Starting Things Off

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 6th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

7.8.2012 (Ryan MacNeil)

Openers, though not crucial to a standout show, necessarily set the opening tone of the night. Often used as a slot for a warm up song or a bust-out, when the band expands on show openers, the vibe of the night is immediately elevated. Phish featured a mixed bag of openers, hitting on all parts of the spectrum from token to stellar during Leg One, and following were the top five.

5.”Soul Shakedown Party” 7.1, East Troy, WI

A welcome beginning to any show, when the band opens up with the Bob Marley cover, it usually foreshadows good things. And looking back on Alpine’s second night, this occasion certainly fits the bill. A bust out that everyone loves, “Soul Shakedown” began a theme of rarities that carried throughout the first half. Nothing too serious, this opener, if nothing else, gave everyone plenty of time—and the perfect soundtrack—to burn a show-opening spliff before the action got going in earnest.

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4. “Mike’s > Hydrogen > Weekapaug” 6.16, Atlantic City, NJ

Regardless of how insignificant “Mike’s Song” has become on the modern improvisational landscape, when put at the front of a show, the guitar lick, the drop into the jam, and the menacing textures take on a whole new role. Far more akin to its original format of the early ‘90s than its late-’90s jam-fiestas, “Mike’s Groove” will, nonetheless, always hold a special place in the annals of Phish. In this more compact format, the front of the first set is, arguably, the best placement for the musical suite, demonstrated perfectly by this Atlantic City version.

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3. “Buried Alive” 6.7, Worcester, MA

This old school shredder kicked off the entire tour, illustrating the band’s intent to thrill right off the bat. Instead of warming up with “Sample” or “AC/DC Bag,” the guys dove head first into summer with a fierce take on”Buried Alive.” A good omen, no doubt…

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2. “Wolfman’s Brother” 6.22, Cincy, OH

When Phish starts the show with a chunk of improv, a different sort of energy grips the crowd, and when the guys dropped a thick and extended “Wolfman’s” to spark Riverbend, that is exactly what happened. Digging into a plinkofied, funk exchange that blossomed into the most significant version of tour, the band strapped on their seat belts right away for one of the best two-setters of summer.

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1. “Skin It Back” 7.3, Wantagh, NY

One of the greatest openers of their career, the band kicked off Jones Beach with their biggest bust out off all-time—and they jammed it! Though everyone thought the band was bringing back “Spanish Moon” from Waiting For Columbus, Phish was, in fact, digging far deeper—1,417 shows to be exact—playing the eleventh version of Little Feat’s “Skin it Back.” Jamming significantly in the bluesy, percussive sound, the guys combined everything one could look for in an opener into a single experience. It will be tough for any second-leg opener to dethrone Jones Beach’s shocker.

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Jam of the Day:

Light > Twist” 7.8 II, SPAC

The fourth “Light” of Leg One; all were tour highlights.

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“Dank.”

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on April 20th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
Hampton (A.Kuroda)

Hampton (A.Kuroda)

Of all the musical genres in which Phish dabbles, reggae is, perhaps, the least significant. With mere passages of “Harry Hood” and “Slave” flirting with a roots-based groove, “Makisupa Policeman” is Phish’s lone original foray into the genre.  A relic from the band’s stonier days, “Makisupa” is actually the first known publicly played Phish original, making its debut on 10.23.84. Mentioning this fact in Philadelphia on 11.29.03, Trey also also noted that its lyrics were written by Tom Marshall as a kid. Though it was the “original Phish song,” the band’s homage to ganja has been somewhat of a rarity throughout their career. Always eliciting comedic cheers with Trey’s chosen “keyword,” “Makisupa” is Phish’s only musical reference to many fans’ recreational smoke. Usually highlighted by the creative dub lines of Gordon, this song has played multiple roles throughout Phish’s career.

makisupa_policeOne way that “Makisupa” has appeared in Phish shows has been as a set opener- accounting for about half of its appearances dating back to December ’94. Furthermore, many of these set, and show, openers have paved the way for outstanding stanzas in high profile shows. Examples include Worcester 12.29.95, The Clifford Ball 8.16.96, The Great Went 8.16.97, The Spectrum 12.28.96, and The Gorge 7.17.98. A relaxing way to ease into a set, Phish usually kept these versions succinct, juxtaposing them with something far more intense, as in the popular combination of “Makisupa > Maze.” Below are two examples of set-opening “Makisupas” with their accompanying pieces.

Makisupa > Maze” 12.28.96 II

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Makisupa > 2001” 8.16.96 III

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photo - beforeandaftermusic.com

(beforeandaftermusic.com)

A second use for Phish’s quasi-reggae composition emerged in 1995—a landing point for, or an interlude between, adventurous psychedelia. Instead of employing the mellow music as a lead-in to something big, or simply within a string of standalone songs, Phish began to use the reggae rhythms as a gentle pillow from raucous exploration. Three illustrative examples of this “relieving” use of “Makisupa” came on 7.2.95 at Sugarbush out of a grinding jam in “Runaway Jim,” 10.22.95’s at Champaign in “Tweezer > Makisupa > BBFCFM,” and Dayton’s 11.30.95 Nutter Center performance of “Tweezer -> Makisupa -> Antelope.”  Once the late ’90s hit, “Makisupa” was used  far more sparingly in this role.

Tweezer -> Makisupa -> Antelope” 11.30.95 II

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lights

3.1.03 (P.Lucks)

As the years moved on, Phish devised a third tactical use of “Makisupa”—the developed second set version, as typified by the song’s seminal rendition on 11.19.97 in Champaign’s Assembly Hall. At times, Phish treated the song as a springboard for contained improv, especially in 1999 when Trey added a keyboard to his set up.  Instances during that fall where the band stretched the reggae groove out a were 9.28.99 in Pelham, AL, 10.4.99 in Normal, IL, and Hartford Civic Center’s version on 12.12.99.

Makisupa” 11.19.97 II

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Makisupa” 9.28.99 II

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Though not used too frequently over the years, “Makisupa” always seems to pop up at the right time. To begin a hot summer evening or to conclude a dark extended jam, “Makisupa” is more often than not placed in a show with care.  Because, hey, when you’ve only got one reggae song, you’ve gotta be careful what you do with it!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

12.12.99 Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, CT

Megaupload < Link

1999-12-12moThis is a dark horse show within a red-hot December ’99 run.  Featuring a show-defining “Drowned,” a standout “Caspian,” and a blistering “Antelope,” this show somehow slips through most conversational cracks. This show also carried a heavy first set “Stash,” and a subject appropriate, mid-second-set “Makisupa.”

I: Heavy Things, AC/DC Bag, Strange Design, The Divided Sky, Beauty of My Dreams, Bug, Stash, Chalkdust Torture

II: Drowned > Prince Caspian, The Squirming Coil, Makisupa Policeman, Run Like an Antelope

E: Runaway Jim

Tags: , ,

The Hampton Opener?

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on February 13th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

508665625_591543fa33With 21 days to go until Hampton’s three-day reunion bash, few fans can stop speculating about what song the band will open up the third chapter of their career with.  Speculation has been running rampant daily on Phish Thoughts’ comment threads and Internet message boards all over, so I figured that we would dedicate this Friday to the question fans have been tossing around for almost five months now- “What will they open with?!”

Always a fun topic to discuss, even for a regular show, the reasoning used to support current theories are far more detailed and thought out for this comeback show.  Everyone has different opinions on what Phish will start with because everyone has different opinions on what message they will be trying to send.  What will they welcome us home with?  In the most highly anticipated show of the band’s career, the opener will be used to not only set the tone for the run, but for all of Phish 3.0.  Let’s explore some of the possibilities and reasonings for some potential tour openers. (Revised and updated from October.)

507814199_b5715078861. You Enjoy Myself: The magnificent opus that has long defined the band is one obvious choice for the opener; getting back to where it all began right off the bat.  “YEM” has always been Phish’s quintessential song, merging precise composition, loose improvisation, and silly lyrics.  Earlier this summer, Trey said he would give his left nut to play “YEM” five times in a row every day until he dies, however, odds are they will only play it once.  A “YEM” opener would signify the enthusiasm of the band to return to glory, and would get Hampton bumping in no time.  Usually reserved for the end of a set, “You Enjoy Myself” would be a perfect reentry into Phish’s kingdom.

2. Down With Disease: We all know how much the band loves to break out this song in big situations, and there has never been a Phish situation bigger than the one at hand.  “Disease” has to be a strong candidate for the first song out of the gates.  Lyrically symbolic of leaving their troubled times behind them, Phish will “be on their way” to becoming a dominant musical force and the inspiration for so many fans again.  The lyric, “Trying to stop these demons that keep dancing in my head,” delivers the message of redemption and a focus on the future and not the past.  The future is what 3.0 is about after all- letting bygones be bygones and moving forward.  In addition, “Disease” contains plenty of time for the crowd to let out minutes of deafening roars before launching into the jam.  This seems like strong candidate.

Hampton (C. Clark)

Hampton (C.Clark)

3. Chalk Dust Torture: One of the most frequently played songs in the band’s career, and a clear favorite of Trey’s, this song could be used to open the run and whip the crowd into an immediate frenzy.  A common set opener, this is another likely candidate.  Lyrically fitting, the reprise of, “Can’t I live while I’m young?” still has profound meaning for Phish and their aging fan base, and it would be a poignant message to deliver right away.  If the band wants to start back with some straight rock and roll, you can be sure that “Chalk Dust” will be leading off.

4. Tube: If Phish wants to use Pulp Fiction’s technique of giving us an adrenaline shot directly to the heart, they will choose “Tube.”  Can you imagine if the lights went out, they stepped on stage, and an asteroid crashed?!  The place might just pop- the energy would be straight up, unfathomable.  This would be the opener in a crazy dream you might have, but it could happen- this is Hampton after all.

507864448_9be89ae1455. Punch You In the Eye / Wilson: Either “Punch” or “Wilson” would serve as a rowdy Gamhendge supercharge right from the get go.  Both of these songs would bring forth amazing energy and get the crowd re-situated in Phishland very quickly.  With nothing too improvised, these songs would, nonetheless, get Hampton sweating and bouncing in no time at all, complete with audience participation.

6. Mike’s: If Phish were to come out to the opening licks of  “Mike’s”- forget about it.  We would witness the immediate implosion of the venue and surrounding Hampton area.  This would be the ultimate statement that “We are back, and we mean business.”  Hampton “Mike’s Songs” were a staple of Phish’s previous life, and this would be the perfect time to drop the sixth one ever.  Imagine if three minutes into Phish 3.0 we plunged into a 511197412_b46c4bbe11militant “Mike’s” jam!?  Whew!  Just the thought of it makes my heart pound faster.  A “Mike’s” would catapult us back into the thick of things with little time to mentally or physically warm up for the madness.  This would be a dream come true- a Hampton”Mike’s” straight away.  This would be incredibly powerful.

7. Get Back On the Train: If this song were selected, it would obviously be a lyrical choice that would reflect the band’s personal battles they have overcome to reach the stage together once again.  Although the lyrics fit the situation, this would be an incredibly underwhelming choice for Hampton’s opener.  An average song at best, this one wouldn’t have the same musical effect as other choices.  But who knows, Phish could open with this and drop right into YEM, something not so far fetched.  Although there would be legitimate meaning here, I think the opener will be a bit bigger.

8. Undermind: This song, the title track of Phish’s last album, was never played in 2004.  Busted out by Trey’s solo band a couple of times years ago, this song would be a perfect musical and lyrical fit to open up the rest of time.

Relocated, not retired
Reprimanded and rewired

Mystified and mishapen
Misinformed, but not mistaken

Reinvented, redefined
Rearranged, but not refined

These spot on lyrics, infectious melodies, and chunky grooves could be the ideal opener.  Familiar, yet never played, it would represent Phish bridging their past with a new sure-to-be crowd favorite.  This could be the perfect way to start- with a new jam we have never heard.

Andy

Coventry

9. The Curtain (With): This would seem like the natural choice to lead off with since they closed Coventry with a horribly botched version of their hallowed classic.  Beginning in the wrong key, the band had to stop and take it from the top for their their last song ever.  It was sad.  But now there is a chance to right the wrong of Coventry, and they could very well choose to symmetrically open up their next chapter by nailing the gorgeous composition which leads into an uplifting jam.  It would give a nod to the fact that Coventry was not the way it was supposed to end, and that Phish is back to do things the right way again.  Used as a launching pad into a larger jam vehicle, they could use a “Curtain (With) > YEM” combo to open the show in incredibly Phishy fashion.  “Curtain” could also be paired with a lot of other songs to initiate the party.  “Curtain > Tweezer,” anyone?

508844243_dbfa6d4e5c10. A New Song: It is very possible, since Phish will evolve into a different monster, that they will come out with something we’ve never heard before. With all the new material Trey and Tom have been writing, it would be a very Phishy move to ignore the obvious classic choices and welcome people to the future with a song that nobody has heard.  It would send the message, “We are back, and don’t expect us to be the same.”

Matured with a greater perspective, the band could come out and drop something that reflects their renewal- a proposition that seems very inviting.  Phish will be different, that is for sure; so we might as well start off on a new foot.  While I think “Backwards Down the Number Line” will open up a second set during the three night run, it could be what they come out of the gates with.

hampton0The first notes that emanate from the stage at Hampton will spark joy and jubilation in the minds of thousands, and it could take so many different routes.  These are merely some of the possibilities I have conjured up, and I am sure there are more legitimate guesses out there.  They could always open up with “Runaway Jim,” like most every other show in history- who knows?  What do you think?  One of these?  Something different?  Respond in comments and let’s hear what you think!
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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
12.17.95 Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY < LINK

Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY

Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY

This is the final show of the marathon 54-gig run of Fall ’95. Well-oiled and firing on all cylinders, Phish would conclude their epic journey with two standout shows in the intimate upstate New York venue.  I’d run through highlights, but the setlist speaks for itself.

I: My Friend My Friend, Poor Heart, A Day in the Life, Run Like an Antelope, The Mango Song, Tube, Stash, Lizards, Chalk Dust Torture

II: Bouncing Around the Room, Maze, Free, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Harry Hood, Sparkle, Tweezer > Tweezer Reprise

E: Hello My Baby, Runaway Jim

Tags: , ,

Where To Begin?

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on October 3rd, 2008 by Mr.Miner

So now that we know exactly when and where Phish will play, the logical trivia question for fans that will be tossed around over the next five months is, ” What will they open with?”  Always a fun topic to debate, even for a regular show, the reasoning used to support these theories are far more detailed and thought out for this comeback show.  Everyone has different opinions on what Phish will start with, because everyone has different opinions on what message they will be trying to send with those first notes.  What will they welcome us home with?  The most highly anticipated show of the band’s career, the opener will be used to not only set the tone for the run, but for all of Phish 3.0.  Let’s explore some of the possibilities and reasons for some potential tour openers.

1. You Enjoy Myself:  The magnificent song that has long defined the band is one obvious choice for the opener; getting back to where it all began right off the bat.  YEM has always been Phish’s quintessential song, merging precise composition, loose improvisation, and silly lyrics.  Earlier this summer, Trey said he would give his left nut to play YEM five times in a row every day until he dies; odds are they will only play it once.  A YEM opener would signify the enthusiasm of the band to return to their glory, and would get Hampton bumping in no time.  Usually reserved for the end of a set, YEM would be the perfect reentry into Phish’s kingdom.  If I were a Vegas odds maker, YEM would be the favorite to open up the next chapter of our lives.

2. Down With Disease: We all know how much the band loves this song, and how they love to play it in big situations (NYEs, Cypress, etc).  There has never been a Phish situation bigger than the one at hand, and Disease is a strong candidate for first song out of the gates.  Lyrically symbolic of leaving their troubled times behind them, Phish will “be on their way” to becoming the dominant musical force they once were, and the inspiration for so many adoring fans again.  The lyrics, “Trying to stop these demons that keep dancing in my head,” delivers the message of redemption and a focus on the future and not the past.  The future is what this is all about after all- letting the past be over and moving forward, together.

Chris Clark

Hampton - photo: Chris Clark

3. Chalk Dust Torture: One of the most often played songs in the band’s career, and a clear favorite of Trey’s, this song could be used to open the run and whip the crowd into an immediate frenzy.  A common set opener, this is another likely candidate.  Lyrically fitting, the reprise of, “Can’t I live while I’m young?” still has profound meaning for Phish and their aging fan base, and it would be a poignant message to deliver right away.  If the band wants to start back with some straight rock and roll, you can be sure that Chalk Dust will be leading off.

4. Tube: If Phish wants to use Pulp Fiction‘s technique of giving us an adrenaline shot directly to the heart, they will choose Tube.  Can you imagine if the lights went out, they stepped on stage, and an asteroid crashed?!  The place might just pop- the energy this would produce is straight up, unfathomable.  This would be the opener in a crazy dream you might have, but it could happen, this is Hampton after all.

5. Punch You In the Eye / Wilson:  Either Punch or Wilson would serve as a rowdy Gamhendge supercharge, right from the get go.  Both of these songs would bring forth amazing energy and get the crowd re-situated in Phishland very quickly.  While both are classic openers of the band’s past, I feel these songs won’t start off the show, as they are relics of their college days, and the band is simply not there any more.  Nothing too improvised, these songs would, nonetheless, get Hampton sweating and bouncing in no time at all.

6. Mike’s:  If Phish were to come out to the opening licks of Mike’s- forget about it.  We would witness the immediate implosion of the venue and surrounding Hampton area.  This would be the ultimate statement that “We are back, and we mean business.”  Hampton Mike’s Songs are a staple of Phish’s past, and this would be the perfect time to drop the sixth one ever.  Imagine three minutes into Phish 3.0 cannonballing into a militant Mike’s jam!?  Whew- just the thought of it makes my heart pound faster.  A Mike’s would catapult us back into the thick of things with little time to mentally or physically warm up for the madness.  This would be my dream- a Hampton Mike’s straight away- that would be incredibly powerful.

7. Get Back On the Train: If this song were selected, it would obviously be a lyrical choice that would reflect the band’s personal battles they have overcome to reach the stage together once again.  Although the lyrics fit the situation, this would be an incredibly underwhelming choice for an opener.  An average song at best, this one wouldn’t have the same musical effect as previous choices.  But who knows, Phish could open with this and drop right into YEM, something not so far fetched.  Although there would be legitimate meaning here, I think the opener will be a bit bigger.

8. Undermind: This song, the title track of Phish’s last album, was never played in 2004.  Only played by Trey’s solo band a couple of times, this song would be a perfect musical and lyrical fit to open up the rest of time.

Relocated, not retired
Reprimanded and rewired

Mystified and mishapen
Misinformed, but not mistaken

Reinvented, redefined
Rearranged, but not refined

These spot on lyrics, infectious melodies, and chunky grooves could be the perfect opener.  Familiar, yet never played, it would represent Phish bridging their past with a new sure-to-be crowd favorite.  This could be the perfect way to kick things off- with a new jam we have never heard.

Andy

Coventry - photo: Andy

9. The Curtain (With): This would seem like the natural choice to start out with since they closed Coventry with an absolute trainwreck of their hallowed classic.  Beginning in the wrong key, the band had to stop and take it from the top on their last song ever played.  It was sad.  But now there is a chance to right the wrong of Coventry, and they could very well choose to symmetrically open up their next chapter by nailing the gorgeous composition leading into an uplifting jam.  It would give a nod to the fact that Coventry was not the way it was supposed to end, and that Phish is back to do things the right way again.  Used as a launching pad into a larger jam vehicle, they could use a Curtain > YEM combo to open the show in incredibly Phishy fashion.  Curtain could also be paired with a lot of other songs to kick off the show.

10. A New Song: It is very possible, since Phish will evolve into a different band than before, and with all the new material Trey and Tom have been writing, that the band will come out to something we’ve never heard before- ignoring the obvious choices of their classic jam vehicles.  It would be a very Phishy move to welcome people to the future with a song that nobody has heard.  It would send the message, “We are back, don’t expect us to be the same.”  Matured with a greater perspective, the band could come out and drop something brand new- a proposition I, personally, find very inviting.  Phish will be different, that is for sure; so we might as well start off on a new foot.  While I, personally, think “Backwards Down the Number Line,” will open up a second set during the three night run, it could be what they come out of the gates with.  Again, it all depends on where the band is coming from at this point in their lives.

The first notes that emanate from the stage at Hampton will spark joy and jubilation in the Coliseum, and it could take so many different routes.  These are merely some of the possibilities I have conjured up, and I am sure there are more legitimate guesses out there.  They could always open up with Runaway Jim, like most every other show in history- who knows?  What do you think?  One of these?  Something different?  Respond in comments and let’s hear what you think!

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DOWNLOADS OF THE DAY: 11.25.95 Hampton Coliseum <<LINK

Keeping the theme of the week going, this is the show that got it all started- Phish’s first visit to the Mothership.  Featuring a terrorizing 30 minute Mike’s song in the second set that included the bands first “Rotation Jam,”  Phish dropped a heavy show in the Coliseum the first time they stepped foot in the door.  Starting off with a great improvisational first set that set the palate for the dark second frame, this is a great memoir of Phish past.  With three versions of Poor Heart played in this show, one slower than the next, this night combined Phish’s ferocity and humor into a classic evening.

I: Poor Heart, A Day in the Life > David Bowie, Billy Breathes, Fog That Surrounds, Bouncing Around the Room, Rift, Wolfman’s Brother, Runaway Jim

II: Timber (Jerry) > Kung > Mike’s Song > Rotation Jam > Mike’s Song, Long Journey Home**, I’m Blue I’m Lonesome**, Strange Design-> Weekapaug Groove, Harry Hood, Hello My Baby, Poor Heart^

E: Fire#

*With rotation jam. **Acoustic. ^Slow shuffle version. #With “Poor Heart” tease before the beginning.

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LISTEN TO TIME TURNS ELASTIC- TREY ACOUSTIC SOLO NOW! <<LINK

DOWNLOAD TIME TURNS ELASTIC ACOUSTIC <<LINK

from PT user dyland23:

“A while back a buddy of mine was working up at the barn assisting a video crew who was interviewing Trey about “Time Turns Elastic” for a DVD that i guess fell through.  My friend managed to rip the audio of Trey playing the song on acoustic guitar and sent it to me to check out before the big debut in
Nashville.  Apparently during the interview at The Barn, Trey talked about doing this song with Phish, so given the big announcement yesterday I figured it would be a good time to let it out. Enjoy!”

I listened to this, and it is very cool acoustic playing.  It makes it sound like Time Turns Elastic could be a Phish song, which I never would have thought after seeing the orchestral performance.  Check it out.  It’s only 13 minutes; the second lyrical movement only.

Thanks to Christopher Stearns and Lawrence Pinkham  for bringing this to my attention.

Tags: ,

The Best Set Openers

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on September 8th, 2008 by Mr.Miner
photo Libby McLinn

8.11.04, Great Woods: photo Libby McLinn

The way a set opened always paved the tone for the next ninety minutes. Whether a first or a second set, an opener was used to get the proverbial party started.  An exciting opener gets the crowd, and the show, going much more quickly than a Get Back On the Train or a Water in the Sky.  Some openers are messages from the band to strap on your seat belt, because the ensuing ride might be a bit bumpy and quite maddening.  Others are clearly used for warm up, or to get the stage sound set.  Bottom line – sick openers, while never crucial to a crazy set, often pointed the initial course for your intergalactic nightly ride in a direction that delivered a message.  In thinking about openers in general, I compiled Miner’s Best Set Openers.  I stuck to songs that were often used as openers- and therefore didn’t list the biggest ten Phish songs as the top ten openers- that would be too easy.  I didn’t consider first or second set, because any way you cut it, these openers meant business for that set of music.  The list is in absolutely no particular order whatsoever.

1.The Curtain: The ultimate Phish opus, dating back to the mid-eighties, this song opened big sets throughout Phish’s career.  The Curtain was not only made to be a great set opener, but it was also a “launch” song, after which you knew something huge was coming-( e.g. Curtain > Tweezer, Curtain > Mikes.)  An adreniline filled song that travels into dark places before coming to a climactic an abrupt peak, this set up a perfect drop into a big song.  Especially in the mid to late 90’s, a Curtain opener generally foreshadowed a big improvisational set.

2. 2001: Originally conceived as a short three minute set-opener to get the rev up the crowd in 1993 and 1994, 2001 was also used as a launch pad much like Curtain.  Yet 2001 was used much more liberally, and transitioned into big jam songs as well as non-jam songs in the earlier days.  As things got later in time, 2001 became a song that could appear anywhere in a set and stretch out to twenty minutes, but when used as an opener, a la Gorge ’98, or Charlotte ’99, it is a fool proof killer.  Every one gets up for this one as Kuroda enters his visual play land to the delight of all.  Pure audio-visual Phish crack- I don’t think there was one person who wasn’t psyched for it every single time. (Though ’93 heads may have got sick of it a bit when it opened something like 15+ consecutive second sets!)

3. Oh Kee Pah Ceremony: While the Oh Kee Pah Ceremony references a Native American rite of passage into manhood, for Phish, it was a college ritual in which the band would ingest massive amounts of mushrooms, lock themselves in a room, and jam endlessly- honing their musical communication.  Famed for their hilarity and their intense off-kilter wackiness, Oh Kee Pah Ceremonies became a part of Phish in the early days.  The short quirky instrumental has been used to open many sets through out the band’s career, always setting up a drop into something bigger, and more rambunctious.  Two-thirds of the time, the band followed Oh Kee Pah with Suzy Greenberg, but they were also known to drop Oh Kee Pah > Bags, Oh Kee Pah > YEMs, and a few Oh Kee Pah > Golgis.  This opener is one that signified the band was in a playful mood, and to get ready for a hot show.

4. Buried Alive: More of an old school opener, this one became a rarity in the later days.  A frenetic instrumental, featuring wails by Trey and some fast, almost nervous- percussion; a musical interpretation of this deathly fate, Buried Alive gave you a desperate tone.  You needed to get that breath of air, or it was done.  A smothering opener, it kicked off many an old school gem, while always holding a place in the hearts of all fans.  The much needed gasp of air came in the song that followed Buried Alive, as this was also a composition used to launch into something more upbeat.  In the early ’90s, this more upbeat song was most often Poor Heart, but as it became less frequently played, it began leading into different songs.

5. Punch You In the Eye: Punch, while being more of a rarity as an opener, was one that stoked the crowds’ fire immediately.  From the pre-start rhythmic scratches of Trey’s guitar to the opening grooves, there is nary a better way to start a show within the non-jam song category.  The fierce rhythms and lyrics generally meant that the band was ready to fire right from the start.  Well-loved by all, Punch was an sinister opener that was an omen of dark things to come.

6. Wilson: Always a treat when coming at the beginning of a set, Wilson set a bombastic tone for the set to come.  Rife with audience participation, and the supported by the myth of Gamehendge, Wilson got the band’s and crowd’s energies moving in the same direction- against the evil King Wilson.  Often giving way to some more heavy “metal” jamming, Wilson was an opener that got the heart pumping right away, and brought expectations of things to follow.  Potentially more powerful as a second set opener than a first, Wilson nonetheless graced the beginning of more than a few setlists during the band’s career.

7. My Friend, My Friend: The rarely used My Friend, My Friend opener is one of the dirtiest, most sinister way for Phish to start a show.  With the almost orchestral beginning segueing into the eerie opening piano chords and verses, if this song opened a show, you knew it meant special things.  A virtual bust-out in the later years, My Friend was always a welcome addition to the setlist, where ever it appeared- but more often than not, it was at the beginning of the first set, signaling the dark debauchery that was about to take ensue.  Foreshadowing a unique set, this song’s popularity never waned.

8. Mike’s: Now we are getting into some powerhouse openers.  I feel ok using Mike’s in this list because it opened 43 sets in its life, again, mostly before the latest era of Phish.  There is not a song that can get a Phish crowd amped like the opening guitar licks to Mike’s Song.  Like an adrenaline shot directly to the heart, this melody causes feelings to stir inside you, preparing you for the dark drop into an evil smoke-filled land that was a mere three minutes away.  If the band decided to open with Mike’s in the latter years, it was a sign of delving deep right off the bat, and a clear suggestion to hold onto your hats.  Especially if it was a second set opener, you could assure yourself of twenty minutes of dark space-groove exploration coupled with some soaring dirty guitar leads and big organ washes, taboot.  It doesn’t get much better than this at the beginning of a set.

9. Down With Disease: Disease became another larger improvisational song that became a staple set opener by the time Phish called it quits.  Starting in 1994, with the onset of the song, it was always used to explore deep percussive realms.  Disease went through a thematic phase in 1996 when the jams stayed within the context of the chord progression, but starting in 1997, this song transformed into one of the band’s biggest, and most divergent, jam vehicles.  The catchy and melodic hooks at the beginning of the song, reeled people in right away, and then the band carried everyone out to sea in improvisational vessels that often took twenty plus minute round trips.   Played abundantly in later years, the band created very different types of jams out of this song, and coming at the beginning of the set- it could very much set the high energy tone for the rest of the evening.

MINER’S PICKS: OPENERS <<<DOWNLOAD LINK LIVE NOW!!!

1,2. Oh Kee Pah > AC / DC Bag 11.24.95 Pittsburgh, PA

3. Wilson 8.9.97 Alpine Valley, WI

4. Mike’s Song 11.22.97 Hampton, VA

5,6. Punch > Free 7.9.99 Merriweather

7,8. Down With Disease > Piper 8.16.98 Lemonwheel

9,10. Buried Alive > Reba 12.7.91 Portsmouth, NH

11. 2001 11.19.97 Champaign, IL

12,13. The Curtain > Tweezer 11.12.95 Gainesville, FL

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT SET OPENERS?  WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITES?  RESPOND IN COMMENTS!

1991 BURIED ALIVE VIDEO

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1998 ISLAND RUN OH KEE PAH > YEM

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