Split Open and Melt

Originally Performed ByPhish
Appears On
Also Known AsMelt, SOAM
Phish Debut1989-02-17
Last Played2024-04-19
Current Gap2
HistorianCharlie Dirksen (icculus)
Last Update2016-02-18


Since entering Phish's repertoire in early 1989, “Split Open and Melt” (“SOAM”) has thrilled fans with its ferocious jams. “SOAM’s” complex improv segment is legendary for its time signature, which involves three sections of eight eighth-notes, and then a fourth section with nine eighth-notes in a steady pulse – listen to Fishman’s hi-hat. An excellent live tune, even the studio Lawn Boy version is remarkable: the band recorded both it and “Bathtub Gin” with the money and studio time that they won at the 4/21 and 4/22/89 “Rock Rumble” in Burlington, a local battle-of-the-bands-style competition. The Lawn Boy “SOAM” is also the first track on a Phish album to feature musicians outside of the band, namely, Joey Sommerville on trumpet, Russell Remington on tenor sax, Christine Lynch on vocals, and Dave “The Truth” Grippo on alto sax.

"Split Open and Melt" – 2/16/97, Cologne, Germany

In its earliest incarnations, brass players would sit-in on “SOAM” and create some stunning music. Trey was purportedly quite proud of the horn charts that he wrote for the song. Check out the 10/20/89 version, for example, which was the first to include horns. During its intro, Russ Remington and Dave Grippo’s lights went out, preventing them from reading the music. Not wanting the first horn-augmented “SOAM” to be ruined, Trey stopped the tune and then started it over again. For their July 1991 tour, Phish performed a number of strong versions of “SOAM,” exploiting its strengths as a horn tune while they had the Giant Country Horns on the road with them.

"Split Open and Melt" – 11/6/98, Madison, WI

During the early 1990s, Trey explained that “SOAM” dropped out of their live rotation because, in his view, it had not been meeting its potential. On the night of 4/21/93, however, the band played an awesome, extended “SOAM” that forever changed the way the band felt about the song. “SOAM” then became a regular part of Phish’s tours, having been re-invented to explore greater improvisation. In fact, the band thought so highly of this change and the version that sparked it, that they used the 4/21/93 “SOAM” jam as part of Hoist’s finale, tacked onto the end of the otherwise stunted “Demand.”

While “SOAM” has certainly had its ups and downs over the years, it usually will produce some majestic and mind-bending improvisation once a tour. The version at Coventry 8/15/04 is particularly astounding, as the emotions of that memorable weekend explode from the band’s instruments during its jam. And, more recently, at SPAC on 7/6/13, Phish made “SOAM” rattle and rage, and then dissolve—no, melt—into a spacey, wondrous soup in a manner that hearkened back to “old school” versions.

"Split Open and Melt" – 7/6/13, Saratoga Springs, NY. Video by LazyLightning55a.

Other exciting, notable versions of “SOAM”include: 4/15/89 and 10/22/89 (both with drum solos), 11/30/89 Boston (heavy “Dave’s Energy Guide” teasing); 12/30/92 Springfield; 4/21/93 Columbus (the “Demand” version); 5/13/94 Tempe; 12/7/95 Niagara Falls ("In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" tease); 12/28/95 Worcester; 7/23/97 Atlanta; 8/2/97 The Gorge; 8/10/97 Deer Creek (King Crimson’s “Larks Tongues in Aspic (Part II)”); 7/15/99 Holmdel (strong improvisation, with “Kung”); 12/31/99 Big Cypress; 7/22/03 Deer Creek (opening the second set, melting into “Free”); and 8/15/04 Coventry. Although most versions since Phish returned to the stage in 2009 are unremarkable, the 6/25/10 version from Camden showed flashes of the song's past brilliance. Also, the version on 10/20/10 in Utica, though not itself all that remarkable, sandwiched an amazing version of "Have Mercy" and a decent "Piper" (with a "Birds of a Feather" jam). Nevertheless, "SOAM" continues to be a strong tune in Phish’s repertoire. For an even more extensive examination great “SOAM” versions, please visit its jam chart.

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