The B List: Five Post-Breakup Phish Misses

The 2-26-03 (Worcester) and 6-17-04 (Brooklyn) versions both cross the 14-minute mark with fantastic and funky jamming. But Phish 3.0 has struggled to extend the song passed six or seven minutes and just when it should be taking off, it begins winding down. The versions at Fenway and Red Rocks were particularly off with the band never quite finding the right funk or rock and roll groove to carry the end of the song. And it’s not just about the length. The 7-15-98 Portland version isn’t long but packs a lot more punch than what we’ve seen so far in 2009.


The band has reverted back to the old-school, super short Gumbos and I’m not quite sure why. For a good chunk of their most successful years, Gumbo was a platform for some seriously funky improvisation and became a fan favorite. Two versions played in the summer of 1997 – Phoenix and Burgettstown – really stretched this song to its maximum levels and the 7-22-03 Deer Creek version stretched out to over 18 minutes.

But here are the song timings of the five Gumbos played since 2004:
4-16-04: 7:48
6-20-04: 4:35
3-7-09: 5:01
6-9-09: 5:21
8-11-09: 5:51

C’mon now…Gumbo is way too good of a song for it be a five minute jam-free ditty. Of all the songs on this list, Gumbo is the one that seems to me to be furthest away from its potential.

Split Open & Melt

This is one of those Phish songs where each version truly takes on a personality of its own. There have been A+ versions across the board – funky, creepy, straight ahead rock and roll – and from April 1993 (4-21-93 to be exact) up until the first hiatus it was one of their more consistent jams with its time signature changes and overall ferocity.

Granted two of the Summer 2009 versions have been rain soaked – Jones Beach on 6/5 and especially Red Rocks as the band withstood a sideways downpour as their crew scrambled to cover their gear – but the versions seem to just sort of plod along without much direction. Two of my favorite versions – 7-13-94 and 8-16-96 – both go in all sorts of different directions but the band never seems to be lost. I think one or two killer versions could bring Melt back into the mix of songs fans really want to hear.


This isn’t one of their smoother songs to begin with whether it’s called Taste or Fog That Surrounds or Tasty Fog. But it’s been a little choppier than usual lately. I actually thought this was one of the songs that Phish 2.0 was really nailing, especially in 2003. They played sensational versions at the Gorge and in Philadelphia (one of the best versions ever). But the four versions since the return, particularly the 8-7-09 version, have come up a little short. I think the more they play this one the better it will get.

Mike’s Song

At first I thought about using the entire “Mike’s Groove” in this slot but in thinking about it, there have been some solid Weekapaug Grooves, especially the Knoxville version. But something is off on the Mike’s. Changes are frequently missed and the awesome stop/start segment before the > into Hydrogen has been rough.

The beginning has been fairly solid but just seems like the boys have struggled to find their way from the end of the lyrics to the transition. Not sure if they are planning what goes in the middle of the Mike’s in advance or not. But whichever way they are doing it, maybe try it the other way. You can’t have a sick Mike’s Groove without a sick Mike’s Song to kick it off.

Do you agree with Luke’s thoughts on these five songs? Any other songs you think should make this list? Let us know by leaving a comment below…

Related Content

27 Responses

  1. PYITE almost made the list, mostly b/c of Fish playing thru the break after the “feel it in my heart that I’d soon be dead” part which just killed the flow of the song. But he seems to have stopped doing that at least at Red Rocks

  2. oh yeah – I failed to mention Fish stopped doing it b/c DaveO locked Fish in the bathroom of a plane and refused to let him out until he agreed to stop messing up Punch

  3. agree on all counts except moma. i thought the version at the gorge was pretty fresh. would’ve replaced moma with hood.

  4. The way you tell the story sounds mean. I gave him my MP3 player too, so he could listen to the right way to do it.

    Side Note: It was a recording of The McLovin’s

  5. You left out Free, they have not played Free correctly once since they came back. There has been a mistake in EVERY SINGLE ONE!

    Great article!!!

  6. ahh yes – DaveO did give him a ginger ale, a small bag of mini pretzels and an ipod with the 12-31-95 PYITE on perma-repeat

  7. GMAFB. it’s caled evolution. maybe they’re tired of some of these songs and don’t want to play them as often or as long as they used to. maybe they like other stuff more but realize that some of the crowd likes these songs and feel obliged to play them for that reason. whatever reason, let it be.

    and second when someone says at the first of an article or statement that they don’t want to sound like they’re writing a “bashing mechanism”, they’re about to write just that – a bashing mechanism.

  8. Very nice work here Luke. I too feel that the band might be realizing in fact that they are tired of tunes which have been in their prime repertoire for eons. Or as musicians they might be maturing and coming to grips with the brutality of a directionless 15 minute noodle-fest. Here lies the age old problem with Phish- Is the focus on what they do TO a song as opposed to placing the attention on the song’s structure? Look, try to compose just ONE song. Very very tough sledding. The Phishies do carry with them a mixture of well composed compositions (D Sky, Lizards, YEM, Reba, etc…) but also feature tunes which are vehicles for extended jamming. It is that second category which can be a problem. If you wake up and grab an acoustic guitar and play the bulk of GD tunes, those from Wilco, etc… the songs stand up by themselves and in essence provide fodder for excursions when the occasion calls for it. With Phish, there are simply too many tunes which are a little empty, save for jamming potential… I rant. Sorry.

  9. Yeah — whoever said Hood is on to something. I’d throw Theme in there too. That sort of not-quite-ballad-not-quite-rocker/slow-build jam is really prone to Trey just wanking away with the whammy pedal. Sounds terrible — no direction, pitch is all whacky, etc.

    As for the funkier tunes you mentioned, I honestly think some of it has to do with Trey’s grungier sound. The choppy sound just doesn’t work as well.

    And Taste is just really difficult to play. Give them some time, it’ll be fine.

  10. I was stoked to hear Melt at Deer Creek, but my excitement quickly turned to horrible disappointment when the jam ensued. They have, however, been very tight for the most part this year.

  11. Great article. I agree on both PYITE and Free making this a list of 7. The Red Rocks nasty Stash saved it from the list too.

  12. Yeah, its sad too when a bad old one feels better than a ‘good’ new one. I’m so sick of Time Turns Elastic and I’ve only been to 6 shows since their return.

  13. to refute a few of the comments – i’d say that the jones beach hood was fantastic – one of the best in a while. i think they’ve been overplaying it b/c trey loved that one so much.

    as for stash – were you at red rocks? that stash was absurd. don’t listen to the livephish to comment – those sound horrible – WAY TOO MUCH TREY.

    punch has improved from first leg to second. like taste, it’ll take a while.
    free, in my mind, isn’t about the song – its about the groove.

    gumbo – i don’t know if i would want to try to top boise, phoenix, msg 97, etc. it has to be organic growth. otherwise its just moe.

  14. Let’s add Halley’s to this list. I keep waiting for that wail that leads to salvation and it hasn’t been happening.

  15. Moma @ Asheville was good…still the most underrated show of the first leg of summer in my opinion.

    Also, not every song needs to be ‘jammed’ out…it’s kind of refreshing to hear them just play a song and move on…better to just let the jams happen.

  16. Mike’s>H2 would be at the top of my list. Have not figured this transition out at all. Every version features sloppiness, beginning with Hampton. Notice they did a Mike’s>Simple, with the Mike’s ending, at Shorline. Bowie had been quite sloppy on leg one, but they have revived that one beautifully.

  17. Luke-

    You are dead on as usual. By the way you owe me $5 for your missed Gin opener the last night of Hampton… wait you paid it already. Love the article.


  18. I’ve only been to one show but based on that I’m throwing Halleys, Suzie and Yamar on to that list. I actually disagree quite veheminantly about Mikes (caught it at shorline). I thought it was creative and feroucious. The good news is, there’s a few songs which seem to have gone in the other direction, most notibly Limb which was way overplayed but seems fresh as a daisy. And one more thing…where the hell is my Sand.

  19. Agreed on almost everything you said…especially on Mike’s…what is up? Moma came around a little at the Gorge and am excited to hear the SPAC version. Two other songs that just haven’t hit the same type of energy they used to is Chalk Dust (they jam it a little longer and slower now) and maze. Both of these songs in their prime are 100% raucous Trey guitar driven songs…in maze Trey just seem to have the fingers anymore. Chalk Dust more than any other song shouldn’t need to have a jam to build up the energy…it is designed to be a frenetic guitar ripping song right from the get go and I really haven’t heard one for a while now…there have been some good version cause the jams were all right…but nothing close to what they debuted on Letterman.

  20. Inspiration come and goes , ebbs and flows. Hope the energy finds it way into all of the songs , but am glad, glad ,glad to have phish back

  21. PIPER. To me..the song has yet to really soar since they came back in March. I’m sure there are moments of greatness that I have not heard (I admit I havent’ listened to every version in detail)but i was at the Saturday Hampton show, & while NOTHING dissapointed me that weekend, the Piper felt hurried, & somehow incomplete. The version on “Hampton Comes Alive” recorded in 98 is so perfect, its as if they played it so well they dont want to do it again. I miss the long , long buildup….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide