The Lost Art of the Encore
One element that shows from the most recent summer tour lacked was a powerful encore. In the past, Phish took advantage of the encore to leave their final mark on a night of music. However, recently they have become predictable add-ons to the show, that miss the entire point of an encore. Generally speaking, the point of an encore is to satisfy the audience with one last song from the band. Other than a few occasions this summer, the encores lacked the powerful impact that was present in the encores of the past. As a result, the effect was often lost, and the exclamation point that used to cap off the show was missing. Today, we will look back at some of the most memorable Phish encores.
The most common encores this summer were “Tweezer Reprise”, “Loving Cup”, “Frankenstein” and “Suzy Greenberg”. Very little was added to the show during the encore, aside from a few shows worth mentioning. Burgettstown featured an encore, that was as Jon put it “the train-wreck part of the show”. Not exactly a “good” encore in the normal sense of the word, but the Phish-fun was brought back that night. The Fox show in St. Louis saw perhaps my favorite encore, featuring “The Star-Spangled Banner, McGrupp And The Watchful Horsemasters, While My Guitar Gently Weeps” as the close-out. “McGrupp” had not been played in over 40 shows, and was a powerful way to finish the evening. Other notable encores were Camden, Darien, Gorge night 1, Red Rocks night 4 as well as a few others.
What lacked from the encores, other than the exceptions mentioned above, was a lasting effect. After Burgettstown, everyone was left talking about what had just occurred, even if it was the result of a ‘mistake’. Just being themselves, they crafted a memorable Phish experience that reminded us of the good old days. Being themselves is something that was often left out of the encores this summer, as too many covers were repeated, too many times. All too often this summer were people correctly able to predict the encores, diminishing the effect, and the mystery that makes Phish unique.
Here are some of the best encores from over the years.
1997.12.30 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY - Carini > Black-Eyed Katy > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Frankenstein
This is considered by many to be the best encore ever. Featuring some wild stage antics, the band closed out this show unleashing the energy that had been brewing throughout the night. The band tears apart the first three songs before launching into “Frankenstein”, segueing perfectly from one to the next. Trey has Kuroda turn down the lights, while the glowstick war continues over the delay jam. Trey and Fish start a ‘ritual dance’ at the front of the stage, before Fish gets on the vacuum. Continuing the loop, the band finally picks back up and finishes “Frankenstein”. An epic moment in Phish history.
Listen to “Frankenstein” from this amazing encore.
1996.12.6 Aladdin Theater, Las Vegas, NV - Harpua > Wildwood Weed > Harpua > I Want To Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart > Harpua > Suspicious Minds > Harpua, Suzy Greenberg
Another famous encore considered to be one of the all-time best. Featuring Larry LaLonde, Brian Mantia and Les Claypool from Primus. John McCuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt band, as well as four Elvis impersonators, the band and their guests took the audience on a wild rendition of “Harpua”. Telling the story of Jimmy, as Jon dueled the Elvii, the journey unfolds and finishes with a killer “Suzy”. Fitting with the surroundings, the band brought on a cabaret-like group of performers onto the stage. This encore was a Phishy experience for all and capped the show off with an unforgettable Phish moment in their first trip to Vegas.
Listen to the first part of “Harpua” featuring Larry and Les.
1994.4.21 Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, NC - Drums > Jam > All Along the Watchtower
In the spring of ’94, Dave Matthews Band opened some shows for Phish, with its members appearing in several jams. In Winston-Salem, the encore began as a drum duel with Carter (Dave’s drummer) and Jon. Unlike many drum jams, this one exhibits the incredible talents of both drummers, as they rhythmically complement each other. With Jon playing the beat, and Carter providing layers of percussion, the two gradually thicken the rhythm. The interplay is amazing, as neither drummer seems to miss a beat the entire time. The way the two listen to each other gives the impression that they have been playing together for years.
Slowly, the instruments join the band. LeRoi locks in with the rhythm and laces it with his trademark fills. The rhythmic ping-pong continues as Trey starts to shred on top before joining in with the rest in the percussive jam. The full band creates a melody, somewhere in between Phish and DMB, making for a great mix of sounds. The layers then unravel into the intro of “All Along the Watchtower” with Dave on vocals. Trey absolutely tears apart the solo leading into another full on Phish-DMB jam with elements from both bands. This encore is one of my all-time favs.
Listen to “Drums>Jam” with Phish and DMB.
1998.8.9 Virginia Beach Amphitheatre, Virginia Beach, VA - Terrapin Station
Another well known encore, with an incredibly memorable lasting effect. Until this point, Phish had the task of constantly trying to distance themselves from the Grateful Dead. Leaving their Dead covers far behind, the band had spent years trying to break the connection that was held by so many. However, on the third anniversary of Jerry’s passing, the band decided to pay homage to the group that had paved the way for them. After delivering one of the best shows of the summer, the band left the stage after performing “Hello My Baby”. Rumors had swirled earlier in the day of some sort of Jerry tribute, but as the encore approached these rumors seemed to be long-forgotten. Then, as Trey began the instantly recognizable “Lady with a Fan” intro, a statement was made. No longer overshadowed by the band that created the jam-band touring model, Phish paid tribute to their fallen hero with an incredible rendition of the Dead’s masterful composition. An incredibly emotional moment for the band and the fans,and one of the most powerful encores the band has ever performed.
Listen to “Terrapin Station”.
What is your favorite Phish encore? Post it in the comments section!
Here’s the “Carini” video from 12.30.97 at Madison Square Garden.