The premise of 5-on-5 is simple: two fans get five tracks to prove their band is better than the other.
A lot can go into a short playlist, and we want to get you involved. Lyle and DPK used violence and blackmail to make sure Phish and Widespread Panic were up first, but we want to include every genre from every time period. Drop us a line if you and a friend want to take this on or you have a favorite band you’d love to see matched up with a nemesis.
DPK for Phish-
So it’s 1994 and mom’s a music teacher who won’t let me quit marching band unless I start playing guitar. I like to dance, but clubs aren’t for me. (How does one enjoy the combination of un-tss un-tss un-tss and meathead musk?) I hear about this band that throws enormous dance parties where the women have no bras and the weed flows like the river Ganges. I find the music silly at first, but after hearing the guitar player (Trey Anastasio) liquidate the solo from Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times”, I go to a show. Twenty years later I’ve seen Phish nearly 100 times.
Phish at Madison Square Garden
I saw Widespread Panic in Amsterdam with the late, great Michael Houser on guitar. I enjoyed the show, but Widespread Panic has never been my thing, and I also think Phish is an objectively better band. I have reviewed Widespread’s last two studio albums favorably, but like Widespread, nothing advances Phish’s career but playing concerts, hence every track here is live. Every track proves without a shadow of a doubt that Phish is a better band than Widespread Panic.
On New Year’s Eve 1999 during an especially cathartic moment of an eight hour set, a girl walked through the crowd with a sign that read: If this isn’t God, I don’t know what is. As a devout atheist, it is my firm belief that musical performances can be ecstatic religious ceremonies. Phish isn’t God, but they can and will tap into the Ur-energy of everyone at a concert. Also: Anastasio’s guitar sounds like an opera singer.
Technically a cover of Eumir Deodato’s version of Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” this track demonstrates Phish’s flawless ability to create dance music you can think about. Page McConnell’s work on the clavinet is downright dirty. What you can’t see here is after the main theme is played for the first time, Anastasio catches two glowsticks and plays his guitar with them. Can anyone in Widespread Panic play the guitar with glowsticks? On a related note: At my bachelor party this summer in Portsmouth Anastasio admitted he was in fact a Jedi. Any Jedis in WSP?
Since I come from band geeks, Phish’s obsession with practice and practice and practice has always impressed me. Which is also why comparisons to the Grateful Dead fall short. The Dead were one of the most important rock bands of the twentieth century, but they weren’t band geeks. Frank Zappa is a much more fitting comparison to Phish.
Since my mom is a music teacher, I’ve always had trouble with the premise many folks accept as dogma: songs must be four minutes. This cannot be true unless you deem a lot of Frank Zappa’s music shit, which displays nothing but ignorance. Zappa was a brilliant composer, but he was also a brilliant soloist who liked to stretch things out in the spur of the moment. To say jamming is bad is to say Zappa is bad. To say Phish is bad is to not understand how difficult this tune is to play.
A track from their latest album that I’ve included here for one reason: Trey shreds. I’ve never met a guitar geek who doesn’t fawn for such nasty riffage. Eat your heart out, Yngwie Malmsteen.
“YEM” has defined the jamband genre since it was penned in 1985. I include this version for several reasons. One is Rolling Stone called this show “one of the greatest concerts of the 90s.” Why? When you sell-out the world’s most famous arena without radio airplay or a massive marketing budget, you change the paradigm of the music industry. This tune contains every kind of jam known to man. They are as follows (in alphabetical order):
Bliss: Originally pioneered by one Jerome Garcia, halfway through this tune is a perfect example of Anastasio communicating pure joy with his signature put-your-hands-in-the-air lead licks. This initially repelled me from Phish and jamband music, but as I’ve grown older and life has become more complicated I relish simple messages like “We want you to be happy.” Ears: Start the track at the 11:00 minute mark and hear the band listening to each other to create a spontaneous happening. Funk: While not a funk band per se, no one can get a stadium boogieing like Phish. Jokes: The whole thing is a joke. The song, the band, the crowd. Everything. Spider Fingers: Check Anastasio just before the 11:00 minute mark. Trampolines: Can anyone in Widspread Panic play while bouncing on a trampoline?
I didn’t think so. Case closed: Phish is better than Widespread Panic.
Lyle for Widespread Panic-
WSP Raleigh 2005
100,000 Widespread Panic fans
WSP in Charlotte for NYE 2013