Words by DJ Gravy
It seems you can find reggae obsessives just about everywhere. You may not think of Jamaica when you see masses of (mostly) white kids at a jamband show or festival but there is an undeniable connection beyond just those donning dreadlocks. Phish happen to be the biggest touring act on this circuit (and one of the highest grossing bands on tour ever.) They’ve always incorporated reggae into their widely versatile sound since their genesis in 1983 and their crowd see a cultural connection that could be overlooked but definitely holds some validity.
Back in Vermont in 1985 while covering a Grateful Dead song at their 11th show ever, they had a “Yardie” who went by Jah Roy performing with them calling them “The Pahish” flipping “Fire On The Mountain” into “Fire Up The Ganja” which earned cult-ish status amongst Phish tape collectors. Several of Phish’s originals like “Makisupa Policeman” and “Harry Hood” are heavy on the guitar skank and clearly stand out as their Reggae jams.
Last night in Manchester, New Hampshire, Phish covered the classic “Night Nurse” as a tribute to Gregory Isaacs who passed away just a day and a half before this show. Phish-head blogs are filled with message board comments like “Lots of great artists pass away who don’t get Phish tributes, it’s cool that they did one for Gregory.”
In ’09 a compilation “Dub Like An Antelope” came out featuring Reggae artists Toots, Tessanne Chin, Rootz Underground, Tarrus Riley feat. Yellowman (below) and several others covering Phish songs. While it got little notice in both Phish and Reggae circuits, for a potentially disastrous project, it actually wasn’t that bad.
With that being said, “Dub Like An Antelope” wasn’t the first of its kind. Very likely to have been inspired by Burning Spear’s cover of “Estimated Prophet,” back in the 90’s there were two volumes of “Reggae Celebrates The Grateful Dead” that actually has Gregory Isaacs covering the “Dead” classic, “Sugaree.”