The first time I set foot in The Garden for a Phish show was December 30, 1995. The band was coming off two smoking nights at Worcester and landed in the Big Apple with a head full of steam. Concluding their marathon year of touring with their second and third shows at The World’s Most Famous Arena, Phish had reached the pinnacle of their career. Their dedication, incessant touring, and grass-roots growth of their fan base landed Phish in MSG on the biggest nights of the year. The following night on New Year’s Eve, the band would play one of the most masterful and complete shows of their career and, in many opinions, the most impressive night of music in a lush MSG legacy. But in a song-based second set on the 30th, Phish dropped on of the all-time versions of “Harry Hood,” and it fundamentally changed my life.
I was behind the stage in the 300s when Fishman hit the opening drum roll to the classic piece. Though I had arrived at the show with friends, they weren’t with me for the second set and I was smack dab in the middle of a transformative experience. Sometimes when you’re teetering—walking that delicate line between very high and absolutely overwhelmed—nothing but the Phish can help. And this was my situation during set break. I needed the music to come back.
As the opening calypso chords of “Ya Mar” rang out to open the second set, a new life was breathed into my being. Thoughts subsided and the show became the soundtrack of my mental movie. Fully enraptured in the moment, any thoughts of teetering vanished with ease. Following a soupy, ’95-style “Free” they seized the moment and unveiled an instant classic in “Harry Hood.” In a nutshell, this jam brought me to heaven. Catharsis doesn’t quite describe the emotions that this delicate-turned-blissfully–intense “Hood” invoked in me. There was a sense of new life, a rebirth on the astral plane.
Few “Hood” jams carry such an organic and effortless flow from its meticulous beginning to its climactic conclusion. With Trey’s Languedoc wired through the Leslie speaker—usually used in conjunction with the Hammond organ to create special audio effects— a la Fall ’95, his guitar narration carried a beautifully haunting tone as this musical revelation moved towards the Promised Land. Dreamy and ethereal, yet driving and powerful, the band’s nuanced communication never wavered throughout this jam, and a sense of collective mastery painted the music.
Trey laced the entire jam with heartfelt phrases and melodies, coaxing the perfect accompaniment from Mike and Page. Illustrating the airtight communication that characterized Phish at the end of 1995, this “Hood” jam features all members intensely listening to each other from note one through the climax. And when the four band members are locked in such a blissful musical conversation, the venue, the crowd, the people, and the madness simply vanished. There I was, eyes closed and heart wide open, behind the stage somewhere up in the 300s having an internal experience I didn’t know was possible in live music. The sounds of the divine—of the universe—flooded my consciousness as my soul did backflips over the stage.
This was pure, uncut IT. As the piece reached its final build, my soul was met by Trey’s enthusiastic final guitar run to the peak. I’m not sure if I wound up laughing or crying—more likely some of both—but when the peak of this jam spiraled to a crescendo and slammed into ”AC/DC Bag,” I had been touched by that sacred spirit Trey so often referenced when discussing the musician’s role as an intermediary between the universe and the audience.
I had felt IT before and I would most certainly feel IT again, but given my personal context, nothing was quite like that “Harry Hood” sixteen years ago. Suffice it to say, I have never missed another Phish show at The Garden.
Jam of the Day:
“Harry Hood” 12.30.95 II
The jam you just read about in SBD quality.