Phish Fan Relives Legendary 1994 ‘O.J. Show’ in Milwaukee

Listen to the infamous “O.J. Show” and read a first-hand account of the concert.

By Team JamBase Jun 17, 2024 12:30 pm PDT

Today marks 30 years since Phish performed what quickly came to be known as the “O.J. Show.” The concert took place at Eagles Ballroom in Milwaukee on June 17, 1994, the same day as one of the most infamous car chases in history. JamBase takes a look at the “O.J. Show” including a first-hand account of the concert from team member Todd Levy.

Notorious former NFL star O.J. Simpson infamously rode in the back of a white Ford Bronco driven by his former teammate Al Cowlings as police chased the suspected murderer down I-405 outside Los Angeles 30 years ago today. The low-speed car chase was widely covered on television and would soon be followed by one of the most watched trials in history, captivating the nation’s attention. Simpson also captured the attention of Phish as they took the stage at the steamingly hot Eagles Ballroom at the same time A.C. was escorting O.J. down the 405.

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Phish reportedly became aware of the O.J. Simpson debacle during set break and the band opened up the second frame with a spooky intro to “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (“2001”), made all the more spooky by guitarist Trey Anastasio and drummer Jon Fishman whispering “O.J.” and “Run O.J.” As the beat dropped and keyboardist Page McConnell got into the funky electric piano strains of “2001,” Trey and Fish continued the shenanigans with Fish throwing a “Whadya say ‘O.J.’” in for good measure. But they were by no means through with the fleeing football star.

While “Sample In A Jar” offered an O.J. respite, Phish couldn’t resist and got back into the references on “Poor Heart” which headed into a “Mike’s Song” that contained a Mission Impossible theme tease in reference to the chase. Even just the second “Simple” ever performed, which Phish.net notes as an “entertaining version,” saw Phish changing up the lyrics of the then brand new song and running wild with the O.J. references (many of the fans in Milwaukee had probably not heard the San Fran-debuted “Simple” yet or had any idea about the O.J. chase for that matter).

Next came a return to “Mike’s Song” along with the classic “Mike’s” companions “I Am Hydrogen” and a spirited “Weekapaug Groove.” Naturally, there were “O.J” references in the final segment of the “Harpua” > “Kung” > “Harpua” excursion. Phish would close out the second set with a seamless section of “Sparkle,” “Big Ball Jam,” “Julius” and “Frankenstein.” The quartet returned to encore with “Sleeping Monkey” and “Rocky Top” to cap off the instant classic that is the “O.J. Show.”

Todd Levy was on hand and shares his memories of the night:

On June 17th myself and a few friends from college got in our car in Ann Arbor and headed to out to see Phish in Chicago the next day. Somewhere around Benton Harbor we were looking at the Schvice and saw there was a show that night in Milwaukee. Consulting our AAA map we realized Milwaukee is pretty close to Chicago, so naturally we redirected.

As we pulled up to venue there was a parking lot helper who said, as we think we recall, “you guys are in luck… I’ve got one more spot and they just opened the box office with tickets for tonight.”

I’m not even sure if we locked the car because we sprinted into the lobby to buy tickets which if the stubs are to believed were under $20 all in. Quite the good deal.

The show was, for lack of a better term, remarkable. Not only for the segue-laden OJ-infused second set but for just how hot it was in the room. (I think 4/6/94 was hotter but that could just be me.)

I’m not sure who but venue or band staffers doused the crowd up front with water during the setbreak and myself and so many others essentially showered in the bathroom to try and cool off.

O.J. was already in the news at showtime, but looking back I assume the band was watching the NBA playoffs at setbreak which got preempted for the now legendary Bronco chase and that was top of mind when the second started, resulting in the now-famous antics. Overall an amazing show and notable moment in Phish history. Definitely worth a (re)listen on this 30th anniversary — until tomorrow when we listen to the masterpiece that is 6/18/94 for the thousandth time.

Earlier in the night, Phish launched the show with “Runaway Jim” followed by “Foam” and “Glide.” The Vermont Quartet then delivered a particularly rocking “Split Open And Melt” before cooling things down with “If I Could.” Next, “Punch You In The Eye” led into “Bathtub Gin,” which also featured a rowdy jam. Bassist Mike Gordon then led the group through “Scent Of A Mule” ahead of first set closer “Cavern.”

While the “O.J. Show” was officially released in 2017 via LivePhish.com, the entire “O.J. Show” can be heard below via an audience recording posted by fromtheaquarium:

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Setlist (via Phish.net)

Set One: Runaway Jim, Foam, Glide, Split Open and Melt, If I Could, Punch You in the Eye > Bathtub Gin, Scent of a Mule, Cavern

Set Two: Also Sprach Zarathustra[1] > Sample in a Jar, Poor Heart[1] > Mike’s Song[1] -> Simple[1] -> Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Harpua -> Kung -> Harpua[1], Sparkle > Big Ball Jam > Julius > Frankenstein

Encore: Sleeping Monkey > Rocky Top

[1] O.J. reference.

This is the infamous “O.J. Show,” played on the night of O.J. Simpson’s Bronco chase. 2001, Mike’s, Simple, Poor Heart, and Harpua all included references to O.J. Mike’s Song also included a Mission: Impossible theme tease and Hydrogen included Simple quotes. Weekapaug contained a Nellie Kane tease from Mike. Harpua included a Simple quote and Voodoo Child tease. This show is available as an archival release on LivePhish.com.

[Originally Published: June 17, 2016 and June 17, 2022 — Updated on June 17, 2024]

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