Spring ’94: The Birth of “Psych Jazz”

Phish 1994 (Unknown)

Phish 1994 (Unknown)

In their heyday, Phish advanced their style of play on a tour-by-tour basis, constantly refining their past while adding facets to their game. Their progression through the groove paradigm of the late-‘90s has been well documented on this site, but the first peak of the band—the years between 1993 and 1995—followed an evolutionary path as well. New Years Eve ’93 in Worcester was the culmination of Phish’ early years. Demolishing The Centrum with arguably the most impressive performance of their career to that point, Phish had peaked out their musical style. 12/31/93 represented the apex of the band’s tight and frenetic “speed jazz” approach to jamming. Most often within song-structure and communicating far more like jazz musicians than the psychedelic rock colossus of later years, the band had honed this style from their earliest days, and it came to a notable head during 1993’s Summer Tour, specifically in the month of August. But after the year came to a close in Worcester, Phish had to find a new path. In a very similar dynamic to their year-end show at Madison Square Garden only two years later, the walls of their musical style could be pushed no further, and the band needed a new focus. The answer to this year-end dilemma of ’93, interestingly enough, would put Phish on a road directly to December 31, 1995.

1994 T Shirt (Pollock)

1994 T Shirt (Pollock)

As the band stepped into the touring year of 1994, in was inhuman to think they could jam any tighter or faster than they had in ’93, so it was time to loosen up. Just a bit at first—and then a whole lot more. Phish’s “speed jazz” jamming of ’93 could be generally described as pushing a musical structure as far as it could possibly go within it’s boundaries. In 1994, the band traveled an outward path, loosening up first over Spring, more over Summer, to Fall where all structure would be obliterated. Along this path towards abstraction, Spring ’94 represented the beginning of the “contortion of structure” phase that intensify throughout the Summer. During Spring tour the band was just starting to bend structures, while their playing was still clearly rooted in the jazzier approach of their previous years. As they took their first steps towards musical deconstruction, Instead of “speed jazz,” Phish began to play “psych jazz.”

With this shift, the band became more adventurous. They were more likely to fully leave a set course of a jam to pursue a sonic tangent. Jams often carried abrupt, stop-start cadences, and carried angular feels. These were the days of centering “Antelope” and “David Bowie” in the wheelhouse of the second set, jams that spurned intricate, conversations with band members playing closely off each others phrases, either repeating or responding to each other in the jazz tradition. There were no effects, no soundcsapes, just straight playing.

11/94 (J. Commentucci)

11/94 (J. Commentucci)

While pointing towards the open-jamming that would infiltrate the band’s live shows in the Fall of the same year, the playing of Spring ’94 was still only months removed from the band’s year-end shows of ’93, and things don’t change in an instant. And therein lies the beauty of this tour. It sounds like balls-out, classic Phish, but with a dash of exploration sprinkled throughout.

Come November Phish would be undertaking, long-form jams such as the Bangor “Tweezer,” Bozeman “Tweezer,” Minneapolis “Bowie,” Providence “Bowie” and many more iconic explorations. One can clearly trace this outward progression from the beginning of Spring ’94, through Summer and Fall, all the way to Summer  ’95—Phish’s most abstract tour. This Spring, they were just scratching the surface of this direction, and for this reason I can see why this tour holds a special place for purists. And the tapes don’t lie.

Today I have put together a Spring ’94 “psych jazz” playlist. (I will do another for Summer.) These jams illustrate the first step away from structure in Phish’s movement towards becoming the most proficient, whole-band improvisers of all time.

David Bowie” 4.13.94 II, New York, NY

A late-second set “Bowie” from the first of three nights at the Beacon Theatre.



Run Like an Antelope” 4.14.94 II, New York, NY

A ferocious, centerpiece “Antelope” that set the tone for the many versions to follow on Spring tour.



David Bowie” 4.17.94 II, Fairfax, VA

“Bowie” jams have started to expand already, as the band many versions early on in tour.



Bathtub Gin” 4.18.94 II, Newark, DE

A short, but sweet “Bathtub Gin” that jumps out of theme.



David Bowie” 4.24.94 II, Charlotte, NC

And this “Bowie,” from the Grady Cole Center, was the version to which all the others were pointing.



Tweezer” 5.7.94 II, Dallas, TX

The Bomb Factory “Tweezer” represented a big turning point in the band’s willingness to let things move far outside the box.



Run Like an Antelope” 5.8.94 II, Bee Cave, TX

Phish’s mojo was still working the night after the Bomb Factory, as evidenced by this centerpiece “Antelope.”



Split Open and Melt” 5.13.94 II, Tempe, AZ

A “Melt” from the desert



Run Like an Antelope > BBFCFM > Antelope” 5.16.94 II, LA, CA

The now-legendary “Big Black Furry Antelope” from LA’s WIltern Theatre.



Tweezer” 5.28.94 II, Monterey, CA

Spring ’94 ended at Laguna Seca Daze festival along the central California coast. Phish played two-setters each night. This was the “Tweezer” from the first night.



Split Open and Melt” 5.29.94 II, Monterey, CA

And the “Split” from the tour-closer.

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Phish-1994-05-29-Split-Open-and-Melt.mp3] Tags: ,

2,138 Responses to “Spring ’94: The Birth of “Psych Jazz””

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  1. the Baker Says:

    Thank you, Mister Minor…I keep “growing”

    Happy, happy birthday to Marty McPHly !
    After this Bake is thru, I plan on revving up the DeLorean& heading Back…

  2. RoosterPizza Says:

    Not a timely post in the midst of a very nice 94 writeup, but I am getting the fuck down to Holmdel Crosseyed. From 12:00 onward is the epitome of what I hope to find at a show.

  3. RoosterPizza Says:

    Light is just not segue friendly.

  4. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Excellent piece Miner. As always muchas Garcia. Going to revisit my 1st show 4/8/94 & see if I can find any examples of said psych jazz.

  5. Luther T. Justice Says:

    Thanks Miner! Don’t listen to enough ’94. There are still shows I attended from that year that I’ve never listened back to. But I should.

  6. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Help me Obi Wan…what should I be listening for specifically with this shift to psych jazz?

    ‘They were more likely to fully leave a set course of a jam to pursue a sonic tangent. Jams often carried abrupt, stop-start cadences, and carried angular feels. These were the days of centering “Antelope” and “David Bowie” in the wheelhouse of the second set, jams that spurned intricate, conversations with band members playing closely off each others phrases, either repeating or responding to each other in the jazz tradition.’

    Queuing up 4/8/94 as I type which does have a 2nd set Bowie.

  7. Dorn76 Says:

    Morning Phellers.
    Excited for this read. Miner!

    Before I do that, some 11 yr. old’s google homepage doodle just blew my mind.

  8. George W. Kush Says:

    that kid needs to do some Phish posters this summer. Better than Methane.

  9. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Whoa https://www.google.com/doodles/doodle-4-google-2014-us-winner

  10. ren Says:

    Hola compadres

    Hope everyone enjoyed their weekends…had a little BB withdrawal myself. Had a healthy helping of boomers on Sat afternoon which lasted through the end of the horse race and into the Ranger game. Started off just being a fun, laughable trip but towards the end they turned and the experience became very “educational”. Scared myself a bit but hopefully got a lot out of it. Complete manifestation of the current issues I’m struggling with at the moment.

    I’ll never look at a horse race the same way ever again LOL! Happy to BE HERE NOW in a good presence of mind. Thankful for all of the amazing people that life has blessed me with…pledging myself and all the best I have to my family, loved ones, friends and others in need.

  11. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ^Sunday Spunday except on Saturday. A little scared introspection never hurt anybody ren. Good on ya.

  12. MiA Says:


    Mouse in top hat fishing.


    Nice nod little 11 year old. Nice nod.

  13. George W. Kush Says:

    let them little buggers get ahead of ya, eh?

  14. ren Says:

    You know, they sometimes have a “plan” of their own despite whats on your agenda. I’ve experienced 2 kinds of ego death in my travels:

    One is kind of like an out of body experience, extroverted, where I cease to exist in a kind of just not paying attention to myself kind of way. I become a part of everything around me and can feel my connectedness to everything/everyone around me. 12/29/13 set II at MSG would be a good example of this.

    The other is a more literal type of death where I am threatened by potential death usually in the very near future and likely as the consequence of recent actions in my life. This is the introverted manifestation. I sometimes get the feeling that I’ve died many times within what I see as this one lifetime I am in now. I guess I’m an extreme/intense sort of person in life and the negativity that surfaces as a motivational factor for positive change can also be intense/extreme.

  15. ren Says:

    I’ve had a lot of really productive convos in the past 48 hours, especially with the mrs, which is the flip side. I’ve learned a lot from everyone on here and now try and make the most of these educational experiences rather than just pretending they didn’t happen so I’m not scared of the vehicle in the future

  16. George W. Kush Says:

    12/29/13 II there was just that feeling hanging in the rafters Ren. To mee the huge sense of soup-bowl connectedness in the room was stemming from everyone (seemingly) and certainly everyone around me paying intense attention to the music unfolding off the stage. seemed to be a heightened awareness of the moment. a sort of electricity in the air. Mine eyeballs were certainly glued to the stage and in awe of the crowd’s attentiveness and alertness and blob-like movements.

  17. vapebraham Says:

    nice one, miner. grady cole!

    readinG: coconut’d. straight back from the stage in the seats. set I was mediocre at best (split being the exception) and sapped me a little (STFTFP, julius – gag.). Didn’t love DwD – ponderous w/ small sections of $$$ and inspiration. 20 yl was cool at the time esp. due to the unexpected nature of it (have come to appreciate it more on tape – page coppin meters riffs). piper was fave part of show — IT — and was destined for greatness, but #line hit like a bad dream. YEM- excellent version and the one point in the night where the Funk was felt. by Reba, i was indeed half asleep as the nut kept coming. all in all a decent set II, w/ just enough whale to irritate.

  18. Kaveh Says:

    Thanks @Miner for another great time-piece article.

  19. George W. Kush Says:

    could have been the vehicle though and crowd was acting normal and the band played a normal set. ha.

  20. vapebraham Says:

    re. 4.8.94: check out — glide, if i could, SOAM, McGrupp and it’s ice in addition to the bowie.

  21. MiA Says:

    I think we all have rebirths in our own lives. I suppose to have a rebirth, you need a death too? It used to be every 7 or so years, I felt like a completely different person with a different world view. The age of innocence at 7. The onset of puberty at 14, and just general confusion caused by testosterone or whatever, the “adultness” of being legal at 21, quickly realizing you are an “adult” and “responsible” for yourself. On your own. At 28 I was several years married, and truly in the start of my professional career. At 35 I was head deep in a career and making sacrifices that made me question and go through mid-life crisis. At 42, I look back at 35 and question whether I really had the maturity to be making those decisions, etc.

    I feel like I’ve kinda had 6 lives so far. Phish screwed with 3 of them at least.

  22. the Baker Says:

    “Extreme Dream…a WakingLife”
    by Randall’s (“Block-Party Weekend”) ren

    ^example #1,
    I concur eleventy-billion % !

    ^^thanx for sharing


    *the google winner, WITH junta/pollock rePHerence, is a Joy…I SMILED during the tounge/focus “scratching” on the video whilst she “makes” That whale WINK w/ the techno-crayon!

  23. Stoney Case Says:

    I miss


  24. MiA Says:

    For those that have never heard a show of Trey sitting on a stool, 4-10-94 is your ticket. Trey stepped over a lighting rig tower and tripped into a hole, and ripped some ligaments in his foot. Fell on his hand, and smashed his face. Had to be taken to the hospital, and came back in a soft cast, and sat through the show.

    I think they played YEM several days later, and Brad Sands had to do the Trampoline part for Trey.

    The Antelope of that show is pretty raging. For a dude sitting on a stool.

  25. vapebraham Says:

    11.19.95 tweezer — $$$. best track i have spun in many moons. at two distinct points early in the jam, there’s a descending pattern reminiscent of MLB. They then get into a slower tempo proto-funk w/ page clavinating.

    Would love to hear miner’s take on Nov.Dec. 95 and how this period fits into the larger evolutionary picture. I’m sure he’s covered it before (time to dig out miner’s tome).

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