Phish w/ Buddy Miles & Merl Saunders – All Along The Watchtower

When fans talk about past Phish runs at Madison Square Garden, the one that gets the least attention was a two-night stand in 1996. Unlike every other Phish MSG Run, these shows didn’t take place in December. The quartet visited the “World’s Most Famous Arena” just a week into a fall tour that wound up taking a while to heat up. After three and a half uneventful sets at the Garden, Phish finally broke through at the end of the second set on October 22nd with an amazing version of Weekapaug Groove that fans dubbed “Freakapaug” thanks to the circus dancers who enveloped the stage as Trey delivered an awe-inspiring solo. When the group returned for the encore, they weren’t alone.

Trey Anastasio took to the mic at the start of the encore to welcome two legendary musicians: drummer Buddy Miles (Band of Gypsys, Santana) and keyboardist Merl Saunders (Jerry Garcia, Rainforest Band). Page McConnell moved to organ leaving Saunders to play his grand piano (though later they’d switch positions), while Jon Fishman gave his seat to Miles and headed over to Trey’s mini-kit. Always the effervescent showman, Miles urged the crowd to “give it up for Phish” before the ensemble began only the second, and to date the final, cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower in Phish history. Musically, it wasn’t the greatest Watchtower ever played, but for many in the audience, myself included, this would our only opportunity to not only hear Phish perform the tune but also to see Miles and Saunders play before their untimely deaths in 2008. With the energy in the room already off-the-charts following the Freakapaug, the audience exploded with screams of delight when the circus dancers came back out and Buddy led the group into a bit of Stairway To Heaven.

This evening a video of Watchtower surfaced on YouTube for the first time. We’ve been spoiled by expertly synced videos featuring taper audio, but unfortunately this clip suffers from poor audio. Yet this was a wild moment in Phish history and certainly worth watching…

Phish – All Along The Watchtower

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11 Responses

  1. PotvinSucks – 100% agree. I saw my first show 10/21 and was so upset I didn’t go to 10/22. But after hearing this Watchtower, I was ok w/missing the show.

  2. He never proofreads any of these articles. He also never fact checks them either. I still cant believe he posted that Axl’s first interview in 20 years was on Kimmell….He was interviewed on THE ROCK SHOW months earlier…..and as far as these MSG shwos go, They were 2 very forgettable shows. Just another case of musicians joining Phish on stage and it being a total bust (see BB King).

  3. @Shant My first show was also 10/21/96. Went with my mom. I remember being jealous that 10/22 got an It’s Ice. Didn’t know who Buddy or Merl were when I was 14

    Also, nice subtle dig at Potvin 😉

  4. Scotty you are the man!!!! When other musicians come out with phish its always fun. Its not like they have tours to practice with these guys. And if you dont like the bb king show check out the show trey and the roots play with him. Also that Puag is sick and he did say that it was a pretty uneventfull 2 nights and not the beast watchtower?? Oh and you can hardly blame phish for the fail of the watchtower cosidering the guests (although amazing) took over the stage for that tune.

  5. Completely coincidentally I have something coming in the BARN series that dovetails very nicely with this post. Should be coming out in a couple of days as I’m deep in the mastering process for it. And no, it’s not my recording of this MSG show (though I DID make a nice recording of this show…)


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