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Cavern has not been seen in 4 Phish shows.
It was last played: 2024-02-24.
It was played at 23.63% of live shows.
It has been performed live 474 time(s).

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Marshall/Herman

Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)

Debut: 1990-03-28

Historian: Dan Purcell (sausagemahoney)

Is it a nail-biting tale of a daring nighttime rescue mission, or a surreal yarn about a camping trip gone horribly awry? Whichever, the dependable set-closer “Cavern” is one of the most frequently played songs in the Phish songbook. This much is clear: the protagonist is venturing into strange territory where grave danger awaits. His friends admonish him to have one for the road before he leaves. When he finally departs his home base, he faces various unforeseen perils: “primal soup,” “porthole pirates,” and “sanctuary bugs.” But wait: before you start deploying phrases like “fifth-level Magic-User” and “+2 mace,” this isn’t just some arrested-adolescent Dungeons & Dragons fantasy; far from wielding a mighty sword, our hero is armed only with a hedgehog’s spine and his friend Rick’s trusty fork. And in the end, it all would’ve worked out, if only he’d taken care of his shoes.

Except for some early lyric changes – no longer does the narrator attack with an unwieldy knife and leave his poor victim in a pile of excrement, and no more does the chorus mention an Austin Powers-style enlarger pump – “Cavern” has been a rock in Phish’s rotation since early 1990. While it has settled into a comfortable role as a set-closer or encore, initially it was much more versatile, appearing just about everywhere in the setlist. But since fall 1992, well over half of the performances of “Cavern” have come either at the close of a set or during an encore. And no wonder: the song’s straight-up rock feel and fist-pumping climax make it a fitting exclamation point on the end of an evening of more excursionary jamming.

Watch Cavern on YouTube ”Cavern” – 4/5/98, Providence, RI

The early lyrics have returned to the live stage on a few occasions (see 4/4/94, 11/26/97, 4/5/98, and 6/13/00, to name a few) but have largely disappeared. Some have speculated that at least one band member wasn’t necessarily thrilled singing the phrase “penile erector” every night. Whatever the truth may be, the replacement lyrics became quite important, providing the band with the title of its third album and major-label debut, A Picture of Nectar.

Particularly suited to a horn arrangement, “Cavern” was a standout of Phish’s performances with The Giant Country Horns in summer ‘91 and elsewhere. Since then, even when the full horn section hasn’t been available, “Cavern” has featured sit-ins from trumpeter Carl "Geerz" Gerhard – see 11/20/91, 3/24/92, and the 11/20/98 version from Hampton Comes Alive – and the stellar 11/14/94 version offered the dual trumpets of Gerhard and former Sun Ra sideman Michael Ray. Although “Cavern” almost never jams, the band has been happy to play around with its infectious groove. See, for example, the bluegrass interpretation from 4/6/92 (the show that gave us the must-hear “Make Your Own Guacamole Jam”) or a rare split version on 5/5/93, sandwiched around “Take the ‘A’ Train.”

On 11/27/92 the band celebrated Jimi Hendrix’s birthday by peppering “Cavern” with teases of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and “Purple Haze.” Of course, the granddaddy of all quirky versions is from the loose 7/13/94 show at Big Birch, where the band sang “Wilson” over the music to “Cavern,” and then returned to the latter’s final chorus to close the medley. For an interesting twist on the intro, visit 8/8/98, which sees Trey providing the solo intro theme in place of Fishman. And since “Cavern” almost never jams, that means it sometimes has, on very rare occasions. The extended versions from the second Dublin show on 6/14/97 (later honored by Kevin Shapiro at one of his Super Ball IX From the Archives sets) and the closing night of the Island Tour on 4/5/98 (out of a smooth “Possum”) are highly recommended.

Watch Cavern on YouTube ”Cavern” – 9/1/13, Commerce City, CO

Albums: At the Roxy, Hampton Comes Alive, Live Phish 02, Live Phish 07, Live Phish 10, Live Phish 19, Gone Fishin', The String Quartet Tribute to Phish, Coral Sky, A Picture of Nectar


© by Who Is She? Music, Inc (BMI)

Your time is near, the mission's clear
It's later than we think
Before you slip into the night
You'll want something to drink
Steal away before the dawn, and
Bring us back good news
But if you've tread in primal soup
Please wipe it from your shoes

Just then a porthole pirate
Scourged the evening with his cry
And sanctuary bugs deprived
The monkey of its thigh
A dust arose and clogged my nose
Before I could blink twice
Despite the scut that bubbled up
I gave some last advice:

The flesh from Satan's dogs
Will make the rudiments of gruel

Deduct the carrots from your pay
You worthless swampy fool

Exploding then through fields and fen
And swimming in the mire
The septic maiden's gargoyle tooth
Demented me with fire
I drifted where the current chose
Afloat upon my back
And if perchance a newt slimed by
I'd stuff it in my sack

Soon I felt a bubble form, Somewhere below my skin
But with handy spine of hedgehog
I removed the force within
Suzie then removed her mask
And caused a mighty stir
The angry mob responded
Taking turns at grabbing her

The foggy cavern's musty grime
Appeared within my palm

I snatched Rick's fork to scrape it off
With deadly icy calm

The crowd meanwhile had taken Sue
And used her like a rag
To mop the slime from where the slug
Had slithered with the bag

In summing up, the moral seems
A little bit obscure...

Give the director a serpent deflector
a mudrat detector, a ribbon reflector
a cushion convector, a picture of nectar
a virile dissector,a hormone collector

Whatever you do take care of your shoes

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