The Cincinnati Gin

14129230p2220030We sit amidst the six-year anniversary of Phish’s two week comeback run in the Winter of ’03.  As investigated earlier this week, Las Vegas was the springboard for the rest of a phenomenal run that restored our faith in the Phish.  Despite the many highlights  from this fortnight, there were two half-hour jams that were talked about, listened to, and revered more than any other pieces of music on this tour.  These two excursions came to represent all that was right in the Phish universe, signaling that Phish’s improvisational prowess was as healthy as ever; their desire to musically evolve was still ingrained in their ethos.  In a two-part- Friday / Monday- series we’ll check out these two jams-  Cincinnati’s “Bathtub Gin” and Nassau’s “Tweezer.”  Today- the “Gin.”

The Cincinnati weekend marked the halfway point of Phish’s short winter tour, and as the only other weekend stand besides Vegas, these shows drew fans from all over the country.  People needed to see for themselves a reinvigorated Phish, and the they would not be disappointed.

As the band came out for their final set of the weekend, everyone’s juices were flowing.  Dropping a fierce “Tube,” the band and crowd leapt into the fray together.  An infectiously-paced and funkified jam set the tone for the rest of the set; the best was yet to come.  As the band ended their escapade in groove, Trey morphed directly into the intro lick to “Bathtub Gin.”

13699475image9b58dede479711d7Wrapping up the composed section, the band got ready for take off and the crowd roared in anticipation of what was coming.  Trey wasted no time in getting started painting some initial melodies onto the musical canvas. But it wasn’t until a couple minutes in, when Mike dropped a heavy groove, that the improv really took off.  Fishman was right with him, and Phish moved directly into some outright dance rhythms.  This initial section of improv was characterized by robust rhythms and gorgeous melodic leads by Trey that fit congruently into the musical space.  Yet this uplifting section seamlessly transformed into something far more exploratory and adventurous.

Like Lewis and Clark exploring the west, the band were on a mission of their own, discovering their new direction for this chapter of their career.  Growing more aggressive and piano-heavy, the jam began moving away from its “Gin”-themed improv into some distinctly post-hiatus grooves.  Trey’s un-compressed edge provided an interesting juxtaposition against his bandmates’ slower offerings.  Then, as if a race horse cracked by the whip, Phish sped up the jam into double-time, creating a totally different, and more aggressive, musical feel.

13699471image9b586be0479711d71The band carried a rhythmic gallop into this section of improv, tearing into some enthusiastic full-on playing.  The driving textures of this jam shifted when Page began playing his clav, lending a pseudo-electronic feel to the music.  At this point, the band seemed to hit a place of contentment as they slowed down their pace, peeled away some layers, and dove into a less distorted, mellower musical pond.

Switching vibes all together, the band united in a more abstract place, bringing the improv even further into the unknown.  This is where the jam got extremely interesting.  With almost no beat, Trey began playing, and teasing, the “Gin” lick over a greatly divergent- almost electronic- backdrop.  With Page using extreme effects through his keyboards, Fish creating a shimmering, cymbal-heavy beat, and Mike playing a bizarrely melodic bass line, image004the band entered some other-worldy territory.  Meanwhile, Trey continued playing forms of the “Bathtub” melody over this demented Phish-tronica canvas.  Phish was molding incredibly unique music, with Page going off in directions unheard before.  Creating an “alternate” version of the song, their improv remained as connected to “Gin” as it was divergent- a wholly new musical experiment.  This was one of those times that Phish took a big risk, and overwhelmingly succeeded.

As Trey played some repetitive licks, signaling to wrap it up, the band and crowd emerged from being immersed in some deeply “other” Phish.  Finishing the jam collectively, and with authority, the band oozed back into a slowed down version of the song’s ending.  Flabbergasted, everyone exchanged looks of wide-eyed amazement as the band took a minute to collect themselves before decompressing with “Friday.”  While many shining moments developed over the week from LA to Chicago, this “Bathtub Gin” was the most divergent and defining musical portrait of the first half of tour.

(All photos from Cincy 2.22.03)



phish20baseball-400-x-585-111.6.96 Civic Coliseum, Knoxville, TN < LINK
With Phish about to return to Knoxville this summer, I thought we’d travel back in time to their last performance in Tennessee’s metropolis.  This show took place during the first week after Halloween’s “Remain In Light” performance- when the shows on tour really started to take off.  The second set is held down by a large “Mike’s Groove,” while the first is bookended by “Split” and “Bowie.”  Check out this under-circulated nugget from Fall ’96

I: Split Open and Melt, Cars Trucks Buses, Fast Enough for You, Taste, Train Song, Poor Heart, Punch You in the Eye, Billy Breathes, David Bowie

II: Wilson, The Curtain > Mike’s Song > Swept Away > Steep > Weekapaug Groove, Scent of a Mule, Sample in a Jar, Funky Bitch

E: Rocky Top


104 Responses to “The Cincinnati Gin”

  1. @MP

    that show is NEVER given its propers, and as it was a hometown show for (tho since relocated), i feel compelled to defend its honor.

    tho the first set was sorta meh, i would put that second set up against any i’ve ever seen (this includes big guns like the zoo ’93, rupp ’96, nutter ’97 etc). i left that show punch drunk, stupefied, i thought the tape my friends and driver were playing was the cure, and it was fucking hendrix or something. i had been punched in the face by a force.

    the theme of that set is POWER. and i’m talking black and white film with giant octopus pulling down divers. i’m talking a bowie opener with this insane urgency and purpose, like, “we’re gonna grit our teeth and bash your fucking head in.” my favorite memory is climbing up on this huge concrete pylon thing, that separates the upper tier, it’s slanted at like a 60 degree pitch but i managed to scale it with acid like precision and fucking bang my head up.

    it was like a sabbath show up there!

    then there’s the something follower, with the first notes threatening to cave the roof with raw emotion. you think phish can’t come with the sentiment, give that shit a listen. hell, even fish’s sexual healing made me fight back tears, it was somehow so damn heartfelt and so damn funny and just so damn awesome.

    the YEM’s been talked about, but yeah, we had this giant dance party and threw back the curtain in the back, threw it back on the wizard of cops and undercovers, and just danced in the bright lights cuz it’s all we could do.

    before the encore, the stage was lit with what seemed like a hundred candles, and it felt so intimate, like we were in someone’s teenage bedroom.

    i hope the fox feels something like that.


  2. Thanks alot for the info. I don’t want to ask alot of stupid questions on this site, so how can I pick yours brains off the record. Is it cool to give out email addresses here? I am not going to try to sell you something or convert you to some strange religion. It is just my nature to try to be prepared. Uncle Sam taught me that much.

  3. Just to expound on Big E’s questions, I have one of my own. A stupid question, but just to be sure: Do they let ticketless fans park in the lot, or do you have to walk in from outside the lot. I don’t have hampton tickets and neither do any of my friends, and I’m the only one who wants to go without tickets and hunt for them. If anybody wants to tell me to stay away because I don’t have one, I respect that, but it’s unrealistic, I want in bad. I may not go, but I’m seriously considering a solo drive up to hampton from Charlotte. How can I not consider it? I’m lucky it’s only a state away from me. With the inevitable mobbed traffic I wanted to clear that up before I take the plunge. I figure there’s a chance the authorities could be taking some extra preventative measures to keep ticketless fans away, what with the scope of the occasion on top of a fairly small arena and congested area. any advise is appreciated!

  4. @Big E: Feel free to email me if you want and I’ll try to set you straight.

  5. The hood chant was started by Benji Eisen at Red Rocks in ’96. Look for his show reviews in the RMP archive Phil (pHiL) Byers may have also had a hand in it but it’s been a while. I remember reading Benji’s plans for those shows. He had a flyer that he handed out in the lot with a bunch of ideas, the Hood chant is the only one that stuck. Another idea of his, I believe, was to get everyone to sit down spontaneously during the Divided Sky pause. Can’t remember his other ideas.

    But Trey’s reaction to the first chant was pure shock and appreciation, and I remember the chant being louder than ever on those Red Rocks AUD tapes I had.

  6. @hooks

    i’ve never heard of a regular tour stop show with barricaded lots to keep away the ticketless hordes. lord knows if that was the case, i would’ve never been able to travel the country!

    that said, this is 2009, and things just keep gettin’ weirder. i wouldn’t put it past hampton’s finest. but no, i imagine it will be as it was last time ’round, with the HUGE series of parking lots/asphalt patches scored with all manner of fan and friend of phish. it wasn’t really that big of a zoo (not as crazy as i imagined it would be), and there were tickets to be had.

    will there be tix in march? i’m almost certain. miracles? i hope so. would i advise a certain individual to explore more nefarious means to gain access to the spaceship? you bet. my own personal philosophy has always been “if you’re smart enough to get inside, you belong there.”

    as far as that goes, i’m happy to discuss offline. but i appreciate these kinds of questions, and think this is as good a place as any to ask.

    entering the dragon,

  7. hairy pood Says:

    explanation of the origins of the hood chant:

  8. Fish Sauce Says:

    MAN. This analysis of Gin makes me want to hear it, I never heard it. I saw Phish last in Miami, and am really really really excited to get to Hampton. I am a lucky one and am going all three nights, and then I am going to Alpine, maybe Knoxville. I really can’t wait to hear what they play, I think they will do something we don’t expect over those 3 nights. New songs or not, it will be a magical time. I just have a feeling they aren’t f-ing around at this point. It will be re-cock-ulous.

  9. This Cinci 02/22 Bathtub Gin defintely belongs to the “BEST OF 2.0. Phish” collection of:
    – Scents 07/30
    – Seven Below 07/13
    – Tweezer 02/28
    – Stash 02/26 or 12/01
    – Crosseyed 07/29
    – Ya Mar /IT
    – Ghost / IT
    – Piper 06/19/04 or 12/29/03

    If you have this – you have Phish 2.0.!

  10. ‘preciate it kev. I’m feelin your “smart enough” theory, that’s where my head’s at. here’s to the unknown making it more fun.

  11. Hooks, even if you have a problem getting into the lot (which I don’t see..) there are streets and hotels all around you can find a place to park and walk in.. just heed signs about no parking, because you WILL be towed, and a little off the beaten path it becomes a spot you don’t want to leave your car overnight..

  12. you guys rule! the positive thoughts and visions have been with me all weekend. I guess that means I’m in. can’t stop thinking about it. cheers everybody.

  13. “Herb Score, Left-Handed Pitcher, American League.” Hilarious!

  14. i think tha cincinnati gin yanked, as did the entire show. boring.

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