Many you know Emil from his incredible website Emil’s Tabs which he created in 1995. The unofficial bible for helping us fans play Phish on guitar. He also happens to be an incredible person and one of the most knowledgeable Phish fans I have ever met. Emil has turned me on to some incredible versions of songs from the early 90’s that I may not have heard otherwise. When I am looking for help with great type I versions of songs I often turn to Emil. After he blew me away with the 12/01/1992 “Bowie,” I asked him to do a quick “picks” piece so that we could share it with everyone else. Take the time and give them a listen. The longest track is just over 14 minutes long, get ready for some serious Trey shred fest.
I fell into Phish the same year I started taking guitar lessons. The confluence of these two passions (circa 1994) were profoundly additive, and had they occurred at separate times, I don’t think either would have become as enormous a part of my life.
Everyone has a different perspective with any passion they have; each has their own reasons and approach with these passions. Some people sail because they enjoy solving the physical puzzles of the wind and the tides, while others simply bask in the sunshine and are cleansed by the fresh air.
In this way, while I am drawn to the band’s music and can appreciate it on many levels, I approach Phish’s music primarily as a guitarist. I discovered Phish during an amazing time in the band’s history, and spent countless hours listening, in awe, to tapes of recordings from the 80s and 90s.
More recently, I have spent a fair amount of time on turntable.fm listening to Phish’s music, much of which I hadn’t heard before. Suffice it to say, it has vastly expanded my appreciation for various aspects of the music on many levels. Songs I had never really enjoyed before are now favorites, and I’ve been exposed to so many shows and tracks I probably would never have heard were it not for the amazing community that has blossomed in [thePhish].
Less recently, I’ve practically worn out several Maxell cassettes listening to many recordings, and was surprised to see that some of the folks in thePhish hadn’t heard some of my favorites. LawnMemo has encouraged me to compile some into a formal listing to share with some of his readers that may not frequent thePhish. Enjoy!
3/15/1991 – Gothic Theatre – Englewood, CO
“The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony” > “AC/DC Bag“
The band is completely locked in for this entire show. While I’d probably never seek out an “Oh Kee Pa” on its own to listen to, the segue into “AC/DC Bag” is a beautiful thing, and its perfect execution really sets up the next song. Trey and Page kick off the jam in “AC/DC Bag” with a bit of musical combat (complete with a “Destiny Unbound” tease), then come together to begin a coordinated ascent to the peak. Mike’s bass is unrelenting and catapults Trey into a gorgeous flourish of arpeggiation climaxing in a series of repetitive bends that give me goosebumps each time I listen.
5/7/1992 – The Agora Theatre – Cleveland, OH
Trey gives Page some space and meanders around a bit until Mike pulls the band into a series of alternating key changes that builds up the kind of suspension-release jam that Phish is known for. Once the framework is established, Trey takes the lead and carries the rhythm of the jam’s structure into a high-energy classic “Tweezer” shred fest that peaks again and again and again before falling back into the wind-down.
12/30/1997 Madison Square Garden – New York, NY
An incredible rendition with the sort of patient and deliberate build that is a testament to the band’s ability to play cohesively. The solo from Trey that starts nearly at a standstill and patiently climbs with determination to several classic “Taste” climaxes.
4/21/1992 – Redwood Acres Fairgrounds – Eureka, CA
Regardless what your definition of a “jam vehicle” is, “Mike’s Song” has evolved substantially since its debut and always signals the beginning of a journey. In the spring of 1992, the bassy drop into the jam meant literal and figurative darkness, and of course, trampolines. In fact, the rest of the song was performed while both Mike and Trey were jumping (video – bit.ly/16XsbUy), which combined with the strobes made it seem to the audience as if they were floating. But the fact that Trey is improvising while bouncing produces a solo that sounds as if Trey is arm-wrestling his guitar, an amazing effect that makes an already sinister portion of the song sound downright filthy. Heavy metal teases punctuate this slow and determined climb, replete with a flurry of ascending licks.
11/21/1992 – Pritchard Gym, SB Sports Complex, SUNY Stony Brook – Stony Brook, NY
I can’t include a “Mike’s Song” without a “Weekapaug” to close it out! Trey demonstrates his agility with some jaw-dropping machine-gun arpeggiation here to build serious momentum, then lets an octave E ring nearly uninterrupted for over a half a minute before finishing off this spectacular Groove.
5/6/1992 – St. Andrew’s Hall – Detroit, MI
While guitarists familiar with the technical complexities of the first half of “Reba” will undoubtedly appreciate the accuracy with which Trey plays the scripted half of this song, the jam in this “Reba” wastes no time reaching a glorious and long-lasting peak, and just when you think Fish is about to end the fun, Trey takes a victory lap.
4/7/1992 – Fine Arts Auditorium, Fort Lewis College – Durango, CO
“Split Open and Melt”
There’s something special about Mike’s bass in the circulated recordings from April of 1992. Sure, he’s louder than usual, but there’s a punchiness to his tone that makes songs like this “Melt” that feature that sound particularly awesome. Trey slaloms around the opening riff Mike sets up, then lets loose an absolutely ferocious solo.
4/10/1994 – Alumni Arena, SUNY Buffalo – Buffalo, NY
This rendition of “Harry Hood” is pretty well known, but I’m including it anyway because it’s in a three-way-tie with two others for my favorite rendition and anyone who knows me knows this list would be incomplete without a “Harry Hood.” If you’ve never heard it, you’re in for a real treat. I could probably write a dissertation about “Harry Hood,” but not today. Abstractly speaking, the quintessential “Harry Hood” jam opens with a quiet melodic tenderness and gains momentum until it blossoms into a triumphant double-octave peak that sends chills down your spine. This jam is too beautiful to put into words, but a few things make this rendition particularly special. The opening has a harmonic bliss to it that seems to go on longer than usual. Trey, Mike and Page bask in this until they become intertwined around 8:40, and the jam’s intensity increases until the guitar splits out. A soaring sustained note from Trey carries the momentum to another level, and the jam goes on peaks three times.