The Best and Worst Phish Guests
The 10 Best Guests
OK, let’s get to the good stuff. First let me give an honorable mention to Chief Jim Billie from 12/30/99. His appearance gave Big Cypress some additional mythic points, like an all night concert on native land at the turn of the millennium needed more. However, when’s the last time you sat down and listened to “Big Alligator?” Fun, but just out of the top 10.
10) Tom Marshall – many performances
Tom should rank higher here just based on how much fun his appearances have been over the years. He had a great role during holiday runs for a few years where he’d come out during a “Harpua” or “Forbin’s” and sing some bizarre song: “Shine” on 12/31/95, “Champagne Supernova” on 12/29/96, and “I Could Walk 500 Miles” on 12/30/97. Other notable performances were The Who’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” on 10/8/99 (He got to sing, “My name is Tommy.”) and – after a long build up implying it would be Springsteen coming out – “Born to Run” on 7/16/99.
Why is he ranked so low? It’s not because of the music. It’s just that calling Tom Marshall a guest is kind of weird when he’s about as close to being a member of the band as you can get without being one of the four. That’s the same reason why Jeff Holdsworth’s 2003 showing doesn’t make the list despite providing a glimpse into what the alternate universe Phish where he never left the band would have sounded like.
9) B. B. King – the last three songs of the first set, 2/24/03
Ask anyone who wasn’t there. The B. B. King section of the show is kind of cool, with Phish playing music that they don’t normally play quite effectively. There are very few concerts that are better if you didn’t attend than if you did. Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009 comes to mind – in that case it was due to sound levels being too low in the oversold lawn to actually be able to able to hear the music – as another one. If you were at the show, give it another listen. It’s better than you remember.
8) P Funk – “P-Funk Medley”, 12/30/03
Pure fun! That’s the best description of this. After a quick run-through of some of their funky songs, this evolved into a vacuum led jam. What makes this even better is that they managed to tie this into the set, putting it in the middle of a “Makisupa.” It was just a very long keyword which might have been even better than hearing “Touch Me.”
7) Bruce Springsteen – last three songs first set 6/14/09
As mentioned above, Phish played a joke in the pre-Oswego show that Bruce was going to come on stage. A decade later it happened for real. What makes the section so strong is that each song has a different feel. “Mustang Sally” feels like Phish with a guest vocalist. “Bobby Jean” is Bruce Springsteen and the Phish Street Jam. Finally for “Glory Days,” they all work together to form an interesting coequal combination. It started off rough but ends up being led to a pretty intense peak. It’s too bad this got removed from Live Phish at Springsteen’s request.
6) Phil Lesh – last three songs and encore 9/17/99
Phil also ran the risk of overstaying but ultimately two things worked in his favor. Everyone was still excited over the Warfield run a few months previous and the show – like Bob Weir’s appearance – was in the Bay Area. In addition to the music he played, Phil gets bonus points for actually jumping on the trampolines during “You Enjoy Myself.”