Phish Friday | The Debut of “Spock’s Brain”

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This week’s Phish Friday post is brought to you by Nate Leskovic, someone that commented on our “Spock’s Brain” PF post with his own story of what that song meant to him. He’s graciously giving us the background today.

While the general nature of Phish’s political views could always be easily deduced, the band steered clear of “preachy” banter and political activism for the most part and focused on uniting through the common cause of good vibes and dancing (the 80s rarity “Dear Mrs. Reagan” being a notable exception). Right-leaning heads felt just as home at shows as anyone. The boys were classy like that.

Why did the band move beyond the omnipresent Greenpeace and Waterwheel tables and throw its support behind abortion rights at the 5/16/95 “Voters for Choice” benefit in the Lowell Memorial Auditorium? I don’t know, but the special show for some 3,000 fans became a special night of debuts akin to the 9/13/90 Wetlands gig or the 6/6/97 Brad’s House party.

Debuts are nice for their moment-in-time-ness, but obviously often lack the true potential the tune will eventually grow into. I do enjoy the pre-Billy Breathes “Free,” which does not yet include its Trey wah-wankery intro and the funk jam drop. However, the original jam segment has only the slightest hint of Trey’s brilliant effects technique he was still developing and it doesn’t go anywhere.

My favorite has to be the “Spock’s Brain,” the quirky/spooky funk tune with intriguing and challenging vocals only played four more times before 2000. I never understood why this was shelved and why for so long. Wouldn’t it have fit in nice with the 97 funk, sandwiched in between a “Wolfman’s” and a “Cities” or something? Trey lets the audience choose its title from “The Plane,” “The First Single,” “Israel” or the obvious winner.

The “Theme,” just rocks without complexity here, minus the heavy textural jam it would soon acquire. It goes into the Page-lead ascending part at the end, but far less dramatically. Though first-timers, you could tell “Free” and “Theme” would become monsters.

Aside from the debuts (which also include the Fish original “Ha Ha Ha,” “Strange Design” introduced as “Ahhh, Page Sing,” and the “Guyute” extract “Glide II”—sometimes referred to as “It’s Time” or “Flip”—that only reappeared in instrumental form on the Billy Breathes outtakes) the “Reba” just plain soars. After developing a brilliant and spacey psychedelic theme at the beginning of the jam that trails off just as you begin to recognize its weight (as if to tease, “Yeah, we’re so good that we don’t care”), it rapidly develops into the usual triumphant fireworks, but with a biting elegance that ranks it as one of the best.

  • Szabe

    Thanks for the uploads & comments. However, I think there’s another debut from that show that’s absolutely worth a mention and a listen: the (I think) only Brian Eno cover Phish ever did, “I’ll Come Running” (from Another Green World). It’s an excellent cover of an excellent song by an artist that the band frequently notes as a major influence.

    I’ve posted it here: Phish – Ill Come Running

  • Szabe

    Thanks for the uploads & comments. However, I think there’s another debut from that show that’s absolutely worth a mention and a listen: the (I think) only Brian Eno cover Phish ever did, “I’ll Come Running” (from Another Green World). It’s an excellent cover of an excellent song by an artist that the band frequently notes as a major influence.

    I’ve posted it here: Phish – Ill Come Running

  • Josh

    This is one of Phish’s more important shows. The tunes debuted laid the foundation for much of the Billy Breathes and Ghost sessions. The show came at a time when they were on the brink of stardom and chose to play an “out of character” venue and broke out a number of songs never to be heard again.

    The boys were also introduced by Gloria Steinhem.

  • CushionConvector

    Just to clarify, I’m pretty sure the date is 5-16-95 not 5-16-96.

  • CushionConvector

    Just to clarify, I’m pretty sure the date is 5-16-95 not 5-16-96.

  • alexB

    whos ready for a reunion tour?

  • alexB

    whos ready for a reunion tour?

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    Just to clarify, I’m pretty sure the date is 5-16-95 not 5-16-96.

    Correct…my bad, it was a typo…

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    Just to clarify, I’m pretty sure the date is 5-16-95 not 5-16-96.

    Correct…my bad, it was a typo…

  • http://www.kingvacation.org vacation

    It’s an excellent cover of an excellent song

  • http://www.kingvacation.org vacation

    It’s an excellent cover of an excellent song

  • Jesse

    The benefit was John Paluska’s idea. He lived in Boston next door to one of the abortion providing doctors who were killed on 12/30/94.

    One of my favorite shows. More debuts (9) than known songs (4). Reba was unreal. It was a somewhat classy theater with assertive ushers. When I went to the men’s room, I found out that’s where all the smoking was. I went and got my girlfriend and we burned one in there.

    Jennifer Trynin and Emergency Broadcast Network opened.

  • Jesse

    The benefit was John Paluska’s idea. He lived in Boston next door to one of the abortion providing doctors who were killed on 12/30/94.

    One of my favorite shows. More debuts (9) than known songs (4). Reba was unreal. It was a somewhat classy theater with assertive ushers. When I went to the men’s room, I found out that’s where all the smoking was. I went and got my girlfriend and we burned one in there.

    Jennifer Trynin and Emergency Broadcast Network opened.

  • Josh

    This is one of Phish's more important shows. The tunes debuted laid the foundation for much of the Billy Breathes and Ghost sessions. The show came at a time when they were on the brink of stardom and chose to play an “out of character” venue and broke out a number of songs never to be heard again.

    The boys were also introduced by Gloria Steinhem.