photo by ANTELOPE!

Phish always chose great cover songs. Some were ‘bust-outs’ or just silly takes on pop tunes. But Phish also had a rotation of key, classic rock songs that they played frequently and almost as if they were their own. Paying homage to some of their favorite musicians of the past, they played these songs in the best way that they could — by exploring, experimenting, and drawing them out at the edges. So when the band played the Who’s “Drowned” at PNC in the summer of 2000, it wasn’t considered a bust-out or any big surprise…just another rockin’ cover of the Who classic from Qaudrophenia.

But man, does this version ever smoke! The band powers through the main verse-chorus sections with Mike Gordon at the helm, belting out the vocals. About four minutes into it, Trey starts into a searing solo, eventually toning down the pure volume for a more focused improv section. Then they delve into some quieter minor-chord funk, with a nice bit of rhythmic interplay. After a touch of the funk, they’re off, moving like a big old locomotive! Trey lays down some powerful guitar themes, and the rest of the band provides a relentless rhythmic backdrop. The sound is thick and driving, with Mike and Fishman setting the pace. It is big, badass arena rock at its finest, and it is perfectly characteristic of the improv style they started mastering late in 1999. Luckily for us, it was a style they continued through summer 2000.

They then proceed to rock their hearts out, stretching “Drowned” to its absolute arena-rock limits. Trey starts teasing some very familiar rock chords, and the band picks up on the cue, knowing exactly where to make the change. And in fine Phish fashion, they create a near-seamless segue into another classic Phish cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll.” It’s a hell of a way to close out the first set!

Check it out:

I’d be silly not to point out that the rest of this show also kicks some pretty serious booty. Lots of lyrical hijinks, banter about a ‘Meatstick dance craze’ in Japan, and fun with ‘Bart’ (the band’s head of security). All good stuff that should not be missed. Get the full show here.

Have a great weekend. Enjoy yo’selves!

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