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””

  1. MiA Says:

    Little research and according to fuzzy memories of folks giving reviews, maybe Trey had given up on the stool by second set.

  2. punkmug Says:

    Great piece Miner. The 20th anniversary of my first show is tomorrow! Great timing.

    @ Stoney! I miss Tweezer>Lifeboy as well. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

  3. Kaveh Says:

    Don’t forget to hit up the Beacon Reba before Take the A-Train -> Bowie in.

  4. BingosBrother Says:

    Break Treys leg, get missing 3.0 Antelope.

    Bring back the stool!

  5. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    nice post, miner. this is my wheelhouse for phish considering between 93-96 I saw more shows than in any other period. the transition from 92 to 93 was interesting in a “wow, they just keep getting better and better” kind of way but the leap they took from 93 to 94 is so noticeable as you point out. they went from playing in the sandbox in 93 and occasionally making forays out onto the bigger playground to tearing down the walls of the sandbox in 94 with open jams and razor sharp playing that was the jaw-dropping stuff that turned so many people into lifelong heads. and then 95 would turn the idea of a sandbox on its head with those completely free and clear jams, but I’m sure we’ll get there on this post arc…

    for most of the rest of spring they had “guest trampers” for YEM and Mike’s. started with crew (Brad, etc.) and then there were some fans mixed in eventually too.

  6. dorn76 Says:

    There’s a SCORCHING ginger minge Reba in that 4/17 show.


  7. the Baker Says:

    Pres. Kaya,
    *there was “deep” piper-thoughts conversation last post, a few pages back !

    …yahh…it “could have been” the L…
    But IT wasn’t 🙂
    *12/29/13 WAS magically Amazin’…to be sure !

    I CANNOT imagine how many FF-Miles you accrue, then Enjoy, on your seemingly PERPETUAL sojourn !
    It’s strawberry season to the MAX up-home…will you be in Centre county in the muggy-ass future?

    Mr. M,
    I’m an evolutionary reject, and do not Tweet, or any such other stuff…I have caught “a whiff” of a BOOK sale/promotion, I am interested in any info you could share about it out Here, on your BlackBoard…thanx

    Cheers ladies, lurkers, and gents !

    ¡ TröegsPERPETUAL-IPA & Bangor’13 (cuz IT’s about to begin Again!!!!!!) !

  8. sumodie Says:

    Every 7 years?

    Sounds like MiA is in the Up series, which follows the lives of a group of Brits every 7 years on film. Up to 56 I think. No Phish in their lives though


  9. ren Says:

    Great thoughts there MiA. Thanks for sharing. I can definitely apply a similar timeline to myself. 7 has never been a significant # for me…but I’ll pay more attention to it now.

  10. Stoney Case Says:

    Laguna Seca Daze!

    My first trip out west with a friend, for travel and music. My Lawd! The trees, the mountains, the ladies, the vibes, the summer dresses. Stoney was hooked for life. The clean air, the breeze, the lack of flat brims. Never looked back.

    Spin the Reba, night 1, set 2.

  11. Luther T. Justice Says:

    Ginger minge can be good stuff.

  12. vapebraham Says:

    another $$$ one for the spin list — 11.30.95 Antelope.

  13. Kaveh Says:


    ^ The year of people telling everyone else to “shut up” and “shh’ing” people during the quite parts and a cappella songs. 🙂

  14. MiA Says:

    Awesome Sumo. Never heard of that. This place is amazing.

    I just was very high thinking about the 7 year itch once, and realize I always have had a seven year itch.

    I’ve been in my house about 8 years. I think I should have moved last year.

  15. MiA Says:

    I would like to put “guest tramper” on my resume.

  16. Kaveh Says:

    Dinner and a Movie?!

    Say “Guten Abend” to your Grateful Dead friends and family at our 4th annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies! This year’s epic one-night event will feature a complete rare live studio performance of the Dead captured during their legendary European tour in 1972 with audio remastered from the original analog tapes. Never officially released and never before seen in its entirety, the Bremen, West Germany’s Beat Club TV program studio performance features the classic 1972 lineup – the last known video of Pigpen, and captures the Dead in their prime, playing at the height of their powers and tearing through a condensed version of a typical Europe ’72 concert. This very special night will offer a unique view of the band, allowing fans in cinemas to hear fly-on-the-wall chatter and get up-close and personal with band members in one of their most intimate studio performances ever. We have no plans to release this concert on DVD or home video of any kind, so don’t miss out on what could be your only chance to see it!

    “Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies: Beat Club 4/21/72” will only be playing on the silver screen for one night! Come out and connect with Dead Heads in your neighborhood on July 17 at 7:30pm local time.

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    the Asheville Ghost is a good one to revisit today, five years on. not a full-on exploration, sure, but a nice snapshot of where they were at that point in The Return.

  18. BingosBrother Says:

    Flat brimming the shit out of a gangsta Bulls hat right now. Just got my fade on too. Now I`m headed to PT(Physical Therapy). Suck it Jabroney.

  19. Stoney Case Says:

    Making offer on our retirement place. Secured loan for down payment.

    (Borrow from Peter to pay Paul). Stay tuned! Gonna Jdub and Garret ASAP STAT for some kitchen / bath remodels.


    PSHS for some major landscaping projects.

    The rest of you for everything else

  20. dorn76 Says:

    If you need a slouch….

  21. Kaveh Says:

    In time for later this week:

  22. BingosBrother Says:

    Amazing info. To me at least.


  23. Stoney Case Says:

    Slouches need not apply……just how up

  24. George W. Kush Says:

    re: 7 year cycles

    every cell in the human body is replaced over 7 years but even more importantly neurological changes occur around every 7-8 years for humans also. DNA is not changing really but mental and emotional processes change and adapt in this time period. Prob some legit scholarly stuff out there on it somewhere

  25. Mr.Miner Says:

    Thought peeps would be a bit more hyped in a spring 94 piece. Fair enough. Was a personal mission anyhow.