Phish, Buddy Miles & Merl Saunders Perform ‘All Along The Watchtower’ On Fall Tour 1996

By Scott Bernstein Oct 22, 2020 6:25 am PDT

This year marks 25 years since Phish’s historic Fall Tour 1995. In recognition of that noteworthy tour and to make up for the lack of shows this fall, JamBase presents a daily retrospective highlighting a noteworthy moment from a Phish fall tour concert that took place on that date over the past 25 years (read a note on Fall 1997 here). The 25 Years Of Phish Fall Tour series runs each day between the start of Phish Fall Tour 1995 on September 27 through that tour’s finale on December 17.

Phish played a total of 64 concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York City between their debut at the venue on December 30, 1994 and this past New Year’s Eve. Outside of the famed Baker’s Dozen residency in 2017, all but two came either as part of a New Year’s Run or in the month of December. The second of those two took place on this date during Fall Tour 1996, when the band was joined by legendary drummer Buddy Miles, famed keyboardist Merl Saunders and a troupe of dancers for what still stands as their most recent cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” to end the night.

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“All Along The Watchtower” was played in the style of Buddy’s old Band Of Gypsys band mate Jimi Hendrix and included a portion of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.” Miles was a true showman, introducing the band to the crowd and hamming it up throughout his appearance. Phish had performed “Watchtower” once prior, in 1994 with the Dave Matthews Band, but has yet to cover the song again. Sadly, both Buddy Miles and Merl Saunders died in 2008.

Back in 2013 video footage documenting Buddy Miles’ experience on that memorable night surfaced on YouTube. The six-part playlist below starts with Buddy talking to Phish’s manager at the time, John Paluska about Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio‘s love of Hendrix. Part Two finds Buddy heading to the stage and then talking with the band during setbreak and discussing song selection. For the third part, we see drummer Jon Fishman discuss how much meeting Buddy means to him and Buddy pitching Trey on a hip-hop version of “Watchtower.” Next, we get a peek into Phish’s practice room where Buddy is teaching the quartet and Merl his version of the Dylan cover. Part Five puts us right on the tip of the stage for an interesting view of the performance itself, while the finale includes a backstage chat between Buddy Miles, Trey and bassist Mike Gordon.

Earlier in the night, Phish opened with “The Curtain” at MSG for the first time in well over two years. “The Curtain” led into a short and sweet “Runaway Jim.” Highlights of the frame also included a typically evil “Split Open & Melt,” keyboardist Page McConnell‘s work on the “It’s Ice” jam and a welcomed set-closing “You Enjoy Myself.” The second set began with a “2001” > “Down With Disease” pairing in the days before both songs were used as adventurous jam vehicles. A rare mid-second set “The Mango Song” came soon after as well as a “Scent Of A Mule” featuring a “Mule Duel” that had Aquarium Rescue Unit bassist Oteil Burbridge “laughing uncontrollably” on the side of the stage.

The closing stanza on night two of Phish’s 1996 MSG run ended with an awe-inspiring suite of “Mike’s Song” > “Swept Away” > “Steep” > “Weekapaug Groove.” Phish had recently debuted “Swept Away” > “Steep” just a week earlier and surprised many fans with the end of the latter, which saw the band scream as loud as they could at the capacity crowd. Fish then kicked into “Weekapaug Groove” and soon at least 11 dancers took the stage. The wildly-dressed dancers vogued and strutted around while the quartet pounded away at “Weekapaug.” Guitarist Trey Anastasio played hundreds of notes in the span of just a few minutes to bring what would be called the “Freakpaug” to its climactic conclusion. Soundboard audio of the “Mike’s Groove” including the “Freakapaug” surfaced as part of Live Bait Vol. 13.

Check out video from the second set and encore queued up to “All Along The Watchtower” below:

outpostsouth (See 23 videos)
Phish (See 3,798 videos)

Watch the six-part mini-doc about Buddy Miles’ Phish experience via Larry Blumenstein:

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