Casualties Of This Era

8.5.10 (Wendy Rogell)

Though Phish’s modern era has brought us new jam vehicles in “Light” and “Number Line,” it has also seen several fade away. Aside from the well-documented castration of “Mike’s Song,” three other crowd-favorites have completely lost their sense of adventure—”Halley’s Comet,” “Gumbo” and “Free.” The former two have returned to their pre-1997 form, while the latter has inexplicably shrunk into a Phish single. Because of its history, I think “Free” still has a chance to bust out, but, it feels like “Halley’s and “Gumbo” jams may be gone forever.

8.10.10 (G. Lucas)

Both “Halley’s Comet” and “Gumbo” improvisational jaunts were byproducts of the late-’90s era of groove and band’s post-hiatus “we’ll jam anything” policy. But when comparing current versions of these songs to the first decade plus of their lives, they look exactly the same. “Halley’s” was traditionally a four-minute launchpad into larger musical happenings, and “Gumbo,” until 1997, featured the same ragtime ending that closes the piece today. Thus, it seems that their improvisational gravestone will read “1997 – 2004.” But what a run it was. Both songs blossomed with The Cowfunk Revolution of ’97 and hosted stellar adventures for six years before appearing in 2009 as their retro selves. The only out-of-the-ordinary version of either song came in June ’09, at the anti-climactic Fox show, when Phish opened the second set with an extended, but straight-forward, “Halley’s Comet.”

“Free” is another case all together. There is really no logical explanation for its compact modern shape. Moving from Mike’s bass solo right into the closing chords of the former jam, the band has put nothing whatsoever into this song since they have come back. During the song’s early years of ’95 and ’96, Page took charge of its soupy psychedelia with strong piano leads while Trey often jumped to percussion. Though some versions of the song grew significant (see 6.26.95 as a prime example), more often than not, the jam didn’t reach highlight-reel territory. Nonetheless, there was always a jam.

10.12.10 - Broomfield (B.Perry)

And then in 1997, the year “Halley’s” and “Gumbo” sprang to life, the same rhythmic shift turned “Free” into a vehicle for thunderous funk throwdowns. Between the years of ’97 and ’04, the beginning of “Free” sparked wide-eyed anticipation from the audience as they waiting for Mike’s bass solo to dissolve into another world. Trey would swoop in with an idea and the band would take off amidst a thick joyride that always pumped a show full of energy. But since 2009, there has been no semblance of a jam. Refusing to let the song breathe at all, Trey has smothered the piece for no apparent reason. Sometimes used tactfully as a landing pad for deeper exploration, “Free’s” place in the setlist has also been obtrusive in this era, often appearing in the second set and breaking up the flow as a stand-alone rock song. On New Year’s Eve, Trey decided to vamp over the funk for approximately 12 seconds before taking a left turn back into the chorus. But just for that moment, it was clear that Phish could blow the roof off with the song at any minute, and the I believe that the version we’ve been waiting for is coming this year.

Hopefully I’m wrong about “Halley’s” and “Gumbo,” and 2011 will bring the return of all three of these former show stoppers, but if we get one out of three, it will be a success.


Jam of the Day:

Tube” 9.15.00 II

Though I doubt the band will ever reach the length of this Hershey version again, while we are on the topic of songs that could use some loving, how ’bout a longer “Tube?”




5.3.1991 Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Massachusetts SBD

Mp3 Torrent, Megaupload < Links

Sticking with the old-school theme, here is another soundboard from back in the day.

I: Bouncing Around the Room, Foam, Chalk Dust Torture, TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY, The Divided Sky, Fee, Paul and Silas, Tweezer, The Lizards, Sweet Adeline

II: AC/DC Bag, The Curtain > Sloth, Landlady, Runaway Jim, Tela, You Enjoy Myself, Harpua, Tweezer Reprise

E: Take the ‘A’ Train > BBFCFM

Source: SBD

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749 Responses to “Casualties Of This Era”

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  1. bird Says:

    love that tube!

  2. Brandpua Says:


    As a relatively new phan, I have never got to experience a jammed out halley’s , gumbo , or free for that matter. But every time I hear that the beginning of halleys i get so excited. its going to be this one. only to be disappointed. i am a really big fan of Halley s Jams, my fav, that i am aware of, would be from the Great Wetn where they go into a really slow but awesome cities out of the jam. But any recommendations on some other versions i should check out??

  3. oneshowatatime Says:

    not a long one, but the Halley’s>Tweeprise on 4.3.98 is $$$

  4. oneshowatatime Says:

    and 12.14.95 Halley’s>NICU is great too. Both of the aforementioned are live phish releases.

  5. oneshowatatime Says:

    Alas, I never saw Phish pre-3.0, so these 3 songs have always plagued me. I’ve seen several “Free” performances that I thought might blow up but as we all know never went anywhere…

    Ever since I heard the Brooklyn Free>Moma I’ve been waiting for the day (one of the first Phish jams that caught my ear. 11.14.95 will never happen again, but it’s fun to dream…

  6. oneshowatatime Says:

    oh, @brandpua – 11.22.97 Halley’s is required reading for sure: part1

  7. Matso Says:

    There’s not reason why Halley’s can’t return to its former glory without necessarily returning to anything cowfunk-like. The jam, after all, always starts with ferocious, pure rock Trey-shredding. If Trey took his foot off the pedal and allowed Mike and Fish to drop into a more mid-tempo groove (think Sand), then I think we’d have a top notch launch pad again.

    As for Gumbo, it might be slightly trickier to avoid the funk, but if we could have something along the lines of the 3.0 Wolfman’s (which generally follow the same pattern of full band funk into rocking Trey peak), I’d be happy, especially as it would give them band the additional 1st jam which it arguably needs (to give an extra option in addition to Bathtub, Stash, Wolfman, etc).

  8. Rob Says:

    I feel as though as fans of phish, and believe me I’m with you with respect to the lack of these jams, we often forget about the relationship these guys might have, or not have at the moment, with these tunes. Of course, we want to be blown away and at the same time have a nice little retro-moment that takes us back to ’94 and beyond, but if, for whatever reason, they’re not feeling it with these particular tunes, we should just let it be. It’s easy for us to say, “they should play this that way…” and so on and so forth, but at the end of the day, personally, at least, I’m just glad they’re playing….wasn’t that a long five year break we just got through? And in any case, nothing lasts forever and maybe the wait for a face-melting Free, or Gumbo, or Halley’s will make the actual moment that much more wonderful…. ; )

  9. willowed Says:

    For some crazy reason I always link Halley’s and Timber together. Almost like a brother and sister relationship.

    Timber got the treatment this year, not in length put with density. Timber had some great interesting jams (see JB and MSG). That means Halley’s will get the treatment this year. I don’t feel we’ll get the epic 20 minute version that we are hoping for (it never really was this type of song), but I feel we will get some interesting improv. out of it.

    That’s all I ask for

  10. sumodie Says:

    From Mr. Completely last night:

    What up kids! It’s Dead Time!!!

    I’ll do another whole show from a different year next, but I thought I’d wrap up a little more Fall ’73 to complement the Denver show. So here are my two
    favorite unreleased Fall ’73 jam sections: a Playin’ sequence from L.A. that bursts with energy and the colossal Cleveland Dark Star, with top shelf first-set songs from those shows plus a few gems from the San Diego gig.

    This stuff is the absolute business. For my taste it doesn’t get any better.
    “GD Fall 73 – part” through part 6

    They Love Each Other 73.12.06 Cleveland
    Greatest Story Ever Told
    Cumberland Blues 73.11.14 San Diego
    Black Throated Wind
    Row Jimmy 73.11.17 Los Angeles
    The Race is On 73.11.14 San Diego
    Brown.Eyed Women 73.11.17 Los Angeles
    Looks Like Rain
    China Cat Sunflower > 73.12.06 Cleveland
    I Know You Rider
    Here Comes Sunshine

    Playin’ in the Band > 73.11.17 Los Angeles
    Uncle John’s Band >
    Morning Dew >
    Uncle John’s Band >
    Playin’ Reprise

    Dark Star > 73.12.06 Cleveland
    jam >
    Eyes of the World >
    Stella Blue

    If you’re just in it for the jams start with China Cat. But I’d go to the mat for
    every song included here, down to the LL Rain, yes for real – so I know a lot of y’all are gonna skip at least that and the Row Jimmy, but seriously, you’re missing out. These are truly great versions. The Cleveland Sunshine gets overshadowed by the Dark Star, but I think it’s the best version of that song by a pretty huge margin – to my ear it’s actually one of the finest full-band contained jams in GD history, a true top-shelf masterpiece that for some reason is relatively uncelebrated.

    The Cleveland Dark Star…you have to be in the right headspace for it. Think of it as the Vegas Wolfman’s of Dark Stars, I guess…it’s divisive like that, though it doesn’t get that aggro until the second half of the song. If you’re in the right frame of mind it can be a great psychedelic journey. It starts in deep space and returns there twice during 20 minutes’ worth of abstract, modal and melodic jams with Phil dialing in cubist UFO sounds in a dementedly creative style starting about 11 minutes in.The full Dark Star theme isn’t played until after 20 minutes of music and the first verse is after 25. Then there’s about ten minutes of increasingly aggressive abstract space, which is stunning stuff (not in the Tiger mode) if you’re in the mood for it. If you’re not, I broke the final melodic jam into its own track so you can skip after the verse, which I do at least half the time. That jam track is really just part of Dark Star, making the whole thing about 43.5 minutes long.


  11. BTB Says:

    “improvisational gravestone”

  12. willowed Says:

    Thanks for posting Sumo and thanks for putting together Mr. C

    Jumping on it now!

  13. KfL Says:

    tube has at least had some great versions, even if short

    halleys, gumbo, and free? not so much…

  14. DLA Says:

    Mike’s…gone? Have you heard the Mike’s from MSG09? Pull your head out, Minor!!!

  15. lastwaltzer Says:

    that is some serious shit right there, C you are the man. I think I’m gonna have to make hard drive space for that baby.


    As for todays topic:

    I’m really not all that worried about losing the jams in these tunes as long as the jamming pops up somewhere else. Times change, simple as that.

    If we could get one back though, I’m going with gumbo. Just love the chord progression and the jazz/funk vibe it takes on.

    Free is fine for me the way it is only because I think the parts are well composed, they just need to give the song a little breathing room.

    Halley’s just pisses me off, the segues out of halley’s just sound sloppy as all hell. If there gonna play it bring it to an ending, its like when they try to segue into light, it just doesn’t work.

  16. nonoyolker Says:

    Hard to get better than Fall ’73 – great stuff in there. I heard rumblings that 12/6 was going to be released next for the road trips series. This would likely dispell the rumor that the full tour was next to be released, like Euro ’72 is now. I am hoping for full tour release…

    The recent road trips from 4/2/88 sounds pretty solid, but Jerry’s voice is kinda rough. Anyone have the scoop? El Dude? I have the Hampton release from like 5 days earlier and he doesn’t sound too bad.

  17. neemor Says:

    I was surprised when the band dropped Halley’s.
    I yelled for it. (Yay!)
    No one else did.
    I forgot that this is the era where we know what the band is going to do at all times. The era where they fit patterns.
    The era where we can say things like, “jams may be gone forever”.
    I’m still not sure that the band is free enough yet to go anywhere on any tune.
    I think they still have some work to do, despite how far they’ve come.
    Soon as we start counting out Halley’s, Gumbo’s or Free’s jam potential, mark my words…..BAM…..there will be a big fat one sitting on your face.

    This is an era where the formula will be justified by the end product.

    Trust the process and we’ll be paid off in the end. Relax.The world will spin beside itself and suck you in.

    Enjoy the day, blackboard.

  18. Dunwoody Says:

    David Bowie belongs on this list too.

    Actually, you could make a pretty good post some time about the great Halley’s Bowie combos (e.g. 11/26/94, 06/24/95, and, of course, the inverse Bowie/Halley’s of 12/29/94).

  19. EL Duderino Says:

    “tube has at least had some great versions, even if short”-kfl

    couldn’t disagree more… there’s nothing in these 4:00min. but the standard framework of the tune

  20. lastwaltzer Says:


    there have been a some good bowies since the fall: Broomfield, Atlantic City, MSG, i think Utica’s was pretty good too.

  21. willowed Says:

    @ Dunwood

    Bowie on this list??? The Fall and Winter Bowies were top shelf.

    I feel the exact opposite. We saw the return of Bowie!

  22. EL Duderino Says:

    4 packs of smokes a day, several 8-balls or several hundred crack hits will do it.

  23. EL Duderino Says:

    Charleston Bowie

  24. willowed Says:

    touche LW

  25. poop goblin Says:

    yeah Bowie is back and it’s starting to sound great. Been making improvements since Alpine.

    Tube def has some great versions. The AC version had a real nice funky jam and the MSG version got going also. I actually think since the verse is only about a minute in this song anyway a 5-6 minute version can still pack a punch to open a set compared to say a Wilson or Punch.

    Mike’s has become laughable. THis is def the one that needs the love.

    I’m indifferent on Free. Never really dug that one. agreed though versions played as is have been quite dull.

    I think we will get a Gumbo this tour. that is my predicition.

    have fun kids
    busy day at work

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