BLOG POSTS WHERE MONTH IS 5, AND DAY IS 17, AND YEAR IS 2015

Sunday 05/17/2015 by Icculus

THE PHISH "HALL OF FAME"

A little over a month ago, PhishNet user @TheRealBurnham (Matt Burnham) began polling Phish fans in order to compile a list of Phish's "Hall of Fame" jams. The results of Matt's survey are below, written in his words, and we hope you find them both useful and entertaining. We also urge you to "Comment" thoughtfully, to help create a record of why you believe particular jams belong in certain "tiers," and to draw attention to why your favorite improvisational versions of Phish's songs matter so much to you. Please, share your Phish story, as it may also be "Hall of Fame" material. -charlie

Thanks to a great user response, I received 291 legit ballots for the Hall of Fame. Some ballots were excluded (were not "legit") due, for example, to people just voting for “YEM” with no date (or refusing to list any version of anything), but overall there was such a great turnout that it lends credence to this being a real, quasi-statistically valid poll.

Were I to design and envision the Phish Hall of Fame, a Phish museum would be on the the first floor. The first thing that you’d see is the Hot Dog from the 1994 New Year’s Eve Show, because we would of course get that back from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The floor would be littered with information on New Year’s Eve and Halloween shows, famous sets and band synopses. There would be information about Jeff Holdsworth, Marc Daubert, Tom Marshall, The Dude of Life, and Chris Kuroda. But interspersed among all this would be snippets about the Hall of Fame voting.

In those 291 ballots, 2769 song versions were voted for (e.g., 12/9/95 YEM), which equates to an average of 9.5 song versions (entries) per ballot. Among those 2769 ballot entries, 494 unique versions were voted on. And 269 versions were voted for only once, illustrating the wide and varied tastes of Phish fans.

Unique versions of songs voted for:

Song

Number of Unique Versions

Tweezer

16

Mike’s Song (Groove)

12

Ghost

11

Bathtub Gin

8

Reba

8

Down With Disease

7

Harry Hood

7


For the purpose of the Phish HOF, I made the decision to essentially count Mike’s Groove and Mike’s Song interchangeably. This may be controversial, but it is what it is. Thankfully, this didn’t have much impact on the overall song versions being entered.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Tweezer was the most voted for song in the group of songs where fans voted for specific versions. Tweezer also received the most votes overall. (If only based on this relatively small poll, Tweezer appears to be the most popular Phish song.) Given Tweezer's popularity, the results of this poll will necessarily be Tweezer-heavy.

Overall votes for songs:

Song

Total Votes

Tweezer

373

Bathtub Gin

243

Ghost

237

David Bowie

141

You Enjoy Myself

127


After the first museum floor (so to speak), the remaining three floors of the Hall of Fame represent three levels or tiers of Phish jams. The top floor (the fourth floor) hosts the top overall vote-getters (the first tier), and all of them were on over 20% of the total ballots cast. Baseball may use a 75% threshold, but no songs were near that total, and 20% works for a good top level and keeps it being the cream.

The third floor is the 2nd Tier, and the selection process used song eras in order to elect the song versions for this tier. These “third floor” songs were inducted based on having greater than 9 times as many votes as the average song from their given era. That may seem (and may be) kind of convoluted and arbitrary, but it is based on the fact that the songs selected for this tier had a large percentage of overall votes from a given time frame. Counting them in this manner also leveled the playing field when one compares, say, 1997 vs 1993.

The second floor, Tier 3, features songs elected on the basis of their individual merit: if a song had greater than 30% of the total votes cast for all versions of that song (and all versions of the song had greater than 40 total votes), then they qualified for this third tier.

All of this information isn’t critical to know, but I wanted to be transparent about how I decided to split them up given the diversity of votes casts. I’m sure that others could come up with different ways to slice-up the data, which I am willing to share with anyone who requests it.

Importantly, the top tier (the first tier) was calculated first and its song values were not factored into the second and third tier calculations. (And the second tier calculations were not factored into the third tier.) This was done to model that the top tier was voted in first, then the second, then the third. Without further ado, here are the results!

TIER 3

Songs

Song Vote %

Tier

1995-11-14 Stash

67.1875

3

2004-06-19 Piper

57.40740741

3

1997-11-29 Runaway Jim

55.81395349

3

1997-12-30 AC/DC Bag

43.58974359

3

1999-09-14 AC/DC Bag

41.02564103

3

2014-08-29 Simple

40

3

1994-06-18 David Bowie

37.5

3

1994-06-11 You Enjoy Myself

37.28813559

3

1995-12-29 Bathtub Gin -> The Real Me -> Bathtub Gin

33.33333333

3

1998-07-06 Ghost

32.96703297

3


The third tier has some of my favorite versions of songs in it, including my all-time favorite, the June 11, 1994 You Enjoy Myself. The giant Orlando 95 Stash had 67% of all Stash votes in the poll, which is a huge number, but indicates that other (spectacular) versions were overlooked (Paradiso 97, for one). The two versions of AC/DC Bag noted above were almost 85% of all AC/DC Bag votes cast. The longest singular Phish jam to date, the Worcester 97 Runaway Jim, is in this tier, as well as the “MLBowie” and “Real Gin.” Very few 2.0 and 3.0 songs made it into this tier: the SPAC ‘04 Piper and the Dick’s ‘14 Simple (coincidentally, the only two versions of songs in the HOF that I’ve seen). And, technically, the last song in this tier, and thus the HOF, is of course the Prague Ghost. I’m not sure I’d want to visit a HOF that didn’t have the Prague Ghost. On a personal level, this may be my favorite tier. My favorite YEM, Bowie, Piper and Ghost. Not bad for being third tier.

TIER 2

Songs

Era % Vote

Tier

2003-02-28 Tweezer

14.53367876

2

1997-11-22 Halley’s Comet

10.86065574

2

2000-06-14 Twist

10.10752688

2

1995-12-31 Mike’s Groove

10.04098361

2

1993-12-31 Harry Hood

9.863945578

2

1999-07-10 Chalk Dust Torture

9.677419355

2

1993-08-13 Bathtub Gin

9.523809524

2

2000-05-22 Ghost

9.247311828

2

1997-12-06 Tweezer

9.221311475

2


As you can see, there are many fan favorites in the second tier. The two oldest versions of songs in the HOF appear in this tier: the NYE93 Harry Hood and the Murat Gin (8/13/93). Two versions of Tweezer appear as well, the Nassau Tweezer (2/28/03), the highest voted version in this tier, and Tweezabella (12/6/97), the lowest voted version. The NYE95 Mike’s Groove did include both Mike’s Song and Weekapaug votes, but that’s ok. One cool thing to note is that most of the songs in every tier have been released on LivePhish or circulate in SBD. I’m not sure if these songs were voted largely because they circulate widely in high quality, or if they’re released because they’re widely loved, but there seems to be a strong correlation one way or another. I was surprised that the Fukuoka Twist (6/14/2000) didn’t make it into the first tier, but it came very close.

TIER 1

Here it is, what everyone came here for. I'm listing each of the versions in descending order, from seventh place to first place, based on the total number of votes cast for each:

7) 1995-12-09 – You Enjoy Myself (68 votes, 23.4%): The Albany YEM, the most cherished version of Phish’s most played song. Thirty-four minutes of great grooving with multiple jam segments and movements. Some of my favorite Phish jamming happens at 12 minutes, and this YEM probably has the finest silent jam in it (which may be damning with faint praise) that is followed by a triumphant return to the groove. It’s amazing that footage of this exists on YouTube, and it is definitely worth checking out. Seeing a silent jam in person seems like a real trip.

6) 1998-04-03 – Roses Are Free (82 votes, 28.2%): Interestingly, the only standalone version of a cover song in the Hall of Fame. This Roses kicks off the most celebrated set in arguably the most celebrated run in the band’s history. It is a monster and is probably the darkest of the Tier 1 songs. More groove-centric than Trey soloing, and its peak is a perfect example of how Phish can stretch and extend any song in their repertoire. Other than the Big Cypress version, this version is the only truly jammed-out Roses to date, and it is easily the more loved version of the two.

5) 1998-07-29 – Bathtub Gin (86 votes, 29.6%): The Riverport Gin. Probably the best first set opener in history and if that were put to a vote, I bet it would be a landslide victory. Just a transcendent version that starts strong and doesn’t stop until it finishes its 24 minutes. Page shines here in all facets. Remarkably, this amazing version of Gin isn’t even the highest voted Bathtub Gin overall.

3b) 1997-08-17 – Bathtub Gin (95 votes, 32.6%): And that’s because the Went Gin ended up with 9 more votes than the Riverport Gin. (It also tied with the Providence Bowie, hence why there is no “4)”, no fourth place, in this list!) In my opinion the voters got this one right, because the Went Gin is probably the best example of high energy, frenetic HOSE that exists [Editor’s Note: other than the New Haven Tweezer, which did not even make the “Hall of Fame," but apparently just missed Tier 2. –charlie]. From about 9 minutes until the end of the song, and especially at 12:30 onward, is why I listen to Phish and why I go to concerts. The fact that the band can turn on a dime and develop multi-faceted jams that are so melodic they sound like you’ve heard them 10,000 times before. It’s something that not many other bands can do.

3a) 1994-12-29 – David Bowie (95 votes, 32.6%): The Providence Bowie is the earliest song historically in Tier 1, and it’s clear why. Many people view it as the culmination of 1994, which was the first real exploratory year for Phish. This jam has multiple deep movements. Dark, but still oddly compelling, the playing is superb. It really illustrates the band’s yearning to push musical boundaries and psychological limits. It is also the only song in Phish’s history that I know of that has “Lassie whistling,” which is nice.

2) 1997-11-17 – Ghost (103 votes, 35.4%): The lynchpin of what is among the greatest first sets in Phish history, the Denver Ghost is a funk machine that is the perfect example of Winter ‘97 Cowfunk. I was honestly a bit surprised that this was so highly rated, but I can’t find fault in its position either. It is yet another relentless masterpiece with multiple hose peaks. If it is really Trey’s favorite part of the Phish Destroys America tour, then it definitely belongs in the 1st Tier.

1) 2013-07-31 – Tweezer (124 votes, 42.6%): The famous, the infamous, Tahoe Tweezer. The birth of Phishmaps. The highest vote-getter of any song in the Phish Hall of Fame. The creator of the start/stop Woos. Probably the most loved by some and hated by some (somehow) version of any Phish song, but the people have spoken. It is definitely worthy of Tier 1, as it is a great journey into different sectors of music which is unique in many ways. Particularly of note is the post-Woo section at 27:20, where Trey plays with such ferocity, clarity, and joyful exuberance that I’d put it on par with any 1.0 peaks.

So there you have it, the Phish Hall of Fame. Will songs from 2015 make it in one day? Since one song from the last two years made it in, there’s certainly hope, and I should note that the Dick’s Light (9/1/12) was one of the closest songs to not make the HOF. Most years were represented from 1993 on, too, which shows the consistency that the band has, and fans’ appreciation for that consistency as well. We do not forget! The best thing overall about an exercise like this is that it illustrates the great diversity across all levels of fandom.

Thanks very much to all of you who participated in this survey, and if you like what you’ve read, be sure to check out other things I’ve written about at http://soundandphission.blogspot.com.

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