Tag Archives: phish

2014: See Ya

On the whole, 2014 was a good year. Rather than making a semi-structured list, I found myself thinking about two extremes — things that were absolutely delightful, and things that gave me pause for 2015.

A Year of Live Music: Four Phish shows in three states, with four newbies in tow. Animals as Leaders twice in small venues. Tony Levin with both King Crimson and Stickmen, at opposite ends of the venue spectrum. Joe Bonamassa at his best; Dream Theater at their most average but still quite good; Flux Forteana at a downtown Boston pub. Also subscribed to Concert Vault, featuring the best of “Bill Graham Presents”, which has reinforced my love of (recorded) live music.

A Year of Travel: Four visits to Prague, three to Tel Aviv/Jerusalem, a return to Seattle after 30 years, only one trip to the Bay Area, a first visit to Curacao. Discovering local food in each city (especially Seattle!) was as much fun as returning to favorite haunts. Celebrated my 52nd birthday in the oldest city in recorded history, with good friends. Prague is a new favorite place to visit and work.

A Year of Waning Fandom: For some reason professional sports just didn’t capture my interest this year. The Yankees were lukewarm from April til September; the Devils are wallowing in middle age and directionless; I have ignored professional basketball since the Nets moved out of the Meadowlands. Even my beloved Tigers failed to show on the ice or finish on the hardwood. On the other hand, youth hockey is alive and well, and I have a great group of 6 year olds who get up for 7:00 am games at outdoor rinks. A visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame taught me things about our family’s sports allegiances that I had never known.

A Year of Small Miracles: I survived a fairly bad car accident, mostly through the benefit of seat belts, air bags, and a fraction of a second. One of my fellow hockey coaches beat his leukemia into remission. The Devils signed one of my favorite players whom I’ve wished to see in the tail and horns for years (Mike Cammalleri) and then proceeded to play non-miraculous hockey. I caught a 40-pound rooster fish at the end of two days of completely quiet sport fishing.

For all of the good and positive, there were some decidedly strange moments. We stayed at the Revel in Atlantic City during the last week it was open, and then watched a third of the city’s casinos financially implode. I found myself worrying about our “adopted” Israeli daughter, when she called quite late at night during her Army service. While giving a ride to some fellow Phans for the Mann Center shows, I got the sense that if you’re in your mid-20s, it’s a hard time to be financially independent. And with the number of security events (both large scale and more personal, like fraudulent credit card charges) I think we’re looking at a year calling for more diligence and caution in all electronic interactions.

Return Of The King Crimson

King Crimson weren’t the only ones experiencing a reunion at the Best Buy Theater on September 18: more than 30 years since seeing the Levin + Fripp led combo just a few blocks away in New York, the four of us who “discovered” the Crim during their more Discipline(d) days saw them again. It was a tour de force of early and late stage King Crimson; in stellar terms the show traced the main sequence of “standards” without venturing into the Adrian Belew-voiced 1980s material. Like all good reunions, this one fired any number of unused neurons and lit up some nice memories and thoughts.

My favorite middle school music teacher played “21st Century Schizoid Man” for us in 1975, and I think that was the moment I became a progressive rock fan, although I didn’t realize it until much later.

“Larks Tongues In Aspic” could be the musical grandfather of Animals as Leaders’ entire catalog. The venerable if not slightly clapping-on-the-wrong beats New York Times described Fripp’s guitar playing as “mathematical”, and while “algorithmic” may be a better definition of his use of arpeggios, dissonance and rhythm, it’s the same very heavy elements at the stellar center of “norm core” or “math core”.

I like the ferocity of King Crimson with saxophone rather than violin; much of the 1974 era tours have strings riding alongside the Fripp guitar work; Mel Collins brings a raspy, nasty, intense tone that rounds out the “backline” of this Crimson collection wonderfully.

Tony Levin is fascinating. In my “I wish I were a bass player” high school days, I’d seen pictures of him attacking a Chapman stick and remember being weirded out by the stick (12 string bass played tapping style? Of course, two years later I met Stanley Jordan and what was once weird was normal), his posture (Viscerally, visually and vibrantly leaning into that one), and, well, his physical appearance. He puts on a good show, and the stage set with the drum line in the front and Levin in the center of the back line produced a nice effect – I felt like I was in an orchestra under his baton, while he orchestrated the trio of batteries directly at his feet. His show blogs are a great read, and yes, if you look at the audience shots from the 9/18 show, I’m on the left side.

There’s nothing like seeing a live show with friends. Support musicians by seeing them work their craft. There’s a depth and emotion to it that you don’t get from a recording, even if it’s dampened slightly by Fripp emoting nothing more than facing his effects rack.

Requisite Phish reference: “Dave’s Energy Guide” was written as an homage after King Crimson played Princeton’s Alexander Hall in 1982 (during the Discipline tour, and it was likely the interlocking but not locked in time signatures of “Frame by Frame” that drove the math on that one).

Post-show activity: acquiring some 1970s King Crimson live shows and trying to reverse rhythm engineer “Larks’ Tongues Part II”.

Deadhead Sticker On A Cadillac: Labor Day 2014

Summer 2014, we hardly knew you. Foreshortened by calendar cruelty that landed Labor Day in its earliest possible slot, you lost half a week off the top. Despite the half-month earlier start brought on by the gravitational lensing of college tuitions, this one just flew by, but not without its moments. Four Phish shows, one with the Bubba, three with George, one with a new phan. One pop show with the nieces (not to be named here), one rap show with the nephew. Animals As Leaders as a summer kickoff in a sweaty low-ceilinged dump on Long Island, a bit of Deep Tank Jersey transported east and forward in time. The EP release of Flux Fortena’s September on which the Bubba plays bass and yours truly has a producer credit. Fishing in Cabo with good friends. Four trips to Boston, three of which involved moving and boxes, all of which included good local fare. Our first Pride Parade in NY, with our daughter who was working for Lambda Legal. Two Broadway shows, a 30th college reunion, a lot of time with cousins and friends. We lost my oldest aunt, and one of those family gatherings was under difficult circumstances, but also served as prelude to a fun afternoon splashing in the pool with my newest cousin (technically first cousin twice removed but we have always relied on the willowy whippiness of the Stern/Shteir family tree for geography, genealogy or gastronomy).

Perhaps the summer seems short because of what I missed: No swim in the Atlantic; no elephant ears from the Crust & Crumb in Beach Haven; no fireworks viewed from the suspense of a rickety lawn chair. I realized these errors of omission in the middle of a cinnamon and sugar bagel at Bruegger’s, sensing it was as close to an elephant ear as I’d get in 2014. It made me think of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” a song that I love for its layered keyboards and its kicking and screaming refusal to open a new 16-month calendar out of fear that you’re leaving the summers of your youth.

Summers are defined as much by their soundtracks as by the live action sequences. Even as we age, and the memories are filtered and sharpened inappropriately, the songs remain the same. Elephant ears are always accompanied by Bob Seger, Peter Frampton, The Sweet and WJRZ in Ship Bottom, replete with the Adventures of Chicken Man at noon and 6 o’clock. Labor Day brings an urge to ignore the signs of aging and just extend the current tour. In my case, the Deadhead sticker is affixed to my Cadillac of a laptop and says “My Other Car Is A Flying Hotdog.” Sometimes the soundtrack bridges the seasons and Labor Day isn’t such a daunting calendar milestone.

Leather, Caramel and Jam

I have completed my summer run with Phish: 4 shows in 13 nights in 3 states, and one webcast viewed on my phone in a train station, spending time with about 30 family members, co-workers and friends. It’s the first time I’ve done more than 2 shows in a summer, the first time I did two nights back to back at the same venue, and for four of my guests, their first shows.

(c) Jeph Jacques "Questionable Content"

Kwiscotch Haderach, Strip #2400, (c) Jeph Jacques “Questionable Content”

I get asked three questions fairly regularly about my Phishing trips: (1) Why see them more than once? (2) What’s the attraction? and (3) Aren’t you too old for this? As usual I’ll revert to a bit of comic comedy to segue into the more serious stuff, this time borrowing from Jeph Jacques’ Questionable Content which you should read if you don’t already (he’s the guy behind the “Coffee of Doom” shirt that I wear to pop concerts with my nieces, but that’s another matter).

The attraction of multiple shows and of the band in general is that it’s insanely complex, fun, and well-crafted music. You’re seeing four musicians who crank out a completely different show, night after night. The only equivalent question would be “Why go see more than one baseball game?” You never know how the game will play out, who will make a highlight reel play, or what bit of history you may later claim to witness. At the same time, each jam has its own texture, structure and compositional complexity that ebbs and flows with Chris Kuroda (the lighting guy), the audience, and everything else that’s transpired on stage and floor until that point. The closest non-musical analogy that also doesn’t involve sports is that of sampling a fine single malt scotch: You taste it, and your palate seeks hints as to its flavorful provenance. How was it aged? What other flavors were introduced, derivatives of the malting or the finishing?

Listen to a long Phish jam and pick out hints of other songs teased, phrases and licks you swear you’ve heard before, Page shifting from piano to organ and back to piano for a crescendo of chords leading out of the jam, and you’re deep in musical palette for your musical taste palate.

As you go to multiple Phish shows (I’ve now been to 12, still a neophyte by most standards but adjusting for age it’s as if I went to 100 shows in my 20s), you build up a set of aural and mental associations with each song. That’s where the scotch analogy plays strongest; it’s not just a hint of caramel but caramel that reminds you of the topping on a Dairy Queen sundae, spooned out of a plastic cup sitting bayside on a warm summer night, served by your future sister in law. It’s leather that makes you think of playing catch in the backyard with you father, and your own son.

Three notes into the July 13 (Randall’s Island) “Sand” opener, bouncing along with the Big G, I was thinking about my first show with him. Big G chimes in “This is my favorite song” each time it’s played. I know that, but it doesn’t preclude a high five and a bit of shared memory. Old leather and caramel, different olfactory memories than l’air du skunk weed and wookie, but just as mentally fragrant. And each of the three times I’ve heard “Sand” it’s been remarkably different along the axes of funky, drive, airiness and straight ahead rock. Imagine going to a sporting event knowing you’re going to see a perfect game, a no-hitter, a kickoff returned for a touchdown, a 4-lateral last second game winning touchdown, and a hat trick. You’re not sure which one, or when, or who, but the anticipation is paid off with regularity, and a consistency usually reserved for oak barrel products.

Perception, Fact and Jamming

Two nights into the Phish Summer 2014 Tour and already the vocal range of the critics dwarfs that of the band: Mansfield was lethargic. No, Mansfield was insane, especially “Hood.” SPAC was one of the top five, except for those who thought it was too much of something else in the bottom five. Anti-hater choruses intertwine with cardinality braggadocio (“This was my 178th show!”) resulting in the online equivalent of the glow sticks plus spilled beer plus lot food flotsam that limns the parking lot post show.

A music teacher once told me that “There is good music you won’t like, and bad music you will like.” With forty years of hindsight, I can safely say he was wrong: There is no good or bad with music, you just decide if you like it or not. Attitudes toward the same artists, the same songs, and the same venues will morph over time — at least that’s the only way I can explain my early-80s fascination with Pablo Cruise. Feel free to hate Nickelback, but know why: it’s how you perceive the why, how and what of their music.

The better lesson is one I’ve taken from a management training class: Perception can never be right or wrong. If your perception was that Mansfield was boring, then that is the way the show occurred for you. It’s neither right nor wrong, but it is entirely true from within your listening context at the time. And that context may be influenced by how many shows you’ve seen (you will judge each rendition of a song relative to others that you remember, however hazily), or by how you felt the show was going up to that point. Even within a song, you will find people who glom onto some phrase, some twist, some tease or some facet and believe, right then and there, that the world has become a more beautiful place, while the person next to them is bored and waiting for the jam to tail out. Our relative appreciation for each show is so dependent on how we individually got there: with whom, with what, and with what expectations.

There are musical facts to be discovered upon re-listening to a show. My current favorite is the Merriweather Post Pavilion (Columbia MD) show from 7/14/13; deep within the 2nd set there’s a “Light” jam that gets very funky and punctuated and about three minutes from the end Paige begins teasing “Boogie on Reggae Woman.” If you heard this live, in the moment, I’m not sure you would have picked up the teases. On the 2nd or 3rd listen, when you know where the jam ends up, you hear the little Korg clues; for me it makes that “Light” one of my favorites. The facts of the matter change and improve my perception of the whole show, even though I wasn’t there to experience it in real time, the first time.

Tip of the propeller hat to new tour bud Sachin, who said (after his first ever show) “Thanks for sharing something you love with me.” Love is pure perception – it’s in the eye and ear of the beholder.

Summer Tour 2014: A Night Of Firsts

Rabbit rabbit, as the saying goes, to commemorate the first of the month. Or perhaps the schehechayanu is more in order, the first time something is done or celebrated in the year, a marking of the seasons of man and time.

Personally, there were a lot of firsts last night: July 1st. First night of the tour. First show for my friend Sachin. First time this century I’ve been to Mansfield/Tweeter/Great Woods for a show (last: 1992 for some combinations of Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker, Huey Lewis and Elton John, and no, I don’t remember which).
Mansfield Dusk

As the show progressed though, more firsts emerged: First show (for me) without any covers (“Back on the Train” is a Phish original, despite the bluesy riff). First time I’ve heard “Weekapaug Groove” separated from “Mike’s Song” by not one, not two, but four songs, ending with the insanely slick “Ghost” -> “Groove.” And surprisingly, the first time I’ve seen empty seats (groups, not just the side effect of a little too much lot food resulting in solitons) at a show.

There were some real highlights: Mike’s use of a bell (yeah, a real push-button bell, properly miked up) and the bass pedals; if you are of the “Louder Mike” persuasion then last night was a revival meeting of the first order. The bottom had a lot of punch and grit when needed. “Hood” was spiritual; “Ghost” rocked, spaced, rocked and re-opened the door “Mike’s Song” left mildly ajar to open the second set. Being there with the Bubba, we loved “Wedge” because it simultaneously and happily reminded us of Jones Beach last summer, rocking out while the Atlantic Ocean poured over the gunwales of the stage and out of the sky.

As for the new material, it fit in nicely. Five songs (including the title track) off of “Fuego”, with four in the first set, neatly set the stage for what I hope is a trend this summer. The band had said they would play fewer covers and opening night had exactly zero. The new album got its due, and I’m looking forward to seeing how those songs expand and contract in real time with each show’s mood and pacing. “Fuego” is no doubt different from earlier work; I’ll stand by my Halloween assertion that it’s “Darkness” deep. Maybe it’s just too real-life; the songs aren’t all happy or goofy or rambling tales of chemically infused escapades. They are about mistakes, poor perception, and maybe freedom. Again, think “Darkness” but also think maturity and having a slightly better sense of where you go when the lights go out. And it is, as it has been, a place of wonderful music refuge for three hours.

Plate of (Golden) Shrimp (and Phish)

Part of my mental and physical preparation for a long-haul flight is to pick out a playlist, usually themed or at least with some association to my destination. And it usually involves at least one Phish set, because like my friend Glenn Nano I’ve taken to breaking up long chunks of time into Phish sets, a nicer metric than the number of hours or miles to go. Driving to Boston is three Phish sets; a long workout is the first or back half of a set. If I’m en route to Italy, it’s a set that includes “You Enjoy Myself” (Uffizi references for the win).

Flying to Israel, however, my pre-flight warmup is more eclectic than a free-form radio show: A bit of Israel chanteuse Si Hi-Man (Gibur Gadol, usually, her late 1980s song about a boyfriend who wanted to be a “big hero” in the Lebanon war), some Kaveret (the Beatles of Israel, whom I had the privilege of seeing during my second to last Sun Microsystems business trip to Israel), perhaps a Phish “Avinu Malkeinu” (7/4/12 Jones Beach is a favorite), and usually my cousins (the cantors) singing “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” – “Jerusalem of Gold”. The song itself presages a plate of shrimp moment, vocally painting hope for a city of gold, a tip of the kippah to ancient traditions and times, recognizing the pace of modern life. It was written in May 1967, performed by Shuli Natan (an unknown folk singer at the time) and the reaction in Israel was as close to that of winning American Idol as you could get at the time. A month later, after the Six Day War, with the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (the Kotel) and the 19th century synagogues in the Jewish Quarter part of a reunited Jerusalem, soldiers were singing “Jerusalem of Gold” at the Wall. Knowing we’d be attending a Bar Mitzvah in the Istanbul Synagogue, with old friends, “Jerusalem of Gold” got another listen on the iPod, bracketed by the Phish Reading (10/29/13) show. As I drifted off to sleep somewhere over eastern Canada, interspersed in that pre-sleep mix-master of ideas, was the thought that the material from “Hoist” on the fall tour sounded unusually tight, fun and good.

Fast forward 48 hours: I’m at a business dinner, talking about one of our partners, who I’m told knows Shuli Natan. The singer, the first person to give voice to a golden hope. As I’m madly curating Google references to explain the significance of the personage and the song to one of my co-workers, one of the links catches my eye — it’s from Phish.net; a song history of “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” as performed by Phish. And true to the history, if you look on the CD insert of “Hoist”, just above the upside-down lyrics to “Demand”, you’ll see part of “Jerusalem of Gold” — and if you listen all the way through the jam at the end of the CD, there’s a punch-in of the band singing a snippet of the song in wonderful harmony. For the rest of the week I’ve had “Hoist” on rotation in the car, smiling about a plate of golden shrimp in the land of milk and honey.

Thirteen on 13

I made a conscious effort to quantify more things in 2013 – my weight, health, reading habits, and a catalog of good things. Somehow the quantified self didn’t roll over into the more reliable self, but my Withings stats would tell you mathematically. Three weeks into the new year I don’t have resolutions per se that have been broken, but my lack of regular writing output also includes a failure to write an annual list (see 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2011 2012 historical references). This marks a decade that I’ve been writing publicly, which is an entire lifetime on Internet time. Rather than delve into a “best of” that’s already time deprecated, here are thirteen good things about 2013:

  1. Celebrated 25 years married to Toby. When we were 8 years old, and I saw her standing on the deck of a beach house in Harvey Cedars, I feel in love for the first time. That was 43 years ago, and she’s spent more than half of them with me. I am blessed. We celebrated with Israel, Ukraine, good friends and a lot of strange foods.

  2. Started a new job. After working for technology vendors for nearly 25 years, I seized an opportunity to go back to applied technology full-time. The problems are thorny, require the right mix of computer science and design, and I have a great team.

  3. Rediscovered the joy of recorded music. Working from home most days meant that “drive time music” was whatever I was humming while stumbling down the stairs. I’m now listening to an average of three albums a week commuting to that new job, and it’s great. Music defeats the aggravations of New Jersey traffic, weather, and makes for a nice segue between venues.

  4. Experienced one of the best hours of live music ever. Shared with good friends and our son, at Jones Beach, as a 6-hour rain storm ebbed and we wrung ourselves out, I heard Phish do a tour-de-force of my musical history. Oh yeah, got to meet Trey before the show too. All part of one of the best years of live music in a variety of venues, from Phish arena shows, to Rush, Frampton and Joe Bonamassa in smaller theaters, to some local area acts in Boston and western Massachusetts.

  5. Went to a Phillies game with my father and ran the circle of life counter clockwise. This time I took the pictures as he walked the bases post-game, at the modern instantiation of the same ballpark where I saw my first major league ball game and my real life hero took pictures of my boyhood sports hero (Willie Stargell, Pirates at Phillies, circa 1973).

  6. Witnessed one of the best displays of sportsmanship ever while dressed as Santa, handing out candy canes post-practice. One of my mite-aged hockey players asked for an extra candy cane for his brother who left the ice early. Sometimes being on Team Santa is its own reward.

  7. Visited the Ukraine for an exploration of my own history that was more emotional than I had anticipated. And more revealing. As my Uncle Ziemel used to say, “Nothing that is broken off is truly lost as long as you remember to search for it.” Half of a street address on the back of a 100 year old photograph tied together the threads of how my great-grandfather made his way from a small village to Kiev to Rotterdam to New York.

  8. Spent time with old friends. There is nothing better than re-igniting the sense of familiarity you shared a decade, ten area codes, four moves and a few kids ago.

  9. Toured the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Between Babi Yar in the Ukraine, the Day of Remembrance in Israel, and the World Trade Center site, I had a hat trick in understanding the impact of conflict.

  10. Sipped a coffee sitting outside of Cool Beans in Bay Village, on Long Beach Island, where I’ve spent at least a long weekend in about 80% of my summers. Even though some of the old haunts seemed smaller seen from the height of adult perspective, the memories were just as wonderful. And Crust and Crumb elephant ears are still worth every single calorie.

  11. Got kicked out of the Academie Francaise in Paris. After joking about it for more than 30 years, first with friend Steve, then with our daughter, I took a detour after a work meeting. Epitomizing American swagger, I walked in and was promptly asked to leave, but not before thoroughly butchering every known conjugation, pronoun and tense to get my picture taken by the security guard. It was one of the more weird things on my bucket list, but if Madame Scharf is reading this, Sheris and I were listening the whole time.

  12. Sat in on a recording session in one of the most intimate, well-engineered studios in New Jersey. Details coming on the band, the results and the process, and yet another bucket list item checked.

  13. Read more than thirty books, venturing away from a steady stream of science fiction to learn musical backstories.

There are any number of things that form the background radiation of a good year: Having kids make good adult life decisions, going to Israel, getting to work on interesting projects, loving every day that my wife puts up with my craziness, fixing my first guitar pedal and feeling like all of those late nights in the basement of E-Quad weren’t a total waste.

Phish: Wingsuit is Their “Darkness”

Standing in the very last row of the Santander Center in Reading, Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, I felt privileged to be part of an inspired and inspiring Phish show. The jams were complex, funky, a little dissonant (in that Halloween groove), and incredibly well performed. A work friend accompanied me, for his first show, and his comments were along the lines of “Wow, that’s hard” (a cappella vocals), “Reminds me of Dixie Dregs” and “Reminds me of Allan Holdsworth”. He’s an accomplished keyboard player himself, and none of those statements are faint praise. At the grand pause in “Divided Sky,” my one thought surveying a velvet sea of lighters, was that somewhere Lou Reed was looking on and proud of the boys he nudged into rock and roll mayhem. My concluding thought for the night was that having only touched on “Walk Away” and “Good Times, Bad Times” (both summer tour staples) as cover songs, Phish was remarkably comfortable in their own musical skin, evidenced by their set lists and depth of jamming.


Two nights later, after all of the pre-gaming hype and hyperbole, Phish introduced “Wingsuit” as a collection of songs from a new album. And I’m at a loss to understand why people seem so upset by this. Anyone on the Boardwalk (and those of us couch touring at home) got to hear new songs, performed in the sequence and setting intended, for the first time. I can only compare the joy to that of Tuesday afternoons at WPRB-FM in the early 80s, when the UPS man would bring us the new releases for the week and all of the DJs would fall on those random brown boxes, only to then scatter and listen and review and ruminate.

The collective kvetching seems to fall into two categories: Phish didn’t cover someone else’s material “like they always do” and the new songs aren’t like their first four albums. To the first point, if you really want to see someone do Led Zepplin IV, go see “Get The Led Out” locally. Phish did what they’ve been doing for the past year or so — staying true to their musical biases, creating great sounds, and popping in a few not-so-subtle jabs at the parts of fan base that believe a set list is a Wikipedia entry to be crowd-edited ad nauseum (see Chicago “Harpua” as evidence). As for the songs themselves, they are rich, complex, lyrically deep, equally fun and funky and fundamentally probing. This is the return of the son of “Joy”. Fewer songs with minimalist obscure lyrics and more songs with equally intricate parts across the whole band.

And I’ll go way out on a limb (by limb): “Wingsuit” is Phish’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” Misunderstood, complex to write and produce (over time and space), but when seen through a decade long lens of musical history, it’s one of the greatest albums of all time. The composition and lyrics on “Wingsuit” reflect maturity as song writers, musicians, and a few decades of life experience.

Handicapping the Costume Album

Very much looking forward to Phish in Atlantic City on Halloween, when they cover an entire album in between their usual wide-ranging sets. Handicapping the “costume album” is how Phish fans run the equivalent of a Super Bowl box game before the show. Reading through the guesses gives you some intriguing implied demographic data, including fans who can’t think of albums recorded before 1990 that might be worthy of a Trey & company send-up.

There are likely no rules for choosing a costume album, because that would take away both the fun and the surprise. But, as Rick Moranis says in “Ghostbusters,” these are more guidelines than rules:

  • Has to fit the instrumentation. No keyboards means no Page, not happening.

  • Has to fit the voicing. Zeppelin works because Page can cover Robert Plant; Trey handles David Byrne and various members of the Velvet Underground with aplomb.

  • Has to be open to interpretation, also known as being jammable. While an already extended composition such as Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” might seem to be off the table, it’s made a few appearances in the last three tour set lists. But covering another jam band’s jams triggers layered references to Mick Jagger’s “I don’t have that much jam” lyrical lament, and is less likely.

Some ideas for the musically inclined betting fan:

Traffic, “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.” October 29, 2010 had “Light up or Leave Me Alone,” played in the same venue (the first time Phish played Boardwalk Hall). The ultimate teased clue. Infinitely jammable, especially the title track.

Steely Dan, “Aja.” The session musicians on the studio album are individually as deep and wide as the members of Phish themselves, and this would be fun.

Led Zeppelin, “Houses of the Holy.” “No Quarter” was the tease, this is the whole thing with “The Ocean” and “Song Remains the Same.” I would lose my mind.

Allman Brothers, “Eat A Peach.” So much room for exploration, so many fun references in the album art.

Rolling Stones, “Some Girls.” There are a few commercially successful songs mixed in with the completely out-of-genre tracks like “Faraway Eyes”. Then again, Phish goes bluegrass in between jams.

Also getting votes: Blues Traveller’s self-titled debut, Lou Reed’s “Rock and Roll Animal,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” (“Thunder Road” was played as a tribute to Clarence Clemons the night the Big Man loaded out).

Bottom line: it doesn’t matter. It promises to be a great night of music, and the surprise of an entire album only compounds the song-by-song surprise of a Phish show in general.