Cover Wars: Abbey Road Edition


String Cheese Incident, 12-31-1999 Oregon Convention Center, Portland OR

SCI starts their performance at Sun King and continues through The End. Particularly nice is their instrumental interpretation of the intro to Sun King featuring a pleasing combination of organ and acoustic guitar. Somehow wires get crossed and nobody sings the first verse of Mean Mr. Mustard. The vocal work is impressive, and always on key. String Cheese takes the very vamp-friendly section of The End to feature tasteful solos from both Bill Nershi and Michael Kang, before closing their second set with the conclusion of the sequence. You gotta admit the songs are performed extremely well, even if the band’s sound isn’t up your alley.

Lasting Effect: SCI pulled out Mean Mr. Mustard on 5/2/2000, Polythene Pam/SCITTBW combos on 4/18/2003 and 10/2/2003, as well as placing The End in the middle of LA Woman on 10/31/2002.

Umphrey’s McGee, 12-31-2002 The Vic Theatre, Chicago IL

NYE 2002 was drummer Mike Mirro’s final show with Umphrey’s after four years in the band. UM starts their performance with Because (2 songs prior to where SCI chose to perform it) with impressive full-band harmonies showing that real men are not scared of singing falsetto. Longtime UM collaborator Josh Quinlan lends his saxophone skills to Polythene Pam, and the vamp section of The End we discussed earlier. Similarly to SCI, UM spreads the lead vox duties around the group showcasing the band’s depth. You really can’t follow up an epic run of Beatles songs with anything but a break of some kind, so UM closed their second (of 3) set with the sequence. After a touching speech from the departing member, UM performs the whole thirty seconds of the disc’s actual closing track Her Majesty in the encore slot during the early-morning first hour of 2003.

Lasting Effect: UM had already played Mean Mr. Mustard in a show from 1998 that does not currently circulate, and SCITTBW had been performed a handful of times, often with a reggae flavor. SCITTBW continues to be a rarity in the cover repertoire, and always includes the ending of YNGMYM (The 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 all good children go to heaven part) tacked on to the end. UM performed a Mean Mr. Mustard > Polythene Pam > SCITTBW combo in their hometown of South Bend, where they brought out Jennifer Hartswick to sing vocals and play trumpet on SCITTBW. Members of UM have also performed Mean Mr. Mustard through The End in the Brain Damaged Eggmen with Marc and Aron from The Disco Biscuits. Check out this video from Lollapalooza 2006:


Trey Anastasio, 5-13-2005, Hammerstein Ballroom, New York NY

In a show where Trey had already played Dig A Pony by The Beatles as well as covering Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie; Trey and the 70 Volt Parade took the stage for their encore and dropped even more Beatles music on the unsuspecting New York City crowd. Trey played a smaller sampling compared to other two contenders playing Mean Mr. Mustard through The End. There is a noticeable residue of Trey-slop, perhaps due to a lack of preparation, in both the singing and guitar work. Trey gets his “he’s” and “she’s” confused in Polythene Pam, and I am pretty sure he says: “So I clit the police department.” This original 70VP lineup also did not have much to offer in the way of backup vocals, a problem Trey corrected by including the likes of Tony Hall, Jennifer Hartswick and Christina Durfee in his next formation of the group. Of course, you had to know Trey would not be able to resist riffing over the vamp section I have now mentioned twice already. His noodling is fantastic, but it left me wanting more. I wish they would have continued that for an additional two minutes.

Lasting Effect: Outside of Bonnaroo ’05, Trey has not revisited any of the Abbey Road material, but gurus reading this are probably already wondering if I am going to mention the one time Phish played one of these songs. Oh yeah, 11-15-1996, the set brought to you by the letter M and the number 420 which features the “dirty old man” himself John Popper on harmonica for a set-closing Weekapaug Groove that smoothly segues out of Mean Mr. Mustard. Let’s go to the video tape:


So those are a few of my thoughts and now that you have listened to all three versions, cast your vote for which jamband best tackled the material. But, I should probably tell you that ScottyB is the only Hidden Track “Superdelegate,” which makes all of your votes irrelevant.

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10 Responses

  1. that umphrey’s version is pretty bad-ass… if phish instead of trey did that versions, it would be phish hands down with page singing golden slumbers

  2. Trey also did Abbey Road at Bonnaroo 05, my vote goes to UM though.

    06/11/05 (Sat) Bonnaroo Music Festival @ Bonnaroo Music Festival – Manchester, TN

    Set 1: Will It Go Round In Circles, Night Speaks to a Woman, Burlap Sack and Pumps, Funk #49, Goodbye Head > In the Light, Drifting, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Close My Eyes*, Mean Mr. Mustard > Polythene Pam > She Came In Through the Bathroom Window > Golden Slumbers > Carry That Weight > The End, Panama**, 46 Days, Sledgehammer, E: Come as Melody, No Woman No Cry*

    Comment: *with Matisyahu **with Bo Bice

  3. I gotta say the SCI do the best job here. All are pretty amazing, but the SCI’s near-perfect vocal harmonies just do it for me here. Thanks for these, amazing stuff!

  4. Bwaha. Trey’s 05 Bonnaroo set. The Panama to close the set with Bo Bice was so awful that people started throwing glowsticks at Bo. Hilarious yet horendous.

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