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Phish Halloween 2013: The Case for Led Zeppelin II

by Zac Cohen on October 18, 2013

Our Phish Halloween series continues with another cover possibility for the Atlantic City run later this month. This time, we'll take a look at Led Zeppelin II. Be sure to check out the previous installments where we discussed Bob Seger's Nine Tonight, Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life, Derek and the Dominos' Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

It's quite odd really that Phish never got around to covering a Led Zeppelin album during one of their previous Halloween costumes. The Zep were perhaps the biggest influence upon Phish as a band. Individually we know that Trey idolized Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Carlos Santana, and bands such as King Crimson and Genesis. Fish was also obsessed with Zappa (as well as John Bonham) but Mike and Page had more eclectic tastes that ran the gauntlet from Bluegrass and Dixieland Jazz through to The Grateful Dead. Led Zeppelin is likely one of the few bands that every single member of Phish would have known, loved and appreciated.

Of course Zeppelin's impact on Phish cannot be overstated. As much as Phish has always been an amalgamation of styles and genres, and indeed one of Phish's great achievements has been the successful integration of diverse styles into something unique and new, Phish is a rock and roll band. Rock was and remains their chosen mode of expression. Led Zeppelin were the biggest rock and roll band in the world as their majestic reign (1968-77) and outsized legacy coincided with Phish’s formative years.

Of course we have other reason to suspect that Led Zeppelin's second album could be on tap. Over the Summer, Phish played the inimitable "Heartbreaker" during their first night in Alpharetta, Georgia, segueing in and out of the classic rocker with its tell-tale riff impacting such songs as "Wilson, Makisupa Policeman, Chalkdust Torture and Tweezer." This recalled Summer 2000’s infamous "Moby Dick" show in Deer Creek, when Trey’s white whale (also off 2) was spotted throughout one of the band's most raucous sets of that Summer.

Although it comes off their first album, the Led Zeppelin classic "Good Times Bad Times" has been a staple of Phish concerts for years, often serving as a set or show-closing opportunity for Trey to engage in Page-inspired Pentatonic theatrics. “Ramble On” has also made several appearances over the years, most recently at the bands 10/30/2010 show, also at Boardwalk Hall, joining “Heartbreaker” and an incomplete “Thank You” in a quasi-Zeppelin set.

Earlier this summer it was reported that Trey had reached out to Peter Gabriel, inviting the vocalist to perform Genesis’ classic album The Lamb Dies Down on Broadway alongside Phish. No official word back from Gabriel, but for a number of reasons this collaboration, though a dream in many ways, seems unlikely.

But what if its a head-fake? Phish loves to play jokes with and against their fan-base, with this Summer being no different. To wit: Chicago’s “Harpua,” where the Second City Improv troupe was brought onstage to tell Phish how to play their material “The Right Way,” a not so subtle allusion to the fanbases never-ending fusillade of critique and chatter online and off. Of course Phish knows how to take criticism. And play against it. So maybe the Peter Gabriel news was a “planted” story. And instead Phish brings up Robert Plant, the irreplaceable voice and seductive stage presence central to Led Zeppelin, to assist them with their rendition of 2.

Why They Might Play It:

Because Led Zeppelin is as intrinsic to Phish’s DNA as any other band, probably more so. Almost every single Led Zeppelin album is a classic and the hard charging, at times mystical, intonations of 2 carry that dark, autumnal feel that traditionally accompanies Phish’s Fall Tour. All in, Phish has covered most of the album’s tracks over the years and “Whole Lotta Love’s” psychedelic middle section famously features a Theremin, an instrument keyboardist Page McConnell keeps on stage despite not having deployed it in over a year.

Why They Might Not Play It:

Led Zeppelin and Phish were both, at times, the biggest rock and roll band in the world but, despite this indisputable fact, Phish’s success remained under the radar while Led Zeppelin dominated the rock scene for a full decade.

Doubtful that Robert Plant would step onto the stage with Phish for a Halloween show. Unless Jimmy Page came along...


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