Hampton (A.Kuroda)

Hampton (A.Kuroda)

Of all the musical genres in which Phish dabbles, reggae is, perhaps, the least significant. With mere passages of “Harry Hood” and “Slave” flirting with a roots-based groove, “Makisupa Policeman” is Phish’s lone original foray into the genre.  A relic from the band’s stonier days, “Makisupa” is actually the first known publicly played Phish original, making its debut on 10.23.84. Mentioning this fact in Philadelphia on 11.29.03, Trey also also noted that its lyrics were written by Tom Marshall as a kid. Though it was the “original Phish song,” the band’s homage to ganja has been somewhat of a rarity throughout their career. Always eliciting comedic cheers with Trey’s chosen “keyword,” “Makisupa” is Phish’s only musical reference to many fans’ recreational smoke. Usually highlighted by the creative dub lines of Gordon, this song has played multiple roles throughout Phish’s career.

makisupa_policeOne way that “Makisupa” has appeared in Phish shows has been as a set opener- accounting for about half of its appearances dating back to December ’94. Furthermore, many of these set, and show, openers have paved the way for outstanding stanzas in high profile shows. Examples include Worcester 12.29.95, The Clifford Ball 8.16.96, The Great Went 8.16.97, The Spectrum 12.28.96, and The Gorge 7.17.98. A relaxing way to ease into a set, Phish usually kept these versions succinct, juxtaposing them with something far more intense, as in the popular combination of “Makisupa > Maze.” Below are two examples of set-opening “Makisupas” with their accompanying pieces.

Makisupa > Maze” 12.28.96 II


Makisupa > 2001” 8.16.96 III

photo - beforeandaftermusic.com


A second use for Phish’s quasi-reggae composition emerged in 1995—a landing point for, or an interlude between, adventurous psychedelia. Instead of employing the mellow music as a lead-in to something big, or simply within a string of standalone songs, Phish began to use the reggae rhythms as a gentle pillow from raucous exploration. Three illustrative examples of this “relieving” use of “Makisupa” came on 7.2.95 at Sugarbush out of a grinding jam in “Runaway Jim,” 10.22.95’s at Champaign in “Tweezer > Makisupa > BBFCFM,” and Dayton’s 11.30.95 Nutter Center performance of “Tweezer -> Makisupa -> Antelope.”  Once the late ’90s hit, “Makisupa” was used  far more sparingly in this role.

Tweezer -> Makisupa -> Antelope” 11.30.95 II


3.1.03 (P.Lucks)

As the years moved on, Phish devised a third tactical use of “Makisupa”—the developed second set version, as typified by the song’s seminal rendition on 11.19.97 in Champaign’s Assembly Hall. At times, Phish treated the song as a springboard for contained improv, especially in 1999 when Trey added a keyboard to his set up.  Instances during that fall where the band stretched the reggae groove out a were 9.28.99 in Pelham, AL, 10.4.99 in Normal, IL, and Hartford Civic Center’s version on 12.12.99.

Makisupa” 11.19.97 II


Makisupa” 9.28.99 II


Though not used too frequently over the years, “Makisupa” always seems to pop up at the right time. To begin a hot summer evening or to conclude a dark extended jam, “Makisupa” is more often than not placed in a show with care.  Because, hey, when you’ve only got one reggae song, you’ve gotta be careful what you do with it!



12.12.99 Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, CT

Megaupload < Link

1999-12-12moThis is a dark horse show within a red-hot December ’99 run.  Featuring a show-defining “Drowned,” a standout “Caspian,” and a blistering “Antelope,” this show somehow slips through most conversational cracks. This show also carried a heavy first set “Stash,” and a subject appropriate, mid-second-set “Makisupa.”

I: Heavy Things, AC/DC Bag, Strange Design, The Divided Sky, Beauty of My Dreams, Bug, Stash, Chalkdust Torture

II: Drowned > Prince Caspian, The Squirming Coil, Makisupa Policeman, Run Like an Antelope

E: Runaway Jim

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140 Responses to ““Dank.””

  1. whole tour! Says:

    Sunrise over the turquoise mountains
    Messenger birds in sight
    They came up through the valleyBoth sides at a time
    Through the cold steady rain
    Raid!I bend down
    Poke a double decker on a llamaTabootLlama, Taboot Taboot
    Trigger a blastoplast, ramshackle laker recedesI start to run
    It was the loudest thing I’d ever heard
    And I knew my time had come
    To enter the delta

    Leave it on press [2x]Depress, DepressLlama, Taboot Taboot
    Leave it on pressDepress, DepressLlama, Taboot Taboot
    Llama, Taboot Taboot
    Llama, Taboot Taboot

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ cheese The Ritz? That’s a classic! I’ll get it up this week

  3. lot rat Says:

    I remember seeing that boot with “Hell is Coming” on it.

    woosta 93

  4. Mugician Says:

    R1: the IT soundcheck is killer for sure! I basically LOVE IT, there are some great tracks in there, including the Great Gag in the Sky (Tower Jam) – that shit is epic.

  5. wanderin Says:


    FWIW …. The coals of the rumor mill are being stoked.

  6. Wilson Says:

    Pretty good little 4/20 joke there.

  7. boulderjosh Says:

    love it

  8. mitch Says:

    so do we talk over here today?

  9. MisterChristian Says:


  10. Dee Gee Says:

    Great write-up. Interesting breakdown of the ways that Makisupa works itself into a set. I’d go so far as to say there’s a fourth usage of the tune – specifically to deliver a funny or timely keyword. For instance, I wonder if they would’ve played it on 2-26-03 if not for the relevance of being able to say “Woke up in the morning, the hotel was on fire,” which had actually happened. I’m sure there are other examples. (Are there?)

  11. floyd Says:

    11.23.96 in bc…. “Woke up in the morning, border guard in my bunk, he took his fucking dog on the bus, and he found my dank.”

  12. floyd Says:

    that was the 2nd set reference…Trey gabs about learning Midnight on the highway while they were being processed for crossing the border into Canada from Spokomton….here’s to some PNW love from phish! see ya’ll at the gorge

  13. Kundog70 Says:

    “No left turn unstoned” Anyway, the link you put up for Makisupa>2001 is not from the Great Went. The Went Makisupa had “gooballs” as the keyword and led into the second half of the unfinished Harpua from The Clifford Ball. I know you know all this but I mention it because I’m wondering when that version was actually played. Hmmmmmmm.

  14. Kundog70 Says:

    I’ve got an old boot with the song “It Got Away” on it. AAAAAAAH, i remember the days of Maxell XLIIs and B+P. Wow. Fun fun.

  15. E Says:

    Hey-Makisupa to be mentioned would be 96′ Vancouver, where the ‘fucking Border Guard came on the bus and….stole my dank!’

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