Summer ’91 and The Giant Country Horns

Arrowhead Ranch July 1991

Arrowhead Ranch w/ GCH July 1991

If we were to travel back 18 years in time this week, we would find ourselves in July of 1991, right in the middle of Phish’s famous summer tour with The Giant Country Horns.  Spanning only sixteen shows, Phish took local musicians Dave Grippo (alto sax), Russell Remington (tenor sax), and Carl Gerhard (trumpet) on the road for what was an exciting and musically divergent few weeks.

phish-summertour-91Taking their moniker from Giant Country White Bread, a brand of bread from New Hampshire, The Giant Country Horns were born.  Spicing up many standard compositions with horn arrangements that sounded completely natural- like they were meant to be there- the horns gave songs like “Gumbo,” “Cavern,” and “Suzy Greenberg” new life for this summer run.  In more open improvisational pieces, like “Tweezer,” “Mike’s” and “Stash,” the horn ensemble lent a darker feel of fusion to the jams, enhancing the band’s interplay and adding another layer on top of the textured jams.  This well-loved tour of early-era Phish started in their home town of Burlington, and culminated at Amy Skelton’s Farm in Auburn, ME for what would be the earliest foreshadowing of the Phish festival.

In addition to enhancing songs already in the band’s rotation, the addition of The Giant Country Horns also allowed Phish to break out some jazz tunes that had been shelved such as “Caravan” and “Flat Fee,” some new covers in The Doors’ “Touch Me” and Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooch,” and breakouts like “Frankenstein.”  The horn lineup certainly lent a jazzier feel to Phish’s early music, which was rooted in jazz tradition, itself.

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (M. Gordon)

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (M. Gordon)

Largely contained to the Northeast corridor, Phish’s 1991 Horns Tour did stretch all the way to Atlanta during a four-show southern dip between the festival-like weekends at Arrowhead Ranch in Parksville, NY and their finale at Amy’s Farm.  Though the members of The Giant County Horns would reappear in various incarnations come 1994 and beyond, it was this sixteen-show collaboration that was the central focus of Phish’s experiments with their horn section.

With Grippo, Remington, and Gerhard on the bus for the tour, the band’s onstage dynamic took new form.  Trey and the horns played off of each other dynamically, and the band, as a whole, took on a new sonic shape for these shows.  Often adding rhythmic lines as well as complementary lead melodies and psychedelic backdrops, the horns brought a whole new element to Phish’s music.  Trained in the jazz tradition, Phish easily blended with their guests, playing off of their musical ideas amidst jams as well allowing space for their composed accompaniment.  What resulted over the abbreviated tour was some of the most memorable music of Phish’s early years.

Phish Update - Summer 1991

Phish Update - Summer 1991

The Giant Country Horns appeared as a six-piece ensemble with Phish for a couple more shows in 1994 at Burlington’s Flynn Theatre (4.4) and New York’s Beacon Theater (4.15), and the band periodically featured different horn lineups through the years.  The Cosmic Country Horns- a six-piece lineup led by New Orleans’ Michael Ray, included Grippo, Gerhard, and some of his own Cosmic Crewe- joined the band for a few shows in 1994.  This lineup gave the music a more free-jazz / Sun-Ra feel rather than the more classic swing style of accompaniment of The Giant Country Horns.  Additionally, individual members of both groups have appeared with Phish over the years, including their landmark Remain In Light performance in which Grippo and Cosmic trumpeter, Gary Gazaway, joined the band for their defining set.  Grippo and Russell Remington would go on to become integral members of Trey’s solo band in later years, and friendships between the musicians still exist.  Will we ever see the return of the horns-  who knows?  But just as always in this Phishy world- anything is possible.

Below is an all-SBD compilation of highlights from Summer ’91 with The Giant Country Horns.  Check it out to hear a wholly different vibe to our favorite band.

DOWNLOAD “MINER’S PICKS: GIANT COUNTRY HORNS ’91” < TORRENT

DOWNLOAD “MINER’S PICKS: GIANT COUNTRY HORNS ’91” < MEGAUP.

1. “The Landlady” 7.23 Washington, DC II

2. “Tweezer” 7.21 Arrowhead Ranch, NY II

3. “Cavern” 7.23 II

4. “Magilla” 7.14 Townshend, VT II

5. “Split Open and Melt” 7.14 II

6. “Bathtub Gin” 7.14 III

7,8. “Oh Kee Pa > Suzy” 7.23 I

9. “Stash” 7.15 New Music Seminar, NYC, NY

10. “AC/DC Bag” 7.21 II

11. “Flat Fee” 7.23 I

12,13. “Dinner and a Movie > Gumbo” 7.23 II

14. “Frankenstein” 7.15

15,16,17. “Mike’s > Hydrogen > Weekapaug” 7.21 I

18. “Contact” 7.11 Burlington, VT E

19. “Caravan” 7.15

20. “Touch Me” 7.21 E

21. “You Enjoy Myself” 7.20 Arrowhead Ranch, NY II

22. “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars” 7.14 E

Winged music note=====

Jam of the Day:

Tweezer” 4.21.92 Eureka, CA SBD

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/01-Tweezer-SBD.mp3]

If you know this “Tweezer,” you love it, and if you don’t, take fifteen minutes of your time with some headphones and fall in love.  One of the most unique and sublime jams to come from the band’s amazing west coast run of Spring ’92, this “Tweezer” is musical nirvana- all surrounded by redwoods in Northern California.  This is an impeccable soundboard recording of one of my all- time favorite jams.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

7.14.91 Townshend Family Park, Townshend, VT SBD < TORRENT

7.14.91 Townshend Family Park, Townshend, VT, SBD < MEGAUP.

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (phish.com)

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (phish.com)

Here we have a three setter from the Summer of ’91, showcasing Phish and The Giant Country Horns in all their glory.  The horns joined the band for most of the second and third sets of this marathon show.  While the compilation gives you snapshots of the era, this is a portrait of the band during a very special tour.

I: Reba, Llama, The Squirming Coil, Golgi Apparatus, Guelah Papyrus, My Sweet One, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Famous Mockingbird, The Sloth, I Didn’t Know, Possum

II: Suzy Greenberg, Caravan, The Divided Sky, Gumbo, Dinner and a Movie, Bouncing Around the Room, Split Open and Melt, Magilla, Cavern, Run Like an Antelope

III: AC/DC Bag, The Landlady, Esther, Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, HYHU > Touch Me, Harry Hood

E: Contact, Big Black Furry Creature From Mars

With The Giant Country Horns for most of set II and III

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“Golgi” 7.20.91 Arrowhead Ranch, Parksville, NY (partial)

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279 Responses to “Summer ’91 and The Giant Country Horns”

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  1. Phish...Yup Says:

    Spot on Minor. The Horns need to come out and play (kind of like the ocelot)

  2. Al Says:

    Washington State BACK in the race for Halloween! Check Phish.com!

  3. Phil Says:

    Very cool, thanks Mr. Miner! I love the horn shows! Cavern and Suzy are the best with horns. Getting to see a “horn show” at halloween 96 was a treat for me and my crew. Good times.

  4. c0wfunk Says:

    after I hear a suzy with horns I can’t hear it *without* them for quite a while.. the song was made for it!

  5. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    c0wfunk, I feel the same way about Suzy. I honestly’ think it is a much better song with horns than without. it just pops with the added brass

  6. SJC Says:

    ^I couldn’t agree more. Suzy w/ horns kills. My fav. song with the GCH hands down.

    Miner, nice write up.

    One of the first shows I had on tape was the Academy show from this tour (can’t remember the exact date, maybe 7/11?). Completely changed the way I approached any music with a brass element (really never gave it a chance I guess you’d say). From there, I started to dig into jazz. Thank you Giant Country Horns.

  7. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    The only horns show I ever saw was Halloween 1995. The horn sections during Quadraphenia were excellent, but the horns during Suzy and Jesus Left Chicago were out of sight. To this day, I believe that was the best Jesus Left I ever saw. That being said, I’m with the wookie, there was no way I could have moved a chess piece at the start of set 3.

  8. Danny B Says:

    Thanks for this compilation!! I just came back from a wedding this past weekend where the Dave Grippo Funk Band played, and it was awesome. Their bass player has such a crazy good voice!!! I talked to Grippo for a little bit after the show about GCH, Phish, and Trey Band stuff. Such a cool down to earth guy. This compilation makes my day after last weekend.

  9. Ocelot42 Says:

    Whenever I hear Suzy now, I’m always a little confused at one particular point when the horns *don’t* come in because they fit so perfectly. It alsmost feels incomplete without them.

    “Suzy! Suzy! Suzy, Suzy! Suzy, Suzy Greenberg!”

  10. Ocelot42 Says:

    Whoops, it took some of what I wrote out because I used symbols that I apparently shouldn’t have. Lemme try that again:

    “Suzy! Suzy! Suzy, Suzy! (Buh-duh-dah-duh-DAAAAAAA!) Suzy, Suzy Greenberg!”

  11. Danny B Says:

    and that Tweezer from Eureka fucking rocks, always been one of my favorites

  12. Matso Says:

    @ cowFunk –

    I have the same experience with David Bowie, which btw, is unjustifiably absent from this compilation (sorry, that sounds a bit too much like a gripe – love the compilation, but please sir, could I have a Bowie?)

  13. KWL Says:

    the 7.21 Arrowhead Ranch show was one of the first tapes I ever had of the band… been a long time since I’ve listened to any of that tour, thanks for the trip back Miner

  14. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    can we start the “People for the Return of the Giant Country Horns”?

  15. pebbles Says:

    I think the lack of horns in cavern does me in worse than not having them in suzy… the instrumentation just sounds so naked sans horns throughout the song.

    great post, Miner. Since I won’t be headed out to the left coast this summer, I feel better knowing you will be reviewing the gigs for us as the tour moves east– and I’ll be informed and keyed up by the time I get to Darien.

  16. nonoyolker Says:

    Great work Miner. I always thought the SOAM horns arrangement was pretty interesting. Suzy is the ish though. Tune was made for brass.

  17. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @pebbles – speaking of Cavern, I have been listening to Merriweather Post 8-8-98 a bit lately and the slowed down funk cavern to open set 2 is definitely worth a listen. Also, where did cavern go this past tour? It used to be a standard every 3 or 4 nights set closer, have they put it to bed or at least decided not to play it as much?

  18. Leo Weaver Says:

    Love me some GCH…several of my first tapes were from this tour. I’d sing the horn parts (fills anyway) for a long time when I heard the same songs (sans horns) from other shows. And yes, Suzy and Cavern are both made for horns.

    @picker…Cavern was at Knoxville. And yeah, that 8.8.98 version is pretty fuckin’ nice.

    @Selector…enjoyed tuning in last night. The wife and I had “da dub mon” cranked and thumpin’ in our little house. You got an email link thru your website or otherwise? got a few questions for you…

  19. bl68300 Says:

    the horns were some of the first tapes i listened to, and for a while i thought Phish actually had a horn section. Ah so young and naive. haha. Phantastic write as usual Miner, ,but no love for the dirty sexy gumbo i fell in love with??? take your pick they all sound amazing w/the horns!

  20. halcyon Says:

    Miner giving 91 some love…..Thanks. I have been wondering when you were going to hit this era up. The horns tapes were some of the first I ever got. I recently dug them up and had a listen. The quality was still pretty good for a Maxell II

  21. R1 Says:

    That Tweezer is great. Never heard it. Trey playing some really wonderful melodic lines and Mike quickly jumps on board.

  22. Scott Bernstein Says:

    Great post! I love your essays on the glory days.

  23. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    Just a quick note. On etree right now there is a summer 91 project rolling and most of the GCH shows are up right now with plenty of seeders. Great chance to grab most, if not all of them.

  24. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Twee-Zah!

    Indeed a great one. I needed just that early today.

    Gracias, Señor Miner!

  25. SOAM Says:

    I’m gettin a little tired of this “where the festival will be played thing”

    Just fuckin tell us already-or hire a new rep to get the deal done.

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