Ten years ago tonight Phish began a new era in their history with one of their oldest songs. Phish ended a five-year breakup by dusting off “Fluffhead” for the first time since September 29, 2000 – a span of 70 shows but what seemed like a lifetime. The quartet said farewell on a disastrous note at the Coventry festival in 2004 and returned with a three-night stand at Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia that brought both band and the community that surrounds it back together unified in joy. Official recordings of all three “comeback shows” are available for free as featured shows within the LivePhish app. Phish are still going strong all these years later and have given fans of improvisation plenty to enjoy over the past 10 years. In honor of the occasion, here’s a compilation of one standout jam or sequence from each year they’ve been back:
November 28, 2009 – Seven Below > Ghost
There were moments of impressive improvisation over the first few dozen Phish shows after Hampton, but the quartet really got the choir of “Phish is back!” going when they delivered an otherworldly pairing of “Seven Below” into “Ghost” to start the second set at Albany’s Times Union Center on November 28, 2009. This is 45 minutes of magic.
[Captured by pryan/Shared by LeSloth]
August 6, 2010 – Cities
The band’s cover of “Cities” by Talking Heads on August 6, 2010 at The Greek in Berkeley showed that a jam doesn’t need to be long to be fantastic. Phish displayed the staccato style of improv that was a hallmark of 2010 and 2011 during the standout “Cities” that came within the first set at the second of three 2010 shows at The Greek.
[Compiled by Copperpot Landfill]
June 3, 2011 – Down With Disease
Phish laid down a wild and adventurous version of “Down With Disease” on Mike Gordon’s birthday at DTE Energy Music Theater in Clarkston, Michigan. One of more intriguing portions of the “Disease,” and what led fans to call it “A Disease Supreme” was a jam based around John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”
September 1, 2012 – Light
Phish debuted “Light” at Fenway Park during their first post-Hampton performance. Ever since, it’s been a springboard for improvisation that hardly ever disappoints. Arguably the best version yet took place on September 1, 2012 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. The “Dick’s Light” contains two segments with the second an awe-inspiring piece of jamming.
July 31, 2013 – Tweezer
In 2015, when putting together the Mount Rushmore Of Phish Jams just one jam from the era made the final cut — the famed “Tahoe Tweezer.” At 36+ minutes this version scores on both the quality and quantity scales. Just when you think Trey is going to ripchord the jam, Phish moves on to another inspired segment.
[Captured by madpicken]
July 13, 2014 – Chalk Dust Torture
“Chalk Dust” has been used often as a jam vehicle by Phish ever since 2012. Phish weaved together multiple wonderful sections of improvisation into a 27-minute masterpiece to start their second set at Randall’s Island in New York City on July 13, 2014. This is a master class in dynamics and there’s nary a wasted note.
August 20, 2015 – Magnaball Soundcheck
When JamBase put together a list of 10 Magical Moments At Phish’s Magnaball Festival in the days after the event at Watkins Glen International racetrack in Watkins Glen, New York it was the soundcheck that scored the top slot. This “setlist” describes it well:
#phish Magnaball Soundcheck: Insanity > Ridiculousness > Crushing Waltz -> The Kinda Shit We Hope We Hear Every Night
— YEMblog (@YEMblog) August 20, 2015
[Captured by Sam Boos]
September 3, 2016 – Simple
While the “Golden Age” Phish played in Las Vegas on October 28 may be the talk of fans when it comes to best jam of 2016, don’t sleep on the “Simple” from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on September 3, 2016. There’s gorgeous interplay between Page McConnell and Mike Gordon to start before Trey made his presence felt. Anastasio spent some time banging away on Jon Fishman‘s Marimba Lumina in a way that actually added to the patient and blissful improv.
July 25, 2017 – Lawn Boy
Who would’ve thought when Phish took the stage at Hampton ten years ago that a list of jams from the era would include a version of “Lawn Boy?” The typically three-minute song was blown out to start the “jam-filled” show at Madison Square Garden in New York City on July 25, 2017 during the Baker’s Dozen residency. After bassist Mike Gordon took his usual solo, McConnell dusted off his Keytar and took a solo of his own. At this point it became clear this was not your normal “Lawn Boy.” In the middle of Page’s keytar solo, drummer Jon Fishman kicked into a groovy beat which laid the groundwork for the adventurous improvisation that was about to occur. Phish took “Lawn Boy” in various directions and explored vast improvisational terrain over the course of the 30-minute stunner leading fans to ask “Is this still ‘Lawn Boy?’” over the duration of the run. The band ended the residency with a reprise of “Lawn Boy” followed by “Tweezer Reprise.”
July 25, 2018 – Set Your Soul Free
Phish’s second version of “Set Your Soul Free” was a psychedelic masterpiece that expanded well beyond the famed 20-minute mark. The band kicked off their second set at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco with a bold and extended version of the song they debuted a just a few nights earlier at The Gorge. “The jam in ‘Set Your Soul Free may not have peaked as high as Phish jams often can, but it had texture, “width,” patience and a dose of Phish’s unique funk that has defined some of their best jams,” wrote JamBase contributor Parker Harrington in his recap of the show.
Here’s to many more years of Phish to come.