Getting Into IT

We all love Phish for their ability to rearrange our realities with improvisational jams channeled from the ether.  The transportive nature of their music was the central reason that Phish became such a musical phenomenon and a central part of our lives.  Traveling to places deep within, riding the rapids-filled river of Phish music, we were able to discover things about ourselves, our friends, and the world around us.  We learned to believe in Phish and trust that their musical maze would lead us where we needed to go.  Yet, between these extended periods of cosmic improv, Phish possessed a completely different side.  They wrote great songs.  I’m no longer thinking of improv based pieces, but the classic Phish songs that we all love, that are the same every time out.  After seeing twenty, fifty, or hundreds of shows, these songs became “filler” in the evening, as they were consistently taken for granted as breathers before the next huge adventure.

42950698Yet, not everyone had an older sibling or friend usher them into “the scene,” and these songs that later became less relevant to our show experience were once central in lassoing our interests away from hip-hop, alt rock, metal or whatever we were into at the time.  You may not remember the first time you heard “Bouncin’ Around the Room,” but you remember how you felt.  Enchanting and different- the harmonies were so rich and the melodies sang in your head for hours after.  The percussive beat and the singing in rounds added to the intrigue, and then it was over.  Hey, this was pretty good.

One day, maybe in a parents’ car, high school party or dorm room, someone put on “Sample In a Jar.”  Wow!  This was pop rock taken to a whole new level.  The guitar sounded so warm and inviting, and the grooves just felt right echoing inside of you.  The verses sounded just as cool as the chorus, and that big peak at the end got you every time.  You began asking your buddy to play that song each time you saw him.

At some point ,”Fee” provided an introduction to Phish’s narrative lyrical nature.  Listening to the tale of Floyd, Fee and Millie, you couldn’t help but be tickled by the absurdity of it all.  Floyd, the chimpanzee tried to court Millie away from the weasel only to being sliced on the nipple by Millie, herself, and fall to his aquatic death.  Fee’s life was saved and their romance lived on.  Listening to the details, the music simultaneously narrated the story, complementing the words perfectly- pretty clever these Phish guys were.

Matt Collins

12.29.03 - photo: Matt Collins

Soon, your interest was peaked and you turned to a bootleg.  You had been told of this Gamhendge story, and when you heard “Lizards,” a new world opened- not only to Colonel Forbin.  This was the song that hooked me and I needed to know more.  The fairy tale magic combined with Trey’s sublime super-emotional guitar in the second part, had me wanting to discover what Phish were all about.  The verses, the chorus, the musicianship- everything!  Who was this band, and why was I listening to Use Your Illusion all the time? (n.b. They are great albums!) Before long I found myself at a Phish show and the rest is history.

While everyone’s path to Phish was different, at some point, these anthems, with no jamming whatsoever, played a significant role in our love for the band, and perhaps still do.  Maybe it was the quirky lyrics and multi-faceted music of “Golgi Apparatus” that caught our ear first.  Or possibly, “Picture of Nectar” was the initial song you were jonesing to hear- oh yeah, they call that one “Cavern.”

42950724The fact is, those five-minute songs are as Phishy as twenty-minute “Tweezer”s.  These songs that so often got ignored in our later days of being a fan were just as much a foundation of Phish’s success as “You Enjoy Myself” or “David Bowie.”  Not everyone could latch onto intricate psychedelic journeys right off the bat, but if those twenty minutes were surrounded by “NICU” and “Sparkle,” it all became more palatable.  And even though you were at your two-hundred and seventy-fifth show, the band always understood that there were many present for the first time.

As we sit on the brink of Hampton, creeping closer everyday, the fact is that there will be a whole new generation of Phish fans once we step back into the freezer.  Kids who were twelve, thirteen, and fourteen when Coventry happened, and have spent the last few years listening to shows and posting online, are dying to experience Phish for the first time.  There will also be those who will be those who will be discovering Phish for the first time ever, like we did so many years ago; some with no knowledge of the band’s music at all.  As they always did, Phish will play to entire room in Hampton, mixing new and old school “singles” in with their improvisational adventures.  Yet this time around, when Bouncin’, Golgi, and Sample boom through the PA, they will sound a little bit sweeter, and a lot more meaningful.  They will be sonic blessings whose musical paths will bring us back to a time long ago, while introducing others to their future.  Anyway you cut it, they will be magic to our ears.




7.11.91 Battery Park, Burlington, VT SBD < LINK

artist-99187166-1450185Here we have a crispy DSBD of a free show in Phish’s hometown during the Summer ’91’ tour with The Giant Country Horns.  This show marks the first performance of The Doors’ “Touch Me,” and features bust-outs of “Frakenstein” and “Flat Fee” after 217 and 348 shows, respectively.  Amidst a tour of standout shows with the horns, the band was ripping as the next night would be their a classic show in Keene, NH released as Live Phish 19.

I: Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg, The Divided Sky, Flat Fee, My Sweet One, Stash, Lizards, The Landlady

II: Dinner and a Movie > Cavern > TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, HYHU > Touch Me*, Frankenstein

E: Contact > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars

With The Giant Country Horns. *First time played.


46 Responses to “Getting Into IT”

  1. Great blog! The early 2 songs that hooked me were Lizards and The Wedge. I was also lately thinking about how NICU and PYITE were 2 of my fav set openers. I’ll always remember the energy inside Albany ’97 during that PYITE.

  2. The first two songs that caught my ear were Sample in a Jar and If I Could. I had a buddy that would pick me up for work and he would be playing Hoist in his cassette player. I have yet to hear If I Could. It took me 26 shows to hear Sample In A Jar. It was at the Target Center in 2000. The last show that I saw before their first break. I have heard Sample 7 times since 2000. I have a feeling that we will hear it in Hampton.

  3. shpongleyez Says:


  4. um… maybe this is off topic but can you link up the 2nd set of 7.15.99?

    i think we all know why.

  5. HEADBAND25 Says:

    This entry reminds me of the conversation you and I had in the car on the way to the warriors game. A certain friend of ours dismissed Squirming Coil as a crappy song and I disagreed. I think I deserve some sort of acknowledgment for inspiring you to write this…

    Keep up the good work Mines, and get to working on that sign…

  6. Great post! Maybe the shorter songs came to be regarded as filler because the band started to treat them that way. If you listen to a show from 93 or 94, chances are that the non-jam songs will be played with the same care and attention as the longer improvisation vehicles. As much as I love the later jams, it’s much easier for me to listen to an entire first set from early/mid-90s Phish, where the short songs don’t create the same feeling of breaking the flow. (One of the things I love about later 2000 shows is that they seemed to get into the songs again, putting together weirder setlists and playing shorter songs with respect)

  7. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    Great post, Minor. And I appreciate the comments as well.

    First song I ever heard was Fee, in the car of a hippie chick I has eyes for in the Spring of 1994. I wasn’t into it. The same chick gave me a mix with Sample on it, and Junta followed (again on a XLII) and I was intrigued.

    I had tickets for Great Woods summer 1994, 7/8/04, just because some friends were going. They played a full Henge in the first set. I wasn’t there. I traded the tickets away so I could do something else that night, like a moron.

    Finally saw them the next summer, at the same venue, 7/30/05. By then I was more familiar with their music, but only the studio stuff. The whole show experience is a treasured memory for me. The Bag opener made me pay attention. But I didn’t get IT until it got dark. When your first show is outdoors, the first time the lights go down as the band walks onstage is the second set. I’d never been in such an electric environment. Then the stage fills up with all this fucking smoke, the band starts playing low, weird, disonant noise, and BOOM. They dropped 2001, everyone went nuts, and I got IT.

    The moment that the lights drop, before a note is played, may still be my favorite moment at any Phish show. I hit an entirely unexpected stroke of good luck with TM, and I can feel that moment already, months in advance.

  8. ^^^^^Goosebumps!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. tubeopener Says:

    Nice post. I got it standing rear of the stage right behind fishman at Hampton ’96. It was a mind opening show. Keep these ’91 horns shows coming!!!

  10. oboyler12 Says:

    Its crazy, i was 14 for coventry too and its weird how people can have such similar stories. My older brother was a huge phan and he would always play them for me. i enjoyed parts (the end of antelope, sample, dwd) but i would never listen to them on my own. A few years ago i decided that i needed to give them another shot. I happened to buy NYE 95. I listened to pyite and the sloth and really enjoyed them. Then reba happened. I couldnt believe what i was hearing. Literally the most beautiful thing i have ever heard in my entire life. The build in the jam is so intense and emotional. It did something that no other piece of music could do and it made me a die hard. Now phish is by far my fav band and i cant get enough. Now i just count down the days. Somehow i got tickets to the sunday show and i get to go with my brother and his friends that hw would used to go to shows with. I can say without any doubt it will be the happiest day of my life so far. o yeah that reba is still my fav jam

  11. I think I was on my way to Driver’s Ed when I heard Chalkdust on WBLM, the Blimp–they probably had HORDE tickets to give away–so my first exposure to Phish was that slowed down, fattened up, droopy, dripping Trey vocal, which did not get me hooked. (I don’t know the story about that track, but I now take it to be a reference to the sound of tapes that get slowed down somewhere in the many, many generations between the taper and you, back in the days of actual tapes.) The Blimp played Cavern, too, and I loved the “give the director” part, and bought Nectar and kind of liked it. I had my guitar teacher figure out the riff from Stash for me, and I started learning arpeggios and jazz chords. But I still didn’t really get it. Half a year later, I went to my first show (2/3/93, Portland Expo). I loved the Wedge (which happened to be the 1st Wedge), and Fee–I loved how everyone was singing, and I wanted to be part of that community. But the jams freaked me out, especially David Bowie–the Expo has acoustics like an airplane hangar, and the more lazer gun-like moments of guitar hurt my ears, plus I had smoked and couldn’t hang. Ha ha! I went home somewhat depressed that I hadn’t loved seeing Phish. It was the solo on Reba from Lawn Boy that really showed me how to listen to Phish, and by the time they returned to Maine, three months later, I was a complete convert, eager for soul-twisting dissonance and mixolydian bliss and absorption into the light and sound.

    Thank you for inviting us to tell our stories!

  12. Between the great post and the stories from the good folks gearing up for their first show, I have been brought back to my own emotional discovery of IT. As weird as it seems, Union Federal from Junta was the first song that got me thinking these guys must be something special. Having only heard this one album, my same friend that gave it to me invited me to a show. 4/24/94 was my first show when I got IT….sometime during Bowie.

    I am getting incredibly excited just thinking about so many Phans having their first experience. I think that special fresh new energy has always been an integral part of the Phish. Thank you, Mr. Miner, for the reminder of all the things that come together to make what we all love so much.

    Brad, Andrew, Crowther,and Ben….you guys are in for a treat.

    Carla….PYITE has remained my favorite set opener over the years.

    Tubeopener…I must have been dancing right next to you when you got IT

    Thanks again, Mr Miner

  13. True Story. I had heard Bouncing Around the Room, yeah, I’m part of that crop, in like ’95 or ’96 on the radio from A Live One. We had a pretty heady radio station in Indianapolis.

    Anway, I went to go buy Lawn Boy, so I could hear Bouncing, but instead of the Lawn Boy disc, they actally put in the Picture of Nectar disc inside of the Lawn Boy case. Don’t know how it happened, but I loved it. Turning on my little boom box and playing The Mango Song before school remains one of my favorite Phish memories.

    Then I purchased A Live One. It was game over after that. I had to have Phish.

  14. John Campion Says:

    bhizzle: Tshirts are being made as we speak. I’ll have them on summer tour as well (east coast)

  15. Drinks>Chainsaw Says:

    1992>Friend home from Prep School on break, has a “bootleg” tape of “New Music”> Smoke Filled Car Ride> hooked on phish, saw a show the next month for 10 bucks

    Encore: Paying ridiculous amounts of money to see the Hampton shows> Well worth it

  16. I fell into the groove in the fall of ’94 when a friend first used the words phish and dead in the same sentence. funny thing was i thought phish was a codename for the dead, so when he told me phish was coming to va i thought he was actually talking about the dead, who were also playing in va. despite the initial confusion, which was overcome by the purchase and subsequent non-stop hours upon hours of listening to hoist (if i could being the “it” moment – though philosophically it was really a “thou” moment of connection – martin buber anyone?), that initial spark sent me on a journey that brought me closer to friends, self, god, parking lots, late-night rides, and cool ass camp sites in the middle of nowhere, following and loving phish. musically there is nothing better. no other musicians wield the power to control so many minds. many moments of collective consciousness at big cypress proved this to me, but no more than the pause in the middle of divided sky, the change from the dark thank you mr. miner to the light-fluffy thank you mr. miner leading into my favorite phish moment of happy bliss that followed (hood would be call on day 1 second set closer). yes, the memories of the experiences stay with us throughout our years. and yes, hampton will create more, whether the notes are heard inside the mother ship or through the scratchy sound of a friend’s cell phone. and they won’t be the end all or the be all. since, like many things in life, nothing can ever reclaim that magical moment of the first aha phish moment. thank you all for sharing. i’ll see you here, there, or someplace in between getting gas.

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