Phish have played a lot of summer shows–containing a lot of jams. However, being a jam that simply was played during a summer tour isn’t the only prereq to be on my list of “summer” jams. To me, a summer jam should be able to sweat out the feeling captured at a summer show upon relistening. The feeling of dancing in humidity during a tight jam lifting off; the feeling of looking in the sky as Trey soars into the night–these are just a couple of examples.
There are great jams that take place in the summer that I wouldn’t consider a summer jam too. 6/3/11‘s Down with Disease is in this category–it’s a wonderful jam, but it doesn’t contain any characteristics unique to summer upon relisten. Drowned from 7/11/00 is another example–it’s a great jam, but it doesn’t remind you of summer. Even though the Chalk Dust Torture Reprise that followed it oozes summer sentiments, Drowned feels like it could have been from any season.
Obviously this is a topic based strictly on my own opinion. I might find a jam to be more summer-esque than you do and vice-versa. However, the opinions I do hold on this topic are quite strong. There are jams that I just naturally think of putting on when I’m wearing my shades in the car (I do most of my recreational listening while driving). I didn’t even think about “summer” jams until a few nights ago in my car. The air was hot and humid–I opted not to turn on the AC because I don’t mind summer smacking me in the face on the freeway (unless I’m on my way to a wedding of course–then it pisses me off).
The song that inspired me to write this will be the first on this list. Keep in mind, my favorite summer jams are not limited to this list. I’m just throwing some at you off the top of my head. Be sure to add your favorites in the comments section below and download these tracks at the bottom.
Slave to the Traffic Light – 7/4/99
I usually try not to discuss super fan favorites too much because who wants to read about something that everyone has heard and discussed for years? That being said, it’s the song that made me melt into a dancing fool in my car the other night (once again). Although there are isn’t too massive of a peak in the jam (something I usually expect in the song), it’s all about the pattern Trey formed off his infamous ‘lick’ in the jam. The second Trey snaps into the tone that he carried the rest of the jam, it’s as if his brain just got shut off and he was merely a conduit to something more powerful. I usually don’t use imagery like that, but I feel very strongly about this jam. I really wish it peaked harder at the end, but this jam was all about the journy–not the arrival. Also, the segue into it is amazingly tight. Listen to how Fishman works into it–I provided Shapiro’s soundboard copy in the download; it’s a must have.
The short clip below highlights Trey bending every other note during the solo–it’s as if his mind goes blank and the music plays itself:
Ghost – 7/4/99
Of course, the song that led into the historic Slave was Ghost. This Ghost is one of my favorite jams for nighttime driving or a hot and sticky thunderstorm. Usually I am able to explain why I like something so much, but in this case I find myself lacking the ability. The jam takes on this sort of trance–as if the notes are fighting through the Atlanta heat to reach our ears. The sound evokes a feeling of laziness, it will make you feel high even if you’re sober. There is something truly unique about this fantastic adventure.
Here is a quick clip of the deep space Phish entered during the Ghost jam:
You Enjoy Myself – 7/15/99
Since we’re dealing with ’99 right now, I might as well bring this gem up now. Also, like the previous two examples, this was released by Kevin Shapiro (this sbd is also in the download file).
What an example of a jam that started deceivingly innocent this is. Out of the trampoline section Mike played funky and Trey strummed quietly with Page gently accenting. Then, all of a sudden, something just locks. Fish’s hi-hat-heavy beat spurred a groove with Mike that Trey desperately was not going to be left out of. This quiet and typical-for-the-year jam evolved into an absolute explosion of raging guitar. While the jam isn’t very out of the box or musically impressive (difficult), it captured the fun the guys were having with each other on stage during their Thursday night at the PNC Bank center like a Polaroid picture. This absolutely blazing jam stretched the song to over 25 minutes. Trey is offered multiple ‘outs’ of the jam but opts to reach higher instead. While this jam is certainly Languedoc-driven, Mike’s insane flurry on notes behind his red-headed friend shall not be overlooked.
Listen to one of the many peaks in the jam. Make sure to pay attention to Mike wailing right behind Trey:
2001 – 6/25/10
Phish dropped a sweaty mess of a dance party on us at Camden in 2010. The longest 2001 of this era slipped out of an Alaska that ended with decending notes that melted into space (seriously, just listen). Up until this version, most renditions had been unimpressive and standard; however, ears perked up when Trey’s mumbling away from the mic became audible during his punctuated strums–he was starting Billie Jean.
After the song’s first composed section, the jam dropped with a throbbing bass line and a drumbeat unusual for 2001. The locked-in superfunk exploded all over the crowd just like a hot Peter North load, especially after Trey’s first audible vocal teases to Billie Jean. After some summer lovin’ Trey unleashes a flawless Thriller wail that Mike mimics behind him. The entire jam is off the hook. Kuroda wasn’t sure to go with his typical 2001 lights or to continue to try to improvise with the band’s silliness. Mike destroys face in this bad boy–make sure to bust out your dancin’ shoes when you turn it on.
Light – 8/07/09
Overall, I’m getting pretty sick of Light. During its debut at Fenway, I remember thinking to myself that this was going to be the new jam song–a la [pre-3.0] Piper. While it’s disappointed me overall, the third version from the Gorge in 2009 transcended the typical jam. Once the jam (albeit with some abrasive guitar work) reaches a plateau of improvisational consciousnesses, it takes on a calypso feel with some beautiful vocals atop. The following segue into Taste is absolutely gorgeous too.
Here is a clip of when the band reaches nirvana:
Ghost – 7/23/97
A true sticky-icky summer monster. Poster Nutbag argued for this Ghost when he was pitted against Guy Forget in a point/counterpoint debate between two Ghosts – Tales of Mental Tangle #5: The Story of Two Ghosts. The jam took about ten minutes to get lifted off the ground but only because it’s so fucking massive. The part at about 12:30 in the song is absolute summer insanity (clip below). Trey’s funky, but without wah pedal, strumming takes a back seat while Page comes out swinging. The dense and funky dance party that ensued is almost inappropriate for kids to listen to — this tape should be rated XXX.
The jam goes between moments of gritty rock and swaggy funk before arriving at a lumbering segment of improvisation that features deep bass and high-pitched noodling. Fishman follows Mike’s pattern perfectly. Soon, Trey picked up on that pattern and wails a few licks off it before losing reception with the satillite–after moments of sounding like NO2 is coming, Trey’s distorted guitar segues into Sample.
Here is a brief clip of one my my favorite moments during a Phish jam. The mesh of Trey and Page is so psychotic:
You Enjoy Myself -> Rocky Mountain Way > Chalk Dust Torture – 7/23/97
I just realized that I now have four out of seven songs coming from the Lakewook Amp–maybe that hot Atlanta summer air does something special to the music that Phish perform (obviously not including Alpharetta 2011).
This one-0f-a-kind YEM starts out with a funky jam, mush like 7/15/99’s did. However, once the jam sinks to near silence, Mike starts picking his bass with this sort of Muleish sound. Trey soon noodles over it and soon everyone is on board. The jam sounds like a sort of Hebrew bluegrass that goes faster and faster and faster and faster. The jam is so unique, I can’t think of anything else to compare it to. The “wash uffuzi” lyrics at the end are belted on top of the jam at an increasing pace as well. Eventually the jam leads into a brief version of Rocky Mountain Way and then Chalk Dust Torture.
The CDT squeezes out every last drop of sweat from both the band and fans. Even though Pepe le Pew is the only one that got any credit after CDT (from Fish), I hope Trey’s red-hot guitar got to spend the night in a nice air conditioned bus after this show–the ‘doc sure deserved it.
Here is a clip of the band entering and blowing past the vocal jam:
OPT Summer Jams V.1 Tracklist
- Light (8/7/09)
- Ghost (7/4/99) ->
- Slave to the Traffic Light (7/4/99)
- Ghost (7/23/97)
- You Enjoy Myself (7/23/97) ->
- Rocky Mountain Way (7/23/97) >
- Chalk Dust Torture (7/23/97)
- 2001 (6/25/10)
- You Enjoy Myself (7/15/99)
As I mentioned before, these jams only scratch the surface of my favorite summer boogies. I plan on doing at least two more of these before the summer is over. Stay tuned.