This year marks 25 years since Phish’s historic Fall Tour 1995. In recognition of that noteworthy tour and to make up for the lack of shows this fall, JamBase presents a daily retrospective highlighting a noteworthy moment from a Phish fall tour concert that took place on that date over the past 25 years (read a note on Fall 1997 here). The 25 Years Of Phish Fall Tour series runs each day between the start of Phish Fall Tour 1995 on September 27 through that tour’s finale on December 17.
This entry was written by Osiris Media CEO RJ Bee. JamBase is a partner of Osiris Media, the podcast network for music.
The guest sit-in at a Phish show can go one of two ways. It can be a footnote that some people refer to derisively for the rest of time (see B.B. King, February 24, 2003), or it can be an experience that delivers new, fresh music that adds to the Phish canon. The band’s November 29, 1995 show in Knoxville with guest Béla Fleck is definitely in the latter category.
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November 1995 was an incredible month for Phish. We recently went deep on this month on three of Osiris’ Phish podcasts — Under The Scales, Helping Friendly Podcast and Beyond The Pond. The timing of their entry into the arena rock scene overlapped with their Halloween cover of the huge arena rock album Quadrophenia by The Who, which allowed them to adapt their sound from small theaters like The Fox in Atlanta to huge venues like The Capital Center outside of Washington D.C., to mid-range venues like Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.
And of course, the band was playing as tightly and powerfully as they ever had, and their improvisational powers were at their peak up to that point. The month was filled with deep explorations, with too many to name here (but check out the above podcasts to hear more!).
As they arrived in Nashville toward the end of this month, they were on fire. The show has a driving and melodic “Reba” jam, an appropriately intense “Split Open and Melt,” and a fiery “Timber” to open the second set. This series of “Timber” into “Sparkle” into “Simple” into “Possum,” “You Enjoy Myself” is a great Fall ‘95 combination, with the right doses of exploration, humor and intensity.
And then, as shows often did in this time, it turns on a dime when Béla Fleck comes out for “Taste That Surrounds.” A staple of 1995, this short-lived version of the song that became “Taste” builds to its typical major key, blissful peak, but with banjo adding to the richness of the arrangement. They briefly go into the Broadway tune “Heart & Soul,” but “Poor Heart” was made for this guest. Imagine every well-played version of “Poor Heart,” and then imagine banjos right alongside the gallop of the rest of the band.
Phish then jumps back to the Fall 1994 bluegrass approach (including the November 18, 1994 Nashville show, also with Béla) playing “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome” and “My Long Journey Home” with Béla and bassist Mike Gordon on banjo, keyboardist Page McConnell on upright bass, drummer Jon Fishman on mandolin and Trey Anastasio on acoustic guitar (let’s get these soundboards, right?). And finally, to cement this sit-in as a keeper, they close out the set with “Slave to the Traffic Light.” The interplay between Trey and Bela during the jam portion of the song is a beautiful way to close out the show, and serves as a reminder that some sit-ins are really built to last.
Listen to Phish’s November 29, 1995 show featuring Béla Fleck below: