Bustouts—some live for em, others are apathetic, but they always make for entertaining talking points in the fan community. Here are my top bustouts of the year that just past.
6) “Buried Alive” 6/7, Worcester, MA— More significant than the fact that Phish played “Buried Alive” for the first time in a year was the fashion in which they played it. By opening Worceter’s first show—and the entire year—with the old-school instrumental, the band gave an implicit message to fasten our seat belts for the oncoming ride. Not only was the show that followed one of the year’s best, but 2012 was the most impressive year of the modern era. Evoking the days of old school musical antics, the guys wrapped this show’s smoking second set with a “Buried Alive” reprise out of “Cavern,” the perfect finale to the opening night of 2012.
***5) “Sweet Jane” 6/29 Noblesville, IN—One of everybody’s favorite songs from Halloween ’98’s Loaded set, “Sweet Jane” hadn’t been played since that amazing night in Vegas. Instigated by a sign in the front section of Deer Creek, the band took the Velvet Underground cover off the shelf for only first time in 352 shows and played it for only the third time in their career. This feel-good anthem got the second night in the cornfields underway in stellar fashion and spurned a set filled with rarer selections.
4) “Shaggy Dog” 6/22, Cincinnati, OH—Riverbend’s 2012 installment featured the most impressive first set of Leg One, including the bustout of “Shaggy Dog” for the first time since Fall ’95 (574 shows) and the second time since since 1988! A relic of Phish’s earliest era, this was a song most of us first heard on the Ian’s Farm tape of 8/21/87 and certainly a piece that most in attendance in Cincinnati had never heard live. This bustout was an early sign that this would be an awesome night by the Ohio River.
3) “Happiness is A Warm Gun” 7/3, Wantagh, NY—In the middle of Jones Beach’s first set of the weekend, the band plucked this Beatles classic out of thin air. Having performed the song only once during “The White Album” set on Halloween ’94, the gap between versions clocked in at 658 shows! Needless to say, this was a first for most of the crowd on Long Island that night. I’ve always loved this song, making this bustout especially meaningful for yours truly. You gotta’ love the Phab Four playing the Fab Four in any format.
2) “Roses Are Free Jam” 6/8, Worcester, MA—If I was being shamefully subjective, I’d put this moment at number one. After April 3, 1998 in Nassau I jonesed for another “Roses” jam very badly. Salvation finally came in the swamps of Florida as Phish dropped a monumental version to bring up the sun of the new millennium, but since that timeless passage brought the darkness into light, the band had strictly used the Ween cover as a straight forward cover sans improvisation despite the launch pad it presented. Pretty much every time it dropped over the next decade, friends and I would exchange looks of sarcastic anticipation in jest of the routinely ignored possibility. Needless to say, when the band didn’t stop the song and swam into open waters during the first set of Worcseter’s second show, my head nearly exploded. This was the moment for which I’d been waiting for so many years, and the subsequent jam was one of my favorite parts Leg One.
1) “Skin it Back” 7/3 Wantagh, NY—I remember looking at old-school setlists in The Pharmer’s Almanac back in the day and seeing a song called “Skin It Back.” Upon looking it up, I learned it was a Little Feat song. Hmm, Little Feat, that band of “Waiting For Columbus,” that album my buddy rocked so often in high school. That’s about as far as I ever got with the song until this summer. As Phish began the song to kick off the Jones Beach stand last summer, I and many others were sure we were finally getting the return of “Spanish Moon” for the first time since Halloween 2010, but the band was digging much deeper. Within a verse or so, it was clear what was going on, Phish had exhumed that song I read about so many years ago—”Skin it Back!” This performance represented the biggest bustout of all time—literally—with a gap lof 1,417 shows between appearances, and when the band jammed out the song to commemorate its return they left little doubt that it would be an occasion that every fan would remember.