The Unsafe Bridge

Originally Performed ByPhish
Lyrics ByJimmy Johnson
VocalsLaura Olsher (Narration Samples)
Phish Debut2014-10-31
Last Played2014-10-31
Current Gap372
HistorianParker Harrington (tmwsiy)
Last Update2019-11-20



It is an affliction and anxiety disorder that many people have which makes the sufferer afraid of bridges. When you think about it, there are all sorts of things to be worried about when crossing a bridge. There are scores of bridges that have simply collapsed because of structural integrity issues. Many bridges often span high altitudes which compound the issue for those with a fear of heights (acrophobia) as well. Likewise, many bridges sway in the wind which isn’t particularly good for those with a fear of wind (ancraophobia). Let’s not forget many bridges cross water and people with aquaphobia likely aren’t too thrilled about driving over a large body of water.

The situation is actually so extreme that there are car services that will provide drivers for car owners too scared to cross “scary” bridges on their own. There are many such bridges across the United States that offer such vehicle tender services but perhaps the bridge that it is used most often for is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. This bridge has several providers offering the crossing service dozens of times per day to afflicted drivers.

The seventh track of Disneyland Records' sound effects album Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House deals with such fears. Narrator Laura Olsher had already taken the listener through fears of haunted houses, explosions, animals and other such things to be terrified of. And now, the listener finds themselves on a swaying, rickety, wooden bridge in the pitch black of night spanning over jagged chasms and tall peaks of a mountain range with a “black and bottomless” chasm. The bridge seems “safe enough” which is likely of little comfort to those scared of bridges. 

Phish's take on interpreting “The Unsafe Bridge” and composing original music to it was fascinating. While on the one hand, it had a breezy surf-rock feel to it, it was simultaneously slightly sinister, dark and foreboding which is, of course, the antithesis to surf-rock. Several people have suggested a “Spaghetti Western” feel to the song which is a pretty good description as spaghetti westerns often had quirky music, with a galloping feel to it that climaxed with a big confrontation at the end. In this case, of course, it is the fearful bridge crosser trying to get to the other side. The song proceeds, as does the bridge-crosser with the perilous journey. Fearful screams and a nice build to a small jam with all four band members contributing equally to the song made for another great performance from this Halloween set. Alas, if you were rooting for the bridge crosser, he obviously doesn’t quite make it to the other side as the sound effects of breaking boards and his deathly scream that disappears into the void indicate and mark his demise.

The “The Unsafe Bridge” hasn’t made it to the other side into the Phish rotation after Halloween either. Although, a portion of it has found a home in every performance of "Carini" since 12/31/17, where Page plays the first of two petrifying scream samples after the line "Everyone was screaming when they saw the lump." It was also briefly sampled on “Cinnamon Night” during “I Am The Walrus” along with a half-dozen other songs. Gephyrophobiacs are likely thrilled that “The Unsafe Bridge” has not been performed again, but watch out, there might just be another scary bridge to cross again in the future.

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