Phish’s Favorite Song Pairings

12.31.10 (C. Gadzinski)

Phish setlists are often sprinkled with song combos that we’re so used to we don’t think twice about it. They are playing Mike’s Song, Weekapaug is coming. Swept Away will be followed be Steep, and The Horse will lead off Silent in the Morning. Of course there are some examples when these songs stray from one another, but that’s quite the exception at this point.

The Mike’s > Weekapaug-type combos are the obvious pairs. If Mike’s is played, then Weekapaug is going to be played. If Weekapaug is played that means Mike’s was played. The two songs are played with close to a 1:1 ratio. However, take Oh Kee Pa Ceremony; whenever OKP pops up, it’s very likely to go into Suzy. So, you can say that almost every time that OKP is played, it goes into Suzy. However, the opposite can’t be said for Suzy. It’s not equally true that almost every time Suzy is played, OKP was played. The OKP > Suzy combo is lopsided, but still a definite combination.

OKP has been played 208 times–of those times, Suzy followed 134 times. There is a whopping 64.4% chance OKP means Suzy is coming. However, if you are listening to Suzy, it’s only a 35.1% chance that OKP was before it (134/382). The combination was so popular that between 8/19/1989 and 4/18/1992 the two were paired 70.2% of the time.

So, what about the 35.6% chance that Suzy isn’t played after OKP? Well, Suzy isn’t OKP’s only love–OKP had a mistress named AC/DC Bag. Of the 208 times OKP was played, including its last, AC/DC Bag popped out of it 45 times. So, 21.6% of the time OKP will lead you directly into a Bag. The remaining 14% of the time will lead you into songs like YEM, Llama, Dinner and a Movie, My Sweet One, Reba, Possum, or maybe Sloth. The OKP > Suzy combo is a pretty popular one. Let’s take a look at some less-popular examples of song pairings.

Runaway Jim > Foam

An old-school pair that is still prominent today is the Runaway Jim > Foam duo. Almost exclusively residing in first sets (usually in the 1,2 slot or 2,3 slot), the combo is a 1-2 punch of classic Phish. Although it’s slightly more likely for Foam to have come out of a Jim than vice-versa, the probability of the combo being connected to either song is pretty strong. Jim goes into Foam (sounds funny)15.2% of the time while Foam comes out of Jim (sounds gross) 15.8% of the time. The highest probability of the pair being played if one of the songs was played is the span between 4/28/1994 and 10/09/1994 at 62.5%. I’m a huge fan of this marriage; it’s about as Phishy as it gets.

Tweezer -> Lifeboy

One of the most beautiful and sought-out pairings in Phish history is the epic combo of Tweezer -> Lifeboy. Although the combo has only been executed 17 times, that’s exactly 1/3 of the times Lifeboy has been played and enough to consider a very meaningful pairing. Lifeboy is a delicate and emotional landing pad for what is an often intense jam. After Tweezer rips your brain apart and chucks your body down a mountain, Lifeboy cradles what’s left of you and soothes your wounds. As Padraic from OPT said, “if you don’t like Tweezer -> Lifeboy, you don’t get IT.”

Avid fan of Tweezer -> Lifeboy, typeIIcaster and phish.netter, Andrew Hitz (@drewphish), puts the combo into his own words:

they sound like such a natural pairing it seems they were composed together (which of course they were not).

The combo reminds me of a first and second movement of an early Mahler or late Beethoven symphony.  High energy (as most Tweezers were back in the Tweezer>Lifeboy era) followed by gentle, gorgeous, sweeping melodies.  Kind of like an exhale after a huge climax (see Beethoven 7 1st and 2nd movements).

And the best part of a Tweezer>Lifeboy is that THEY JUST PLAYED FUCKING TWEEZER!!!

Alpine 2010 (D. Vann)

The beautiful pairing has not been witnessed since the Fleet Center show on 12/30/1996. Even though Lifeboy has been played as recently as 2009, and Tweezer was played in August of this year, the combo of the songs would be a huge bust out. For a period between 5/17/1994 and 6/23/1994, there Lifeboy paired with Tweezer seven times in a row. This includes the infamous 6/18/1994 UIC version during the second set–a show that’s widely considered one of Phish’s best.


Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise

Tweezer, [almost] always paired with Tweezer Reprise, brings another match for us. Tweezer Reprise has it’s own tag-along though. Sleeping Monkey goes into Tweezer Reprise 21.3% of the time. The combination has become a classic in recent years. Although the pair dates back to 3/25/1992, the pair was played 85.7% of the time Sleeping Monkey was played starting on 12/29/2009 and would be 100% if it were not for SBIX’s atypical version during the Storage Jam.

Fee -> Maze

One relationship many aren’t aware of is Fee -> Maze. Since the connection was made, on 3/25/1992 (same as Sleeping Monkey > Tweeprize), 13.3% of Fees go into Maze and 7.4% of Mazes have emerged from Fee. While the probability of the two being connected is less than some of our other examples, it’s common enough for us to discuss.

Fee’s usually-spacey outro is a petri dish for songs with eerie intros to grow: Mazes, Bowies, or even NO2 (like we saw at Deer Creek two years ago). Although we have not seen this combination since 8/11/1998, it was clearly in their heads when they ended Fee at the very same venue five years later (Star Lake) when Maze was teased before busting out the only Timber of 2003 on 7/29.

Dinner and a Movie > Bouncing Around the Room

Bouncing Around the Room is a historically-popular followup song to two peers: Dinner and a Movie and Landlady. During 1990, between 3/17 and 12/29, Dinner and a Movie was followed by Bouncin’ 33/42 times played–or 78.6%. During Dinner’s entire life, Bouncin’ has followed it 34.5% of the time–still over 1/3 of the total times played–also a high number. The last time this combo was played was on 11/28/1995. Now when you hear Bouncin’ start up after a Dinner and a Movie at MSG–you can freak out without being embarrassed.

Landlady > Bouncing Around the Room

Landlady also has as strong connection to Bouncin’. Although Landlady isn’t played anymore, it ended up Bouncin’ 11.2% of the time. Okay, that’s not nearly as strong of a connection, but over 1 in 10 times played isn’t nothing.

Buried Alive > Poor Heart

Another example of an old school combo is Buried Alive > Poor Heart. Only, unlike Landlady, both of these songs are still around. When I hear Buried Alive, I think of AC/DC Bag (probably because of 7/6/1998), but we should all actually be thinking Poor Heart. 21.7% of all Buried Alives have gone into Poor Heart. That’s almost 1/4!

There are a lot of fun numbers to crunch in the Phish world. This is only scratching the surface of the connections to be made. What are some song combinations I’m missing? What are your favorite and which do you want to go away?

I hope this article makes David “ZZYZX” Steinberg proud. I’d like to dedicate the following beautiful combination to him.

Train Song > Billy Breathes

Train Song has been followed by Billy Breathes 13.3% of every time it’s been played, and 15.8% of  the time since the first pairing on 10/29/1996. This two-headed, duel-ballad MONSTER is prettier than Branifer on the Red Carpet.

"silent scenes in motion means, I'll wake you when we're there"

EDIT: I should amend this to add two combinations that I forgot about. The Twist > Piper combo, last completed at Dick’s this year emerges 18.8% of the time Twist is played. So, nearly one in five Twists ends up Piper. The first time Twist was played on 6/14/1997, Piper came out of it. A particularly noteworthy version would be 12/6/1997’s. Thanks Mr. Miner for reminding me via twitter.

Lengthwise -> Maze is a combo that has a similar feeling to Fee -> Maze.  A whopping 28.0% of the time Lengthwise is played, Maze follows, including the last time it was played at Jones Beach in 2010 to open set 2. Thanks to, like, EVERYONE for reminding me about this.