[skip ahead to 1:58 for the relevant part…]
Some of the most storied moments in Phish history have come to us in sandwich form, from the Real Gin to the 5/8/93 Sandwichfest (I just made that term up, but its 3 in one show is a record). The two of us already locked horns over the Real Gin, in the context of our 12/29/95 vs. 12/29/97 debate. So this time around, we’ll make war over two other sandwiches.
The Mental Tanglers
Arguing for 7/30/97 Bowie > Cities > Bowie: Poster Nutbag.
Favorite sandwiches: Turkey Special (for those non-Philadelphians out there, that’s fresh roasted turkey on rye with cole slaw and Russian dressing) and Turkey Club (which MUST have 3 layers of bread, lettuce, bacon, tomato, turkey, and I prefer a little mayo).
Arguing for 11/12/94 Disease > Have Mercy > Disease: Guy Forget.
Favorite sandwich: Peanut butter and jam, hold the peanut butter. Zing!
The Hard Evidence
Rather than link just to the two jams we’re debating, we’ve uploaded a monster sandwich for you. As Phantasy Tour user frenchtoastology pointed out, the greatest Phish sandwich ever was the unfinished Clifford Ball Harpua -> the next year’s worth of shows -> the completion of that Harpua at the Great Went. So we gathered up 12 of the best sandwiches out there, and bookended it with these Harpuas. The full tracklist:
8/17/96 Harpua ->
3/13/92 Antelope -> BBFCFM -> Antelope
8/9/93 Chalk Dust -> Who Knows -> Chalk Dust
7/8/94 YEM -> Frankenstein -> YEM
11/12/94 Disease -> Have Mercy -> Disease
11/10/95 YEM -> Crossroads -> YEM
7/30/97 Bowie -> Cities -> Bowie (SBD – from the Coventry From the Archives)
12/13/97 Weekapaug -> Catapult -> Weekapaug
7/7/00 Maze -> Shafty -> Maze
12/18/99 Weekapaug -> Buffalo Bill -> Weekapaug
12/2/03 Frankenstein -> Kung -> Frankenstein
10/26/10 Makisupa -> Night Nurse -> Makisupa
12/31/10 YEM -> Manteca -> YEM ->
The Bottom Slice (i.e. DWD vs. Bowie)
Opening Statement: Poster
As the first song of the three-song sandwich, this is the one that provides the foundation. And at this point in its evolution, I just don’t think this Disease can hold up to this Bowie. In the summer of ’97, Bowie was still a MONSTER. Here we have an extra long spacey intro, complete with secret language, a 100% nailed composed section, and a great drop-off into Bowie space as the jam begins. I love Bowies that get this quiet from the start–it gives the song extra room to grow. And this Bowie has a gradual, epic growth. It’s longer than the Disease (about 30 minutes for the whole sandwich, vs. about 23), and thus has 7 extra minutes of epicness. In fact, this Bowie is so strong that even if you were to take out the Cities, we’d still be talking about an above average/great Bowie.
Well believe it or not, I actually think you’re underrating the Bowie jam. To me, even if you spliced the pre- and post-Cities sections, this would be a top 20 Bowie – not just above average. The rhythmic mayhem in the 15th minute, and especially the space-funk in the 3+ minutes leading up to Cities, are the stuff that great sandwiches are made of.
But I’m not here to make your argument for you. Truth be told, if you’re underrating the Bowie jam, you’re underunderrating the Disease jam. This thing has its own share of rhythmic mayhem (the section around 7:30) – and at a time when, let’s face it, Phish’s sound was more mayhem-friendly than it was in ’97. It also has a Trey-led section of dissonance that transitions absolutely gloriously back into the Disease jam around 12:00. Stuff like this – and there are so many great examples of it in Fall ’94, including just about every Antelope (11/30 is my favorite) – is Phish at their best. And while Phish laid down some great funk in 7/30 Bowie, and in ’97 more generally, plenty of other bands can lay down some great funk. No other band can do what Phish does in this Disease.
I guess beauty is in the ear of the beholder. I know I am going to get killed for saying this, but for whatever reason, ’94 is not my favorite year from the mid-90s. That title goes to ’93, followed by ’95. Before the flames start, it’s not that I dislike ’94, but I prefer the speed-jazz of ’93 and the more mature, patient Phish of ’95 to what they did in ’94. That’s where I come in on the Disease: sure it rocks, I just don’t find it as dynamic.
The Meat/Grilled Veggies/PB&J (i.e. Cities vs. Have Mercy)
Opening Statement: Poster
Both of these are really good. I’d never see either coming, and would be totally psyched to have seen either. The one thing to note about this Cities is that it’s closer to the way Talking Heads performed it than it is to most of Phish’s versions. It’s sped up, infused with the ’97 disco cow-funk that Phish was bringing regularly back then. Eminently danceable during the periods heading into, during, and out of Cities. And to go from the general darkness and dissonance of the meat of a Bowie jam into this funky, groovy Cities is remarkable.
Well, not much to rebut. I’ll just give a shoutout, for anyone who doesn’t know it, to the 7/6/98 Cities. That version segues out of the blazingest Ghost ever, at a speed that’s even closer to Talking Heads’.
One other thing to add is that Have Mercy has often served the purpose it does here: providing an atmospheric interlude in the middle of a crazy jam (see also 8/14/93 Antelope and 10/20/10 Split Open and Melt, for example).
The Top Slice (i.e. closing Bowie/Disease)
Opening Statement: Poster
I think this is really where the Bowie separates itself from the Disease. The band jams on Cities for a bit, but it slowly disintegrates into your typical Bowie-space. But instead of charging to the end, the band reestablishes the Bowie theme, brings it back down, then builds it up a final time for the ending triads. It’s really masterful.
No arguments on this front: the end of Bowie is indeed masterful. And while Trey does throw some heady licks in there, the Disease goes into space, then fades away before Lifeboy starts up. If they’d finished Disease triumphantly, I might feel differently, but as is, I will concede the top slice of bread to Bowie.
Guy’s Final Thoughts
Ultimately, a top slice of bread is not what makes a sandwich. (Okay, neither is a bottom slice, which is where much of the action happens in these jams, but leave that aside for a moment.) The point is, 11-12-94 Disease, despite being 7 minutes shorter, simply does more. In true ’94 style, the band covers an enormous amount of ground in a short period. While Bowie > Cities > Bowie has some great moments, it wanders for several minutes before it gets to them. Disease > Have Mercy > Disease is a nonstop thrill ride.
Poster’s Final Thoughts
I say Bowie, you say Disease. I think the length of the Bowie makes it better, you think the conciseness of the Disease does the same. I think the relaxed, patient element of the Bowie beats the balls-to-the-wall Disease (and don’t get me wrong–I love balls-to-the-wall jamming). Both are great. I’d kill to see either live. But for my money, the Bowie > Cities > Bowie is where it is. If I am at the deli, this is the sandwich I’m ordering.
What do you all think? Vote in the poll below about these two sandwiches, and in the comments, let us know which gems we left out of the “Make War, Not Sandwiches” compilation. (Note: we realize that we omitted everything that’s on a LivePhish release. Also, we focused on single-layer sandwiches.)