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Excerpt: This Has All Been Wonderful (A Travel Monologue From Summer 1994: The Year Phish Became Phish)

by David "ZZYZX" Steinberg on May 07, 2014

Armed with stopwatch, clipboard, and pen, I was ready to take notes. It turned out that it was a good thing I had the space as this is still on the short list of best concerts I have ever seen Phish perform. In fact, if you’re – say – writing a book about Phish in 1994 and wanted to do some background research on the Bomb Factory, you’d find out that a majority of the links Google returns for the venue return are about this show.

One thing that gets forgotten about this show is that it had a rather strong first set. There are all sorts of gems lying around that no one ever thinks about. The “Llama” mid instrumental breakdown, the short but very cool surprise jam connecting “Horn” to “Divided Sky,” Mike’s fun little bass punctuation effects during that song, it all is foreshadowing.

The first sign that this would be anything more than just some playing around the edges happened during “Split Open and Melt.” This is an extremely inventive version that builds up to an intense, dark space. Just as it seems about to drop into the coda, there’s a detour. The jam gets quieter, leaves the main theme and becomes very Page heavy, leading to a unique ending. In many shows – including quite a few later in this tour when I go on for a bit about the “Melt” - this would be the highlight but this instance was more akin to a stretching exercise. The sprinting would come in the second set.

During the long drive across the Texas desert, I listened to a tape I had just managed to acquire from the previous summer. It was from Tinley Park, IL and centered around a 30 minute “Run Like an Antelope” that had other songs sandwiched in the middle. I wished that we would somehow be receiving something similar in Dallas, but that sort of show didn’t come around often. Little did I suspect that the second set would be even more improvisational.

The second set opened up normally enough with “Loving Cup” and “Sparkle” but then it got weird. The “Tweezer” that followed consumed 26 minutes. Just that fact alone was rather shocking for the era. Jams of that length were completely unheard of; even the length of the “Antelope” mentioned above was padded by the mid-jam digressions. Fortunately this wasn’t just aimless noodling. There were a few nice build jams and a heavy metal section with Phish singing, "Yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeeeeeeah!" on top; I was told that was a Gwar song titled "Gwa" played in honor of the theatric heavy metal band playing next door at the Deep Elum. It was a lie. No such song was teased.

“Tweezer” eventually resolved into “Sparks.” This would be my only version of the song until the Dick's “S show.” [3] That’s too bad because it works really well as a transitional song, filling the space from an end of a jam to the next song inspiration. In this case, it segued into the then rare “Makisupa Policeman.” That was a lot of fun but I figured we'd go back to a normal Phish set afterwards. Instead, the end of “Makisupa” morphed into a Digital Delay Loop Jam. Trey and Mike have unusual tones over the loop; for a few minutes it sounds almost like a Pink Floyd outtake. Then though, it returned to Phish playing a rock and roll styled jam that segued into “Walk Away”. OK, surely now we're going to go back to a normal Phish show?Nope, back to the jam. This section was very Page heavy. He plays some beautiful chords for a while over a quiet jam. At one point the music threatened to become “It's Ice”, but that was a little too standard for this show. Instead we'd get a one time cover of the Breeders' “Cannonball” because, sure; why not?

Fishman singing “Purple Rain” was almost a relief. The show had been so weird, mixed with intense jams, rarities, and bustouts that it was nice to be able to relax for a second. Don't blow it off too much or you'd miss Jon channeling his Royal Purpleness to scream, "And that means you too, Dallas, Texas!" “Hold Your Head Up” started, but instead of some banter followed by a break, Trey and Fish play the drums together for a while. The jam builds. It considers segueing into “Weekapaug Groove” for a while. Finally, the intro chords to “Tweezer Reprise” are hit and the madness ends, well over an hour after we were asked to step into the Freezer of Coldness.

May 7 was just the first of the twenty-six shows I would see this summer, but it immediately reminded me why I would do something as stupid as drive for twelve hours each way to see a pair of concerts. Sometimes what was shaping up to be an ordinary night of music in a refurbished bomb factory becomes an explosion of a different sort.

In addition to being one of my all time favorite sets to listen to, this night had one more lasting effect on my life. During the extended “Tweezer,” the easier to read setlist let me notice how long it was going on for. I occasionally would drop an aside, “We are 50 minutes into ‘Tweezer.’” The Greenpeace table staff seemed interested in my chronological updates, so I kept them posted. What I didn’t know was that that got back to the band and a nickname was created. From then on, I would be known as The Timer. Yes, the cape was a later invention, but everything else that is known about me - the clipboard, the name - it all comes down to the Bomb Factory.

_____

[3] Phish played a concert in 2011 where every song’s title started with the letter S, providing you pretend there’s no “The” in “The Sloth.”

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Comments

If one is keeping notes of what is happening then yeas they clearly are paying attention to the music

By Jer - 05/07/14

What self-indulgent bullshit.  The hubris to write this memoir is equal parts pathetic and hilarious.

TL;DR:  I have Aspergers and my obsession is Phish.

By Tela69 - 05/10/14

Thank you cool write up! Just ordered the book.

By Johnmoonmoogcaudy - 05/11/14

Well done! You’ve done something many longtime Phish fans have thought of doing but did it fascinating fashion!

By Ocelot - 06/25/14

dude wears a cape

By veejay - 06/28/14

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