Phish’s Top 10 Thanksgiving Jams

Check out a list Scott Marks prepped before Phish's 2019 Fall Tour.

By Scott Marks Nov 25, 2021 6:05 am PST

Throughout much of Phish‘s storied 38-year career, Thanksgiving weekend has been a special tradition of sorts. Twenty-two shows have taken place on this holiday weekend starting with a handful of performances at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York from 1990 to 1992 and by the end of the decade, two three-night runs at the Worcester Centrum in Worcester, Massachusetts.

In the 1990s, only 1993 and 1999 lacked shows over the holiday weekend. In the years since Phish has only played on Thanksgiving weekend three times: in 2003 as the first part of a “2 x 4” — four shows spread out over five days starting on Thanksgiving to celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary and a New Year’s Eve Run in Miami, in 2009 and in 2019. Since Phish has returned from their breakup in 2009, only that first year resulted in a Thanksgiving run as their fall tour neared its conclusion as well as in 2019 when the band kicked off a brief seven-show fall tour and played on Thanksgiving weekend once again at Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

I’ve compiled a list of my 10 favorite jams from all of Phish’s pre-2019 Thanksgiving weekend shows for this article and have thrown in the extra two dates from the 2003 “2 x 4” since I’m treating it as a long Thanksgiving run.

10. Rock And Roll | FleetCenter, Boston, MA
Dec 2, 2003

[Video source: Less Than Face Productions]

Phish took the stage on this night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their first show at Harris-Millis Cafeteria at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont. After a brief “Highway To Hell” tease from guitarist Trey Anastasio to kick off the second set, the band treated those in attendance to an 18-minute “Rock And Roll.”

This starts to take off around seven minutes in and eventually settles into a Type II (a jam that is played outside the confines of the composition’s main musical form) groove for several minutes. Bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman keep a steady rhythm going for a while with Trey and keyboardist Page McConnell improvising on it before the jam quiets down.

The last few minutes of “Rock And Roll” intensify into a big finish that segues into a rare “Weekapaug Groove” where it wasn’t preceded by a “Mike’s Song” earlier in the show. While not necessarily noteworthy jams, the “Weekapaug,” the “Tweezer Reprise” that follows it (a belated coda to the “Tweezer” from the night before, this also features Trey belting out some “Mike’s Song” lyrics) and the “Frankenstein” wrapped around a “Kung” are all worth a listen for their unusual setlist placement that flows so incredibly well.

LessThanFace Productions (See 1,684 videos)
Phish (See 3,896 videos)

9. You Enjoy Myself | Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA
Nov 28, 1997

[Audio source: astavely56]

By the time Fall 1997 arrived, Phish had fully been engulfed into the funk style that had permeated much of their setlists throughout the year. The three-night run at the Worcester Centrum was at the heart of the Fall 1997 tour and with this “You Enjoy Myself” — only the second song of run (appearing after a standard version of “The Curtain”) — the band didn’t waste any time jumping into a deep funk jam.

There’s plenty of that funk in this “You Enjoy Myself,” a cool portion of the song where the band stops playing completely only to restart the jam in the same spot, and multiple “Crosseyed & Painless” teases (at this time in Phish history, there had only been one occasion where “Crosseyed” had been teased in a show when it appeared in the November 17, 1997 “Wolfman’s Brother.”

At the time of this writing, there are now 57 teases or vocal quotes of the Talking Heads composition) woven into jams in expert fashion. This “You Enjoy Myself” finished in an atypical manner as the usual bass/drums segment was missing and instead of launching into a customary vocal jam, there was a segue into “I Didn’t Know.”

8. Weekapaug Groove | Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA
Nov 27, 1998

[Audio source: LivePhish]

This “Weekapaug Groove” arrives as the penultimate song of an amazing must-hear set filled with several exceptional segues out of and back into “Chalk Dust Torture” and after multiple rarities of the likes of “Dog Log,” “Sanity” and “Buffalo Bill.”

This “Weekapaug” dives back into a full return to “Wipe Out” (which had appeared much earlier in the set) and then charges back to essentially for all purposes finish. The song appears to be concluded until Trey counts the band off to reignite “Weekapaug” in a reprise. A Type II jam ensues and ends in a spacey finish.

7. Stash | Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA
Nov 30, 1997

[Audio source: astavely56]

Unfinished songs are a special highlight of Phish jams: improvisation that goes so far from home that the end of the song is never found. This “Stash” (one of only six in the song’s lengthy history to surpass 20 minutes and the fourth of four 1997 versions alone to do so) is a great example.

Mike and Fish take control of this Type II jam for several minutes and the song never returns back to its customary finish, instead opting for a segue into “Free.”

6. Ghost | Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA
Nov 28, 1997

[Audio source: astavely56]

“Ghost” was a jam vehicle within days of its debut on June 13, 1997 in Dublin, Ireland, and subsequently becoming a powder keg of improvisational prowess in Strasbourg, France and Amsterdam, The Netherlands during Phish’s European 1997 Summer Tour. Excellent versions continued to appear throughout the rest of the summer and fall leading up to the Worcester version.

Materializing near the end of the second set on the first night of the 1997 run, this “Ghost” featured a significant amount of funk including breakdowns in the band’s playing to leave Trey almost completely on his own to solo and a few instances where the band completely stops performing only to pick up right where they left off. The funk eventually subsides as a fantastic jam builds over the last three minutes and blazes its way through to the set-closing “Johnny B. Goode.”

5. Mike’s Song | Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA
Nov 25, 1995

[Audio source: fromtheaquarium]

On this night, the “Rotation Jam” was born. Rising in the middle of a “Mike’s Song” that gets close to 30 minutes, band members switched instruments, moving from one to the next (and at one point having everyone play keyboards) before eventually coming back to their original instruments and finishing the song.

The jam’s pretty “out there” with deep and experimental improvisation. Phish would take part in a “Rotation Jam” three more times in the next two years, and one could argue that the Hampton 1995 “Mike’s Song” laid the groundwork for songs like “Rock A William” and “Walfredo” which feature the band on different instruments through the songs’ entirety.

4. Wolfman’s Brother | Worcester Centrum, MA
Nov 30, 1997

[Audio source: weekapaug986]

Unlike many of the Fall 1997 highlights tied into funk grooves, this “Wolfman’s” (which at 31+ minutes is the longest in Phish history) has a lengthy jam that gradually builds into a Trey and Mike led low-note-laden peak that stretches for several minutes and includes “Sanity” and “Esther” lyrics from Trey.

At one point in the jam, Trey has lighting director Chris Kuroda turn off the lights and he and Mike hide behind speakers. This groove is singular and fantastic.

3. David Bowie | The Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
Nov 26, 1994

[Audio source: astavely56]

This is the longest “David Bowie” in Phish history and, along with its companion version in Providence, Rhode Island a month later, stands as one of the true great improvisational masterpieces of Fall 1994. Even before this “Bowie” goes off into Type II territory, it’s a super strong version for its first 17 minutes.

A nice Trey-led melodic jam ensues giving way to a vacuum solo by Fish. A new groove slowly intensifies into a frenzied jam before finding its way home to conclude this breathtaking “Bowie.”

2. Seven Below → Ghost | Times Union Center, Albany, NY
Nov 28, 2009

[Video source: LeSloth]

Two songs, 46 minutes. That’s how the second set of the second night of Phish’s two-night run in Albany began in 2009. The “Seven Below” goes off into a tremendous high flying Type II jam with multiple gorgeous peaks and is followed by the second Thanksgiving run “Ghost” to make this list.

There’s a melodic jam early on in this Type II masterpiece which changes directions a few times before several minutes of fast-paced improvisation begins. Both of these songs are spectacular: there’s no time for spacey exploration here as the energy is among the highest you’ll find for any Phish performance.

Phish (See 3,896 videos)

1. Runaway Jim | Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA
Nov 29, 1997

[Video source: longjams4three]

The sixth and final jam from the two three-night Worcester Centrum runs is the king of kings: The Worcester “Runaway Jim.” Clocking in at 58 minutes and 48 seconds, it’s longer than some actual sets in Phish history (as an example, June 29, 2000 set one is under 55 minutes) and over eight minutes longer than the second-longest jam (the June 14, 1995 “Tweezer”) Phish has ever played.

There are several changes in direction within this almost hour of music, with some builds and fades in intensity until about 44 minutes in Phish moves on to a new jam space that develops into a full-fledged “Weekapaug Groove” jam. The 12 minutes of music that ensued is one of the best you’ll find from any year or era from Phish.

[Originally Published: November 28, 2019]

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