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. thedayman Says:

    dude who called in asking about stale song placement sounds like mike. that’d be hilarious if it was him. ~47 min in

  2. sumodie Says:

    Randall’s takes place during a most auspicious event, Manhattanhenge!


    July 12th @ 8:25pm is when the setting sun aligns precisely with Manhattan’s street grid

  3. sumodie Says:


    Will Gamehendge coincide with Manhattanhenge…?

  4. phishm Says:

    Wow is this guy funny. Bill Hicks full set.


  5. RoosterPizza Says:

    Hour into Fishman interview. What a treat this is!

  6. garretcorncob Says:

    Hearing Fishman’s response to the question about the development of the rhythm section over the years was neat.

    Let’s get the rest of the boys up to Maine for an interview soon too.

  7. MiA Says:

    Fishman = best talker.

  8. Leo Weaver Says:

    ‘sup fellas? I need serious encouragement to get to Randall’s…y’all got any laying around here? Still expecting to see some friendly and new faces in Charlotte.

  9. sumodie Says:

    No wonder we never get a 2nd jam in Mike’s, Fishman doesn’t know what that is

    He did say he practices at least an hour almost every day

  10. xpun Says:

    Leo. I usually go with the tell everyone you’re going enough that you start to believe in it yourself. I’ve got work covered. Working on lodging so when the time comes it really makes zero sense not to go.

    Also see sumo’s Manhattanhenge post.

  11. Leo Weaver Says:

    Hahaha. Yeah, I’ve got my lodging worked out (probably close enough to walk…and free taboot taboot). Just need to take care of flight and figure out work. Work is the big thing. New employee started a couple weeks ago and we’re slammed…so gotta make it work taking as little time away as possible. Maybe mid-afternoon flight Friday and very early flight home Monday…that’d have me missing two half-days which just might work. I’ll still feel guilty about it though. It was great being boss during recession when I had no work and could take time off willy-nilly. Now that we’re (very very) busy again, it’s a little more dicey. I’ll probably see you guys there.

  12. MiA Says:

    Nothing like three days of fun and friends to recharge the tank.

    After coming back from two to three weeks on your I was very thankful I was still employed and worked extra hard.


  13. MiA Says:

    ^tour not your

  14. MiA Says:

    “He did say he practices at least an hour almost every day”

    This is obvious. The ginger guy … Not so much.

    Fishman is a professional. Practicing Steve Gadd licks on his drums just to add some flavor.

  15. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Messi! What a strike. Iran played Argentina tough.

    Made it about half way through Fish interview; looking fwd to finishing that up. Fishman rules.

    Kicked it on the new boardwalk on Butler Trail the hike & bike around Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin. It’s killer. Enhanced the already great jewel of Austin.

  16. xpun Says:

    Headed to the rock n roll hof in July. Is there ANYTHING else to do in Cleveland? The official tourism website lists the house that they filmed a Christmas story in as #3. Seriously?

  17. xpun Says:


    Cleveland Tourism video: http://youtu.be/ysmLA5TqbIY

  18. Jerome Garcia Says:

    sumo is it possible for you to up DTrucks SJam to your tangerine por favs. Just pulled all the Nels w/ MMW & Jack White. Garcia kind sir!

  19. sumodie Says:

    First Seun Kuti two weeks ago, now Goat is wowing the NYTimes


    Fishman’s comments about not playing certain songs at such a breakneck pace, and thus enjoying not playing so many notes nowadays, was telling. Plus his exercises to help reduce / not suffer from carpal tunnel related injuries

    Looking forward to finishing interview tonight

    Yo, happy summer solstice! As of 7am this morn. All downhill now…

  20. sumodie Says:

    SuperJam audio webcast rip avail here:


    I believe T3 also stashed it in his mandarin

  21. Leo Weaver Says:

    So where on RI is the actual venue? Big grassy area on the NW corner or big grassy area on the south end? Or on one of the bb field complexes? Looks like I’d be close flying into LGA…would just have to figure out what to do with my bag. Robear working WW? Any of you guys driving/parking?

  22. sumodie Says:

    SuperJam video dl & stream links here


    Also Jack White vid stream link there too

  23. MiA Says:

    Great video Xpun.

  24. sumodie Says:

    Leo, NW part of Randalls, just west of Ichan stadium. Can see likely stage footprint (from governors island main stage) in grass on google maps, audience would be north of that

    Phish upped a special Randalls info page, and gdad & I offered logistical info page78

    I’m like you, got it all mapped out except for work. Hope to see ya there!

  25. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Thanks sumo! Totally forgot about FunkIt. D’oh! GOAT NYTimes article was a great read. 3 cheers for Scoop!