by Mockingbird Foundation Volunteer Chris Glushko
(Note: Mockingbird Foundation volunteers often participate in Type II Cast Phish podcasts. For this particular episode, we thought we would cross-post it to the Phish.net audience to allow them to chime in and play along. Special thanks to Steve Olker for producing Type II Cast. As always, if you enjoy the content here, please donate to The Mockingbird Foundation. Plus, don't forget to preorder The Phish Companion, 3rd Edition.)
If you’re reading this, you probably consider yourself somewhat of a Phish nerd—someone who gains an unhealthy amount of pleasure in discussing best songs, shows, sets, venues, cities, lyrics, compositions, recordings, jams, lights, and more. With that said, we decided to hold the ultimate Phish nerdgasm, a 64-team March Madness style tournament to determine the best Phish jam of all time. Now, this is nothing new to the Phish blogosphere. We’ve all seen Phish March Madness brackets before, and I’m sure we’ll see them again. But we wanted to make ours just a little different. We did so by taking ourselves way too seriously. And I knew that if there was one person to take on this project with, it was fellow Phish.netter, Mockingbird Foundation volunteer, and list-maker extraordinaire, Steve Paolini.
At first, Steve and I tried picking the best 64 jams of all time. That proved to be an exercise in futility. Just try to name the best 64 jams ever. I dare you. You’ll most likely end up with a battle of 1995 vs. 1997 with an eternal amount of Ghosts and Bathtub Gins. So, we figured we needed to set some ground rules.
Rule #1: The tournament will cover 1993 – 2012 and each year must have at least two entries (automatic qualifiers)
This rule gave us some diversity from different eras and made sure years like 1996 and 2009 at least had some representatives in the big dance. It also led to some brutal arguments over what jams received the automatic qualifier from each year. More on this in the podcast.
Rule #2: No more than five versions of a single song
Let’s call this the “Ghost Rule.” We wanted as much diversity and interesting matchups in this tournament as possible. And with only 64 spots available, nearly half of the entries might have been Ghost, Gin, and Tweezer without this rule.
Rule # 3: No more than two versions of a single song from one year
This came into play when looking at 1995 YEMs, 1995 Mike’s Songs, and 1994 Tweezers. Once again, diversity was the goal.
Rule #4: Segues are permitted, using common sense. However, all songs in the segue count toward the yearly and total song limits
This rule is pretty simple. When you talk about the 7/22/97 show, you talk about the DWD->Mike’s, not the DWD or the Mike’s. The same holds true for the 12/29/95 Bathtub Gin->The Real Me->Bathtub Gin. We needed to make it clear that combinations count.
Rule #5: No limit on the number of qualifiers from each year
We felt the rules we created already gave us enough diversity, so why penalize 1995 and 1997 even more.
Rule #6: No more than one entry per show
Let’s call this the Big Cypress rule.
Now that we had our ground rules together, it was time to make the bracket. Over the next three weeks, we put together a list of more than 150 jams from 1993 – 2012. We listened to all of them—every single one. At first, we agreed on most entries. But things soon got ugly. We found ourselves in a struggle to protect our favorite jams and make sure they made it into the tournament. Countless texts and emails ensued. We were two grown men—both with families and careers—who were treating this project like 10 year old boys arguing Manning vs. Brady. It was great. Once we nailed down the 64 entries, we loosely seeded the jams, focusing mainly on the top and bottom seeds of each region. After all, if we spent too much time on the seeding, all the drama of the tournament would be lost.
Listen to the podcast at Type II Cast
**Click the image below to view the bracket**
So that’s where we stand. Check out the selection show podcast for break downs of who made the cut, who missed the cut, and some of the best matchups in the field of 64. Stay tuned for Part 2 where the competition begins. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Did your favorite jams make the cut?
If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.