OPT’s Best Phish Run March Madness

Here at OPT we have a deep love for Phish, but surprisingly to most people, we have other interests; one of them being sports. So we thought “why don’t we combine our infatuation with Phish and our child-like excitement for the NCAA Tournament and create a bracket.” (GREAT IDEA OPT!) Thanks guys!

So in order to truly challenge ourselves, spark debate, and entertain the masses we have created a bracket of the greatest 64 runs in Phish history. We did our best to limit the runs to four consecutive shows, but we made a few exceptions. Festivals, New Years Eve runs, and Halloween shows were allowed (Even Cypress!) and runs couldn’t extended beyond one tour. In other words, you could have back to back shows from the end of one tour and the beginning of another.  Finally, after countless hours of deliberation we decided on 64 runs. Then the OPT tournament committee ranked the participating runs and created a bracket.

Please vote using the polls (below bracket). Today voting is open for the West region, also known as the “Man” region. So read Poster Nutbag’s analysis of the West/Man region and vote at your leisure. We will continue voting by publishing new analysis and polls for the regions each day starting today and ending on Friday 3/16. Check back frequently for updates on the tournament. Along with the extensive analysis we have published about the initial bracket, we will publish discussion and various content about results of the past match-ups. In addition, we will also be looking ahead to the upcoming match-ups in this tournament. We encourage you to give your feedback and participate in this shindig through twitter, facebook, and on our site.

(click to enlarge)



1. Big Cypress vs. 16. Hampton ‘98
#1 seed Big Cypress was allowed in the tournament this year via a waiver of OPT’s official rules that when discussing “Best Of…” Big Cypress is excluded from the conversation. The biggest shock of the tournament wasn’t that Big Cypress was allowed in, but was that it didn’t get the overall #1 seed…that went to the Island Tour, so for once Big Cypress might even be considered an underdog.

The story is quite different for Hampton ‘98. Once regarded as among Phish’s finest, Hampton ‘98 fell in the minds of the selection committee based on the fact that the body of work doesn’t hold up well over time. When was the last time you listened to your copy of Hampton Comes Alive? Sure the packaging is great, but who listens to CDs anymore? And the highlight of the shows, the two joke covers (and as we know, I am a huge fan of joke covers), aren’t enough to keep me coming back.

  • #1 Big Cypress (93%, 245 Votes)
  • #16 Hampton '98 (7%, 19 Votes)

Total Voters: 264

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2. 12/11-13/97 vs 15. 8/2-8/7/93
As part of ‘97 DOMINATING the #2 seeds, we have the last 3 shows of the Phish Destroys America tour in the West. I don’t think anyone can argue with these 3 as being some of the strongest of that fall. Rochester is a crazy show from start to finish and the Albany shows, especially the 13th, are particularly out there. If this run advances deep into the tournament, we may finally get to “bring in the Dude”.

Although 15 seeds rarely get far in the tournament, they still deserve their moment in the sun. Two Florida shows followed by shows at the Cincinnati Zoo and Darien Lake during the summer of ‘93 were the platforms for some memorable Phish. Like a lot of the earlier Phish shows, these shows feature crazy and freqeunt segues, antics, teases and great guitar work by Trey. I don’t see 8/2-8/7/93 upsetting 12/11-12/13/97, but you should still check out the whacky and highly entertaining moments from this run.

  • #2 12/11-13/97 (82%, 195 Votes)
  • #15 8/2-7/93 (18%, 43 Votes)

Total Voters: 238

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3. 12/5-7/97 vs. 14. NYE 2010 (MSG only)
Another representative from Fall ‘97 lands as the #3 seed. Question: if ‘97 were a basketball conference, which would it be? Big East? ACC? Big 10? As far as these shows go, you have some of the biggest highlights of “97: the Palace Tweezer and the Dayton Tube. That is some firepower that could make a deep run.

NYE 2010 has the best show that I’ve seen in 3.0: 1/1/11. That show epitomized everything that 3.0 can be, and a show that I would have been glad to see in any era. The other two shows in that run are solid as well, but do they have the depth to unseat established monsters like those seen on 12/5-7/97?

  • #3 12/5-7/97 (75%, 182 Votes)
  • #14 12/30/10-1/1/11 (25%, 60 Votes)

Total Voters: 242

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4. 6/13-16/00 vs. 13. 6/17-20/04
This 4/13 is more like a 5/12 matchup in that either could win. I am generally not a fan of the Japan 2000 shows. Too mellow for my taste. I’m sure they would have been great to see, but as far as re-listening goes, there isn’t much in those Japan shows that really entice me. The same can be said for the Summer ‘04 shows. Some really dig the Summer ‘04 sound, others don’t. I’m in the “nay” column. I don’t care for Trey’s tone in the latter 2.0 era. Too crunchy and dirty. If I had to handicap this matchup, I would give the slight edge to 6/17-20/04 because of Jay-Z, Dr. Jack, and the 4 song set on 6/20.

  • #4 6/13-16/00 (58%, 132 Votes)
  • #13 6/17-20/04 (42%, 94 Votes)

Total Voters: 226

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5. 12/30-31/93 vs. 12. Lemonwheel
I can also see this 5/12 matchup going down to the wire. My personal bias has me pushing hard for the ‘93 shows. Both 12/30 and 12/31 are among my all-time favorites and I could easily see them knocking off some higher seeds in a round or two. Lemonwheel is another strong contender, and is probably ranked lower than it should be. This matchup will come down to which has a stronger following: ‘93 or ‘98.

  • #5 12/30-31/93 (54%, 121 Votes)
  • #12 Lemonwheel (46%, 102 Votes)

Total Voters: 223

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6. NYE ‘94 vs. 11. 7/3-4/99
NYE ‘94 is another sleeper pick. The only reason that run dropped to a #6 seed is because the shows were so uneven: 12/28 is a good, typical ‘94 show but 12/29 is epic. Same with 12/30 being average ‘94 but 12/31 being amazing. Its that inconsistency that allowed them to drop, but the highs could carry NYE ‘94 deep.

7/3-4/99 is a solid run from the Summer of 1999. You have the official debut of Meatstick, the epic Ghost>Slave, TWO double encores, and Dr. Jack. Two very good shows, but are they strong enough to defeat 12/29/94 and its surrounds?

  • #6 12/28-31/94 (58%, 127 Votes)
  • #11 7/3-4/99 (42%, 93 Votes)

Total Voters: 220

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7. 6/26-29/95 vs. 10. 7/30-8/3/03
Here is another old-school/new-school matchup with sleeper potential. I don’t think Summer ‘95 gets enough respect. No LivePhish releases from Summer ‘95 and I don’t think we appreciate how experimental Summer ‘95 was. Songs were really taken out for a ride in the Summer of ‘95, moreso than they were in ‘94. Jerry was also still alive in the Summer of ‘95 so Phish was still this upstart band who hadn’t really made the big-time yet but were still melting faces on a consistent basis night-in and night-out. These 3 shows represent some of the best of that Summer and can hold up against any show from any era.

7/30-8/3/03 is a strong close to the Summer ‘03 tour. The two Camden shows leading into IT made for some logistical challenges (I opted to skip 7/31 to get a head start on the drive up to Limestone) but stand up when compared to other Camden shows and/or tour closers. IT was a great festival, taboot, but is there enough firepower to compete with old-school Summer ‘95 fans?

  • #7 6/26-29/95 (62%, 135 Votes)
  • #10 7/30-8/3/03 (38%, 84 Votes)

Total Voters: 219

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8. 11/9-11/95 vs. 9. 6/16-20/95
Summer ‘95 vs. Fall ‘95. How does one choose? Its like picking which one of your children is your favorite or trying to decide between the BMW or the Benz. This one will come down to personal preference. Do you prefer the more spacy summer shows? Or the more focused, balls-to-the-wall fall shows? Do you prefer the Jim>Free from 6/16 or the YEM>Crossroads>YEM from 11/10? Do you prefer the 6/19 Bowie (my personal favorite Bowie) or the 11/11 Bowie? It will be sad to say goodbye to one of these runs but with the impending matchup with Big Cypress in Round 2, the one that wins won’t go very far either.

  • #8 11/9-11/95 (61%, 129 Votes)
  • #9 6/16-20/95 (39%, 83 Votes)

Total Voters: 212

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