OPT’s Best Phish Run March Madness – North Region

Today we bring you the opening round match-ups of the North region, also known as the “God” region. Vote, comment, interact, debate, yell, scream, criticize, scrutinize, hypothesize, proselytize, and enjoy the analysis brought to you by Mr. OPT himself, Adam. So please keep on coming back because this tournament is about to get heated.

For more analysis and voting check out the articles on the East and the West regions while the polls are still open!


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1. The Great Went vs.16. 6/19-21/88
Both are three-set monsters highlighting all the band had to offer up until the point of the show. Both are incredibly different-sounding bands. Phish jumped into their home venue at Nectar’s for a three-night rendezvous with their close college friends that ended up being quite the historic throwdown. The run at Nectar’s has some slight setlist similarities with the 1997 festival–if you look closely enough. Both boast unique show openers: Nectar’s with Slave and Great Went with Makisupa. Both contain the evasive storytelling of Harpua, and both have a set that opens with a memorable Halley’s Comet.

While nothing can match the monumental feeling of success and inclusiveness that the fine jamming of the Great Went soundtracked, nothing can match the incredibly intimateness that the band once had before exploding into the four-headed jam monster it is now. Both showcase a band honing a different style, but both styles at their peak.

  • #1 The Great Went (96%, 153 Votes)
  • #16 6/19-21/88 (4%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 160

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2. Hampton – Winston-Salem ‘97 vs. 15. Dicks Sporting Goods 2011
Both runs are fresh in our memories for different reasons. The former because it was played recently and the latter because of its recent box set release. Both shows are very different styles of jamming but both showcase the best of what their respective years offer (I suppose that’s true for any runs picked for this, as they are the best runs). Nevertheless, both runs represent an era to the phan. The incredibly effortless funk of 1997 came to a peak at Hampton/WS and the freshly-honed storage-meshing was all laid out before us in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in Denver.

Dick’s will be remembered for two main reasons: The ‘S-show’ and the return of Guy Forget. Hampton/WS will be remembered mainly for one thing: the incredible jamming.

  • #2 Hampton/Winston-Salem '97 (80%, 128 Votes)
  • #15 Dick's Sporting Goods 2011 (20%, 33 Votes)

Total Voters: 161

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3. 10/30-11/2/98 vs, 14. NYE ‘98
These are both very iffy runs. Both are likely to be remembered more for reasons other than the holiday show these runs are structured around.

Both the Halloween and New Year shows pale among their peers, but shows surrounding them certainly give them legs to stand on. The Halloween run is notorious for the king of all ‘sleeper-shows’: The Dark Side Show. And the NYE run boasts some incredible jamming on the two nights leading up to the 31st. The cover of Prince’s 1999 to open NYE certainly is memorable though and it’s now forever viewable on YouTube starting in 2011.

  • #3 10/30-11/2/98 (68%, 105 Votes)
  • #14 12/28-31/98 (32%, 50 Votes)

Total Voters: 155

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4. 8/13-16/93 vs. 13. 8/15-17/11
Now things are starting to get difficult. Both of these runs come towards the end of above-stellar summer tours. The Midwestern run in ‘93 flaunts Trey’s insane ability to manipulate his guitar that most rock gods can only dream of, and the Midwest stand in 2011 mixes every great element possible and layers it on top of fantastic music and song selection.

The summer of 1993 might be the pinnacle of Trey’s straight-rock ability. It’s going to be hard for any run to upset this series of shows. If there are any 3.0 runs that have the chance, it’s UIC though. UIC combined a wonderful city with a storied and intimate venue. Mix in the incredible setlist and quality of playing, the UIC run will be remembered forever; but is it enough to knock over any August ‘93 run? Only YOU can decide.

  • #4 8/13-16/93 (62%, 98 Votes)
  • #13 8/15-17/11 (38%, 59 Votes)

Total Voters: 157

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5. 6/10-13/94 vs. 12. 11/27-29/98
Both runs get less attention than I feel is deserved. The Centrum run just after Thanksgiving is an impressive three-night stand full of musical acrobatics, silliness, and fun. And the Red Rocks > Memorial Hall run from 1994 features a band that’s in full stride with one another. Admittedly I’ve listened to the Memorial Hall show far more than the Red Rocks ‘94 duet. The 6/13 show out of Kansas City features a few songs that are in my ‘favorite-versions category’. The Stash, Reba, and Slave from it are incredible. I think you can find the entire second set on YouTube actually.

However, the Centrum throwdown is nearly as impressive. The first of the three nights really set the tone for the magic that was about to ensue. Take the second set alone:

Set 2: Buried Alive > Wipe Out > Chalk Dust Torture -> Mirror in the Bathroom ->Chalk Dust Torture -> Dog Log -> Chalk Dust Torture > Sanity >Buffalo Bill > Mike’s Song -> I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove -> Wipe Out -> Weekapaug Groove,Weekapaug Groove Reprise > Run Like an Antelope

The wipeout theme kept people on their toes and the massive CDT blew the roof off. The incredibly explosive ‘Paug is forever remembered thanks to YouTube too.
The rest of the run is laced with high-energy jamming, silly lyrics, and setlist jaw-droppers.

  • #12 11/27-29/98 (60%, 93 Votes)
  • #5 6/10-13/94 (40%, 61 Votes)

Total Voters: 154

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6. 8/9-14/97 vs. 11. 9/14-18/99
Geez Louise… what incredible runs. The 1999 west coast run is most famous for the forever-remembered second set in Boise, Idaho. AC/DC Bag from 9/14/99 is pretty much agreed upon for the best version ever. The typical Bag jam sinks into an abyss of true, unvarnished improvisation. Eventually the abstractly mesmerizing jam leads into one of the most locked-in rollicking funk jams with three enormous stop/starts before launching into one of the most famous Gumbos ever with an ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ jam before. The set closed out with one of the most intensely raging Down with Diseases ever. One of my most-favorite sets ever. Days later the band traveled down California, and met up with Phil Lesh at Shoreline for a memorable bass jam out of YEM. The show closed with Phil sitting in for Wolfman’s Brother -> Cold Rain and Snow and Warren Haynes joining for Viola Lee Blues in the encore. All the nights feature loose jamming that so-perfectly fits the geography of the run.

This run is great…it’s a shame that it’s up against one of the most hard-core runs of all time. I’m a bit biased when it comes to the late-summer run for Star Lake contains my favorite versions of both Stash and Gumbo. Star Lake also contains one of my favorite openers ever too: Elton John’s Amoreena.

The run starts out at the summer-favorite, Alpine Valley. The massive second-set Mike’s Groove shall always be remembered; it contained Ain’t Love Funny > Simple > Swept Away > Steep > Scent of a Mule, Slave to the Traffic Light. The following two nights at Deer Creek, another summer staple, blew summer into a new level. The two-night stand opens with Bathtub Gin -> Sparkle and it doesn’t slow down. The second set finds its way into the last-ever rotation jam before finding itself in the last-ever Rock-a-William before launching into a bad-ass set-closing David Bowie.

After the incredible show I already mentioned at Star Lake (and I only mentioned the first set!), the run ends with 8/14 at Darien–the last show before The Great Went. The first set contained one of the most beautiful song lineups; it contrasted nicely to the dark and crazy second set. An unusually long Hood led into Forbin’s which invited Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters to come out for some unusual stage antics and the jam that ensued became so funky Trey admittedly couldn’t even go into Mockingbird and instead started Camel Walk.

  • #6 8/9-14/97 (60%, 87 Votes)
  • #11 9/14-18/99 (40%, 57 Votes)

Total Voters: 144

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7. 11/28-30/97 vs. 10. Deer Creek 2000
Both of these runs are fantastic and deserve mention. While the Deer Creek run is best known for its Moby Dick/Chalk Dust Reprise 7/11 show, the highlights are more spread out during the late fall of 1997.
The ‘97 run starts out with Curtain > YEM…that’s just the start. The Ghost > Johnny B. Goode from the second set of the first night is a true favorite of mine. The following night contains the infamous hour-long Runaway Jim that marks the longest single song Phish have ever played. The final night contains an amazing jam that puts the funky into Funky Bitch. It’s around 15-minutes long and unfinished which gives it the space to really branch out of its normal box. Then there is a nearly half-hour-long Wolfman’s Brothers with an intense heavy metal jam.

For all the highlights the Centrum run has to brag about, the Deer Creek run, for the Moby Dick show alone, is an incredible highlight with truly great improv and impressive musical fun.

  • #7 11/28-30/97 (69%, 100 Votes)
  • #10 Deer Creek 2000 (31%, 44 Votes)

Total Voters: 144

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8.10/28/-31/94 vs. 9. 11/6-9/96
Both runs are incredibly hot, however only one is easily recognizable. Everyone knows the infamous Halloween ‘94 show where the band covered The Beatles’ White Album–Trey’s guitar was so impressively on-point that night–the show is also incredibly popular because of the incredible first-set Reba and Harpua.
The run starts with a pair of South Carolina shows. The second set of the first night includes an impressive Bowie > Manteca > Bowie.

However, the top-heavy run that takes place in fall 1996 is my bread and butter. The oft-overlooked era deserves some serious props. I bet most people that claim to love Phish have no idea what many of that fall ‘96 jams sound like. Someone that lives and dies by fall 97 should really take 11/6/96 Mike’s Song out for a spin. The depths of funk and improv they reach in that and many other jams is incredible. The night after includes one of my favorite sets. the 11/7/96 show at the Rupp Arena in Kentucky features a 30-minute Gin and a nearly 30-minute YEM. The jams in both are impressive, but the funk/rock alternations during YEM are immorally overlooked by many.

  • #8 10/28-31/94 (61%, 91 Votes)
  • #9 11/6-9/96 (39%, 57 Votes)

Total Voters: 148

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