A Show For Your Weekend: Montreal ’94

Theatre St. Denis in Montreal

Phish made their way up to Canada for two shows during their impressive Summer ’94 tour.  After playing a great show at the Congress Center in Ottawa on July 5, Phish rolled into Montreal’s Theatre St. Denis for an absolutely unique experience.  The two back-to-back concerts surely left America’s Hat backwards before dipping back down, stateside, into Greatwoods for another fantastic show.

7/6’s show starts with an unusual combination of songs.  The intense composition of Fluffhead is usually reserved for a later point in the show; however, Phish gave exactly what our Canadian friends were looking for: Blazing guitar from Llama > musical composition only found in Phish’s music from Fluffhead.  The short and sweet Julius, even with this one’s extended intro, that followed wrapped things up nicely.  Trey’s fretwork just screams in this Julius.

After the first three songs, it feels like you’ve almost experienced an entire show.  Knowing the crowd needed a breather, Bouncing drops before a true gem is dropped.

This mid-set Reba is a must-hear version.  While it doesn’t soar to the heights that I usually seek in my favorite Rebas, it has a unique jam that stretches this version to nearly 17-minutes.  As expected, the very beginning of the jam starts off quiet and low–featuring Mike’s bouncy bass and Fish’s simple beat, giving Page and Trey the ability to float atop.  In this version, a unique jam develops from this sunken beginning-jam; it gets stretched out, eventually the drums sound like they are in a slow 2001 beat.  The jam revolves around this for a while before going into the usual Reba noodling.  At about the 13:30 mark the jam starts to take off towards the end.  While the heights this jam reaches isn’t spectacular, relative to 1994, it’s a great overall version nevertheless.

Set 1: Llama, Fluffhead > Julius, Bouncing Around the Room, Reba, Axilla (Part II), My Mind’s Got a Mind of its Own, Carolina, David Bowie

Set 2: The Landlady > Poor Heart > Tweezer > Lawn Boy, Chalk Dust Torture -> Big Black Furry Creature from Mars > Sample in a Jar > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Harry Hood, Tweezer Reprise

Encore: The Old Home Place, Nellie Kane, Memories, Funky Bitch

After a few mid-set treats, we arrive to the 17-minute, set-closing Bowie.  The playful Munsters jam in the intro gets us off on the right foot–it’s unfortunate that they have seemingly abandoned unique intros in 3.0 (other than Utica and Pine Knob of course).  The beginning of the jam starts very quietly–more quiet that usual.  Eventually patterns evolve between Mike, Page and Trey–none sure of exactly which one they want to lock into at first.  Eventually the jam moves past the pattern experimentation and Fish starts tapping his ride louder.  This is when Trey finds a heavy-sounding lick that becomes a pattern the entire band follows.  It’s a short lock-in on the metal-esque groove, but it set the band up nicely for the finish.  The guy came out of the pattern with a furious, honed-in sense that Fishman embodied in his now-super confident playing.  Trey starts closing his eyes and becomes a conduit through which greater things can flow.  Trey’s guitar begins spewing pure improvisational-rock insanity.

One of the reasons Bowies in 2011 have been so much better than those of the two years earlier is because Trey reaches a peak before going into the trilling finish.  Before this year he was simply using Bowie’s ending as the peak, and that sounded like shit.  Needless to say, this Bowie reaches a screaming peak before the Trey goes into the finish.  Do yourself a favor; put your headphones on with this show and lay down in your bed and listen to how a real man plays guitar.

The second set opens with a Dance of the Sugar Plum tease (you’ll recognize what it is) before Page slides down his keys to start a crispy Landlady.  Trey shredded this version–maybe because he knew that they would play it only four more times since, and never again in another year.  The extended note Trey holds going into the end of the song is a contender for longest-ever.  The note only breaks to do the opening lick to Poor Heart.

A very cool Tweezer holds this second set together.  This 18-minute monster was the beginning of Tweezer’s experimental days.  This Tweezer is like a hybrid of the shorter, densely improvisational versions that came before it, and the longer, stretched out versions that came after.  Like in it’s earlier years, the band plays around with a lot of different patterns and styles in this one–it even includes a lot of teases.  There is a loose HYHU jam, Donna Lee tease, Who Knows tease, and a 2001 jam.  After the intense improvisation and super-sick grooves, the typical Tweezer jam theme comes back and Trey starts playing 2001.  After Trey gets past the first ‘build’ in 2001, Fish finally starts playing 2001, but by then Trey is sick of 2001 and is back in Tweezer.  Definitely a unique sound.  The jam segues right in to Lawn Boy.

Just when you don’t think things can get any crazier, CDT drops.  “OMG, what r u talkin bout OPT?  Early CDTs r NOT cray-z”.  Wrong.  This CDT is blazing hot (per all of ’94), and quickly drops into weird territory before absolutely erupting into BBFCFM.  Shortly after Fish counts off “1-2-3-4!”, the song flutters away and a gorgeous version of Sample emerges.  Immediately following Sample, they drop back into BBFCFM–awesome shit.

Then, immediately following BBFCFM, Fish rolls some mid-toms (not the high-toms as usual), and we quickly enter Hood.  This Hood is pretty.  The soft part of the jam lasted a bit longer than I cared for, but once Trey comes back in, he hit two to three knee-bending peaks.  Certainly a good version.

The Tweeprize closes the set and they encored with three mic-less songs before ripping us new assholes in Funky Bitch.