Alright folks, we are about to embark upon assembling ten of the finest renditions of perhaps our favorite song in the entire world, the Phish epic, Harry Hood.
This is a song that is really definitive of the song structure that Phish became known for in the early days. Some call it a serial song as it is akin to progressing through serial numbers, but most often folks refer to this type of song with several composed sections and improv sections as the two distinctions, the “composed stuff” and the “jam.” The idea is they meander from section to section like wandering from place to place, environment to environment.
Harry Hood starts out as a reggae groove with a couple minor chords, beginning the song with a darker color, then weaving in and out of a catchy chord progression and a dirty-ass dark guitar riff, until finally it crescendos and resolves to the floaty happy place that is the end jam. The song typically concludes with the boys improvising in a pretty basic major key jam that builds and builds until the roof comes off and your arm hair feels like it’s falling out.
I should note that this is actually the second iteration of this list and with Phish having played it 258 times; it might not be the very last. Nevertheless, we’re getting closer to nailing it down. But enough of the introduction already, you all know the story and the song, so just let’s get to the damn list, right?
10. 12/31/1998 – MSG, New York, NY
This is a fairly unique rendition in that the into part is improvised and very eerie, which in the later years seemed more and more rushed – typical of most of the composed stuff in later years. Also, fed up with the glowstick war, but hoping for something green and glowy, the crowd successfully connected hundreds of the sorter glowrings to weave a gigantic “glowsnake” through the floor of the Garden. This one also gets a little favoritism here, because this was part of a hilarious trip including but not limited to fake tickets, Tom Marshall’s parents, skybox seats and lots of Jagermeister. READ ON for Rupert’s top nine versions of Harry Hood…
9. 4/18/1992 – Stanford, Palo Alto, CA
At first, I almost nixed this one from the list, because I remembered thinking it was sort of overrated due to the Linus and Lucy jam (a.k.a., the Charlie Brown theme). I hadn’t possessed a copy since an old tape, so I tracked it down and listened to it again a few times. It’s not the tightest or most raging Hood out there, but definitely worthy of a spot on the list. Perhaps listeng to the tape over and over again did some damage, but the noodling and teasing of the Charlie Brown theme is fun and makes this Hood a classic for sure.
8. 6/22/2000 – Amsouth Amphitheatre Antioch, TN
This modern Harry Hood comes in the form of a Dog Faced Boy sandwich with the tail end of the jam bringing some of Nashville’s finest pickers onstage. The band and their new friends delivered a bluegrass hoedown jam that kicked off a great night of bluegrass surprises.
7. 8/17/1997 – The Great Went, Limestone, ME
This oft cited “best ever” Hood is definitely an epic, but we think it’s partially due to the introduction of the glowstick war. Don’t get me wrong, I love this one musically and have listened to it probably 100+ times, but it’s the history that makes this one special. Any recording will illustrate a crowd roar unlike just about any crowd roar in any capacity, be it sports, concerts, or even tractor pulls (I couldn’t think of anything else), and it comes at a bit of a random part of the song. A keen historian knows that it’s the glowsticks coming out for a truly visual spectacle. While the glowstick war became a bit of a pain in the ass as they hurt like hell and make lots of annoying noises during the music, there is little denying that they look freaking sweet.
Here’s a cool slideshow set to the end jam from the Great Went with some really tremendous pictures. You gotta love Trey’s stoner moment at the end. “Keep thowing those things up in the air, cause it looks amazing. You have no idea. Go get some more of those things man.”
6. 10/20/94 – Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, FL
There must be something in the water down in Florida that makes the band want to let Harry loose. Just three days before the famous A Live One version, the band released this mammoth version. In fact, scanning through the Almanac, one reviewer actually jokes that they think Phish mixed up their notes, because they picked the wrong Florida Harry Hood to include on A Live One.
Have you ever heard the Eric Clapton quote to the effect of, “Playing a guitar solo is the art of falling down and landing on your feet?” Well, here is the perfect example. Take it from our fearless leader Scotty B…
“At the three minute mark the band members are fully Akimbo, and could be playing as tight as they’ve ever played. It is at this point that something happens that changes this Hood, and brings it into another level, Trey plays a note which clearly doesn’t fit the normal realm of Harry Hood. It is the most beautifully dissonant note I have ever heard, and this crowd is behind me. As soon as that note is hit, the crowd explodes. Then all hell breaks loose, as Trey enters all new terrain and the band swiftly follows.”
5. 10/23/94 – The Band Shell, Gainesville, FL
The only reason this one isn’t a stronger contender for a higher ranking is that we have all listened to it to death. This is the probably the most widely known (for VERY good reason) Hood ever played as it was featured on the live release, A Live One. This Hood illustrates the “building” for Harry Hood, which the song is so well known. Also, Trey makes cool use of feedback and distortion to build the tension before releasing into the final ascent. While it often takes a serious listening hiatus to bring this one back in the repertoire for Phish fans, there is absolutely no denying its place on this list.
4. 12/30/1995 – MSG, New York, NY
The 12/30/95 Hood is a great example of the ’95-’96 sound of the tune. The distinction I always notice is that in the catchy chord section Trey often uses a Flanger effect. This provides a nice contrast to the crunchy distortion leading up to the Thank You Mr. Minor verse. The first minutes of the jam are nice and warm with the crowd driving the band by clapping perfectly in time (for once). All in all, there’s nothing gimmicky here, but it’s beautiful and clean with Page stepping out more than most Hood jams. I’d bet five dollars that from Trey’s building repetitive riff around the 10:30 mark until the end, you’ll all have goosebumps (P.S., I just moved this up 4 spots).
3. 2/4/93 – Providence Performing Arts Center, Providence, RI
Are you sensing the theme here? Throughout ‘93, Trey was at his pinnacle of the rock guitar god phase. It wasn’t about the effects, loops and other gizmos, as much as it was about shredding. The nice fluffy ones are good too, but this is yet another screaming version loaded with energy. Also, the best Hoods often have a common element, which is that Trey will create a melody line or theme in the improvisation, which he repeats and alters throughout the jam, ultimately using it to build the tension and rocket into the high notes for the climax. This is a great example of one of those.
2. 3/31/93 – Roseland Theatre, Portland, OR
Kicking it off with Mike teasing the Pink Panther Theme in the intro and Trey summoning up the Simpsons, it’s clear that this ‘93 version is a treat from the get go. This gem, like so many others from the era, exhibits very tight improvisation across the board and Trey forgoing his Languedoc in favor of the M-16.
1. 12/31/93 – The Centrum, Boston, MA
It’s only fitting. This might just be the greatest show of them all. Ten years from the the start of their career, Phish held nothing back and delivered a handful of all-time favorites. The improvisational portion of this New Years Eve Hood perfectly exemplifies the transcendence from the quiet tranquil beginning to an absolutely towering climax. If I had to choose just one song only to listen to while trapped on a desert island for eternity, this is it hands down.
How does your list compare to Rupert’s? Leave us a comment telling us all about your favorite version(s) of Phish’s Harry Hood.