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”

  1. Chris notkuroda Says:

    I love the Vegas Simple from 96, straight beautiful playing. I also love the Timber>Simple transition from Denver 11/16/97, the crowd explodes. While I never get overly excited to hear a simple, sometimes I’m very pleasantly suprised

  2. nonoyolker Says:

    Nice post! I gotta say, never understood all the simple bashing. Always been one of my more favorite jam vehicles since they started playing it stand alone. Obviously a great transition track too. Simple’s lyrics are, well, simple… If you don’t feel them, ride them out until the oooey gooey goodness that will surely follow.

  3. Matso Says:

    @ Wax Banks –

    “God damn! One of those moments when the on-a-dime pre-’97 style shifts occurred in a new-school Phish-funk context. Yeah!”

    I think part of the reason late ’97 and early ’98 playing was so breathless was because they were frequently pulling off the on-a-dime shifts in a Type II context (or if we’re talking about le funk, then Type III). To cite a well-known example, return to the 12/30/97 AC/DC Bag and check out how they move from Trey’s chicken scratches into an almost Psycho Killer-esque jam (I’m at work, so can’t check timings). The transition in the Stash from the 11/30/97 show which you attended isn’t quite on-a-dime, but it’s very close – the essential rhythmic framework for that post-Stash type II playing emerges immediately. The immediacy of those transitions is part of the reason why at times you almost can’t help, in hindsight, wonder whether they’d rehearsed any of those jams/themes beforehand.

    @ Mango Man –

    Only used what at Coventry? Heroin perhaps, but if you think Trey was playing clean in ’98-00, I can assure you that it wasn’t just the bristles of his beard that caused his nose to itch so much.

  4. bhizzle Says:

    I have a hard time with saying when so & so was on drugs or what drugs they were on how it made the show or not made the show. The fact of the matter is nobody knows when or what or how much drugs they were on unless you were balsting rails with them or they came out and said it. “For this song we got all geezed up in the back first so it may or may not be good.” In no way am I denying that they ever used drugs or let alone played under the influence, but to call it out…just doesn’t seem right. maybe the dude had a sinus problem that night or an itchy zit.

  5. Matso Says:

    @ bhizzle –

    I don’t mean to look at it that closely, ie. on a song by song, show by show basis. But I do think there is a connection between the gradual softening of the band’s creative abilities after ’97/’98 and what Trey has himself admitted was an increasing use of a certain type of drug. I think the fact that ’03 saw a return of a lot of that creativity at a time when the band was relatively healthy lends credence to the overall idea. Hence, I’m curious about the context for those few weeks in Japan, which compared to the rest of that year and arguably to ’99 as well, had an above-average number of good shows/jams. It could just be the club setting, Japan itself, the new audiences or any other number of reasons, but I think its a fair question to ask whether they were using the same drugs.

  6. cason Says:

    i like the simple from 10.26.96. anyone remember the paper in the lot fall 96 called “redcross”?

  7. Jer Says:

    I love 10/26/96…probably because it was my first show, but also because there are some really solid versions of many Phish classics: Reba, DwD, YEM, Simple, Antelope. Listening to this show you can tell Simple is where they were trying to stretch things out and experiment a bit, but it’s certainly not mentioned all that much as the jam is stuck somewhere between Fall ’95 and the Spring Europe run. They were starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together, but often times they struggled to find direction. I think this was increasingly frustrating for the band and you can really hear this frustration manifest itself in a lot of the ‘angry’ minor-key jams from Fall ’96 (Stash, Bowie, Maze, SOAM, Antelope), all of which were really well played that entire tour.

  8. Los Says:


    i know this is about Simple but do you (or anyone else) know how I can score the bonus Tweezer from itunes that came with the Roxy download?


  9. Jeff Says:

    cason – you literally beat me to it. i just read these posts to see if that Simple was mentioned. I loved the excitement of the first couple of Simples. The 6-22-94 was always so cool to me as I started collecting shows in 94. But then that song just kind of fell flat for me until 96 fall tour. that’s when it got it’s best treatment in my opinion (along with Maze). Sure there are standout versions here and there as Minor points out, but 96 delievered GREAT versions one after another. the 10-26-96 is still my favorite Simple hands down. Being there probably helped because CK5 was locked in during the jam and IT all came together. It must be one of the most underrated great versions of a song that I can think of. I highly reccomend checking it out.

    Of course, after 96, Simple regained it’s status just above Fuckerpants for me. But I’ll take it every show this time around! Just happy to hear it again!

  10. nonoyolker Says:

    Los – This blog has the 8 discs plus a bonus March 28th, 1992 disc:
    FYI, download from blogs at your own risk
    where is the bonus tweezer from?

  11. MangoMan Says:

    Matso.. a Tour buddy of mine was in rehab with Trey in Saratoga. They got close and he told him they only time he used then went on stage was Conventry.. in 98-00 he was prob using on his own time. BUT anyways…….

    This is my simple breakdown…
    Cymbols = Fishman
    Saxaphone = Page
    Bebop = Trey
    Skyscrappers = Mike

    any thoughts anyone…?

  12. Los Says:


    Bonus Tweezer is from Atlanta 6/24/00…its like 26mins long…I got the roxy set from phish but on itunes its got the bonuse tweezer…

    Thanks though

  13. JMAN926 Says:

    Cason – you know Twombley?

  14. bhizzle Says:

    amen wit the breakdown MangoMan

  15. nonoyolker Says:

    No sweat. That site has some gems on it if you snoop around. Every livephish release (1-20 and the first couple after that, the post hiatus releases and nye ’95), studio album, etc. Also, their dead catalougue is ridiculous. Every live and studio release. Serioius site. Again, download from blogs at your own risk.

  16. A_Glide Says:

    Hey all,

    This guys got a contest at his store where if you buy $25 worth of stuff you get a 1 in 50 chance of winning a Friday Hampton ticket. It looks legite and I got a cool Jerry shirt and some incence and he says any proceeds go to the charity of the winner’s choice. Check it out…

    And If you win and already have a Hampton ticket, you can sell me yours 😉

  17. Bryant Says:

    off subject and sorry Minor but it just occured to me that there isn’t a single advertisement … mad props … and a round of aplause … I have a question, usually my friends and I do a small song choosing game for a bottle of scotch or the sort … when there is a 3 nite run as is the case here and were all meeting … we pick three songs each nite, the first one of anyones that goes off get two points and the next get a point each … then we add it up after 3 nites … its all for fun and something to talk about really …. do you or anyone else have any ideas or have you heard of similar games before … and thanks for no ads, but I’d understand if you did … it all ball bearings these days …. PS – what type of converter should I download to switch most of your downloads here to my Windiows Media Player 10 … thanks for all the great work … 3 weeks

  18. A_Glide Says:

    @ Miner,

    I hate to disagree with you, but I feel like you missed the boat on the Antelope and this Simple. Definitely not the best version of either of these songs. Not bad, but not epic, and certainly not “best ever”

  19. Wilfred Brimley Says:

    Mangoman I politely disagree…At first night Alpine 2004, which was pretty sloppy playing at some points in my opinion, Trey was rubbing his noise incessantly which led me to believe that he was on some sort of drug…Just my thoughts…

  20. MangoMan Says:

    A-Glide.. what do you say the best versions are??

  21. Chalkdustin Says:

    The aftershows for Phish, Hamptonite, were cancelled….was anyone planning on going to these? That’s a bummer. Where will we take the party now?

  22. MangoMan Says:

    Hey.. im just passing along what Trey said. I knew Phish was coming back around August.

  23. Matso Says:

    @ MangoMan and Wilfred Brimley –

    Not to prolong a rather dull argument, but I have spent the last hour trying to find the interview where Trey says that they were all partying in the hot dog at Big Cypress before the sides of the fan boat dropped (he says something like “someday the truth about went on in the hot dog will come out”). I’m absolutely positive that there were times when he wasn’t clean on stage before Coventry, regardless of what he may or may not have told your friend in rehab. I was very close to the front at Toronto ’00 and he rubbed his nose for minutes after the Reba – very awkward to watch in all honesty.

  24. HSV 007 Says:

    Thanks Miner for giving props in your original post to 10.31.96. It is by far my all time favorite Simple. That entire 3rd set is just crazy sick…Brother, 2001> Maze, Simple> Swept Away > Steep> Jesus Left Chicago, Suzie….I think it was actually having the horns on stage that did it for me that night.

    @ Bryant….we usually play Openers & Encores. If someone hits it, the others have to buy beers before the show, during set break, or at the bar after the show. I like your points game, may have to work it in at Hampton for a bottle of Bordeaux.

    “Sim-Bop & Be-Bophone, Sky-Balls & Sax-Scrapers…”

  25. guyforget Says:

    Good morning all,

    MangoMan – absolutely on your band member breakdown, thought the same thing for years.

    In regards to Simple, i found it quite interesting in “The Phish Book”, that Fishman calls calls Simple his favorite riff “out of Trey’s arsenal of riffs”.

    I think this is for two reasons, the fact that the song is so simple and and allows the band the improv space, and also because it’s just so damn catchy.

    I being a total retard on the guitar, have always played with trying to learn that riff simply because it’s so damn sweet.

    However, on another subject, do they seem to screw up the transitions in & out of simple so frequently??

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