Besides being the most musically important of Phish’s four Halloween performances between 1994 and 1998 (released as Vol. 13 through Vol. 16 of the band’s archival Live Phish series), the group’s rendition of Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, their seminal 1980 collaboration with producer Brian Eno, is simply the best of ’em all. The Heads’ record was a studio masterpiece, layering mysterious synthesizer washes over African polyrhythms to create a distinct textural beauty. It was so intricate that they never played much of the material in a live setting. The members of Phish pushed themselves remarkably for this performance: They added two horn players (Gary Gazaway and longtime Giant Country Horn Dave Grippo) and Santana percussionist Karl Perazzo (who toured with them for several weeks that fall), keyboardist Page McConnell added several synthesizers to his arsenal, and — after several tentative starts — drummer Jon Fishman finally began to sing for real (his voice had previously been used mostly on novelty numbers). Most importantly, it taught the bandmembers to play with a new reverence for minimalism, which helped both snap them out of the creative malaise they seemed to be suffering in for much of 1996 and provide them juice for the reinvention they would undertake beginning in early 1997 (check out both Slip, Stitch & Pass and Live Phish, Vol. 11 for evidence of Remain in Light’s influence). In fact, it was this reinvention as a hippie funk unit that had the band planting seeds for the groove jam band eruption that would follow in its wake. All of that, of course, is immaterial in the wake of the show itself: Phish manages to convincingly pull off Remain in Light in its entirety, as perfect a mix of obscure weirdness, high musicality, and avant-gardisms as the band might ever encounter. The two other sets from that night sound monochromatic in comparison, although they contain their share of fun moments (including one of Trey Anastasio’s story-songs, “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent,” in which the character is terrorized by a giant David Byrne replete with the famed big suit).
The second set “musical costume” was Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. All of the Remain in Light songs were Phish debuts; the set featured Karl Perazzo on percussion, Dave Grippo on saxophone, and Gary Gazaway on trumpet (except for Born Under Punches, which featured Gazaway on valve trombone). Perazzo also played during the entire third set. Jesus Just Left Chicago, Suzy Greenberg, and Frankenstein also featured Grippo and Gazaway. At the end of Houses in Motion (which featured Trey teasing Tweezer), an armchair was brought out to the center of the stage and Mike sat in it to sing Seen and Not Seen. While he sang, Karl Perazzo drummed and Trey played bass. After Overload (which featured Fish singing in front of the band and not on drums), a bizarre on-stage demonstration (including Fish on vacuum) closed the set. The third set opened with a Feel Like a Stranger tease. Suzy included a Born Under Punches tease from Page. The soundcheck’s Overload was performed with horns and briefly featured Fish on vacuum. This show was officially released as Live Phish 15.