Set the gear shift…
My current relationship with the band Phish involves popping on a show at around 3:30/4:00 o’clock in the morning, the ideal time in order to get the Second Set going by sunrise. Working over night is very surreal. My car’s a hot wheel driving through a model train set in those wee hours…hours when even the bums sleep. Who would’ve known. This morning around 3 am while sitting on the steps of the Ben Franklin Institute and staring at the Philadelphia World War I Memorial, it hit me: Phish has some great car/driving references in their songs. On the day where they open the first of a two night stand in Philly, I’ve decided to share them.
Great metaphor about a love interest. I’ve always been a fan of this particular live version of the song. This was the first Phish song I liked. When I first heard the band it was on an episode of Beavis and Butthead where they were making fun of the music video for ‘Down With Disease.’ I remember listening to Hoist at a record store and not getting it. It wasn’t until stumbling upon the legendary Junta that I fell in love with this band. ‘Contact’ is a track from Junta and it perfectly expresses a personal favorite trait, how the band can be silly and serious at the same time.
Another metaphor (most songs are) with nothing to do about driving but it’s hard not putting this one on the list since the song is called: ‘Driver.’ I always harass my brother to cover songs for me during his summertime weekly acoustic gig at the Dead Dog Saloon in Sea Isle City. This is one of those songs. Guess it may be kind of selfish to ask. I don’t think the drunk sing-a-long crowds would be too receptive of this rare masterpiece of a tune. I don’t even think your casual Phish fan would want this requested over most of the other five hundred or so songs you could request from the Vermont quartet’s catalog. I understand. Maybe it’s the context surrounding the request, if I wait for him to play a more serene environment like a Sunday Morning Pancake Breakfast or a Rural Wine Tasting there’s the possibility this request may work better. Who knows. It doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ll request it. This is one of my favorite songs of all-time. Period. If you want to understand my life, listen to the lyrics. And to my brother, the musician…if you’re reading this and you want to play a song for me…this is my number one request!
I always love hearing the line about hanging “those nasty flyers on all the buildings in town.” There’s something very 90’s about it. Can you envision somebody doing that these days? I can’t. Just as much as I have a hard time thinking about coming of age in the early 90’s and wondering what life would be like if the social media of today was in existence.
I drove down the road once and hit a possum. It was while joy-riding with some friends back in high school. There’s a good chance we were listening to this version on cassette while it happened. There’s a better chance we were getting stoned while we were listening. Now to harken my inner-Phish geekiness for a second, I remember Phish playing this song almost every show after they got back from their hiatus in ’09 and fans complaining about it. I never understood why they complained. This song is without a doubt a Phish Top 10-er. If Phish played this song every show, I’d be happy. This is a good “riding down the road” song. Watching this clip as I write this makes me want to get in my car right now at this moment and go re-live the joy-riding experiences from my youth.
5.) Twenty Years Later
This track is from the recent era of Phish. I was there when they debuted the song back at Jones Beach in 2009 and remember hearing a cheer when Trey said the line: “I once didn’t stop for seven red lights,” which is the only driving reference in the song. If you asked me, the song is about how none of us are perfect in life. I was also at the show from where this version was played and must say it is rather spectacular.
6. Slave to the Traffic Light
While ‘Driver’ is my song, ‘Slave to the Traffic Light’ is my anthem. And I may not be the only one. The license plate holders have been a popular ‘lot item’ for years. It does not surprise me that this closes out many Phish shows being that the traffic situation is often absurd leaving them? Whether you’re following the band around the country or listening to them as you cruise through the Twilight Zone at the break of dawn, this one’s for you.
(fwiw—Down With Disease, the song I first heard on Beavis and Butthead, didn’t quite get, and mentioned earlier in this post…has become my other Phish anthem over the years)
7. Cars, Trucks, Buses
An instrumental reminiscent of the mid-90’s acid jazz popular at the time when it was composed. A great aspect of this clip is seeing all the people Phish brought together during the massive festivals they used throw 20 years ago. The term ‘Cars. Trucks, Buses’ makes me think of the signs on the New Jersey Turnpike and it would not surprise me if this instrumental was named those signs.
Phish is the greatest cover band of all-time. I had a tough time picking between this song and Roses are Free (which has the line “get in your car and cruise the land of the brave and free”) but to me ‘Roses are Free’ is a Ween song and Ween is a band I like as much, if not more, than Phish. The line: “you got a nice shiny sports car/ you keep it very clean” is what gets this song on my list. The Mustangs (probably not named after the iconic American car model being they are a calypso band from the Bahamas) recorded the original version. One of my other brothers (not the musician) is a fan of this one and usually goes nuts when the band plays it as their shows. It definitely is the type of song that will inspire you to put on the cabana wear; an attire not uncommon to the average, ‘lawnboy’-ing Phishhead.