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. Jay Says:

    I’m liking the thought of a Foreplay/Longtime opener more and more. I forget that the majority of people at Fenway were not at Hampton so the lyrics are appropo.

    “It’s been such a long time, I think I should be goin, yeah”

  2. guyforget Says:

    SOAM, i knew that comment would bring you out of the woodwork!!

  3. Dave Says:

    Anyone go to the Dead last night at Shoreline? I went with my brother and I thought the band sounded pretty tight. I thought they got a little lost on “the other one” but besides that played a solid show. It was my brother’s (not the wolfman) first big “jam” experience and he was floored. He kept screaming “I totally get why people come to these!” I grinned and just told him if you think this is a party wait till August 5th…

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Dave thats awesome – I love being there when people get IT – so fantastic

  5. Little Buddy Says:

    SOAM –

    “Cheeseball Nation” was just for you, buddy. Quick question… Is “Fever Pitch” your favorite movie?

  6. old dude Says:

    Everyone knows the best sports team resides in Flushing, Queens.
    Now, who’s smoking pole?

  7. mr. icclus Says:

    Foreplay/Long Time
    I just realized that they opened Great Woods with this in 00 so i wonder if they will save it for GW or bust it out at Fenway.

  8. SOAM Says:

    I know your name says old- but you have to be senile/geriatric to think those bunch of chokers are anything but a september disgrace.



    w’sup with all the good reviews for the dead-are these people out of their tits?

  9. wanderin Says:

    We just saw The Dead in Denver, and it was my girls first time seeing them. She had great time, and when I mentioned to her that Phish brings more energy to their shows, her interest and enthusiasm was really picqued. She is getting IT….slowly. Live shows rock!

  10. SOAM Says:

    My favorite movie is Deer Hunter-btw

  11. SOAM Says:

    did you bang her in the back row?-Just curious

  12. voopa Says:

    Phenway opener: The Cars “Let the Good Times Roll”

  13. Manny Phresh Says:

    LOL – “did you bang her in the back row”

    That statement made me remember of this one MOE concert I saw. I was a senior in high school, me and friends left school early, dosed and drank ourselves silly on the train to the concert. The concert was in Red Bank, NJ and the highlight of that show for me, the only thing that I really remember, is seeing this couple in the upper balcony fucking their brains out. This dude had his girl bent over the rail, I wanted a closer look being the perv that I am, so I ran up to them and spanked the girl on her ass . Her boyfriend then motioned to me, and asked me if I wanted a turn. (TRUE STORY) I was terrified and just ran back to my group of friends who were just laughing their asses off. Once the couple finished, they started to walk down the aisle, and the entire upper balcony erupted into an applause during the middle of a jam, the band was caught off-guard and looked at the upper-balcony probably wondering what had just happened.

  14. wanderin Says:

    @ SOAM…lol no I did not…that was saved for later

  15. msbjivein Says:

    ^^^^ wow dUDE!! U should’ve took a video! LOL!

  16. Chalkdustin Says:

    ^^What a story!

  17. old dude Says:

    SOAM, i think it’s just that gentlemen like you and me have more refined taste and hold a higher standard of excellence.

    for instance, with regard to live music: It’s difficult to fathom someone having a fondness for the Dead. It’s a baffling concept.

    and for instance, with regard to ball clubs: It’s difficult to fathom someone having a fondness for the Red Sox. It’s a baffling concept.

  18. SOAM Says:

    Highgate Vt-94-a good friend of mine who is no longer with us “too much, too fast”-got blown at a campground in front of a couple hundred people by some tour war pig-(modern day wookette) and exchanged a series of high fives as well as applause. Nothing beats a good gig-good buzz and a hummer

    Miner-tomorrow’s topic?

  19. Mike Says:

    I love the wolfman’s from 12/1/03.

  20. SOAM Says:

    Your right old dude-who would be a fan of a team that orchestrted the greatest series comeback in all of sports history and has won 2 of the last 4 world championships-useless right-c’mon dude it’s 09 not 86

  21. Manny Phresh Says:

    I keep hearing this phrase thrown around all the time recently, “wookie”. WTF is a wookie, is it one those strung out kids that call a parking lot there home, and going on tour their career.

  22. Manny Phresh Says:

    Stop bashing on my METS. You heard it here first, METS 2009 WORLD SERIES CHAMPS.

  23. Mr. Completely Says:


    Fucking in shows is a venerable tradition. Some show off while doing it, others get it on so you might not even notice…

  24. SOAM Says:

    I had a little action at Giants Stadium -back in the day but if I’m honest-I have to admit I couldn’t see that well (Just some huge party bags in my face-“other times I can barely see”) and sense of touch/feel was limited.

    I actualy have nothing against the Mets-it’s those cross town toolbags that I dislike-but man-the Met’s do choke much like the bill’s of the 90’s

  25. old dude Says:

    Manny, we get a new president AND phish comeback tour AND a Mets championship – 2009 is shaping up to be a stellar year.

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