a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Blog The Story of the Ghost (revised jam chart)

Posted 2015-02-28 7:00 pm by Dog_Faced_Boy - 6 comments

Since the jam chart team has just published a revised chart for Ghost, we thought it would be informative, and perhaps even interesting (for some) to learn more about the process of updating a major jam chart. Ghost is a cherished, fan-favorite jamming song. Going in to this process, we knew that the results would be closely scrutinized, debated, and that we would draw the ire of those who disagree with some of our decisions, like which versions to highlight.

Why did we even feel the need to tinker with the Ghost jam chart? First, the former Ghost chart was assembled in a hurried and somewhat haphazard manner, part of a much larger effort to introduce a new and improved jam chart format that occurred in December 2013. Second, a quick glance at the (now) former chart gave us reason to believe that the chart was overlooking important versions, and underrepresenting particular years. Consider these statistics: the former chart had thirteen versions from 1997 and two from 1999. Likewise, 2003 and 2004 were represented by five total versions, and we inherently knew that the 2.0 era is particularly strong from a jamming perspective. So we set out to do a comprehensive review of all 133 live performances of Ghost, seeking to ensure that a revised chart did not overlook any strong improvisational versions, and that the final chart would reflect the entire performance history of Ghost, covering the high water marks across all years and eras. The team consisted of Marty Acaster (@Doctor_Smarty), Pete Skewes-Coxe (@ucpete), Andrew Stavely (@Westbrook) and me. Below is a description of the processes we employed:


Blog In Memoriam: Harris Wittels

Posted 2015-02-21 9:30 am by phishnet - 14 comments

We at were greatly saddened to hear of the untimely death of phan Harris Wittels, host of the hilarious Analyze Phish podcast and writer for Parks and Recreation (among many other comedic endeavors). To remember him, we turned to Nathan Rabin, author of You Don't Know Me But You Don't Like Me, a memoir of his experiences following Phish and the Insane Clown Posse. Nathan appeared on Episode 7 of Analyze Phish to discuss his book and attempt to help Harris convince co-host Scott Auckerman of Phish's greatness. He is the former head writer for The A.V. Club and currently a staff writer at The Dissolve.

Remembering Harris Wittels

By Nathan Rabin (@nathanrabin)

At the age of 30, Harris Wittels had the kind of credits men twice his age would be proud to claim. He’d written for three of the best, most groundbreaking and beloved sitcoms of the past twenty years in The Sarah Silverman Program, Eastbound & Down and Parks & Recreation, where he was an Executive Producer and could be found in some episodes wearing a Phish tee shirt and playing a hapless guy named Harris.

Harris was an essential part of the Comedy Bang Bang podcast before fusing two of his great loves: podcasting and Phish, into his brilliant podcast Analyze Phish. As if all that weren’t impressive enough for one lifetime he was also a gifted stand-up comedian, talented drummer with Don’t Stop Or We’ll Die, a columnist at Grantland, the coiner of the term of Humblebrag and the author of the book spun off the column.

Yet Harris was so much more than the sum of his incredible credits that it felt maddening and reductive to see obituary headlines that referred to him as a Parks & Recreation producer or Humblebrag coiner because the whole of Wittels was so much greater than the sum of its remarkable parts.


Blog Remembering Eric Vandercar

Posted 2015-02-13 3:55 pm by Icculus - 19 comments

On Tuesday, February 3, 2015, the improvisational rock community lost a brilliant and generous man in Eric Vandercar. While commuting home from work to his wife, his teenage son, and young daughter, Eric’s northbound train hit a car at a crossing in Westchester County, NY. It was the deadliest train crash in the history of the Metro-North line, which is the second most-ridden commuter railroad in America (second only to the Long Island Rail Road).

For several decades, Eric taped and circulated the shows of many bands, including Phish, Grateful Dead, moe., Spin Doctors, The Radiators, and others. Copies of several hundred of the shows that he taped circulate on the Live Music Archive, for example. His love of the music so many of us share in common cannot be overstated. And his generosity in circulating that music was, and continues to be, both magnificent and inspiring.


Blog Supernumerary Shows: a Discovery!

Posted 2015-02-13 12:13 pm by Lemuria - 11 comments

A "Triple Nipple" refers to any show in which Phish plays all three* of their original songs that refer to nipples**: "Fee", "Punch You in the Eye", and "The Sloth". They've been an item of amusement for decades. But even the FAQ's Triple Nipple page has until recently had the numbers wrong.

Corrected numbers reveal something that's long been elusive, partly because we didn't even know to look for it: There have only been two such shows, such that the next one will be the one, the only, Third Triple Nipple - the cubed cube, the apex of nubbin allusion, the supernumerary of supernumerary shows.


Song History Song History: Roggae

Posted 2015-02-11 8:33 pm by Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty) - Link:

"If life were easy, and not so fast, I wouldn’t think about the past.” That is to say, if the years did not fly by so quickly, we might not have to take the occasional moment to reflect upon what it is about the people, places, and events of days gone by that shape our current perceptions of ourselves. ...

Song History Song History: Dem Bones

Posted 2015-02-08 10:21 am by Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty) - Link:

When the prophet Ezekiel had his vision in the Valley of the Bones foretelling the resurrection of Israel, he likely did not have the Phish New Year’s Eve 2014 suck to blow gag in mind. Neither could he have imagined the circuitous path that would lead to his prophecy being transformed into the song Phish selected to preface the gag which culminated in a giant Fishman balloon releasing a golden shower of confetti on the crowd gathered below. ...

Blog I Hope This Happens Once Again

Posted 2015-02-07 10:20 pm by Dog_Faced_Boy - 6 comments

The following reflections on the Miami New Year’s Run come to us from an old time Phish fan who last saw the band on July 26, 1992, at the Big Birch Concert Pavilion in Patterson, NY. On that date in 1992, Phish played a 1-set, 7-song opener for Santana. To underscore the significant gap in time between shows, the last time the writer saw Phish, more than 22 years and 1011 Phish performances ago, Bill Clinton had not yet been elected President. The writer is a musician and bard himself, and here are his unedited reflections on seeing Phish for the first time in 22 years:

"When I think of Phish, I think of phar out melodies and a phuriously phunky rhythm section. If I could I surely would dance till the lights came up and when they did I would shout out loud "Whoo Hoo!". Phunking all right!

Phish is the little band that could. Trey, Page, Michael and Jon, old buds who formed and forged their sound in the little old state of Vermont. They stuck together through the turbulence and turmoil and learned how to make magic. It always begins with a little love, some sweet nectar and a dream.

Now my love does not eat meat, so I am going Phishing. Won't you join me?


Blog Phish picks Seattle over New England

Posted 2015-02-06 12:13 pm by Lemuria - 33 comments

Until last fall, every announced tour brought a common lament: "West Coast screwed again." But the data has a different refrain: While the West Coast gets plenty of love, it's the band's home turf that gets routinely shafted - and moreso across the band's history.

The mantra "follow the line going south" did not emerge in lyrics or tour patterns until 1987, following four years solely in New England. By 2014, Phish had abandoned Patriots territory - but they still played Seahawks city.

And last fall was hardly an anomaly. There have been more shows in Pacific states than New England ones in 12 of 23 periods - including 1997 and 2004, in particular. New England has even fallen behind non-US shows in six periods!


Blog Mondays are Unusual... Again

Posted 2015-01-30 12:13 pm by Lemuria - 6 comments

As far as we know, Phish didn't play any Monday shows their first two years. And except for some regular gigs in 1988, Monday (and the first half of the week) remained less likely to have a show for most of their history. I know, you're not surprised... But there are two interesting twists in the pattern.

Weekly bubble matrixFirst, the distribution of shows across the week became more even throughout the 90s. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were played 2-3 times as often from '89 to '94. But by '97, Wednesday was just as common as Saturday; and by 2000, even Monday tied with Saturday! Gone were the days of booking weekend gigs at clubs in college towns; Phish could play anywhere, any night of the week.

But since the breakup, weekend shows are, once again, twice as likely as Monday. And now, even Thursdays are slipping away. The aggregate pattern now is fewer weeks, and 5 shows in each of them: Tues/Wed and Fri/Sat/Sun. (Two coming graphs will delve more into the related shift towards multiple-night runs in each venue.)


Song History Song History: Tube

Posted 2015-01-15 2:28 am by Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo); Craig DeLucia - Link:

“Tube” is the musical version of a quickie. Time is a-wastin’ so let’s get down to business. “Tube” is the first component of the quasi-official “Tube Trilogy” along with “First Tube” and TAB’sLast Tube,” though it should not be confused with the apparently unrelated “Tube Top Flop” from TAB or “Fresh Tube” from Page’s Vida Blue project. The original “Tube” combines quirky Fishman-penned lyrics that reference asteroids crashing, tigers in lily patches, and even singer Robert Palmer (though few can decipher the ending lyrics well enough to know what he is doing!) with a fast, shuffle-style verse and a groovy jam in the middle. ...

Song History Song History: Harry Hood

Posted 2014-12-10 1:58 pm by Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo) - Link:

Anyone living in the Northeast US over the last few decades is likely familiar with the Hood dairy company's advertising campaigns and it's signature character, Harry Hood. The little animated milkman in the fridge would proudly rattle on about his company’s dairy products when the "unsuspecting" folks opened their icebox doors. ...

News Mockingbird Announces Ambassadors

Posted 2014-11-14 4:31 pm by Lemuria - 15 comments - Link:

The Mockingbird Foundation is proud to announce a new program recognizing key supporters of its core mission through a new annual process.

Many people beyond the Foundation's formal structure invest significant time, care, and effort into building and improving the Foundation's intellectual property, services, relationships, and grant funds. They have coordinated or administered events for the Foundation, represented the Foundation in some official capacity, or otherwise helped fulfill the Foundation's mission in some exceptional manner. As an all volunteer organization, these individuals provide critical, direct or indirect support of our greater goal: the furthering of music and arts education for children.

In recognition of past work on behalf of or to benefit the Foundation, the board will identify Mockingbird Ambassadors each November. The longterm intent is to identify perhaps five such Ambassadors each year. However, the inaugural cohort is a larger group, of ten individuals each overdue for a public expression of our appreciation, debt, and support.

The 2015 Mockingbird Ambassadors are:

It is our honor to have each of them serve as Mockingbird Ambassadors for 2015.

Song History Song History: Frankie Says

Posted 2014-11-13 9:17 am by Grant Calof (That_Guy) - Link:

Unconfirmed rumors surrounding a spring tour (mini tour, small club dates, etc) used to circulate every year, but in 1998 those rumors thankfully proved true. “The Island Tour” came as briefly as it went, but it drenched the east coast with a handful of new tunes, and thus (in the days before LivePhish, Twitter etc) a handful of new arguments over their correct titles. Debates over the burgeoning threat of the new world order or the possibility of invasion by sentient beings from another plane of existence take a distant back seat to a roomful of passionate fans deconstructing the name of a new Phish tune from sparsely gathered lyrics after its debut. “That girl in the Gamehendge Ranger shirt said that song was “Relax,” but the kid with every backstage pass around her neck says it’s called “Roggae”…”...

Song History Song History: Free

Posted 2014-11-11 11:27 am by pzerbo, lumpblockclod - Link:

"Free" was one of six Phish originals that debuted at the Lowell benefit concert on 5/16/95. Fans quickly took to the song, which tells of a man who contemplates throwing his wife from the boat on which they sail. In fact, a minor lyrical change from earlier versions was released on the Billy Breathes version of the song and all subsequent live performances; this change from “as we go sliding by” to “as the ship goes sliding by” cemented the song’s imagery....

News Announces LivePhish+

Posted 2014-10-28 3:25 pm by TheEmu - 38 comments - Link: has announced a new service, LivePhish+, which will allow access to the entire LivePhish catalog on demand.


LivePhish+ gives you unlimited access to the entire LivePhish catalog, including the latest shows, archive releases, studio albums and side projects. Sign up for a free 10-day trial, and then continue your LivePhish+ subscription for $9.99/month or $99.99/year. Non-subscribers may continue to use the new LivePhish App to stream shows in your Stash as well as Featured Shows rotating on a regular basis.

More information on the service is available through

Song History Song History: Soul Shakedown Party

Posted 2014-10-22 9:46 pm by Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo) - Link:

Walk the narrow streets of Amsterdam, and it is hard to travel very far before seeing some tribute to Bob Marley. Given the obvious admiration members of Phish have demonstrated toward Bob Marley it was no great surprise for them to debut a Marley cover during their second ever visit to Amsterdam. “Soul Shakedown Party” opened Phish’s appearance at Amsterdam’s historic Paradiso on 2/17/97. After one more appearance on 2/20/97 in Milan, Italy, the song then went back into mothballs, gone and seemingly forgotten before even one performance on American soil....

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