Phish Debuts David Bowie ‘Life On Mars?’ Cover On Fall Tour 1995

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This year marks the 25th anniversary of Phish’s historic Fall Tour 1995. In recognition of that noteworthy tour and to make up for the lack of shows this fall, JamBase presents a daily retrospective highlighting a noteworthy moment from a Phish fall tour concert that took place on that date over the past 25. The 25 Years Of Phish Fall Tour series runs each day between the start of Phish Fall Tour 1995 on September 27 through that tour’s finale on December 17.

Despite it being the birthplace of Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, the band has held only one concert in Ft. Worth, Texas. The Fall Tour 1995 show at Will Rogers Auditorium was also their only show held on October 13 in the past 25 years and featured their cover of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?”

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The Phish.com show notes for October 13, 1995 describe the Will Rogers Auditorium as “a historic Art Deco theater designed by Wyatt C. Hedrick and built in 1936 inside the Will Rogers Memorial Center with a capacity of approximately 2,800.” Tickets to the sold out concert were $18.50 and after the show, the band drove 194 miles overnight for a gig in Austin that saw Medeski, Martin & Wood sit-in with Phish.

The show notes also mention Trey speaking to the audience before the start of the second set, making note of the significance of the location by stating:

Before we start the set I just want to thank everybody for coming and tell you that this is the town that I was born in. Ft. Worth Trojans Hospital; I crawled into this world through the other dimension.

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Trey also addressed his hometown audience before the start of the final song of the first set, introducing the pending “Life On Mars?” debut by dedicating the Bowie cover to “Sofi.” The dedication was likely to keyboardist Page McConnell’s ex-wife Sofi Dillof, who often danced the “Meatstick” onstage at 1999 and 2000 Phish shows and can be heard on the Dude Of Life and Phish’s 1994 collaborative album, Crimes Of The Mind, on the track “She’s Bitchin’ Again.”

The first “Life On Mars?” was the first time Phish covered David Bowie, despite regularly playing their original “David Bowie” since its live debut on Halloween 1986. An almost instant rarity, “Life On Mars?” has been performed by Phish an additional 22 times since its Fall Tour 1995 debut. The cover was played several more times that tour and again throughout 1996, but Phish performed “Life On Mars?” just once in 1997 and not again until a lone appearance in Las Vegas in 2003. The band brought it back in for two appearances in 2011 but have not played it since June 29, 2012 at the venue formerly known as Deer Creek.

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“Life On Mars?” remained the only David Bowie cover in Phish’s repertoire until June 24, 2016 when they honored the late musician a few months after his death with an a cappella version of “Space Oddity” during the encore of their show at Wrigley Field in Chicago. A few months later on Halloween 2016, Phish’s Bowie repertoire vastly expanded when the band’s musical costume in Las Vegas was a complete cover of Bowie’s landmark 1972 concept album, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.

David Bowie released “Life On Mars?” on his 1971 album, Hunky Dory, which immediately preceded Ziggy Stardust. Listen to Phish’s debut cover of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?” by clicking below (Bowie’s “Life On Mars?” music video follows):

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JamBase Live Video Archive
JamBase Live Video Archive