a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics Jamming Chart

Roses Are Free

Music/Lyrics: Ween

Vocals: Phish

Original Artist: Ween

Original Album: Chocolate and Cheese (1994)

Albums: Hampton Comes Alive

Debut: 1997-12-11

Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)

Last Update: 2012-07-28

Phish interpreted this typically bizarre Ween song, retaining much of the feel of the original while adapting it seamlessly to their own constantly evolving sound. While some fans may have thought this to be an unusual cover choice, “Roses” simply represents yet another hue in a stylistic palette as rich and colorful as the spectrum of light itself. 

Ween, "Roses Are Free" – Live from Bonnaroo 2002

After its premiere on the fall 1997 tour, Phish wasted no time employing “Roses” as a vital improvisational vehicle. Most notable is the 27-minute version on 4/3/98, which featured a phenomenal jam of multiple, subtle layers that remains a quintessential statement of Phish jamming. Combine that with outstanding versions on 12/31/97 (in the middle of rocking “Mike’s Groove”) and 7/13/99 (leading into the first "NO2" in five years), and your collection is nearly complete. Be sure to pick up the 12/11/97 debut that segued out of a kick-ass “Drowned” jam, which is featured in Bittersweet Motel, including snippets of the song's pre-show backstage run-through. No collection of “Roses” would be complete without the "good..... MORning!" 35-minute pre-dawn monster from The Show on 12/31/99

Phish, "Roses Are Free" – 4/3/98, Uniondale, NY (Part 1)

Phish, "Roses Are Free" – 4/3/98, Uniondale, NY (Part 2)

"Roses" would make only four appearances on the Phish stage over the subsequent decade (see especially 10/1/00 and 6/25/04) but then return to regular rotation in 2010, including appearances among the pristine mountains of Telluride on 8/10/10, during the opening set of the Halloween festivities on 10/31/10 in Atlantic City, and evolving out of “Piper” in the Polo Field of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on 8/12/11. While still appreciated and a fan-favorite cover tune, with these more recent offerings the band is seemingly content with concise renditions compared to the distinctive and exploratory versions from the '90s. That said, check out the excellent 6/8/12 Worcester rendition where the band offers a glimpse of the song’s former improvisational glory.

Phish, "Roses Are Free" – 6/8/12, Worcester, MA

In an amusing side note, at Ween’s 8/4/99 Seattle concert, Gene Ween introduced their own “Roses” by noting Phish’s cover of the tune, and that they started playing it again in order to “reclaim it.”

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Thisisnotafish Reply
An interesting note about Ween "reclaiming" the song. There has always been some weird, almost contempt for 'the scene' by Gene. I remember reading interviews with Gene where he said some strange things about 'the jam band scene'. I think something along the lines of "it makes me want to puke". I understand not being into it, but those are awfully strong words. A band like Ween has morphed genres so many different times, you'd think they would be able to appreciate the improvisational band's nature to explore. I always just assume Ween had some jamming in their style, not because of Phish covering Roses, but because so many of their songs seem like they are ripe for exploration.
Score: 1
CreatureoftheNight Reply
CreatureoftheNight 12-31-99 deserves a write up in the jamming chart. Highly recommended.
Score: 0
Runaway_Jay Reply
Runaway_Jay @Runaway_Jay said:
the roses at hampton this fall seemed like a sign of things to come from this song. maybe well see it get some new life this nye run or in 2014?
Score: 0
Runaway_Jay Reply
Runaway_Jay the roses at hampton seemed like a sign of things to come from this song. maybe well see it get some nice treatment this nye run or in 2014?
Score: 0
nichobert Reply
nichobert Ween at Adirondack Mountain Music Fest in 03 (a fantastic weekend that featured Amon Tobin and El-P a decade before jamband promoters started booking them on the reg, and one of the first few Duo shows) Ween was in the crowd, getting down. They shared our drugs and seemed to have a great time.

Ween isn't known for giving the most straightforward interviews. As you'd expect from the band behind Poopship Destroyer, Put The Coke On My Dick, and Touch My Tooter.
Score: 0
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