Jam Bands

The twenty best jams of Phish 3.0

When Phish reunited in 2009, the 3.0 era of the band was born. While classics like "Tweezer" and "Carini" still reap fantastic rewards, newer songs have been given a chance to shine and grow, be it through psychedelic looping or rapid-fire staccato rhythms. Despite what some may say, Phish still jam, and we've got the twenty best jams of 3.0.

See also: The twelve best moments from Phish's fall tour

20. "Back on the Train" - American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL, 12/30/09 Starting out as a rousing rock version with Southern swagger, this version quickly took a plunge toward the psychedelic, with Trey Anastasio's guitar screaming a long, sustained note as the guys wove around the Type II jam. An underwater-sounding octopus garden, this jam is a musical score of bass bombs and pedal effects, with Jon Fishman always keeping a steady beat that ebbs and flows with intensity. Minimalistic, the tune charged forward just a little harder with each swell, until it has grew into a crashing wave of sound.

19. "Boogie On Reggae Woman" - DCU Center, Worcester, MA, 2012 This tour -opener highlight was the kind that had venue staff dancing, and the bass sounded like Mike Gordon had extra fingers that night. The funk was thick in this version, and then Anastasio came in smooth as ice, with phrasing that just slid right in and gave the whole jam a more rock-and-roll feel. The Hammond B-3 added another layer to the sound, and the whole thing was just lifted up high, with cymbals crashing and the guitar being dominated. Just when you thought it might be coming to a rest, the funk seeped back in before settling to a stop.

18. "Simple" - Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA, 8/6/10 The guys took off into this jam lightly, with descending notes from Anastasio while the rest of the band built up an intricate, bubbly staccato foundation (called Plinko jamming by some, because it sounds similar to the Price Is Right game music). Glory chords were hit as Page McConnell threw some funky keys in, keeping things danceable yet delicate.

17. "Backwards Down the Number Line" - Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY, 8/17/10 From the song that got the band back together came the jubilant highlight of this show, and the band was full of energy as it shredded its way through it. Anastasio was in full rock-star mode at first and then used the whale call tastefully later. McConnell twinkled on the organ as the band began to climb higher and build to a grand extended peak, with Fishman dropping heavy drum fills at just the right times.

16. "Seven Below " - Times Union Center, Albany, NY, 11/28/09 Opening set two, this rendition marks one of the first moments that really showed that the Phish we knew and loved was still here. The band sounded cohesive, the members playing off one another while supporting each other's ideas. The jam goes into a major-key, mid-tempo groove around the twelve-minute mark that hits the spot, with Anastasio hammering on and off before taking it to a bass-heavy, "Also Sprach Zarathustra"-ish musical space. The group built higher and higher to a gorgeous sustained peak, with Anastasio just giving the hose around the twenty-minute mark. All of that, then the guys took it down and started up a fantastic "Ghost," barely catching a breath.

See also: The twelve best moments from Phish's fall tour

15. "Down With Disease" - Alpine Valley, Troy, WI, 8/14/10 "Down With Disease" always tends to bring great jams, and this one is especially noted for its beautiful outro and segue into "What's the Use." Fast-paced fretwork and crashing cymbals lead the way as Gordon bounces all over the place, playing with harmonics one moment until they begin to repeat a progression of notes that sends Fishman into a drumming frenzy. The rhythm starts grinding along, as Anastasio throws slithery prog-rock lines out until it gets medieval and metal-sounding. Pounding beats drive together until they become one, and the guitar once again slithers off as the band enters lullaby land, just to have that guitar riff slither back and drop straight into "What's the Use."

14. "Harry Hood" - Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA, 8/5/13 After a pretty standard show in 2011, expectations were shaky about things getting all crazy-exploratory on the Los Angeles crowd, but, boy, did the band ever -- and with "Harry Hood," no less. With McConnell kicking things off interestingly by employing the talkbox, the song got off to a great start. Going Type II just ten minutes in, Anastasio played some sustained notes that suddenly let the band encompass ten times the space with its sound. As the group flowed thematically through various musical genres, start-stop jamming cued the woos, as Gordon and Anastasio both played twinkly lines back and forth. Things got spacier and more prog-rock as the tempo raised and lowered like a roller coaster. Fishman brought the tune back around effortlessly, and while its peak wasn't as high and precise as preferred, there was a nice, loopy outro that fit well thematically with the jam.

13. "Tweezer" - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, 12/28/12 You could fill this list with 3.0 "Tweezers." This one started out heavy-hitting, and Fishman maintained the beat throughout as piano notes floated around blissfully, with the guys patiently sticking to the theme of the jam rather than building a lot of tension. Anastasio began to play upbeat happy chords, sounding like a joyful song within a song, before the guys released the Kraken and hit a fantastically high peak.

12. "Sand" - Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO, 9/2/12 This version is sexy as hell, with the tempo slowed just a bit to allow room for extra swagger. Things started getting trippy and further out as sounds were looped, and Gordon and Fishman suddenly hit a marching beat that took the jam in a stronger direction. Anastasio sounded like he was having fun up there, mixing gorgeous trilling melodies with feedback deliciousness, as the main theme of the song weaved in and out.

11. "Storage Jam" - Superball, Watkins Glen, NY, 2011 Late-night improv sets are a constant favorite at Phish festivals, and rumors came out pretty quick at Superball to go where the big silver ball was for the late-night set. As the silhouettes of the bandmembers blurrily appeared in the windows of the makeshift "USA Storage" shed, weird sound effects and sporadic moments of distorted guitar came through in surround sound, adding a really cool extra layer to the experience. Inside the shed, the members rotated playing different instruments, allowing for sounds that you would not normally identify as those of Phish. Some people were confused by the abstract music, until they just finally laid down and absorbed the sounds. Things got wild with synthesizers, building peaks and valleys into the open ambient improv for over an hour until settling into the most psychedelic "Sleeping Monkey" that gave everyone a grasp of familiarity. This was headphone music at its finest, and a glimpse into the band's rehearsal world.

See also: The twelve best moments from Phish's fall tour

10. "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley" - Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA, 8/7/09 "Sneaking Sally" tends to bring the jams, and this lowdown and dirty dance party was exemplary. Gordon laid the cow funk down hard until the band broke into a spirited vocal jam. McConnell brought things to an extra-funky level on the clavinet before the band dove off into a beautiful droning space, with Fishman picking up the beat and Anastasio coming back to the ground with beautiful, slowly building chords.

9. "Ghost" - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, 12/31/10 Coming out of the darkness of "Down With Disease," this version of "Ghost" was instantly funky, with McConnell showing off his skills. The guys stepped into the jam delicately as a cohesive group, with clavinet, guitar, drums and bass seamlessly interspersed and no toes being stepped on. As Fishman stepped up the tempo, the music got more layered and continued to build while Trey used tremolo all over the place, making for a hose of pure bliss raining on the crowd's ears as the band completely locked in with each other. When Gordon hit a note, the rest of the band instantly followed right on cue and ended back in the "Ghost" refrain.

8. "Carini" - Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ, 10/31/13 The guys dropped right into this jam with dissonance, as McConnell slammed the keys and Anastasio floated some careful staccato lines above the others. This "Carini" is all about beautiful major-chord swells, as the band played with volume as well as melody. Gordon threw a couple bass bombs in here, and the guys began some thematically major-key wanking away, aiming higher and higher until it was just majestic bliss.

7. "Waves" - Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel, NY, 5/26/11 Sometimes the best music theses guys play is created hours before the doors open, at tech rehearsal or soundcheck. This version of "Waves" is so loose and intimate-sounding; the compositional part is level, with everyone interplaying and weaving around each other at a steady tempo. Fishman holds it all together throughout, continuously sizzling through the free-form jazz portion until the guys go deeper and fall into dirty, psychedelic rock-and-roll territory. Gordon's fuzzy low end sounds bring it all into a cool groove that's already sounding like the smoothest shit ever; things are taken down to an atonal drone until Fishman picks it up, and suddenly, you're in dreamland. If you are having a bad day, clear your head with this.

6. "Rock and Roll" - The Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA, 8/5/11 The Gorge saw some pretty monster covers of this Velvet Underground classic in 2009 and 2011, but this one takes the cake. The guys came out firing on all cylinders in classic rock-star form, but once they got to the improvisation, they covered a few different complex and varied themes. Dark, dirty dissonance from Anastasio led to a deep, funky groove. The theremin took the whole thing to a deep, ambient, psychedelic place, as barely decipherable singing added to the eerie wonderfulness. Gordon played the funkiest of bass lines, and the guys landed themselves in a deep funk get-down before eventually landing in the "Meatstick" rhythm pattern and segueing effortlessly in.

See also: The twelve best moments from Phish's fall tour

5. "Undermind" - Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO, 8/31/12 Part of the all-around fantastic "Fuck Your Face" show at Dick's, this jam finds McConnell really dominating in the composed section and kicking things off with a ton of energy. Some very high bass notes take us into the jam, and the band take its time building the theme. Wavering guitar notes build tension here, as Fishman incorporates his wood block and drum fills for extra oomph. The instruments swirl around each other, as the guys play completely locked in, taking time to let things develop, as was the intent of the entire show.

4. "Carini" - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, 12/30/12 This "Dark Carini" is a giant, showing again that "Carini" could be counted on to be a show highlight over and over in 3.0. Here Gordon playsed a repeating bass line that was mimicked by Anastasio, creating a heavy-hitting rhythm, as Fishman threw down drumrolls in the perfect moments. A sexy minor-key sequence unfolded, as Anastasio played dissonant, haunting lines sporadically. The band dropped down low into a dystopian tribal beat from the future as Kuroda brought the lights down, as well, taking things to what sounds like the beginning of time and sound. Things turned airier as careful, higher notes came from McConnell and Fishman thudded in and out on the bass drum, eventually sticking in there to create a foundation for the guitar to wail over. Thumping into a dark, anthemic beat, Anastasio finally released the tension with a beautiful high melody that brought everyone back to the present day.

3. "Down With Disease" - Santander Arena, Reading, PA, 10/29/13 Teasing "Pop Goes the Weasel" in the intro took things straight to spooky territory. The guys explored a few different themes here, both dark and light. The buildup in the song was perfect, and the Allman-esque solo that came pouring out of Anastasio's guitar at the peak was pure beauty.

2. "Tweezer" - Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey's, Stateline, NV, 7/31/13

The "Tahoe Tweezer" was a major moment of the Summer 2013 Tour, showing that the band was willing to be patient and give themselves time to see what happened and then keep at it. Moments became a bit amorphous, but the band pulled itself into a groove each time, with dark and dirty rock and roll that became more intense until the guys went into a start-stop jamming formation, causing the audience to exclaim "Woo!" (an elated crowd reaction at the time that turned into a bit of a nuisance in future shows). What makes the jam, though, is the guitar bend that Anastasio threw out right after the start-stopping. It was a pure, joyful glissando that set the mood for the remainder of the blissful jam. Where it lacked in moments musically, it more than made up for with the interaction and energy coming from everyone on stage and off.

1. "Light" - Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO, 9/1/12 It's placement in set two made it ripe for takeoff and became a quick highlight of a well-received Colorado run last year. Dropping right off the deep end with a bottom-heavy sound, Anasatasio spaced out, sounding like he was speaking to aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Page blasted the clavinet and veered into a swamp funk direction that let Fishman really shine. Just thirteen minutes or so in, the guys got into a groove off the bass line, as Trey transposed the melody to a new key and Gordon quickly fell in line, and the band went off into a singular theme of blissful beauty. It's truly awesome how much territory can be covered just by repeating a phrase in different ways.

BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS - The twelve best moments from Phish's fall tour - The twenty best versions of Phish classics - Phish's twenty most interesting covers - Phish's ten most overlooked jams - From Phish to Floyd, the ten best light shows - The ten biggest jam-band scene stereotypes

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Leslie Simon