The Way It Goes

Originally Performed ByGillian Welch
Original AlbumThe Harrow & The Harvest (2011)
Appears On
Music/LyricsGillian Welch, David Rawlings
VocalsMike (lead), Page, Trey (backing)
Phish Debut2011-09-04
Last Played2011-09-04
Current Gap234
HistorianDan Mielcarz (ColForbin)
Last Update2013-08-29


In the afternoon of 9/4/11 prior to the show, the soundcheck started to circulate through social media.  These 33 minutes of music contained some great jamming on “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” as well as several attempts at playing “The Way it Goes” by Gillian Welch. A dark country-blues meditation on growing old and watching one’s friends die, move away, go to jail or worse - have children, “The Way it Goes” is one of the strongest tracks on Welch’s fifth album, The Harrow & The Harvest

Gillian Welch, "The Way it Goes"

Fans wondered if the soundcheck attempts meant that Phish would play the tune at that night’s show at Dick’s, and indeed they did. Phish’s performance of “The Way it Goes” clocked in at about five minutes and was relatively faithful to the album version, with the most notable difference being the change in instrumentation from the two acoustic guitars in the Welch and Rawlings original. Of note is the care with which Trey and Mike begin the song, ensuring that the tempo was perfect (see the video below). The 9/4/11 version remains the only time Phish has played the song.

“The Way it Goes” 9/4/11 Commerce City, CO

While “The Way it Goes” may have been destined to be a one-time cover by Phish, Mike was not ready to let go of the tune. It resurfaced during Mike’s fall tour on 11/13/11 in Lebanon, NH with a more jammed out and uptempo version. Scott Murawski is clearly more at home in the country-blues milieu than Trey and his playing adds a ton to the performance (not to mention he probably had the advantage of not learning the song four hours before attempting it on stage). A month later at The Egg in Albany on 12/11/11 Mike’s band took “The Way it Goes” to amazing new places. In a 12 minute version of the tune, Mike and his band take a long journey to the very edge of a Type II jam and back to the coda. If you like this tune, and you like Mike (who doesn’t, really?), this is an absolute must hear. This show is generally considered one of Mike’s best, and is available from for free, so what are you waiting for? Grab a copy!

Mike Gordon, “The Way it Goes” 12/11/11 Albany, NY

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