No Brainers

Discussion, critique, and debate around their music has been, and will always be, a constant in Phish’s fan base.  Everyone has their own take on things, and we all often go to lengths to legitimize our opinions.  Many post-show decompression sessions were spent listening to Phish and talking about it.  With music addictive as any drug I’ve known, Phish’s acrobatics often spring-boarded folks deep into Phish talk.

As fun as it is to debate until the sun came up, often times enjoyment came in agreement.  As much as Phish’s music spurns debate, it often crushes disagreement as well.  Sometimes Phish played so well, they literally jammed away any subjectivity.  Nobody is gonna’ argue nuances with the Nassau Roses, and no one’s gonna’ step to the Radio City Ghost or the Salem Tweezer.  You won’t find a fan that will pick a bone with Hampton’s Halley’s or the Albany YEM– sometimes the argument is over before it begins.

To honor these peace-making versions, I put together a compilation of  “No Brainers”– versions that need no discussion.  There are obviously many “no brainer” versions of every song, and this time around I chose one of each; next time, another.  Welcome to Miner’s Picks: No Brainers Vol. I!


3.1.03 (Staunchy)

More than any song, one could pick a hundred versions of YEM to include in such a compilation.  Yet, today, I chose one of my personal favorites that I’m sure many will rank highly as well.  In this set closing smoker at MSG, there is nary a wasted note or misdirected phrase throughout an exciting excursion.  In what I have often called a perfect version of the song, the band’s ’98 style is on full display in one of their favorite homes.

TWEEZER > IZABELLA: 12.6.97 Auburn Hills, MI

Although I often tout this segment, there are clear reason for its accolades.  Possibly the most transcendent jam of Fall ’97, this throw-down at The Palace remains an all-time highlight to this day.  Combining their larger-than-life dance funk with an exploration into the heart of the universe, I’ve never met a person who doesn’t love this entire set.  In a fall tour that took on a life of its own, this “Tweezer” may be the pinnacle.

WOLFMAN’S > SIMPLE: 8.16.97 Limestone, ME

The Great Went (Ned Beebe)

In one of the weekend’s defining portions of improv, these two jams combine to illustrate the diversity of Phish’s music.  In their first trip to the magical site of Limestone, Phish tore apart the most developed Wolfman’s to date to open The Great Went’s second set.  With the beats oozing loudly from the speaker towers and bellowing across the land, we were witnesses to Limestone’s first epic jam.  Flowing with the confidence at the peak of two-month summer tour, Phish sculpted a masterful musical marble.  Surprising us with “Simple” when we least expected it, Trey went on to take one of the most poignant solos of the summer.

HARRY HOOD: 12.30.95 MSG

In what is some of the most powerful music ever produced by the band, this version holds a special version in my soul.  With Trey, Mike and Page building the music as if connected, the emotional quality of this jam’s harmony and melody are unparalleled.  Adding Fish’s work, this version possesses a driving urgency that meshes beautifully with the delicate textures of life.  A passage of music that defines the spiritual and emotional nature of Phish’s world, this version changed my perspective on life forever.  After many years, it has been fun meeting so many others who had similarly powerful experiences during these magical moments at MSG.

BATHTUB GIN: 8.17.97 Limestone, ME

Coming out of an giant “Down With Disease,” the Went Gin  saw the band and 80,000 fans simultaneously have a peak musical experience.  A piece of music that has come to define the energetic interchange between Phish and their fans, this jam was a cathartic release at the end of an epic summer, celebrating all that the Phish community represented.  One of those out-of body experiences where all were enveloped by the hugeness of what was transpiring, egos fell by the wayside as everyone became lost in Phish’s wild wonderland.

GHOST > SLAVE: 7.4.99 Lakewood

A pairing of incredibly divergent songs resulted in one of the most sublime transitions of the band’s 20+ years and a July 4th memory to last a lifetime.  Another jam that enraptured all in attendance, the music took over the pavilion as the deep bass of Ghost ballooned from the speakers.  A version that stands out in a summer full of belligerent Ghosts, its pairing with Phish’s most regal piece made the jam that much stronger.  The Slave is another time where everything came together at one place at one time– for everyone.

MIKE’S SONG: 12.31.95, MSG

photo – Austin

This jam was the centerpiece of one of Phish’s most renowned shows.  Closing the second set, one of the greatest incarnations of the song ever played made a militant futuristic dance hall out of the Garden.  Hallowed as one of the band’s finest nights of their career, this Mike’s is one of the reasons why.  As the second jam kicks in, look out for some serious ninja Phish crack.  No joking around here, this is what its all about.  By the end of the jam, Trey was silhouetted on stage creating a digital delay loop that would continue as he left the stage, awaiting 1996.

2001: 7.17.98 The Gorge

How can you go wrong with a twenty-five minute wide-open exploration of dance grooves in front of the Columbia River Gorge?  On this memorable night, Phish took this version deep into the dark night sky, stopping by stars and planets in their musical orbit.  An experiential delight, and a segment of music you could listen to forever, “The Gorge 2001” has become a term unto its own.

REBA: 7.6.94 Montreal, QC

With the plethora of ridiculous Reba’s played within this year, the conversation always comes back to this version from Montreal.  Taking the driving music to another level of triumphant groove, this version features improv not often heard in your every day “Reba.”  Yet, just at the peak of said section, the band splashes blissfully back into the classic Reba jam.  This is one among many, in a year with copious no brainer versions of the song.

Enjoy these all-time highlights, and share your own in comments below!  Be on the look out for “No Brainers Volume II,” due out soon.




Below are pictures of the Ross Compressor that Phantasy Tour had engraved for Trey.  The quote comes from “Walls of the Cave,” and seems to imply no pressure to change back to his old tone, but “When the moment comes…”  Very clever. Well played PT!

Tom Marshall will be hand delivering the pedal to Trey’s house this morning, in time for Christmas!



  • Further confirmation of 4 nights at Red Rocks on July 29 – August 2nd
  • June 4 @ Jones Beach (seems solid)
  • 2 nights in Camden in mid -June



7.20.91 Arrowhead Ranch, Parksville, NY < LINK

This is the first show of a classic two night stand with the Giant Country Horns back in the Summer of ’91.  The next night was a show almost every fan had on analog, and this one paved the way.  This one comes as a holiday request, so “Ho! Ho! Ho!,” and enjoy!

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Foam, The Squirming Coil, Llama, Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg, The Landlady, Bathtub Gin, My Sweet One, David Bowie

II: Buried Alive, Reba, Caravan, Dinner and a Movie, Flat Fee, Golgi Apparatus, Stash, TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY, You Enjoy Myself, Rocky Top

E: Possum

With The Giant Country Horns.

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