On June 22nd, 1994, Phish rolled into Columbus, OH’s Veteran‘s Memorial Auditorium amid the most grueling and, it would turn out, illustrious year of touring in their 10+ years as a band to that point. The band played more than 125 shows in ’94, and more than a few of them still stand the test of time as classic Phish shows to this day. Some were defined by individual jams, some particularly sharp musicianship. But the greatness of 6/22/94 can be attributed more to its angry, chaotic, aggressive energy than to any particular song or jam (although the setlist pretty damn dreamy on its own).
The entire show is top-notch Phish, but if you had to pick one sequence by which to define this show, it’s the anarchical segue-fest sandwiched inside “Mikes Song”. After a second set-opening “2001”, the band maintains the cosmic tune’s cacophonous energy as it quickly descends into a murky, dissonant bass-led bounce. The tension builds quickly and erratically toward the song’s typically big finish, but instead of playing the last few driving notes of”Mike’s Song”, Trey turns full-tilt into the “Simple” theme and the rest of the band follows suit without hesitation. The synth-heavy “Simple” intro gives this version an other type of feel from the start, and after scarcely enough time to register that this “Simple” is going to get out there, Trey and Page guide the ship into blissful major key space. The jam begins to pick up hints of The Allman Brothers Band‘s “Midnight Rider”, which become more and more pronounced until the band finds itself in the midst of a full-blown “Midnight Rider”.
Infused with the eerily beautiful weirdness of a chorally-accented “Catapult”, the Allmans jam flows right back into a hushed, harmony-heavy reading of the “Simple” whence it came. As the song’s intensity builds, you can feel the band becoming more and more unhinged (Trey’s maniacal laugh after “we’ve got saxophones” says it all) before dropping the instruments out of the mix almost entirely and finishing the song’s lyrics a cappella. Then, out of the post-“Simple” swirl, Trey begins strumming a few familiar chords…a familiar song…about a man…a great man…who wrote a book…
“Icculus!” The ultimate outlet for the unhinged and unabashed Phish set. Trey starts his Icculus evangelism right where “Simple” leaves off: “You might be standing on skyscrapers, you might be playing the saxophone, you might be playing bee-bop, you might be playing your cymbal,” Trey postulates over “oohs” and “aahs,” “You might be playing in the NBA Finals [a reference to the ongoing NBA finals between New York and Houston and, supposedly, to a particularly tall fan in a Rockets jersey in the guitarist’s sightline]. But any of those times you’d BETTER HAVE REMEMBERED TO READ THE FUCKING BOOK!”
It’s a fool’s errand to try to explain an “Icculus”. More than it’s a song in the traditional sense, it’s an outlet for aggression, an unruly display of tension and release, a chance for Trey to yell and curse and, you know, just fuck around. You’ll have to check it out for yourself. You’ll either 1) hate it and toil over how people can possibly be so obsessed with this (actually) insane band screaming about a book you’re pretty sure doesn’t even really exist; or 2) love it, and turn your entire life over to the Phish. “Icculus” doesn’t leave a whole lot of middle-ground.
Phish – “Icculus” – 6/22/94
A “Simple” refrain once again pops up after “Icculus,” and that in turn leads back into the last few notes of “Mike’s Song” that the band had forgone the first time around. You may be asking yourself, “what did I just read?” Here it is, written out: Mike’s Song > Simple -> Midnight Rider Jam -> Catapult -> Simple -> Icculus, Simple -> Mike’s Song. Yep, that happened.
Of course, the rest of the set was fantastic as well: After the final “Mike’s” reprise, the band continues with a business-as-usual “Hydrogen” into an unfinished “Groove,” which leads directly into “TMWSIY” > “Avenu Malkenu” > “TMWSIY” (with a digital delay loop jam), “Fluffhead”, an acoustic “My Sweet One,” a “Big Ball Jam,” and a ripping “Jesus Just Left Chicago”—and the first set is no slouch either. Listening through this performance feels almost greedy. With a memorable performance in its own right wrapped around an all-time great “Mike’s Song” medley, 6/22/94 sounds (and reads) like an embarrassment of Phish riches. But thats just how it goes with 1994 shows.
Luckily, the show was released officially by the band (as LivePhish Vol. 10), immortalizing this one-of-a-kind performance in all its glory. You can listen to the show via both Spotify and YouTube playlist below. You can also listen to an audience recording of the show here, if that’s your thing.
Setlist: Phish | Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium | Columbus, OH | 6/22/94
SET 1: Llama, Guelah Papyrus, Rift > Gumbo > Maze, If I Could > Scent of a Mule, Stash, Golgi Apparatus
SET 2: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Mike’s Song > Simple -> Midnight Rider Jam -> Catapult  -> Simple -> Icculus , Simple -> Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove -> The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Digital Delay Loop Jam > Fluffhead, My Sweet One, Big Ball Jam > Jesus Just Left Chicago > Sample in a Jar
ENCORE: Carolina, Cavern