On September 4, 2011, Phish played a show in Commerce City, CO at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The final show of their summer tour was immediately lauded by fans for its outstanding merits. It was simply, a great show. But a very tiny event on that evening lead to a yearlong battle where friendships were tested as two sides of a heated argument began. Did Phish tease The Modern Lovers "Roadrunner" during a jam in "Piper?"
During the show there were numerous tweets leaving the venue alluding to this connection. In the following days, the Phish.net working group team debated the merits of this claim in a manner likened only to hyenas fighting over fresh kill. On one side, the defense, a group of individuals who argued that the similarity of the jam so obviously harkened back to the main riff in "Roadrunner" that it would be foolish to ignore the similarity in riff. On the other side, the prosecution, who surmised that the two pieces of music were in no way similar when you compared the melody and rhythm. According to my gmail archive, I have no less than 58 threads containing the term roadrunner. That basically amounts to someone bringing it up more than once a week. Needless to say, it was kind of a big deal, and even when someone brought it up as a joke, it really wasn't a joke.
Fast forward to this weekend in San Francisco. Several people tweeted about and directly emailed the setlist team about a Mumford and Sons tease in Sunday night's "Crosseyed and Painless". Like salt in an unhealed wound the Dick's "Piper" came charging back in, this time with the prosecution presenting the audio included above as evidence. And after much deliberation, under the cover of darkness, the "Roadrunner" tease was removed.
So why was it removed? In simple terms, because the majority of people in the discussion felt that it didn't belong. That's not to say that it doesn't exist (it doesn't but you can believe whatever you choose) but rather that we're not willing to put it in print. Hundreds if not thousands of potential teases are out there, but as outsiders we will never be able to measure the intent of the band. In most cases of these obscure teases, I believe that the band has simply played something in the moment that is resoundingly similar to another piece of music, by accident. There are certainly numerous teases listed in the setlist file that fall into this category as well. From an editorial sense all we can do is review people's "ideas" and the rate them based on a comparison with the original cited material. Sometimes it's obvious, most times it's not. The other problem is that once someone plants the seed in your head, the brain is conditioned to expect it and often times leads you to hearing something that may not be there.
But in the end, the activity is pretty fun and many people enjoy it. That's not going to change. This is one of those special little wrinkles that make Phish so fabulous. We spent a year (collectively) arguing one tiny little point, so insignificant that 99% of people never knew it existed, smarter individuals might say this is a symptom of insanity. So, goodbye Roadrunner tease, you had a great run. Don't let the door hit you as you leave.
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