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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Breaking Down Phish Covers

Without question, Phish is the greatest cover band of all time. From the Halloween shows to just rare bust outs, any time Phish dials up a cover you can expect a special performance. There are the classics, the standards and the songs that we wish would return to full rotation. Here's my take 25 Phish covers that are just amazing.

Classics (Wait, that's not a Phish song?!?)
1. 2001- The space exploratory jam is a staple of Phish's performances. The lights, the keys and Trey make this the best cover. While there haven't been many 2001's in 3.0 that stand out, this song will forever be the best Phish cover.

2. Ya Mar- Anytime its above 60 degrees outside you can count on me listening to Ya Mar. It's the ultimate happy vibes song that just makes you want to dance on the beach in the Bahamas. The music is incredible too. Between Trey and Page's solos and Mike's funky grooves, Ya Mar stands out as one of the top Phish covers.

3. Funky Bitch- The rocking blues song also gives Trey and Page opportunities to blow away the audience, and another chance for Mike to sing. Always fun and jamming.

4. Loving Cup- The Rolling Stones cover has become a favorite of Phish, culminating with the performance of Exile on Main Street back in 2009. Any time you hear Page play those opening notes you know you are in for a real treat.

5. Cities- When you're checkin it out, Cities emphasizes the ability that Phish has to take someone else's song and literally create it as their own. While it's sometimes straight forward, Cities always has the potential for real improvisation.

Standards (Sweeeeet...I love when they play this)
6. Walk Away- If you want to hear Trey shred, this is the place to go. The James Gang cover has always fit perfectly with Tweezer and always rocks hard. Played four times this summer, Walk Away is another staple of Phish's repertoire.

7. Roses Are Free- Ween is retired, but this song isn't! The song hasn't really gotten the Island Tour treatment in 3.0 but there have been some fantastic moments, such as Worcester this summer. Here's to hoping for a jammed out Roses in NYC.

8. Crosseyed and Painless- Another Talking Heads song, CAP went to a whole new level this summer in San Francisco and has been a fantastic jam vehicle ever since it was first played Halloween 96.

9. Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley- The song was in heavy rotation before a long hiatus, and then the epic bust out on 12.30.97. Now it's hard to go a few shows without hearing Sally at a Phish show. The Robert Palmer cover is always sooooo funky. Gotta love this one.

10. Rock n Roll- The Velvet Underground song has been played, according to, an average of every 6 shows since it's debut on Halloween 98. This song can be straightforward killer rock, or can go places we've never gone before, such as this year's Long Beach Jam.

11. Boogie On Reggae Woman- When a person hears Mike play the funky riff to start this song, their head automatically starts bobbing. This song has had some bright shining moments and often is a great jam in whatever set it's in.

12. Frankenstein- Page on the Keytar is amazing. While only played twice in the last two years, Frankenstein was an integral part of Phish's history in the mid 90's and is still an awesome jam. Phish nails this one.

13. Drowned- The best Page cover. Awesome on the vocals and the keys. Drowned used to be played all the time, but was only played once in 2011 and 2012. Drowned needs to be put back into the main rotation.

14. Peaches en Regalia- When Peaches was played on 12/2/09 it was the biggest bust out at the time. But now Peaches has been played a lot, eight times since the reunion and three times this year. Nonetheless, it's a treat anytime Peaches is played, and it would be amazing if we ever got that Reba->Peaches.

15. Quinn the Eskimo- Quinn has an interesting history. Played a few times in 87, then put on the shelf until it's bust out in Hampton in 98, and then pretty much gone again until 2010. Now it's hard to go a few shows without hearing the Mighty Quinn. Still, Quinn is always a fun jam and a great chance to listen to Mike's vocals. 

16. Bold as Love- While it's not the most sought after Jimi cover these days, it's still a great tune and allows for some Trey shredding. CK5 is often MVP on this one in my opinion.

17. A Day in the Life- One of the greatest songs of all time by the greatest cover band of all time. An instant recipe for success.

18. Good Times Bad Times- This song just makes you wish Phish would cover Led Zeppelin IV on Halloween. They always do a fantastic job on GTBT, but how awesome would it be to hear Evermore, Stairway and Misty Mountain back to back to back. Makes you hope for 2013!

19. While My Guitar Gently Weeps- This song has been in rotation for the most part since it's debut at Glen Falls. That being said, it's only been played 6 times in 3.0, so it would be nice for another shredding from Trey sometime soon.

Hopeful Returns (Wow! I'm so glad I didn't miss tonight's show!!!)
20. Emotional Rescue- This song came out of nowhere in the FUCKYOURFACE show to the delight of many. It would be incredible if the band brought this one back out again and really improvised on it.

21. Izabella- Only played 10 times, and last played 391 shows ago, Izabella IS BEGGING to be played at this New Year's Run. PLEASE PHISH PLEASE!!!! We need IT.

22. Sweet Jane- Sweet Jane was played this summer in Noblesville, so could there be another Jane at MSG? Trey's solo on this is so pure.

23. Tuesday's Gone- Only played once on 7/13/99, this classic song hasn't been touched since and it's doubtful to ever be played again. But if Sweet Jane can be played, can't Tuesday's Gone be played too?

24. Foreplay/Longtime- I'm talking electric. Another one and done. When Phish busted out Skin it Back this summer, it gave every song in the catalog a chance to be played. Nothing would be more awesome than a Foreplay/Longtime opener one night.

25. Terrapin Station- It will never be played again, but it would be remiss not to mention it for the fact that it's Phish covering one of the greatest songs ever, for Jerry, on the anniversary of Jerry's death.

What did I miss? You tell me!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Best Segues of 2012

So yesterday @KernelForbin tweeted "This segue needs to happen..." and it got me thinking about Phish and segues as a whole. First, I gotta say the idea of a Reba->Peaches is priceless, and the thought of Fishman doing the drum fill and exploding into Peaches makes me tingly on the inside.

But it's hard to ignore the fact that 3.0 Phish isn't really about the segue. From 2009-2011, I can't really remember any segue that stands out aside from last year's Chalkdust->Hydrogen on 12/29. When I think of powerful Phish segues, I think of Tweezer->Izabella->Twist from 12.6.97 or the Mike's Groove from the Island Tour. Beautiful transitions that really emphasize the band's cohesiveness. 

Segues came back strong though this year, with a few really shining moments in both Leg 1 and Leg 2. Here are my two favorites from Leg 1 and Leg 2.

Second night of the tour and the band was already in full throttle. Trey was teasing Nellie Kane during the funk and slowly shifted into the Bluegrass. Random and uncomfortable? No fucking way. This was a great segue and kept the grooves alive and well. Fishman just picks up on the beat and the band transitions into Bluegrass. Beautiful stuff here. 

Page is nasty on the organ here as is the band. Trey's solo picks up the pace of this as the band starts moving fast and forward before Fishman oh so quickly changes the beat to Back on the Train. Trey's guitar follows and the band segues right into BOTT. Another awesome segue. 

This transition comes from the ending of a fantastic Light with Page rocking with Mike following right behind. The two pair up together before Fishman comes in with a light drum beat. Mike and Trey work together to build up the momentum before Page kills it with a nice soft funky riff as the band just keeps on building higher and higher together. Ultimately they come together, building and working with one another, before Trey rips this song apart. Trey's fire on the guitar with Fishman rocking the beat. Mike then takes control of the bass as he and Trey grin and decide to play Sally. Just unbelievable. My favorite moment of the year.

Following inspiring guitar play from Trey at the end of an epic Sand jam, the band starts to return to the core of the Sand beat. Slowly the beat changes though as Mike takes the lead. Mike starts playing Ghost while the rest of the band is still playing Sand. The transition is seamless and Fishman keeps the place rocking by transitioning right into Ghost. The band hops on board the funk train and rides it long and hard.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Will Be the NYE Gag?

One of the most fun aspects of the New Year's show is whatever stunt the band has planned for the ball drop. In 3.0 we've seen the Cannon Ball stunt with Fluffhead in Miami, the flying hot dog and dancers during Meatstick at MSG in 2010 and last year's flying fans during Steam. Recent rumors have led to the thought of an "M-S-G" theme, starting with Meatstick in 2010 and ending with a "G" song this year.

Under the theory that they are playing to "M-S-G," I would have to bet that the song would be Ghost. Ghost, a classic on New Years Eve, and a fan favorite, is dying for the ball drop treatment. There are endless possibilities on how to perform the Ghost if it is indeed the stunt song.

The first theory is with holograms. The rise of holograms this year and the new technology available makes me think that Phish would 100% get holograms of themselves playing next to them on stage. Wouldn't that be awesome? The Ghosts of Phish past come back to reunite with the band on the eve of 2013, their 30th anniversary year.

Another thought is to have Ghost not centered around the band, but Ghosts in general. The Ghosts of the Mayans and all those that lead to the End of the World could be an interesting spin on the song and a nice shout out to this year. Especially with the tickets all summer long and inevitable "2012 The World is Ending" phenomenon, it would be fitting to have Ghost carry us into 2013.

If dreams came true, the song would be Harpua though, and the band would finally bring back a long story featuring Mayans, the end of the world and of course, Jimmy. With all of Trey's friends on Broadway, I'd like to see any song given the story and narration treatment. But Harpua, which hasn't been played in a year and a half, should be the NYE gag song.

But if it's not Harpua, and it is indeed a G song, another possibility could be Golden Age. Golden Age has been one of the most played songs of 3.0 and clearly has emerged as one of the band's favorite jam vehicles. The band ripped this song apart especially hard this summer, and could be playing in the "Golden Age" of Phish right now. Imagine a Golden Age jam with gold everywhere in the Garden. I'm sure the band will think of much cooler stuff, but this seems plausible and highly realistic.

Last year about a week before the New Years show, a buddy of mine and I got to talking about the gag and jokingly called for Steam, not thinking there was a chance Phish used their one special slot all year for a new song with no history. Sure enough the song was Steam, and many people at the Garden were "underwhelmed."

In my opinion, it wasn't that the song was bad or anything like that, but the pure fact that we predicted this song days before and that it was played was...well, weird. With Phish, it's supposed to be all shock and surprise, and the choice of Steam not only symbolized predictability for the gag, but overall how predictable the band had become during the 4-night run. Plus, the song selection in Set III was a disaster, but that's another story.

After an amazing summer of patience and improvisation this year, I fear that a possible Golden Age jam could yield the very same mixed results of shock, surprise and disappointment that Steam did last year.

It's not that Golden Age isn't a good song, in fact the band absolutely kills it when they play it. They played it in the second set of NYE last year. But this year feels more special, there have been some truly incredible IT jams, and it wouldn't feel right having a cover song ring in the new year, especially when there are calls for Harpua, Ghost, or even Gamehendge!!!!!

Imagine that! If after 30 years, the band decided to do a spectacular of Gamehendge right on Broadway at MSG.

Whatever it is, there we can only hope that the music itself is what stands out. The gag and stunt is always fun, and even funner to guess and wish. What do you want to see as the time strikes midnight?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Phishmas Wish List

Its now two weeks away from Christmas, and 17 days away from Phish's return to the stage. When I think about last year, the first thing that comes to mind is the NYE song, Steam. Steam, in my opinion, represented the New Year's Run perfectly.

The song was straightforward hard rock that ultimately was rushed to the finish when the band was nearing midnight. The entire run was rushed, with the band, specifically Trey, constantly changing the song all the time and far too quickly before the band ever had a chance to get into a real groove.

So my number one wish is for more patience. If the band can get up on the stage and just relax and let the grooves come like the Island Tour, this NYE Run has the propensity to be the best four days ever. There is just too much hype, probably too much that it could lead to failed expectations for some, coming off of the Dick's run. But that was 3 months ago! So what can we realistically hope and wish for? Here are my 10 things I'd like to see during the run.

1. The Return of Jimmy and his Cat
Because all good Christmas stories start....with an oom pah pah. It's been a year and a half since we've heard from our good pal Jimmy. Harpua hasn't been played since Father's Day when everyone's dad came out on stage to do a portion of the "Your Cat Died" part. The rumors have been circling around the Internet for some time now about a possible Harpua at midnight. Whether they are rumors, or just wishful dreams from the masses, it's clear that many people, including myself, are dying to hear a good Harpua. There's just something special and timeless about Harpua, especially at the Garden. Just think how amazing 12.30.97 was. One of my favorite moments. Everyone has been joking about something Mayan, with the end of the world and the tickets all summer, so could there be a crazy story about Jimmy and the Mayans? Could it be Beiber? I don't care what it is, I just am praying to Icculus for the return of Harpua.

2. Funky Tube
Tube is one of those songs that when I hear it live, part of me always gets overly excited, and the other part just gets depressed knowing that in 4 minutes the song will be over. Tube hasn't been given the Fall 97 treatment in 3.0, and not once has really expanded into any sort of memorable jam. Yeah there have been good Tube's, but has there been anything like the 12.29.97 Tube? These are memorable garden jams, and I'm looking for the return of a funky Tube, staring none other than Page and Mike.

3. Llama Opener
We've only heard Llama seven times since Hampton '09. Llama hasn't been played at any of the New Year's Runs since '09, so there's no better time than to kick start the 28th with kick ass machine gun Trey right out the gate. Regardless, any night with a Llama opener will be real special. Besides, anything Gamehendge related gets me excited for a huge night.

4. More Gamehendge
Last year we only got three Gamehendge songs, two of them Wilson and AC/DC Bag. The Sloth opener on Night 2 was fun before the breakout YEM, but where is Tela, The Lizards or McGrupp? Forbin come back to us please! Perhaps with Trey's new friends on broadway they can put together some sort of Gamehendge show for the 30th Anniversary/New Years. In all seriousness though, there should really be some more Gamehendge songs played, specifically The Lizards.

5. Bringing Back Old Covers
This summer saw the return of some great songs and hilarious hijinks. Now that we got Cracklin Rosie and Purple Rain back, wouldn't Sexual Healing be nice? Maybe Foreplay/Longtime or Freebird even for the New Years treat. Skin it Back was an amazing bust out opener at Jones Beach this summer, and with throwbacks to Halloween like Sweet Jane and Happiness is a Warm Gun, you have to believe any and all covers are back in play. Emotional Rescue was even played at the Dick's run. This means one thing. PLEASE BRING BACK IZABELLA. If there is any song, aside from Harpua, to play this run, it's Izabella. Please guys, if you're reading this, we want it! After the release of the new Live Phish in Detroit with the fucking ill Tweezer -> Izabella and the rich history of Izabella at the garden, there's no better time to bring Izabella back to life. Other old covers would be fun, too. Crossroads?

6. A New Year's Mike's Groove
Mike's was famous in the 90's for its role in New Years Runs. 1995 Mike's Groove is possibly the best jamming ever. There hasn't really been a great Mike's Groove in 3.0 until this summer in the Mike's Simple Light Groove in PA. Last year's featured a cool Chalkdust into Hydrogen segue, but like many of the other versions, has been standard and replaceable. This run is primed for Mike's to bust out. I would love a Mike's opener on NYE to get the party rocking, and this time with an extended jam all around in the groove. Let it breathe.

7. Themed Set
Some of my favorite Phish, and some of the best played Phish, results when the band puts strict limitations on song selection. The jamming is then emphasized and the band can let loose and explore within the limits of the song choices. Think about the S show, the Elements set of UIC '11 or the recent FUCK YOUR FACE show. Maybe an all animal set list (Harpua, Lizards, Possum, Birds of a Feather, Llama,  McGrupp, etc.) would be cool. I am a geek. I love and appreciate the antics. I would love a themed set. Maybe even playing a full album live?

8. Jammed out ACDC Bag or Down with Disease
Two historic jams come from that New Years Run in 1997, with ACDC Bag and Disease standing out as amazing jams. Bag opened the second set on the 30th and Disease did on the 29th. Both have had their proud moments at the Garden during New Year's Runs past. Recently, and for the most part of 3.0, Bag has been simple, never played with much improvisation. Disease has had its' moments. A Run filled with an exploratory Bag and Disease would be awesome though. The band needs to give these classics the treatment they gave Sand at Dicks.

9. A Recharged and Memorable YEM
There haven't been many memorable YEMs recently. It doesn't feel right unless there is a memorable YEM during a 4 night stand. When I think about YEM, I think about New Years '95, a memorable jam that every fan knows. Or like December 9, 1995. Just the other day was the anniversary of the unbelievable version. YEM needs to come back to MVP form, and there is no better time than now. Lastly, who wouldn't love a good rotation jam? :)

10. Anything like Dick's Light
Plain and simple, if they play anything with the same energy and beauty as this, I'll be more than satisfied. The last few minutes of this Light are some of the best Phish, and easily the best 3.0. If they play anything with this much power, with IT, IT will be incredible.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Funky Fall '97: Three Awesome Grooves

In the month of December I always like to listen to some of the best shows from the month's rich history. In 1997 Phish played some of their best music ever in the month of December, really emphasizing the swampy funk or cow funk, whatever you want to call it, in all of their jams. When I think of Fall 97 funk I instantly think of two shows: December 6 at the Palace at Auburn Hills and December 29, the first night of a 3 night run at MSG.

The Fall 97 tour is known for some fantastic shows, including 3 unbelievable shows in Hampton, VA and Winston Salem, NC. When it changed from November to December, Phish really took it up a notch, and here are 3 of my favorite examples of the rich groove funk that I dream about daily.

From time to time we hear little remnants of the 97 funk in 3.0 music. One can think of the Tube from Atlantic City this summer. It was heard all throughout different jams at Dicks. But these three bites from  different songs in 97 are just so funky and down right nasty, I had to make a mix of it.

The three songs featured are Tube, from 12.29.97 (0:00-8:11), Izabella, from 12.6.97 (8:12-13:16), and Antelope from 12.29.97 (13:17-17:00). CLICK HERE TO JAM!!!!!

After an absolutely devilish Down with Disease, capping in at nearly 23.5 minutes, with features some really nice play by Page and Trey, the band segues into an amazing Bowie. The two songs show the band's fearless 97 jamming before seamlessly transitioning into what may be the best Possum ever (4.05.98 anyone?). The Possum Cant Turn You Loose is always fun, but the real meat comes next. After the three songs one would expect a cool down before a set closing YEM, but instead, the band threw down a 10 minute funk fest that will live in the hearts of Phish fans forever.

The next clip is from Izabella which is sandwiched in between an unbelievable second set opening Tweezer and a funky as fuck Twist. The Izabella features Page on organ with Trey's subtle grooves in the background before letting Mike take over. This version is more focused on the full band groove as opposed to machine gun Trey. Just pure beauty this one.

Lastly, I featured the grooves of our first set closer from 12.29.97 at MSG. This Antelope has some unbelievable Mike playing here. Another example of the funk I'm looking for.

If we can get any jams like this at this year's New Years Run I'll cry of joy. For now, let's just listen and enjoy. Feel free to share your favorite funky jams!