Many Sides of Simple

12.30.2010 (Graham Lucas)

Last week, we looked at one of Phish’s most diverse jams, “Twist.” And while considering songs for that post, whose jams can move in any musical direction, my final choices were “Twist” and “Simple.” Not a jam that immediately pops to the forefront of my mind when thinking of psychedelic adventures, throughout the years “Simple” has, in fact, provided these journeys in droves. Though the song, traditionally, provided a bridge within “Mike’s Groove” while also appearing as a standalone piece, its jam truly came-of-age in 1996, transforming “Simple” into a legitimate vehicle for improvisation. And throughout the band’s career, “Simple” jams have veered every sort of sonic pathways. From mellifluous to sinister and from rocking to ambient, “Simple” is a song that has spanned the band’s musical spectrum.

12.2.09 (W.Rogell)

Though the song continues to serve its dual role in current Phish shows, two modern versions blossomed into 3.0 highlights. The rendition played at The Greek (8.6.10) is among the most exploratory, successful, and psychedelic musical conversations of the era. Moving through multiple segments of locked in jamming, Phish wove a delicate experiment that stood out as an instant classic. The second came in the last show, on January 1st at Madison Square Garden. In the second set, Phish took the composed jam to virtual silence before emerging with one of the most soulful and poignant passages of the Holiday Run, featuring an ending so gorgeous and connected it sounded composed. And now—as we sit only a bit more than three weeks away from Summer Tour 2011—if were a betting man, I would wager that we will see a few more creative excursions out of the anthem before this season is out. But for the time being, let’s take a look back of some of the diverse jams that have carved “Simple’s” legacy.


11.21.1995 LJVM Coliseum, II

This set opener from Winston-Salem gets into some ’95 style percussive grooves, moving with urgency and segueing into “David Bowie” via an abstract rhythmic ending.


10.31.1996 The Omni, III

A classic version from the third set of Halloween ’96, that moves through experimental territory into some laid-back and buttery grooves. Best heard on LivePhish’s soundboard remaster, this intricate version, assisted by Karl Perazzo on percussion, was one of the early, show-stopping versions.


11.18.1996 Mid-South Coliseum, II

This full-band conversation from Memphis was underlined by cathartic guitar work from Trey in the latter part of the jam.



8.16.97 Limestone, II

The Great Went; Trey’s iconic guitar solo; big-time, emotional, festival-sized Phish.


12.9.97 State College, II

This under-the-radar odyssey from Stage College, Pennsylvania, is as exploratory as any “Simple” ever played. This extended version provided the centerpiece of a show that went largely under-appreciated due to its alternate nature within a tour known for its nightly, funk-based dance parties. Check this one out if you’re not familiar, you may be surprised.


Hampton Coliseum

11.21.1998 Hampton, II

A gorgeous example of the band’s Fall ’98 melodic and ambient “amoeba” jamming where no one member led the jam more than any other, pushing and pulling like a single-celled organism. This version is also a perfect illustration of how “Simple” can migrate into blissful pastures.


11.29.98 The Centrum, II

And this version, from Fall ’98’s tour-closer in Worcester, highlights the evil and menacing side of Phish with one of the more full-throttle, aggressive abstractions heard in years. Pushing the envelope by filling The Centrum with the intense sounds of a deranged reality, Phish sculpted a distinctly “other” style of jam on this night.


8.7.10 (W.Rogell)

8.6.10 The Greek Theatre, II

The Greek’s wildly creative and laid-back experiment from just last summer is one of the defining jams of the modern era. Intricate, delicate, and connected, this jam was one of the band’s defining moments of its three-night Berkeley stand.


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