|Originally Performed By
|Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
|Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Back in the proverbial day, the first show of the year coming off a break would often yield at least a few debuts of new Phish original songs. Since Phish returned to the stage in 2009, this tradition of unveiling new songs in bunches at tour openers had fallen by the wayside. After the Joy batch in 2009, over the next few years new song output slowed to a trickle – relative to Phish’s prodigious historical output – with most “new to Phish” songs making the jump to the big leagues from individual band member side projects. Then the new song stream returned to raging river status in a one-two explosion bunched on single days, flipping the tradition of the Halloween cover album with the new originals of Wingsuit-cum-Fuego on 10/31/13, and then their ground-breaking reinterpretation of Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House on 10/31/14.
So when Phish rolled into Bend, Oregon on 7/21/15 to open their summer tour, what was once commonplace was now a bonus surprise, as three new Phish originals made their debut: “Blaze On,” “Shade” and “No Men In No Man’s Land.” Along with “Mercury” that debuted the following night, these songs were the result of songwriting session with Trey and Tom Marshall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in February, 2015. While musically stylistically diverse and filling very different roles as new entrants into the Phish repertoire, as a set these songs reflect a songwriting team that has matured considerably, exploring introspective themes that find the team grounded on the other side of many of life’s challenges.Grateful Dead, "Dancin' in the Streets," 4/26/77, Passaic, NJ
The proximate event that exerted most influence on “No Men in No Man’s Land” specifically was Trey’s participation in the Fare Thee Well Grateful Dead reunion shows in early summer 2015. While “Dancing in the Streets” didn’t appear in any of the Fare Thee Well performances, apparently Trey’s time living in Jerry Garcia’s head preparing for these shows dropped at least a few great ideas for later use. In “No Men In No Man’s Land” Trey employs Jerry’s signature guitar effect from the late 70’s version of “Dancing” – the Mu-tron envelope filter. The use of the Mu-tron is by no means the only resemblance “No Men” bears to the Dead’s version of “Dancing in the Streets,” as the song’s spirited tempo not only suggests but demands vigorous body movement.
The 7/21/15 debut of “No Men” wasted no time stretching its legs, an almost ten minute exploration deep in the heart of a second set “Mike’s Groove.” The sophomore outing opened the second set at the LA Forum on 7/25/15, a twelve-minute-plus dance party that exploded out of the gate and never let up, finally yielding to “Carini.” The next few versions spiced up excellent first sets on 7/31/15 Atlanta and 8/4/15 Nashville, before taking its first show-opening slot on 8/8/15 at Alpine Valley. On 8/12/15 at The Mann in Philly, “No Men” returned to the second set in a huge way, sandwiched between an excellent set-opening “Bathtub Gin” and what was among the best jams of the tour, a monster 22-minute “Twist” in a five-song second set widely considered one of the best of the 3.0 era. The Mann version took a turn from the song’s danceable funk foundation and explored more of a harder rock edge, a trend that continued in the second set of the spectacular first day of the Magnaball festival.
A note on the lyrics: six of the seven early performances include the following lines in the final mid-jam verse:
The loss of all motion
The absence of sound
When there’s no sun to circle around
We are the no men in no man’s land
"No Men" from 7/31/15 is the only version of the first seven that does not contain the lines. The version from 8/4/15 was the only one to have the lines sung after the jam. This verse was dropped from all performances from 9/5/15 onwards, including the studio version on Big Boat released on October 7, 2016.”No Men In No Man’s Land” – 8/12/15, Philadelphia, PA
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