Hunting We Will Go” (those familiar with the best character in “The Wire” know this song very well). Trey starts the theme and Mike then Page pick up on it almost immediately. They briefly drift back into Reba before some stop-start staccato work from Trey leads into this heavy-metalesque ass-whipping jam…FUCK YES. Fish completely shits on the transition from this glorious piece back into Reba proper, but it was still worth the effort.

They atone nicely and pull together a wholly standard teary-eyed glorious finish to the Reba jam. Yes, that is an oxymoron…but even the most mundane of these mid-90’s versions will lead me to express my emotion via employing jammy guitar face™ and maybe (though unlikely) even an actual a tear or two. There is whistling…even excessive whistling in addition to the usual lyrics found in the coda (which I’m sure put a smile on Paul’s face).

The band declares (maybe prematurely, here) that 1994 will mark a time in which It’s Ice will go “out”. This version isn’t overly experimental, but the seeds have been sown…just wait a couple of days. There is a heavy Page/Mike interplay (which the whole band eventually delves into) on a recognizable theme prior to the return to Ice. I am not sure what that is, but it does sound familiar.

Possum is not one of my favorite Phish songs, so I often don’t pay much attention to it. If you like Possum, you will probably enjoy this version…it is standard (as almost every single one of them ever, are), but is a fun way to end an entertaining set.

The (actual) debut of Down with Disease is a playful romp. I have a fond place in my heart for these early versions of Disease. The band has a relative amount of fun with it and the potential for jamming is there, but they clearly haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. Trey continues to deliver in this jam with a (as would become typical) soaring solo right before the reprise.

There is a Hoistly transition into If I Could…i.e., the reason I acquired this show to begin with. I was not disappointed…AT ALL with this. The 4-4-94 If I Could “jam” was, is and always will be one of my favorite pieces in the Phish repertoire. Yes, I realize that it is ‘standard’ and doesn’t deviate much from the many versions that will follow in the coming months. NEVERTHELESS, I have gotten more people into Phish by playing this segment of music than any other. I love it.

From here on out, the “Giant Country Horns” join and making the remainder of this show “fun”. The horns add as much as they detract (the ‘jams’ are worse, but the ‘songs’ are better, IMO). For example, Split Open and Melt just never gets there. On the opposite end of the spectrum are The Landlady (one of the last versions ever of a song that was a staple from 1990-1993) and Suzy Greenberg with horns. Fantastic stuff.

The debuts of Julius and Wolfman’s Brother are also thrown into the second set and are accompanied well by the horns (as they are on Hoist). The latter includes a nice little sped up jam that is (you guessed it) emphasized by the horns quite well. Certainly nothing to seek out, but it is a nice touch.

I Wanna Be Like You is among my least favorite Fishman songs (and that’s saying something, because I don’t really like any of them…I know, I know), so, while entertaining, it falls flat…and is subsequently dropped from the repertoire in June.

Prior to the encore Trey informs the audience that the NCAA Basketball Championship between Duke and Arkansas is currently tied at 70 with a minute remaining and that they would be “dropping a large screen TV behind the band” to enjoy the final minute of play. Little things like this make me love this band even more than I already did (if that’s possible). Trey then talks about how excited he and the band are to be back on the road after the lengthy break.

The Hood that follows is standard fucking-sublimely-fucking gorgeous 1994 fare. Along with Slave and Reba, even the most average rendition of Harry Hood can take me **there**. This is one that I would consider “average to above-average” a 3.5 out of 5. Again (as I mentioned when talking about Maze earlier), they don’t really dwell in the more serene areas that a Hood jam can lurk in, instead quickly pulsing forward to higher-energy playing as if they cannot control themselves from going there…no complaints.

Following the classic “You can FEEL GOOD” ending, Trey: “very happy to announce: Duke 72, Arkansas…..76”. Evidently Razorback fan was out in full force this evening at The Flynn…or maybe everyone just hates Duke.

Cavern contains the alternate lyric about the brothel wife cutting the narrator on the tongue when suddenly he/she turns back on the "bitch" and drops her in the dung. What, no nipple slicing? Nice touch.

Good/solid way to open the tour.

3 stars.

Worth hearing: Divided, Reba, It’s Ice, If I Could, Landlady, Suzy, Hood.


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