Under the Covers Vol. 5 – MSG Preview 2

Issue 2 of 3

As everyone makes the long, slow arduous countdown through the next few weeks before the YEMSG run, I’m happy to continue my 2011 cover recap and NYE cover preview. For issue 2 of my MSG Preview I take a look back at the covers that were taken off the shelf, dusted off and busted out throughout 2011. Not known for their extensive jams or other key Phish elements, the songs included in this recap have a different place in the band’s history.

With nine songs falling in the 100 or more show category, this is the cut-off point for this recap / preview – apologies to Let it Loose (96 shows). In 2010 Phish busted out Quinn the Eskimo in Telluride after 209 shows, returned it to regular rotation in late Summer and Fall 2010 and treated the 12.30.10 crowd to it. On 12.31.10, Phish rang in the New Year with After Midnight after a 206 show bust out in Manchester that Fall. What will be 2011’s version? Let’s take a look at the choices.

Daniel Saw the Stone (Show Gap: 137)

It took the band 14 (if you include 1.1.11) shows to bust out a cover in 2011. An up tempo tune perfect in the number one slot at any show, the traditional Daniel Saw the Stone is a spirited Phish cover and at Merriweather Post 1, joined the sign request family so popular in the last few years. While Daniel Saw the Stone isn’t going to set any records for length, it will get the vets into hoedown mode quick. Gordon’s voice is spot-on for backing vocals on Daniel Saw the Stone with Page and Trey leading the charge. A relatively standard, albeit not playing frequently, Daniel Saw the Stone is tough to criticize and may find itself back before the end of 2011.

MSG Likelihood: 5.5/10


Lonesome Cowboy Bill (141)

Opening Merriweather 2 with Buried Alive, the Phish handed over the vocals for another upbeat and busted out cover, Lonesome Cowboy Bill. Lonesome Cowboy Bill has been played six times to date, three times before and twice since it joined the band’s Velvet Underground costume in 1998 in Las Vegas. Fans of Fish on the vocals outside of HYHU antics and straight forward twang would enjoy seeing Lonesome Cowboy Bill in the start of a first set early in the NYE run, but a part of me has to think this is a tall order. Trey’s solo in the middle of the tune inside of MSG would undoubtedly lead to the kind of cheer that venue is known for in Phish lore.

MSG Likelihood: 4.5/10

Bike (100)

Obviously completely ridiculous, Bike isn’t a stranger to the Fish – and Phish – HYHU treatment. A relative standard in the HYHU rotation for the mid-90’s, it was just that – in rotation. When looking at the band’s Pink Floyd covers, Bike isn’t the first one that comes to mind and I would guess many-a-fan doesn’t know Syd Barrett is the original author. In my last MSG Preview I talked about 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover joining the HYHU ranks. With that in mind, I would lean more towards the band bringing back 50 Ways than Bike.

MSG Likelihood: 3.5/10

Been Caught Stealin’ (298)

Joining the Phish ranks in the summer of 1998, Been Caught Stealin’ was played again at Walnut Creek in the middle of the second set; a bit of a random choice for a song so perfectly suited for the encore or set closing position. Using a special mic for a truly “special” sound, Trey took a different run at the sound for this tune than he did in 1998. A nice treat to have a rare piece of equipment is a welcome effort at any show, but a replay of Been Caught Stealin’ should probably return to the sound seen when the song first joined the Phish catalog.

MSG Likelihood: 7.5/10

Life on Mars? (175)

While Life on Mars? was busted out at Super Ball IX and replayed at Outside Lands, I am only slightly confident that it will return at MSG (Rocket Man may be play the spoiler here). There is no doubt that Life on Mars? is a great Phish cover that has been given an authentic sound. Trey’s play through the solos is well-done in both versions from 2011 and while some of the higher pitches are a stretch vocally, the harmonies have a great mid-90’s flavor. Like many of these bust outs, Life on Mars? is a fan favorite along the lines of A Day in the Life, just left on the shelf more frequently perhaps leading to its enjoyment. Another attempt in 2012 may be more appropriate.

MSG Likelihood: 6.5/10

Sparks (463)

Probably the most popular of the group, Sparks featured the second longest gap of any bust out cover in 2011. Sparks emerged in the middle of the first set of the “S” show, about the time most people were putting the pieces together about what was going on that night, out of Sneekin’ Sally. Many of the cover bust outs from 2011 aren’t ripe for jamming. Coincidence? Maybe. The thing about Sparks is the way another jam vehicle can find itself in The Who classic. One of the band’s most popular shows, the Bomb Factory, sees Sparks start on a dime out of Tweezer. Nearly any kind of jam, including 3.0’s “Plinko” can take a turn to Sparks. Its hard to believe that Sparks has only been played 13 times. Let’s hope a return in the NYE run sets the stage for 2012.

MSG Likelihood: 7.0/10

Sweet Adeline (285)

(Dave Vann)


With the band seemingly stuck on Grind as their a capella tune of choice for much of 3.0, the Commerce City “S” set provided a welcome reprieve in this arena. In the regular rotation for most of the 90’s, Sweet Adeline is a melodic a capella tune that would be great for everyone taking their wife or mother to their first show. For me, Sweet Adeline is at the top of my “most commonly played not seen” songs and I never expected it to be commonplace enough for me to see live. Of the a capella choices available, I would put this one in the top 5.

MSG Likelihood: 3.5/10



Sabotage (318)

Sabotage is another tune that first joined the band’s cover repertoire during the Summer 1998 “Jukebox Tour” and gained relative popularity when it was released through the Hampton Comes Alive box set. No one can deny the crowd-pleasing, rock dance party this tune creates. Killer pedal effects and a goofy smile from Trey make this cover   Sabotage will be in direct competition with Been Caught Stealin’ to be the high-intensity, alt-rock cover of the weekend. Total random thought – Trey and the boys as Cochese and Sabotage being part of the NYE gag? Time to move on…

MSG Likelihood: 7.5/10

Come Together (537)

The longest gap between versions of some classic Phish covers was also only an excerpt of the song. Come Together showed its face out of another great cover – Rock and Roll – at Dick’s 3.  Similar in tone (obviously), crowd experience and execution as Instant Karma, Come Together is a hat tip to the Beatles and their influence on the band. When Phish jams can find themselves ranging between Rock and Roll and Come Together through various tones from a similar era things are going well. Come Together being busted out at the end of a 3-night run and the Summer 2011 tour (not including Flood Recovery) was the perfect end to a great year, but I don’t expect it to be back this winter.

MSG Likelihood: 3.5/10

Most Likely 2011 Cover Bust Out Replayed at MSG (pick 2)

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Be sure to check out… (download the playlist)

  • Daniel Saw the Stone – 6.11.11
  • Lonesome Cowboy Bill – 6.12.11
  • Bike – 6.17.11
  • Been Caught Stealin’ – 6.18.11
  • Life on Mars? – 7.1.11
  • Sparks – 9.2.11
  • Sweet Adeline – 9.2.11
  • Sabotage – 9.2.11
  • Come Together – 9.4.11