Just 10 days into a memorable 1994 Spring Tour, Phish entered the hallowed halls of New York City’s Beacon Theatre for a run of shows wrought with classic mid-90’s antics, another run through a handful of Hoist tunes debuted earlier in the tour and to close out the run, the Giant Country Horns. Without any further adieu, let’s dive into this great run at an iconic venue.
Set 1: Llama, Guelah Papyrus, Paul and Silas > Harry Hood, Wilson > Chalk Dust Torture, Bouncing Around the Room, It’s Ice > Down with Disease
Set 2: Maze, If I Could, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg* > The Landlady*, Julius*, Wolfman’s Brother* -> Alumni Blues* > I Wanna Be Like You* > Hold Your Head Up*, Cavern*
Encore: Magilla*, Amazing Grace
* With the Giant Country Horns
Kicking off the show with two classics from A Picture of Nectar followed by the short, but venerable, Paul and Silas and you’re probably thinking “1994” should have read “1992”. Llama gets the feet moving across any era and the Beacon’s is no different. Fish’s work on the high-hat is a sound you might not get to hear in 3.0 and I think it stands out to open this set.
And now for a treat: a mid-first-set Hood. The crispness of Page’s new (relatively still I’d say) keys stands out in the composed section after Harry goes to bed. Trey attacks the solos in the Thank You Mr. Miner portion ahead of subtle playing and mistimed claps from the audience. The standout of this Hood is the energy in the build. An energy the crowd picks up on and that you’d expect at the end of a three-night stand at a great venue – just not in the first set!
After bringing the energy up and down and up again through the first couple of songs, including peaks and valleys in Hood, the energy is back with Wilson > Chalkdust, a pairing that complements each other well. While we’ve come to know these songs as set openers over the years, pairing them together in the late-middle of the set with “sets” us up for the second half.
The second half of the set welcomes Bouncin’ and It’s Ice > DWD. Bouncin’ fits well in the middle of sets, although I would have liked to see if before Wilson to truly fit the “tale of two halves” message. Fresh off its debut as a jam on New Year’s ’93, its full debut 10 days earlier and a DWD is still finding its legs in early 1994 from a jam standpoint. All in all, the first is highlighted by tight playing, Hood and DWD taking a – albeit short – walk toward jam vehicle standing, complete with a short section of pattern jamming from Trey and the return to the DWD framework, something rare these days.
Now, it’s time to get jazzy. Or creole-y. Or twangy. Something like that. Now, I’m a huge fan of horns with Phish. At the same time, I don’t think I’d be a huge fan of horns with Phish every night. There’s a special energy when there’s special guests on stage, especially with the fill that horns can bring to many Phish songs, but there’s also the special energy when the band remains a quartet.
Following the always up-tempo Maze, another recent debut gives the band and crowd to catch its breath. And it happens to be well-played. Soon after the fun really starts. An early-to-mid-90’s classic pairing of Oh Kee Pah and Suzy gets an extra boost as the Giant Country Horns emerge on stage and remain for the rest of the set – the roar of the crowd gives the news away before Trey. After The Landlady’s (my most commonly played, not seen song) musical trip to Cuba, Julius and Wolfman’s Brother bring the band back to recent debuts and matching the tone of a portion of the guests on Hoist.
Other than Suzy and the set’s closer, few songs mark the impact of horns on the band like Julius (other than covers like 5:15, of course). Here, while Julius and Wolfman’s are both still in their infancy, it almost seems like the two are going to pair together for years, in sort of an antithesis to a Piper/Twist jam combo. While we know that’s not actually the case, and each song now has their role, as they grew together and grew apart that started off together in great fashion.
The shortened return of Alumni Blues for the first time in 301 shows drives the band into HYHU antics with Disney’s I Wanna Be Like You, a song that only got the HYHU treatment a handful of times. Bringing a close to the show with Cavern – a set closing and horns favorite – caps off a classic Spring-94 run of shows.
Ah, but wait, more horns in Magilla and Amazing Grace too end the run in great Phish form.
And if that didn’t satisfy your needs this weekend, g’head and download the first two nights of the run while you’re at it – you’ll be happy you did.