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. ren Says:

    Looks like AC needs Phish more than ever! Why no Bader again? That was a great setup with lots of potential


  2. sumodie Says:

    Weird, there are at least 3 Patsy’s Pizza restaurants/chains all claiming to open since 1933

    Here’s gdad’s rec:


  3. sumodie Says:

    Great Woods – original covered seating is in sections 1-8 only

    Will keep my ears open, Joe

  4. vapebraham Says:

    kickin it old school: 6.22.94 stash ($$) and 7.2.98 YEM ($$$).

  5. ren Says:

    Don’t forget the Queens side of the Triboro! Its the new Brooklyn (unfortunately)…getting hipper by the day. Family friendly and not one iota of sketch

  6. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    if you are hitting that 6.22.94 Stash you really should be sticking around for the Mike’s->Simple->Midnight Rider->Catapault->Simple->Icculus>Simple->Mike’s>H2>Weekapaug … and everything that follows.

    I adore that set.

    nothing like getting nba scores in the middle of an Icculus.

  7. gavinsdad Says:

    rooms at the revel now $89. the end of the hall rooms are so darn nice…they have a sunken living room. you could get a mess of friends in there to have a party before everyone runs for the hills.

    pure speculation but i was always dubious about the need for the water club (borgatas sister tower). didnt think there was enough 1% money to support it. then they launched the revel. i feel that the tourist data and whatever data the developers and investors used was very “hopeful”. there are way too many luxe properties to chill in in NYC to draw away that many people to the Revel.

    and philly by and large is working class…these folks want a room at the taj via expedia or what have you.

    sorry for non sequitur-ish post…i stayed at the cheap and gnarly chelsea b&b past two trips to AC!

  8. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Garcia for JWil Mtn Jam dl link sumo.

  9. ren Says:

    Yeah…not sure what those guys were thinking. Vegas clearly shrinking the past decade, economic hard times all around…

    Sure! Luxury gambling in AC seems like a great idea!

  10. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    pretty sure I got that sequence right from memory

  11. Jerome Garcia Says:

    JWil’s Feb ’14 Bowery Ballroom show w/ a comment of praise by our very own Scoop for those so inclined:

    Absolutely love JWil

  12. vapebraham Says:

    t3: thanks for the reminder. cuing up mike’s simple rider groove after sweet young jerry time — 12.12.73 morning dew. $$$

  13. gavinsdad Says:

    Now, for the Mann. I will be fighting to get to the shows on time but for all of you on “vaca”:

    I was looking at some pregame bars and talking to Calpain. He mentioned this spot Slainte (typical irish bar) near 30th st station. It’s 3 miles from the venue but right next to the Trolley that goes to the Mann. I like Kite and Key for food and tap selection which is in the Fairmount/Artmuseum part of Phila. Like 3 miles and change from the venue and really close to my shortcut to the parking lot (if anyone needs that let me know…it’s damn good).

    But then there is the St. Joes Univ area which is just NW of the back of the Mann. When my friends from VA came up for Panic last Sat they went to the Landmark Americana bar. it’s a chain but you can get good food and grub and it’s literally 1.5 miles from the rear of the Mann entrance (shakedown etc is on the other, “front” side of the mann).

    If anyone needs food or beer or culture recs obvs please feel free to ask.

  14. gavinsdad Says:

    I also want to mention that some friends (and twitter phish peeps) here in town are doing an aftershow party after nite 2 of the Mann. you will need a cab or car to get there. It’s in the Fishtown neighborhood. So if you have a full head of steam going it should be fun and demented.

  15. dorn76 Says:

    This is relevant to whale call discussions.


  16. Stoney Case Says:

    Volunteers needed. All Shows and venues. Email me for details. Waterwheel. Take the next step of fandom. Giving back.

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    dorn, just saw that one of my locals, jack’s abby, is beginning distro in your fine state. drafts now with bottles coming in august. hetty lagers yo

  18. dorn76 Says:

    Always enjoyed the Hoponius Union.

    Had EB 7/4 on tap last night. It is delicious but I noticed less hoppy, crisp bite this go ’round in favor of a smoother, maltier backbone than I’m used to from Stone.

    Still a $$$ beer, but moved away a bit from the Manna-from-Heaven pure hop-hose west coast style they snagged me with.

    So many good options now, hype wearing off a bit are also factors.

    For Spiderman fans….

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:


  20. ren Says:

    NYC has finally reached the point in the summer where there is and endless parade of scantily clad beauties.

  21. Stoney Case Says:

    Ren, where do they all go when Phish comes to town?

    NYC Phish = Time for the Meatstick in 3.0

  22. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Had EB 7/4 on tap last night. It is delicious but I noticed less hoppy, crisp bite this go ’round in favor of a smoother, maltier backbone than I’m used to from Stone.

    ^eloquent description by the great dornolio. Exactly my thoughts after imbibing several bombers over the past wk. Well dome.

  23. Jerome Garcia Says:

    MSMW review & pics from 6/17 @ SFJAZZ.

    Scoop you find a recording of this yet? Checked theshackproject but not upped there to date.

  24. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    waaaaait fooooor iiiiiit…

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I can’t stop watching it