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5 Phish Performances You May Find Interesting, Even If You're Not A Noodle-Dancing, Dirty Hippie

(Image: Ward Sutton)

Sure, there are several reasons to dislike Phish. The goofy, geeky, 20-sided-diciness of some of their lyrics makes early Rush look like Bob Dylan. A sizable percentage of their fan base really is comprised of smelly, annoying morons who throw glowsticks at each other. And their average instrumental solo is more masturbatory than a letter to Penthouse.

Still, even though I may occasionally cringe or roll my eyes, I've gone to see them about a dozen times, and plan on trying to see them next year on their latest "Oh wait, you mean we DON'T get paid billions when we're not touring?" comeback tour. (Hey, what can I say? The smell of patchouli only makes me marginally nauseous, and masturbation is one of my favorite hobbies.) But even if you're not on the same, ahem, Page (Get it, Phish phans?), you may find these five performances interesting. Or not.

With Jay-Z, "99 Problems" and "Big Pimpin'," 2004
Does anybody really know how many doobies fell to their deaths as the audience went slack-jawed with surprise at this special guest in Coney Island? (It's a trick question -- dirty hippies will still pick those joints up and smoke 'em, even if they've rolled around on a stadium floor.)

With Neil Young, "Down by the River," Farm Aid 1998
WARNING: This one is 19 minutes long, and does contain quite a bit of "jamming." But in their defense, Young's original studio version is already over nine minutes long, and the more noodley aspects of this performance are well-balanced by the elder statesman's grungy-yet-restrained guitar style. So your hair probably won't turn into dreadlocks if you watch the whole thing. Probably.

John Cameron Mitchell Sings "Waste," 2006
Found this surprising clip by accident, but thought it was pretty cool: the creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch singing one of Phish's "love" songs at his brother's wedding, at the request of the bride, a 7th-generation Vermont native.

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"Hold Your Head Up" into "Gettin' Jiggy wit It" (with vacuum cleaner solo), 1998
Sometimes in concert, the "smirking virtuosi" (Spin, 2002) would switch instruments and give drummer Jon Fishman a chance to sing...and prance around in a dress...and wear a Viking helmet. During these sets, they often covered "Hold Your Head Up," the only hit for '70s rockers Argent...with Fishman playing a solo on a vintage Electrolux vacuum cleaner. Oh yeah, and this version also includes a rendition of Will Smith's 1998 hit -- skip to about five minutes in if you just want to check out the vacuum part. (Or watch the whole thing if you need time to come up with a good "That vacuum's not the only thing that sucks!" zinger for the comments.)

"Oh! Sweet Nuthin'," 1998
Starting in 1994, Phish introduced the idea of a "musical Halloween costume" into their live shows by covering The Beatles' "White Album" in its entirety on October 31. Later Halloween shows included covers of the The Who's "Quadrophenia," Talking Heads' "Remain in Light," and The Velvet Underground's final studio album with Lou Reed, "Loaded." Introduced to later generations as part of the soundtrack to John Cusack's mopey heartbreak in "High Fidelity," this song shows the more introspective, sincere side of Phish, sans Viking helmets, trampolines, or giant beach balls.

Still not a phan? Hey, I did say "performances you may find interesting," not "performances that will make you quit your day job and sell Kind Veggie Burritos in arena parking lots." If not, guess that'll just leave more tickets for us dirty, smelly hippies next year.

Peace, man.

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8 Comments

not even slightly. thanks but i'll pass.

said phatlard on October 2, 2008 2:24 PM.

See you in Hampton suckers! Haha! Seriously though....I'm stoked for this one.

said Bigus Dickus on October 2, 2008 2:38 PM.

I got 99 problems and Phish is one.

said Don't Swayze Bro on October 2, 2008 4:03 PM.

Phorget about it.

said ConservaLiberCrat_08 on October 2, 2008 4:30 PM.

Call me when they play with Fishbone.

said Baierman on October 2, 2008 5:25 PM.

You know, I've always thought that Jay-Z should get into doing personalized versions of "99 problems" for the very wealthy. He'd make a killing.

Darren Crowdy: "I got 99 problems but a Schwarz ain't one."
Chicago Cubs: "We got 99 problems and no pitch at home."
Bregg the Poet: "I got 99 odors and the Fitch is one."
Bill Plaschke: "I got 99 problems and its Mitch Albom."
Ben Franklin: "I saved 9 times with a stitch in one."
Nena: "I got 99 balloons but a luft ain't one."

said Don't Swayze Bro on October 3, 2008 9:41 AM.

Hipsters hate Phish.

said Mac on October 3, 2008 10:45 AM.

Phipsters.

said Don't Swayze Bro on October 3, 2008 3:17 PM.
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