This year marks the 20th anniversary of JamBase. Part of the yearlong celebration includes the 20 For 20 series featuring 20 lists focusing on 20 notable topics and events of the JamBase era. The lists were compiled by current and former JamBase staff members and contributors, music industry professionals and other experts. Stay tuned for more, as the series continues throughout the year and we look back at two decades of encouraging fans to Go See Live Music!
Previous 20 For 20 Lists include Standout Debut Albums By Jam Acts, Pranks & Gags Played By Jam Acts, Festivals We’ve Lost, Memorable Reunions, Farewells Of The Past 2 Decades, Longest Jams & Standout Improvisations, Fan Sites and Memorable Halloween Concerts. Next up is a look at 20 covers of Phish original songs performed in the past 20 years.
Despite going on hiatus twice in the past two decades, Phish’s continued impact on the jam scene throughout that time is immeasurable. The band — guitarist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, bassist Mike Gordon and keyboardist Page McConnell — have inspired and influenced their contemporaries and peers, bridging generations of music from the past and present.
Many of the musicians featured in the list below would count themselves among the legion of devoted Phish fans around the world. Others came before Phish and were sources of the four band members’ musical foundations.
Little Feat | Sample In A Jar
Ellis Godard was an early webmaster for the Phish fan site Phish.net where he now serves as executive director. Goddard is also the executive director of the non-profit volunteer charity organization The Mockingbird Foundation, founded by Godard and other likeminded Phish fans in 1996.
“Mockingbird started as an all-volunteer non-profit in 1996 in order to raise money for music education for children,” the organization’s website states. “The original impetus was the compilation of the most accurate and literary book on Phish’s music available [The Phish Companion]. We’ve done that, in three highly successful editions, as well as taken on a wide range of projects, including an album, art, special events, and branded merchandise.” To date, The Mockingbird Foundation has donated “$1.4 million to support music education for children – 401 grants in all 50 states.”
Along with The Phish Companion, one of the initial Mockingbird Foundation fundraising projects was the production of the tribute album, Sharin’ In The Groove. Released in 2000, the double album consisted of over 20 Phish songs reinterpreted by an eclectic roster of musicians. Godard told the Long May They Run podcast about the construction of the tribute album:
It’s presented as a two set show, the first disc or the fist set is like a Phish show — little more straightforward, shorter songs, a little catchier, maybe a little poppier. The second disc, the second set gets way out there. One of the organizing schemes was the two set show. Another organizing scheme was: this isn’t bands that were influenced by Phish, these are bands that influenced Phish. So, across the two discs there are 13 or 14 different genres and the idea was to represent all of the different kinds of music that Phish plays and that had melded into Phish’s sound.
Godard credits Jimmy Buffett, who covered “Gumbo,” for helping gain early momentum after being one of the first acts to agree to the project as well as self-funding the recording session with his band in Nashville. Dave Matthews’ cover of “Waste” (which he’s performed live sporadically since 2001) Godard noted, continues to generate significant royalties for the Mockingbird Foundation.
Little Feat, no doubt one of the bands that influenced Phish, contributed a cover of “Sample In A Jar” to Sharin’ In The Groove, appearing as the second to last song on the first disc. The legendary band also released their version of “Sample” on their 2000 studio album, Chinese Work Songs. Soon after, Little Feat was playing “Sample In A Jar” regularly at their live shows. However, the Phish cover fell out of the band’s live rotation in 2002.
moe. | Stash
Buffalo-based jam quartet moe. presented a “Democracy Rules”-themed Halloween show on October 31, 2009, at The Washington Avenue Armory in Albany, New York. The setlist for the night was picked by fans in an online ballot and included a number of cover debuts. One such cover debut was a well-jammed take on the Phish classic “Stash.” moe.’s version of the song from Phish’s 1992 studio album, A Picture Of Nectar, opened the second set in Albany.
Guitarist Chuck Garvey handled lead vocals on the only Phish cover moe. has performed outside of a quick and sloppy run through “Chalk Dust Torture” as part of a public soundcheck on June 29, 2017, at their moe.down XVI festival. Garvey and Al Schnier worked out a duel guitar lead for the main theme of the song before Al delivered a guitar solo. moe. went on to cover “Stash” a second time a week later on November 7, 2009, at the Music Farm in Charleston, South Carolina.
The connection between the two bands was also on display when Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio was among moe.’s guests at a charity concert held at New York City’s now-defunct Roseland Ballroom on February 10, 2005 to raise funds for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
Anastasio was on hand for the entire second set in which he jammed with moe. on some of their originals and his own “Night Speaks Like A Woman” as well as covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” Frank Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia” and J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight.” At one point, moe. turned the stage over to Trey for solo acoustic performances of Phish classics “Chalk Dust Torture” and “Wilson.”
[Audio taped by Rob Clarke.]
Keller Williams | Birds Of A Feather
[Video Credit: smasher69]
The diversity of artists that Keller Williams has paid tribute to throughout his career is almost as diverse as his own eclectic style. Keller has done full-on homage bluegrass projects to rock icons like Tom Petty (PettyGrass) and the Grateful Dead (GratefulGrass). He’s also championed the music of singer-songwriters and musicians in the numerous side projects he’s taken part in over the years.
So it’s no surprise that Keller has covered Phish solo and with various collaborative projects. A Phish song Keller has chosen to tackle is “Birds Of A Feather.” It appears that Williams began playing the song as a solo artist at the end of the last decade, with recorded versions popping up in late-2008. One of the earliest known went down at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins, Colorado on December 5, 2008.
Williams must have dug the tune because he has brought it with him to other projects. In 2012, Keller welcomed guitarist Al Schnier of moe., who Keller was supporting, for a version of “BOAF” at Club Nokia in Los Angeles on February 4 (see video above). In 2015, Keller brought “BOAF” back to the Aggie Theatre with KWahtro featuring Gibb Droll, Danton Boller and Rodney Holmes. Another collaborative project featuring bassist Keith Mosely of The String Cheese Incident, Droll and renowned drummer Jeff Sipe has also played the song.
But for some reason “Birds Of A Feather” just clicks with Keller’s solo aesthetic. Often preceded by the Grateful Dead’s “Bird Song,” musically, it gives him a chance to show off his guitar skills as well as his improvisational looping prowess. “BOAF” also jives with themes Keller himself espouses most notably the unity of the scene and the crazy, circus atmosphere that comes with it.
New Mastersounds | Cars Trucks Buses
[Video Credit: Live For Live Music]
Instrumental British funk outfit The New Mastersounds are also celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. The band mirrors Phish’s instrumentation with a lineup comprised of guitarist Eddie Roberts, drummer Simon Allen, bassist Pete Shand and keyboardist Joe Tatton.
In January 2015, The New Mastersounds went to New Orleans to record what became their album, Made For Pleasure. The 10-track, Roberts-produced album recorded at The Living Room Recording studio across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans was released in October 2015.
“CTB” was recorded by TNM in NOLA during the Made For Pleasure sessions. While a cover of Iggy Azalea’s pop hit “Fancy” made the album, the Phish cover did not. An alternate edition of Made For Pleasure was released in Japan containing a bonus track of the band’s cover of Phish’s “Cars Trucks Buses.”
On an early-2015 West Coast tour following the recording sessions, the song written by keyboardist Page McConnell for Phish’s 1996 album Billy Breathes entered The New Mastersounds’ live repertoire. The instrumental showcase for Tatton’s organ playing remains a rare live treat for fans of both bands.
STS9 | First Tube
[Video Credit: Heady Flair]
STS9 aren’t generally known for covers outside of holiday performances, so fans were surprised when the livetronica act incorporated a Phish song into their show on October 18, 2014, at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. The quintet opened their second set with a “First Tube” they seamlessly mashed up with their own “Moonsocket.”
2014 was a year of transition for Tribe who announced the departure of founding bassist David Murphy on January 14. Current bassist Alana Rocklin made her debut as a member of the group on March 28 at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival in Arizona. Alana’s thumping bassline was at the heart of STS9’s “First Tube” cover.
The band performed the start of the Phish cover and then transitioned into “Moonsocket” and back again. STS9 concluded the 13+ minute medley with the end of “Moonsocket.” The five-piece has yet to play “First Tube” again.
While “First Tube” is the Phish song STS9 has covered, the band previously jammed with Mike Gordon. The first Tribe/Mike Gordon collaboration came during the 2003 Bonnaroo festival. Gordon sat-in with STS9 a second time on July 23, 2008. Both guest spots featured freeform jams.
The String Cheese Incident | Wedge
[Video Credit: runaway jr]
As bust outs go, a 19-year gap between live performances can certainly be labeled impressive. The String Cheese Incident has only fully covered one Phish song, which they have done twice — almost exactly 19 years to the day between plays.
SCI’s debut performance of “The Wedge” happened on October 31, 2000, during the band’s 20 For 20: Memorable Halloween Concerts & Events making show at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine. As noted in that previous 20 For 20 entry, the show took place just days after Phish walked off stage following a concert on October 7, 2000, that started a two-year hiatus.
Phish’s “The Wedge” was debuted by Cheese during the encore back on Halloween 2000. The band opened with their “Land’s Ends” and before finishing moved on to “Walking On The Moon” by The Police and “Come Together” by The Beatles. Next came “The Wedge” and a show-closing cover of “Get Down Tonight” by KC & The Sunshine Band. The encore was later released on SCI’s Halloween live compilation Trick Or Treat.
On October 27, 2019, The String Cheese Incident played three headlining sets at Suwanee Hulaween in Live Oak, Florida. One of the sets was made up entirely of covers of songs released in the 1990s. With “The Wedge” appearing on Phish’s 1993 album Rift, the long-shelved cover fit squarely into the evening’s theme alongside the first SCI performance of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” since its debut at Hulaween 2002.
The Breakfast | Reba
Connecticut’s The Breakfast have a long-standing tradition of Halloween shows dubbed “Fonghoulish Freakouts” that continues through the present even though performances from the band are few and far between. On October 27, 2007 The Breakfast held their ninth annual Fonghoulish Freakout at Higher Ground in Phish’s hometown of Burlington, Vermont. The group celebrated the occasion by performing Phish’s 1990 studio album Lawn Boy in its entirety, including a spot-on rendition of “Reba.”
The stakes were raised for The Breakfast when Mike Gordon attended the show. Gordon wound up sitting-in with the band on a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” as part of the encore. The Breakfast guitarist Tim Palmieri spoke with JamBase contributor Seth Wolfman about covering Lawn Boy a few weeks after the show. Here’s what he had to say about the decision:
We were discussing what we were going to do for Halloween since we have done some wonderful productions in the past. Our venue wasn’t nailed down yet. We wanted Toad’s Place in our hometown of New Haven but didn’t get it. Once Higher Ground said they’d host the Freakout this year, we thought, ‘Why not cover an album in Phish’s musical costume style? And since we’re in Burlington why not pay homage to one of the greatest bands out there?’ On top of that, our new keyboardist didn’t know one note of Phish so it was a good lesson and experience for him getting to [get to] know Phish’s music. He developed a greater understanding of the scene and love for the band, and ultimately freaked out!
The Breakfast had previously performed “The Squirming Coil” but the rest of the songs on Lawn Boy were debuts for the band at Higher Ground. However, Palmieri often covers Phish during his solo shows and added “Reba” to his repertoire soon after Halloween 2007.
[Audio taped by mkdevo. ]
Phil Lesh & Friends | A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing
On May 13, 2005, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh brought a lineup of his Phil Lesh & Friends project featuring drummer John Molo, multi-instrumentalist Barry Sless, moe. guitarist Al Schnier, keyboardist Mookie Siegel and vocalists Gloria Jones and Jackie LaBranch to the Warfield Theater in San Francisco. The show came in honor of the 83rd anniversary of the venue opening and featured a number of cover debuts including a take on Phish’s “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing.”
Schnier handled lead vocals on the song from Phish’s 2004 studio album, Undermind. The Phish cover came during the band’s second set and emerged out of “The Eleven.” Sless played pedal steel on “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing,” which gave the song a much different feel than the original.
Phil Lesh & Friends took “ASIHTOS” deep at the Warfield and eventually segued the jam into “Man Of Constant Sorrow.” The cover would be a one-and-done affair as Phil has yet to perform “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” again.
Phil famously teamed with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell for a series of three “Phil & Phriends” shows held at the Warfield April 15 – 17, 1999. The concerts marked Phil’s return to the stage after undergoing a liver transplant.
Lesh, Anastasio, McConnell, Molo and guitarist Steve Kimock set the bar for the run by opening with a 34-minute “Viola Lee Blues” on April 15 and went on to present a mix of material from both the Grateful Dead and Phish repertoires as well as a few choice covers.
Phil made his lone appearance with Phish on September 17, 1999, at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. More recently, Anastasio performed with Lesh as part of a run of five Fare Thee Well – Celebrating 50 Years Of Grateful Dead concerts in 2015, while McConnell and Phish drummer Jon Fishman were among Phil’s friends on August 27, 2016 at the LOCKN’ festival.
Billy & The Kids | Chalk Dust Torture
[Video Credit: rohbear1]
Just as today’s jam bands cover Phish, in their early days Phish themselves used to cover the forefathers of the scene, the Grateful Dead. Phish played the classic Dead pairing of “Scarlet Begonias” and “Fire On The Mountain” as the only songs of the doomed second set during their legendary first show at UVM in the fall of 1983 and also did a spoof on the pairing by inserting Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” into “Scarlet/Fire” in 1984. While Phish covering the Dead is a rare occurrence these days, the musical and cultural connections between the bands run deep.
There was the famed ‘98 “Terrapin Station” performed by Phish in Virginia Beach to honor Jerry Garcia on the three-year anniversary of his death; the ‘99 “Phil & Phriends” shows and Trey joining the Dead for their 50th anniversary Fare Thee Well concerts among other collaborations.
But a lesser-known Phish/Dead collaboration took place in 2005 when Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon joined Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, dubbed SerialPod, at Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam 2005. While SerialPod didn’t last beyond Christmas Jam 2005, Kreutzmann debuted another project at Christmans Jam 2014 called Billy & The Kids featuring Aaron Magner of The Disco Biscuits, bassist Reed Mathis and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead/Ghost Light guitarist Tom Hamilton.
While the Billy-lead four-piece — who welcomed special guest Col. Bruce Hampton as well as Haynes — stuck mostly to Dead tunes at Christmas Jam 2014 in Asheville, including such favorites as “Shakedown Street,” Tennesse Jed” and “Estimated Prophet,” the band tipped their collective cap to Phish with a monster “Chalk Dust Torture” sandwich that weaved in and out “Turn On Your Love Light” led by the Colonel and his own “Basically Frightened.”
Billy & The Kids’ debut and the rest of Christmas Jam 2014 is set for a video release on December 13, 2019. Kreutzman recently offered some thoughts on the show via social media, writing:
That Christmas Jam was special for me, not only because it was the first Billy & the Kids show, but also because it was one of the last times I got to play music with my dear friend Col. Bruce Hampton, darn it. There’s a magical moment with him onstage, in the middle of “(Turn on Your) Lovelight,” where Col. Bruce, unscripted, goes into his own song, “Basically Frightened,” and the band responds by spontaneously reprising “Chalk Dust Torture,” which we had covered earlier. And then we finished “Lovelight.”
We took the music to improvisational places we never could’ve rehearsed, and that immediate willingness to go far-out like that was just us responding to the fantastic energy of a sold-out arena, full of music fans who didn’t know what to expect from this band but who were just as excited as us to find out. There’s always been a certain magic surrounding Billy & the Kids shows, but this was, as they say, where it all began./p>
While Billy & The Kids last played live in 2016, the group will reunite for shows in 2020.
The Infamous Stringdusters | Free
[Video Credit: Jam Cruise]
Phish’s music lends itself well to bluegrass. That’s because the band, especially bassist Mike Gordon, has long had a proclivity for the Appalachain export. Over the years, collectives like Pickin’ On Phish have shown how effortlessly Phish music fits into the bluegrass paradigm. But in the past decade, one of the best jamgrass bands covering Phish is undoubtedly The Infamous Stringdusters.
In the past few years, the ace pickers have worked “Possum” into their live shows. But the Mike Gordon-sung “Possum,” in all its rowdy awesomeness, is sort of a no brainer for a bluegrass band. A Phish song that showcases the instrumental talents of the band is “Stash,” which the Dusters debuted sans vocals at their 2017 event The Festy Experience in Arrington, Virginia.
Speaking of Arrington, The Infamous Stringdusters shared a stage with members of Phish a few years back just before they began covering “Stash.” The band joined keyboardist Page McConnell and drummer Jon Fishman as part of Phil Lesh & Friends at Lockn’ 2016 in Arrington along with Joe Russo and others.
But the Phish cover that really encompasses everything the band can do vocally and musically is “Free.” The Dusters have been covering the Billy Breathes opening salvo since at least 2011. The chorus is perfect for the Dusters’ gorgeous harmonies with bassist Travis Brook handling lead vocals on the verses. The tune also gives guitarist Andy Falco, banjoist Chris Pandolfi, fiddler Jeremy Garrett and dobro player Andy Hall a chance to dance around the song’s iconic, descending riff.
The Infamous Stringdusters have performed the song live many times and will include a version on their album Live From Covington, Kentucky taken from their July 13, 2019, set at the Paradise Music & Beer Festival.
Jeff Austin Band | Waste
[Video Credit: Jake Alexander]
During the What The Night Brings all-star tribute concert for Jeff Austin at 1st Bank Arena in Broomfield, Colorado, it was noted from the stage that Austin attended the three-night run Phish held in the same venue in 2010. At that point, Austin was still a member of the band he co-founded in 1998, Yonder Mountain String Band, which he would leave in 2014 to pursue a solo career.
Prior to leaving YMSB, Austin and the influential jamgrass group shared the live stage on numerous occasions while augmented by Phish drummer Jon Fishman. In fact, Austin did just that on the night before Phish’s run at 1st Bank Arena, as part of a benefit concert for the Fourmile Canyon Fire that in addition to YMSB saw performances by The String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon and Big Head Todd and The Monsters.
Follwoing his exit from Yonder, Austin went on to form the Jeff Austin Band, which he led until his tragic death on June 24, 2019, at the age of 45. Back in 2016, as part of different 20th-anniversary celebration organized by JamBase, Austin and his band mates at the time participated in the 20 Years Later covers project that focused on albums released in 1996.
Phish released Billy Breathes in 1996, with the standout ballad “Waste” among its 13 tracks. Austin selected the song for his band to cover for the JB 20YL project. Austin and his band mates, banjoist Ryan Cavanaugh, bassist Max Johnson and guitarist Ross Martin recorded a cover of “Waste” at the former JamBase offices in San Franciso.
Yonder Mountain String Band | Scent Of A Mule
As noted in the above entry, Yonder Mountain String Band‘s association with Phish includes Fish performing several times with the bluegrass group. Though those collaborations in 2007 and 2008 avoided Phish’s catalog, while Austin was in Yonder he was known to tease Phish songs such as “Piper,” “Weekapaug Groove” and “Sanity.” And in 2011 they debuted a cover of “Sand.”
The current Yonder Mountain String Band lineup, guitarist Adam Aijala, banjoist Dave Johnston, bassist Ben Kaufmann and newest members, mandolinist Jacob Jolliff and fiddler Allie Kral dropped “Sand” from the band’s live repertoire. But it would not be the last time they covered a Phish song.
On December 30, 2015, YMSB opened a four-night run at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colorado with a special “Deep-Grass Track Celebration: Best of the ’60s” performance with Sam Bush. Their New Year’s Eve 2015 concert saw the band performing a “Deep-Grass Track Celebration: Best of the ’70s” show and New Year’s Day was their “Deep-Grass Track Celebration: Best of the ’80s” with Jerry Douglas.
On January 2, 2016, Yonder Mountain String Band continued their musical journey through the decades with a “Deep-Grass Track Celebration: Best of the ’90s” finale featuring guest guitarist Stanley Jordan.
The ’90s night incorporated debut Yonder covers of “No Rain” by Blind Melon and “1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins, alongside other decade-specific previously played tunes like “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young and “Holland 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel.
YMSB also closed out the first set by dropping a debut of Phish’s “Scent Of A Mule” within their original “On The Run.” Following the January 2, 2016 show, “1979” was played a just a few more times but “No Rain” and “Scent” became regular parts of the band’s live rotation.
[Audio taped by Matthew Hernandez]
Greensky Bluegrass | Julius
Greensky Bluegrass dobroist Anders Beck has never shied away from his Phish fandom, as the Villanova, Pennsylvania native has been seeing the band as much he can dating back to the mid-1990s. This came long before he started playing dobro in 2001 and joined GSBG in 2007.
The jamgrass quintet often works songs by rock bands into their live shows with Phish just one of the many acts they’ve covered over the years. On July 2, 2015, in Chicago, Greensky Bluegrass unveiled a take on “Julius,” a tune Phish released on their 1994 studio album, Hoist. The five-piece’s July 2, 2015 show at the Chicago Theatre was a Rex Foundation benefit dubbed “High Steppin’ Into Town” that featured support from Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass.
Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years Of Grateful Dead performances at nearby Soldier Field. The group played one long set at the Chicago Theatre that began with their debut performance of “Julius.”
GSBG had previously covered Phish’s “Rift” and more recent additions to the repertoire include “Contact,” “Cavern” and “Tweezer Reprise.” The quintet didn’t wait long to perform “Julius” again, as they covered the Anastasio/Marshall-penned tune two weeks later at the 2015 Northwest String Summit.
Greensky has gone on to play “Julius” five more times as per PT GSBG with the most recent version taking place on December 29, 2018 back in Chicago at the Riviera Theatre.
[Audio taped by Todd Moore]
Billy Strings | Gotta Jibboo
Billy Strings is arguably the hottest artist in the jam and bluegrass spheres right now. Like most musicians in the jam scene, Strings and his band have worked some choice covers into their repertoire. They do a cool bluegrass version of Cher’s “Believe” as well as a nice nod to Jackson Browne with “Running On Empty.” But as many who run in the scene invariably do, Strings has also thrown in a few Phish covers as well.
It almost seems like fate that the guy who could quite possibly take over the jam scene is rumored to have seen his first Phish show the night Bob Weir joined the band in Nashville during fall tour 2016. Although he may not have a lot of Phish shows under his belt (he’s only 27), Strings is an obvious fan.
That is evident in the way he covers the Vermont quartet. “Back On The Train” has become somewhat of a staple for Billy and his band. It’s an apt choice for a cover. It’s got a sort of funky twang in which Strings thrives. But rarer, and perhaps better befitting of the young guitar phenom is his cover of “Gotta Jibboo.”
One might not immediately recognize it from hearing Phish play the song (especially on the horn-studded Farmhouse studio version), but “Gotta Jibboo” fist perfectly into bluegrass chucks. “Gotta Jibboo” also gives Billy a chance to show off his ample improvisational skills on the guitar.
The song’s atmospheric jam section gives Billy’s band a chance to shine as well. In a version of the song from Nashville in early 2018, guest fiddle player John Mailander adds the looping siren calls Trey usually adds to the tune while Strings adds some characteristic Phish Plinko jamming on guitar and banjoist Billy Failing turns things up a notch (see video above at 39:30).
The McLovins | You Enjoy Myself
In the Summer of 2008, drummer Jake Huffman, bassist Jason Ott and guitarist Jeff Howard started jamming together after Huffman met Jason at a jazz camp and Jeff at a rock camp.
The trio of Connecticut high school students, aged 14 – 16, uploaded a video featuring a spot-on cover of Phish’s “You Enjoy Myself” from one of these jam sessions to YouTube on November 30, 2008 and it soon went viral in the jam scene after a thread on Phantasy Tour with a link to the clip and a post on defunct blog Hidden Track featuring the video gained attention from Phish fans. Huffman, Ott and Howard embraced the nickname PTers came up with of the McLovins (based on the character Christopher Mintz-Plasse portrayed in the 2007 film Superbad) and used the moniker as a band name.
The McLovins soon started performing live and wrote original material. Unsurprisingly, “You Enjoy Myself” was a staple of early McLovins shows and the trio garnered a sizeable fanbase as they used breaks in their school schedules for headlining shows and an impressive set at the 2009 Gathering Of The Vibes festival.
The members of Phish soon took note as Page McConnell attended a McLovins’ show at Nectars’ and Trey Anastasio was impressed after lyricist Tom Marshall sent him videos of the trio. In 2009, The McLovins released their debut studio album, Conundrum, and a year later formed a partnership with Marshall and Spin Doctors guitarist Anthony Krizan that yielded the original “Cohesive.”
On New Year’s Eve 2011, The McLovins unveiled a new lineup as Howard left the band and was replaced with guitarists Justin Berger and Atticus Kelly. Future studio releases followed along with plenty of touring over the next seven years. In 2018, The McLovins played a handful of shows and unveiled an EP entitled People Say before the quartet began a hiatus that continues through the present.
As for the “You Enjoy Myself” video that launched the band? It’s been viewed nearly 275,000 times since that fateful day in November 2008.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong | Down With Disease
[Video Credit: Mkdevo]
When guitarists Jeremy Schon and Greg Ormont were students at the University of Maryland, Schon introduced Ormont to the music of Phish. The pair finally had a chance to see Phish live together in 2009 after the group reunited as Jeremy and Greg attended the Vermont-bred quartet’s three shows at Jones Beach in Wantagh, New York. Schon and Ormont enjoyed the experience so much they saw more Phish concerts that summer and beyond. Both guitarists take major inspiration from Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio as they each cited Trey as their biggest influence in a 2016 interview.
Considering Jeremy and Greg’s appreciation for Anastasio and Phish it should come as no surprise they started covering the band shortly after forming Pigeons Playing Ping Pong with drummer Dan Schwartz and bassist Ben Carrey. The oldest Pigeons Playing Ping Pong recording on Archive.org was taped on December 10, 2008 at the Santa Fe Cafe in College Park, Maryland. PPPP performed “Down With Disease” off Phish’s 1994 studio album Hoist at that show, which took place in the same town where the University of Maryland is located. The quartet foreshadowed their propensity to play medleys by working Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” within “Disease.”
“Down With Disease” remained in the band’s repertoire through a change in drummers from Schwartz to Alex “Gator” Petropulos. PPPP often would play a medley of “Down With Disease” and Phish classic “Run Like An Antelope” they dubbed “Down With An Antelope” including a version from April 30, 2015, found in the video above. The quartet also mixed “Down With Disease” with the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street” for a “Shakedown With Disease” mashup unveiled on May 20, 2017, during an “Under Cover” set featuring Phish and Dead tunes at their Domefest event at Fort Royale Farm in Bedford, Pennsylvania. Pigeons most recently performed “Down With Disease” on July 26, 2018, in Westerly, Rhode Island.
Holly Bowling | Tahoe Tweezer
[Video Credit: Holly Bowling]
In late-2014, pianist Holly Bowling drew attention for her note-for-note solo interpretation of Phish’s memorable version of “Tweezer” played during their second set on July 31, 2013. Quickly dubbed the “Tahoe Tweezer” following the 35+ minute performance at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys in Stateline, New Hampshire, the complex jam forged that night was an instant all-timer.
A couple of years later, @YEMblog — the Phish-centric Twitter aggregator — set up poll to determine which four Phish jams deserved to be carved into the “Mount Rushmore Of Phish Jams.” Three of the four finalists came from the 1990s and the lone one from the current century was “Tahoe Tweezer” [Ed. note: the poll pre-dated the Alpine “Ruby Waves” by a few years].
The jam was also mapped by Mike Hamad as part of his Setlist Schematics project:
Bowling’s “Tahoe Tweezer” solo piano arrangement ended up on her 2015 debut album, Distillation Of A Dream, which also featured several other Phish covers including two more live transcriptions. Here’s Holly regarding the legendary jam:
I fall in love with the “Tahoe Tweezer” all over again every time I play it. I hope it has the same effect on the listener. If I can capture just a little bit of the energy we all felt when Phish played that “Tweezer” in Tahoe two years ago and create another way to bring people back to that moment, or give the listener a new window into the jam to discover something they didn’t hear before, then I’ve succeeded. I think when you change the instrumentation, it forces people to listen with different ears and approach the music with a different set of expectations. Even people who don’t consider themselves Phish fans hear the music in this format, without preconceptions, and realize what an incredible piece of work Phish has created here.
Twiddle | Harry Hood
Vermont-based band Twiddle has a lot in common with Phish. For one, there’s the Vermont college band thing — Twiddle formed at Castleton State College. There’s also the fact that they have the same instrumentation and Twiddle even utilizes Phish’s old stage setup with everyone in a straight line instead of having the drummer in the back.
Furthermore, both bands also have the magic touch when it comes to working choice covers into their repertoire. It could be said that Phish has gone away from the more spontaneous cover wizardry in the 2.0 and 3.0 eras but there are bands like Twiddle to pick up where their heroes left off.
So it must have been a huge honor when Phish keyboardist Page McConnell sat-in with the band in 2016 at Twiddle’s Tumble Down festival in Burlington. For the sit-in, Twiddle keyboardist Ryan Dempsey suggested “Harry Hood” in the huddle. While Page wanted to do one of Twiddle’s originals (they settled on “When It Rains It Poors”), the band does a pretty good job scaling the towering Phish classic.
Guitarist Mihali Savoulidis keeps pace with Trey Anastasio on the shreddy solos near the end and the rhythm section of Zdenek Gubb (bass) and Brook Jordan (drums) locks in on the reggae bits while Dempsey adds those tasty Page textures.
[Audio taped by GnarleyRoots]
Spafford | Wolfman’s Brother
[Video Credit: johnny wikle]
Much like Twiddle, Spafford has the same instrumentation as Phish and primarily utilizes the single row stage format Phish once championed. While most bands pick one or two Phish songs to pay homage to the towering Vermont four-piece, Spafford, to date, has covered nearly 20 Phish songs. That makes them one of the most prolific bands on this list.
Those songs include “Waste,” “Twist,” “Tweezer Reprise,” “The Curtain With,” “Slave To The Traffic Light,” “Roggae,” “Possum,” “Mike’s Song,” “Moma Dance,” “Makisupa Policeman,” “Harry Hood,” “Gotta Jibboo,” “Ghost,” “First Tube,” “Down With Disease,” “Dirt,” “Bug,” and “Back On The Train.” While some of these songs were only played once or a few times in the earlier days of the band, one song that popped up consistently on Spafford setlists up until 2016 was “Wolfman’s Brother.”
For Phish, “Wolfman’s” has often featured as a funky jam vehicle, especially in the heady years of 1997 and 1998. The late-1990s saw some monster “Wolfman’s” including the longest ever, according to Phish.net, at 31:30 in Worcester, Massachusets in ‘97. As Phish has toggled back and forth between extended and relatively shorter versions of the tune, so too has Spafford.
According to Spafford’s fan site Spaffnerds, the band began playing the song in their hometown in 2011 (a setlist that also contained “Gotta Jibboo”). But they really took it for a walk between 2012 and 2014, playing it 20 times in that period including a nearly 28-minute version in Telluride. Like Phish, Spafford did some shorter versions in the 10-15 minute range and also took to throwing “Moma Dance” in the middle of “Wolfman’s” as a 2012 version from The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas attests to. To date, however, (outside of VIP sets) Spafford has not played the song in concert in over three years.
Strand Of Oaks | Dirt
Strand of Oaks mastermind Timothy Showalter only recently became a Phish fan. Since discovering the band and their music — and particularly their live shows — Showalter has gone full-on Phish head.
Showalter discussed how he was introduced to Phish on an episode of The JamBase Podcast.
“I wish I could claim to be an old-school head, or whatever,” Showalter stated. “But it was around 2014 or 2015 that I think my manager understood that you can only go to so many shows with people with their arms crossed and trying to act too cool. I was involved in that scene – which I still love — but he took me to a Phish concert at Wrigley … and that changed my life. I know that sounds crazy — for a 34-year-old at the time to say it changed my life.”
In February 2017, Showalter put his Phish fandom down on tape by covering “Dirt.” The recording was made for Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe Sessions series that included Showalter’s covers of tracks by Primal Scream and Stone Roses. Here’s Tim’s note that accompanied “Dirt”:
I might be the newest Phish fan in the world. I was never exposed to them until this summer. My manager asked me to go to both nights Phish played at Wrigley. Of course! So in anticipation of the show I started listening to a lot of their music and quickly fell in love. Those two nights at Wrigley we’re some of the most genuinely fun times I’ve had in a long time. Just getting to spend time with my manager Ryan, not in any work capacity, us just having fun. And if anyone ever has doubts about Phish, please just go to a concert. Being basically hugged by 30,000 people is hard to combat against. I needed those fans and needed those four wonderful musicians that night. I chose “Dirt” simply because it basically has the same chord structure of an Oaks song (which is good because I don’t know that many). It’s also just a beautiful melody.
Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio first introduced “Dirt” on May 21, 1997, at the lone performance by the one-off project called New York! Anastasio was joined that night by Phish’s Mike Gordon as well as James Harvey, Pistol Stamen and Tom Lawson. “Dirt” was first played by Phish on June 14, 1997.