The encore of a Phish show is usually an afterthought to the mayhem gone down just previously in the second set. Most often a token song or two, there have been times that Phish developed something more significant to end the night. Such examples of this abound, and some include the “Vernon Downs the House> YEM” before the Lemonwheel, 12.29.98’s perfect topping of “Divided Sky,” Alpine ’99’s bust-out trio of “Camel Walk,” “Glide,” and “Alumni Blues,” or the surreal pairing of Punch > Slave at Polaris ’98. Yet, these examples all remain within the conventions of standard Phish songs. There have been occasions when encores have been one of the loftiest highlights of the show. Below are five exemplary encores that blew the roof off of the place as the bus was warming outside.
12.30.97 MSG: Carini > Katy > Sally > Frankenstein
Possibly the most exciting encore ever dropped by the band, the context in which it was placed made it all the more magical. Having played right though MSG’s curfew, the band decided to extend the night a bit more since fines had already been levied. As Trey explained, they would continue playing through midnight- right into New Year’s Eve, joking that they would have two New Year’s shows. Needless to say, the energy in the Garden immediately sky-rocketed as the possibilities were endless. But in all the potentialities of what could come next, no one could have possibly imagined the reality.
As the band responded to the fierce anticipation, the heavy opening chords of the first U.S. Carini swiftly took advantage of the crowd’s adrenaline-fueled state, roaring from the stage with ferocity. Juicing the 20,000 in attendance, the band tore through the song that everyone wanted to hear since they got the analog of its sublime debut in Amsterdam on 2.17. As the militant textures eased, the band picked up on Mike’s heavy bass pattern, collectively entering two of the best minutes of music in history ,as the Phish metal smoothly segued into an ultra-thick and slowed down pool of dinosaur funk, morphing into “Black-Eyed Katy.” With the molasses tempo, and Fishman layering some lyrics over the top, the Moma dance was conceived, not to be heard from again until it appeared reworked in Europe on 6.30.98. As if this monstrous pairing wasn’t enough, the band took the funk instrumental and weaved it right into a “Sneaking Sally” reprise after they had opened the show with the Robert Palmer cover for its first appearance since the ’80s. Sliding through the return of the rhythmic verses, the band finally put an exclamation point on their first “New Year’s” set, with a segue into a booming “Frankenstein.” Ensuring a place atop lists of memorable encores, this segment of music was Phish at its most playful, on the eve of finishing one of the best years of their career.
10.27.94 University Hall, U of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA: Slave > Icculus, Tweezer Reprise
Following a particularly zany ’94 show in which the band’s youthful absurdity was in full effect, Phish bust out perhaps the most intense encore ever played. Following a show that featured such rarities as “Forbin’s > Vibration of Life > Mockingbird,” and “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars,” not to mention a sublime “Tweezer,” and absolutely spot on improv all night long, the band saved something special for the end.
Starting with the delicate opening notes of Slave, the encore was underway. Using characteristic ’94 tightness, intensity, and directional jamming, the band created a climactic soul-awakening piece. Playing like there was no tomorrow, Phish absolutely slaughtered this succinct piece of improv. Stunning in its beauty and passion, this Slave could have topped the show perfectly on its own, but out of the song’s peak, Trey began to thank the crowd as the band began to vamp over the changes of “Icculus.” Trey told the the crowd “some things to remember” as they went out in the world. As he continued, Trey absolutely lost his shit giving these instructions, screaming far beyond the top of his lungs, impelling the audience to “Read the Book!” in more ways than one. This version is one of legend- you have to hear it.
The only thing that could have possibly topped the intensity of “Icculus” was the “Tweezer Reprise” they dropped with Fishman screaming in the background. Jammed out beyond it usual couple minutes, the show could simply not have ended on a higher note. This encore will have plenty to say to 12.30.97’s before any championship belt is awarded.
12.6.96 The Aladdin Theatre, Las Vegas, NV: Harpua > Wildwood Weed > Harpua > I Want To Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart > Harpua > Suspicious Minds > Harpua, Suzy Greenberg
Needing to be on this list for pure spectacle if nothing else, the encore of the last night of Fall ’96 will always be remembered for its Vegas-esque cabaret show. Featuring a troupe of Elvis impersonators, musical guests Les Claypool and Larry LaLonde of Primus, John McCuen, and the Yodeling Cowgirls, the stage was a veritable clusterfuck as Phish plus many more created a comedic thirty-minute story out of “Harpua.” With Les Claypool’s “Wildwood Weed” rap, the Cowgirls’ song, and Fishman’s cover of “Suspicious Minds” all spliced into “Harpua,” the end of tour theatrics were ultra-special because they followed an insane Phish show, marking the band’s first visit to Sin City. Jimmy had never been on an adventure quite like this before.
4.3.98 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY: Carini > Halley’s > Tweezer Reprise
Closing the famed Nassau portion of The Island Run, this encore was as fun as any. All sparked by a stage jumper in “Loving Cup” which led to the “Carini’s gonna get you” Antelope explosion, the venue was absolutely going berserk when this set ended. Granted the band had also just played a career-defining concert, but the massive surge of energy at the end of the show certainly came from this episode. Had it not been for the stage jumper, the encore most likely would have taken another route, but with the building vibrating with enthusiasm, the band came out and dropped the second ever domestic “Carini” only three shows after dropping the first on 12.30.97.
Again, the show could have ended here, but instead, soaring on an emotional crest, Phish dropped into Halley’s, which instead of a jam cut right into Tweezer Reprise. But there was never any Tweezer! Breaking out their ultimate tool of adrenaline when it was most appropriate, they would follow up the improvised Reprise with a set-opening Tweezer in Providence the next night. This Reprise would find Trey aggressively marching in circles on the stage, knowing they were about to finish one of the best nights of their career. (see video below)
8.9.98 Virgina Beach, VA: Terrapin Station
For their entire career, Phish endured constant comparisons to the Grateful Dead. Only the second improvisational psychedelic rock band to constantly criss-cross the country with legions of hippies in tow, Phish spent their entire musical lives trying to distance themselves from their predecessors. Regardless of how different their music was from Jerry’s crew, they could not escape the constant associations. One result of this was that their Dead covers remained buried in their college days.
A white hot second set starred an all-time highlight “AC/DC” Bag opener, a extra potent “Antelope,” and a tremendous Summer ’98 YEM. When Phish came out for the encore on the third anniversary of Jerry’s passing, no one knew what was about to happen. The unmistakable opening chords of perhaps The Dead’s greatest opus filled the pavilion- Phish was playing Terrapin. Creating a dreamlike state, Phish worked through one of the Dead’s finest pieces. Leaving many speechless far beyond the ending of the show, this decision was colossally significant and symbolic. Finally at ease with their own identity and unique legend, Phish gave a surreal and magical nod to Garcia above. If there was ever a truly epic encore, this would most definitely be it.
What are your favorite encores? Respond in Comments below!
TWEEZER REPRISE: 4.3.98 ENCORE
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
Last up in our outlandish week of 11.17-11.23 1997 is the Winston-Salem show. Featuring perhaps the jam of the week in the darkest half-hour “Bathtub Gin” you’ll ever hear, the first set had the best “Black-Eyed Katy” of the fall and an evil “Stash.” Great stuff all around. Grab it. Enjoy!
I: My Soul, Theme From the Bottom, Black-Eyed Katy, Sparkle, Twist, Stash > NICU, Fluffhead, Character Zero
II: Bathtub Gin > Down With Disease > Low Rider > Down With Disease, Bold as Love