Fishman 50 Ways

Under the Covers Vol. 4 – MSG Preview 1

Issue 1 of 3

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve sat back and watched Twitter feeds explode in, unfortunately, mostly frustrated rants about losing out on the Phish Tickets-By-Mail Lottery, the difficulties in dealing with Ticketmaster and the ridiculous up-sell scalpers are posting online for tickets. With that in mind, I decided that a three-part series discussing something a little more fun associated with the entire MSG experience may be in order – a preview of potential covers over the New Year’s Eve shows based on new material in 2011, bust-out covers, trends and more.

In the first iteration of this Under the Covers series, I will take a look at the seven covers that emerged for the first time in 2011 and discuss their likelihood at MSG. There were eight new cover songs debuted in 2011, seven of them being one-time-wonders, while at the same time some of them may not be considered “wonders” by all.

No Quarter

Perhaps the fan favorite for new cover in 2011 came relatively early in the year. At the fifth show of the summer (the 6th show of 2011) the band opened the second set with a Tweezer that started relatively straight forward before dipping into a darker groove. After a couple of Type II minutes, No Quarter’s drawn out intro emerged perfectly. No Quarter also showed its face out of the end of similar jams in Down with Disease (Super Ball IX 3) and Crosseyed and Painless (UIC 3). Look for this one as part of the end of the year celebration.

MSG Likelihood: 8.5/10 (12/30 II is my prediction)


Finding its way to the band from decent regularity on Mike Gordon Band tour, Al Green’s sound in Rhymes – and others for that matter – trends well to a first set of Phish on any given night. Fitting vocals from Mike and a great organ interlude? Yes please. Over time I could see Phish taking Rhymes to the far reaches in the spirit of Sneakin’ Sally. The song’s Phish debut at Great Woods certainly “didn’t get me down.” (Thanks to commenter Eli for the reminder on this great cover debut)

MSG Likelihood: 6.5/10

Thunder Road

It’s the thought that counts with this one, and little more. With the passing of E Street Band saxophonist, tambourine man and overall awesome musician and element of rock and roll passing away a day before Phish’s June 19th Portsmouth show, debuting Thunder Road the next day was only fitting. A thoughtful dedication to the Big Man, Thunder Road’s debut is likely the bands last foray into Springsteen’s classic for a while, marking the “one and done” mantra of the band’s second cover debut of 2011.

MSG Likelihood: 0.5/10

Monkey Man

Phish 3.0 hasn’t lacked its Rolling Stones songs. Heavy rotation on Loving Cup and Shine a Light coupled with intermediate playing on Sweet Virginia, Torn and Frayed and Let it Loose continue the band’s Stones references. Monkey Man closed the first set of this summer’s festival in fine form. Trey has always done a great job on Keith’s guitar work and Monkey Man didn’t falter from this trend. High energy in MSG could help this song find itself in rotation next year, maybe ahead of Tweeprise encores?

MSG Likelihood: 6.0/10

We've Got Big Balls
(Dave Vann)

Big Balls

Obviously a cover added to the summer playlist for the band’s ninth summer festival, Super Ball IX. While I’ve never been a huge fan of the Highway to Hell cover and Kid Rock’s You Shook Me All Night Long is cause for debate, bringing out Big Balls for Super Ball was a welcome cover for the weekend. Fish’s “Superball” shout out is probably the highlight of this cover.

MSG Likelihood: 1.0/10

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

Fishman 50 Ways
(Dave Vann)

Surprisingly, albeit one being part of HYHU, two covers Phish debuted in a row featured Fishman on vocals. With apologies to the mid-90’s, Cracklin’ Rosie and my article on Whipping Post, 50 Ways is probably the best HYHU song in the catalog. Bringing the small drumkit out left Trey able to add the bluesy riffs necessary of the Paul Simon classic. Kudos to Fish for putting his heart into this great cover and not giving it a more HYHU feel. I’d be one for bringing this tune back and maybe even building on the mini-Trey-Fish-drums section at the end. Over a four night run, a HYHU is almost guaranteed.

MSG Likelihood: 5.5/10

Rocket Man

A night later, with the help of some organized and dedicated fans on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Page belted out Sir Elton John’s Rocket Man in the relatively quaint confines of Harvey’s. Reviews are mixed on this debut, but I’d argue that the piano work and Trey’s effects are enough to give this another shot. MSG may bring the sound and intimidate feel this song needs to improve. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one gets another play.

MSG Likelihood: 6.5/10

Page Harvey's
(Dave Vann)

The Way It Goes

Probably the most unlikely but well-executed cover debut of 2011, Phish nailed the Gillian Welch song The Way It Goes with a great Phish sound, particularly play between Trey and Mike ahead of soloing from Page in the middle of the song. Mike’s vocals cover a wide-range confidently. Of the covers debuted in 2011, The Way It Goes sounds the most like an original, and helps the band find a crisp, mid-set sound almost comparable to a Back on the Train type groove. Don’t bury this one in soundchecks, fellas.

MSG Likelihood: 7.5/10

Most Likely 2011 Cover Debut at NYE (pick 2)

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Be sure to check out… (download the playlist)

  • No Quarter – 6.1.11
  • Thunder Road – 6.19.11
  • Monkey Man 7.2.11
  • Big Balls – 7.3.11
  • 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover – 8.8.11
  • Rocket Man – 8.9.11
  • The Way It Goes – 9.4.11