5-2-93 -- tower theatre, Upper Darby, PA
Date: Sun, 02 May 1999 11:36:15 -0400
From: Erik and Elizabeth Swain eswain@bellatlantic.net
To: dws@archive.phish.net, cdirksen@earthlink.net
Newsgroups: rec.music.phish
Subject: In memory of 5/2/93 (long)

Today is the 6th anniversary of my 1st show, 5/2/93 at the Tower Theatre
in Upper Darby, PA. There's quite a story that goes with this, and I
figured this was as good a day as any to tell it to the whole group. I
suppose the 5th anniversary last year would have been better, but I
didn't have a computer then. :)

Like many of you in my age group (28), I discovered Phish in college
(Princeton). Read about the HORDE tour, decided Phish was a band that
could be worth listening to, and bought PON - the only commercially
available album at that time - without ever having heard them. I did not
then, and still do not, think of PON as a great album, but it had
several songs - Llama, Stash, Guelah, Chalkdust, Tweeprise - that hooked
me. I got Lawn Boy and Junta when they were re-issued a few months
later, and was more impressed - particularly with Coil and Bowie. Then
Rift came out, and that was it. This album had everything - great
jamming, great songwriting, great production. I knew they would be
touring soon, and I HAD to see them.

Being from Philly originally, and being less than an hour away at
Princeton, I decided to go for one of the two shows at the Tower -
Saturday 5/1/93 or Sunday 5/2/93. That Saturday, my eating club (Campus
Club, where Amfibian played recently) was throwing a big party, so
Sunday it was. I recruited one of my friends to come with me, and set
out to call TicketBastard the morning they went on sale.

Then something weird happened. I got connected to TB right away, and
ordered my tix the minute they went on sale. Never happened before or
since. The tix arrived, and said they were on the floor in Row BB.

Shortly thereafter, my friend broke his leg and had to give his ticket
away. The guy he gave it to wanted to hang with his buddies in the
balcony, so I would be going alone.

I got down to the Tower - my favorite non-club venue in the Philly area.
It's an old movie theatre, 3000 seats, incredible acoustics. Some of my
very favorite shows have been here - Allmans 5/24/95, Black Crowes
8/19/92, Neil Young 4/24/99 - but this night was to be the best of them

My ticket said Row BB, and I figured that meant 28th row or something,
probably behind industry types, friends of the band and whoever else. So
I thought there was a mistake when I showed my ticket to the usher and
she said "go down to the front and turn left." But as I was walking down
the aisle, I noticed the double-letter rows were in front of the
single-letter rows. And when I got down to the front, I noticed the left
(Page side) section had no row AA. I WAS IN THE FRONT ROW!!!!! Try
getting THAT from TicketBastard nowadays!

My mind was still boggled by my good fortune when the boys came out and
ripped into Axilla. I had no concert tapes at this point, so I only knew
album songs, but I was mighty impressed at the insistent riffing this
song offers. Then came Sparkle, which I hated even back then, and this
version was a little off. Trey must have noticed that, because he then
started Divided Sky and his body language indicated that he was trying
to kick-start the band into a higher gear - and the crowd as well. After
a standard version (still fantastic, of course), came one of the two
songs from Rift I really wanted to hear - MOUND! I couldn't hear Mike's
vocal mic well from where I was, but on the amazing FOB I have of this
show, there are no problems - perhaps the taper was on Mike's side of
the stage. Whatever problem there was disappeared for Mike's subsequent
lead vocals.

Then came one of the two songs I really wanted to hear from PON - Stash.
I will never, ever forget the performance of this song. As the jam began
to progress, Trey turned around to face Page - and those of us in the
crowd near him. Then somebody hit a note that was completely unexpected,
and the band immediately locked into a groove and took it to a higher
WONDERMENT AT PAGE. I had never seen a band so spontaneous, yet in sync,
as I had at that moment. That was the very moment I "got it" about

After that epiphany, the rest of the set could have been rote and it
wouldn't have mattered. But it wasn't. Horse>Silent was sweet and Poor
Heart was much more raucous than the studio version (which I hate), and
then came my favorite Phish song of the moment, MAZE! If there was one
song I really wanted them to play, this was it. And they did not
disappoint. They just ripped it to shreds. After that came the first
dose of humor in I Didn't Know, and the set closed with a Golgi that the
crowd really got into.

As I was alone, I had nothing to do during setbreak (I don't smoke bud).
My seat was the 2nd in from the aisle, and my friend's vacant seat was
on the aisle. Then a girl came down and asked if she could take it. I
was a pretty shy person back then, but I did my best to strike up a
What a story she had. She was 29 and lived with her parents in South
Philly. She had been through some rough times recently - she lost her
job, her boyfriend left her, and her brother had passed away. The one
good memory she had was driving across country with a friend and playing
PON the whole way, Cavern in particular. She really wanted to hear that
song. A week or so before the show, she and a male friend were walking
down South Street and passed Tower Records, which is a TB outlet. On a
whim she decided to go in and see if she could get Phish tickets. Her
friend reluctantly agreed to go with her, and the only two seats
together left were in the very back row of the balcony on this night.
About 3/4 of the way through the first set, her "friend" decided Phish
was the worst band he'd ever seen and walked out. Leaving her there
alone in an already fragile state. WHAT AN ASSHOLE. She decided she was
going to try to make the best of a bad situation, and sneak down to the
front row. What a Godsend my empty seat must have been for her. If an
usher had tried to remove her I would have flipped out - but luckily she
was left alone.

We followed the lead of some of the people in the front row of the
center section and leaned against the stage for the 2nd set. Try doing
THAT nowadays. Then the boys came out again.

I don't know what they smoked, popped or drank during setbreak, but they
proceeded to play what remains the most energetic, adrenaline-fueled set
I have ever heard from them. It sounds like no other. It sounds like
they were on Speed. I'm not saying it belongs with the all-time great
2nd sets like 2/20/93, 5/7/94 or 11/27/98. But it's distinctive.

To start, they granted me my 2nd wish from PON - Llama! This is my
favorite song from the record because it just kicks so hard. Here it
kicked twice as hard - and, it seemed, twice as fast. Then into PYITE,
which I had never heard before. I thought it was kind of funny (not
knowing anything about the Gamehendge saga), especially the way Trey
virtually spat out the words "Punch You in the Eye."

And then came epiphany #2. YEM! It was mind-boggling enough to be
introduced to the tramps and the vocal jam, which I had not known about,
but to have this amazingly intense playing on top of it? Wow. At this
point I decided there was no band that could touch Phish. It was that
good. Read Charlie Dirksen's review of this version - it's dead on.
Still one of my favorite YEMs of all time, and, again, it's like no
other I have in my collection. Incredibly fast-paced, almost punkish in

From this point on, the band was playing on pure adrenaline, careening
like an out-of-control roller coaster - going incredibly fast with wild
abandon, but never veering off-track. For that reason this set is my
favorite tape to drive to - you can't help but hit the pedal to the

Lizards was beautiful (if a bit, you guessed it, fast), the Big Ball Jam
was amusing, and Uncle Pen ripped far harder than I've heard it since.
The crowd was in a complete frenzy by this point, and then Bouncing came
on and pushed us over the edge. Say what you want about this song, but
there is a time and a place for it, and this was it. People were
literally pogo-ing as if they were at a Mudhoney show or something.

This led into epiphany #3 - Antelope! The fastest and most intense song
in the fastest and most intense set. Here they really did sound like a
punk rock band - albeit one capable of Zappa-esque changes. If this
version does not prompt you to hit triple digits on the speedometer of
your car, there's something wrong with your car. I was blown away - this
was so unlike the studio version that I thought they had literally
reinvented the song. Never has the phrase  "run like an Antelope, out of
control" been so apt as it was at this show, this set, this song.

Then it was time for Fish's routine. Another Phish trick I was unaware
of - the HYHU theme. Funny then, funny now. He listened to people shout
requests for a while, mentioned there were only 5 or 6 songs he did, and
decided on Cracklin' Rosie. Somehow, this song rocked too - any band
that can rock out a Neil Diamond song convincingly deserves some kind of
a prize.

The set could only close one way. Since they had done their best
impression of a hardcore punk band, they had to do their hardcore punk
song. BBFCFM was absolutely insane. Complete anarchy was the way to go

Back for the encore, the band (perhaps drained from that incredible 2nd
set) finally decided to switch tempos and began a laconic version of
Sleeping Monkey. But then Trey flubbed the first line and asked the
audience what it was!!! "The feeling's not the same," many shouted. He
then professed to be embarrassed because Tom Marshall was in the
audience. Trey pointed to him, and he appeared to be about 10-12 rows
back in the center. Shit, I had better seats than Tom Marshall!!!
The version itself was most notable because Fish had blown out his voice
during Cracklin' Rosie and BBFCFM, and could only manage a croak when
the time came to song his high notes.

They then proceeded to the front of the stage for a flawless unmiked a
cappella Amazing Grace, almost post-coital in its mellowness. I could
not believe a band with so much power was also capable of so much grace.

I was on the highest natural high I'd ever been on. Then I turned to the
girl next to me and remembered her plight. I offered her a ride back to
her home, and hung out with her a few times after that, but didn't
pursue a relationship any further. When you're 22, 7 years is a big age
But this was the first time I'd ever made friends with a complete
stranger. Only in the magic atmosphere of a Phish show could that have
happened to me back then.

They never did play "Cavern," which she so badly wanted to hear. We had
no way of knowing that they had played it the night before.
Since then, I have been to 5 more shows, once a year every year since
then. (I'll try to hit Camden this summer.) My job, and later my
marriage to a non-Phish fan, prevented me from doing more than seeing
them when they came to Philly.
But in the next three shows I saw, and four of the next five, they
played "Cavern." Maybe they knew. Somehow.

I will argue to my death that this is one of the most criminally
underrated and under-circulated shows they have ever played. The first
night of the Tower stand seems to be much more available, and everyone I
heard from who went to both of these shows said this one blew that one

Anyway, that's my story. I will never refuse anyone who asks for a copy
of this show.

Thanks for listening,