Phil Lesh Guests With Phish At Shoreline During Fall Tour 1999

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For a long period of their career Phish tried to avoid the inevitable comparisons to the Grateful Dead. While the Vermont jam act covered plenty of Dead songs during the first few years of their career, they didn’t perform any of the group’s tunes between 1987 and 1998. The quartet debuted a cover of “Terrapin Station” to the delight of fans on August 9, 1998 in Virginia Beach and the next spring Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell performed three shows as part of Phil & Friends in San Francisco. By that point Phish had achieved success on their own terms and didn’t seem as concerned about Dead comparisons, so when they visited Shoreline Amphitheater on September 17, 1999 they invited bassist Phil Lesh for a guest spot.

Lesh’s sit-in on September 17 was the first time a member of the Dead played with Phish and to date stands as Phil’s only appearance with the band. In true Phish fashion, the quartet brought out the Grateful Dead bassist towards the end of one of their signature songs – “You Enjoy Myself.” Lesh helped propel the “YEM” jam, took a quick turn on the trampolines that are always a part of the song’s performance and even engaged in a beautiful bass duet with Mike Gordon.

Phil spoke with Bass Player about the duet and shared one of his most memorable quotes, “I did a bass duet with Mike Gordon when I sat in with Phish. I generally abhor bass duets, but it was marvelous- it was actually beautiful. …we just played it by ear. He knows how to get out of my way, and I know how to get out of his. It was like two hippopotami humping!”

Next up was “Wolfman’s Brother,” which was one of just four Phish originals played by Phil & Friends during the run with Anastasio & McConnell five months earlier. Lesh liked “Wolfman’s” so much he added it to his repertoire for handful of performances without any of the members of Phish.

Phil then handled vocals on “Cold Rain & Snow,” which at the time was just the second Grateful Dead cover Phish had played in the past 12+ years. “Cold Rain & Snow” is the rare Dead song that Jerry Garcia & Co. started performing at the beginning of their career and never shelved for an extended period of time over the course of their 30-year touring career.

When Phish came back for the encore at Shoreline they were not only joined by Phil Lesh but also by Warren Haynes, who had sat-in with them the previous night at the Bay Area venue as well. Haynes and Lesh guested with Phish on a rousing “Viola Lee Blues.” While video of “Viola Lee” isn’t available on YouTube, listen to a recording of the entire show by Steven James via From The Aquarium including Lesh and Haynes’ guest spots:

The Phish/Dead connection paid dividends once more with Anastasio’s participation as lead guitarist at the Fare Thee Well concerts during the Summer of ’15. Gordon performed with Lesh at Terrapin Crossroads for a concert dubbed “Big Bass Bash” on July 17, 2016, while McConnell and Jon Fishman played as part of Phil Lesh & Friends at the Lockn’ Festival one month later.

[Originally published on September 17, 2016.]

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