The JamBase List | Seven Golden Ages For Harry Hood

By Scott Bernstein Sep 26, 2014 7:00 am PDT

Phish debuted “Harry Hood,” one of the greatest songs ever written about milk, on October 30, 1985 (at least according to known setlists). The Trey Anastasio-penned original has been performed 341 times over the years and the Vermonters have not gone more than 15 shows without playing “Harry Hood” since way back in 1992. Phish has only performed 16 songs more than “Hood” since the band formed.

[Phish Across From Hood Bottling Plant]

The “Harry Hood” jam is based on a simple three-chord progression, but one that leaves plenty of room for improvisation. Many versions are similar in that they feature a huge build leading to a blissful climax. Yet it’s the way Phish builds the “Hood” jam or the times they take an unusual approach that get us most excited. This past summer has been a Golden Age for “Harry Hood” that we hope continues into the fall and beyond. With that in mind, we’ve detailed seven other Golden Ages for one of the most-beloved Phish originals.

7. December 1995 -Phish played five versions of “Harry Hood” during the month of December 1995 and four of those takes made the authoritative Harry Hood Jamming Chart on The “Hood”s from Amherst (12/5), Lake Placid (12/17) and NYC (12/30) each span over 15 minutes.

Amherst’s “Harry Hood” was all about the dynamics employed throughout the jam. Trey sets the tone immediately with a series of harmonics as he patiently sets up the build. Anastasio utilizes his uni-vibe, watery tone and arpeggios to pick up the pace of the jam before that its first peak that’s followed quickly by a second climax. I’m hopeful a soundboard of the Lake Placid version emerges as the delicate, melodic interplay between Anastasio, McConnell and Gordon is gorgeous but is a bit hard to pick up on the audience recordings that circulate. The soaring and majestic MSG version has a celebratory vibe and is arguably the best of the bunch.

6. July 2003 -Ah, 2.0, post-hiatus or whatever you’d like to call the brief second-life of Phish that spanned New Year’s ’02 to Coventry. The era is well known for the open-ended jams that emerged out of many songs not usually known as improv vehicles as well as the many flubs that plagued the band’s technical performances. “Harry Hood” thrived in the month of July with the East Troy (7/18), Charlotte (7/25) and Camden (7/31) among top-shelf versions of the song.

Phish took all three versions well beyond the typical boundaries of the song for “Type II” excursions. We’d even go so far as to say the Charlotte “Hood” is among the best jams of the era as the multi-faceted improv explored a number of extremely different spaces over the course of nearly 30 minutes. Nearly as long, nearly as adventurous and nearly as magical was the Camden take from the last show of the month. A particularly impressive segment of the Camden “Hood,” between the 13:30 and 19:30 marks, seems to alternate between bliss and darkness every few measures in a way that will make even listeners wipe their brow from time to time. The East Troy “Hood” foreshadowed what would come later that month as the band toyed with breaking away from the “Harry” theme a number of times, and even went into a different time signature for a spell, before its big finish.

5. August 1997 -Phish went four for four with “Harry Hood” during the final month of their summer tour in 1997. It started with a beautiful “Hood” best known for Anastasio asking lighting director Chris Kuroda to turn down the lights during the jam, which made for an amazing scene at The Gorge (8/2). Next up was the severely underrated Noblesville (8/10) version in which the band changes the usual D-A-G chord progression to B-A-G with transcendent results. The fun continued in Darien (8/14) with one of only three “Harry”s that melted into a segment the listed as “Jam,” a rarely used notation. “Hood” reaches towards ambient depths before transitioning into the funk and eventually the “Col. Forbin’s” that saw Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters emerge. And then there’s the majestic “Went Hood” (8/17) as part of a remarkable set that included a sublime “Bathtub Gin” and well-extended “2001.” The “Went Hood” led to the first massive glowstick war during “Hood,” back when glowstick wars were something to marvel at.

4. Spring 1992 -Oddly, 1992 was the full touring year in which Phish performed “Harry Hood” less frequently than any other. It’s odd because nearly every version of “Hood” was wonderful and they differed in a way few songs did for Phish that year. The Palo Alto (4/18) version is usually the first live track I’ll play for a music fan I’m introducing to the band. The quartet is as tight as they ever got and the way they dive into a “Linus & Lucy” jam has created instant fans of the band a number of times I’ve played it for people. There’s also an “evil” “Hood” from Binghamton (3/20) that’s part of one of the most inspired shows in Phish history and the Schenectady (5/17) take that notes is the first truly exploratory “Hood.” If you’re a fan of Phish at their tightest and “Machine Gun Trey,” throw on a 1992 “Harry Hood.”

3. August 1993 -One of the best months in Phish history was also a stellar period for “Harry Hood.” It seemed everything the band touched that month they turned to gold and “Hood” was no exception. The Vermonters played four versions that month and they include the powerful Cleveland take (8/8), an outstanding version from Louisville (8/15) that’s a master class in dynamics from its quiet beginnings to bombastic conclusion, a “Harry” that featured Bela Fleck & The Flecktones in Salt Lake City (8/21) and the wonderful full-band interplay that dominated in Portland (8/26). We should also mention Phish played two more “Harry Hood”s in 1993 -an underrated smoker in Washington, D.C. on 12/28 and a version from 12/31 in Worcester that should be in the top five of any reliable list of Best Harry Hoods.

2. July 2014 -For those of us who love “Harry Hood” this year has been a revelation. After “Hood” got off to a slow start in the current era, Phish took completely different approaches to each and every “Harry” this summer with exciting results. The “Harry Hood” from the tour opener in Mansfield (7/1) was among the highlights of the show and left many jaws on the ground by the time it was through. Then there’s the NYC (7/12) version, one that constantly zigged and zagged with Trey and Page continually pushing and prodding each other to new spaces while Mike and Fish anchored the jam. The dark and rocking Chicago (7/19) “Hood” and short but sweet Philadelphia (7/8) and Columbia (7/26) takes are each well above average as well.

1. October 1994 -While the whole month of October 1994 contained outstanding versions of “Harry Hood,” the pair of “Hood”s Phish laid down during a memorable run through Florida both would be either at the top or close to the top of our list of the best versions of the song ever played. The band thought highly enough of the explosive Gainesville (10/23) take that they included it on their first live album, A Live One. But for me, the St. Petersburg (10/20) version is the one I’ve listened to most over the years as I still get goosebumps with every twist and turn -it’s a musical roller coaster ride in the best possible way -each time I put on the headphones and give it a spin.

Written By: Scott Bernstein

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