The Cincinnati Gin

14129230p2220030We sit amidst the six-year anniversary of Phish’s two week comeback run in the Winter of ’03.  As investigated earlier this week, Las Vegas was the springboard for the rest of a phenomenal run that restored our faith in the Phish.  Despite the many highlights  from this fortnight, there were two half-hour jams that were talked about, listened to, and revered more than any other pieces of music on this tour.  These two excursions came to represent all that was right in the Phish universe, signaling that Phish’s improvisational prowess was as healthy as ever; their desire to musically evolve was still ingrained in their ethos.  In a two-part- Friday / Monday- series we’ll check out these two jams-  Cincinnati’s “Bathtub Gin” and Nassau’s “Tweezer.”  Today- the “Gin.”

The Cincinnati weekend marked the halfway point of Phish’s short winter tour, and as the only other weekend stand besides Vegas, these shows drew fans from all over the country.  People needed to see for themselves a reinvigorated Phish, and the they would not be disappointed.

As the band came out for their final set of the weekend, everyone’s juices were flowing.  Dropping a fierce “Tube,” the band and crowd leapt into the fray together.  An infectiously-paced and funkified jam set the tone for the rest of the set; the best was yet to come.  As the band ended their escapade in groove, Trey morphed directly into the intro lick to “Bathtub Gin.”

13699475image9b58dede479711d7Wrapping up the composed section, the band got ready for take off and the crowd roared in anticipation of what was coming.  Trey wasted no time in getting started painting some initial melodies onto the musical canvas. But it wasn’t until a couple minutes in, when Mike dropped a heavy groove, that the improv really took off.  Fishman was right with him, and Phish moved directly into some outright dance rhythms.  This initial section of improv was characterized by robust rhythms and gorgeous melodic leads by Trey that fit congruently into the musical space.  Yet this uplifting section seamlessly transformed into something far more exploratory and adventurous.

Like Lewis and Clark exploring the west, the band were on a mission of their own, discovering their new direction for this chapter of their career.  Growing more aggressive and piano-heavy, the jam began moving away from its “Gin”-themed improv into some distinctly post-hiatus grooves.  Trey’s un-compressed edge provided an interesting juxtaposition against his bandmates’ slower offerings.  Then, as if a race horse cracked by the whip, Phish sped up the jam into double-time, creating a totally different, and more aggressive, musical feel.

13699471image9b586be0479711d71The band carried a rhythmic gallop into this section of improv, tearing into some enthusiastic full-on playing.  The driving textures of this jam shifted when Page began playing his clav, lending a pseudo-electronic feel to the music.  At this point, the band seemed to hit a place of contentment as they slowed down their pace, peeled away some layers, and dove into a less distorted, mellower musical pond.

Switching vibes all together, the band united in a more abstract place, bringing the improv even further into the unknown.  This is where the jam got extremely interesting.  With almost no beat, Trey began playing, and teasing, the “Gin” lick over a greatly divergent- almost electronic- backdrop.  With Page using extreme effects through his keyboards, Fish creating a shimmering, cymbal-heavy beat, and Mike playing a bizarrely melodic bass line, image004the band entered some other-worldy territory.  Meanwhile, Trey continued playing forms of the “Bathtub” melody over this demented Phish-tronica canvas.  Phish was molding incredibly unique music, with Page going off in directions unheard before.  Creating an “alternate” version of the song, their improv remained as connected to “Gin” as it was divergent- a wholly new musical experiment.  This was one of those times that Phish took a big risk, and overwhelmingly succeeded.

As Trey played some repetitive licks, signaling to wrap it up, the band and crowd emerged from being immersed in some deeply “other” Phish.  Finishing the jam collectively, and with authority, the band oozed back into a slowed down version of the song’s ending.  Flabbergasted, everyone exchanged looks of wide-eyed amazement as the band took a minute to collect themselves before decompressing with “Friday.”  While many shining moments developed over the week from LA to Chicago, this “Bathtub Gin” was the most divergent and defining musical portrait of the first half of tour.

(All photos from Cincy 2.22.03)



phish20baseball-400-x-585-111.6.96 Civic Coliseum, Knoxville, TN < LINK
With Phish about to return to Knoxville this summer, I thought we’d travel back in time to their last performance in Tennessee’s metropolis.  This show took place during the first week after Halloween’s “Remain In Light” performance- when the shows on tour really started to take off.  The second set is held down by a large “Mike’s Groove,” while the first is bookended by “Split” and “Bowie.”  Check out this under-circulated nugget from Fall ’96

I: Split Open and Melt, Cars Trucks Buses, Fast Enough for You, Taste, Train Song, Poor Heart, Punch You in the Eye, Billy Breathes, David Bowie

II: Wilson, The Curtain > Mike’s Song > Swept Away > Steep > Weekapaug Groove, Scent of a Mule, Sample in a Jar, Funky Bitch

E: Rocky Top

Tags: ,

104 Responses to “The Cincinnati Gin”

  1. Pencilneck Says:

    Don’t get me wrong. I get down too. Just not right in another blokes ear, all set long is all. Save the whales I always say. Wheedleeah Neeeearr! And toss in a funky Ugh! here and there when the jam is really hitting you upside the head for good measure! 2 weeks!

  2. taintpatrol Says:

    just found out I’m going to all 3 hampton nights! my buddy just opened a package from livenation!

  3. Toddie2x Says:

    remember this set and whole weekend like it was yesterday. This was in my opinion the most intensely psychadelic and dance heavy set phish had played to that point post hiatus. i remember we were all wrapped around the lower back with one or two of us on each platform and the smiles and looks and laughter that was exchanged after this jam. i have Mikes Bassline thumping in my head right now, miner. its like Circus funk or some shit, but that Tube>Bathtub was a non stop dance party and like i said first of its kind post hiatus. And Who can forget SCORPS!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. c0wfunk Says:

    gin’s one of my favorite jam vehicles, but I missed this one, another two shows in the “to listen pile” — that sbd dump yesterday set me back a few ..

    in two friggin weeks I”ll be inside the Hampton Spaceship staring at an empty stage that Phish is about to fill up.

    I just found out that tomorrow I’ll be working at the Umphree’s McGee Moog Foundation benefit that is the preshow to their gig at the Orange Peel tomorrow. Honestly I haven’t even seen Umph since like Bonnaroo 2002 and this is experimental so I’m not even sure what to expect.

    sorry for the off topic rambles 😉

  5. Chalkdustin Says:


    I just saw Umphs in Madison last weekend and went to their New Year’s show in Chicago. They’ve got some really good material from their new album and they’re trying out a lot more darker jams. I think you’ll enjoy it. Let me know how it goes.

  6. MP Says:

    When I think CINCY I think 11.14.98. The floor was WIDE OPEN and I remember the YEM and the SOMETHING both blowing my mind, the SO LONELY encore was memorable, too. But this show isn’t talked about much, was it just me?

  7. showhe Says:

    ^That show was a noobs dream right there. I had a blast…the cops chasing that naked chick up and down the aisle at setbreak and then hauling her out with one cop carrying each limb. I think that’s why we got the ‘Something’ and ‘So Lonley’, my buddy is a huge Police fan and was stoked to hear them cover that. Def. a good show….the Funky Bitch, My Soul, Reba opening trio is the shit. I personally think the first night in 2003 was the better of the 2 shows as far as energy and song selection…

  8. Read Icculus Says:

    …….what about the Gin at Nassua 2003, everyone talks about the Destiny they played that night but there was some real nice energy being thrown about all night at that show………

  9. Big E Says:

    Quick question… My first show to see the band is June 18th at Post Gazette Pav. Will be driving up from MD and staying at a hotel in WV the day before so my wife can play some slot machines. What time should I get to the pavilion on the day of the show so as not to miss anything? Yes, ME IS A nOOb (to phish). I have heard stories of people sitting in traffic and missing parts of shows, etc., Been following AOD lately, but they ain’t getting 30,000 people per night to see them. Should I expect traffic problems getting into this venue at Pittsburgh?

  10. Big E Says:

    Sorry about the off topic post above, but I know this is the place to ask any ? about all topics Phishy.

  11. showhe Says:

    Lots open at 3pm…I’d shoot for around then. Take some lawn chairs and a cooler, walk around and enjoy the sights and sounds. That way, you’ll get the full experience.

  12. Big E Says:

    Thanks showhe. Coolers ok at the venue?

  13. c0wfunk Says:

    you’ll have no problem with coolers in the lots..

  14. showhe Says:

    Not inside the venue but def. in the lots…not sure if you drink but I wouldn’t bring glass bottles unless you plan on pouring it into a plastic cup or something. Sometimes the security can be a pain depending on the venue. The party in the lot is a sight to behold usually. Doors to the show open at 6, show at 7:30ish, so you should have plenty of time to chill before the show if you get to the lot early enough.

  15. c0wfunk Says:

    plastic cups are a must!!

  16. kevin are hollo Says:


    that show is NEVER given its propers, and as it was a hometown show for (tho since relocated), i feel compelled to defend its honor.

    tho the first set was sorta meh, i would put that second set up against any i’ve ever seen (this includes big guns like the zoo ’93, rupp ’96, nutter ’97 etc). i left that show punch drunk, stupefied, i thought the tape my friends and driver were playing was the cure, and it was fucking hendrix or something. i had been punched in the face by a force.

    the theme of that set is POWER. and i’m talking black and white film with giant octopus pulling down divers. i’m talking a bowie opener with this insane urgency and purpose, like, “we’re gonna grit our teeth and bash your fucking head in.” my favorite memory is climbing up on this huge concrete pylon thing, that separates the upper tier, it’s slanted at like a 60 degree pitch but i managed to scale it with acid like precision and fucking bang my head up.

    it was like a sabbath show up there!

    then there’s the something follower, with the first notes threatening to cave the roof with raw emotion. you think phish can’t come with the sentiment, give that shit a listen. hell, even fish’s sexual healing made me fight back tears, it was somehow so damn heartfelt and so damn funny and just so damn awesome.

    the YEM’s been talked about, but yeah, we had this giant dance party and threw back the curtain in the back, threw it back on the wizard of cops and undercovers, and just danced in the bright lights cuz it’s all we could do.

    before the encore, the stage was lit with what seemed like a hundred candles, and it felt so intimate, like we were in someone’s teenage bedroom.

    i hope the fox feels something like that.


  17. Big E Says:

    Thanks alot for the info. I don’t want to ask alot of stupid questions on this site, so how can I pick yours brains off the record. Is it cool to give out email addresses here? I am not going to try to sell you something or convert you to some strange religion. It is just my nature to try to be prepared. Uncle Sam taught me that much.

  18. Hooks Says:

    Just to expound on Big E’s questions, I have one of my own. A stupid question, but just to be sure: Do they let ticketless fans park in the lot, or do you have to walk in from outside the lot. I don’t have hampton tickets and neither do any of my friends, and I’m the only one who wants to go without tickets and hunt for them. If anybody wants to tell me to stay away because I don’t have one, I respect that, but it’s unrealistic, I want in bad. I may not go, but I’m seriously considering a solo drive up to hampton from Charlotte. How can I not consider it? I’m lucky it’s only a state away from me. With the inevitable mobbed traffic I wanted to clear that up before I take the plunge. I figure there’s a chance the authorities could be taking some extra preventative measures to keep ticketless fans away, what with the scope of the occasion on top of a fairly small arena and congested area. any advise is appreciated!

  19. showhe Says:

    @Big E: Feel free to email me if you want and I’ll try to set you straight.

  20. Andrew Says:

    The hood chant was started by Benji Eisen at Red Rocks in ’96. Look for his show reviews in the RMP archive Phil (pHiL) Byers may have also had a hand in it but it’s been a while. I remember reading Benji’s plans for those shows. He had a flyer that he handed out in the lot with a bunch of ideas, the Hood chant is the only one that stuck. Another idea of his, I believe, was to get everyone to sit down spontaneously during the Divided Sky pause. Can’t remember his other ideas.

    But Trey’s reaction to the first chant was pure shock and appreciation, and I remember the chant being louder than ever on those Red Rocks AUD tapes I had.

  21. kevin are hollo Says:


    i’ve never heard of a regular tour stop show with barricaded lots to keep away the ticketless hordes. lord knows if that was the case, i would’ve never been able to travel the country!

    that said, this is 2009, and things just keep gettin’ weirder. i wouldn’t put it past hampton’s finest. but no, i imagine it will be as it was last time ’round, with the HUGE series of parking lots/asphalt patches scored with all manner of fan and friend of phish. it wasn’t really that big of a zoo (not as crazy as i imagined it would be), and there were tickets to be had.

    will there be tix in march? i’m almost certain. miracles? i hope so. would i advise a certain individual to explore more nefarious means to gain access to the spaceship? you bet. my own personal philosophy has always been “if you’re smart enough to get inside, you belong there.”

    as far as that goes, i’m happy to discuss offline. but i appreciate these kinds of questions, and think this is as good a place as any to ask.

    entering the dragon,

  22. hairy pood Says:

    explanation of the origins of the hood chant:

  23. Fish Sauce Says:

    MAN. This analysis of Gin makes me want to hear it, I never heard it. I saw Phish last in Miami, and am really really really excited to get to Hampton. I am a lucky one and am going all three nights, and then I am going to Alpine, maybe Knoxville. I really can’t wait to hear what they play, I think they will do something we don’t expect over those 3 nights. New songs or not, it will be a magical time. I just have a feeling they aren’t f-ing around at this point. It will be re-cock-ulous.

  24. Al Says:

    This Cinci 02/22 Bathtub Gin defintely belongs to the “BEST OF 2.0. Phish” collection of:
    – Scents 07/30
    – Seven Below 07/13
    – Tweezer 02/28
    – Stash 02/26 or 12/01
    – Crosseyed 07/29
    – Ya Mar /IT
    – Ghost / IT
    – Piper 06/19/04 or 12/29/03

    If you have this – you have Phish 2.0.!

  25. Hooks Says:

    ‘preciate it kev. I’m feelin your “smart enough” theory, that’s where my head’s at. here’s to the unknown making it more fun.

Leave a Reply