After a summer tour supporting their June 1995 live release “A Live One” (double CD recorded live, the Clifford Ball, 1994) and their second appearance on network television’s Late Show With David Letterman, Phish went back on the road. The fall tour began on the west coast with mail order tickets available for both tapers’ and regular seating. This was the band’s ninth journey to California to play live and their first amphitheatre swing through the state. Moving lights, the grand piano, and an expanded crew had become commonplace. Sandsio’s infamous “page boy” haircut had finally been remedied to a short-cropped crew look, and the tour was set to begin.
The crew had technical rehearsals at Oakland Coliseum for five days before the tour began with the band joining them for the last two. At the technical rehearsals, the band practiced a variety of material including many versions of what would become Limb By Limb. On Sunday, September 24th, the band and crew went to an Oakland Raiders vs. Philadelphia Eagles game at Oakland Stadium in the complex that housed the Coliseum (the Raiders crushed the Eagles). On game day, the crew shared a dressing room at the Coliseum with the Oakland Raiders Cheerleaders. Brad notes that Carini was particularly pleased since they were mostly on his side of the room. There were meetings during the tech rehearsals to view demonstrations of the fledgling New Year’s “event/spectacle” for December 31st, 1995 as the Phish Time Laboratory began its development.
On Wednesday, September 27th, the fall tour kicked off at Cal Expo Amphitheatre in Sacramento, CA with Wolfman’s Brother. During the first set of Cal Expo, a reworked Taste (the song at that time became known as Fog That Surrounds due to Fish’s new vocal section) was debuted. Set two of the Sacramento show featured the first appearances of a number of songs such as Cars Trucks Buses, Billy Breathes, Keyboard Cavalry and the barbershop quartet standard, Hello My Baby. This set also featured a version of Harry Hood that included a rare modern trombone solo by Fish and a Possum encore. On the next evening, September 28th, Phish played their second ever show in San Diego. They began the day at the Embarcadero Center by sound-checking classics such as Gumbo and Mound and launched into a show that included a version of the Missionary Sisters’ tune Don’t You Wanna Go and another version of Keyboard Cavalry. The encore that night was Jimi Hendrix’s Fire. The following night, Phish played the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Their first set there on September 29th included an AC/DC Bag opener and a Suzy Greenberg closer. The second set of the Greek began with Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra (a/k/a Theme From 2001, A Space Odyssey) which segued into Maze. This set also featured Fish’s first singing appearance of the fall; he hit the stage with the band’s first attempt at covering Aerosmith’s recent hit single, Cryin’. After the show, the band and crew began the 350 mile journey to San Francisco and Shoreline Amphitheater.
The next day was September 30th, a Saturday. It was the band’s second appearance at Shoreline, a venue built to Bill Graham’s specifications in Mountain View, California. Set one began with My Friend My Friend and jumped into Cars Trucks Buses. Then something strange occurred. Trey took a minute to thank the crowd for coming and asked Chris to light up a large chess board suspended on stage, behind the band on the backdrop. Trey revealed that the band plays lots of chess on the bus and decided San Francisco was “an apt place” to start a game with the audience to be continued throughout the course of the tour. He called a fan named Pooh up on stage to make the first moves on the audience’s behalf. Chris focused the lights above Page’s head and the band began an instrumental “White Rabbit” jam. The band was white and the audience black. Trey explained that anyone who wanted to make any moves should go to the Greenpeace table in between sets to make up their “collective mind”, and that the band would make their move at the beginning of each first set of the tour and the audience would make their collective move at the beginning of each second set. Trey said “The feeling is tense in the room,” as Page climbed the ladder and made the first White move by moving a pawn. Pooh made a first move. Trey said “Page is tense. He’s pondering the Sicilian defense.” Page’s second move was the white bishop. Pooh responded with a second move on the audience’s behalf. Then Page and Pooh each made a third move. The band’s opening turns out to be The Portuguese Opening as explained to them at setbreak by then Northern California Chess Champion, Eric Schiller. Eric writes of the unique sequence in his book Great Chess Openings.
The first set of Shoreline continued with Horn, Run Like an Antelope, and a cover of bluegrass standard Blue and Lonesome, which was dedicated to Jerry Garcia. Set two contained an interesting Mike’s Song > Keyboard Cavalry > Weekapaug Groove which was followed by Fishman’s second lead vocal performance of the tour, a cover of Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds. From Phish’s first performance of Suspicious Minds that night, the tune seemed suspiciously well-suited for Fish and he was appropriately outfitted with a satin cape studded beneath with lightbulbs which lit up as he sang the tune.
After September, Phish continued on their fall 1995 national tour, playing twenty-three shows in October including their annual Halloween celebration with a full performance of the Who’s Quadrophenia (with horns) at Chicago’s Rosemont Horizon. Sixteen shows were played in November (including a three night stand at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre) and thirteen more in December. The year wrapped up with the traditional four night Holiday Tour.