Chicago Harpua: The Truth [UPDATED]

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UPDATE: I was contacted again to clarify some facts about the Chicago Harpua. For what it’s worth I think the Phish community deserves to know, so I’m sharing the information I have. See updates below in the facts section.

Phish recently completed a historic three night run of shows in Chicago. After a canceled show and a surprise three set bonanza, fans were once again put to the test when asked to wait through monsoon rains on the third and final night of the run.

Those that waited were greeted with an epic set of music and a hilarious, witty and thoughtful Harpua.

As the dust settled on the Chicago run, everyone started debating the significance of the Chicago Harpua, in person and online. What did it mean? Why did they say that? Why did that girl make the abortion comment? Why did Mike say that was odd? What does “the right way” mean?

People starting writing blog posts and forum entries trying to explain the depth and meaning of every action in that Harpua. The truth is, they’re all wrong. All of them.

I’m not linking to any of them because there’s so many explanations attempting to tie deep meaning to Phish’s silly sense of humor. All of the rebuttal articles and entries are wrong as well.

I spoke to a long-time friend of mine that personally knows the actors that were on stage. He explained quite a bit of the scenario to me.

Here are some cold, hard UPDATED facts:

  • Mike and Fish went to Second City the week prior
  • After the Phish show was cut short on Friday in Chicago, Mike and Fishman played a set with the Second City gang
  • Mike was by himself on thursday seeing the show with his wife
  • A couple of the Second City actors recognized him and asked him to tell stories that they could improvise from
  • One of the Second City actors said the following to me: “Technically that is the Armando, but we didn’t teach him the form nor did we stick to the form in its pure state
  • Mike got up and played the bass at Second City “The Right Way”
  • The actors at Second City taught Mike (and Fish) about Armando Diaz Improv
  • Mike suggested doing Harpua to the rest of the band
  • Mike suggested that he attempt an Armando Diaz exercise on stage within the Harpua
  • Trey suggested the Harpua to the band during the souncheck that the Second City crew was at on Saturday
  • The abortion comment wasn’t planned by anyone and the band was equally weirded out by it
  • One of the Second City actors also said the following to me: “The abortion thing was a bit trey and I batted around at dinner lampooning ‘that one person’ who would always buzzkill when given a mic.

There ya go. All of the deep meanings everyone is trying to associate with the entire thing… Just not true.

Phish simply attempted to bring the Second City cast on stage to perform an Armando Diaz Improv exercise. If you re-listen to the entire act, you’ll notice the band members trading off the spotlight until Mike takes over with the exact definition of what an Armando Diaz Improv exercise is.

“This is a long form, named after its creator, Chicago Improv teacher and player Armando Diaz. This improv format starts with a storytelling-style monologue, based on an audience suggestion. After the monologue, players play improvized scenes inspired by the monologue, and the monologue may even continue, later on in the performance.”


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