by Kevin Hogan (@radiator9987)
Phish has been hit or miss with the many guests they have welcomed to join them over the years. Sometimes sit-ins are complete chaos, like George Clinton’s appearance in 2003, and some sit-ins, like Alisson Krauss joining the band for If I could, are just straight readings of a song. Then there are the nights where guests pushed the band to another level. These are, in no particular order, my take on the 9 best guests the band ever had.
1. Carlos Santana
Stowe Performing Arts Center, Stowe, VT
Summer 1992 saw Phish on their first major tour opening for Santana and also one of 2 sit-ins by Carlos. Joined by Karl Perazzo and Raul Rekow, they ran through YEM, Llama, and Funky Bitch to close their set.
2. Neil Young and Willie Nelson
New World Music Theatre, Tinley Park, IL
Toward the end of a monster Runaway Jim, Neil Young joins the band for a feedback-laden jam that is resolved when Young steered the band into their first performances of Down By the River. They were then joined by Willie Nelson for a run-through of classics including Moonlight In Vermont and Will The Circle Be Unbroken.
3. Bela Fleck
Saltair Pavilion, Salt Lake City, UT
The first of 4 sit-ins Bela did between 1993 and 1997, this one finds him joined by fellow Flecktones Victor Wooten and Futureman for a wild second set that included a Llama and David Bowie> MLBJ> David Bowie.
4. Les Claypool, John McEuen & Larry LaLonde
The Aladdin Theatre, Las Vegas, NV
The infamous Harpua encore that included Claypool singing Wildwood Weed, I Want To Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart (with Yodelling Cowgirls), and Fishman with 4 Elvis’ singing Suspicious Minds if Phish at their playful best.
5. Phil Lesh and Warren Haynes
Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mt View California
Toward the end of the 199 Summer tour, at Shoreline, Phil’s home court, Lesh joined the band for You Enjoy Myself. In true Prankster fashion, Phil was given his own trampoline and joined Mike for a bass duet instead of the traditional vocal jam. Wolfman’s Brother and Phish’s first cover of Cold Rain and Snow, one of Garcia’s favorite songs, closed the set. The psychedelic masterpiece Viola Lee Blues was tapped for their encore with Warren Haynes joining in the madness.
6. Del McCoury Band and Wynonna Judd
AmSouth Amphitheatre, Antioch, TN
Robbie McCoury, Ronnie McCoury, and Sam Bush join the band for Harry Hood before Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Mike Bub, and Jason Carter also emerge for a quick run-through of a few bluegrass standards including the debut of Hold Whatcha Got. Wynonna Judd then joins the madness for Phish’s only non acapella version of Freebird, telling the crowd she is celebrating 1 year since her divorce while drooling over Trey.
7. BB King
Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, NJ
Phish has attempted to play every genre of music with mixed results. Oftentimes playing straight blues is a little flat for the band, but the appearance of B B King was far from the case. Trey had played with King and the Roots for All Access: Front Row. Backstage. Live! In 2001 and obviously was a student of King’s phrasing and style allowing the band to take Everyday I Have The Blues for a 20+ minute ride
8. Bill Kreutzmann
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO
As part of Phish’s triumphant return to Red Rocks in 2009, legendary Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kruetzman joined the band for a 5 song run to close the second set, including a rare drum duet between Undermind and 7 Below.
9. Bob Weir
Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, TN
Weir appeared halfway through the second set. After a few minutes of Bobby tuning up, we were treated to a combination of both Phish and Dead tunes to close the set. Things had come full circle with Bobby giving Trey the lead vocal on Playing In The Band and taking the vocal for Miss You himself. It was a fitting tribute to the keeper of the flame, Bob Weir, and a passing of that torch.