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. A_Glide Says:

    I can’t pick Best version of any song, but a couple that I’m huge fans of are Antelope 7/25/99 & 10/24/95

    For Simple I’ll go with 12/8/94 or 12/6/96

  2. Mr.Miner 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/..”


  3. Wilfred Brimley Says:

    Not a jammed out Simple, but I’ve always thought that the 12/11/99 version from the Philly Spectrum has some of the most calm, beautiful playing by Trey in the after vocal portion…The first set goes Hood, Mikes>Simple>H2O>Weekapaug, Circus, SOM, Cavern…I believe Miner has the show posted on here somewhere..

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    “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””

    ^^ Huh? NEVER, in EITHER post did I say ANYTHING about Desert Sky being the “best” Antelope or this being the “best” simple

    I don’t believe in “bests”…

  5. guyforget Says:

    Miner, now you know how the president feels!

  6. camman Says:

    I’d be interested to know what, if any substances mike used…. we all know Fishman dropped acid a bunch early on the band and possibbaly lead to his permanant insanity, Jk.. i love that man…

  7. MangoMan Says:

    I was at that Toronto show in 00′. Sick Reba opener! one of my favs.

  8. camman Says:

    miner.. tis god to know someone doesnt believe in best either… except for maybe the Live One “Slave”.. that could be the exception….

  9. camman Says:

    guy forget.. i thionk the sometimes used the brash transition from Mike’s> Simple to mess with the crowd and catch the of guard… we all anticiapte hydrogen and BAM they slide into simple…

  10. camman Says:

    miner.,.. i have a question at the very very very very bottom of this page their is a litle black smiley face… how come?

  11. A_Glide Says:

    My bad Miner,

    I don’t read so good sometimes.

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    Wow I forgot all about 10-26-96.. My second show, and up near the rafters in the echodome in charlotte- after the floor of hampton the night before it was all very mellow. All of the tapes I had of this show sounded like crap.. Has a sbd or a good aud come around?

    The philly 99 first set is great too.. That whole dec run is good and a bit overlooked.

  13. Pencilneck Says:

    Pencilneck loves Toronto shows. More Toronto shows! Miner, I just played a Gumbo you posted a while back for a fellow animator here at work. Dude had a look of disbelief on his face at just how funky it was. One more NooB.

  14. Joe England Says:

    Question for you guys- which song gets the award for most flubbed lyrics: Rift, Cavern, or Simple? feel free to add on to this list if so inclined

  15. guyforget Says:

    cavern, it’s almost expected.

  16. MangoMan Says:


  17. nonoyolker Says:

    cavern for sure

  18. Jeff Says:

    Joe – I would say Cavern – easily. Rift is a bit more rare, although flubbed enough. Simple sometimes is hard to catch, or it’s just repeated verses. Cavern can have epic flubs and it seems to happen almost every time they play it. Fee has some good ones too. Although it has become rare to see it now.

    My very limited knowledge tells me Trey was on something for many different shows throughout the career of Phish. Maybe not the harder things like E or blow until 97 or 98. But I’m quite positive that by 98 he was well into heavy usage WHILE on stage. To suggest otherwise is silly really.

    camman – Mike has said in interviews he never took acid or shrooms (i think) and wouldn’t until he turned 40 or something. whether or not i believe him is another thing. but i do think he is just naturally tapped into the “weirdness”. Fish was the biggest abuser of LSD. I really have no idea on Page other than what Trey alluded to after the break-up.

  19. camman Says:

    haha well mike is over 40 now….. i alwyas sensed that about him.. his funk was natural and didnt need to be added to by drugs.. amybe he started when he picked up the laser bass pedal… i can’t wait to hear the fucking thing go off

  20. camman Says:

    Paige seemed liek me night drink… but not a lot otehr then that….

  21. MangoMan Says:

    Didnt phish all eat mushrooms back in the day.. locked themslevs in a room and jam for 10 hours.
    That was the “Oh Kee Pa Cermony.” anyone hear different?

  22. camman Says:

    thats right mango.. i forgot about that.. there was a clip i saw of the band of a tour bus from the mid 90’s where trey was drinking something and talking to a band member… he showed it to the camera and it looked like mushrooms in hot coco

  23. nonoyolker Says:

    I read they drank boomer tea and jammed blind folded in the barn before the post hiatus winter tour. They did an exercise where they “passed the ball.” Essentially one person would take the lead while the others played and they would take turns passing the melody. Pretty cool shit.

  24. Matso Says:

    D’oh – I really didn’t mean to start a “Phish & Drugs” thread (god knows we’ve seen enough of those over the years on PT). All I wanted to know was whether anyone had any sense of whether the Japan tour was “clean” and whether this may have played a role in the above average (for that period) playing at those shows.

  25. camman Says:

    its all good matso… we’re juat speculating.. becuase its 23 days until Hampton.. and we’ve nearly exhausted everything to talk about 😛

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