Originally Performed ByBeastie Boys
Original AlbumIll Communication (1994)
Appears On
Music/LyricsBeastie Boys
VocalsTrey (lead), All (backing)
Phish Debut1998-08-08
Last Played2012-07-07
Current Gap356
HistorianMartin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update2016-02-09


The 1994 release of “Sabotage” returned the Beastie Boys to the exalted throne of top-40 super-stardom they first occupied in 1986 with their frat house anthem (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!). The Beasties’ hard rocking free-style – which grew out of their hard-core punk roots and is exemplified by “Sabotage” – made it possible for the likes of Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock to have careers today.

Unlike these latter-day pretenders to the Grand Royal crown, the Beastie Boys have displayed a vision and inventiveness in their musical efforts that are largely unparalleled in the world of hip-hop and rap. Eschewing the hit-making formula they perfected on Licensed to Ill, they spent several years of relative musical obscurity exploring jazz, funk, soul and Tibetan Buddhism, before returning to their instruments to produce Check Your Head and Ill Communication. Though it received a great deal of radio airplay, “Sabotage” is perhaps best known for its hilarious music video spoof of Starsky and Hutch-type ‘70s cop shows.

Beastie Boys, “Sabotage”

Phish performances of “Sabotage” – featuring the strained rap stylings of Trey Anastasio – have been explosive surprises that served to whip the mellow undulations of the typical Phish crowd into a riotous frenzy. The debut performance on 8/8/98 at Merriweather was one of several unexpected cover song encores played during that U.S. summer tour. The high-octane “Sabotage” returned eight days later to open the final set of Lemonwheel on 8/16/98, evoking a crowd scene in front of the stage which observers have likened to those for certain performers at Woodstock ‘99. Though not quite as rabid as the Lemonwheel performance, “Sabotage” once again ignited the delighted crowd to open the final set of a two night run at the Hampton Coliseum on 11/21/98, captured on Hampton Comes Alive. After after a 318-show absence and all but given up for dead,  "Sabotage" made its triumphant return as the encore of the "S" show on 9/2/11 at Dick’s. In a show littered with "S" song bustouts, Phish saved the most shocking for last.

The 7/7/12 SPAC performance of “Sabotage” was as an enthusiastically received but poorly executed encore in the midst of a particularly cover song-heavy summer tour. Trey dedicated the epic disaster to MCA, who had thankfully (for him) attained true enlightenment a few months earlier on May 4, 2012, and wasn’t subjected to the atrocity that ensued. If you want to hear Phish butcher this one again, you better check your head.

Phish, ”Sabotage” – 9/2/11, Commerce City, CO

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