I couldn’t let the the 20th Anniversary of the first Red Rocks show go by without a quick post. Spring of ’93 had some great shows, but when we saw Red Rocks on the docket for the summer, we were overjoyed. As most are aware, Summer ’93 was a breakthrough tour and the Red Rocks show is one of many highlights from what still proves to be one of the high marks of the band’s career. I was able to catch the first three shows of the tour, plus Stowe, Jones Beach, Darien Lake, Wolf Trap, Chicago and my birthday show (Kentucky) but due to moving out to California at the exact same time, I wasn’t able to see as many of the shows as I would have liked. In hindsight, missing the Murat is the one I regret most. Every show from this tour has something killer to offer, but everyone was looking forward to Red Rocks as the show of the summer, and it didn’t disappoint.
We got to Denver a day or two before and set up camp at my friend Randy’s house in Boulder. This house had been our home base for all the Colorado shows since ’91. I had never been to Red Rocks before and so we went mountain biking around there the day before the show. Riding around the surrounding area got us even more stoked! We woke up on show day and it was pouring. Ugh. We kept listening to the radio as the show was rumored to be moved over to McNichols Arena due to the rain. Fuck. Still, with no word from the radio or otherwise, we made our way over to the venue around 2PM. It was still gray skies and off and on rain. We pulled in and parked and even though this was the show of the summer, there was a little ticket shack in the parking lot still selling tickets 3 hours before showtime. That’s probably the last time there were tickets available at Red Rocks on the day of. We walked all around meeting up with folks and trying to stay dry and got to hear the soundcheck which was cool. I don’t remember any songs being played but I remember Page trying out all these really cool synth sounds, some that I still have not heard again to this day.
Finally it was time to head in. We had a group of about 10 of us and we walked in with a giant tarp. We were in pretty early (there was no “mad dash” back then) and we walked to just behind the soundboard and claimed our space. At this point it was POURING and windy so we made a shelter with the tarp and we all sat underneath it and hot boxed for like an hour. It was all we could do. Finally we got word that the show was indeed going on as planned:
Set 2: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Slave to the Traffic Light > Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil, My Friend, My Friend > Chalk Dust Torture, You Enjoy Myself > Purple Rain > Hold Your Head Up, Cavern
As the opening notes of Divided Sky rang out, the skies parted and there was not single drop of rain for the rest of the show. It’s an amazing version and everyone was in a state disbelief at the beauty of the venue. The always welcome Harpua was trotted out in a rare second song slot and when they got to the “Look! The storms gone!” line, the crowd gave a collective cheer. This show was full of energy from start to finish. I am not sure how much of it translates to tape but the place was just going off. I felt like I was hanging on to the back of a rocket ship for the whole show. There is great playing throughout. The Wedge is one of my all time favorite versions and was fairly rare at the time having not been played at all on this tour (and not again for another 2 years). The 4th ever version of Ginseng Sullivan was also great, once Trey got his guitar in tune! The Rift and Antelope (listen below) was a solid way to close the set to say the least. The band was obviously loving the venue as much as we were.
The mood during set break was festive and everyone was soaking up the atmosphere and tripping out on the lightning storms we could see over Denver– still, the weather was holding out for us. The band came back on to open the set with 2001 which had debuted earlier in the tour and was already a crowd favorite. This is a short and funky version that leads into my personal highlight of the show, the Slave. An all-time version, this track had eluded almost everyone and was recently brought back the previous week at the Cincinnati Zoo. I had seen almost 125 shows up to this point and had only seen one Slave so I was DYING for it. When they dropped into it from the 2001, I was as happy as I have ever been at any show. It was true moment of bliss. They nail the version too. The rest of the show is great and has some amazing moments but the Slave was really where it peaked for me personally. The YEM>Purple Rain is very, very good and I even liked Cavern on this night. It was one of those shows that they could have come out and played only Cavern and it still would have been amazing (in my opinion). Free Bird sent everyone into the night, giggling down the stairs in amazement of what we had all just experience. This first visit to Red Rocks is a true highlight of all the Phish shows I have seen and I would easily put it anywhere in my Top 10.
Not too long after the shows, maybe in the Fall, a very low gen soundboard popped up. The board is a little sterile in my opinion and does not convey spaciousness of the venue but it was still pretty crisp and we were happy to have it. An MP3 download of that can be found here: http://www.mediafire.com/?8et51aqmw8yob Lossless here: http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=562929
For years and years I tried to track down an audience version of this show without success and I always attributed it to all the rain and wind and figure nobody got a good pull. Well, one B&K source did finally pop up in the last few years and it is surprisingly good. I think a matrix of the two sources might be a winner if someone took the time to do it. The audience source is my personal choice, and it can be found here, in lossless: http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=551745 Sorry, no MP3 link for that one.
Even the flatness of the soundboard can’t tame this Antelope:
And the Slave deserves a listen any time this show is discussed: