It’s pretty fair to say that Phish and their fans have had a great year. The community has weighed in on what was an amazing first leg of Summer 2012 tour. In the midst of it all via the webcast for the second night of Portsmouth, the band made it official that they’d be releasing a box set of music called Chicgao ’94, which hits the store shelves tomorrow. The six-disc set features the two performances that Phish did at UIC Pavilion during 1994, both remastered in full Fred Kevorkian glory.

Live Music Blog was fortunate enough to have been given an exclusive essay from the band’s official archivist, Kevin Shapiro, to help promote the release of Chicago ’94 and it’s a dandy. Despite his busy schedule (dutifully pondering more Live Bait releases), Shapiro (or @shapsio on Twitter) had this to say about the Chicago 94′ Box Set…

Chicago ’94 (6/18/94 & 11/25/94 UIC Pavilion)

by Kevin Shapiro

What constitutes the perfect Phish show? Learned minds will differ given the breadth and depth of the band’s career and the range of perception at a live concert. Many have a favorite era or tone or type of show with labels to describe every part of the experience. Spirited debate on these matters enriches the community, sharing transcendent moments in the endless quest for IT. But some things are undeniable – the planets just align. By 1994, Phish was well established as an international touring act and already well known to a growing group of hardcore fans. The sheer intensity of the music created a perfect storm that reflected the band’s reckless abandon, scintillating group dynamics and playful sense of humor. Fifty-two shows into a lengthy spring/summer tour, lightning struck, electrifying the UIC Pavilion and igniting those on hand with an event for the ages. Amidst a tour packed with highlights (it was this summer that convinced the band to start multi-tracking their live shows) this show was recorded for posterity on 2-track DAT. A backup cassette was also made which, when shared among the faithful, helped build the buzz about the sheer power of this show. It was true then and it’s true now – Phish on June 18, 1994 UIC Pavilion is a near-perfect example of a top show at the apex of the band’s capabilities.

The June show was so good that Phish promptly booked a return visit to the same venue for the day after Thanksgiving. That show on November 25, 1994 fell thirty-four shows into a forty-seven-show fall tour and was another sold-out affair to remember at the sweaty UIC Pavilion. Lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place but the second Chicago ’94 show was an example of just that, with an exploratory pedigree of its own. The band’s evolving musicality and inspiration coupled with the fact that they repeated just two songs made the second UIC show an ideal second act for this collection. Chicago ‘94 presents Phish at a peak of musical abilities and intention armed with a quiver full of songs and the good grace to hit the bulls-eye. The crowds were attentive, energetic and fearless – eager to dive off a musical precipice with their favorite band time and again.

Paul Languedoc’s stereo soundboard mixes re-mastered by Fred Kevorkian carry the intensity and intricacy of these special shows to listeners’ ears eighteen years later. The shows are presented here with new artwork by longtime collaborator and Chicagoan Jim Pollock. Chicago ’94 contains nearly six hours of music performed at both shows for a total of 43 songs, including material from the UIC soundchecks. The 6-CD boxed set (also available as downloads at slated for release July 31, 2012 is essential listening for any Phish fan.

Enjoy! –ks

Drop Kevin a line with your thoughts after you pick up your copy via Dry Goods…

You can listen to the track’s that we’ve linked to below; just click the play button next to “Divided Sky” and “Llama” and share them around!

PHISH: Chicago ’94

Disc One
6/18/94 Set I
1. Wilson > (5:11)
2. Rift (5:55)
3. AC/DC Bag > (6:31)
4. Maze (11:22)
5. The Mango Song > (7:26)
6. Down With Disease > (7:15)
7. It’s Ice > (8:38)
8. Dog Faced Boy (2:18)
9. Divided Sky (14:34)
10. Sample In A Jar (5:13)

Disc Two
6/18/94 Set II
1. Peaches en Regalia > (4:05)
2. David Bowie (18:27)
3. Horn > (4:07)
4. McGrupp And The Watchful Hosemasters > (9:05)
5. Tweezer > (14:15)
6. Lifeboy (8:23)

Disc Three
6/18/94 Set II
1. You Enjoy Myself > (20:58)
2. Chalk Dust Torture (7:21)

3. Bouncing Around The Room > (3:39)
4. Tweezer Reprise (3:19)
Filler – 6/18/94 Soundcheck:
5. All Things Reconsidered (3:34)
6. How Many More Times (3:51)
7. Poor Heart (2:22)

Disc Four
11/25/94 Set I
1. Llama (5:35)
2. Guelah Papyrus (5:46)
3. Reba (14:08)
4. Bouncing Around The Room (3:40)
5. Split Open And Melt (11:15)
6. Esther > (8:49)
7. Julius (7:27)
8. Golgi Apparatus (4:47)

Disc Five
11/25/94 Set II
1. 2001 > (4:51)
2. Mike’s Song > (7:23)
3. Simple > (14:23)
4. Harpua > (15:59)
5. Weekapaug Groove > (10:31)
6. The Mango Song > (7:23)
7. Purple Rain > (5:43)
8. Hold Your Head Up (1:06)

Disc Six
11/25/94 Set II
1. Run Like An Antelope (13:11)
2. Good Times Bad Times (5:55)
Filler – 11/25/94 Soundcheck:
3. Chicago ’94 Soundcheck Jam > (8:23)
4. Dog Log (4:58)