From: Yance Davis
The Harpua Files: 12/31/92 Matthew's Arena Boston, MA
I just got this after the Harpua files started off (Thanks David!) and had to put it at the top of the list of Harpuas to review. While not the best one I've ever heard (though they're all good) it's certainly a fun version, and who could pass up a Harpua as one of the first songs to break in a new year ('93 I might add...Twas a good omen for sure, judging on the quality of music from that year). New Years and Phish: a great combination, though not always one you can count on getting tickets to see. It was not always the case though. Though I believe the show in '92 did sell out, it was hardly the battle it's been the past few years (At the current rate, next year's NYE show will be sold out before going on sale). Matthew's Arena holds approximately 6000 people, which makes for a very nice ambiance, especially at a three-set show. Most of the people there seem really into the show (which also isn't always the case) and when Trey asks for absolute silence to do a microphone-less acapella Carolina encore, the audience actually obliges. Once they start, there is DEAD silence which is unheard of these days. It wouldn't even be attempted. I think one ass lets out a loud scream, but he is promptly hushed and/or beaten. Similar to NYE '95, Mike's Song is the last song of the old year and Weekapaug is the first song of the new one (with the exception of Auld Lang Syne of course). There are bushels of energy coming off the stage throughout this jam, though like most old Mikes, the tune isn't as long as is common these days. Still after such a fat jam, who would expect a Harpua? pre-Oom pa pa start with a little news from Mr. Anastasio... "This is gonna be Ten for us, I don't know if you guys knew that, but uh, this is the begining of our tenth year." (loud applause) "I hope everybody can be here to celebrate that one with us too, cuz that's the big one. Fish does a few drumrolls and Trey can audibly be heard to say "harpua" a few times in a tone that lead me to believe it wasn't planned, or at least wasn't planned at this stage of the show. There had already been a Forbin->Mockingbird in the second set and these days, Forbin and Harpua together are unheard of, though at the time that wasn't That rare. Trey steps to the microphone for a quick countdown before the song... "1, 2, 3..Mike, we've gotta sing this one...(louder) MIKE, this one begins with You singing." (applause and laughter from the audience while Mike steps up) "In fact, it begins with an OomPaPa..1, 2, 3... Oom Pa Pa, Oom Pa Pa, Oom Pa Pa, Oom Pa Paaa-aaaaah" Now it must be said here that the tempo is up Just a little from the way it is currently played and like many times in '92 tapes, Mike is MUCH crisper and more noticeable than usual. I don't know why his volume was brought back down again after '92, though I'm sure there's a reason, but there is also a reason why 4/16/92 is one of the most popular tapes out there, and part of that is Mike's in-your-face bass. I appreciate that bass is meant to be a more subtle instrument that moves you often without you even noticing it, but I hate that if I want to listen to Mike I have to focus my ears on it and explicitly pay attention to him or else whatever he does is lost in the process of building a foundation for Trey to build his jam off of. I paid attention to Mike only once while listening to ALO's Tweezer and it blew me away. He's got some wild intricate jamming in that one, and I'd never actually Heard it before that point because it just was so buried. That makes for great music too, don't get me wrong, but it'd be nice to just go back to that 92 setup for bass every once in a while just to add a little spice to things. But I ramble. Get this tape and listen to the tight, powerful bass at the begining of Harpua and tell me that ain't nice... The faster tempo doesn't manage to throw anyone off, and the intro is tight and well played by all, though Trey is having such a good time that he keeps letting out little laughs in the middle of the verses, though not enough to actually throw the song off. At the point where Trey plays his little Harpua lick before going into the story, he takes it further than usual and builds a slight jam off the theme, that really sounds nice. It's a great treat and adds to the tune, even though it only lasts about 30 seconds or so. It cuts off relatively quick though as Trey begins the tale... "It's New Years Eve tonight, the dawning of the new year and I'm gonna tell you a little story now about a New Years Eve ritual that takes place in a different... a different place than where we are right now. And this has to do of course with the ugly dog Harpua, his miserable master who has no name and a little boy named Jimmy and uh, the music goes like this... Trey returns at this point to the little Harpua-ish jam that he went into after the last sung part of the song. The jam is completely controlled by Trey and it doesn't seem practiced simply because Page and Mike get more into it the longer it goes on, where they were barely present at first. "Well most of the time as you know when the story happens you've got Jimmy and the old man up in the woods. Well every year on New Year's Eve, the people in the town that Jimmy lives in all get together because this is no ordinary town. This town is a special town that has a special kind of magic around it. And every year on New Year's Eve, all the people in the town get together to summon up the spirits of the New Year and try to create this new good feeling. So every year this happens and every year this just happens to happen in Jimmy's apartment. So come with us now to Jimmy's apartment over hill and over dale and over the woods and over the hills and far away and all that stuff and we come the little suburban town where Jimmy's apartment.. "This year, everybody's there, even the old man who owns Harpua has come down out of the woods, the evil old man. Normally he's looking for trouble and trying to make trouble. But this year, because of this gathering, he's gotten together with Jimmy. So they're all their room now; you've got Jimmy and Jimmy's friends, there's about 15 people... The main people in town. And you've got Harpua, the ugly dog, sitting there, the miserable dog. And you've got, sitting next to Jimmy, hisfaithful feline.. the unnamed kitty-cat. Ok, so here they are, sitting. They're all sitting around. And every year, they call up the spirits of the New Year, and they have a huge iron trough of stew, boiling and bubbling over and steam is coming out of it, and they're all holding hands and walking around, walking around this huge pot; it's a cauldron, a bubbling cauldron. And they're walking around and they're saying this and they're saying that, all kinds of chants. Jimmy, who normally is an innocent little boy, his eyes are opening and bloodshot and he's looking into the thing.. Spirits rising, steam coming out of the cauldron, turning into the face of old people long since dead from years ago. Everybody bubbling up and they're throwing this thing and that thing into the stew. They're throwing all kinds of stuff and everybody is there -- Reba is there, throwing her stuff into the stew and they're all there and they look down at the stew and they're circling over it and (Trey does another little guitar run here, though it's short and different from the earlier one, though not really complex at all... just noodling really) "So the stew is bubbling along..." (Now at this point the audience starts to all shout out together a soft chant, egged on I believe by Trey who incorporates it immediately into the story) "And you hear the stew bubbling and that's the sound of the spirits.. That's the sound of the spirits coming up out of the stew. (Trey starts talking in a weird voice at this point like from underwater) bBbBbBbBbB... The spirits start to come together. The spirits sort of rising up in the cauldron, all the spirits of the dead and passed away people that have gone and Jimmy... all the times that Jimmy's listened to the stereo all those time..the spirits rising out of friends and neighbors and they're all looking around and suddenly, out of the middle of the cauldron starts to bubble and out of it comes the main spirit that they're trying to lift. They're (something) along and they're looking and they're trying to lift... the bubbles start to come up bigger and slower and slowly, a horrible ugly creature starts to rise up out of the cauldron. An ugly awful creature with a white frock on with eyeballs sticking all over it comes up and starts to chant the ancient words of New Years Eve. He rises out of the cauldron!.. A slow pulsating bass in the background changes the tone a bit while Fishman gets into character to chant the ancient words. He yells them in an old, raspy voice... KUNG RICH ... in minerals KUNG RICH in Firth Aiii ...Came well in Martin Land (The lyrics page says 'Martin Lad', but Fishman clearly says "land" and I'm inclined to write it as "Martanland"..whatever) WILL ... WE Kill ... A PedesTAL! Vermin forth ne'er vermin FIFTH FOREVER (something that sounds like "Orel") We come Be it ever so voratiously alternate We Call UPON your BOLT (?) Can we stare? Can we solve? WE can stage a runawaygolfcartmarathon (said VEry fast) Stand up Stand up on your heels and CAll: in unison: From the Hills From the Hills From the Hills... "And then the ugly apparition starts to disappear back into the awful cauldron and the people all start to dance around in a circle holding hands, Jimmy and everyone dancing around in a circle, thanking everyone for all the things that they love on this New Years Eve; all the people that they have and how happy they are to have all the different great things and the evil old man looks down and he says "Oh Harpua! I'm so happy to have you" and he opens up the door and lets Harpua go for a walk, cuz Harpua's sick of this, and all the people and ..Jimmy are thanking... and he looks down and he says "I.. I love my stereo and I love this and I love everything, but most of all, I... I love my ... my beautiful little kitty cat. I.. (said in a tearful childish voice) I love you so much. Aaaah, I love you so much , I...Oh God.. I LOVE you, you're so warm. Warm and furry. Oooh, cuddle up with me my... (Trey makes strangled noises here with words like "love" occasionally slipping through the jibberish) "POSTER NUTBAG" (climatic Poster music starts up after the name is yelled and jammed out more than usual) "POSTER NUTBAG" "POSTER NUTBAG Aaaaaaah!!!" "Poster Nutbag. Ah Poster Nutbag, you furry feline creature.. ahh, why don't you go for a walk too. He opens the door and lets Poster Nutbag go out for a walk and Poster Nutbag goes for a walk and the door slowly swings closed and the ritual continues and they start to break out all the ... the other implements of ...ritualistic implements that they break out each year.. They break them out and meanwhile, the New Years ritualistic implement party goes on backstage and.. (Trey breaks out laughing for a little while before continuing) "Aaah, wherever it happens.. In the room, behind the door.. out here, I dunno. Alright, so anyway, Poster Nutbag is walking, walking outside and um, trotting along...enjoying the moon and the stars, the trees, the rocks, pavement, stone, cars, skyline, skyscrapers, buildings and looking around and he's thinking "Oh, what a wonderful world." Suddenly... He sees... (whispered) Harpua! Harpua is over there behind that tree. Maybe if I just stand here and don't move, he won't notice that I'm standing here. Maybe if that guy over there.. blows his trombone then Harpua will disappear... (At this point, some kind with a hornlike noisemaker starts blowing in the background while the audience cheers) "Harpua looks over and they see each other. Ahh, maybe if you blow that silly thing you're blowing, Harpua will disappear. Ahh, it doesn't work though. Harpua is looking back and they're ...treading each others ground and looking at each other and Poster Nutbag realizes taht most dogs are afraid of cats. Really, dogs think they're tough but then they run off at cats.. they run away because cats are actually meaner, so Poster Nutbag decides to stand ground... (Trey inhales and exhales loudly into the mic for a moment) "Harpua doesn't even budge.. Harpua is meaner than most dogs. Poster Nutbag's getting a little bit scared. Harpua starst to walk forward. Slowly, step by step, one foot in front of the other, ugly mean gross slime coming out of its nose.. (Trey proceeds to snort into the mic a few times) "and they're head to head and suddenly, Poster Nutbag looks to Harpua and sees a tiny drop of saliva dripping off of Harpua's grrr...Harpua's lip. It's too late! There's no time to get away! RUN! Poster Nutbag RUN! Run! POSTER NUTBAG, OH My GOOOOOOOD! IT'S TOOOO LAAAAATE!!!!" At this point the music comes back in in time for the storm to be gone and the story finishes off as it usually does, though "You're cat died" is followed by a loud "Ooooh NOoooooo!" Definitely a fun way to break in the New Year. People often say that the New Years antics began the following year with the clam shell, but the audience's enthralled captivation throughout this NYE story, and participation as well at times, gives me reason to debate that. Sure it wasn't as much as a visual spectacle as a flying hot dog, but audibly, a much better treat, and sound and music are the primary reasons one generally goes to see Phish (hopefully). Plus, this comes out much better on tape. I can't speak for sets I or II, but set III is fun all around and includes the Dude of Life (though that is a boon or a detriment to the show, depending on how well you like the Dude. I will say though that when the song begins, it is almost funny listening to the audience's reaction, as there are a few loud applauses from people who recognize it, but most of them seem to not have heard it before, or at least they don't care to. I can't tape this for anyone right now, but I recommend it if you can find it. There was no real musical cover in Harpua, which is always hoped for, though Kung kind of counts. Even still, the story is interesting, and definitely topical. I've always felt that Harpuas which link something current or something about the venue add to the song, especially for those that are there. 7/16/94 when the comet that hits Jupiter hits Poster Nutbag (the week it was hitting jupiter) or the Vegas Harpua which of course is linked to Vegas. A fine treat Time on 12/31/92 Harpua: 18:51