What is it about late April/early May? Are creative juices flowing due to the changing of the seasons? Whatever it is, I am a fan. Let’s look at history. May 6, 1965, Keith Richards first came up with the lick for “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” one of the biggest hits from the Rolling Stones. The first week or two of May 1977 is widely regarded as one of the biggest musical peaks of the Grateful Dead, and May 8th is a Deadhead Holy Day. The Beatles “Let It Be” was released May 8, 1970. Umphrey’s McGee stretches the boundaries of both improvisation and fan interaction with their UMBowls in late April/early May. Phish has many great gigs in May including, but not limited to, 5/24/88, 5/8/93, 5/27/94, 5/22/00, 5/27/11. And of course one of the most famous and loved Phish shows of all time, 5/7/94 The Bomb Factory. Today I will discuss a week long stretch of shows, from May 1st through May 7th, 1992.
If you look at the setlists from May 1-7, 1992 you get a perfect capsule of what Phish was all about at that time. These 6 shows in 7 days have it all: every Gamehendge song except “TMWSIY” and “AC/DC Bag”(which would only get played once all year on 5/16/92), plenty of Secret Language (some rare ones as well), silly antics on stage(Trey sang the "BBFCFM" on 5/2 from the top of his guitar stacks while Mike sang lying down on the floor), cool quotes/teases, and some song rarities like “Sanity,” “Bike,” “Take The 'A' Train,” “Band/Crew Football Theme Song,” and “Shaggy Dog.” The playing throughout the week is quite tight and full of risk/experimentation, even within the more concise confines of pre-TypeII Phish jams. May 1st was show 40 of a 54 show Spring Tour that started a month after A Picture Of Nectar was released, so the band was a well-oiled machine by the time they hit the midwest.
This week of shows also has a unique cultural timestamp, being that they were during the week of the Los Angeles Riots that followed the acquittal on 4/29/92 of the police officers involved with the Rodney King beating. This was publicly referenced by Phish at the 5/2 show, where during “Stash” Trey changed the lyrics from “Police in a corner, gunnin' for you” to “Police pull you over beat the shit out of you” and also changed “Laugh when they shoot you, say ‘Please don't do that’” to “Laugh when they hit you, say "Please don't do that.’" The 5/2 show also featured Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit as the opening band. Phish rarely has had opening bands in their career but around this time period there were a few co-bills with some of the bands that would make up the H.O.R.D.E. tour: Widespread Panic, ARU, Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews Band, etc.
After the conclusion of this tour on May 18th, Phish would only play a handful of headlining gigs the rest of the year until the Fall Tour kicked off in late November. There was the Summer Europe Tour opening for Violent Femmes, then the Summer US Tour that started with a week of solo gigs followed by a month and a half of opening for Santana. The Year ended with a four night New Year’s run.
All 6 of these shows are worth a listen in their entirety, but check the Phish.net setlist pages for standout tracks. My personal favorites overall are May 2nd in Chicago and May 6th in Detroit so if you want a place to start, try those two. Below are links to the setlists and Phishtracks for listening.