Obviously many songs in Phish's catalog have been played the same number of times. This series of blog posts will try to take a look at those songs that were played the same number of times and try to determine which of those is the "best" song to have that number. A quick note on the "best" designation: Like all subjective things, best will really depend on the person doing the picking. My definition for best will be a little bit of favoritism, personal reflection, what I believe to be popular opinion, and most Phishy of the songs being compared. Covers will be considered on equal ground as originals. In reality, it's a crapshoot.
Times Played: 121
Songs Under Consideration: Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, Guyute, Scent of a Mule
Another difficult competition between three songs that all have a lot of history. And even more so, all three songs are inherently "Phishy". BBFCFM is the original metal song in the repertoire. When debuted it was originally played in a set closer or encore role but has changed into more of a bust out recently. But it doesn't compete well with the other two songs on the list...it's a bit too much of a novelty. I'm a big fan of both Scent of a Mule (and its duel) and Guyute. The insertion of the Marimba Lumina into Mule bumps it up a bit but it really has to be Guyute. I'm a sucker for long songs with composed sections. And when the band nails it, everyone knows that they're in for a real treat.
Times Played: 119
Songs Under Consideration: The Curtain, Ghost
One important thing to note here: this is a Withless Curtain. Which really makes this no contest. Curtain is a wonderful song and I love it as a second set opener (especially with a > into Tweezer or Bowie). But there can't be any other choice here but Ghost. It's really unfair for it to go against any song that's not Tweezer or Bowie or another upper echelon song.
Times Played: 114
Songs Under Consideration: Tube, Moma Dance
Funk! Tube is probably the ultimate Phish-tease. When in 97 or 98 it was played, you had a good 8-9 minute funkfest usually. But since then it's gotten back to its 4 minute or so roots. And always leaves crowds wanting more and ruing when Trey comes back in with the closing licks. But then, at SPAC in 2013, there was a brief but realistic moment of hope that it was coming back. It may have only ended up being 7 minutes or so, but it happened! Moma Dance as a funk song and jam has always been well received and gives Fish a chance to stretch his vocals which is good in my book (he's pretty underrated when he's actually trying to sing). But I actually really prefer Black Eyed Katy over Moma (bring it back!) since it's all funk groove. I think that's enough in my book to push Tube to the top.
Times Played: 106
Songs Under Consideration: Halley's Comet, Mound
I really like Mound and would love to see it at a concert in the future. It's a great first set song and although it's not jammed out frequently (barely at all really) it still always brings a smile to my face. And in contrast to many older songs, it actually is getting played more in 3.0 than in the previous 14 years combined. Halley's, like Tube above, is probably the other main Phish-tease song. When Halley's is jammed, it has exceeded 20 minutes a handful of times but not since 1999. Additionally, the Hampton 97 version is viewed as a highwater mark by many in the community. So, although Halley's seems to be more in the "Type 1" wheelhouse currently, it has to get the pick here.
Winner: Halley's Comet
Times Played: 94
Songs Under Consideration: Mango Song, Makisupa Policeman
Makisupa Policeman. The first Phish original. As the only real reggae song in their catalog it stands as a one of a kind treat amongst the hundreds of possible songs played. Sure there's been some Marley covers through the years but I think it says a lot that the first song that the band played (and by extension, probably one of the first Tom and Trey wrote) is a reggae song. Mango Song will always have a special place in my heart since it was the first (along with Dog Log) encore I saw at the first night at IT. I liked the song before then but that certainly elevated it into the stratosphere. Very Phishy lyrics too. Just unbridled fun to sing and rock out to. All that, coupled with my relative dislike of all forms of reggae, make it the choice here.
Winner: Mango Song
Songs Under Consideration: Axilla, Paul and Silas, Twist
Not really a competition here at all. Axilla is a very fun rocker and Phishgrass is fun with Paul and Silas (and it kicked off an amazing set on Fall tour this year) but seriously? It has to be Twist.
Times Played: 86
Songs Under Consideration: Back on the Train, Birds of a Feather
Now this is a good head to head competition. I actually think both of these songs are pretty similar. Birds debuted on the Island Tour in 98 and was an immediate fan favorite. Back on the Train, in my opinion, started as a standard Type 1 song but in recent years has found its legs as a nice, usual set 1 short jam song. So, in current days, it seems like both of them usually run 8-9 minutes with Birds falling more on the rock scale and BOTT on the bluesy scale. I prefer blues so I'm going with Back on the Train but I'm sure there could easily be made arguments on the other side. And that's ok.
Winner: Back on the Train
Times Played: 82
Songs Under Consideration: La Grange, Peaches En Regalia
First cover only battle! Both songs are usually point perfect covers in the band's catalog and remain well within their ZZ Top and Zappa boundaries. Amazingly, La Grange has only been played 10 times since 1995 so it seems to have fallen out of favor a bit with the guys. Peaches, on the other hand makes a handful of appearances in most years (although none in 2013 yet, YEMSG maybe?). The fact that it's still played and that it was prominent i one of my favorite shows (6-18-94) elevates it to the top.
Winner: Peaches En Regalia
Times Played: 80
Songs Under Consideration: Carolina, Sleeping Monkey, Tela
Starting with Carolina, it's going to take a lot to get an a capella song chosen over a song with instruments so, although they're fun, it's not winning this competition. Sleeping Monkey and Tela though are two of my absolute favorites. Throughout the years, I think that Sleeping Monkey is one of the songs that the band bustouts in an encore or a set closer role when they know they've played a good show (I think the same thing about Rocky Top and Have Mercy). And Tela, the beautiful (and wrongfully accused) lady and most elusive of the Gamehendge saga. As a standalone, instead of as noted with Sleeping Monkey in the encore role, I think Tela has to win. I love the fact that it was, supposedly, the first song Trey wrote for someone else to sing. I think it's beautiful.
Times Played: 79
Songs Under Consideration: Jesus Just Left Chicago, Walk Away
The first Phish CD I was given (and thus, my entry into the Phish foray) was Slip Stitch and Pass so I immediately was blown away by the Wolfman's-> JJLC on that record. I've always been a large blues fan and the way Phish jams out the song a little bit with blues progressions always makes me happy. Walk Away is perfectly serviceable as a cover but really unless it's paired with Tweezer, it's not my favorite by any stretch. Jesus Just Left Chicago in a landslide.
Winner: Jesus Just Left Chicago
Ten more songs done, more to come shortly. Here's the summary so far: