Left to right: Trey Anastasio, Jon "Fish" Fishman, Mike "Cactus" Gordon, and Page McConnell. They can be quite silly.
Phish is a jam band which formed in Burlington, Vermont in 1983. Known for their live shows, they have gained quite a large fanbase, especially in the nineties. They have been compared to The Grateful Dead
, in terms of just how long they can just go off on a song
, fanbase size, having a Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor named after them, their encouragement of fans taping their concerts and this and that and other things. Styles differ quite a bit, though. Phish would fall more under jazz-fusion alt-rock with a smidgen of progressive
as opposed to the Dead's psychedelic country-folk. Like the Dead, Phish only had one minor radio hit - 2000's "Heavy Things" (which didn't even chart) - and a handful of songs that scrapped the bottom of Billboard's various rock radio singles charts, yet the band remained a top touring and album act. The band split in 2004, but reformed in 2009, with their tour that year becoming one of the top money-making tours of '09.
Like The Grateful Dead
, the band is best known for their live shows. Like snowflakes, no two Phish concerts are exactly alike (or actually very much alike at all) and you never know what songs you'll hear out the band's exhaustive repertoire
of originals and left-field cover songs. What songs are played and in what order vary with every concert; you are very
unlikely to hear the same song in two consecutive concerts or hear them perform those songs in the order they were in a given concert setlist ever again. However, the band does play certain songs together: "Mike's Song", "I Am Hydrogen" and "Weekapaug Groove" form the famed "Mike's Groove" trilogy. The band also performs several dozen songs (such as those "Mike's Groove" songs) that don't appear on a studio album and probably never will.
Studio album discography
- Junta (1989)
- Lawn Boy (1990)
- A Picture of Nectar (1992)
- Rift (1993)
- Hoist (1994)
- Billy Breathes (1996)
- The Story of the Ghost (1998)
- The Siket Disc (1999)
- This is an instrumental (and mostly electronic and experimental) album. It is notable as one of the earliest instances of a major musical act releasing an album of new material exclusively over the internet.
- Farmhouse (2000)
- Round Room (2002)
- Undermind (2004)
- Joy (2009)
Live album discogrpahy
- A Live One (1995)
- Slip, Stitch and Pass (1997)
- Hampton Comes Alive (1999)
- 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)
there's also the Live Phish
series - similar to the Grateful Dead
's Dick's Picks
series. Between 2001 and 2003, the band released 20 of these concert albums, and as such it would be ridiculous to list them all.
Phish provides examples of:
- Album Title Drop: A Picture of Nectar in "Cavern".
- Assimilation Academy: "Chalkdust Torture"
- Audience Participation Song: WILSON! (dunn-dunn dunn-dunn) WILSON!
- also, "Harry Hood", "Fluffhead", "Stash" and "Harpua".
- Black Sheep Hit: "Heavy Things"
- Epic Rocking
- Everything Is an Instrument: One of the most well-known parts of Phish's set was that Jon Fishman occasionally played a vacuum as an instrument. Early in their career, this was one of the few things the average music fan knew about them.
- It's a Small Net After All: In the early 90's, Mike logged into a Phish chat room on AOL under the nickname "FakeMike". People would ask him questions like, "If you are Mike, what are the chords to 'Bathtub Gin?'" or something but he had a mental block and couldn't think of any of the right answers.
- Follow the Leader: Subverted: They are influenced by The Grateful Dead, but they have other more prominent influences as well. Phish's contemporaries Widespread Panic and The Dave Matthews Band were similarly slapped with the "New Dead" moniker and all three bands saw a boost in popularity after Jerry Garcia died and the Grateful Dead split.
- The same pattern happened again during Phish's 2000-2002 hiatus and 2004-2008 split, in which magazines ran articles on Phish-influenced artists like O.A.R., Umphrey's McGee and Jack Johnson in a contrived search to find "The Next Phish".
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Partially because of the uniqueness of each Phish concert, the band allows and actively encourages fans to tape the band's concerts, so long as the resultant recording is not sold for profit (non monetary trades of recordings/copies of recordings is often the way that most tapes circulated).
- Last Note Nightmare: "Maze"
- Limited Wardrobe: Fishman almost always performs while wearing a blue and red muumuu.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Since "Jam band" isn't a genre and while "Alternative Rock" certainly would suit them just fine, they're also extremely influenced by jazz and prog rock.
- No Hit Wonder: A large, loyal fan following despite never hitting the mainstream charts.
- Non Sequitur: During their infamous "Big Cypress" concert on December, 31, 1999, the band apparently instructed the audience to chant "Cheesecake" instead of cheering after "Heavy Things", mainly because they wanted to screw with television viewers (since the ABC 2000 was simulcasting said performance). Unfortunately, ABC cut away too early to notice the ruse.
- Sixth Ranger: Like the how the Grateful Dead had poet Robert Hunter as their lyricist, Trey Anastasio's childhood friend Tom Marshall wrote or co-wrote with Trey a good chunk of the band's oeuvre.
- An alternate candidate would be Chris Kuroda, a longtime friend responsible for the light shows that accompany their concerts.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Often, with varying levels of meaningfulness and coherence.