In case you haven’t seen David “ZZYZX” Steinberg’s article on the greatest and worst guest appearances at Phish shows, or Raging Mob of Joggers’ rebuttal, both should be read. But ZZYZX’s list left off what I consider the three best sit-ins ever, so I wanted to share them, and then open up the floor to all of you so we can all become connoisseurs of the history of Phish guest-dom.
1. 7/9/97 YEM > Ghost, Poor Heart with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.
RMOJ mentioned that he would’ve included this show instead of 8/21/93, and I couldn’t agree more (though the ’93 show and 10/18/94 with the Flecktones are amazing as well). The Flecktones come out at this show near the end of Phish’s Europe tour, and the jamming just flows. The two bands wind through some melodic riff-trading, put on a funk clinic, jam on the Flecktones’ “Trane to Conamarra,” and do much, much more during an epic, 30+ minute YEM, before settling into Ghost. Poor Heart followed, ending with salutes to a Haagen Dazs employee the band had met in Lyon named Pierre and an almost never-ending sequence of final chords. The whole set is tremendous.
2. 7-7-99 Possum, Funky Bitch with Derek Trucks.
Derek Trucks had just celebrated his 20th birthday, but back then (and even well before), he played with the soulfulness of a much more seasoned musician. On these songs, the guy was just huge. Not just anyone can make a guitar sound as powerful as Trey does, but I’ll be damned if Trucks doesn’t do so here. His own solos on both songs are masterful, and the lick-trading with Trey on Possum is just sick.
3. 7/25/92 YEM, Llama, Funky Bitch with Santana.
Karl Perazzo made ZZYZX’s list for his contributions to 10/31/96, but this early guest appearance, as well as the other stops on Perazzo’s mini-tour with Phish, are proof that great things happen when Phish and Santana mix. Phish opened for Santana at many summer ’92 shows, but this was the only one where the headliners joined the boys. From the moment the percussion comes in during the YEM jam to the last licks Trey and Carlos trade in Funky Bitch, this sit-in explodes with energy.
Funky Bitch (with a spliced-in intro to David Bowie that was included on the bootleg CD I bought of this around 1996):
I think the pattern is that when Phish invites guests on stage who share Phish’s philosophy on improvisation, good things can happen. For more evidence of this, see Phil Lesh’s 1999 sit-in, numerous bluegrass musicians’ appearance at 6/22/00, and Aquarium Rescue Unit on 5/5/93.
There are plenty I could’ve mentioned but haven’t–the 12/6/96 encore, 7/10/97 with Son Seals Band, and 8/14/97 with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters are just a few that come to mind. Help me out–which of your favorites have I (and RMOJ and ZZYZX) left off?