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)

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382 Responses to “The Songs of Summer”

  1. MiA Says:

    Congrats Jdub. I quit, and try to smoke as little as possible. Mostly, here in Austin that’s rare. In a phish parking lot, not so easy.

  2. MiA Says:

    My Dr. Renewed all my prescriptions. Good dude.

    Won’t give me Valium. But Zanax is fine.

  3. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Aw- you see they are releasing a 6 CD VU & Nico box set?

  4. tzara's Says:

    What’s up comrades?
    @MiA, Danko, nice. Wish I was there. You’re doing Denver right? My crew (mrs Tzara’s, bro, noob friend) is total disarray, but I’m in. Maybe we can find a nice long lunch place with some WA wine. Looking at VRBO for a pampin’ pad.

  5. bob dylan Says:

    People are raving about the dc waves and while I like it, it hasn’t hit me like the UIC did. Maybe I need to listen more but there were a lot of jams this run I prefer over it.

  6. tzara's Says:

    Holy crap, @ Palmer that is awesome. VU prob my favorite band thats not GD/Phish. That record changed my life.

  7. marcoesq Says:

    Lightnin’ startin up round here

  8. joe Says:

    Not even a real first jam in Chicago 94 box set Mike’s. Simple gets the weirdo treatment though. They definitely have more tools in the box these days if not the youthful exuberence to swing the hammer they used to.

  9. joe Says:

    Listening to sirius. Can’t wait for Mr Miner’s show.

    (They do have a good “weekly stash” show on Fridays, maybe?)

  10. marcoesq Says:

    Jet lag kicking my ass. Didn’t even cross any time zones

  11. marcoesq Says:

    Yeah, Joe. They also play a random Phish set every weeknight at 9pm

  12. jdub Says:

    Nicotine is a terrible drug. Doesn’t even get you high, just makes you anxious and empty. addictive as hell.

    But, I am very excited about all things phish right now. the near and far future seem bright for this band.

  13. joe Says:

    Yeah. Been a longtime subscriber since Howard started. Wish JamOn played more vatiety and not a fan of the dj’s. (Nice Harpua. I’m a sucker for narration)

  14. Gavinsdad Says:

    Watching harder they come. So nice.

  15. marcoesq Says:

    ah, gotcha.

    you mean you aren’t in love with the General or Warren Hayne’s lady?? Yeah, they’re weird

  16. marcoesq Says:

    Listening to Howard now, decided to save UIC for next week when my package arrives.

    Just started dumping here in Bmore

  17. Robear Says:

    Sweet. Pardon if it’s old newz.

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    That’s tremendous Robear. Enjoy!

    Switched the GD show while Trey does Harpua narration. I should probably wait until my box comes next week also and hold off on listening to more Uic ’94. Sounded sick though. That simple was excellent, weird indeed @Joe

  19. joemeg Says:

    That’s going to be a tough ticket

  20. MiA Says:

    Tzara’s, sounds good.

    You are going to the city?

    If not, send 6 bottles of your juice to St. Regis is San Fran for arrival on the 17th. We (Kaya, I and others) will have a tasting in your honor.

    I’ll PayPal you the $$$.

  21. MiA Says:

    Drinking Kathryn Hall ’05. Fantastic.

    Saving UIC for “deflowering day”

    Think I’m gonna do this Waterwheel thing. MrsMia really wants to do it.

    May be riding the rail on Saturday. Told her to not wear a lot of clothing, and flirt with Troy. Whisper “Chalk Dust Reprise”


  22. RoosterPizza Says:

    Man, all I can think of is leaving for a show with everyone all baned and doing those gymnastics type flips and cartwheels out the door, over the fence, and into the car. I never understood how that was tough, but it sure as hell was.

    Between that and snow’s comments about AW coming out as Floyd Mayweather with 50 Cent, page 7 had me cracking up.

  23. MiA Says:

    I take AW in the “great smoke off” with anyone. I’d put $100 down that AW can smoke ’em faster than the Calistoga Kid can roll ’em.

  24. joemeg Says:

    I’d love to go to the WW party. I think it’s great, but I’m worried the poster turns it into a much harder event to attend.

  25. bob dylan Says:

    Wish I could be at the water wheel party. Dag.

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