After finishing their first album for Elektra, A Picture of Nectar, and touring in support of it through Spring of 1992 (see TMIPH March 1992 and TMIPH April 1992), Phish departed in June for their first European tour. They played eight shows there spanning fifteen days in five countries. The Europe 1992 dates were all support slots for the Violent Femmes except for Phish’s appearance at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival. They finished up the tour on July 3rd and traveled home. They then joined the first four dates of the H.O.R.D.E. ("Horizons of Rock Devloping Everywhere") tour with Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors after which they squeezed in a few headline dates in Virginia July 14th through 16th. Phish began their stint opening for Santana on July 17th at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. They played five nights, spent a "day off" performing as the house band on "Hangin’ With MTV", and then returned to the road for seven more support shows with Santana in the northeast and midwest. The opening sets were approximately fifty minutes in length and taping was not allowed. Reaction from the crowds was good. This was Phish’s first time using tour buses; members of the crew alternated riding on the bus and driving the truck in pairs. Phish’s crew for the tour consisted of Brad Sands (then an all purpose roadie), Andrew Fischbeck (tour manager), Pete Schall (monitor engineer), Paul Languedoc (front-of-house engineer) and Chris Kuroda (see TMIPH, March 1989). Members of Phish joined Carlos’s band onstage during Santana’s set most nights during the tour performing a variety of songs on numerous instruments. At times, Fish’s vacuum solos with Santana served as a humorous diversion while Carlos sat on the drum riser and rolled his eyes or laughed. Over the course of jamming together, the bands frequently returned to several classic songs as launching points for their extended improvisations, including Bob Marley’s Exodus and sections of Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way.
The Santana tour continued throughout the month of August. On August 1st, Phish opened for Santana at Chicago area’s Poplar Creek Music Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. They began their set with Golgi Apparatus, before playing a solid set of songs from Nectar including Stash, Horn and Llama. The next night they opened in Maryland Heights, Missouri at Riverport Performing Arts Center. That set on August 2nd closed with Oh Kee Pah Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg, David Bowie, Cavern and Rocky Top. The band and crew had the next ten days off during which Brad Sands and Andrew Fischbeck drove the truck (JEMP) from Missouri to Los Angeles. They stopped along the way in Crested Butte to stay with friends for a day or two and then checked out Vegas briefly before making their way to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles where the Santana tour resumed with three shows in three days. At the first Greek show on August 13th Phish played a three-song opening set consisting of Chalk Dust Torture, Foam and YEM. The next night they played a more standard five songs closing their set with Sweet Adeline. At the Greek on the 15th, the band played an upbeat set that closed with the combination of Maze (from the yet-to-be-recorded fourth album Rift) followed by the still-unreleased classic Runaway Jim.
After a day off, on August 17th Phish played a headline show at a tiny club called The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, which is about an hour south of Los Angeles. The Coach House show was unique for a few reasons. First, it was the band’s only headline appearance of the month. Second, the Coach House staff resisted moving any tables to allow dancing stating confidently "nobody comes to the Coach House and dances". They begrudgingly set aside a designated dancing area but when the music started, chairs were promptly folded up and tables slid out of the way so the people could dance freely. Also, old friends from the ex-Burlington band Ninja Custodian reunited to open the show. Among other distinctions, members of Ninja Custodian introduced Phish manager, John Paluska to Phish (see TMIPH March 1988). That night the band was set free of the strictures of fifty minute sets and they loosened up quickly, tearing through a first set of classics and newer material including Buried Alive, Reba, Rift, Wilson, My Friend and closing with David Bowie. Set two at The Coach House featured the rare and ethereal Esther, a Mike’s Groove, and renditions of the Flintstones Theme and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The sole encore in the month of August was The Squirming Coil.
On the day off on the 18th, the band and crew went to see the Clint Eastwood movie Unforgiven at a local theater. Energized by Clint’s rousing performance, Phish resumed their support position with Santana on August 19th at Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona. On August 20th, they played in the stomping grounds of yet-to-be-discovered Tour Manager Richard "Dickie Scotland" Glasgow, Las Cruces, New Mexico. On the 23rd, the band opened the show at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, Colorado (home of the U.S. Consumer Information Packet). The next evening they played a spirited set at Vail’s majestic Gerald Ford Amphitheater. In a freak mountain storm, snow fell that day, turned to rain and luckily cleared up by showtime. At Vail, the band started the set with the tour’s first Buried Alive, during which Trey teased Santana licks. After Poor Heart and All Things Reconsidered, they kicked it up a notch with an exploratory but concise Tweezer. After The Landlady, they played the third Reba of Santana tour, closing the set with YEM. The vocal jam in YEM contained a distinct play on Neil Diamond’s Song Sung Blue.
On August 25th Phish and Santana returned to New Mexico to perform at Santa Fe Downs. For their opening set there, Phish played Runaway Jim, It’s Ice, Sparkle, Stash, Squirming Coil, Llama and Sweet Adeline. It’s Ice and Stash served as launching pads for extended jams. The 26th was a day off and both bands returned to California to finish up the month-long tour.
On August 27th, Phish arrived in Santa Barbara for the second time in five months (see TMIPH April 1992). Unlike the cozy Anaconda, this time they played in front of a sell-out crowd at Santa Barbara County Bowl. The next night found them opening for Carlos in wine country at Concord Pavilion. Phish’s first appearance at Shoreline Amphitheatre took place on August 29th, followed by a show at Cal Expo in Sacramento, where Phish and Santana wrapped up the tour with an afternoon four-band bill that also featured The Indigo Girls and Los Lobos. Phish played the second (and feistier) Antelope of the tour in Sacramento, sandwiched between two a cappella songs, Memories and Sweet Adeline, which closed their set. That night, Santana also invited the two Los Lobos guitarists, David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas, to join his band and members of Phish for their last collective jam of the tour.
After completing the tour with Santana, Phish went almost immediately into the studio in Vermont to begin tracking for Rift (see TMIPH November 1992).