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. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ^3.0 Theme…Tela outta the gates rather

  2. Stoney Case Says:

    Listen up hedonists! Waterwheel needs some good volunteers. Mann up. SPAC on. Randall on. My email box too quiet.

  3. Jerome Garcia Says:

    bear that late ’10 Anders Stanton Robert power trio behind American Patchwork was special shit bro. 12.10.10 @ Last Concert Cafe in Houstonia. Anders fanboy ever since. Cat is a Natl Treasure. Jah bless NOLA.

  4. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ^12.11.10 @ Last Concert aka Sandy Hippie looking back @ calendar. 12.10.11 @ Tips w/ Luther predecessor to Annual Holiday Extravaganza. Would love to make it back to NOLA for ’14 two nt installment. Gonna try. Nonstops to MSY on SW. Nawlins sure is purty during the holidays.

  5. little umbrellas Says:

    Bolinas is awesome. Smiley’s had good sound. Small wood rooms usually do. Sweaty dance party had once again.

  6. gavinsdad Says:

    Pre-Randalls eats:

    I would be remiss if I didn’t point out Patsy’s on 1st ave bet 117/118 for a pizza pre show. Old school brick oven. Margherita pies the way they are supposed to be. Last time I was there a friend and I split a whole pie. There is a little room for slices (pretty sure they still do this) and you can sit in the room next door. Serious quality.

    Also: 116th is a pretty big main drag there in Spanish Harlem. I will suss out the best tacos and Dominican. Nice thing is that some of these spots will be open post show (Patsy’s wont I’m pretty sure).

    Finally: those projects there between 2nd ave and the water and 120-124th sts aren’t kidding around. Don’t park your bike there. Don’t walk thru there to blaze.

  7. MiA Says:

    I like to suss out the best tacos too…

  8. MiA Says:

    It is MrsMiA’s …th Birthday today. And my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary also. We just celebrated our 20th Anniversary.

    Onion Belt’d by proxy.

    Gonna drive up to Stoney’s retirement home this summer, and make sure it’s ADA accessible.

  9. Jerome Garcia Says:

    gdad dropping the knowledge.

    Deer Creek ’95 Reba from ystdy’s 19YL show is smoking. Firing it up again this AM because it’s that good http://phish.in/1995-06-19/reba & then Stoney’s David Bowie http://phish.in/1995-06-19/david-bowie.

    Going to see what the next night at Blossom was all about. Looks like there’s a noteworthy CDT & monster Mike’s.

  10. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Happy bday MrsMiA! Just missed out on being a cancer by 1 day. & congrats to los padres. 50 yrs is worth crowing about.

    Does MrsMiA like Brownout? Would love if you drug her along next Fri 😉

  11. MiA Says:

    We will be there methinks

  12. Dorn76 Says:

    Drag her to show by the hair, caveman style.

    Under appreciated mode of transport. That and the foot-powered car.

  13. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    mid june provides for some bounty, doesn’t it?

    88 Ya Mar->Reggae Fest w. Jah Roy, extendo Sally, and a big Bowie for the time. quality stuff all around in this early show

    92 relic #2 in the round of openers for the Femmes (and Lou Reed this time). I wonder what they thought of the vac section…

    95 typical high quality ripper from summer 95 with big time Mike’s Groove, a CDT to write home about and more. I know we had people there. Thoughts?

    97 I really love this show. this is NOT a first set to skip. I’ve detailed the take on Ain’t Love Funny and here is its debut in the middle of an inspiring frame of music that kinda outshines the second set. that Taste gets it going right and then the jam they take it too before arriving in Cities? c’mon! then after playing around with Cities they jam out of Horn to that debut before taking that right into a nice LxL whic goes right into the seconf/final take on the raging I Don’t Care (would be interested to hear this again) before capping it with a Jersey-themed Lope! But give that Oye Coma Twist a spin too.

    04 as with the night before I don’t need to say much here, but I will anyway. starts innocently enough but with that Waves (oh, that Waves!) things just go completely up a few notches. and that’s even after Trey broke a strong during Julius and they took it way down for the Bill Bailey interlude. nothing like the wall of sonic death of the IT Waves, this is a different type of lady love (I really need to find that ode to Waves I did…). anyway, the FIRST set is capped by a Drowned for the ages before we get one of those sets you better just know, you know? Four songs and a raging GTBT encore, thank you very much take all of my money if you please, sirs. seriously, -7>ghost->twist, yem is a set for the annuls.

    09 first time back to alpine in 3.0… and honestly aside from a couple of setlist notations it isn’t a very notable show unless you had some mind-opening experience or maybe met you future ex-wife I’m not sure there’s a big musical memory to be had here.

    10 yay! another Father’s Day Brother opener! this one also has the Tony sit-in for a tune he helped pen (Jibboo), the extended Makisupa solo fun, and a purty little Drowned>Swept Away>Steep segment.

    12 one that gets people’s dander all aflutter. honestly, solidly played but nothing major happens here except the (gasp!) unfinished Hood (that happened a few times in 12 if you recall) and this time they ended up in WTU? which may have been a dig at the complainers (or over-analysis. your call). Dog Log bustout here too. and the tucking business gets wrapped up. this one was a victim of expectations, me thinks, but on respin it really isn’t bad just maybe not the next level shit people may have wanted at that point in tour (considering Worcester got people so amped and Bader had its moments too).

  14. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    huh. I *actually* agree with the .net notes on this SPAC04 take on the Drowned jam having a section that is reminiscent of the KDF “jam”. at about 17:00 (I love that it isn’t until then, after several other fully resolved sections) they arrive at a rocking groove leading to the final peak that if KDF was already out everyone would’ve been saying “damn, trey, just sing the lyrics already, brah!” I almost caught myself adding in the final chorus. almost.

    sure, it is a fairly standard blues rock shuffle peak, I guess, but it’s KDF.

    pretty pretty pretty sure this might be my favorite drowned. but I’m open to suggestions…

  15. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Talked me into SPAC04 T3 http://phish.in/2004-06-20

  16. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    it sells itself, jg

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    very detailed WC recaps

    this is a great resource if you want to get caught up on every past game

  18. ren Says:

    So many good things to celebrate MiA! Helps put things in perspective.

    Happiness, Health and Wealth* to you and yours!!!

    *wealth includes but is not limited to $, love, friendship, contentment, peace, etc.

  19. Kaveh Says:

    Thanks @T3 for the day’s writeUp….hitting the Reba from yesterday at DC; then diving into the 97 show.

  20. ren Says:

    Fuck Cuomo!


    Its amazing how much fear and trepidation one little plant has instigated. Humans…forever limited by their fears and judgement.

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    tonight’s lineup: swans > spiritualized > goat > mas ysa

  22. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Dr Jack McConnell belting it out SPAC04 Bill Bailey. Now on this Waves of which you speak.

  23. Joe Says:

    I search of 2 great woods tickets-preferably seats under cover. Been looking at the usual outlets/Craigslist and so much tax for good seats. Probably my only show all year (possible exception Vegas Halloween). Joeblackboard@yahoo.com


  24. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Fracking kickass Df. Nice lookin lil festie yall got up there in Canada eh http://nxne.com/

  25. Jerome Garcia Says:

    marcoesq had 2 GW tics to offload Joe; last row of pav if memory serves.