If one were to poll Phish fans’ on the “Phishiest Dates of the Year,” a spectrum of answers would return. A vast proportion of people would respond with 12.31, 12.30, or 12.29. Some opinions would land on 8.16, the day of almost all Phish festivals. An argument could also be made for 10.31, as Halloween was always a highlight of the year. In the end, there is no correct answer to this hypothetical question, and many could make a worthy case for their choice of date. I am here to make a case for the dark-horse calendar page of yesterday, November 30th.
On the brink of December and the end of the year, 11.30 was always a date signaling the home stretch of any fall tour and the beginning of the holiday season. Possibly inspired by the onset of December, and possibly pure coincidence, November 30th produced many an epic Phish show over the years. The “Golden Age of 11.30” came between the years 1994-1997. Evergreen, Dayton, Sacramento, Worcester- four monsters that can hold up to any other date’s shows over that stretch of time. On the anniversary of this day, these nights bear some revisiting.
Without a fall tour in 1993, Phish took found themselves in Olympia, Washington at a hippie college when this date rolled around in 1994. They were winding down an epic tour that had started back in the beginning of October. Phish pulled into Evergreen on the heels of a month of shows that would go down in Phish lore for their explosive and exploratory jamming. Coming directly from two of the most improvisationally significant nights of their career- the The Orpheum show in Minneapolis (insane Bowie, A Live One‘s Slave) and Bozeman, MT (50 minute Tweezer)- the band was taking phenomenal musical risks nightly, and more often than not, meeting with success. The first set contained a boisterous beginning with “Frankenstein, ” “Poor Heart,” and “My Friend, My Friend” before turning more groovy and triumphant with “Reba,” Forbin’s > Mockingbird, and Disease. Yet the reason why this show turned onto a LivePhish download was the masterfully improvised second set.
Beginning with a quick Halley’s that leaped into a ferocious Antelope, the set was in high gear in no time. While the Antelope may have been the jam of the night, the set was highlighted by a series of perfectly executed segues and a sense of teetering on the brink of sanity as the band jammed and acted maniacally. The standout Antelope coherently transitioned to “My Sweet One,” one of those bizarre moves that really shows what Phish can do. The non-stop jamming continued with a transition back to Antelope an then into the high paced- cover “Fixin to Die.” The rhythmic jamming at the end of this portion convinced Trey to coyly strum the beginning of “Yamar,” and the band was right on it. The set continued with another improvised shift into Mike’s > Catapult > McGrupp. A non-stop set of creativity, this set the tone for 11.30s to come.
The first show Phish played at The Nutter Center in Dayton was not the famed 1997 edition, but rather two years earlier on their way home from a 54-show tour. A standard first set was highlighted by “Curtain > Ha Ha Ha” and the only real improv came in “Bathtub Gin.” But alas, Phish shows are neither made nor broken by first sets. This second frame would be one worthy of carrying the tag of 11.30. The meat of this OG Nutter Center show was the sublime jamming contained within “Tweezer > Makisupa > Antelope.” A tour highlight of the never-ending Fall ’95, all three of these songs got the full treatment and creative transitions appeared within. Something you should definitely hear if you have not, this show kick-started December 1995.
1996 saw Phish back on the west coast when 11.30 hit, as they were amidst their tour ending California (and Phoenix) run. I have written about this one in a couple of different contexts in various posts, but in a nutshell, this second set was one of the coolest guest sit ins in Phish’s career. Peter Apfelbaum joined the band on tenor sax for the combination of “Timber Ho! > Taste,” turning the stage into a site of jazz-rock fusion. Comfortable with the band and confident to go off, he made this segment into something very special- a rarity with guests and Phish. This followed a string of bust-outs to start the second set. Opening with ZZ Top’s “La Grange” and the combo of “It’s Ice > Glide,” and continuing with a shredding “Brother” and one of the first ever extended throw downs of 2001, this one was a night to remember. To close the show, Apfelbaum came back out along with first set guest John McCuen on lap slide guitar to join the band in a stirring rendition “Amazing Grace.”
Almost an institution when 1997 rolled around, with six great shows in seven years, the context of 11.30.97 made this one a no-brainer. The cap on a three night Worcester run amidst one of the band’s best tours ever, Phish would absolutely slaughter this show. While the first night gets due attention for its YEM, Ghost, Slave and SBD leak, and the second night is revered for the hour-long “Runaway Jim,” it is 11.30 where the most psychedelic and masterful playing resides in this weekend.
The second set was once again the focus on this 11.30 as Phish dropped some of the dirtiest music of the entire tour in the combination of “Stash > Free.” Moving into murky and experimental territory, while remaining anchored in groove, this “Stash” is simply one of the best versions ever played. Menacing and indicative of how Phish can adapt any style to any song, this unfinished twenty-minute opus drifted into “Free.” This “Free” is just straight up nasty as the entire band locked into some incredibly tight Fall ’97 funk grooves. With an ambient outro jam that built into “Piper,” “Free” provided the perfectly dark and dancy compliment to the monstrous “Stash.” Add a ripping Antelope as a bookend and you’ve got one of the most powerful sets of Fall ’97, and that is saying a lot. A bizarre lights-out heavy metal Wolfman’s and possibly the best-ever “Funky Bitch” stood out in a first set that was much more than an average string of songs.
Looking back even further, one will notice that Phish played their early staple tour stop, The Colonial Theater in Keene, NH on 11.30.90, while 11.30.91 hosted a classic show at The Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY. 11.30.92 saw Phish in Pittsburgh amidst a string of standout shows, completing the 11.30 episodes of the 1990s. For the historians out there, Phish also played this now-storied date in 1989, appearing at The Paradise in Boston, making it a eight of nine year run. Few dates can boast the legacy of November 30th. With an entire “Phishtory” all to itself, this date contains such a rich musical past, it deserves a small Phish holiday that should be remembered each and every year.
In order to celebrate this year, below are links to all of the shows on 11.30 between 1991-1997, featured as today’s downloads. Enjoy the magical creations of the end of November, and welcome to December!
DOWNLOADS OF THE DAY:
II: The Asse Festival, The Squirming Coil, Runaway Jim, Stash, Lizards, Gumbo, The Divided Sky, I Didn’t Know, The Sloth, Run Like an Antelope
E: Caravan, Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg
I: Glide, Llama, Foam, Sparkle, The Divided Sky, Cavern, The Squirming Coil, Brother, Paul and Silas, Guelah Papyrus, You Enjoy Myself
II: Chalk Dust Torture, Uncle Pen, Harry Hood, It’s Ice, Bouncing Around the Room, My Sweet One, Horn, I Didn’t Know, Run Like an Antelope, Golgi Apparatus
E: Contact, Rocky Top
I: Llama, Foam, Bouncing Around the Room, Poor Heart, Stash, Sparkle, It’s Ice, I Didn’t Know, Reba > Run Like an Antelope
II: Buried Alive > Runaway Jim, Guelah Papyrus, Maze, Glide, Uncle Pen, You Enjoy Myself, The Squirming Coil, Terrapin, Cavern
E: Fee > Fire
11.30.94 Evergreen College, Olympia WA < LINK TO LivePhish
I: Frankenstein, Poor Heart, My Friend My Friend, Reba, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Famous Mockingbird, Down With Disease, Bouncing Around the Room, I’m Blue I’m Lonesome*, Long Journey Home*
II: Halley’s Comet > Run Like an Antelope > My Sweet One > Run Like an Antelope** > Fixin’ To Die > Ya Mar > Mike’s Song > Catapult > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Cavern
E: The Horse-> Silent in the Morning, Amazing Grace
*Acoustic. **Last verse omitted.
II: Cars Trucks Buses, Tweezer > Makisupa Policeman > Run Like an Antelope, Scent of a Mule, Free, Strange Design, Amazing Grace
E: Harry Hood
1: Runaway Jim, Punch You in the Eye, All Things Reconsidered, Bouncing Around the Room, Stash, Fluffhead, The Old Home Place*, Uncle Pen*, Prince Caspian, Chalk Dust Torture
2: La Grange, It’s Ice, Glide, Brother, Contact, Also Sprach Zarathustra-> Timber (Jerry)**, Taste**, Funky Bitch**, Amazing Grace, Amazing Grace Jam#
*With John McEuen on banjo. **With Peter Apfelbaum on tenor sax. #With Peter Apfelbaum on tenor sax and John McEuen on lap slide guitar.
I: Guyute, Funky Bitch, Wolfman’s Brother-> Hard Jam*-> Love Me, The Squirming Coil, Loving Cup
II: NICU, Stash** > Free > Piper, When The Circus Comes, Run Like an Antelope
E: Them Changes#
*Hard rock jam: Mike quotes “Heartbreaker” going into the jam, and Trey says a few lines from “Sanity” and then one line from “Esther.” Trey asks Chris to turn off the lights, and they jam in the dark. **Unfinished. #Buddy Miles cover.Tags: Culture, Jams