The late fall of 1997 is certainly considered one of the best periods in Phish history, as the band “Destroyed America” on a routine basis. Among the many shows of that tour was a stop at the Rochester War Memorial in Rochester, NY, played 25 years ago today (12/11/97), where the band came out with a two-set masterpiece performance.
The first set of the Rochester show was surprisingly highlighted by a lengthy “Down With Disease” jam that segues seamlessly into a high-energy “Maze”. The whole set is filled with fan favorites, including an opening “Punch You In The Eye”, “Dirt”, “Limb By Limb”, and more. In the second set, things get more interesting, as the band took the opportunity to debut a new cover in their rotation. A little song called “Roses Are Free”.
The song was probably unfamiliar to many in attendance. Though Ween had been making a name for themselves in the 1990s as well, this moment would actually serve largely as their introduction to the “jam scene” fans. Dean Ween spoke about how he had never even thought to play the song live until hearing Phish’s version and credits Trey Anastasio for their own success because of it.
Dean Ween said, “Phish, by covering it, made it one of our popular and most crowd-pleasing tunes. For that we owe Trey forever because it opened up so many people’s ears to the music of Ween and introduced us to a whole new audience within the jam band scene, which never would have happened otherwise.” The song also possibly helped spark the reunion of Ween, as Trey Anastasio implored Mickey Melchiondo (Deaner) and Aaron Freeman (Gener) to work together again after performing “Roses Are Free” on August 7th, 2015 at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. The band announced their return just months later.
“Roses Are Free” has become one of the most beloved covers in Phish’s repertoire, as it has been played in steady rotation throughout the end of the ’90s and through most of the band’s years in the 3.0 (2009—2020) and 4.0 (2020– ) eras. Listen to the debut version in the player below.
Phish – “Drowned” (The Who) > “Roses Are Free” (Ween) – Rochester, NY – 12/11/97
The band actually goes back into “Down With Disease” at the end of the second set as well, between a funky rock “Ghost” and an ending “Johnny B. Goode”. If you want to listen to this show from 25 years ago today, you can find the full audio, courtesy of fromtheaquariam, below.
Phish – War Memorial Auditorium – Rochester, NY – 12/11/97
Setlist: Phish | Rochester War Memorial | Rochester, NY | 12/11/97
Set 1: Punch You In the Eye > Down with Disease -> Maze, Dirt, Limb By Limb, Loving Cup > Rocky Top
Set 2: Drowned -> Roses Are Free -> Big Black Furry Creature from Mars > Ghost -> Down with Disease -> Johnny B. Goode
 Phish debut.
This show marked the Phish debut of Roses Are Free. BBFCFM (first since August 6, 1996, or 118 shows) featured Electric Funeral teases. Footage from this show appeared in the film Bittersweet Motel.
[Originally published on 12/11/16]