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December 1994

By the beginning of December, 1994, Phish had completed thirty-seven shows on a tour that began in early October with a transit from Pennsylvania to New York via an extended stay in the south. In November, the marathon continued through the northeast, midwest and west, finishing the month in Washington state. During that time a number of tunes debuted, including Guyute and covers such as Boston’s Foreplay/Longtime, Stevie Wonder’s Golden Lady, and Bukka White’s Fixin’ To Die. The band had taken a strong interest in acoustic music, seeking the guidance of former Aquarium Rescue Unit member Rev. Jeff Mosier in arranging renditions of a number of bluegrass and country classics. Fish had taken up the washboard, Page the upright bass, Mike the banjo and Trey the acoustic guitar and even the fiddle. The Vibration of life (seven beats per second) hummed throughout and the entire tour was being recorded on 32 tracks of digital tape for future live release.

On December 1st, Phish performed at the Armory in Salem, Oregon. The second set there consisted of segues in and out of Tweezer, with the song weaving through Creature, NICU and Jesus Left Chicago and encompassing a taste of Norwegian Wood. This show was later released at livephish.com as 12/1/94 Salem The next night, Dave Matthews Band opened the show at the Recreation Hall of the University of California in Davis. Phish soundchecked a bunch of rarities that night and added the "Cosmic Country Horns" (Dave "The Truth" Grippo, Carl Gerhard, Michael Ray, James Harvey and Peter Apfelbaum) for much of set II, which included a stretched-out David Bowie, Buried Alive, Julius, Landlady, Gumbo, Caravan and Suzy. A Cavern encore rounded out the show and that night’s Gumbo was later chosen for inclusion on A Live One. Dave Matthews Band opened again on December 3rd at the San Jose Event Center. Phish opened their first set with Wilson followed by Divided Sky. The horns were featured again in set two, which began with Phish horn classics Frankenstein and Suzy Greenberg. Before ending the set, Fish sang the first rendition of Touch Me since the Giant Country Horn tour (see TMIPH July 1991) and they even toyed with Alumni Blues, but didn’t actually play the song, opting to close the set with Julius and Cavern.

The band played the next day in Acker Gym at Chico State University, took the 5th off, and played UCSB Event Center in Santa Barbara, California on December 6th. The Santa Barbara show was notable for its second set which began with The Curtain > Sample in a Jar and contained a Mike’s Song > Simple > Mango Song > Weekapaug Groove combination before closing with Antelope and an encore of Back in the USSR. December 7th and 8th featured back-to-back shows at Spreckels Theatre in San Diego. The first set on the 7th kicked off with Peaches en Regalia > Runaway Jim. Set two began with Rift, Frankenstein and Divided Sky, and closed with the version of You Enjoy Myself later chosen for release on A Live One. After some skirmishes between local police and fans, the band opened the extremely high-energy December 8th show with Makisupa Policeman into an incendiary Maze. The thoughtfully selected set continued with Punch You in the Eye followed by Simple > Catapult > Simple > Lizards, closing with While My Guitar Gently Weeps. The second set on the 8th featured another exploratory David Bowie.

The band then proceeded to the amphitheater in Mesa, Arizona. The soundcheck there began with Stevie Wonder1s Higher Ground and Frankenstein. The first set closed with an interesting combination of It’s Ice > If I Could > Antelope, and the second started with Wilson > Poor Heart > Tweezer > McGrupp, then closed with a unique combination of YEM > Suzy Greenberg. The encore was Blue and Lonesome followed by Foreplay/Long Time and Tweezer (reprise). The tour concluded December 10th at Santa Monica’s Civic Auditorium where the band tore through a show’s worth of classics with the only “new” material in the entire performance consisting of Sample in a Jar. Set two opened with Simple, the version that was used on A Live One. Fish1s segment of the show was a rare Why Don’t We Do It in the Road (performed earlier that year as part of The White Album Halloween costume, (see TMIPH October 1994) and the encore was Chalk Dust Torture Reprise, which included introductions of the crew followed by Good Times Bad Times to cap the tour. The band and crew headed home to rest and enjoy the holidays before finishing up the year with the traditional New Years run of shows.

The Holiday tour began December 28th at the Philadelphia Civic Center and the spirit of the season was conveyed with teases of Auld Lang Syne and Little Drummer Boy during Weekapaug Groove. The next night’s show was at the Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island. It was a long drive and a very cold and windy day. Set one featured a smooth Runaway Jim > Foam opener. Later in the set came Split Open and Melt followed by The Horse > Silent in the Morning. The band continued the previous night’s teases of Auld Lang Syne; this time encased in a Possum set closer. Set two opened with a nearly flawless Guyute followed by a groundbreaking rendition of David Bowie. The improvisation during Bowie reached exceptional heights, evoking memories of versions played in previous summers at the Murat Theatre (1993) and UIC Pavilion (1994). Halley’s Comet into Lizards followed, and the show concluded with the double encore of Long Journey Home and Sleeping Monkey.

Phish made their first appearance on NBC’s Late Show with David Letterman on December 30th. They taped Chalk Dust Torture for the show during the day, then quickly headed to Madison Square Garden to soundcheck and prepare for their first show in the historic venue later that night – and the band rose to the occasion. The show opened with Wilson, during which the crowd’s energy and volume was higher than ever before. This version was included on A Live One as the opener of "set two". The set continued on with renditions of Simple, Stash and Cavern. The following set contained notable versions of Tweezer, Harry Hood and YEM, and a Frankenstein encore rounded out the first of many excellent performances at The Garden. Hospitality rooms backstage filled immediately following the show for the airing of Letterman to close a very exciting day.

Phish celebrated New Year’s Eve with a show at Boston Garden on December 31st. The three-set show got rolling as Trey played along to Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll Part 2 (a classic arena-sports fight song) which was heard over the P.A. as the show began. Lyricist Tom Marshall joined the band for the "been you to have any spliff" line of Run Like an Antelope. Peaches en Regalia, Divided Sky and a rousing Funky Bitch finished up the set. Set two featured Mike’s Song > the rarely-played Buffalo Bill > Mike’s Song > Yerushalayim Shel Zahav > Weekapaug Groove. Amazing Grace topped off the second set, which ended around 11 pm. Before the house lights were dimmed for the final set, a conversation between the band came over the P.A. wherein the audience "overheard" Fish complaining of being hungry and wanting to eat before the set. He stated, "I want a jumbo hot dog, large fries and shake". The band came out to begin the set, started up My Sweet One, and was interrupted by an announcer asking who ordered the food. The band pointed at Fish and at that moment, a tray with a fifteen-foot hot dog along with supersize fries and a large drink and straw descended from the rigging next to the drum kit. The band began playing 2001 as the assemblage landed and technicians wearing white coats prepared the hot dog for flight. The band members climbed into the wiener (it has four seats) with instruments and flew out over the audience, as balloons popped and feathers, confetti and "Phish NYE 1994" ping pong balls fell from the ceiling and were tossed by the band. The dog passed very close to the heads of the audience as it journeyed to the far end of the arena and back. Captain Beefheart’s Tropical Hot Dog Night was played over the P.A. as the flying sausage with headlights arced out over the crowd for the countdown. At midnight, the dog and passengers began their journey back toward the stage and the band began to play Auld Lang Syne while still seated in the frankfurter above the crowd, continuing to play the holiday classic until they reached the stage. Trey and Mike played their guitars, Fish a set of electronic drum pads and Page a built-in keyboard. Chalk Dust Torture was performed after the group hit the ground. They closed the show with Suzy Greenberg and Slave to the Traffic Light and the encore was Simple back into Auld Lang Syne. The hot dog, fries and drink would go into storage until the hot dog was recalled for another midnight run on December 31st, 1999 at Big Cypress in Florida. The hot dog and other New Years 1994 props are now on display at the http://www.rockhall.com in Cleveland . Over the next few months, Phish would compile and mix their first live release A Live One, and begin work on developing a number of new songs.