Today, on the 29-year anniversary of the debut of Tweezer and as the NCAA tournament enters the Sweet Sixteen, I welcome you to Tweezer Madness!
First things first—this is for fun. This is not intended to be a definitive ranking of Tweezer jams. In fact, ranking jams is nonsensical. One jam is not better than another. Making art compete is silly, but if taken in the vein this is intended, I think it will be a lot of fun. This tournament is a completely subjective exercise, and it is by no means an attempt at an objective referendum. Moreover, at this point in my own life, I feel that comparing jams is a fool’s errand, but I’ve considered putting this tournament together for many years, when I mentioned it to some friends a couple weeks ago, their enthusiasm for the idea motivated me to make it happen.
The Seeding Process
Seeding these Tweezer jams was an impossible task. I tried to balance my own proclivity for the fluid, groovier versions of 1997 and beyond with a heartfelt honor and my old-school love for the adventurous journeys of 1994 and 1995. I tried to mix up the eras between the higher and lower seeds to create the an engaging and interesting bracket.
In this process, it became evident that comparing Phish eras doesn’t really work. How can one weigh the ethereal, layered textures of Nassau 99 against the fuel-injected fury of New Haven 95, or the 50-minute, multi-part colossus of Mud Island 95 against the smooth, space grooves of the Island Run’s version? Opposing versions quickly become apples and oranges. In the spirit of making an all-time tournament, however, I’ve included jams across all eras.
When I re-listened to a version, I inevitably found myself trying to reshuffle the bracket in order to bump up its seed, but several days into the process, I gave up trying to get them all “right,” because there is no such thing. I could have shuffled seeds forever, but at some point I realized it really didn’t matter, a loose approximation of tiers worked fine. Time and time again, I realized that seeding jams is an imperfect science, and beyond that, purely comedic. Eventually, it felt more important to finish the bracket than to continue nitpicking over every seed. Trust me, I did enough of that. And then I did it some more.
The selection of the top seeds is a reflection of my own heart. To me, the number one seeds feature unparalleled flow, ultimate cohesion and each contain—in my opinion—some of the most timeless and divine Phish music ever played.
That said, many of my other favorite versions are scattered throughout the bracket. I truly believe that all 66 versions (including the play-in games) are awesome. I needed to fill 66 slots, so some versions necessarily had to be seeded lower than others. In short, don’t take the seeding too seriously.
If I left out your favorite version, don’t fret, my opinion means no more than yours. But I’d like to think—and I hope—that I got everyone’s favorite version in the field.
To view the bracket, click on the image and you’ll get a full size, printable version. I will be posting matchup polls (with complete dates) on this site. I recommend using on a computer, or the ReListen app on a phone, to access all the music.
I am posting the two play-in games today. The winners of these games will be the final two 16 seeds as reflected on the bracket. After a 48-hour voting window, I will post the first round region by region, giving four days for listening and voting. Once the first round is over, I’ll post two regions at a time, soon enough, we’ll have a tournament champion.
Without further ado, step into the freezer!