Originally Performed ByPhish
Appears On
Also Known AsMarijuana Hot Chocolate
VocalsTrey (lead); Mike, Page, Fish (backing)
Phish Debut1988-10-29
Last Played2023-10-13
Current Gap15
HistorianGrant Calof (That_Guy)
Last Update2024-01-27


If you were around to see this up and coming jam band from Vermont in the late eighties and early nineties, you were all but guaranteed the pleasure of seeing Phish blaze their way through the criss-crossing melodies of “Foam.” 

This particular gathering of “simple lines intertwining”  consists of several intricately composed layers, wrapped around fugue-like moves that were a signature of the band’s playing at the time. Playful and quixotic, like that gremlin Shatner (or Lithgow) saw on the wing of that plane in The Twilight Zone (musically speaking), “Foam” offers yet another example of composer Ernie Stires’ influence on the band, through its flowing combination of varying styles and rhythms, much like “Reba” and “Fluffhead,” among others.

Phish “Foam” - 7/20/91, Parksville, NY. Video by cleantones.

The puzzling but nonetheless pleasing lyrics-- about falling, ever-thickening foam and a deep well, despite one’s attempt to see things clearly-- are easy to interpret but difficult to define. Regardless of whether it’s meant to be philosophical, sociological, metaphorical, literal, mineral, or all of the above, it’s clear that the deeper the collective conscience sinks, the harder it is to see through the aptly named foam (metaphorically speaking). And after “Foam’s” surging, symbiotic instrumental crescendo, the song finishes with a jaunty ragtime riff borrowed from Scott Joplin’s 1902 classic, "The Entertainer." 

The song’s origin can be traced to one fateful day in Burlington, in the great, green state of Vermont (04/22/88 to be exact). Phish was running through a few new tunes, when Trey announced a song called “Marijuana Hot Chocolate,” and Mike played a piece of the bass line. No one knew it at the time, but “Marijuana Hot Chocolate” was the very same melody that would evolve into “Foam” just six months later.  The flawless studio version of the song appears on side one of the band’s first album, “Junta”.

Phish "Foam" – 12/29/93, New Haven, CT

Despite its free-flowing nature, “Foam” is an almost entirely scripted piece, the only exception being the atmospheric middle section with its ascending piano/guitar solos-- a jam that’s notched numerous entries on the eponymous jam chart. Touted at one point (by Trey) as the band’s toughest song to get through, “Foam’s” complex arrangements offer a way for the band to get warmed up on stage, and thus has largely remained a first set tune. 

Way back when, in a long ago time called Phish 1.0, “Foam” was played after “Runaway Jim” so often,  the combination was briefly dubbed, “Runaway Foam” -- The awe-inspiring segue from 12/29/94 on Live Phish 20 is definitely worth a listen. They’ve played it as a stand-alone (try 04/25/94), they’ve segued into it from songs other than “Runaway Jim” (check out the seamless segue from “Bathtub Gin” into “Foam” from 08/03/97), and they’ve always played it furiously (treat yourself to 05/30/93) .

Phish “Foam” - 11/14/95, Orlando, FL. Video by PhrankieC87.

At one point, unsubstantiated rumors circulated that “Foam” had been shelved along with a number of older Phish tunes, causing some brief lot-based paranoia during the Europe ’97 tours. In reality, with the advent of new material, “Foam” was simply being played less and less. As the years progressed, “Foam” slowly began to fade into setlist obscurity. 

It was played only five times in 1997 and four in 1998 (11/29/97 and 11/21/98 are two outstanding tour highlights). “Foam” remained noticeably absent until the 2000 summer tour, when it bubbled back up after a gap of ninety shows, during a rain-drenched set in Camden, New Jersey (07/03/00), and again in Columbus, Ohio (07/14/00). But after 10/07/00, everything went dark...

Hiatus came and went with surprising alacrity, and after a long winter’s nap, “Foam” made its 2.0 debut, albeit with some rust, at Hampton Coliseum on 01/03/03. But as the seasons change, so did “Foam” over the ensuing tour (03/01/03 is certainly worthy). And when “Foam” seeped its way onto the 12/29/03 setlist, little did we know it would be six long years before we heard it again. 

As a side note from a side project, "Foam" was played several times during the band's break-up courtesy of Marco Benevento, Joe Russo and Mike Gordon, including an experimental, monster 51-minute version on 04/27/05.

Benevento-Russo Duo w/ Mike Gordon “Foam” - 4/27/05, Athens, GA. Video by alexsh.

Cut to: The band's long-awaited return four years later, during the three-night throw-down at the Hampton mothership… when “Foam” entered the new era on 03/08/09. It was played sixteen times from 2009 through 2012 (check out 08/07/10 from Berkeley) but only made five setlists from 2013-17 (like 08/04/13 in San Francisco and 10/25/16 in Grand Prairie) before disappearing until 07/09/19 in Connecticut.

Phish ”Foam” – 11/2/14, Las Vegas. Video by LazyLightning55a.

The song returned to the stage on 07/31/21 and the “Foam” has gotten proverbially thicker ever since; like when it's wedged between “The Howling” and “Run Like An Antelope” on 12/30/22 at MSG, after “Runaway Jim” on  07/15/23 in Georgia, or served up as a mid-set treat in Chicago on 10/13/23.

Last significant update: 12/19/2023

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