Thursday 12/07/2023 by phishnet

40 FOR 40: JAMS (PART 2)

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

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

7/29/98Bathtub Gin” by Reed Meschefske - Mockingbird Foundation Director

Depending on my mood and what I'm listening to, Summer '98 is my favorite Phish tour: a combination of the Fall '97cowfunk,” the machine-gun precision of Fall '95, and the shenanigans born from an isolated birth in New England of the 80s... On the second stop of a week-long Midwest jaunt, this deep show opener laid waste to St. Louis and went down in history as one of the band's greatest jams. Expansive, fun, and seamless, the Riverport “Gin” is a masterclass on why Phish is great, and a major signpost as to how they got to be among the biggest bands in America in the late 1990's.

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5/22/00Ghost” by westbrook (Andrew Stavely) - Jam Chart Section Editor

The front half of this jam is dominated by first-rate techno-funk and is certainly worthy of admiration in its own right, but the real magic occurs in the backend. Phish as a band has many qualities which continue to draw us 40 years on, but their singularly uncanny ability to compose on the fly is surely chief among them, and what transpires in the second half of this “Ghost” is my favorite display on record.

Precisely at 16:20 of the LP on LP track, the music shifts in the blink of an eye, coalescing in a new, mesmerizing direction. How Mike and Trey both flipped this switch at the exact same moment is still a wonder to me. From here until the end of the jam, everything flows effortlessly as if preconceived. Nothing is forced; it’s restrained yet so fully arranged and perfectly complementary.

Trey has spoken of times when he felt the band couldn't play a bad note even if they tried and not having to actively create, but rather just channel the divine music that exists in the universe. There's no way of knowing if that's true in this case, or any other for that matter, but the Radio City "Ghost" is the strongest evidence I've heard in support of that idea. What a gift Phish has given us with this and so many other transformative moments over the years, made all the more precious for their fleeting nature

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10/28/16Golden Age” by WickerAndCork (Woody Starr) - Mockingbird Donor

This jam always brings me to tears and leaves me a semi-speechless blathering idiot. It begins innocuously enough… Right from a bust-out set-opener “Crimes of the Mind,” Trey opens “Golden Age” with the standard irony, or maybe we all really do feel like our souls are free? (The silence was astounding?) Anyway, just like the original artists, TV on the Radio, Phish performs the composed song with a fun & upbeat vibe. It's all fun and games, right? Wrong.

After some goofing about the central theme of the chords of the song, at about the seven minute mark Trey takes a daring plunge into minor key improv, Fish picks up a waltz beat, and we are in new territory. Phish does what they do best, work out multiple ideas in a heartbeat, so seamlessly that key and beat changes seem unexpected yet composed. The music plays the band indeed.

A lovely interplay evolves with subtle piano and guitar work complementing each other perfectly. They slip into a more sustain-style smoothness all the while Fishman lightens the mood on the cymbals, but Trey is bringing it up, slowly, inexorably, to a higher point. Loops on top of loops, a beautiful call and response between Trey and Page suddenly crashes into a shrill series of notes from Trey, and the whole room knows what is coming. It's inevitable. This is triumphant Dad-rock at its peak, all four guys are bringing it way up.

The audience gets the clue and the whole place goes to 11, it's louder innit?!?! As high as it rose, it comes back down, almost to a logical conclusion, before Mike and Fish “say no" and keep the beat going. Page moves over to wocka-wocka and we all realize at once, holy shit this is gonna be big! Gotta build a wide foundation for a tall building. After a piece of low-down and dirty, the key shifts again, in unison.

When Page switches to the organ I'm pretty sure I felt collective goosebumps spread through the entire arena. Patiently, efficiently and with determination they build one story after another– my god they're creating a skyscraper! This one keeps going up and up and up. Even Kuroda has to use every possible light for a total white-out effect, like we've truly reached nirvana. They're right, every band needs skyscrapers! Pardon me while I scoop my face up off the floor of the elevator in this 25 minute high-rise.

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11/18/96Simple” by OrangeSox (Chris Cagle) - Site Team Volunteer

In a year many unfortunately forget when it comes to great jams, in the City of Memphis during Fall Tour on a Monday night, Phish opened the second set with the first extended "Also Sprach Zarathustra"--foreshadowing the behemoth what would be wrought three years later in the Pyramid nearby. Clocking in at about 12 minutes featuring a long, almost tuning-esque intro that sets up a patient/frantic movement toward the 2001 melody, it becomes a full-on jazz-funk workout.

Without a chance to catch our collective breath, the "Simple" guitar refrain followed the cacophonous dissolve, and, in one of the best ever years for the song as a “jam vehicle,” after several minutes of searching loopiness, the hose valve would be turned wide-open about 12 minutes in, building up to a resounding theme that reflects a Trey quote from recent years about how “during a lot of Phish jams, I’ll land on a simple phrase, almost childlike, and then run with it.” In this specific instance, it’s a phrase he would "run with" in many great jams for years.

It’s the kind of moment that happens seemingly out of nowhere with this band over and over through time, where the random conditions are just right for that special something to manifest itself on stage pulling us all along in rapt awareness, before it’s “Swept Away” by another song toward the next opportunity, tugged as though by a “Mule” ever forward. Thanks to the dedication of tapers and the magic of interconnected computers, it’s thankfully easy to find our way back to almost every one, even across four decades.

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11/12/94Down with Disease” -> “Have Mercy” -> “Down with Disease” by kipmat (Matt Schrag) Site Team Volunteer

Back in the early days of file sharing, I kept a copy of the Phish Companion next to my desktop computer, and kept track of recommended Phish shows, jams, and noteworthy versions by marking up the setlists. One of the most marked-up jams was the Kent StateDWD.” Eventually the Phish Download Spreadsheet was online, and I began downloading circulating recordings of Kevin Shapiro's From The Archives shows, where this sequence was featured on the Lemonwheel broadcast. Listening to that recording for the first time, radio static and all, gave an immense feeling of satisfaction, like having reached the peak summit after a long, grueling hike.

I am a big fan of underdogs that shouldn't be underdogs; the forgotten favorites that demand to be remembered. Since the song's jam was debuted on New Year's Eve 1993, “Down With Disease” has been one of the most reliable jam vehicles in the band's repertoire. But, when viewing the band in retrospectives like this, “DWD” is often remembered primarily as the band's most overt attempt at gaining mainstream success. The song's remarkable improvisational history is curiously overlooked, even though every calendar year of the band's touring since the song debuted includes at least one version featuring looming, sprawling improvisation that we love.

Some Phish jams are molten Gameras, terrorizing the surrounding areas and destroying all in its path. But other jams, like this one, display strength with nuance and mastery. The “DWD: jam by itself is excellent, and then the band finds themselves revisiting “Have Mercy,” the Mighty Diamonds' plea to remain and sustain resilience in the face of hardships. And just as effortlessly, the song begins to dissolve back into the improvisational ether from which it emerged, and the audience is yelling and rocking with the climactic return to finish this amazing version of “Down With Disease.”

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10/20/21Ruby Waves” by phanoftheband - Mockingbird Foundation Volunteer

I was not in attendance, but this was played in Eugene, OR, during that epic Fall ‘21 run. If you somehow forgot how good that tour was, as a refresher start with the Chula Vista, CA show on 10/23/21 with the “NICU” fest and listen to the rest of the tour through Vegas. This “Ruby Waves” is just under 30 minutes and really what put that song on the map for me, proving the ‘19 Alpine version was no fluke.

After only about three minutes of the song proper, the first 20 minutes of this jam feature highly enjoyable, patient jamming that flies by, where it feels like the band had planned out this masterpiece ahead for the primetime number two slot of the 2nd set. Then, it takes a turn, and the last 7 minutes are incredible. You would think this would be where we get a big peaking ending like the “Ruby” from Atlantic City 2022. But no, the tempo picks up and delivers even more patient jamming, where each member takes turns being the MVP.

Fish leads his bandmates, changing the rhythm on a dime multiple times where they keep up in perfect unison. Mike is so importantly persistent, not wavering from his role laying the backdrop. Trey throws in some of those perfectly timed synth effects from his expanded foot board of 2021 (which he described in his Summer ‘21 rig rundown video) that defined many jams of the effects-heavy Fall before it became trimmed down in the Fall of 2022. Page is the real architect of this jam and MVP in my opinion (shhh don't tell the other guys) masterfully crafting the final few chapters of this story. All the while, the trippy sounds they are producing makes me feel like I am back in a warehouse partying at a late 90s rave.

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6/19/95Reba” by LordIP - Mockingbird Foundation Volunteer

Before my time? Yes. Can I still enjoy the jams? Most certainly. It's a pretty straightforward opening to the song, executed very well, but man when Trey gets into the jam, he goes deep. I heard this on Phish Radio during the pandemic when this show was released for an episode of Dinner and a Movie and was instantly enamored by where the band took this one.

The Boys slowly build out of the blissful section before Trey goes full machine-gun, screaming up his scales. Each time it seems like they're going to shut the jam down, Trey flows out into these killer sustains that to this day just blow my mind. It's a song that I like to show newbies once they get the notion of the jam.

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2/28/03Tweezer” by phanart (Pete Mason) - Mockingbird Foundation Director

One of the best versions of “Tweezer” this century, a prime example of 2.0 jamming, and the start of an epic 5-song second set. Stretching for 27 minutes, this Tweezer has ebbs and flows in the jam, building up tightly around minute 8, never leaving a flow until the 20th minute, where things get weird before segueing into an ever rare "Soul Shakedown Party.” If the “Destiny Unbound” bust-out earlier that night wasn't enough, this “Tweezer” stands head and shoulders above the rest of this monster show... and underrated tour.

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2/20/93Mike’s Groove” by Analog40 (Bill Bowman) - Mockingbird Foundation Director

The middle show of the first three night stand in Atlanta run at the Roxy in February of ‘93 contains one of my all-time favorite sets. Set 2 is nothing short of legendary. Containing a jam-charted versions of “Reba,” “Tweezer,” and “Harry Hood,” one could reasonably expect one of those to be the cornerstone of the set; however, it was the crazy “Mike’s Groove” that just went off in a direction that was tailor-made for hallucinogens that has always captured my fancy.

The “Mike’s Song” seamlessly weaves in and out of “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own,” while the “I am Hydrogen” includes a “Vibration of Life” as well as “Kung,” and the “Weekapaug Groove” does the same with “Have Mercy,” and the only cover performance of Kiss’ “Rock & Roll All Nite,” which even featured special guest Gene Simmons (not really). Then throw in a bunch of teases including “Tweezer,” “Reba,” “Lizards,” “Stash,” and yes somehow more?! Being a prolific tape collector, it’s rare that I would play a show more than once, but that is a set I have listened to repeatedly, and this “Mike’s” is the main reason why.

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11/22/97Harry Hood” by sizetoosmall (Alison Kleiman) - Mockingbird Foundation Director

I could get a “Hood” every show I see and it wouldn't be enough. I love this one in particular because it really takes its time to build, which is so key to that bliss that I'm always looking for. I’d definitely listened to this version before, but it hit me extra hard during the Dinner and a Movie viewing when I had a chance to listen and watch undistracted.

I’m a 2.0-er who spent much of 3.0 attending shows alone (which is actually great,) but I’m now finally (phinally?) married to a phan who embraces and encourages deep listening (full disclosure: he’s a music theory professor - and, coincidentally, was at this show!). I remember turning to him on the couch at the end and saying “Shit, that was so good. It was so patient!” then checking the jam charts, per usual, and being validated by whoever wrote that entry. While I don’t need the external validation to feel good (about “Hood”), it made me feel ever so slightly more part of the larger communal moment that is Phish.

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Enjoy this LivePhish playlist (missing only the 11/18/96 "Simple") or playlist, and here's the YouTube playlist for these jams!

If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.


, comment by JMart
JMart when people talk about missing old school, throwback hoods, they're talking about ones like 11/22/97, which, besides 5/27/94, happens to be my favorite ever. They really take their time entering the jam, so patient and delicate. trey enters into these melodic runs that sound like someone juggling, the way he will pin a note and keep coming back to it repeatedly while playing another melody underneath. finally he hits a four note repeating sequence that signals total blast-off. a real masterpiece.
, comment by BozakAxel
BozakAxel How did I know that Reed would lead with the Riverport Gin? haha
, comment by mcgrupp81
mcgrupp81 From a sheer sound perspective, not even talking about the mixing, 2/20/93 is the best non-LP SBD recording I have, and that takes into account those Colorado 90 shows which are really tight as well. It just enhances the experience for me. Nice work on compiling these! Always fun to revisit these jams.
, comment by phriendtj
phriendtj 11-22-1997 is my dragon show, (You know the first time you try and keep recreating) the atmosphere in there was electric... It was my 22nd show but the first time I really got it... I would also recommend the Halley's Comet that opened the second set... In fact this entire show... the Mike's opener and all.. the only moments that were not off the hinge were the train song and Billiy breathes... still rave about this show and listen to it at least four to five times a year....
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