Phish’s 7/8/99 Merriweather “Fee”
By Matthew Bowers
With news coming today that the Large Hadron Collider had to be shut down due to a weasel chewing through a power cable, we thought it was only appropriate to dedicate this week’s Flashback Friday to what may be the only song ever written about a Weasel, Phish’s “Fee.”
Fee is one of those songs in Phish’s catalogue that is adored for it being so uniquely Phish. It’s a song about a weasel (Fee) who falls in love with a girl (Milly) who ends up having to kill a jealous chimpanzee (Floyd) in order to be with Fee. The story in itself is very Phishy. It isn’t a song the band plays often, once or twice a tour usually so it gives the tune a little extra magic when they decide to play it. Most versions throughout the years have been pretty straightforward, sticking to the format of the song and not adding any long jams. There are two exceptions, the first being in Prague on 7/5/98, and the second which we’ll be discussing today (and is criminally not talked about) was played on 7/8/99.
Not to take anything away from the Prague version which has a really fun jam, the VA Beach ’99 rendition has the whole band locked in and in top form. Speaking for myself, a long jam doesn’t really do anything for me unless it can keep me engaged and attentive through the whole thing. The jam in this Fee plays on several different themes and should keep any lover of improvisational Phish interested throughout the 16 minute jam that comes after the last chorus.
Doing what they do best and listening to each other with clear intent, the quartet never gets stuck on any one section for too long which I think is the clear path to a great Jam. None of them ever try to do too much, with Trey playing patiently and waiting for the rest of the band before driving the jam to a peak. There’s nothing incredibly flashy here, Trey doesn’t shred a thousand notes at a time but instead shows off his incredible tone by letting those extended notes hang out there create a beautiful space for the other guys. This is truly what the four headed monster is all about. The interplay throughout is the kind of stuff only a band that’s been playing together that long can pull off. Taking things from dreamy and ambient to psychedelic and soaring, this has a little bit of something for everyone and a solid groove throughout no less.
I’ll stop talking about it and let you listen for yourselves. Kudos to the brave Weasel that lost his life today, may he have all the Milly’s wherever he is now.