Phish’s UIC Pavilion Debut Showcases Everything That Made 1994 So Special For Band

Stream official audio and watch fan-shot video of the band’s June 18, 1994 concert in Chicago.

By Scott Bernstein Jun 18, 2024 1:11 pm PDT

1994 was the last year Phish played over 100 shows and they were arguably as tight of a band as they’ve ever been that year. An example is the phenomenal show the quartet played 30 years ago today at UIC Pavilion in Chicago, which was filled with memorable moments. Fan-shot video of Phish’s June 18, 1994 performance surfaced on YouTube last year and can be viewed below.

Phish’s UIC Pavilion debut began with three pairings they absolutely nailed as “Wilson” flowed into “Rift” before “AC/DC Bag” gave way to “Maze” and “The Mango Song” bled into “Down With Disease” from their new album at the time, Hoist. “Maze” stood out for guitarist Trey Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell‘s outrageous solos. Each was the perfect mix of speed and fury that comes with spending the past three months on the road.

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The “It’s Ice” that filled the seven-slot contained tasty albeit brief full-band improvisation that hinted at what lied ahead. Anastasio put his Wah pedal to use for funky rhythmic work underneath McConnell’s piano stylings. Next came the Jon Fishman-penned “Dog Faced Boy” and a historic “Divided Sky.”

Trey Anastasio talked about the emotion he was overcome with at the band hit a section known as “the pause” in a 2004 interview with Charlie Rose soon after the guitarist broke up Phish in May of 2004. “We were at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. And we were playing ‘Divided Sky,’ and we got down to this quiet part where it gets silent,” Anastasio explained to Rose. “And we were getting quieter and quieter, and then became silence. And I had my eyes closed, and I could feel the crowd, and I started to — because improvising is, you`re trying to translate the — what`s out there already, greater pattern of things. And sometimes it feels like it`s coming through the hole, and you couldn’t play a wrong note if you tried; you’re just floating.”

“The Pause” would get longer after the version at UIC and became a ritual during performances of the song. Hoist rocker “Sample In A Jar” followed “Divided Sky” to close the set.

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Phish kicked off the second set in Chicago with a cover of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia,” which returned to action after over four years on the shelf during the 1993 New Year’s Run to honor FZ in the wake of his death. The spot-on rendition of the Hot Rats classic led into Fish signaling the start of “David Bowie.” McConnell toyed with the “Mind Left Body” theme the Grateful Dead played several times in the mid-70s.

Trey Anastasio quickly picked up on what Page was laying down and Phish embarked on an exquisite “Mind Left Body” jam of their own and hit a few other cool progressions before finally starting “David Bowie.” The actual “Bowie” jam was filled with tension and release theatrics and the version stands as one of the best in Phish history. “Horn” and beloved Gamehendge tune “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” offered band and fans a bit of a respite ahead of a wild “Tweezer” that segued into the beautiful ballad “Lifeboy.” More fretboard fireworks were at the heart of the late-set “You Enjoy Myself” and a quick-but-powerful “Chalk Dust Torture.”

Phish punctuated the night with an encore of “Bouncing Around The Room” and “Tweezer Reprise.” The band returned to the venue on November 25, 1994 and treated fans to another fantastic concert. Official audio of both shows were released in 2012 as Chicago ’94. Archivist Kevin Shapiro called June 18, 1994 a “near-perfect show” and it’s hard to argue with his assessment. Read Shapiro’s essay, watch the June ’94 show and stream Chicago ’94 below:


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Setlist (via Phish.net)

Set 1: Wilson > Sweet Adeline, Rift, Dog Faced Boy [1] AC/DC Bag > Maze, The Mango Song > Down with Disease, It's Ice, Dog Faced Boy, Divided Sky, Sample in a Jar

Set 2: Peaches en Regalia > David Bowie -> Mind Left Body Jam -> David Bowie, Horn > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Tweezer > Lifeboy > You Enjoy Myself [2], Chalk Dust Torture

Encore: Bouncing Around the Room > Tweezer Reprise

The Mind Left Body Jam's melodic theme (like the MLB theme from Grateful Dead jams) bears a striking resemblance to Marvin Gaye's and Tammi Terrell's You're All I Need To Get By. Bowie (after the MLB Jam) included Three Blind Mice, Dave's Energy Guide, Voodoo Child, and Purple Haze teases. YEM included Frankenstein and How Many More Times teases, as well as a Spam Song vocal jam with a We're Off to See the Wizard quote ("Oz" was changed to "Spam"). The vocal jam also contained a Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque quote. Chalk Dust subsequently contained a full band tease of How Many More Times. This show was released as part of the Chicago '94 box set.

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