All “Type II” First Team
“Rock and Roll”—With several top-shelf versions last year, “Rock and Roll” is the unquestionable choice for MVP of 2011. When the band wasn’t crafting timeless pieces of music out of the jam—a la Gorge, Mansfield, or Charlotte—they were usually pushing the envelope with experimental playing—a la Merriweather and MSG. Hands down, the launchpad of the year.
“Light”—For the duration of its short life as a Phish song, “Light” has been a vehicle for cosmic improvisation. First the jam brought mostly ambient experiments, and then in Fall 2010, the band began to take the piece into the realm of quickened groove. This year, the band used their modern era jam to explore futuristic soundscapes that often showcased Mike’s lead bass playing. Phish focused more on this song as the year progressed, coming to life in Portsmouth and Super Ball before breaking sonic barriers in Lake Tahoe and UIC. Capping its year with Denver’s “Light -> Disease” Reprise” and a New Year’s Eve Theremin jam, “Light” remained in the upper echelon of jam vehicles.
“Down With Disease”—Between Clarkston’s “A Disease Supreme,” UIC’s extended jaunt, and many other versions in between, “Disease” has become “Old Reliable” for modern day Phish. Almost always moving into original ground and pushing the band far outside the box, “Disease” had yet another standout year in 2011.
“Piper”—A staple jam vehicle of post-hiatus and the modern era, “Piper” starred, once again, in 2011, taking the band into uncharted territory time and time again. Highlighted by Denver and MSG’s versions, “Piper” also had strong outings at the Hollywood Bowl, Super Ball, Raleigh and Merriweather, as the band created a diverse spectrum of jams.
“Waves”—A song that was a staple of the post-hiatus era came back in 2011 with a vengeance. After being played only three times in 2009, the song skipped 2010 altogether, and came back with strong last year. Although the band only played the song four times, three of them were incredibly memorable. Between its outings at Bethel, Super Ball, and UIC—all summer highlights—“Waves” got back on the train with some profound renditions in 2011.
All “Type I” First Team
“Sand”—Just about ever time Phish played “Sand” last year, it ballooned into a show highlight. Having transformed into a whole-band jam during the fall of 2010, the song exemplified this paradigm shift last summer with intricate four-part conversations. If there was a Type I MVP, “Sand” would no doubt take home the trophy. Every time one heard those opening chords, a furious dance session was sure to follow
“Harry Hood”—The final “Harry Hood” of 2010—Worcester’s instant classic—set the bar high for the band’s classic song in 2011. And while the guys didn’t replicate such a monumental version in 2011, they played more than a few above-average versions. Trey began to integrate the stacatto stylings of Worcester’s version into several “Hoods” this year, including a standout renditions at UIC and the version of the year in Denver. But every time played, “Hood” seemed to carry a little something extra in 2011, beginning with its very first performance of the year in Bethel, NY.
“Chalk Dust Torture”—From Clarkston’s first-set-ending version to Tahoe’s mid-second-set shredder and from UIC’s aggressive jam to MSG’s surreal dissolve into “Hydrogen,” Phish actually used “Chalk Dust” creatively last year rather than treating it as a straightforward single. This old-school staple produced more than a few well-played surprises throughout the year, earning a place on this list.
“Crosseyed and Painless”—Though Phish hasn’t taken “Crosseyed” off the map since Red Rock’s in ’09, Phish has consistently crushed the Taking Heads’ cover. Annihilating the song’s infectious composed jam on many occasions this year, “Crosseyed” became a regular part of the bands’ rotation and a reliable piece of high octane rock and roll every time out of the gate.
“Bathtub Gin”—Including highlight versions to start the year in Bethel and to end the year in Denver, “Bathtub Gin” brought plenty of fire throughout 2011. Consistently cathartic jams stemmed from “Bathtub,” and though most stayed within structure, almost every version provided a jolt of energy to its show. Often coming at the beginning shows in 2011, “Gin” never failed to get things started and feet moving during first sets last year. Other standout versions include Super Ball’s, from the festivals opening set, and The Gorge’s, which sparked the second leg of summer.
MVP: “Rock and Roll”
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: “Waves”
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: “Steam”
Jams of the Day:
“Chalk Dust Torture” 8.16.11 I, UIC
“Sand” 6.11.11 I, MPP