"Destiny Unbound," debuted September 14, 1990, is a song written by Mike Gordon for Phish. It has only been played live 39 times in Phish's 30-year history: seven times in 1990, 22 times in 1991, once in 2003 (a show that is documented on Live Phish: 2-28-03), and nine times since the band's reunion in 2009.
Early versions of the song slightly changed beats but mostly kept to the original form. Then, after 9.15.91, the band did not play "Destiny Unbound" for over a decade. It isn't exactly clear why the band dropped it for twelve years. One theory is that it was "said to sound too much like the Grateful Dead and, ... [had] legendary status as the too over-requested rare tune." () Another propounded theory is that Gordon didn't like the song, and since he sang most of it (with some backup help), it might have been his decision (see Chanting, Hampton '97).
Phish is a prolific band that wrote a dozen songs for each one they kept and played. Thus, songs often appeared briefly in a tour and then disappeared, becoming fabled rarities. In the case of "Destiny Unbound", to which this occurred, Phish fans, over time, requested it more and more, until it acquired a mythical connotation. "Destiny Unbound" was jokingly synonymous with the impossible.
In the mid-Nineties, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio announced that the band would play "Destiny Unbound" if the entire audience sang it. Consequently, the next several years saw many fan-led efforts to organize the audience and coordinate a mass chant. Throughout the tours, this occurred in 1996 at the Melkweg in Amsterdam and at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, in 1997 at the Hampton Coliseum (the famous "death chant" show), and in 1998 at the Lemonwheel, to name a few.
The 1997 Hampton show remains poignant in the memories of many fans for two reasons. First, when the band walked onstage after setbreak to see and hear the audience singing "Destiny Unbound" in unison, they were very surprised, and Trey Anastasio joked: "That just sounds like a horrible cannibalistic chant for people who want blood, I don't know what you're saying to me, right? Hunda neela rhonda gila rholla lilla gruh. Is this the human sacrifice part of the show? Alright, bring 'em up here" Second, the band's response to the audience's effort to revive "Destiny Unbound" seemed to indicate the reason for its disappearance. Phish.net posted this report by Jesse Alderman:
We made a really valiant effort to get the boys to play Destiny on Saturday 11.22.97 at Hampton. My friend printed up flyers and got the first 5 or 6 rows prepared to sing the first line to Destiny. We waited since 3:30 and landed some great front row seats. We befriended this great security guard who was a great help in organizing the chant at the set-break. Once they came the chant was loud and audible to the band. Fishman had a look of surprise. Mike was very stoic and was not at all amused. However, Trey and Page were loving it. They were both cracking up. Hence, the "human sacrifice" and "death chant" comments from Trey. Trey and Page proceeded to discuss something ... and they were still laughing. Then they looked over at Mike and he shoke his head and started up Halley's by himself. Trey, unaffected by Mike's unwillingness to play his song, shrugged his shoulders and busted out an amazing and long Halley's. Ostensibly, it seemed that we should not give up and that Mike is the one who is very objectionable on the Destiny issue.
After lying dormant for twelve years, Destiny Unbound was played concisely Nassau Coliseum on February 28th 2003. Phish waited another six years before performing Gordon’s song once more in its 2009 summer tour. Destiny Unbound has since been performed nine times: Fenway Park (5.31.09), The Gorge Amphitheater (8.07.09), Encore Park in Alpharette, GA (7.03.10), Telluride Town Park in Telluride, CO (8.10.10), Nikon @ Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY (8.18.10) and Charleston, SC (10.15.10)and Chicago (Northerly Island) (7.20.13)July 20, 2013.