Rift – The Concept Album

Almost 16 years to the day it was released (2.2.93), Phish’s fourth studio album, Rift, still holds a unique place in their history.  It was this album that began to lift the band from college gymnasiums and their own van to the long sought-after success of tour buses and a legit crew.  Though many of the songs on the album had been played already, when Phish put them into a particular order, coupled with symbolic cover art, representing every song on the album, their first “concept” album emerged. (“The Horse” was not depicted on the cover, though they would intentionally take of this with their next release, Hoist.)

pnt-4Narrating a restless night’s dream sequence of a man in a strained relationship, Phish took their studio intent to a whole new level.  While future albums would include more production value, Rift’s conceptual collection of songs still holds the trophy, in many fans’ minds, as the quintessential Phish album.

As the man on the cover falls asleep, he drifts into a first dream thinking about the “Rift” that has come between him and his love.  Via tense, driving music and lyrical symbolism, Phish recreates the frayed nerves and impassioned thoughts of the strained lover.

I spied wings of reason, herself taking flight
And upon yonder precipice saw her alight
And glared back at me one last look of dismay
As if she were the last one she thought I’d betray

As he describes the physical separation of the two, the man comes to understand what has driven her away.  As she looks at him with disdain through in his fantastical dream state, the man assumes the blame of his betrayal.

b000002hc5The second verse shows him futilely trying to convince himself that his life is “So much better” without her, yet he is still “struggl[ing] with destiny, and “gasping” as “defeated he f[alls] of the edge.” Clearly showing signs of second guessing his decision, the dreamer is consumed by “moments like these,” remembering back to that “terrible night that shocked and persuaded [his] soul to ignite” for her.

“Fast Enough For You” is his second dream of the evening, and finds the man wishing things were different and as they once were.  “If time were only part of the equation,” he wistfully laments.  The album’s two interludes of “Lengthwise” are to be taken quite literally, as the dreamer is lonely, sleeping diagonally trying to fill up the physical and existential space she has left in his bed and in his life.

As the night moves on and he moves into a deeper sleep, his dreams get darker with the onset of “Maze.”  With music that perfectly matches the hectic lyrical confusion of the song, the man feels himself as trapped, while others laugh at his utter dismay.  To be taken in the context of his relationship, the man is “embarrassed with failure” and “tr[ies] to reverse the course that [his] tread [has] already traversed.”  Burdened with regret and plagued by helplessness, he is completely overwhelmed by his emotional state, hearing voices inside his head telling him he’s lost it” and he’ll “never get out of this maze” that he has created for himself.  His inner struggle mounts.

“Sparkle” brings in some musical relief, but when looked at lyrically, the song isn’t so happy.

The pressure builds, you buy a gift
You’re hoping that your dread will lift
It glitters on her like a glass
You shudder as it comes to pass

Circa 1993

Circa 1993

These are desperate thoughts of someone trying to rectify a wrong, possibly with a “glass” wedding ring, hoping this could be the answer.  The lyrics expound on the topics of  apology, confusion and shame- emotions that plague our cosmic dreamer, while he hopes for the best.  Phish was clever here, creating a dynamic where, ostensibly, people think it is a happy song about laughing endlessly, when in fact it’s not.  The laughing is of the self-defeated nature.  As things don’t pan out as he’d hoped, he can no longer can think of words to express himself and he is left hopelessly laughing while he emotionally “falls apart.”

“Horn” is a beautiful composition, yet tells a story of bitterness and retribution.  Our dreamer seethes:

Now that you’ve deceived me, and played my name around
And hung those nasty flyers, on all the buildings in town
Dribbled my possessions in a ring around the earth
And bought and sold my self-control for less than it was worth

We are brought into yet another fragile mind-state of the man, this time resulting from frustration and anger.  Self-control gone, this dream represents the emotional roller coaster of his recent life.  He thinks of how she has beaten him down, yet he still yearns for their mundane past, wishing to tell her, “I’ll pick you up at eight as usual, listen for my horn.”

As he drifts into deeper sleep, the music constantly shifts, representing the various dream states that permeate one’s full nights sleep.  “The Wedge,” comes next, with him reminiscing about days gone by, and thinking:

That it’s the ocean flowing in our veins
Oh..that it’s the salt that’s in our tears
Oh..cause we could have come so very far
Oh..in at least as many years!

hw77Albeit melodic and bouncy, the lyrical path is still one of a love almost lost, and the bittersweet emotions that surround this delicate time.  Looking back over their relationship, he can’t fathom it has come to this.

The subsequent nighttime interlude comes in the form of the paranoid nightmare of, “My Friend, My Friend,” formerly titled, “Knife.”  With the opening verse, we see a picture of someone who believes his friend will murder him and marry his love.  Rife with Shakespearean overtones, and parallels the deceptive plot of betrayal in MacBeth, this song is the darkest, thematically, on the album.

My friend, my friend he’s got a knife
A statement from his former life
When he was easy but alone
Beside him was an empty throne
But what of silver silken blade
Affix his gaze, his features staid
Grasps the handle, clips the cable
One steps up, sits at his table
My friend, my friend, he’s got a knife
My friend, my friend, he’s got a wife

Musically, this song is a memoir of Phish’s composition-focused days, as the intro was composed as part of a whole with passages that would later become “Guyute.” The composition gives way to an eerie groove, darkening the texture of the dreamer’s subconscious, and illustrating his self-imposed paranoia.

“Weigh,” one of two Gordon scribed songs on the album, brings an episode of comic relief to the night of terror, as the dreamer ponders the absurd notion of beheading his lover so he can weigh her head.  His other wish is to:

…gather all your razors and pick all the
Little prickly hairs so I can weigh them

Leave it to Gordeaux to consistently redefine the absurd.

hw99“All Things Reconsidered” is a semantic and musical play on the theme of NPR’s show “All Things Considered.  This lyric-less piece’s symbolism comes shining through in its title.  The music brings us on a meandering path of introverted thought through the head of the dreamer as he rethinks his relationship from an internal perspective.

“Mound” becomes a glimpse into his bleak future reality that will exist without his love.  Foreseeing himself as a “broken old man” who “burie[s] all his memories of home, in an icy clump that lies beneath the ground,” this represents a self-prophecy of what he might become if he doesn’t reconcile his relationship with the woman he loves.  Approaching the mysterious mound, potentially symbolic of his future grave, and looking back over the happier parts of his life, the song goes:

He went over to the mound
Reclining down his final thoughts
Were drifting to the time this life had shined

“It’s Ice,” one of more musically and lyrically complex songs on the album, narrates the deep inner struggle going on within the dreamer.  As he looks at his his reflection, he confronts his alternate self.

He meets my eyes, to my surprise
He laughs in full light of my frown
My double wants to pull me down

The song continues to chronicle a fierce battle with himself as to which way his life should to go in light of his current circumstances.  Each part of him is personified.

Slipping on the friction slide, my skin peels to the bone
The flesh I leave behind, is something that is not my own
I beg my mirror image for a moment with my soul
He’s leaning back, time to attack, to see who’s in control

Potentially sparked by the grim foreshadowing of the previous dream of “Mound,” our character engages himself in a struggle for his destiny. This represents the most significant part of his part of his sleep and the album, as he will emerge from this inner-battle with the revelation that is “Horse > Silent.”

The lyrics of “The Horse” speak for themselves, though they can have two very different meanings:

It’s time I sling the baskets off this overburdened horse
Sink my toes into the ground and set a different course
Cause if I were here and you were there
I’d meet you in between
And not until my dying day, confess what I have seen.

Despite all the subconscious madness he has persevered through the night, he ends with revelations.  He can’t live without her, he must “set a different course.”  Or, alternately, he realizes that his efforts have been in vain, and that his desperate nature has led him to cling to a lost love.  The “different course” he must set is without the woman plaguing hus dreams. Regardless of which meaning you ascribe to the song, he realizes his destiny, which is foretold in “Silent In the Morning.”

…you’ve found your voice
It brings me to my knees
The volume just increases
The resounding echoes grow
Till once again I bask in morning stillness, I love so

The imagery of bringing him “to his knees” can symbolize in devotion or helplessness.  The final lines are the emotional peak, as he is resolute in reuniting with his estranged love, or conversely forcing himself into more promises he knows he can’t keep.  Ultimately, he knows he’ll be better without her; he’d rather “brush her off” and move on.  The poignant final lines of the song are sung in a round.

I will not dismiss you, shelter you, speak with you
Smile at you, trust in me, he’d like to brush you off, and I’d agree

The “morning” is not only symbolic of the end of his dreams, but also the dawning of his newly intentioned life, one way or the other.  Through the darkness the dreamer quests for a new beginning with hope and redemption.

Though Phish has created quasi-concept albums after this in Billy Breathes, Story of the Ghost, and somewhat less so, Undermind;   Rift remains the strongest example of perfectly executing a coherent musical narrative.  Lyrically rich and musically diverse, the album remains as the last relic of the “old” Phish.  Starting with “Hoist,” Phish would put much more money and production into their albums, working with famed producers from Steve Lillywhite to Bryce Goggin.  While each of their future albums took on a certain character of its own, you will find few that will argue with Rift as the most intriguing Phish album of all time.





0af84b4652dadb9e49d12904a54de7e14gOK!  We’ve worked out a few kinks, and the PHISH THOUGHTS TICKET EXCHANGE board is ready to roll.   The board is something that the public can look at, but you must send an email request to ticketexchange@phishthoughts.com with your email address in the subject line, and a funny joke as the text in order to add an entry.  An invite to the board will be sent to the email you provide. Remember this is a trading board, but also a place you can buy face value extras from fans who have them!

If and when you complete a successful transaction, please, as a courtesy, send an email to ticketexchange@phishthoughts.com with “Great Success!” in the subject line and the details of the transaction in the text.  This is so we can track transactions.

I must make a disclaimer that I am not responsible for any of the transactions that go awry on this board.  It is a community resource that must be used with respect.  If we do so, there should be no problem. You can click here or the link above until I find a place for a permalink!



6.25.97 L’Aeronef, Lille, France < LINK

phish-prague-97Out of the of many adventurous outings that made up Europe Summer ’97, this one was one of the best.  The first set was filled with new songs that had yet to make their US debut, while the second set is one of the best of the entire summer.  The first half was dominated by a monstrous and funked out “Disease” that became the norm for Summer ’97, with a pre-US “Piper” wedged in the middle.  This show marked the first ever appearance of “Meatstick,” with the band improvisationally chanting/singing the chorus over a tight chugging jam.  The set ending Antelope also smokes.

I: Oblivious Fool, Dogs Stole Things, Taste, Billy Breathes, AC/DC Bag, The Old Home Place, Theme From the Bottom, Wading in the Velvet Sea, I Saw It Again, Limb By Limb, My Soul

II: Down With Disease > Piper > Down With Disease > Meatstick* > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Makisupa Policeman > Cecilia^ > HYHU > Rocko William > Run Like an Antelope+

E: Guyute

*New original.  ^Simon & Garfunkel cover, sung by Fish.  +Trey introduces the whole band and crew.

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201 Responses to “Rift – The Concept Album”

  1. Billy Breathes Says:

    ps – did you get any pavilion seats, stashy?

  2. Chalkdustin Says:

    Does anyone have a recommendation for Red Rocks campsites? I figure that’s the cheaper way to go. Thanks!

  3. Billy Breathes Says:

    Look Ma….no hands!
    Miner – I’m on my bb. When are you getting the mobile site up and running?!

    Opener: Runaway-Bouncin-Landlady-Timber Ho-Rift-YEM-Zero

  4. themanatee Says:

    R1 breakin it down….

  5. camman Says:

    i know im late in the discussion, but i really think that rift songs are so much better live…. compare to the fire that Rift, Maze, Wedge, It’s Ice and mound unleash live.. the album doesn’t compare….

  6. showhe Says:

    @chalkdustin ~


    Or just drive up into the mountains and set up a tent! Just make sure you’re on public property…rocky mountain national park for example, although that’s a haul after show and to set up camp in the dark isn’t fun.

  7. snigglebeach Says:

    @ Billy Breathes

    When i say double order anything i mean u do it, and have a friend, co-worker, grandma. someone who lives somewhere else, that is not ordering tiks for themselves. I did mine, my mom did an order.

    I did get very lucky and only ended up with 2 extras which was for my home show so i had plenty of folks who wanted them.

    Best part is, got all good seats. sec. 1 at greatwoods, 114 at knoxville (off the floor but straight out), and seats right next to the soundboard for Jones Beach and Fox. I have never once pulled a decent seat from ticketmaster. always get lawn seats or 300 section. Phish tiks always send decent seats.

    Same time i got shut out of Hampton and i prob had ins on at least 6 diff. orders, and got nothing.

    Summer Tour “2010” there will be plenty of tiks available. maybe even fall tour will be easy (if there is one, and i do expect 1)

  8. carl Says:

    The Wedge unleashes fire live? Tell me when!

    I’m never excited to see Rift tunes in a setlist (except for the Wedge, Fast Enough, MFMF), but I’d put it on before any other Phish album.

    Thought it was “canman” till I read more closely

  9. carl Says:

    @ snigglebeach

    Are you a dry goods regular? Someone suggested maybe they use names/numbers from their data base as a correspondence check

  10. Billy Breathes Says:

    @sniggle…are you using multiple credit cards with the same billing address to pull tickets? or completely different cards and billing addresses (via grama and grampa, etc). 🙂

  11. camman Says:

    carl, check the first song on the 2nd day of the went…

    and nope man.. tis camman, my name is cameron.. and my grandpa you to call me cam the man… and eventually camman

  12. contact420 Says:

    Here is a follow up to my post later last night.

    BRAVO to The Boss- a letter to his fans after the same bullshit we’ve all experienced the past couple of weekends happened to his fans. Hopefully more artists will step up and speak up. Wasn’t even aware of the Ticketbastard-Live Nation Merger
    Send email to the address listed in the article to this Albert Lopez douche.

    A Letter to Our Fans:

    We know there was much confusion regarding Ticketmaster and TicketsNow during last Monday’s on-sale dates. We were as confused as you were, as we were given no advance notice of the major changes in the Ticketmaster-TicketsNow world. (Bear in mind that we are not clients of any ticketing company, and that all those arrangements are between venues and ticketing companies.)

    Last Monday, we were informed that Ticketmaster was redirecting your log-in requests for tickets at face value, to their secondary site TicketsNow, which specializes in up-selling tickets at above face value. They did this even when other seats remained available at face value. We condemn this practice.

    We perceive this as a pure conflict of interest. Ticketmaster is there to ensure that we have a good, fair sale of our tickets at their face value plus normal ticketing charges. TicketsNow is supposed to be a secondary site where people who already have tickets may exchange, trade, and, unfortunately, speculate with them. We have asked this redirection from Ticketmaster to TicketsNow cease and desist immediately and Ticketmaster has agreed to do so in the future and has removed its unwanted material from their and our site.

    We know the many cynical arguments some make in favor of the Ticketmaster system: There are rumors that some artists or managers participate in Ticketmaster charges–we do not. There are rumors that some artists or managers are receiving a percentage of the amount above face value at secondary outlets like TicketsNow–we do not. Some artists or managers may not perceive there to be a conflict between having the distributor of their tickets in effect “scalping” those same tickets through a secondary company like TicketsNow–we do.

    While many of you have sent notes to us and your local promoters, you may also send accurate informational letters to Albert Lopez of Ticketmaster [Albert.Lopez@ticketmaster.com] and he will try to address your questions.

    A final point for now: the one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing. Several newspapers are reporting on this story right now. If you, like us, oppose that idea, you should make it known to your representatives.

    The abuse of our fans and our trust by Ticketmaster has made us as furious as it has made many of you. We will continue to do our utmost now and in the future to make sure that these practices are permanently curtailed on our tours.

    Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau and the entire Springsteen Tour Team

  13. Full Tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    ^ the boss is the man!

    i really wish phish would have broken the silence about this issue back after the original hampton ticket travesty with ticketbastard. Seems like they let it keep sliding into summer tour ticket sales. I’m sure some of the jersey folks with springsteen could have some legs broken if they made the call to tony soprano. If i were that guy at ticketmaster i’d be dropping a duce in my drawers bout now.

  14. Selector J Says:

    So Carl do you like seeing a Wedge, or no? You say it doesn’t unleash fire live but then say it’s one of the few you like to see live off of Rift. I’m not bashing just wanted some clarification.

    As far as Rift tunes go, give me a Maze at every show! Kuroda with the lights, the dark jam, that hypnotic riff… I love that song live. I’d love to hear some more Mounds and My Friends, too.

    For the record, I like Wedge, too. Favorite Wedge moment: I was on a ship for a month in the Pacific I put on a show in my discman (hey, at least it wasn’t a walkman) and went out to the deck. [Audience cheers…Wedge riff playing…] Looking over the rail, I saw a big school of fish swimming alongside us… and then the line came “We’re bobbing on the surface, and the shadows glide below.” Good times.

  15. snigglebeach Says:

    @ Billy Breathes

    Of course diff. address. Like u stated same address will get u denied. Even your neighbor might be risky. or Mom with same last name. i am not taking any chances. All my other orders are with completely unrelated (except through me).

    The real key is to have 2 or 3 diff people willing to put up 300-400 on their card on your word.

  16. showhe Says:

    Tickemaster responds to Bruce:

    Irving Azoff, CEO of Ticketmaster Entertainment, responds.

    An Open Letter of Apology to Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau and the entire Springsteen Tour Team:

    While we were genuinely trying to do the right thing for fans in providing more choices when the tickets they requested from the primary on-sale were not available, we clearly missed the mark. Fans are confused and angry, which is the opposite of what we hoped to accomplish. We sincerely apologize to Bruce, his organization and, above all, his fans.

    We recognize that we need to change our course. We have committed to Bruce and state publicly here that we have taken down all links for Bruce’s shows directing fans from Ticketmaster to TicketsNow. This redirection only occurred as a choice when we could not satisfy fans’ specific search request for primary ticket inventory, but to make sure there is no misunderstanding in the future, we also publicly state that we will never again link to TicketsNow in a manner that can possibly create any confusion during a high-demand on-sale. Specifically, we will not present an option to go to TicketsNow from Ticketmaster without the consent of the artist and the venue, both of whom work together to bring the joy of live entertainment to millions of fans.

    If any fans inadvertently purchased tickets in the resale marketplace believing in error they were purchasing from the initial on-sale, we will refund the difference between the actual purchase price and the face price of the ticket. (Please don’t abuse this good faith gesture – we did not give brokers any preferential access to tickets.)

    We are committed to helping deliver the most transparent and best live entertainment experience to fans. We will do better going forward.


    Irving Azoff, CEO, Ticketmaster Entertainment

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    “We have committed to Bruce and state publicly here that we have taken down all links for Bruce’s shows directing fans from Ticketmaster to TicketsNow.”

    WTF? Only for Bruce shows? What a bunch of crap. Those guys need to fry. I hope congress investigates them and breaks up their evil empire.

  18. Full Tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    ^ i told you that guy at ticketbastard dropped a duce in his pants when bruce made the call. They spit in the face of all us phish fans, but when springsteen threatens to have tony sporano break the dudes legs the shit hits the fan. I mean the dude from sopranos is in springsteen’s band. if anyone would know who to call to get some legs snapped it would be silvio.

    They actually went as far as to take the tickets down from tickets now. They couldn’t have granted the thousands cheated out of a shot at hampton the same courtesey?

  19. Full Tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    and have no doubt that this was not some “mistake” by ticketbastard. The saying a show is “sold out but we have $400 tickets available at ticketsnow” scheme was intentional all along. Why give anyone a shot at a $50 ticket when they can make $300 profit. Shameful and disgusting to have to have gone through the whole shakedown from ticketbastard.

  20. c0wfunk Says:

    hm just reread that and it goes a little further than that I guess .. but it really seems like they got their hand caught in the cookie jar. I just hope someone smacks it hard. Of course it would take a mainstream artist like Bruce to make it happen – I honestly don’t care how, as long as this is focused on as an issue.

  21. Full Tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    if anyone has an extra asheville ticket and would like to trade it for a pavillion level to mansfield and cash, please let me know! 🙂

  22. showhe Says:

    You also may want to go out to your local craigslist and flag anyone profiteering off of phish tix as it’s against both phish’s and craigslist policies to sell for more than face.

  23. camman Says:

    Mike is absolutly DISGUSTING in this:



  24. Mitch Says:

    So at least Live Nation does one thing right… my tickets already came in the mail.

    I’ll post a pic in a min on http://www.facemelt.net

  25. Mitch Says:

    first off, these are huge tickets. kinda a pain to be honest. hard to lose tho when youre tripping so helps a lot of phans. whats cool is that they have a pic on them from a show. looks like coventry or it. like a festy.

    also i blurred out the areas that would allow someone who makes fake tickets. i didnt want my ticket not to work. what i wanted to point out is that whoever said it a day or 2 ago about having your name on the ticket… well now it does.

    check the site now: http://www.facemelt.net

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