|Origin||Burlington, Vermont, U.S.|
|Associated acts||Giant Country Horns, Tom Marshall|
Phish is an American rock band that was founded at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont in 1983. The band is known for musical improvisation, extended jams, blending of genres, and a dedicated fan base. The current line-up—guitarist and lead vocalist Trey Anastasio, bassist and vocalist Mike Gordon, drummer and vocalist Jon Fishman, and keyboardist and vocalist Page McConnell—performed together for 15 years before going on hiatus from October 7, 2000, to December 30, 2002. They resumed touring from December 31, 2002, until August 15, 2004, when they disbanded after a farewell performance at their Coventry Festival in Vermont. They reunited in March 2009 for a series of three consecutive concerts played in the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia, and have since resumed performing regularly.
Phish's music blends elements of a wide variety of genres, including funk, progressive rock, psychedelic rock, folk, country, jazz, blues, bluegrass, and pop. The band was part of a movement of improvisational rock groups, inspired by the Grateful Dead and colloquially known as "jam bands", which gained considerable popularity as touring concert acts in the 1990s.
Phish has developed a large and dedicated following by word of mouth, the exchange of live recordings, and selling over 8 million albums and DVDs in the United States. In 1998, Rolling Stone described Phish as "the most important band of the '90s." The magazine later wrote that the band helped to "...spawn a new wave of bands oriented around group improvisation and extended instrumental grooves".
- 1 History
- 1.1 Formation and The White Tape: 1983–1986
- 1.2 The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday and Junta: 1987–1989
- 1.3 Lawn Boy and A Picture of Nectar: 1990–1992
- 1.4 Rift, Hoist, A Live One and Billy Breathes: 1993–1996
- 1.5 Story of the Ghost, The Siket Disc and Farmhouse: 1997–2000
- 1.6 Hiatus: 2000-2002
- 1.7 Round Room, Undermind and break-up: 2002–2004
- 1.8 Break-up period: 2004-2008
- 1.9 Reunion and Joy: 2008–2011
- 1.10 Fuego and Big Boat: 2012–present
- 2 Discography
- 3 Band members
- 4 Other appearances
- 5 Music
- 6 Live performances
- 7 In other media and popular culture
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Formation and The White Tape: 1983–1986
Phish was formed at the University of Vermont (UVM) in 1983 by guitarists Trey Anastasio and Jeff Holdsworth, bassist Mike Gordon, and drummer Jon Fishman. Anastasio and Fishman had met that October, after Anastasio overheard Fishman playing drums in his dormitory room, and asked if he and Holdsworth could jam with him. Gordon met the trio shortly thereafter, after he answered a want-ad for a bass guitarist that Anastasio had posted around the university.
For their first gig, at Harris Millis Cafeteria at the University of Vermont on December 2, 1983, the band was billed as "Blackwood Convention". ("Blackwood convention" is a term from the card game contract bridge.) The band performed one more concert in 1983, and then did not perform again for nearly a year, stemming from Anastasio's suspension from the university following a prank he had pulled with a friend.
Anastasio returned to his hometown of Princeton, New Jersey following the prank, and briefly attended Mercer County Community College. While there, he reconnected with his childhood friend Tom Marshall, and the pair began a songwriting collaboration. Marshall and Anastasio have subsequently composed the majority of Phish's original songs throughout their career. Anastasio returned to Burlington in late 1984 and resumed playing with Blackwood Convention, which soon renamed themselves Phish, and they played their first concert under that name on October 23 of that year. The band was named both after Fishman, whose nickname is "Fish," and phshhhh, an onomatopoeia of the sound of a brush on a snare drum. Anastasio designed the band's logo, which featured the group's name inside of a stylized fish.
Keyboardist Page McConnell met Phish in early 1985, when he arranged for them to play a spring concert at Goddard College, the small university he attended in Plainfield, Vermont. He began performing with the band as a guest shortly thereafter, and made his live debut during the third set of their May 3, 1985 concert at UVM's Redstone Campus. In the summer of 1985, Phish went on a short hiatus while Anastasio and Fishman vacationed in Europe; During this time, McConnell offered to join the band permanently, and moved to Burlington to learn their repertoire from Gordon. McConnell officially joined Phish as a full-time band member in September 1985.
Phish performed with a five-piece lineup for about six months after McConnell joined, a period which ended when Holdsworth quit the group in March 1986 following a religious conversion. Holdsworth's departure from the band solidified its "Trey, Page, Mike, and Fish" lineup, which remains in place to this day.
With the encouragement of McConnell (who received $50 for each transferee), Anastasio and Fishman relocated in mid-1986 to Goddard College. Phish distributed at least six different experimental self-titled cassettes during this era, including The White Tape. This first studio recording was circulated in two variations: the first, mixed in a dorm room as late as 1985, received a higher distribution than the second studio remix of the original four tracks, c. 1987. The older version was officially released under the title Phish in August 1998.
Jesse Jarnow's book Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America details much of the band's early years at Goddard College, including their early relationship with fellow Goddard students Richard "Nancy" Wright and Jim Pollock. Pollock and Wright were musical collaborators, experimenting with multi-track cassette records to be broadcast on local radio. Phish adopted a number of Nancy's songs into their own set, including "Halley's Comet", "I Didn't Know", and "Dear Mrs. Reagan", the latter song being written by Nancy and Pollock. Jarnow argues that despite an eventual falling out between the members of Phish and Nancy, Nancy and his music were highly influential to Phish's early style and experimental sound. Pollock has continued to collaborate with Phish over the years, designing some of their album covers and concert posters.
The band's actions demonstrate an identity with their "hometown" of Burlington, Vermont. By 1985, the group had encountered Burlington luthier Paul Languedoc, who would eventually design four guitars for Anastasio and two basses for Gordon. In October 1986, he began working as their sound engineer. Since then, Languedoc has built exclusively for the two, and his designs and traditional wood choices have given Phish a unique instrumental identity. Also during the late 1980s, Phish played regularly at Nectar's restaurant and bar in Burlington. The band's 1992 album A Picture of Nectar was named in honor of the bar's owner, Nectar Rorris, and its cover features his face superimposed onto an orange.
The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday and Junta: 1987–1989
As his senior project, Anastasio penned The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday, a nine-song progressive rock concept album that would become Phish's second studio experiment. Recorded between 1987 and 1988, it was submitted in July of that year, accompanied by a written thesis. The song cycle that developed from the project – known as Gamehendge – grew to include an additional eight songs. The band performed the suite in concert on five different occasions: in 1988, 1991, 1993, and twice in 1994 without replicating the song list. The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday has never received an official release, but a bootleg tape has circulated for decades, and songs such as "Wilson" and "The Lizards" remain concert staples for the band.
Beginning in the spring of 1988, members of the band began practicing in earnest, sometimes locking themselves in a room and jamming for hours on end. One such jam took place at Anastasio's apartment, with a second at Paul Languedoc's house in August 1989. They called these jam sessions "Oh Kee Pa Ceremonies", saying the name was chosen by Anastasio after seeing the films A Man Called Horse and Modern Primitives, which depict fictional versions of a Mandan Native American ceremony.
In July 1988, the band performed their first concerts outside of the northeastern United States, when they embarked on a seven-date tour in Colorado. These shows are excerpted on their 2006 live compilation Colorado '88.
On January 26, 1989, Phish played the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. The owners of the club had never heard of Phish and refused to book them, so the band rented the club for the night. The show sold out due to the caravan of fans that had traveled to see the band.
That spring, the band self-released their debut full-length studio album, Junta, and sold copies on cassette tape at their concerts. The album includes a studio recording of the epic "You Enjoy Myself", which is considered to be the band's signature song. Later in 1989, the band hired Chris Kuroda as their lighting director. Kuroda subsequently became well known for his artistic light shows at the group's concerts.
Lawn Boy and A Picture of Nectar: 1990–1992
By late 1990, Phish's concerts were becoming more and more intricate, often making a consistent effort to involve the audience in the performance. In a special "secret language", the audience would react in a certain manner based on a particular musical cue from the band. For instance, if Anastasio "teased" a motif from The Simpsons theme song, the audience would yell, "D'oh!" in imitation of Homer Simpson (help·info). In 1992, Phish introduced a collaboration between audience and band called the "Big Ball Jam" in which each band member would throw a large beach ball into the audience and play a note each time his ball was hit. In so doing, the audience was helping to create an original composition. In an experiment known as "The Rotation Jam", each member would switch instruments with the musician on his left. On occasion, performances of "You Enjoy Myself" involved Gordon and Anastasio performing synchronized maneuvers and jumping on mini-trampolines while simultaneously playing their instruments.
The band released their second album, Lawn Boy, in September 1990 on Absolute A Go Go, a small independent label that had a distribution deal with the larger Rough Trade Records. The album had been recorded the previous year, after the band had won studio time at engineer Dan Archer's Archer Studios when they came in first place at an April 1989 battle of the bands competition in Burlington.
Phish, along with Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and the Beatles, was one of the first bands to have a Usenet newsgroup, rec.music.phish, which launched in 1991. Aware of the band's growing popularity, Elektra Records signed them that year after they were recommended to the record label by A&R representative Sue Drew.
In the summer of 1991, the band embarked on a 14-date tour of the eastern United States accompanied by a three-piece horn section dubbed the Giant Country Horns. In August of that year, Phish played an outdoor concert at their friend Amy Skelton's horse farm in Auburn, Maine that acted as a prototype for their later all-day festival events.
In 1992, the band released their third studio album, A Picture of Nectar, their first release for Elektra. Subsequently, the label also reissued the band's first two albums. Later in 1992, Phish participated in the first annual H.O.R.D.E. festival, which provided them with their first national tour of major amphitheaters. The lineup, among others, included Phish, Blues Traveler, the Spin Doctors, and Widespread Panic. That summer, the band toured Europe with the Violent Femmes and later toured Europe and the U.S. with Carlos Santana. The band ended 1992 with a New Year's Eve performance at the Matthews Arena in Boston, Massachusetts, a performance that was simulcast throughout the Boston area by radio station WBCN. The concert was filled with several new "secret language" cues they had taught their audience in order to deliberately confuse radio listeners.
Rift, Hoist, A Live One and Billy Breathes: 1993–1996
Phish began headlining major amphitheaters in the summer of 1993. That year, the group released their fourth album, Rift, a concept album which featured a cover painted by David Welker that referenced almost all of the songs on the record. The album was the band's first to appear on the Billboard 200 album chart, debuting at #51 in February 1993.
In March 1994, the band released their fifth studio album Hoist. To promote the album, Gordon directed the band's only official music video, for its first single "Down with Disease". The clip gained some MTV airplay starting in June of that year. The song became a minor hit on rock radio in the United States, and became the band's first song to appear on a Billboard music chart when it peaked at #33 on the magazine's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart that summer. To further promote Hoist, the band released an experimental short-subject documentary called Tracking, also directed by Gordon, which depicted the recording sessions for the album.
Foreshadowing their future tradition of festivals, Phish coupled camping with their 1994 summer tour finale at Sugarbush North in Warren, Vermont, that show eventually being released as Live Phish Volume 2. On Halloween of that year, the group promised to don a fan-selected "musical costume" by playing an entire album from another band. After an extensive mail-based poll, Phish performed the Beatles' White Album as the second of their three sets at the Glens Falls Civic Center in upstate New York. The "musical costume" concept subsequently became a recurring part of Phish's tours, with the band playing a different album whenever they had a concert scheduled for Halloween night.
In October 1994, Crimes of the Mind, the debut album by Anastasio's friend and collaborator Steve "The Dude of Life" Pollak, was released by Elektra Records; The album, which had been recorded in 1991, was billed to "The Dude of Life and Phish" and features all four members of Phish acting as Pollak's backing band.
On December 30, 1994, the band made their first appearance on national network television when they performed "Chalk Dust Torture" on Late Night with David Letterman. The band would go on to appear on the program seven more times before David Letterman's retirement as host in 2015. For their 1994 New Years Run, Phish played the Civic Centers in Philadelphia and Providence as well as sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden, which marked their debut performances at both venues. For the December 31 show at the Boston Garden, the band rode around the arena in a float shaped like a hot dog. The stunt was reprised at their 1999 New Year's Eve concert before the hot dog was donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Following the death of Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia in the summer of 1995 and the appearance of "Down with Disease" on Beavis and Butt-Head, the band experienced a surge in the growth of their fan base and an increased awareness in popular culture.
In their tradition of playing a well-known album by another band for Halloween, Phish contracted a full horn section for their performance of The Who's Quadrophenia in 1995. Their first live album, A Live One, was released during the summer of 1995 and featured selections from various concerts from their 1994 winter tour. A Live One became Phish's first RIAA-certified gold album in November 1995. In 1997, A Live One became the band's first Platinum album, certified for sales of 1 million copies in the United States, and remains their best selling album to date.
In the fall of 1995, the band challenged its audience to two games of travelling chess. Each show on the tour featured a pair of moves. The band took its turn either at the beginning of or during the first set. The audience was invited to gather at the Greenpeace table in the venue's lobby during the setbreak to determine its move. Two games were played on the tour. The audience conceded the first game on November 15 in Florida, and the band conceded the second game at its New Year's Eve concert at Madison Square Garden. These were the only two games that were played, which left the final score tied at 1-1.
Following an appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April 1996, The band spent the summer of that year opening for Santana on their European tour. In August 1996, the band held their first festival, The Clifford Ball, in Plattsburgh, New York. The festival attracted 70,000 attendees, making it both Phish's biggest concert crowd to that point and the largest single concert by attendance in the United States in 1996.
Phish retreated to their Vermont recording studio and recorded hours and hours of improvisations, sometimes overlaying them on one another, and included some of the result on the second half of Billy Breathes, which they released in the fall of 1996. Alongside traditional rock-based crescendos, the album has more acoustic guitar than their previous records, and was regarded by the band and some fans as their crowning studio achievement. The album's first single, "Free", peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart and No. 11 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and was their most successful song on both charts.
Story of the Ghost, The Siket Disc and Farmhouse: 1997–2000
By 1997, their improvisational ventures were developing into a new funk-inspired jamming style. Vermont-based ice cream conglomerate Ben & Jerry's launched "Phish Food" that year. The band officially licensed their name for use with the product, the only time they have ever allowed a third-party company to do so, and were directly involved with the creation of the flavor. Proceeds from the flavor are donated to the band's non-profit charity The WaterWheel Foundation, which raises funds for the preservation of Vermont's Lake Champlain.
On August 16 and 17, 1997, Phish held their second festival, The Great Went, over two days at the Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine, near the Canada–United States border. A version of the song "Bathtub Gin", that was performed on the festival's second night, is considered to be one of the best improvisational live performances of the band's career. In October 1997, the band released their second live album Slip Stitch and Pass, which featured selections from their March 1997 concert at the Markthalle Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany.
In April 1998, the band embarked on the Island Tour - a four night tour with two shows at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on Long Island and another two at the Providence Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The four concerts are highly regarded by fans due to the band's exploration of a jazz-funk musical style, which Anastasio dubbed "cowfunk". The band performed the tour in the middle of studio sessions for their seventh album, and were inspired by the quality of their performances to incorporate the cowfunk style into subsequent sessions. The resulting album, The Story of the Ghost, was released in October 1998. The album's first single "Birds of a Feather", which had been premiered on the Island Tour, became a #14 hit on Billboard's Adult Alternative Songs chart.
In the summer of 1998, The band held Lemonwheel, their second festival at Loring Air Force Base in Maine. The two-day event attracted 60,000 attendees. The band played another summer festival in 1999, called Camp Oswego and held at the Oswego County Airport in Volney, New York. Unlike other Phish festivals, Camp Oswego featured a prominent second stage of additional performers aside from Phish, including Del McCoury, The Slip and Ozomatli.
In July 1999, the band released an album of improvisational instrumentals titled The Siket Disc. The band followed that release with Hampton Comes Alive, a six-disc box set released in November 1999, which contained the entirety of their performances on November 21 and 22, 1998 at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. The set marked the first time that complete recordings of Phish concerts were officially released by Elektra Records.
To celebrate the new millennium, Phish hosted a two-day outdoor festival at the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in Florida in December 1999. The festival's climactic New Year's Eve concert, referred to by fans as simply "The Show," started at 11:35 p.m. on December 31, 1999, and continued through to sunrise on January 1, 2000, approximately eight hours later. This concert has been referred to as a peak musical experience by the band. The band's performance of the song "Heavy Things" at the festival was broadcast live as part of ABC's 2000 Today millennium coverage, giving the band their biggest television audience up to that point. In 2017, Rolling Stone named the Big Cypress festival one of the "50 Greatest Concerts of the Last 50 Years."
2000 saw no Halloween show, no summer festival and no new full-band compositions: May's Farmhouse contained material dating from 1997 and original material from Anastasio's 1999 solo acoustic/electric club tour. "Heavy Things", which was released as the album's first single, became the band's only song to appear on a mainstream pop radio format, reaching #29 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart that July. The song also became the band's biggest hit to date on the Adult Alternative Songs chart, reaching #2 there. That summer, the band announced that they would take their first "extended time-out" following their upcoming fall tour. During the tour's last concert on October 7, 2000, at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, they played a regular show and left without saying a word as The Beatles' "Let It Be" played over the sound system.
Bittersweet Motel, a documentary film about the band directed by Todd Phillips, was released in August 2000, shortly before the hiatus began. The documentary captures the band's 1997 and 1998 tours, the Great Went festival and the recording of The Story of the Ghost.
During Phish's hiatus, Elektra Records continued to issue archival releases of the band's concerts on compact disc. Between September 2001 and May 2003, the label released 20 entries in the Live Phish Series. These multi-disc sets featured complete soundboard recordings of concerts that were particularly popular with the band and their fanbase, similar to the Grateful Dead's Dick's Picks archival series. In November 2002, the label released the band's first concert DVD, Phish: Live in Vegas, which featured the entirety of a September 2000 concert at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The band's members explored a variety of side-projects during the hiatus period. In November 2000, Anastasio and Phish lyricist Tom Marshall released the album Trampled by Lambs and Pecked by the Dove, which contained demo recordings of songs that appeared on The Story of the Ghost and Farmhouse. Anastasio also formed the supergroup Oysterhead with Les Claypool of Primus and Stewart Copeland of The Police, which released its only album The Grand Pecking Order in October 2001. McConnell formed the jazz fusion trio Vida Blue, while Gordon recorded the album Clone with folk guitarist Leo Kottke in 2002, and later embarked on a solo career. Fishman recorded an album with his blues rock side-project Pork Tornado in 2002.
In April 2002, Phish guest starred on the episode "Weekend at Burnsie's" of the animated series The Simpsons. The episode marked the band's first appearance together, albeit as animated characters, since the hiatus began. Phish provided their own voices for the episode and performed a snippet of "Run Like an Antelope".
Round Room, Undermind and break-up: 2002–2004
Over two years after the hiatus began, Phish announced that they were getting back on the road with a New Year's Eve 2002 concert at Madison Square Garden. They also recorded Round Room in only four days and released it on December 10. The band had initially planned to record the new album live at the Madison Square Garden concert, but instead felt that demos they had recorded of the material were strong enough to merit release as a studio album. Four days after the release of Round Room, the band made their only appearance as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, where they debuted the song "46 Days" and appeared in two comedy sketches. During their return concert on December 31, McConnell's brother was introduced as actor Tom Hanks. The impostor sang a line of the song "Wilson", prompting several media outlets to report that the actor had "jammed with Phish".
At the end of the 2003 summer tour, Phish held their first summer festival in four years, returning to Limestone, Maine, for It. The festival drew crowds of over 60,000 fans, once again making Limestone one of the largest cities in Maine for a weekend. In November - December, the band celebrated its 20th anniversary with a four-show mini-tour of shows in New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. In order to avoid the exhaustion and pitfalls of previous years' high-paced touring, Phish played sporadically after the reunion, with tours lasting about two weeks.
On May 25, 2004, Anastasio announced on the band's website that the band was breaking up after their summer tour. He wrote that he had met with the other members earlier that month to discuss the "Strong feelings I’ve been having that Phish has run its course, and that we should end it now while it’s still on a high note." By the end of the meeting, he said, "We realized that after almost twenty-one years together, we were faced with the opportunity to graciously step away in unison, as a group, united in our friendship and our feelings of gratitude."
Their final album (at the time), Undermind, was released in late spring. In the summer of 2004, the band jammed with rapper Jay-Z at one show, shot the concert film Phish: Live in Brooklyn for broadcast in movie theaters, and performed a seven-song set atop the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater during the Late Show with David Letterman to fans who had gathered on the street, a move reminiscent of The Beatles' final performance on the rooftop of the Apple building in London.
The 2004 tour finished with the band's seventh summer festival, which was billed as their final performance. The Coventry festival was named for the town in Vermont that hosted the event, which was held at the nearby Newport State Airport. 100,000 people were expected to attend. After a week of rain that prompted fears of a sinking stage, Gordon announced on local radio that no more cars would be allowed in, though only about 20,000 people had arrived. Many concert-goers parked their vehicles on roadsides and hiked to the site; an estimated 65,000 attended the emotional finale. The band performed what was at the time their final concert on August 15, 2004, the festival's second night. The concert ended with a final encore of the song "The Curtain (With)".
After Coventry, the members of the band admitted they were disappointed with their performance at the festival; In the official book Phish: The Biography, Anastasio expressed that "Coventry itself was a nightmare. It was emotional, but it was not like we were at our finest. I certainly wasn't".
Break-up period: 2004-2008
Following the break-up, the band's members remained in amicable communication with one another. Gordon, Anastasio and McConnell all recorded solo albums. McConnell's 2007 debut solo album Page McConnell features all four members of Phish, but the band does not appear together on any of the tracks. Anastasio and McConnell also appeared on Gordon's 2008 album The Green Sparrow, while Gordon and Fishman appeared on Anastasio's 2006 album Bar 17.
Anastasio continued his solo career with his own band, and released his fourth solo album Shine in 2005. He reunited with Oysterhead for one-off performance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in June 2006. Gordon played with Leo Kottke and the Benevento/Russo Duo. At Rothbury in 2008, he played with his newest project, Ramble Dove, which is the name of the country outfit he fronted in his directorial feature Outside Out, and also joined Grateful Dead drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann along with Steve Kimock and Jen Durkin as the Rhythm Devils. Anastasio and Gordon toured as a four-piece with the Benevento/Russo Duo in the summer of 2006. Fishman performed occasional shows with the Everyone Orchestra, The Village and the Yonder Mountain String Band.
In 2005, Phish formed their own record label, JEMP Records, to release archival CD and DVD sets. The label's first release was Phish: New Year's Eve 1995 – Live at Madison Square Garden, which was released in conjunction with Rhino Records in December 2005. The album was named the 42nd greatest live album of all time by Rolling Stone in April 2015.
In December 2006, Anastasio was arrested in Whitehall, New York for drug possession and driving while intoxicated, and was sentenced to 14 months in a drug court program. In 2007, while Anastasio was undergoing rehabilitation, the other members of Phish surprised him on his birthday with an instrumental recording they had made for him to play along with on guitar. During his rehabilitation, Anastasio said he "spent 24 hours a day thinking about nothing but Phish" and began discussing a reunion with the other members of the band.
In response to a June 2008 rumor that Phish had reunited to record a new album, McConnell wrote a letter on the band's website updating fans on the current relations between the band's members. McConnell wrote that while the members remained friends, they were currently busy with other projects and the reunion rumors were premature. He added, "Later this year we hope to spend some time together and take a look at what possible futures we might enjoy."
Phish received the Jammys Lifetime Achievement Award on May 7, 2008, in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. All four members attended the ceremony and gave a speech, and both McConnell and Anastasio performed, although not together. That September, the band played three songs at the wedding of their former tour manager. Later in 2008, the band reconvened at The Barn, Anastasio's farmhouse studio in Burlington, Vermont, for jamming sessions and rehearsals.
Reunion and Joy: 2008–2011
On October 1, 2008, the band announced on their website that they had officially reunited, and would play their first shows in five years in March 2009 at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. The three reunion concerts were held on March 6, 7, and 8, 2009, with "Fluffhead" being the first song the band played onstage at the first show. Approximately 14,000 people attended the concerts over the course of three days, and the band made the shows available for free download on their LivePhish website for a limited time, in order to accommodate fans who were unable to attend.
Following the reunion weekend, the band played thirteen shows of a summer tour, including an inaugural concert at Fenway Park and headlining Bonnaroo 2009 in June with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Beastie Boys, and Nine Inch Nails. During their first set of the second day, Phish was joined by Springsteen on guitar for "Mustang Sally", "Bobby Jean", and "Glory Days". Twelve additional dates in July and August were announced as a Late Summer Tour, including four nights at Red Rocks, two nights at The Gorge, a stop in Chicago, and several nights in the Northeast. When the band decided to reunite, the members agreed to limit their touring schedule, and they have typically performed about 50 concerts a year since.
Phish's fourteenth studio album, Joy, produced by Steve Lillywhite, was released September 8, 2009. A single from the album, "Time Turns Elastic", was released on iTunes in late May. The band announced a "save-the-date" for a three-day festival on October 30 & 31 and November 1. Phish.com contained an animated map of the United States, and individual states were slowly removed from the map, leaving California. Confirming several rumors, the band announced that Festival 8 would take place in Indio, California. Footage from Festival 8 was released in April 2010 as a 3D movie titled Phish 3D. In the late spring and summer of 2010, the band completed a two-legged, 29-show tour. The August Alpine Valley shows have been released as a DVD and CD. Phish made their Hollywood Bowl debut and headlined the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in August. They played a show in Essex Junction, Vermont, on September 14, and the more than $1.2 million in proceeds were donated to Vermont flood victim relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
Phish's next festival, Super Ball IX, took place at the Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York on July 1–3, 2011. It was the first concert to take place at Watkins Glen International since Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in 1973.
Fuego and Big Boat: 2012–present
In June 2012, Phish headlined Bonnaroo 2012 with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead. Phish also performed for the first time ever a show in Oklahoma at the Zoo Amphitheater in August. For the fourth consecutive year, Phish performed a set of sold-out New Year's shows at New York City's Madison Square Garden, which culminated with a three-set show to ring in 2013. Phish went back on tour in the summer of 2013 to celebrate their 30th anniversary, which graced fan favorite venues such as Saratoga Performing Arts Center, PNC Bank Arts Center, The Gorge Amphitheatre, and Merriweather Post Pavilion, while also stopping at new destinations such as Darling's Waterfront Pavilion and FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island in Chicago. The band also announced a fall tour for the first time since 2010, including stops at Hampton Coliseum. The band completed a new album known as Fuego. Phish debuted 12 potential tracks from their 2014 album, which was introduced as "Wingsuit", the working title of the album, during the second of three sets on October 31, 2013. Phish ended 2013 with a New Year's Eve concert that also celebrated their 30th anniversary, as they had played their first concert in December 1983. The concert featured a nine-minute montage film celebrating the band's career, and the band performed an entire set in the middle of the arena from atop an equipment truck.
Phish released Fuego, their first studio album in five years, on June 24, 2014. That June, the band embarked on a 25-show tour including stops that wound a path from Massachusetts to the Midwest, and from the Mid-Atlantic to Georgia. For the third consecutive year, Phish played a three-night run of shows at Saratoga Performing Arts Center over the 4th of July holiday. Phish also made their first visit to Randall's Island in New York City. August 2014 ended with three performances at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, firmly establishing the annual Colorado pilgrimage as a Labor Day tradition for Phish fans. This tradition was upheld with three-night runs over the holiday in following years, bringing the total number of shows at this venue to 18 as of September 4, 2016. The 2014 fall tour included stops in Oregon, Washington, and California, and ended in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Phish once again debuted new music on Halloween. The October 31, 2014, performance at MGM Grand Las Vegas featured a second set consisting of ten original songs inspired by a 1964 novelty record from Walt Disney Studios, Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. 2014 ended with a three-set show on New Year's Eve in Miami, Florida, followed by three more nights of performances to ring in 2015.
2015 included a coast-to-coast summer tour, including the aforementioned "Labor Day Run" at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Colorado. Although there was no fall tour, Phish's 10th festival, Magnaball, was announced at the same time. The band returned to Madison Square Garden for a series of four shows, including a three-set performance on New Year's Eve. Two weeks later, Phish performed their first shows in Mexico as part of a three-night, all-inclusive resort package at Barceló Maya Beach in Riviera Maya. During the final night's performance, the band announced from the stage that they planned to record a new album following the shows in Mexico. According to comments from Fishman, the recording was completed by the following March.
The 2016 summer tour was announced on February 5, 2016, including Phish's first visit to Wrigley Field in Chicago and two headlining sets at the Lockn' Festival. A fall tour in the southeastern U.S. followed, concluding with a four-night run over Halloween in Las Vegas at MGM Grand Arena, where the band played The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars as an homage to David Bowie. Separately, the band played a four-night run at Madison Square Garden for New Year's Eve.
Phish played a 13-night concert residency at New York City's Madison Square Garden from July 21 to August 6, 2017, each show featuring unique set lists, none of which repeated a single song. Named "The Baker's Dozen", each concert featured a loose theme with performances of unique cover songs and a special doughnut served each night to the audience by Federal Donuts of Philadelphia.
These shows brought the band's total performances at the Garden to 52 since they first played there in December 1994. In December 2017, the band returned to the Garden for a run of shows around New Year's Eve, which brought the total to 56; Phish played 17 concerts in total at the Garden in 2017.
In 2018, Phish announced a 24-date summer tour with multi-night runs at The Gorge Amphitheatre, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Harveys Lake Tahoe, The Forum in Inglewood, California, and three nights at their 11th festival called Curveball in August. However, the entire Curveball festival was canceled by New York Department of Health officials, one day before it was scheduled to begin, due to water quality issues from flooding in the Watkins Glen, New York area. Ticketholders were given both a full refund and free livestreams of all three nights of Phish's annual run at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, which was held two weeks later.
The band began their 14-date fall tour on October 16, which includes a three-night run at the Hampton Coliseum in Virginia and a Halloween concert at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. At the Halloween concert, the band performed a set of all-new original material that they promoted as a "cover" of í rokk by Kasvot Växt, a fictional 1980s Scandinavian progressive rock band they had created. Phish released the Kasvot Växt set as a standalone live release on Spotify on November 10, 2018.
- Studio albums
- Live albums
- A Live One (1995)
- Slip Stitch and Pass (1997)
- Hampton Comes Alive (1999)
- Live Phish Series (Volumes 1-20; Island Tour) (2001-2003; 2005)
- New Year's Eve 1995: Live at Madison Square Garden (2005)
- Live in Brooklyn (2006)
- Colorado '88 (2006)
- Vegas 96 (2007)
- At the Roxy (2008)
- Hampton/Winston-Salem '97 (2011)
- Chicago '94 (2012)
- Ventura (2013)
- Niagara Falls (2013)
- Amsterdam (2015)
- St. Louis '93 (2017)
In March 2010, Trey Anastasio was asked to pay tribute to Genesis, one of his favorite bands, at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to Anastasio's speech, Phish appeared and performed two Genesis songs, "Watcher of the Skies" and "No Reply at All". Genesis did not perform. On May 13, 2010, Phish played the Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The band was introduced by Keith Richards.
The music of Phish is "oriented around group improvisation and superextended grooves" that draw on a range of rock-oriented influences, including psychedelic rock, progressive rock, jazz fusion, funk, reggae, hard rock, alternative rock, post-punk and various "acoustic" genres, such as folk and bluegrass. Some Phish songs use different vocal approaches, such as a cappella (unaccompanied) sections of barbershop quartet-style vocal harmonies.
Some of their original compositions tend towards a psychedelic rock fusion, with more progressive, jazz and funk elements than the Grateful Dead and other earlier jam bands. Their more ambitious, epic compositions (such as "You Enjoy Myself" and "Guyute") are often said to resemble classical music in a rock setting, much like the music of one of their heroes, Frank Zappa.
In the 1997 official biography The Phish Book, Anastasio coined the term "cow-funk" to describe the band's late 1990s funk and jazz-funk-influenced playing style, observing that "What we’re doing now is really more about groove than funk. Good funk, real funk, is not played by four white guys from Vermont."
Apart from Frank Zappa and the Grateful Dead, Phish's musical influences include The Allman Brothers Band, The Beatles, Captain Beefheart, David Bowie, Miles Davis, Brian Eno, Genesis, Gong, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Elton John, King Crimson, Little Feat, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Max Creek, Pat Metheny, The Meters, Bill Monroe, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Prince, The Rolling Stones, Santana, Talking Heads and The Velvet Underground.
The driving force behind Phish is the popularity of their concerts and the fan culture surrounding the event. Each a production unto itself, the band is known to consistently change set lists and details, as well as the addition of their own antics to ensure that no two shows are ever the same. With fans flocking to venues hours before they open, the concert is the centerpiece of an event that includes a temporary community in the parking lot, complete with "Shakedown Street": at times a garment district, art district, food court, or pharmacy. For many, one concert is simply a prelude to the next as the community follows the band around the country. Their image and fan devotion could be compared to that of the Grateful Dead.
Because Phish's reputation is so grounded in their live performances, concert recordings are commonly traded commodities. Official soundboard recordings can be purchased through the Live Phish website. Legal field recordings produced by tapers with boom microphones from the audience in compliance with Phish's tape trading policy are frequently traded on any number of music message boards. Although technically not allowed, live videos of Phish shows are also traded by fans and are tolerated as long as they are for non-profit, personal use. Phish fans have been noted for their extensive collections of fan-taped concert recordings; owning recordings of entire tours and years is widespread.
Fans recordings are generally sourced from the officially designated tapers' section at each show, by fans with devoted sound recording rigs. Tickets for the tapers' section are acquired separately from regular audience tickets, and directly from the band's website, instead of the venue or a service like Ticketmaster. However, tapers are also required to purchase a general admission ticket for concerts. The band disallowed tapers from patching directly into Paul Languedoc's soundboard in 1990, after a fan unplugged some of his equipment during a concert that June.
In 2014, the band launched their own on-demand streaming service, LivePhish+. The platform features hundreds of soundboard recordings of the band's concerts for streaming, including all of their shows from 2002 onwards, as well as all of their studio albums.
Phish have hosted 10 festivals; the first was The Clifford Ball in Plattsburgh, New York, in 1996; the most recent was Magnaball in 2015. Each festival has attracted upwards of 30,000 fans. Only one festival (Camp Oswego) featured performances by bands other than Phish.
In other media and popular culture
Phish began appearing in video games in 2009. Their song "Wilson" (December 30, 1994 at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY as released on A Live One), appeared in Rock Band's Bonnaroo song pack, along with other songs by artists playing at the Bonnaroo Festival that year. A Phish "Live Track Pack" for Guitar Hero World Tour became available on June 25, 2009. Recordings of "Sample in a Jar" (December 1, 1994 at Salem Armory, Salem, Oregon), "Down With Disease" (December 1, 1995 at Hersheypark Arena, Hershey, Pennsylvania) and "Chalk Dust Torture" (November 16, 1994, Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, as released on A Live One) have been released, compatible with Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii. On August 19, 2010, it was confirmed that "Llama" would be a playable song in Rock Band 3, released on October 26, 2010.
Seattle Seahawks fans began mimicking Phish's song "Wilson" by chanting the song's opening line when quarterback Russell Wilson took the field during games. The new tradition started after Anastasio made the suggestion at shows in Seattle. NFL Films made a short documentary on the cultural phenomenon. Philadelphia Phillies catcher Wilson Ramos also uses the song as his walk-up music.
They also have two ice cream flavors named after them, Ben & Jerry's Phish Food and It's Ice... Cream, in recognition of their shared Vermont heritage. Phish's portion of the proceeds from these flavors are donated to the Waterwheel Foundation, the band's non-profit organization that supports causes such as clean water, land conservation, urban gardening, and more.
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