Phish Friday: Bust-Outs Part 1 – The Cover Edition

With the recent blog post on bust-outs, it seemed fitting that we were already preparing a two-part Phish Friday series on bust-outs ourselves. My thoughts on this setlist categorization and their significance will be included in next week’s edition in which we’ll focus solely on Phish originals, but for today’s first part in the series we’re presenting the 10 Most Significant Phish Cover Song Bust-Outs.

Note: Let it be known that I don’t consider a tune a “bust-out” if it was performed once, whether it’s a cover or a very rare Phish original (e.g. “Glide II”). For me, a bustout is exactly what the word implies: a song that had been played at least once before a long time ago and then the band decided to bring it back. (My sincere apologies to the “Terrapin Station” on 8/9/98). Also, I picked and ranked these 10 selections in order of overall quality, which I’ve defined with a patented scientific algorithm consisting of the length of the gap since the song was last played, how well the song fits in with the rest of the show, and the importance/significance of the bust-out to the band and its audience.

Here are the Top 10:

#10: 7.25.99 Purple Rain (first since 8.06.96, 210 shows)

Sure, Fish might have botched the lyrics, but after three years since the previous version can you really blame him? This killer Deer Creek show also featured the first “Whipping Post” in 207 shows. Sadly, since Prince is well-known to be extremely protective of his songs, this Fishman vacuum classic might be a thing of the past in the 3.0 LivePhish era.

#9: 7.29.03 Daniel Saw the Stone (first since 2.23.97, 285 shows)

When Phish opened their Burgettstown show with only the second “Daniel” in a decade, few in attendance probably saw the selection as a harbinger of things to come — I know I sure didn’t. But in a show filled with bust-outs, boasting one of the most revered setlists of the modern era, the cover of this bluegrass spiritual stands the tallest; a great symbol of the magic that occurred that night.

#8: 10.29.98 Walk Away (first since 5.07.94, 367 shows)

One of the covers that I’ve been chasing ever since I got a B&P of the Bomb Factory all those years ago, Phish put this song on the shelf for over four years after that version. Intentionally paying homage to that show? We may never know.

#7: 8.02.93 Sparks (first since 9.13.90, 392 shows)

Another cover that appears in the middle of the Bomb Factory second set, this instrumental from the Who’s Tommy came out of nowhere and amazingly enough went right into the next song on the list….

#6: 5.31.09 The Ballad of Curtis Loew (first since 8.02.93, 625 shows)

A former (but still kind of) rarity that has been dusted off a few times in 2010, this oft-requested bust-out was 16 years in the making when it finally reappeared at the Fenway tour opener last summer. Phish did throw it’s fan a bone a decade earlier, though; it was part of the soundcheck at Big Cypress.

Phish at Fenway Curtis Lowe [YouTube]

#5: 12.07.97 Boogie On Reggae Woman (first since 9.13.88, 989 shows)

A lot of folks newer to the party, and probably most in attendance at this legendary show didn’t realize that this version was a humongous bust out of the Stevie Wonder classic, but it was. And a welcome bust-out it was, as it’s stayed in the rotation ever since, and provided Mike with plenty of opportunities to drop bombs all over the place.

#4: 12.30.99 Light Up Or Leave Me Alone (first since 8.13.88, 1140 shows)

A clever nod to the hellish traffic snarl down Alligator Alley, and by the time this song was over, all was forgiven. Honorable mention goes to the beautiful “Corrina” that was played 2 songs later for the first time in 1,095 shows.

Phish – “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” (Live @ Big Cypress, 12/30/99) [MP3]

#3: 10.30.98 Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress (first since 12.02.83, 1208 shows)

While research taught us all a bit later that this show didn’t actually occur on the 15th anniversary of Phish’s first show, the intent remains the same. Phish reached all the way back to the first song they were believed to have played at their first gig, in a fitting tribute to all of the adventures that had happened in between.

#2: 12.30.97 Sneaking Sally Through the Alley (first since 5.28.89, 920 shows)

The bust out so nice, they played it twice (it would be 12 more years until the band brought back the vocal jam at the Gorge though). The first rendition opened the show, and it was so well played it seemed as if the band had never stopped playing the song; after capturing the essence of the 97 cowfunk era, it segues nicely into Taste. The second version? Well….let’s just say it’s part of my favorite encore ever.

Phish – “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley” (Live @ Madison Square Garden, 12/30/97) [MP3]

#1: 12.28.93 Peaches En Regalia (first since 6.23.89, 557 shows)

When Frank Zappa passed away on December 4th, 1993, the world lost one of the most talented, unique, and visionary musicians it had ever known, and to say that Zappa’s music had a formative effect on the members of Phish would be a gross understatement. Fishman put together a compilation of his favorite Zappa tunes in 2002, Fuck Your Face MUST be Mike’s stab at a Zappa-esque tune, and Trey’s compositions have FZ written all over them. Therefore, when Phish dusted this song off and opened their ‘93 holiday run with this Zappa-penned classic, it was a fitting tribute to the musical genius who had such an influence on their sound. In fact, the band loved it so much, they would end up playing the song 2 of the next 3 nights as well. Here’s hoping that last winter’s Peaches bustout at MSG isn’t the last.

Update: As soon as I finished writing this piece, it occurred to me that I had completely forgotten about the 11.20.98 “Quinn the Eskimo” (first since 8.10.87, 1149 shows) and the “Foreplay > Long Time” opener from the 7.12.99 show (first since 12.09.94, 310 shows). This show marked Phish’s first concert at Great Woods since the summer of ’95, and they could not have picked a more fitting song to mark the occasion. This classic northeast shed just a half hour outside of Boston played host to some of the band’s best moments, including the last ever Gamehenge, and so as soon as the song started, it was apparently to everyone in the house that the band was glad to be back. And to top it all off, for the first time ever, the band played the song electric taboot.

I guess this just goes to show you that a Phish compiler’s work is never done….Happy Labor Day weekend everybody!