The Evolution of “Wolfman’s”

Hampton '04

Hampton 2004

When “Wolfman’s Brother” debuted at the Flynn Theatre on 4.4.94 in accordance with Hoist’s release a week earlier, it was nothing more than a groovy filler tune that played second-fiddle to the album’s more played anthems of “Disease,” “Julius” and “Sample In a Jar.”  Early arrangements, including the Burlington debut, included horns to enhance the song’s bouncy texture.  But throughout its early life, “Wolfman’s” never really found a direction, and was shelved after 6.26.94’s “Gamehoist” show for over a year.

Reemerging to open Fall Tour ’95 at Cal Expo in Sacramento, “Wolfman’s” made only sporadic appearances over the next two years.  The song didn’t quite sit with Phish’s breakneck style of play, but as the band began its transformation into a millennial groove machine toward the end of ’96, the potential for the song was reinvented.  On December 28th, at Philadelphia’s Spectrum, “Wolfman’s” sprouted a tail for the first time as the band extended the song’s groove for the first time ever, albeit for six minutes, foreshadowing what was to come.

21a6fe8b9cb047de956c1c6e6dd0b378During the band’s early Europe run of ’97, Phish continued peeling away the layers, seeking a certain collaborative groove-based style of play- a process that began with their cover of  Remain in Light the previous Halloween.  On the penultimate night of tour, on March 1st in Hamburg, Germany, Phish would realize their musical transformation during a “Wolfman’s” jam forever immortalized on Slip, Stitch, and Pass.  The summer of ’97 saw several “Wolfman’s” that far surpassed anything anyone imagined from the song.  Beginning during the band’s exploratory tour in Europe, “Wolfman’s” became an improvisational vehicle for deep, liquid funk grooves that defined Phish’s new musical direction, often stretching out over twenty-plus minutes.  Culminating with a memorable and monster version at The Great Went, “Wolfman’s” was officially on the map as one of the newest great Phish jams.

dscf0160Fall ’97 offered four versions of the song, each seemingly bigger than the next.  While the band transcended mere funk in Utah, creatively working their way into “Piper,” Champaign’s version on 11.19 absolutely blew up.  Boasting an extended funk jam and a subsequent foray into crazy psychedelia that incorporated a “Crosseyed” jam, this immediately stood out the as the most epic version to date.  This tour would also see the longest “Wolfman’s” ever played with the well-known heavy-metal, repetitious, and surreal version from Worcester on 11.30.  Famously used to birth the comeback of “Boogie On” in Dayton, after Fall ’97, “Wolfman’s” was one of the band’s most prominent launch pads.

Yet the foundation laid  in ’97 as was expounded on even further in “Wolfman’s” finest year- 1998.  Beginning with the Island Run’s scorching version that segued seamlessly into “Sneaking Sally” during the year’s first show, it appeared that there was no slowing down for the funk-laden vehicle.   Blending seamlessly with the laid-back funk of summer tour, Phish wove multiple versions throughout the season that integrated this style and fit perfectly into summer shows.  Though the summer funk was fun, some of the greatest versions ever dropped in Fall ’98.

phish-halloween-98Following the club-style grooves at The Fillmore in San Francisco, the subsequent version in Las Vegas on Halloween would become the new standard against which all are judged.  Integrating Fall ’98’s textured, ambient and abstract style of jamming into the dark musical milieu of “Wolfman’s,” the result was both monstrous and mind-boggling.  Taking the song on its most intense journey ever, Phish used “Wolfman’s” as the eerie, scare-the hell-out-of-you, Halloween jam that drew a legendary response from the crowd, including a spontaneous glowstick explosion at one of the deepest points in the jam.  This was pure Phish, and although many were confused by a jam so maddening, this is truly the song’s definitive version.

Beyond Vegas’ epic, “Wolfman’s” would make notable appearances at Cleveland (11.13) featuring a Mind Left Body jam, and at Greenville, SC, including an abstract exploration out of the funk before eventually segueing into “Lizards.” No conversation of ’98 “Wolfman’s” would be complete without mentioning the second half of MSG’s 12.28 raucous and masterful “Carini > Wolfman’s.”  Incorporating spaced-out textures into funk mixture, this version was a centerpiece of a notoriously dark set.

1998-12-28moBeyond the peak years of 1997 and 1998, “Wolfman’s” lost a bit of its edge, and was used primarily as a funk vehicle when that was no longer the band’s primary focus.  Dancy, yet less experimental, versions continued to pepper setlists as the band kept it in rotation throughout 2000 and post-hiatus.  While some versions certainly stood out more than others during these years, the improv had been toned down a notch.

It will be interesting to see what direction the band take’s “Wolfman’s” as they enter this summer.  Hampton’s version was uber-funky, yet contained as most of the improv in Virginia, and was no real sign as to where it might go.  As things stretch out in the heat of June and August, we will discover where “Wolfman’s” fits into the path of 3.0, or if it will primarily remain a relic of another era.

***A Sampling of “Wolfman’s” Through the Years***

LISTEN to 12.28.96 Philly “Wolfman’s Now! < LINKS (roll over, click play)

LISTEN to 6.24.97 Strasbourg, FR “Wolfman’s” Now!

LISTEN to 11.18.98 Greenville, SC “Wolfman’s” Now!

LISTEN to 12.28.98 MSG “Wolfman’s ” Now!

LISTEN to 7.26.99 Deer Creek “Wolfman’s” Now!

LISTEN TO 6.13.00 Nagoya, JP “Wolfman’s” Now!


R1’s DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY (written by contest winner, R1)

2.1.91 Brown University, Providence, RI SBD < LINK

2.1.91 Brown University, Providence, RI SBD < TORRENT LINK

Brown University, Providence, RI

Brown University, Providence, RI

“This show, from my alma mater, kicked off a massive spring tour (63 shows) in the formative Phish year of 1991.  This tour saw the band honing its chops at small theatres, festivals, bars, college gymnasiums, and even a prep school.  These guys are young and obviously having a damn good time.  The first set is where it’s at here.  The rare “Tweezer” directly into “Reprise” is pretty scorching, with Trey ripping it up.  “Guelah Papyrus” is played for the first time, a short-but sweet “Jim,” and an interesting, if somewhat odd and discordant, “Bowie” finish out the set.  The second set begins with the premiere of “Chalk Dust,” features a sweet “Reba” with a little Dixieland tease thrown in at the onset of the jam, and a funky “Cavern.”  All in all a nice start to an epic tour.  If only I was 5 years older…”

I: My Sweet One, Foam, Tweezer > Tweezer Reprise, Magilla, Guelah Papyrus*, Runaway Jim, Split Open and Melt**, Bouncing Around the Room, David Bowie

II: Chalk Dust Torture*, Reba, The Landlady, The Mango Song, Cavern***

E: Alumni Blues, Carolina

*debut. **Screwed up on master recording. ***Interrupted by security telling the band informing the band of the midnight curfew.  The Mango Song was played for the first time since August 19, 1989 (132 shows).

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107 Responses to “The Evolution of “Wolfman’s””

  1. BingosBrother Says:

    “She said this isn’t who it would be, if it wasn’t who it is” Money line.
    Great writeup Miner and R1. You make a great team.
    Star Spangled Banner>Mound
    R.I.P. Bob

  2. msbjivein Says:

    That’s two for Mound!!! Love IT!!!!

  3. Pence Says:

    ^buddy agreed…almost as bad as the cubs “hey hey what’d you say the cubs are gonna win today.” Im a sox fan, and evertime I hear that i cringe. maybe one of the gayest songs ever sung.

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    do people generally use the LISTEN NOW links? Looking from the backend of the site, it doesn’t really seem so- just curious for research purposes….

  5. wanderin Says:

    Hey Miner…While at work, I use it when I can…not too often though..but definitely plan on listening later on today after the office clears out a bit.

  6. Ortweezer Reprise Says:

    For single songs, I only use the Listen NOW links because I can stream them on my Iphone. This is one of the best features of your site.

  7. Los Says:


    I never do, nor do I download from your site. I usually use the spread sheet for my downloads.

  8. msbjivein Says:

    I hardly ever use roll over. I’ve been doing a lot more downloading lately. Now that I’m downloading more I would like to donate to the cause. Mr. Miner are you still taking donations?????

  9. Jay Says:

    I mostly use the torrent links. Very rarely use the listen now.

  10. brandofunk Says:

    i wish the listen now worked better with Iphone 3G. It doesn’t flow through the songs. Constant pausing and loading.

  11. RobAins Says:

    I rarely use the “listen now.” Depends on what topic of the day is I guess…

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Miner – rarely, but not never. I wouldn’t weep if they went away…but I don’t torrent at work and sometimes want to hear what all the talk is about right away

    @Wolfman’s – love this song, especially when I was first getting back into Phish in ’97 it really grabbed me.

    @Phish eras: I wondered about this too. It seems like Phish 1.0 really started about 91? before that they were in beta, like a version 0.8 or something. But then, how often do you iterate sub-versions? Is ’94 v1.3 and ’95 v1.31 or what? sounds maddening and pointless now that I think about it. But ’97 is definitely v1.5, right? gahhh

    @Slip fans – have you heard the Slipping Daylights gigs? The Slip + Living Daylights = complete improv sets. The first one was @HSMF then they did a tour together, a set from each band, then a Slipping Daylights set. We produced a couple of those shows and they were interesting. Like most pure improv it has dull, noodly sections, but lots of good stuff too…fun times

    The Slip guys were really chill. I haven’t heard this new direction you mention but I always thought they would be a lot more fun if they tightened up and rocked out some, which it sounds like they’re doing. Interesting.

  13. A_Glide Says:

    I use the listen now’s regularly. I can’t download at work. I’d like to see more of that. I probably never would have appreciated the ’88 cities from CO if couldn’t have streamed it.

  14. Mr.Miner Says:

    Now that I’m downloading more I would like to donate to the cause. Mr. Miner are you still taking donations?????

    ^^ Of course! Always taking donations! The Donate Button on the homeoage is always active.

    I am not talking away LISTEN NOWS- just curious. Thanks for the feedback!

  15. msbjivein Says:

    I haven’t noticed the “Donation” button. Sweet I’ll get on it!!

  16. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ front page- right side…..

  17. msbjivein Says:

    Got IT!!! Thankyou Mr Miner!

  18. Wilson Says:

    Boston opener: Foreplay/Longtime would be pretty cool.
    LimbxLimb: “drop me off the chinese WALL” … maybe?
    and if they do Sweet Caroline: hello beer/piss break.

  19. snigglebeach Says:

    As my laptop starts to fill up i am using the listen now links a lot.

    @Pence, Bonnaroo is going to be such a long weekend, i suggest a room on wednesday night. seems silly to bring wednesdays show stink to a festival. i want to take advantage of that shower thursday morning.

    I don’t expect traffic to be bad at all on thursday. with a terrible thursday line-up, whats the rush??

    I was planning on asking (and i guess now i am) if anyone knows of local hotspots, amusement parks, anything worth seeing, in the Knoxville on Manchester TN area. It looks a bit far to Graceland. i was thinking i would prob rather show up Thursday after the sun goes down.

  20. mr. icclus Says:

    Miner i always use your listen now and rarly download. I downloaded your laid back funk of 98 and ill listen to it over and over and over and over and over.

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    we listened to the ’98 summer mix all weekend – that one is sticking in the rotation for sure

  22. guyforget Says:

    “cheeseball nation” – well said.
    Phish is not so cheesy as to play that stupid fucking song at their night at fenway. maybe they should just play some dropkick murphy’s while thier at it.

    I still wish i didn’t know Fishman was the Wolfman’s Brother – goddamn drugs…

  23. Eric R. Says:

    I like the single song listen nows. Especially if its a jam I really want to hear that has been discussed in the blurb. Cant download a whole show at work.

  24. SOAM Says:

    I’m Looking for a return of the flying Hot dog-and anyone who calls boston Cheesedog nation is a jealous douchebag-we got the best sports teams and are centrally located for the most east coast shows-get off your strerotypical soapboax-form some original opinions or go smoke some pole

  25. nhozzz Says:

    RE: Bonnaroo

    Am heading from Knoxville to Roo but have an RV so going to take our time sleep wed night then get supplies and head in Thursday some time so would love to know if there is something we should check out Thursday day in the area. Also had two friends back out so in anyone needs Knoxville tickets I have 2 nhozzz @ Gmail The one thing I have heard about getting there very early is that you will be camped way way in the back so if you drive direct wed night after the show might be something to think about

    Use the single song to get that instant fix

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