The Songs of Summer

6.22.12 (Michael Stein)

Before this summer, Phish declared they would break out 200 songs over their tour, and when Leg One ended, the tally was already at 207. Fresh first sets became proving grounds for once-a-year rarities, old covers, and—on several occasions—legitimate bust-outs that few fans had ever heard live. Keeping setlists spicy while playing notably fewer 3.0 staples, song selection was another factor that played into Phish’s best tour of the modern era.

With so many different songs coming from every angle, repeats were never an issue this tour. Though the band kept a far tighter second set rotation than first, few people had any problems hearing four to five versions of “Disease,” “Sand,” “Light,”  “Piper,” and “Ghost.” Believe it or not, Phish played only one “Divided Sky” and one “Guyute” over 20 shows! If one had the flux capacitor he could go back six weeks and make some big money on that statistic! And the “Divided Sky” (in Portsmouth) was magnificent. By staying true to their 200-song pledge, the band didn’t have time to repeat copious filler songs, giving the contour of tour a far fresher feel throughout.

6.23.12 (M.Stein)

The term “bust-out” has become a bit overused these days. When Phish plays a song that consistently appears once or twice a year—like “The Wedge” or “Contact”— it’s not a bust-out. But when the band opens up a show with a song they haven’t played since 1988—as they did at Jones Beach with “Skin It Back,” well—“That’s a bust out!” (In my best Crocodile Dundee voice.) In fact, the appearance of the Little Feat cover for the first time in 1,417 shows made it the “largest” bust out of all-time! And to celebrate the occasion, the guys stretched out the blues-funk number into a legitimate jam in what has to be considered one of the most significant openers of all time. Later in the very same set, Phish dusted off The Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” for the first time since their 1994 Halloween performance of The White Album! The third-longest gap between song versions came in Cincinnati, when the band took “Shaggy Dog” off the shelf for the first time October ’95, and only the third time since ’88! Practiced and polished, the once-extinct, old-school ditty rolled off the stage like it was in rotation. Contrary to the past few years, when Phish played rarities this summer, more often than not, they nailed them.

6.22.12 (M.Stein)

In addition to the aforementioned trifecta, the band also threw down three 3.0 debuts in “Shafty,” “Dog Log,” and “La Grange,” a threesome of the most sign-requested songs, for the first time since ’03, ‘03 and ’99, respectively. Fishman also broke out a few modern-era debuts of his own, performing “Purple Rain” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” for the first time since ’99.  Also making their first appearance in some time were several Velvet Underground songs off Loaded, all played during a second half of tour that sometimes felt like an homage to Lou Reed’s protopunk outfit. In addition to playing “Cool it Down” and “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” for the first time in over a year, the guys dropped the only versions of “Sweet Jane” and “Head Held High” since Halloween ’98. Both of these tunes were given the treatment, as Trey took a spirited and extended solo in each. Needless to say, Phish played some bust outs this summer!

Beyond all the first set variation, second sets never stagnated either. Diversifying their launchpads at just the right time, the band began jamming on songs like “Twist” and “Ghost” for the first time in ages, while adding “Golden Age” and “Back on the Train ” to second sets as a legitimate springboards. Phish also threw down several tour highlights with one-off jams, such as Worcester’s “Roses Are Free,” Deer Creek’s “Waves,” and Alpine’s “Fee.” Additionally, the band took new approaches on so many jam they encountered. No longer did “Bathtub Gin” have the same ten-minute path. The band  played beefier, more intense versions of “Ocelot.” “Carini” was totally unpredictable, producing different results each time out. A couple “Hoods” and “Antelopes” even contained enhanced interplay. Revitalized and recharged, Phish came out this summer with the intention to shake things up.

6.28.12 (M.Stein)

If one was on tour last month chasing a particular song, odds are he caught it. Leg One of Summer 2012 featured the widest song selection of any tour in history, while only on occasion feeling like an attempt to do so. Towards the end of tour, some first sets felt as though band was playing rarities for the sake of song count (see Alpine 1 or Jones Beach2), but most of the band’s elusive selections shrewdly fit within the context of their shows. Concerts, regardless of how improvisational in nature, are composed of songs. And aside from fizzling out of some second sets—which is another topic for another day—the band used strategic song selection to bolster their shows all tour long, transforming their eternally debated setlists into assets more often than not.


Jam of the Day:

Roses Are Free” 6.8 I, Worcester

One of tour’s first shocking surprises.



“Shakedown” 6.16.12 – AC (Steve Lehrman)

Tags: , ,

382 Responses to “The Songs of Summer”

  1. Albert walker Says:

    This place is great too. Next.

    You have to by tix in advance and he rotates different themed styles

  2. stapes Says:

    @ MiA – been to Chez Panisse? I’m hoping to pop my cherry next time I’m visiting family in the area, which is hopefully this fall/winter. Gonna check out Danko online now.

  3. stapes Says:

    First puff. Skin It Back. Time to go car shopping. Wish me luck

  4. MiA Says:

    I haven’t been to Chez Panisse Stapes. I’ve heard good things and o.k. things which haven’t excited me. Lots of Alice Waters alum in the area doing great things too, but surely Chez Panisse is a venerable place.

    Fog City Diner is a great place in the city too. Always love going there, and not feeling like I need to call AMEX to expand my credit card limit.

  5. MiA Says:

    AW, looked at Michael Carlson’s photo

    and thought he kinda looked like that blue eye’d guy from Indio in ’09.

    I could see he could be too spun to cook.

  6. plord Says:

    Chez Panisse is great but hard to get a table.

    Two tips: Either call exactly 30 days ahead and try to beat the rush…it’s not Ticketmaster bad but not guaranteed either.

    Or, call the same day and ask if there have been any cancellations. If they offer you the Cafe instead of the Restaurant, take it, the quality and service is just as good and the atmosphere is ever so slightly more relaxed. In the Restaurant, you get what they prepared for the day, one menu, end of story; in the Cafe you have a little more variety (a little; one or two alternate choices for appetizer and entree).

    FWIW, I was never successful getting a reservation but got in to the cafe same day a couple of times when we lived in Berzerkley.

  7. Mr palmer Says:

    Crazy weather system passing through here. Pitch black, rain and high winds. Tornado warnings. Cool stuff.

  8. plord Says:

    Weird storms out here too Palms. Heat lightning last night was like a strobe at the window. No discernible thunder peals, just a continuous low roar.


  9. marcoesq Says:

    Anyone feel like queing up some ’99? This 12.02.99 YEM is the sickness but having a hard time placing the melody Trey starts riffing on around 14min mark. So great

  10. MiA Says:


    Wow. I seriously laughed hard at that.

    Think I might try Benu too

    as well as

  11. garretc Says:

    MiA, instead of spending 70 some-odd buckaroonies at Danko, you should instead by 9 La Cumbre burritos.

    Now THAT would be money well spent

  12. voopa Says:

    “now we’re bringing an fundraising opportunity to the west coast with a Pre-Show Celebration at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Saturday, August 18th.”;118028;7gFevYCHIA3wRXc5YastZg%3D%3D

    $150, 15th anny. Pollack, drink, food, early entry to BG2

  13. garretc Says:


    Good god, what’s wrong with me? Two typos in one day? Should probably just go ahead and off myself…

  14. voopa Says:


  15. garretc Says:

    Nice voopa, my comrade in misspellings!

  16. MiA Says:

    Garret, is it gluten free for MrsMia?

    Looks great though. But 8 Burritos is my limit.

    The Waterwheel thing looks great.

  17. MiA Says:

    I think Gary Danko will run us $150-200 a person. But either way, yeah, not the cheapest place to eat compared to other places.

    Marco, the Bathtub Gin at that Auburn Hills in ’99 is fantastic. $$$ for sure. Like … popping champagne cork fantastic.

    For anyone who hasn’t heard it, go out and get it right now.

    Frantic and beautiful. Fishman is a monster all over it.

  18. garretc Says:

    Gluten free? Frankly, I have no clue…

    But hey, 8 burritos means you’ll even get to save money! La Cumbre is definitely my favorite burrito place in the Bay Area although I mostly hit up the local San Mateo location rather than the one in the city… Equal quality though between ’em

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Every time you write Gary Danko I read it as Rick Danko. And I’m okay with that. I have an interesting image in my head of that place now.

  20. MiA Says:

  21. marcoesq Says:

    Yeah it is, Mia. Fish totally makes the end of that Gin what it is.

    Any help with the YEM from later in that set? The riff that Troy starts on at around 14min mark which turns into the basis of the melody and later vocal jam #1 is just astounding

  22. stapes Says:

    @ plord – thx for the pointers. The wife lived out there and has been there a few times. I can see where depending on what they prepared that day could really impact your experience

  23. stapes Says:

    Haha I was doing the same thing TIII

  24. MiA Says:

    Marco, i was trying to place it. Can’t figure it out.

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Are you referring to the little drummer boy bits in that yem?

Leave a Reply