Reader’s Picks: Benjamin Lee

8.28.12, St. Louis, MO  (Jeremy Renda)

All selections and text by Benjamin Lee aka Llamalee

As a young phish fan I was reluctant to make a top 10 list to share. In the end I decided if I were to make a list, I would avoid the blatantly obvious jams and include what I consider to be not as well known segments of Phish that I find myself listening to repeatedly, or versions that have personal significance to me.  Hope you enjoy.


Bathtub Gin” 7.21.97 I, Virginia Beach, VA

The introduction of funk to the US, this is a classic although repetitive funk jam with some solid start-stop play. The best part of this jam is the multiple hammered notes the band hits during the peak of the funk highlighting the level of percussive, cohesiveness the band was playing with at the time.


Foam” 5.28.94 I, Monterray, CA

Ever wonder why certain Phish songs that may have nothing too exceptional to them but just get you going? “From,” for some reason unknown, does this to me. This version of “Foam” never gets old. What I have come to realize is this “Foam,” like lots of pre-95 jams and other early “Foams,” centers on a drastic volume change, something the band has not used at all in 3.0. A style I would like to see return provides a lot of energy when the jump from quiet to raging hits.


Reba > Yersuashalayim Shel Zahav” 7.8.94 I, Mansfield, MA

Even though the “Reba” two days prior is probably better, this is a strong “Reba” with a perfect ending in the odd but beautiful chant. An all-time favorite show that surprises me to never have been remastered to the Live Phish archives since the “Stash” from A Live One shows the high quality of recording that exists.


Stash” 12.31.03 II, Miami, FL

This is where it all began for me. I was working in a coffee shop one day listening to Grateful Dead when one of my neighbors came in and said I should check out this band “Phish.” He gave me this CD and after hearing this “Stash” (and “YEM” too) from the New Year’s Show, I was hooked.


Simple > Loving Cup > Mike’s Song” 11.8.96 II, Champaign, IL

I had to include a “Simple” with Trey on the drum kit from this time period because these are my favorite style jams. Although the other “Simples” of Fall ’96 are superior (see 10.26.96, 10.31.96, 11.18.96), this one—like all of them—illustrates how Trey stepping back allows Page and Mike to control the direction of the jam, give the band a unique sound, and focus the music on highly percussive rhythm when Trey returns to the guitar. The “Mike’s Song” is included just because it has a great section that jumps back and forth from funk to shredding.


Weekapaug” 7.17.98 II, George, WA

A high paced, straight-forward “Weekapaug” in a year in which the song truly shined. After a heavy “Taste” tease this one seems like its going to end as the band returns to the main theme but the jam extends into serious funk that ends with a nice change of pace before being cut off by Trey for “Character Zero” (not just a 3.0 thing).


46 Days > Oh Sweet Nuthin” 8.15.09 II, Columbia, MD

This is the meat of the second set from a MPP show that gets no respect.  The second set starts with a weak “Tweezer > Taste” but things really pick up with this “46 Days” that passes from a seeming fade out end of the hard rock jam into a blissful peak. A transition into the Velvet Underground cover caps the song perfectly. See also the “Harry Hood” that ends the set which I consider to be the best “Hood” of ’09.


Crosseyed and Painless” 10.16.10 II, N. Charleston, SC

A favorite for personal reasons, this song—considering the name—appropriately started with a friend of mine being pushed by a falling drunk guy eight rows vertically downward through the North Charleston auditorium seating (He looked dead at first but was perfectly fine.) Some of the best play from Trey in the year 2010 with a jam that keeps you still waiting.


Rock and Roll > Lizards” 8.24.12 II, Pelham, AL

Another personal highlight since I was only able to see four shows in 2012, this jam segment is my favorite live memory from the year. A truly beautiful jam with ambient melodies transitioned into the classic Gamehendge song.


Harry Hood” 12.5.95 II, Amherst, MA

Returning to the idea of the band using volume for energy, this “Hood” exemplifies that perfectly. Reaching an original peak that involves an “Entertainer” tease, the band brings everyone back down before turning the volume way up for one of the all-time best “Harry Hood” peaks (see 12.30.95 for the best, headphones recommended).

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