All selections and text by Luke Falk
“Split Open and Melt” 4.16.92 I, Santa Barbara, CA
This tight rager showcases Big Red’s chops back in 92. Listening back, I’m struck, not only, by how absolutely all over the fret board he is, but by how he barely used to use any effects at all (to great effect). A great version that is completely overlooked.
“YEM” 6.11.94 I, Morrison, CO
This first set of this Red Rocks show was broadcast on the radio, which is how I got a good quality copy that year. My vote for best ever “YEM” (possibly my favorite Phish jam ever), which somehow doesn’t get mentioned anymore with almost everyone’s attention falling on 12.9.95 and other versions.
“David Bowie” 10.30.90 II, Crested Butte, CO
Not exploratory, but tight and intense, this early “Bowie” reminds me of the band’s recent gesture toward shorter, more economical playing. They really get right down to business here.
“My Friend, My Friend” 2.26.97 I, Stuttgart, DE
The best version ever played.
“Down By the River” 10.3.98 Farm Aid, Chicago, IL
This Neil Young sit-in gets my vote for second-best guest performance ever; a nasty extended jam for the benefit of small farms. (For the record, everything with Karl Perrazo is the best guest performance.)
“Free” 6.17.04 I, Brooklyn, NY
This is the last good version of “Free.” And it is very good. The Trey and Mike jam ultimately inspired a horrible moment at Coventry, which, I speculate, is why they’ve never tried to jam it since.
“Stash” 7.2.97 II, Amsterdam, NL
A 30-minute abstract monster to kick off one of my favorite sets ever.
“Bathtub Gin” 2.28.03 I, Uniondale, NY
This multi-section, type II joyride foreshadowed what would come later in the show during “Tweezer.”
“Suzy Greenberg” 12.28.03 II, Miami, FL
This version features a super funk throwdown and then explodes into an growling catharsis featuring Trey’s uncompressed tone.
“AC/DC Bag” 8.9.8 Set II, Virginia Beach, VA
Just because it never gets old—of the top three or four versions ever, which kicks off the second set of a magical night in Virginia.
Tags: Jams, Reader's Picks