Not So Simple

Debuted at the Warfield Theatre on May 27, 1994, “Simple” has played several roles through Phish’s career.  A central use of Gordon’s composition has been as a high-energy interlude between “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug,” supplanting “Hydrogen’s” role for much of the late ’90s.  Giving any “Mike’s Groove” a vastly different contour, “Simple” became a somewhat galvanizing song among fans.  Some loved it’s catchy hook and bombastic energy, while others thought it was an intruder on sacred ground.

2998740559_9879522a7aAlthough the band integrated standalone “Simples” into their setlists, it wasn’t until 1996 that it emerged as a vehicle for improvisation.  Taking its feel-good melodies for the musical equivalent of mellow sails across the bay, Phish began to gradually explore the song’s potential.  During Fall ’96, this potential was realized with several standout versions; specifically Halloween’s third set standout, Champaign’s powerful version of 11.8, Memphis’ emotive rendition of 11.18, and the popular twenty minute excursion from the tour’s last stop in Vegas.

1997 brought some outstanding versions of “Simple,” as the song straddled the fence between its independence and its connection with “Mike’s.”  The Great Went‘s super-sized version was one of the most poignant ever played, while 12.9’s half-hour exploration brought the song to depths uncharted.  1998 brought “Simple” closer to its roots, as it was again the primary link in “Mike’s Grooves.”  Yet 1998 is where our story begins.

phish-worcester-98A week after Phish had unveiled a stunning ambient journey through “Simple,” immortalized on Hampton Comes Alive, the band found themselves in Worcester, on the cusp of their last set of their ’98 fall tour.  As they picked up their instruments for the final frame, they decided to open with “Roses Are Free!?”  As the opener of the last set of tour, the sky was the limit!  My mind zoomed directly into the stratosphere, dreaming of Nassau’s hallowed trek.  As the song moved out of its composed section and into the distorted grooves that followed, all hopes were peaked for about a minute of music filled with aggressive textures.

Then, like a slap across the face, Trey came over the top of the potentially explosive launchpad and laid down the “Simple” lick completely out of context.  Catching the rest of the band totally off guard, the “transition” was a trainwreck.  “Ouch!”  I thought to myself.  Cutting of a “Roses” that had a full head of steam for “Simple!?”- that just didn’t seem right.  But it was what it was, and I rejoined the concert after a momentary reflection on the musical incongruity.  As the song passed through its verses and the band entered the jam, the music dynamically glided through the guitar-led improv.

511633729_2a62d0a2f3Just when “Simples” usually trickle out into a quiet melodic ending, Phish chose the road less traveled.  Instead of moving into silence, Trey began playing searing strings of notes that signaled to the band that they wouldn’t end there.  Quickly getting the message, the others hopped back on board, creating an improvised realm that took very little time to grow into something wholly different.  Taking a moment to collect their bearings, Phish plunged into a dark and evil jam.  From the onset, the intensity was electric as the band molded a ball of dissonant sonic madness.

As the effects and distortion provided the glue of the jam, Trey and Fishman broke out into a cooperative groove that Mike and Page meshed their way into.  For a period, this “Simple” existed as a driving rhythmic canvas dripping with excessive psychedelia, but it transformed quickly into outright lunacy.  The band entrenched themselves in one of the craziest jams of the entire tour with absolute aggression.  Mike’s basslines thumped a unique pattern buried deep under layers of experimental dissonance.  Trey and Page created a terrifying wall of sound as Fishman threw down a barely-human beat behind it all.  This was a voyage to the center of the earth, descending through the pathways of Hades.  This was the power of Phish rearing its head in a brand new way; this time as the soundtrack for an insane asylum.

507822011_63b14557b7Peeling away some of the layers in play, Phish took the madness down momentarily before returning to a peak that ended this twenty-minute adventure.  As the band let their effects echo out over the crowd, most people were completely floored by the sheer intensity of it all.  Phish had entered a whole new territory and it took a mental adjustment to process the music.  Yet, just as our minds were organizing the lunacy, Phish skillfully slid into the opening of “Makisupa.”  Ever the tacticians, the band used one of their more relaxing songs to bring people “back” from the netherworld of “Simple.”

The rest of the set would progress to great heights, closing the tour with the triumphant farewell of “Bathtub > YEM.”  However, none of jams would approach the daring experimentation and outright psychedelia of the not-so-“Simple” episode that took place at the beginning of the set.

LISTEN TO 11.29.98’s ROSES > SIMPLE NOW! (Roll over links and press play)



Aaron de Groot

(A. de Groot)

The feedback received to the idea of “No Spoilers” downloads was a resounding, “Hell, Yes!”  That being said, we are going to give it a whirl!  There were many questions that came up, as well as some good suggestions- I will address a few now, but there will be a FAQ put up soon regarding the process.

The downloads will be hosted on a separate page.  This is where the FAQ will also be posted, and I will publish that URL as soon as it’s up.  Regular downloads (tracked and labeled) of the Hampton shows will be  posted around the same time on Phish Thoughts’ home page, which will be the norm.  The goal is to have two mp3 files for download: “Set 1” and “Set 2+E.”  Every effort will be made to have one show posted before the next show starts, yet there is only so much within our control. (This time would be greatly decreased if there was a taper willing to join in on this project!)

While this all takes a lot of restraint on your part, it seems that people are willing to exchange patience for excitement, and we are gonna give it a go!  More to come…



7.24.93 Great Woods, Mansfield, MA < LINK

Great Woods, MA

Great Woods, MA

Here is Phish’s stellar performance at Great Woods in the revered Summer of ’93.  A ripping second set opened with the fire of “2001 > Split, Fluffhead,” while also featuring a strong “Mike’s Groove” with an outstanding “Weekapaug.” Phish were a week away from entering August ’93, one of their peak months ever, and here you can begin to see why.

I: Llama, Horn, Nellie Cane, The Divided Sky, Guelah Papyrus, Rift, Stash, The Mango Song, Bouncing Around the Room, The Squirming Coil

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Split Open and Melt, Fluffhead, Maze, Glide, Sparkle, Mike’s Song > Y-Rushalayim Schel Zahav > Weekapaug Groove, Purple Rain > HYHU, Daniel, Good Times Bad Times

E: Golgi Apparatus, Freebird

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141 Responses to “Not So Simple”

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  1. joegrimes Says:

    yea, dif a good set,

  2. Matso Says:

    I know this post was about a specific Simple, so I hope you don’t mind a few comments about Simple in general:

    Nice nod to the 11/8/96 Champaign version! I had this show on tape and it was one of my absolute favourites. Everything was just really well-played, including the Caspian 😉

    One other early version of Simple that merits mention is the 10/31/94 version. The intro is especially energetic and Trey’s solo is beautiful 94-era playing (ie. directed and without some of the noodling that made some Simples in later years a bit of a drag on a set). This sometimes get overlooked in a set with so many other stand-out versions (Divided Sky, Julius, Reba, Harpua, etc).

    Finally, the 7/3/95 Simple may not be anything special musically, but it was amongst my top 3 live Simple-experiences (the other two being the aforementioned 10/31/94 and the majestic 8/16/97). This was the last encore of the 95 Summer Tour and there was something amazingly celebratory about this version – fireworks were going off and everybody got down one last time. (I remember that this was shortly after the release of A Live One, so everyone knew the song well by then).

    Btw, I know how popular the Star Lake 99 Mike->Simple->My Left Toe-> jam is, but imho, that sequence would have been improved if they’d skipped the Simple. (Actually in general, I’m a much bigger fan of Simple on its own than in the post-Mike’s slot)

  3. c0wfunk Says:

    the simple memory that stands out to me isn’t about the music .. NYE 98, MSG, Simple comes out of the balloon drop and they dropped an insane number of balloons. Some of them were like 8 foot in diameter, and many proceeded to engulf the stage. The Simple was then marred audibly by Trey running around popping the balloons with the head of his guitar. A few he kicked up into the air, and then 30,000 heads or whatever simultaneously watching a balloon fly up in the air and then slowly drop down to Trey who was having a great time knocking them back up. One of those things that doesn’t translate on the recording, and actually made the music sloppy, but was great to see in person.

    favorite Simple musical moment: Raleigh 97, dw/d>mikes>simple>h2>paug.. The way the simple devolves and slides into hydrogen is simply beautiful.

    I definitely got a little sick of hearing Simple inside of Mikes Groove, and by the end it seemed to be a standard segue when Trey wasn’t real sure where to go next. I also remember enjoying the inside joke of 7-16-99 at Holmdel, where they played a Mikes>H2>paug>Simple.

    A stand alone simple I hadn’t heard ’til recently (was it posted here?) that is absolutely on fire is 12/9/97.

    Of course now I’d line up to hear Mike’s Simple every day of the week. I could see mike’s > Simple opening up Hampton, and it would be great!

    The Simple from 10/31/94 was one of the first phishy things to catch my attention when I was 17.. I remember thinking “Skyscrapers? WTF?”

  4. full tour: announced! Says:

    sim bop beebaphone skyballs saxascraper

  5. bhizzle Says:

    @ cowfunk – I STILL think “Skyscrapers? WTF”?

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that song and just go “blah”. Once I hear those opening notes I lose the vibe. It is such a good thing that the song is a vehicle for 15+ min jams because that way I tell myself, once the jamming starts and the lyrics and the riff, that the song is no longer “Simple”, but something else ( Simple>jam>Simple). Then the vibe comes back. The only time I like the Simple part is when Trey and Mike lose theirs minds and start laughing like they are evil menaces in a 007 movie or some other stage/lyrical antic. Just jam forget the Simple.

  6. bhizzle Says:

    “….and the lyrics and riff , that the song….”

  7. bhizzle Says:

    let me try that again:

    “and the lyrics and riff (insert “STOP”), that the…”

  8. Laura Says:

    I second that “sim bop beebaphone skyballs saxascraper” but I have to respectfully disagree with bhizzle. When I hear the first few notes of Simple, I’m hooked. I love Trey’s guitar in this song.

  9. camman Says:

    It took me a long time to get into simple… the first few version i heard of it were stand alones from ’94 and ’96 and it just didnt click… i wasn’t sure what the band was trying to accomplish and it seemed quite brash at times. Over time though.. this goofy ass song has grtown on me and i think can all pretty much anticipate it has to be played at Hampton, maybe not the first not, but maybe at the encore on sunday? i’m also calling out that we’ll at least hear “Beauty of A Broken Heart” from Paige’s album… that album is just too good to not incorperate some of it into Phish V.3 thats jsut my thougths though… what you ya’ll think?

  10. MangoMan Says:

    Hey all.. I wanted to share a commenet about the ‘sick’ antelope that was posted yesterday. A few months ago Miner posted a ‘rumor’ where phish is rehearsing in NYC.. I told my buddy who works down there about it, and on his lunch break found the spot! They were jamming a sick antelope! He said there was about 3 others heads there and they got to listen for about 10 mins before security told them to leave. I am headed down to NYC next weekend and you know Ill be checking out ‘the spot’!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. full tour: announced! Says:

    ^ that sounds cool man……i wonder why no barn rehearsals……perhaps to get ernest out of the box?

  12. Matso Says:

    I think part of the problem with Simple as a song is that it’s too, for lack of a better word, simple, too repetitive and too long. I wouldn’t mind it as much if we could get to the jam in like 2 minutes rather than 5 (I’m assuming that’s about how long the pre-jam part is, but stand to be corrected). Most other Phish songs have enough variety that no matter how many times you’ve heard them, you don’t mind being taken through that process before you get to the fun part.

    The earlier versions of Simple- from ’94 to ’96/97 – had the band’s energy and enthusiasm to drive them on, and it somehow worked. Later, I think you could tell that their hearts were not quite into it in the same way with this tune and they just couldn’t carry the song in the same way (which interestingly coincides with the time when the harder drugs started playing a bigger role in the band’s lives/performances).

    On a somewhat related note and going back to the post from a few days ago on the Jem of Japan, does anyone have any sense whether the band was doing coke on the Japan tour? (ie. was Trey rubbing his nose silly the way he did Stateside for all of ’99-00?) The reason I ask is because the playing was, as has been noted, so good on the Japan tour, and if tthere is a connection between the absence of hard drugs and better playing. Fwiw, I think that the heights of ’97 and early ’98 (ie Island Run, Europe) were compromised and never matched again because of the increasing hard drug use over that year – I know Miner has done an exemplary job of highlighting great playing from ’99-00, and there are stunning moments from ’04 as well, when at least Trey was still mired in some bad times, but having just re-listened to a lot of the Island Run after last week’s posts, I’m still a firm believer that this was the apex of their powers and that there is a connection between their gradual decline and the increase in drug use.

    Sorry to go off topic, but I’m interested in what people think.

  13. MangoMan Says:

    Yea I know that Trey has an apartment on the Upper West side. and heard Mike has a place in Brooklyn.

  14. MangoMan Says:

    Matso.. I know for a fact that the only time Trey used and went on stage was at Conventry.. dont know about the rest of the band though/..

  15. AbePhroman Says:

    11/18/96 disc 2 is permanantly stuck in my cd player for that AMAZING SIMPLE. The most beautiful guitar work at 10min in. Fantastical.

  16. Frankie Says:

    Good morning. I can’t wait to hear that Simple jam tonight as i never heard it yet. Sounds good! Love the insane Phish!

    The first version i heard was 8/9/97 where they play a huge Mike’s sandwich and it’s been a while since i heard it but i remember they don’t just go right at the riff, they sort of build and build before getting into it and i thought it was the way that song always went…

    After, i heard the 10/31/94 version (which i also love!) and i realized, oh they don’t play it like that all the time. It really made me wanna seek more Phish…

  17. Frankie Says:

    or the other way around…

  18. WALSH Says:

    I love ‘Simple’, and I chased it for 6 years from the Lemonwheel version until Coventry. Always got on tour a show too late or skipped one show(where it was obviously played) or got off tour one show too early. All of my friends knew I was dying to see IT live again and when they began IT at Coventry, there were HI-FIVES all around, I was finally getting my ‘Simple’…ohhh, what is that, they screwed up the words, oh well the JAM at the end will make up for IT…huh?!? NO JAM, WTF?

    In other words, thanks for the up of a great ‘Simple’ that i had nearly forgotten about, and here’s to me catching a ‘Simple’ in TN this Summer!

  19. Chalkdustin Says:

    Hey there all. Miner, I have yet to hear this sick version of Simple, so thanks for the new jams this morning! It’s funny how Simple is one of those Phish songs you either love or hate- kind of like Mexican Cousin. I’ve never had a problem with it. It’s not my favorite Phish song, but it’s just so damn catchy and when the boys go to town at the end of it, although rarely, they GO to town. I’m hoping to hear a Mike’s>Simple at Hampton, or at least at one of the shows this summer. Thanks Miner!

  20. Chalkdustin Says:

    P.S. anyone else’s page showing up funny? It was fine last night and now the whole layout isn’t loading, just plain text.

  21. Wax Banks Says:

    God, that Worcester show infuriated me at the time! I’d done the two Providence shows in April, then Lemonwheel, and was really pumped for Worcester – having done 11/30/97 there I thought it was a magical location like Stonehenge – but for some reason the show combined a bunch of musical elements sure to irritate me. I thought the Yacovone guest spot was an abject waste of time; I’d dreamed of a ‘Type II’ LxL for years but couldn’t get into the first-set version, ‘Kung’ notwithstanding; and the rest of Set One was feather-light.

    And then Set Two kicks in, the ‘Roses’ rhythm starts up, and I’m 100% certain it’s all about to be redeemed. But that Roses → Simple put me off Phish for a year and a half. I know now it was just the vibe of the night; had I been at the previous show I’d probably have ended up Summer Tour in raggedy jeans and a stupid hat. But at the time I thought, ‘This is a rock’n’roll show, and I want a Phish show.’

    What can I say, I had a weird way of looking at things in those days. 🙂

    The dissonance and feedback and noise seemed the opposite of what I’d come to expect from the band, particularly after the heartbreakingly beautiful ambient set in Loring (the highlight of Phish ’98 as far as I’m concerned). And what Trey had done to ‘Roses’ seemed like a fucking violation. To hell with it.

    After Worcester my next show was the ‘Roadrunner’ gig in 2000, and it’s a lot better on tape than I initially thought, but that’s more about a girl than about the music, so no matter.

    Happier thoughts. The 7/24/98 Houston Wolfman’s Bro has been in constant rotation in my house; it’s my new writing-work music, along with the IT soundcheck, the Headphones Jam, Stars of the Lid, and the Jonny Greenwood ‘Bodysong’ album. 14-1/2 minutes into that Wolfman’s, the band hangs together on a kind of messy implied V chord for a quarter-minute or so, then explodes on the one into a jam akin to the second half of ‘BEK’ (the ride-cymbal-driven ‘Loving Cup’-style funk/rock rather than the tight, clipped pornofunk of its ‘composed’ section). God damn! One of those moments when the on-a-dime pre-’97 style shifts occurred in a new-school Phish-funk context.


  22. A.Hill Says:

    See the Clifford Ball for my favorites Simple.

  23. Al Says:

    The problem I have with “SIMPLE” is the written part before the jammin’…

  24. jon_hansen Says:

    I was always kind of sad that the first hiatus seemed to kill the creative momentum for developing ‘Twist’ and ‘Sand’ jams. I always felt those two could have been integrated as an additional bridge for ‘Mike’s Song–>Weekapaug.’ Something about how the ‘Sand’ bass line would growl out of ‘Mike’s’…

  25. In Flagrante Delicto Says:


    “favorite Simple musical moment: Raleigh 97, dw/d>mikes>simple>h2>paug.. The way the simple devolves and slides into hydrogen is simply beautiful.”


    Good post, Minor. I remember that botched transition, and the confused look on Page’s face as he looked over when Trey dropped the lick.

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