A little over a year ago, the possibility of a Phish reunion was the stuff of parking lot rumor and message board postings. When they took the stage at Hampton back in March and played those opening notes to “Fluffhead,” 2009 officially became the year of Phish.

Somehow, between jamming with Bruce Springsteen at Bonnaroo and playing consistently sold-out nights, they managed to record a new album with old friend Steve Lilywhite. Joy is their first studio outing since the weary Undermind back in 2004.

Phish’s studio track record has been fairly strong and Joy could be the best of them yet. It’s a concise collection of tunes that finds the band working without obligation or expectation. Most of all, they genuinely sound like they’re having fun on new rockers like “Backwards Down the Number Line” and Mike Gordon’s tropical-jam “Sugar Shack.” There’s also a prevalent nostalgia and wistful quality to songs like “Joy,” where the band seems to address the fans directly with the line, “this is your song too…”

Phish are hosting their first festival since Coventry – three days over the Halloween weekend in Indio, California. There has been a lot of speculation as to what the “Musical Costume” will be for their first post-hiatus Halloween.

In the past, Phish have covered Remain in Light, The White Album, Dark Side of the Moon, Quadrophenia, and The Velvet Underground’s Loaded. A lot of folks are expecting a Grateful Dead set for their first California Halloween, or possibly a Doors record, but I put together a list of five albums that I would like to see Phish perform…

1. Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers
It’s easy for me to imagine a barber shop quartet rendition of “Big Black Car” and a jammed-out “Kanga Roo,” but the thought of Paige bringing down the house with a solo reading of “Holocaust” gives me goosebumps.
Why they probably won’t do it: It’s a little too straightforward a collection of songs. Also, a bazillion Phish fans could swarm the upcoming Big Star reunion shows and turn it into a patchouli-scented riot of unprecedented proportion.

2. Pink Floyd – Meddle
Just how sick would that funky-ass bass jam part in the middle of “Echoes” be?! Also “San Tropez” is an absolute given.
Why they probably won’t do it: Too easy. They’ve done a Floyd album already, and besides, it would be too damn obvious.

3. Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street or Sticky Fingers
“Loving Cup” has been in Phish’s sets for years. Either album would be a fine candidate. They could bring out The Giant Country Horns for “Bitch” and I can only imagine what the boys could do with “Rocks Off.”
Why they probably won’t do it: I actually think either album could be a possibility.

4. Grateful Dead – Blues for Allah
While there has been a lot of talk about Phish covering a Dead album (and according to some people, Bobby and Phil will be guesting), I can’t really see them doing it. However, if the boys did a Grateful Dead album, their 1975 concept album Blues for Allah would be a sound choice. It’s a brief album of fan favorites, instrumental interludes, and bouncy jazzy jams.
Why they probably won’t do it: It’s just too over the top. While members of Phish have collaborated with members of the Dead in various side projects, Phish were dogged by Grateful Dead comparisons for years.

5. Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps
Phish would get to show off their acoustic chops with “Thrasher” and “Powderfinger” and kick out the jams with “Sedan Delivery” which could end up into a furious reprise of “Tweezer” or something. Think about it; it could be brilliant. I would have picked Zuma, but no one needs to cover “Cortez the Killer” again.
Why they probably won’t do it: It’s actually a pretty short album and Mike Gordon singing “Welfare Mothers”…it might be better to put on a list of why they shouldn’t do it.

Other albums I wrote down…

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
The Monks – Black Monk Time
Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland
Kiss – Dynasty
Black Sabbath – Sabotage

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Ben Wiser

Test of the Boomerang is an in-depth exploration of some of the best material found on the Live Music Archive.

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