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Wednesday, August 22

Editorial: Why The Bill Graham YEM Is Historic

Phish has plenty of songs in their lengthy catalogue.  All a mix-mash of meticulous compositions, ballads, butt-rock, jam-vehicles, the goofy theatrical songs, and then the covers.  In one way or another they all have criss-crossed at some juncture with different time signatures and more funk, less cowbell, more space, and even some vacuum.  They each have their own incarnation; not within the song itself but in the actual performance.  I have never heard the same song played the same way twice, never.  That being said their most well known composition is “You Enjoy Myself”.  
As their most played song it wears the sacred crown as Phish’s trademark rock song.  Encompassing every feature a Phish song can showcase it’s the equivalent of a Ford Explorer with all the extras, I’m talking sun roof, moon roof, heated leather seats, cruise control, tint and trim…YEM is a slice of Phish and their music, theatrics, vocal harmonies, quirky lyrics and amazing compositional styles all wrapped in one complex, yet common song.
Once played almost every three shows or so YEM of late has become somewhat of a special bustout, at least over the past two years.  While it was played 15 times in 2010 it has only been played nine times since.  Frankly it’s even more of a treat to hear than ever before.   Sunday night in San Francisco they performed might I say one of the most intricate and soulful YEM’s since returning as a band in 2009.  From the beautifully laid out organ and guitar back and forth that roll like waves leading over the building snare drums that gently drop into a soft and almost spacey ambient backdrop.  Page’s piano licks teasingly pulled the fans from the depths below the congruency of the two guitarists and dropped us seamlessly into a playground of sonic bliss.  After three nights of Phish this YEM wasn’t just well played, with boisterous bass rifts being dropped like water balloons over the swaying crowd, it also was one of the most well placed YEM’s in a setlist.  Drawing the steamily joyful crowd to a pinnacle of ambient climatic treachery.  The deeply dark and driving composition with Trey holding his Languedoc on the same note for what seemed like eons, before colliding together into the sparse and bizarre lyrics we have spent years dissecting.
Mike, doing his part, held the bass down, and Page screeching his organ like a record being scratched and spun around a turntable, all-the-while, the trampolines came out! As one unit performing a super-funk infused synched up jam- our two front men and every soul literally bouncing around the room. Page filling the gaps as the limitless song reached its mirage like peak.  Trey graced this portion of the opus, noodleing out licks that incited the room to clap the rhythm while a minimalistic jam ensued, built and then dispersed into pure soul. Bleeding heart blues-southern-rock-soul.  Then as if they were all connected together as one, Gordon hit the effects on his bass, filling the room with heart stopping baritone beats- Fishman complimented their drum & bass jam with more cowbell while Page added his out of this world overlay. Gordo, now slapping his bass, mastering the instrument as he went along, they built and built something for ages, almost brick by brick and let it ride smoothly out- until like a soda shook up, exploded out over the crowd in their eerie and tell-tale vocal jam ending with the band smiling, bowing together as if a journey had ended, and in some ways it had.  YEM was back and Phish while not quite over for the night, put all they had into this masterpiece and with that they left the stage- a peak among the hills of San Francisco; An historic YEM.
Words: Sammy Martin
 © Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication