The Dogs

Originally Performed ByPhish
Music(Anastasio/Fishman/Gordon/Marshall/McConnell)
Lyrics ByJimmy Johnson
VocalsLaura Olsher (Narration Samples)
Phish Debut2014-10-31
Last Played2019-12-07
Current Gap1
HistorianParker Harrington (tmwsiy)
Last Update2019-11-13

History

An irrational fear or phobia of dogs must be a terrible affliction to live with. There are several other much more common animal phobias like a fear of spiders or snakes. Yet, those conditions are likely much easier to live with. Assuming even a tiny modicum of careful planning, one could presumably get through most days without running into a slithering serpent for example.

But dogs are everywhere. In the United States alone, there are over 100 million dogs. Worldwide it is estimated that there are over 1 billion stray dogs. Put these street dogs, stray dogs, junkyard dogs, and feral dogs together with the pet population, and you can see that dogs are everywhere, and they aren’t always friendly or easy to stay away from. Over 5 million dog bites are registered in the US every year with nearly a million bite victims needing medical treatment and ultimately leading to dozens of deaths. Clearly, cynophobiacs do indeed have something serious to worry about.

Like the world as a whole, dogs have been littered across Phish setlists since the beginning of time. Some of Phish's very earliest material relates to dogs; Trey’s “Dog Log” and the much loved “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” both debuted back in 1985; the Phish debut of “Shaggy Dog” in 1986 became very regular in soundcheck; and the song with lyrics written by Trey’s mom, “No Dogs Allowed” debuted in 1988. 

In the ensuing years, some of the most popular and well-loved songs in the entire Phish repertoire also included dogs: “Runaway Jim” and “Harpua” are two fan favorites. “Dog Faced Boy” and “Dogs Stole Things” are other “dog” songs that were first played in the 1990s. It wasn’t like the band needed another “dog” song to be able to put together an entire and respectable “dog setlist,” but on the night of Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House, the band added another great choice to the sack of dog tunes to choose from: “The Dogs.”

Phish ”The Dogs” – 10/31/14, Las Vegas, NV. Video by LazyLightning55a

It took a little while for the band to get cooking but just three songs into the set, after “The Haunted House” and “The Very Long Fuse,” “The Dogs” showed the promise of the vision and exhilaration of what Phish could do with the interpretation of the beloved Disney sound effects album from 1964. “The Dogs” performance that night was the true definition of “arena rocker” with explosive energy and full tilt guitar histrionics from Trey. The nice guitar build and progression begins immediately after the cacophony of the screams of the terrified dog attack victim, the vicious hounds barking and the completion of the narrator Laura Olsher’s story. 

She tells a story of a little boy being snarled at by a scary dog, thus forever making him fear and hate dogs throughout his life. Solitarily huddled in a lonely stone hut, the protagonist of the story is awakened by a sound in the distance….. the sound of a wild pack of dogs barking ferociously, from the distance (for now!) in the pitch black of night.

It is safe to say the consensus opinion of those walking out of MGM was the concept was indeed thrilling and the set was extremely successful. But it was not necessarily unanimously thought that these songs would be seen and heard again. Some fans thought that with the samples, the narrator's voice, and other non-conventional aspects to the songs, they were likely to be just performed that evening. This line of thought of course immediately proved incorrect. The very next night on 11/01/14, after another “dog song” in the first set “Dog Faced Boy,” the band expertly segued “The Dogs” out of a stellar “Light” jam and into “Lengthwise.”

“The Dogs” has been a semi-regular part of the Phish rotation since its debut, joining “Martian Monster” and “Your Pet Cat” as the most played songs from Chilling, Thrilling. For a particularly explosive version of the song, check out another great segue from Austin, Texas on 7/28/15 when the song was sandwiched between “46 Days.” This version has affectionately been referred to as “46 Dogs,” and while relatively brief, it was potent fun. Another fiery take was “The Dogs” kicking off in the first set on the first night of the Magnaball festival. “The Dogs” had primarily been used in the midst of another jam and providing an extra punch. But this Magnaball version was the first time the entire song was performed along with the narrated introduction. 

Whether you are in the camp that dog is man’s best friend or on the other hand, petrified of dogs, brace yourself for more “dog songs” and “The Dogs” in the future as Phish clearly has a penchant for both. “Stray Dog” became yet another dog song in the Phish canon after the Kasvot Växt set and if you listen closely enough from your hut in the middle of the night, you can likely hear more dogs barking in the distance. Are they coming closer?

Phish ”The Dogs” – 08/21/15, Watkins Glen, NY. Video by LazyLightning55a

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