Friday 12/15/2023 by phishnet

40 FOR 40: JAMS (PART 3)

To recognize and celebrate the first 40 years, presents “40 for 40” featuring curated selections by the community to highlight important aspects of the band’s history. Each Friday before the NYE weekend, we present 10 jams to enjoy that represent the depth of Phish’s incredible live improvisational performances across the decades.

As part of the celebration of this incredible milestone, please contribute to Mbird during the “40 for 40” campaign to recognize the great resources and community that provides and to support Mbird’s powerful grant-making work for music ed programs across the US currently totaling $2.4 MILLION. To donate, visit is also actively updating and improving our coding and content and could use your help, so if you are interested in joining the site team, visit

This is the third installment of the series. Check out the first here and the second here.

7/1/00Ghost” by Bizarro_Jerry (Scott Marks) - Mockingbird Foundation Director & Setlists Team Editor

This “Ghost” has one of the most ferocious builds you're going to find in any Phish jam. Long and drawn out, the tempo and intensity eventually pick up and head toward a fiery finish

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12/31/95Weekapaug Groove” by tweezer (Drew Hitz) - Mockingbird Foundation Director & "Mike’s Song" Consultant

With rare exceptions, the third set of a Halloween or New Year's Eve show can't hang with the first two sets. They tend to be shorter and more predictable, more of a “bow on top” of a huge show rather than a stand-alone creative statement. The most obvious exception to this rule is the third set of 12/31/95, a show many consider the greatest-ever Phish show of all time (at least in the Non-Big Cypress Category).

This set features one of the greatest versions of “You Enjoy Myself” of all time, “Sea and Sand” calling back to the ‘95 Halloween musical costume, and the first “Sanity” in a year and a half after a 147 show gap. But, immediately following the “Time Factory” gag and “Auld Lang Syne” to open the third frame, the set was anchored by arguably the greatest “Weekapaug Groove” of all time: an 18 minute tour de force featuring all four members taking turns leading that fully encompasses everything that makes December '95 one of the best months in Phish history.

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7/9/03Bathtub Gin” by uctweezer (Peter Skewes-Cox) - Mockingbird Emeritus & Staff Volunteer

2003 was a banner year for "Bathtub Gin," with three incredibly exploratory versions (Forum, Cincy, Nassau) played in a two week stretch on the famed winter tour, but the longest "Gin" of the year happened at Shoreline on the third night of summer tour. For me personally, this night was a special one, as I had just graduated college and would catch the Shoreline and Gorge shows, my first time doing a multi-city run of Phish.

The band was refreshed and, equipped with an album (Round Room) full of fresh jam vehicles, Phish seemed ready to evolve into its next lifestage. IT was the pinnacle of that feeling before everything went off the tracks a year later, but for this moment in time in the summer of 2003, life–and Phish–seemed full of endless possibilities.

This "Gin" epitomizes those feelings, and carries a celebratory dancegroove throughout the better part of the rendition. Like many of the must-hear "Gin"s, this one winds its way through multiple different sections–think Murat '93, Riverport '98, Gorge '09, Magna '15, Greek '23–before ultimately landing in a narcotic haze typical for Phish "2.0."

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7/24/18Carini” by mpryz (Mike Pryzbylski) - Mockingbird Foundation Director

This “Carini” for me was one of those jams when I could not wait to give a relisten after they finished it during the show. It's been a regular in my rotation when looking for a great “Carini” since that night. Once they go into the jam after barely three minutes of the song, it’s a fun four-part groove that keeps on giving.

While it does not get dark like a lot of great versions of “Carini” do, instead it flows incredibly well toward a bright Trey solo and fist-pumping peak. Fishman’s drumming shines throughout the entire song, and the band plays cohesively setting up into the always welcome “Maze” hi-hat and snare taps.

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11/11/98Halley's Comet” by Swittersdc (RJ Bee) - Site Team Volunteer & Co-Founder of Osiris Media and Helping Friendly Podcast

When Phish rolled into Van Andel Arena on November 11, 1998, you could argue they were at the peak of their powers. Having just pulled an epic prank on their fans by playing “Dark Side of the Moon” two days AFTER a stellar Loaded Halloween show, the party, the jams, and the antics rolled on.

This “Halley’s” is one of the hardest-driving, most relentless jams of the 1998 Fall Tour. Right after the chorus, Trey is already in clear control, driving this bus with astonishing speed. We get peaking, soaring solos less than 10 minutes in, with the rest of the band complementing in fighter jet formation.

Eventually Trey steps back to vamping and Page is going between piano and synth that creates the ambient spaceship sound signature to 1998. What’s amazing is that, like so many jams, Fishman never slows down, even when it seems like things could start to dissipate. What I love about ‘98 jams is that the sound is so layered, but so driving, that all members get a chance to step forward and shine during different parts of a jam.

“Halley’s” starts to dissipate 15 minutes, in, but… not so fast. Trey steps back in front and leads with trilling into a stunning conclusion. I still can’t believe how powerful this jam is, start to finish. If you ever need to prepare to run through a wall, this is a good option.

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9/14/1999AC/DC Bag,” “Gumbo” by STTFlowMagazine (Christy Articola) Mockingbird Foundation Supporter & Surrender to the Flow Editor/Publisher

Whenever anyone asks me my favorite jam in Phish history, the first thing that comes out of my mouth is always this. There are others that follow quickly, but this one is always first. Alas, I was not there; I was touring then pretty heavily but only did the second half of Fall 1999. Missing Boise will always be a regret.

There's no segue between these two–there's a full stop there–but I've always considered the “Bag” and “Gumbo” to be a unit. This pair flows together regardless. Over this 37-minute journey, the band touches on everything that makes Phish great. You have a Gamehendge song followed by a goofy, upbeat song with silly lyrics.

Both drop into Type II quickly and stay there for their durations. You have Phishy funk. You have a little darkness, a lot of light. There are extremely danceable sections in both songs, but at the same time it's easy to get lost in the deep layers of the jam as well. There's stop/start times three (with no audience “woos” mind you). There are spacey moments and flying, soaring, ridiculously optimistic moments–the type of thing I like to call glory-style jams–which is the type of Phish jam that I still seek out ravenously today.

When they drop into the “Another One Bites the Dust” jam in “Gumbo”–wow. Explosions. Stars. Rainbows. Comets. Lightning. All of that and more… The jams in these two songs are what Phish dreams are made of.

I rarely encounter someone who doesn't know about this magic from Boise, and I've never encountered someone who knows it who doesn't absolutely adore it. Almost everyone counts this pair of songs and the jams that follow among their very favorite jams in Phish history–and with good reason.

I've listened to this 37-minute section of epicness a thousand times, and I'm sure I'll listen to it a thousand times more and it will never, ever get old or played out. No matter how many times you've personally heard it before–why not put it on and give it a spin again right now? Enjoy

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12/29/94David Bowie” by zzyzx - Mockingbird Foundation Director

If I was told that I could play one song anywhere in their history that would define the band, it would be this “Bowie.” It starts with a composition, has an all time classic build jam, and then gets weird and eventually scary, with a glimpse into the mind of a serial killer. It then eventually resolves back into “Bowie,” finishing the song. It’s 35 minutes of ever changing moods that never gets boring. No other jam sounds like this which is the bit that makes it so quintessentially Phish.

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12/2/1995Tweezer” by ericwyman - Site Team Volunteer

This particular “Tweezer” from an otherwise innocuous show, in an innocuous set, is wholly unexpected. Put simply–while it clocks in at only 15 minutes, it is quite possibly the pound-for-pound best version in history.

A slow build rips open just after the 7 minute mark, with Mike doubling notes in a jamakinto "Wipe Out" and Fish totally says "hold my beer." At the 8 minute mark, Fish presses down and Trey follows suit and everyone is at top speed. Fish yells "yeah" (around 8:40)–a tell-tale sign that, as I've discussed previously, indicates Fish is into it and that this jam is already noteworthy. 10 minutes and Trey making hairpin turns while everyone hangs on–coincidentally at 10:45 the whole thing feels like it might crash, but hopefully to our readers’ delight, it does not.

Jam peaks at 11:45 and changes speed for 8 measures and then they launch back to full speed. It's truly spectacular, the kind of thing you feel even more than you hear. "Ascending to IT" kinda shit. Eventually, the engine runs out of fuel and it spits and sputters as it slowly comes to a natural gliding stop in the song's true ending.

Blown away by nearly two decades of expected 20 minute jams (once dark, and now light) the version is a time capsule for an era and illustrates what many have, and still, try to express regarding the energy that one could feel. There was some love, and there were definitely lights–but it feels different.

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6/25/97McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” by theomelett (Ross E. Baby) - Mockingbird Foundation Volunteer

This might not be JOTY material... It’s arguably not even the best jam in this set with its big “Disease” and weird “Meatstick” debut that really lays the groundwork for this altogether unique version, but it is one that keeps me coming back. For me, it is the epitome of the band playfully rearranging a classic composition, approaching it with moxie, and then blurring the bounds between Type I diligence and Type II jamming.

Sure, this is one of my favorite songs, which obviously plays a role in the pick, but this version is invigorating in its playfulness, on full display throughout this set (Henrietta’s “Cecilia” -> “Rock a William”). It’s one of those moments bound to surprise first time listeners and hopefully remind jaded vets how special IT is. Either way, the selection’s a great reason to revisit this intimate show from the band’s second European tour of 1997.

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8/5/11 “Rock and Roll” -> “Meatstick” by FunkyCFunkyDo (Peter Hoherd) - Site Team Volunteer

There were two simultaneous sensations happening. One, something outside of me, yet still a part of me, was being pulled toward the stage by the music and lights, almost as if a metaphysical magnet had latched onto my soul from somewhere beyond the band, deep within the jagged chasms of the Columbia River Gorge; Two, I was being physically pushed back against the rear wall of the Gorge’s pit by something I can only manifest in words as viscous cosmic energy.

These two opposing forces were beyond worldly control and would not accept surrender. I was, we were, churning in the maelstrom of Phish’s heaviest jam ever played, era notwithstanding. Music that exploded beyond notes and chords and beats into something more akin to the cosmic reverberations of psychedelic supernovae. This is its story.

The Gorge, in and of itself, is a psychedelic epicenter. You’ve seen the pictures of the venue and heard the stories about its natural, raw beauty and the pure magic of cresting “the hill” for the first time. All true. Before you first witness these, however, you receive your first litmus test. It’s mental and it’s psychological.

You drive into the camping field for the first time, look toward the infinite horizons trying to find the endpoint of the high desert desolation, and then, when no end is discernible, you feel the gigantic scale of the journey you are about to undertake. You realize you are on your own. Even with your traveling party and your newly made camping neighbors and the 20,000 fans sharing their trip or–at least, a trip–with you, each is on their own path, looking at the same horizons with mixed emotions of wonder, anxiety, excitement, and trepidation.

You made it to The Gorge, but what comes now? What next? An endurance test of how much you can handle: physically, yes, but also spiritually, emotionally, and in measures of your being that you didn't know existed until the lights go down and the moon comes up.

Phish gnashes their way into “Rock and Roll” like a cavalry in full gallop. The band charges into the song with extraordinary force and, within seconds, I could tell this was going to be different; within moments, I knew this was going to take me somewhere I had never been, let alone imagined.

Trey and his band strike like lightning coming out of the song proper, but at 7:30 (LP time) the jam morphs into the swirling celestial rainbows of Aurora Borealis. Neon greens juxtaposed against ominous deep blues, Mike digs out bedrock with thunderous basslines as the jam tunnels deep into the earth. Trey floats eerie, soaring notes above both Mike’s canyons and the Gorge’s, as Page swirls a cautionary breeze with his keys. Fishman pondering space and time with restless rhythm. The jam surfaces, briefly, forcing us skyward in a spacious updraft. But the galaxy’s maw opens into a dark abyss. We sojourn into the unknown. Our trip is infinite.

Now completely detached from “Rock and Roll,” Mike captains the spaceship of our imagination by pummeling bulbous indigo notes into our brains. Awash in a spatial void, Trey advises a path of eerie, sinister affects – haunted sounds beyond musical comparison. Fishman punishes the drums. Page’s demonic screams pierce through the PA. My senses are on high alert. Danger is too close.

Page’s Theremin enters the melee as bolts of bottomless darkness swallow what’s left of my remaining earthly consciousness. With noises possessed by otherworldly beings with malicious intent, Phish, now led by Page, wades further into the abyss with fearless resolve. “Fearless,” a word to describe only the four onstage, as every soul in attendance was yearning for a life raft, a safety net, an escape pod – something to bring us back home. But no, deeper into the mines we go.

Mike starts a ghostly plea, “It was alllllriiiiiightt… allllrrriiiiiightttt...” as the cacophony swells into unimaginable chaos. Yet, within the improvisational storm, there is order. Phish is in total control of what they are doing onstage, even if my mind is about to implode into a singular point, swallowing every atom that once was me. Deeper the jam digs into a subterranean, alien ecosystem. What comes now? What next? If you thought black was the darkest color, you must listen to this jam.

Sirens! Alarms! The Theremin warns us that we have ventured too far! Fishman’s drums ripping apart pieces of my mind as Trey’s guitar screeches like a galactic leviathan urging the band to go dive deeper. The pressure builds. Collapse is imminent. Fishman surges with pulsing opaque energy. Mike burrows into caverns of gravity where no light can escape. If you thought black was the darkest color, proceed with extreme caution, you must listen to this jam.

The sensations I earlier described of being simultaneously pushed and pulled–physically and emotionally and spiritually and psychedelically–are now in full confrontation with my warped sanity and the bands’ viscous cosmic energy. I am barely hanging on. Trey switches gears into the wah-wah pedal; a sparkle of light emerges as Page still haunts us with the Theremin. No. Nooo. Mike swallows Trey’s attempt to surface with a bassline so deep that stars melt and galaxies recede back into nothingness. Trey and Page ultimately yield, completely overpowered, leaving Mike and Fish assailing the heavens with furious magnitude over looping, extraterrestrial effects. If you thought black was the darkest color, heed my final admonition, you must listen to this jam.

BOOM! POW! Mike harvests the thickest, heaviest notes he’s ever played as Fishman attacks kit with seismic hits so powerful the Gorge itself quakes in reprisal. Trey sees an opening and layers in backwards guitar notes, knowing the only way out is not up or down, but through. Shoveling away the smoldering remnants of warped metal and twisted minds, the jam buoys into an affirming release. Fledgling, warm colors replace the infinite, boreal blacks as the band patiently melts like midnight into sunrise, ultimately forging “Meatstick” in its afterglow–a virtuosic segue that, like this “Rock and Roll,” deserve (and have earned) their place among Phish’s “best ever” in their respective categories.

A lifetime of interstellar horror and astral agony: 20 minutes of fear and anxiety collectively release into a euphoric starburst of shared dance and celebration and delight. I exhale for the first time, seemingly ever. The second set is not even halfway over; the band is only two and a half years into their newest incarnation, but I know we just witnessed a historic moment in the history of Phish.

The psychedelic epicenter that is The Gorge creates experiences that exist only once, even if we try to relive them over a lifetime. But once is all we really need to understand that moments like these never really die because it is only within them, in the deepest, darkest depths, that we are truly alive. This jam shows us the first fully-realized segment in Phish’s modern era/post-breakup improvisational catalog that the band is not just back from the dead, but alive and thriving. It is, without hesitation, not only one of the very best jams Phish has ever created, it is also among the most important jams they’ve ever created.

Or listen on

Enjoy this LivePhish playlist (missing only the "McGrupp") or playlist, and here's the YouTube playlist for these jams!

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, comment by PlayingMantis
PlayingMantis Love this series. Great picks! 9/14/99 Bag might be my favorite jam too.
, comment by OrangeSox
OrangeSox The epic "Rock and Rock" deserves such an in-depth and objective writeup. Meanwhile, 2000 Ghost is succinct. In between all were most enjoyable!

I'd say my favorite under-the-radar selection is that McGrupp. Sure, maybe it's not the big baddie like the Disease but there's definitely a special quality about it that should make anyone want to hear more of that set and never forget.

Ive really enjoyed reading and listening along to these, thanks to all the authors! Happy Phish 40 y'all!
, comment by chfwiggum1
chfwiggum1 Good stuff thanks!
, comment by mcgrupp81
mcgrupp81 I downloaded the Live Phish 12/2/95 show recently and have listened to that Tweezer a few times. It’s always been one of my all time favorite Phish jams. The show is well played and the Maze is nasty. The Simple from that show actually turned me into a fan of the song. It’s extremely well executed. Given the energy level of the Tweezer, I always paired it in my mind with the 10/24/95 Antelope. Keep the lists coming.
, comment by lysergic
lysergic Loving this series of blog posts! It's introduced me to a few new favorites. Really dig the concept: not the "best" jams.. just some awesome performances.
, comment by crumbler
crumbler Great list! I’d also add Ghost from 7/23/99 and Free from Brooklyn.
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