The Phish 52: 11/16/94 Mike’s ->Simple ->Jam

Pretty much any time someone asks, “what is the most underrated jam by Phish” or “What is your favorite jam” or “what would you like to see released next from the archives” my answer is always the same: 11/16/94, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan.  This is the show that hooked me into the band.  I had listened to some tapes and been to two shows previously, but this is THE ONE,  the font of all of my Phish devotion, especially the opening of the second set.


Set two starts off with my favorite set opener, first, second, other, doesn’t matter, the opening lick from Mike’s Song.  Those first few notes always put a charge into the crowd, but when it opens a set, it gets turned up to 11.  It is impossible not to get pumped up and excited.  Tweezer elicits much of the same response, but for my money, I’ll take Mike’s Song, thank you.

For it’s part, this Mike’s Song isn’t particularly interesting. It is a pretty straight forward version that only lasts for about 7 minutes and then segues beautifully into Simple.  I’m a little bias I suppose, but the Mike’s->Simple transition is a personal favorite as well and, I’m sorry to say, that it is pretty much an artifact at this point.  It was quite common in 1994 and I want to say until 1998 or so, but by 2000 it has becoming increasingly rare.

Around 12:35, after only about 5 minutes, Simple is coming to an end and by 12:50 it is completely gone. As set list classification has evolved, I wonder if this would be listed as Mike’s->Simple, and leave it at that. I think that would be a mistake because what followed wasn’t related to Simple very much and it goes somewhere beyond a Mike’s Groove. In every sense of the word, this was just a Jam.

And what a jam it is.  The timing and track listing from Shapiro’s latest “From The Archives” (finally some 11/16/94 love!)  starts with the Mike’s, thus the title given, but if you want to hear strictly the jam, start at the 12:50 mark.

12:55 Things start to sound like music from The Wall. Trey is playing a low, dark tone while Page rests on top, delicately playing piano. At 14:38, Mike announces his presence with a strong introduction of bass to the mix.  At this point, Mike is playing a strange upright-style of bass that changes notes and tone by bending the neck as Mike strummed.  It has a richness that doesn’t quite get justice on the recordings.

15:11 Trey starts to light things up and at 15:30 the first real groove of the song is reached.  It almost feels like a march, with Fish laying down a fantastic boogie beat. Page and Mike are right there with Fish, holding things down as Trey goes into a riff that could be in just about any classic rock track.  At the 17:00 mark this portion of the jam is hitting it’s peak and at 18:00 it comes to an end with a four count pounding to sort of just sum things up.

18:45 The band stays with that four count structure, but have moved into something more playful, almost child-like. Page just floats on top of everything and the drums start fading in and out.

19:30 Everything almost goes completely quiet and gently comes back. At this point, and it would have been fantastic, they could have moved on to something else. But they don’t, they pick back up and keep going into the second major part of the song.  Trey is playing something spacey and speedy and by 21:00 Mike is playing along.  Page is just teasing some things out. They are definitely looking for that next groove.

22:38 And they find it! For those of us of a certain age, this groove is reminiscent of the theme song from the old TV show, SWAT. Trey leads the SWAT sound and Page has moved on to the clav.  By 23:50 the SWAT jam is gone and at 24:00 another peak is reached and by 24:45 things have gone quiet again.

This time when they come back, it feels like a jazz number.  Page is fiddling around and Fish is barely adding any sound, but it works.  Mike eventually starts to bop along and that is what it reminds me of, just a nice boppy song you might find at the Green Mill after hours.  A few times Trey drops in some feedback, kind of reminding everyone that this is a rock concert after all.  The jazz interlude eventually gives way.

28:00 At this point, we get Trey working the power chords and the riff he is banging out could come from any Led Zeppelin song.  Fish comes in strong on this and you can practically see Jimmy Page’s laser light show. By 30:00, Trey has picked up the pace and Fish and Mike are matching him for intensity.  Page is keeping things grounded, but not holding things back either.

31:00 The music dies off again and by 31:45, it kind of feels like they are trying to figure out where this is going to go.  In future years, I think they would have pulled the plug instead of trying to work their way out, per se.

34:00 The triumphant ending is starting.  As it winds up toward the finish we approach Machine Gun Trey and it almost hints back to Simple.  This final part kind of has a Cream-esque tone to it as well.  It’s not quite Sunshine of Your Love, but it has that vibe.  By the 38th minute, there is a brief coda and things just fade out, preparing the crowd for the mellow sounds of the bluegrass numbers that were to follow.

I have no idea how many times I’ve listened to this show and this jam in the twenty years since I saw it.  I do know that I wore out at least two tapes in the process and I’m so happy for the Archive edition for the better sound quality.  I can only hope the entire show gets released at some point.  Next up, a trip back to my home town.

I finally got my podcast working the way I’d like, so if you’d like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 20 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!

 Get Your History On

The Phish 52: 8/10/97 Cities

I’ve written about this show in the past.  It was part of my Phish Friday’s idea, that petered out a while back.  Of course this little project has taken a while to even get going, so I’m consistently inconsistent.


It was my first time at the venue and I haven’t been back since 1998, but I still have fond memories and of course the Cities that opened up the second set.  The song starts off as a pretty standard Cities, a cover of the 1979 Talking Heads tune.  It really isn’t until the seventh minute that things start to take on a more jammed out element foreshadowing what is to come.  About 6:45 there is kind of a plinko sound with some great interplay from Trey and Page.

7:30 there is a tempo change and a new groove starts to emerge.  The structure of Cities is still present, but there is a more rhythmic element driving the song at this point.

9:22 Trey starts a new chord progression and it starts to move away from the more funky, syncopated groove that Cities starts in and the song had been resting in, to a more exploratory, spacey feel.  Mike is playing a simple two beat line, that becomes more complex by 10:00.  Page is kind of noodling around on synthesizer, adding a great atmosphere. At 10:30 Fish is more involved as well, really setting a mood with cymbal play.  From this point on, Cities proper is a distant memory.  The entire band has joined in and a great build up ensues. Around the 12:00 mark, things have picked up considerably and around 13:30 Trey is back in the driver’s seat, kind of branching off and the steady rhythm is muted a bit.

14:35 The pounding repetition is back and the intensity is almost at it’s peak. The song has morphed into a very strong rocker.  At 15:40 there is kind of a lull as things seem to be mellowing out, it isn’t the smoothest of transitions, but they recover nicely.

16:25 We reach a fantastic crescendo  and we get to my favorite part of the song. Things positively just soar for the next minute or so.

17:22 Trey is chording  and Page is kind of bouncing around until the sound evolves into an almost Franklin’s Tower kind of sound.  Page keeps adding bounces, which in retrospect seem to be hinting at the theramin solo that will arrive later in the set.

19:00 just a great groove that is simply perfect. Page is dancing around again on the piano, playing very nicely over the rhythm that the others are putting down. Things pretty much stay in this neighborhood, all the while building up toward the finale and the segue into Good Times Bad Times.  You could almost call it a rip chord the way Good Times sort of just pops in, but it’s really hard to say that considering the rip chord comes almost 24 minutes into the song.

This version of Cities is easily my favorite version of the song and doing a little research, it is a pretty rare version.  Very few times have the band launched into an extended jam from Cities, only two appear on the 20+ minute jam chart, but it doesn’t stop me from being hopeful every time I happen to catch one.  According to, it is the must-hear version of the song and I can’t disagree.  If you’re a fan of a little more spacey, a little less funky from 1997, you really should check this Cities out.  In fact, you should check out all of this run at Deer Creek.  It’s got some great stuff and somewhere down the road I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the Timber (Jerry) played the next night.  Up next though, the jam that started it all for me, way back in 1994.

The Phish 52: A Jam A Week!

So, only three or so months after hatching the idea I’m finally getting around to trying my hand at discussing particular songs/jams performed by Phish. A few things you should know going forward:

  1. I have no actual background in music. I’m not a musicologist, musician or anything else related to the study or production of music. I know a few chords on a guitar and that’s about it. If you are looking for analysis of tonal changes, progression shifts and other such concepts, this series of blogs will be wholly inadequate.
  2. This is not a ranking.  These are just particular moments in Phish time that I happen to like. I might compare one to another, but I won’t be rating anything. There are no grades in this exercise.
  3. This is an exercise. Like I said, not a trained music guy. I’m just writing what I hear as best as I can. Why? Well, because I’ve always felt intimidated by those that can review the music and really explain it well. So, I’m getting out of my comfort zone a little bit and hopefully improving at something that I’ve long envied and admired.
  4. This is a bit personal. I mean that in the sense that the selections come from my little slice of the Phish universe. Most of the songs reviewed here will be from shows I attended.  There might be a personal note or two as well, We’ll see how it goes.
  5. This is a bit of a commitment. Yeah, kind of crazy, but I’d like to do this once a week. I’ve done a few things like this, but I don’t think for an entire year, so we’ll see.

So, that’s the plan. To those that follow me on twitter because of our mutual obsession, your feed back is most welcome and I have a feeling needed when I’m hard up for songs/jams to write about. For those of you that read my blog for other reasons…sorry. Feel free to move along.

I finally got my podcast working the way I’d like, so if you’d like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 18 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!

Phish Song Rankings: As of Dick’s

Yes, we love Dick’s.  Since the three night stand in Denver became the tour closer it has yet to disappoint.  2015 was no different, perhaps the best Dick’s ever, but I’ll leave that to others to debate.  I’ll also leave it up for debate if this was the greatest Harpua ever, but it has to be in the discussion.

As for the Top 20, there really wasn’t a big change from Magnaball.  While the festival in New York saw a big representation of Top 20 songs, Dick’s was much more about the rarities and bust outs.  We saw first Bike since 2012, the first Keyboard Army since 1995 and the first Landlady since 1994.

It is interesting that Phish harkened back to those years, 1994 and 1995.  Many of the songs that are in the Top 20 that have become less frequent in 3.0 were staples in the mid-1990s. Suzy Greenberg, Golgi Apparatus and Foam just to name a few were in a pretty heavy rotation, now they just don’t pop up.

Looking further down the list and evidence of something encouraging to me is that newer songs keep rising, some of the most recent as a matter of fact.  No Men in No Man’s Land and Martian Monster have each broken into the top 300, which might not seem like much, but I think it is. While the novelty factor of Martian might see its play diminish by next tour, I’m guessing No Men and Blaze On for that matter, becoming staples for a while.  I think those songs among some of the others really point to a more mature songwriting style.  Not saying it’s better or worse, just more in line with 50 year old men.

I think it was a documentary I watched about Genesis when one of the guys, I think it was Phil Collins, asked the rhetorical question, “Do you know a lot of middle-aged men doing the same thing they were doing when they were 18?” I get it. It’s not to say that Phish is done with those old songs, but I wouldn’t doubt if they are more interested in doing something new.   Unlike so many bands that have 30+ years under their belts, Phish isn’t a slave to their past, or their fans for that matter.  I don’t think, I truly hope that the band knows we will gladly go along wherever they go.  If ever a member of Phish says something like “we have to play YEM because it wouldn’t be fair to the fans” I would be more disappointed in that notion than if the band decided to retire the song for good.

Here is your unofficial Top 20. I’ll go through the numbers one more time before New Year’s.  I’m sure there is some bad addition, typos and the like in there.

1   You Enjoy Myself – 572
2    Possum – 502
3    Mike’s Song – 481
4    Bouncing Around the Room – 451
5    Golgi Apparatus – 450
5    Weekapaug Groove – 450  
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 437
8    David Bowie – 435
9    Cavern – 434
10   Run Like an Antelope – 430
11   Suzy Greenberg – 411
12   Divided Sky – 402
13   Stash – 400
14   Runaway Jim – 371 (24%)
14   Reba – 371
16   Harry Hood – 353
17   Tweezer – 346
18   The Squirming Coil – 345 (22%)
19   Foam – 341 (22%)
20   I Am Hydrogen – 332 (21%)

Thoughts on Magnaball: The Vibe

I was lucky enough to attend the Clifford Ball back in 1996. I had a great time, still listen to set two from night one from time to time.  Like many of the people there, I realized that this was something big, something special.  This was a long way from the band I saw at a place called the Phoenix Plaza in Pontiac, Michigan, basically a stage set up on top of a parking garage.  Nope, the Clifford Ball was huge and everyone, including the band seemed to be saying, “when did we get so big?”

Fast forward almost twenty years and I was lucky enough to attend the tenth Phish-exclusive music festival, Magnaball.  Suffice it to say, things were different. Instead of being almost overwhelming, it was intimate. At least as intimate as 30K people can be. I know that one of the fears of Trey is becoming a nostalgia act, but it was a little hard to fight that feeling.  I would argue that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I felt good, kind of like going home and seeing how the old town has changed.

The biggest change was how much better organized it was compared to festivals in the past.  I say this after marveling at how organized my previous festival experiences were.  My guess is that the Phish organization followed a similar game plan to Superball IX, but it was still something.  The camping was divided up into three primary directions, fanning out from the venue. It created a lot less congestion going and coming to the venue site.  Watching everyone come from different directions had the feeling of a gathering taking place, a community happening.

The campsites themselves were very well organized as well and at least where I was, very mellow.  I didn’t get into the sober camping site (though if I would have pushed harder I probably would have) so I was a little trepidatious. I needn’t have been.  Everyone around me was just hanging out and relaxing. Sure there was drinking and I’m sure smoking, but no one was obnoxious.  Each night I got back to my site and crashed in a minute.  I probably created the most noise on Saturday morning when I accidentally set off my car alarm.  Sorry everybody.

I saw a lot of kvetching about the 30K limit, but I implore Phish to keep it at this number for future events. At no point did I feel overcrowded, but at the same time it wasn’t sparse. There was room for everyone.  When the music was on, it’s hard to imagine 15 or 30 more thousand people there.  It was plenty crowded around the stage.

As far as the non-music parts of the weekend, again it was different than 19 years ago. It wasn’t so much that we needed to be entertained, but it provided activity if you wanted it.  It was one of the many ways the maturing of Phish and its audience was evident.  There were quite a few folks at yoga every morning and I saw a lot of runners every morning too. I joked to friends that this was my alternative to my wife’s spa weekend, but it was closer than I would have thought. If I could offer a suggestion though, why not go all the way and put in more physical/outdoorsy activities? I was kind of bummed that the 5K of festivals past was gone (though an unofficial one was run on Saturday I think) and I bet quite a few folks (myself included) would have gone on a guided nature walk. Us birders are everywhere!

The game shows and artist meetings were nice too.  I enjoyed the games a lot more than I thought I would, to be honest. They are usually the kind of thing I sort of feel are too corny, kind of like games at a baseball convention.  But you know what? Everybody was there to celebrate and enjoy Phish, so why not answer trivia questions about our favorite band? Next time I would even go a step further, hell let’s just make it a convention? Have some panels to go to, maybe a lecture or two, even an open mike place. Personally, I’d love a Bug House Square type of place for people to just go and speak on any topic. I would probably get my history on and share a lecture or two :-)

I already wrote about the food, but there were other amenities that just made the whole weekend a pleasure. Showers, clean porta-potties, and general cleanliness of the whole area was fantastic.  Again, I think it is a reflection that we have gotten a little older, but also a little more considerate of one another and of the environment as a whole. I didn’t see a lot of ABSOLUTELY WASTED people. That’s not to say they weren’t there, but the feeling was much more about relaxing and basking in all things Phish.

And that is what the whole weekend was about, just enjoying being with the band and with so many like minded and like generation people. I think the most fun I had outside of the music was sitting at the cell phone charging station with an assortment of folks. After we got over the initial shock of not having a screen to scroll through, we got to talking. We talked about the previous night’s show, what we thought was coming and what we wished would happen.  But even more engaging was learning about where people were from, what they did outside of our Phish fantasy camp, and what else made them tick.

I can’t say the energy was anything like Clifford Ball, or Big Cypress but what could be? No the energy at Magnaball was that feeling you get when you see an old friend. That friend you might not have spoken to in years and yet when you sit down the connection is still there, as if no time has passed.

Thoughts on Magnaball: The Food

I’ll be honest.  I have been following Phish for over twenty years now and I still feel intimidated by the musical analysis I see from various fans.  I think that is a big reason my plan to start a jam a week series has stalled. Compared to some of the folks who write about the music, from the very technical to just the very well described, I feel like my thoughts on the music come off like, “um, it was cool yo!” We’ll see if I get some courage along the line.  Meanwhile, there are lots of places to go to get your musical review fix.

Instead I’ll go with one of the main areas of Magnaball that struck me right in the gut, the food (HA! see what I did there?)  There has been a great deal written about this festival being the tenth one since Clifford Ball in 1996.  I have not attended them all, but a pretty fair sampling: Clifford Ball, Lemon Wheel, Big Cypress and now Magnaball.  Along the way, none of the food at the others is what I would call memorable.  At the previous three I attended the food was a step above carnival food.  Don’t get me wrong, I love carnival food, LOVE IT. However, if you’ve eaten one elephant ear, you’ve eaten them all.  Sorry Mr. Sausage, you were delicious but you would not have made the cut at Magnaball.

Maybe it’s a sign that the fan base is maturing (more on that another time) or that Phish and their partners just really know how to put one of these things together or that we as a population have become more contientious about food, but the food at Magnaball was a significant upgrade (as promised I might add.)

Now, I am not a man of unlimited means nor blessed with a matabolism that burns calories like a 25 year old distance runner so I did not try every foodstuff available. I would have drained my bank account and gained roughly 30 pounds if I even attempted that.  I did, however, get a pretty good sampler over the three days. There were some good points, some bad points and a few regrets.

The Good

Of all the food I had over the weekend, three items standout as stellar. I would highly recommend them to even the most discerning of eaters.  The number one thing I ate though it was on Sunday so you could argue I didn’t get their best was the chicken biscuit from the Ozark Mountain Biscuit Company.  A fresh made biscuit with fried chicken breast, served with romain lettuce and tomato ailoi. Fantastic. The biscuit was fluffy and flaky and the chicken was moist throughout. It is really hard to make such a dish without drying it out and the OMBC nailed it. The tomato aoli added just enough spice to make it interesting and the lettuce, which I usually don’t care about, added a bit of texture that really worked. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Quinoa salad. Sorry I forget the company that brought us this dish, but it was out toward the Joyous Lake campground. I know what you’re thinking, quinoa? Yes quinoa. I’ll admit I was skeptical about this grain for a long time, in part because I failed when preparing it once. The key is making sure it is thoroughly rinsed, if not it tastes like soap. That was not an issue with this salad. Mixed greens, apples, corn and black beans dressed in a citrus inspired dressing was perfect.  It usually comes with avacado, but that just isn’t my thing and I can’t see how the pasty texture of the avocado would have improved things, but to each his own and either way I’m sure it would still be delicious.

Pimento cheese sandwich. This ain’t the Augusta National pimento cheese sandwich, which I’ve been told is basically pimentos in american cheese. I suppose it scores points for nostalgia. No, this was an item at the Cafe Gordeaux which was a bit more of a farmer’s cheese, the pimentos mixed in to make almost a spreadable type cheese. It went excellent on toast and provided a great finishing spicy kick that went great with strong coffee.  I wasn’t the only one who like the pimento cheese because they were sold out by Saturday morning. Toast and jam was not nearly as satisfying for breakfast.

Close But Not Quite

At any other venue or show, these next two would have been tops, but the competition was stiff to say the least.  The spicy peanut noodles inside the venue (sorry forget the vendor again) were a very good, hearty pre-show meal. Just enough heat to make it interesting and who doesn’t like an aldente noodle? The drawback was that it was billed as peanut and while it may have contained peanut oil or some peanut paste, overall it was hard to taste.  Speaking of the oil, there was a lot of it. Don’t be confused this was not a healthy dish by any means.

Ricci’s Pizza. This was along the main drag leading to the Joyous Lake camping ground as well and I thing they had other locations open as well. What appealed to me the most was that it was just your basic pizza, but well done. Good crust, nice chew to it, very good sauce to cheese ratio and good sauce on its own. Nothing to complicated, just a good piece of pizza.  Which is great, but compared to the other food isn’t enough to make the top.

Skip It

Jerry Rolls. I’ll admit, I was drawn in by the clever name and the sheer size of the roll. An eggroll as big as a burrito? I’m in! I shouldn’t have been.  There is a pretty good reason eggrolls are kind of small.  By the time you finish one the grease hasn’t had time to coagulate and/or drip into a pool on your plate.  Also, a smaller eggroll remains crispy, the Jerry Roll does not. Basically it is a huge piece of fried dough that has enough oil to lube a small engine.jerryroll At first the dough is ok, only to get gross and soggy by the end. The filling was nothing more than shredded cabbage and it remained raw even after deep frying. Maybe if it was flash fried first or something like kimchi was used it would help but I’m not sure. Anyway, by the time you reach the end of this monster you are left with a puddle of oil, soy sauce and shriacha, all soaking a pile of raw, unseasoned cabbage. Resist the urge with this one.

Pizza in the venue. For all good things that the pizza outside the venue had, pretty much everything was the opposite for the pizza inside the venue. It was dried out, consisted of odd combinations. Basically, pineapple should never be on a a spicy pizza.  The crust was tough, practically like chewing on a rawhide. Also they served it a bit cold, which didn’t help things at all…and I actually like cold pizza.

The Ones That Got Away

Grass-Fed Sliders. Right next to the Ozark Biscuit Company was a vendor selling grass-fed beef sliders.  They looked perfect, but I was already waiting for my chicken biscuit. If it would have been a lamb-beef combo, I might have had to made the sacrifice and eat an additional meal.

Risotto Balls. You may have seen people wandering around the venue with half dozen egg containers. They contained what looked to be fantastic risotto balls. The half dozens that I saw were sampler boxes that had sweet and savory balls. I would have gone to get the risotto balls, but both times the fancy struck me, I had great places in front of the stage. Sometimes you just have to stay on Page side, deep-fried goodness be damned.

More from Magnaball, stay tuned!


Phish Song Rankings As Of Magnaball

I’ll get to the song rankings in a moment but I’d like to share my plans for the next few posts here at the old Lazy Blog.  Basically, Magnaball was a great, great experience and I don’t think one post can sum up everything.  I don’t know how many posts, but I’m guessing more than one.

Oh, and you might have noticed that the percentages have slowly been disappearing.  I’ve been eliminating them slowly as each song has been played.  Basically, the percentages aren’t correct at this point.  When the tour is over I’ll go to ZZYZX and share the list with the proper percentages again.

As far as the songs go, well they keep on going don’t they? Part of the fun of Phish I would say.  Over the weekend 11 of the Top 20 were played, including the top three.  Of note, Weekepaug hit 450 and Stash joined the 400 club.

Further afield, Fuego broke into the top 200 over the weekend.  It might not seem like much, but it is pretty amazing that such a young song has moved up so quickly.  One of the fun things about looking at the placings of the songs is seeing what the band has been into over the years.  While the Top 20 is predominantly a list of the older material, building up numbers during the heavy touring years of the 1990s, many parts of the list reflect what was once a staple of the band, only to fade.  Who knows where Blaze On will wind up? But it’s great to watch.  Speaking of that Top 20, here is the list post-ball:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 572
2    Possum – 502
3    Mike’s Song – 481
4    Bouncing Around the Room – 450
4    Golgi Apparatus – 450
4    Weekapaug Groove – 450 450th time played!  
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 436
8    David Bowie – 435
9    Cavern – 434
10   Run Like an Antelope – 429
11   Suzy Greenberg – 411
12   Divided Sky – 402
13   Stash – 400 400th time played
14   Runaway Jim – 371 (24%)
14   Reba – 371
16   Harry Hood – 352
17   The Squirming Coil – 345 (22%)
17   Tweezer – 345
19   Foam – 341 (22%)
20   I Am Hydrogen – 330 (21%)