Phish's ten most overlooked jams
Phish, which kicked off its fall tour this past weekend in Virgina, has a body of work large enough to provide fans with endless fodder for "best ever" and "all-time great" arguments. Such discussions often devolve into pointed and passionate debates. It's not that Phish fans are easily agitated or eager to disagree. It's just that they care about the music. A lot. So for those whose zeal for one poignant jam may have caused them to discount another, here's a list of the ten most overlooked Phish jams.
See also: Phish's twenty most interesting covers
10. "Runaway Jim" - Shoreline Amphitheatre, 7/31/97
If "Runaway Jim" had its own Mount Rushmore, this version would be up there with the likes of NYE '95, Worcester '97 and Camden '00. While shorter than most other versions of stellar repute, Shoreline '97 compensates with improvisation that is loose, triumphant, and psychedelic -- perfect ingredients for an extended summertime jam that's sure to leave your jaw on the floor. Performed only an hour or two prior to the birthday of Jerry Garcia, the tune had an unusual spaciness in Trey's phrasing that could've be interpreted as a subtle nod to the man himself. Like a great movie, subsequent playbacks of this rendition reveal intricacies that are hard to catch on the first go-around.
9. "Simple" - Bryce Jordan Center, Penn State, 10/9/97
Phish's '97 fall tour has been discussed and dissected ad-nauseam. And despite clocking in at just under thirty-minutes, this jam continues to be overlooked by the masses. Sections of quiet, thoughtful playing bookend a victorious peak that ranges all the way from 12:30 through roughly 17:45. The downright spooky segue into "Timber" is preceded by slick, 2001-esque jamming and ominous teases of "David Bowie."
8. "Split Open and Melt" - Mullins Center, UMass,11/3/94
This one should come with a warning label. Novices beware: The jam you are about to consume is dense, dangerous, and unrelenting. Side effects include dizziness and confused perception of space/time. Do not operate heavy machinery. The dissonance is heavy, and the musicianship beautiful. The version of "Split Open and Melt" leaves you speechless.
7. "Mike's Song" - Leon County Civic Center, Tallahassee, Florida, 10/29/96
The show-long guest spot given to percussion prodigy Karl Perazzo adds texture to the music without holding it back or stealing Phish's mojo. The improv section of this version opens with methodical chugging that's quickly overtaken by explosive licks from Trey. These bursts of sound are punctuated by periods of space that let the music breathe. The guitar work is fierce and deliberate throughout. A break into the F-minor jam so typical of mid-to-late '90s Mike's Songs comes at around 9:27, followed by some chaotic yet controlled digital delay feedback. Minutes later, the band locks in and rips off an absolutely stunning take on the Grateful Dead's celebrated Mind Left Body chord progression. The monstrous peak is followed by a proper return to the signature "Mike's Song" finish. And yes, they stick the landing.