Following their tightening up of 1989, and a heavy dedication to a life on the road, the band spent nearly all of 1990, 1991, and 1992 criss-crossing the country, playing hundreds of shows, testing out new means of audience connection, and, ever so slightly, dipping their toes into full-band experimentation and jamming in a live setting. Highlights found along the way included the Fall 1990 Colorado Run, the Horns Run which peaked with Amy’s Farm in Summer 1991, the west coast leg of Spring 1992, and a month of sonic experimentation and hints of future jamming in March/April 1993. Like an up-and-coming basketball squad pounding at the door of the Finals, Phish was putting together all the pieces of a complete band that was soon to exceed even their own heady ambitions.
Summer 1993 was an unprecedented leap for Phish. Rather than do another club circuit to incrementally expand their name, they booked a tour of sheds and amphitheaters, thus forcing themselves to push their sound outward to match the spaceless confines of an open-aired venue, while also discovering how far word had spread about them in a few short years. The result being a logistical learning experience, and a developmental leap musically, you can look to Summer 1993 as the break between two eras of Phish. For all intents & purposes, July - and especially August - 1993 is when Phish arrived as a major player in modern rock music.
Musically, there’s little resemblance to the Phish of August 1993 to anything that had come before. Their jamming, which, in the mid-80s, sounded like many aspiring college town bar jambands would in years to come, benefited greatly from their self-imposed tightening up. The Jones Beach Antelope from July 23, August 7 Mike’s Song madness, the famed Bathtub Gin from The Murat Theatre, Antelope Set II domination on August 14, Tweezer and Stash from August 15, and David Bowie from August 26 - among many more standout moments - showcased a band leaping from wormhole to wormhole, pushing their songs further into the unknown with the speed a precision of a band on a creative high, and on the precipice of seven years of routine creative reinvention.
Most bands don’t achieve the highs of what Phish was capable of in the Summer of 1993. That this tour turned out to be more of a historical stepping stone than a complete peak is all the more remarkable. When we look back on the tour some twenty-five years on, we see a band high on their own creative impulses, and on a communicative plane that resulted from years of discipline and constant touring. It’s a joy to hear their youth and excitement and willingness to dart into the unknown while landing so many of their tricks. The larger goals achieved would only push Phish further.