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. guyforget Says:

    i have buddy who met mike prior to the mike and leo show at the Marquee here in Tempe a few years ago, and was doing blow with him 5 minutes later in the bathroom. To suggest he’s some sort of saint is as rediculous as saying trey only played while using at coventrly.

    anyway, who cares. hampton is in 22 days..

  2. camman Says:

    no one said he a saint man…

    and apparently i can’t count either…

  3. guyforget Says:

    that’s cause you dont’ pay attention in class!

  4. Frankie Says:

    @ Matso
    Sorry to use the space here for that but could you tell me privately ( the e-mail adress of your friend with whom you used to tour? I’d love to meet a fellow Phishead in Montreal. Thank you!

    Listening to Simple 11/18/96…

  5. nonoyolker Says:

    More useless predictions (because I don’t feel like doing my work):
    Tweezer opener
    Backwards down the number line gets played in the first set
    Bowie set 1 closer
    Seven Below gets played in 2nd set
    Cavern 2nd set closer

    Destiny Unbound gets played somewhere over the 3 day stretch

    I want Vegas odds!

    Who’s calling the encore?

  6. A_Glide Says:

    ^ God I hope you’re way off the mark. I want a DWD opener and a 4 song second set. YEM, Antelope, Fluffhead, Hood

    never in a million, but that’s what I’m ready for.

  7. MangoMan Says:

    Chalkdust opener.
    gotta love the 4 song set’s. Twist>Reba>YEM>Antelope!

  8. Clod Says:

    The first Simple that I cognitively heard was at Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium in Syracuse in November 1994. I apparantely heard it Halloween in Glens falls a few days earlier, but I was lucky to make it out of that place with my cranium intact and there are some hazy spots in the long evening/morning. The Fall of 1994 was my return from a personal Phish hiatus as I took much of 1993 off to focus on graduating from college. Mt not so triumphant return was Halloween 94 with a much better personal representation at Onondaga. Simple was the “new song” that really grabbed me and I have always enjoyed it.

    I also really enjoy the Simple solo from Bitterwseet Motel – the movie really highlights Trey emotional connection to his playing. Is that the Went Simple?

  9. guyforget Says:

    Clod – yes that Simple from the went goes to show you how retarded you can look when you’re into the groove…

  10. Chalkdustin Says:

    So this is a random question, and sorry to go off the Simple track: what do you think about Phish making appearances on late night shows like Conan or a Letterman repeat? I think since they’re leaning a bit more commerically in things they do (i.e. Roo), there’s a chance it could happen. Thoughts?

  11. nonoyolker Says:

    they’ve been on letterman a bunch no? the did chalkdust in ’94, birds in ’98, and even scents in ’04, no?

  12. guyforget Says:

    definitey, and that’s where you’ll hear “Backwards….”
    Letterman loves Phish.

  13. showhe Says:

    I can see them on Letterman for sure…Dave’s a big phan.

    Another side-track question: Has anyone seen the phish cover band ‘Strange Design’? They are playing here tomorrow night and was wondering if it was worth checking out.

  14. Frankie Says:

    On youtube of one my favorite Phish videos is the Julius with the Letterman band in ’95… Pretty sweet although short but Trey is having a blast!

    Check out Page not remembering the lyrics in the backup vocals and Trey looking at him… 🙂

  15. nonoyolker Says:

    From before, I’m a guy who loves a good 4 song, seriously jammed out second set and YEM, Antelope, Fluffhead, Hood or Twist, Reba, etc. would be the heat, but i think at their first show back, they are going to play more songs in the second. Just got a hunch that they want to take a couple of old songs off the shelf and a couple of new ones (NooB songs!) for a spin.

  16. bhizzle Says:

    They also do SNL. Remember w/ Al Gore and the Charlie Brown TV Funhouse where the pseudo peanuts gang goes around all these shitty things and then you see a flurry of hands and they walk away and the shitty thing becomes awesome? One of the awesome things was Phish

  17. bhizzle Says:

  18. Frankie Says:

    Yeah i love that! I think i have it on a VHS somewhere… Then they came out in another sketch and played Contact to the commercial… I think the two songs played were Chalkdust and 46 days…

  19. camman fo rizzle Says:

    i’m not to sure we’ll see a 4 song set at all at Hampton.. they didnt make too may apperances after the hiatus.. we’ll have to see though foos

  20. A_Glide Says:

    Thank god your ok camman, I was worried. there were 16 posts and we hadn’t heard from you…

  21. MangoMan Says:

    SPAC 04′ Set.2 7 below, ghost> Twist, YEM killer!

  22. camman fo rizzle Says:

    A_Glide…. don’t be A_DICK

  23. Chalkdustin Says:

    Cam, what’s with the name change?

  24. camman Says:

    just felt like changin git up a little man

  25. Chalkdustin Says:

    No worries, I can dig it. Fo rizzle shizzle.

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