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Music / Phish

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Left to right: Trey Anastasio, Jon "Fish" Fishman, Mike Gordon, and Page McConnell.

"There is no greater feeling on Earth than the lights going down at a Phish show. Because you have no idea what the fuck you are in for. Maybe they’ll play an 8 hour set until sunrise like 12/31/99. Or maybe they’ll play Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon like they did on 11/2/98. Or maybe they’ll fly over the crowd in a giant hot dog like they have done on two occasions."
Harris Wittels, in an e-mail to Grantland

"As he saw his life run away from him, thousands ran along
Chanting words from a song"
—Phish, "The Curtain"

Phish is a jam band which formed in Burlington, Vermont in 1983. Known for their live shows, they have gained quite a large fan base, 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, never performing the same songs in the same order during concerts (look it up if you're not convinced), and this and that and other things. Styles differ quite a bit, though. Phish and the Dead are both Psychedelic Rock bands, but Phish's music is also strongly influenced by Jazz Fusion, Funk, Alternative Rock, Post-Punk, Progressive Rock and Classical Music. Phish's other main musical influence is Frank Zappa, from whom they adopted their mix of irreverent humor and technical skill.

Like the Dead and Zappa, Phish only had a few minor hit singles, but were huge as an album and touring band. They were one of the biggest touring acts in the United States in the 1990s, with their fans often travelling to see every show on a tour. The band also had a string of Gold-selling albums, many of which were Sleeper Hits.

Phish consists of Trey Anastasio (lead vocals, guitar), Mike Gordon (bass, vocals), Page McConnell (keyboards, vocals) and Jon "Fish" Fishman (drums, vacuum, vocals), the last of whom is the band's namesake. The band originally included a second drummer, Marc Daubert, and a second guitarist, Jeff Holdsworth, but they left the band in 1984 and 1986 respectively. McConnell had joined in 1985, and Holdsworth's departure solidified the quartet lineup that has remained in place ever since.

Another thing Phish shares with the Dead is that they're best known for their live shows. Like snowflakes, no two Phish concerts are exactly alike (many being not alike at all due to their improvisational styles changing drastically over their tenured career) 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, though "Hydrogen" is often swapped out for other tracks. The band's regular concert rotation also includes about two dozen songs that they've played for decades but have never appeared on a studio album, and probably never will.

The band toured incessantly through the 1980s and 1990s. Although their studio albums did pretty decently saleswise, the band's rise in popularity and the formation of their ardently devoted following came mostly through their reputation as a live act and the circulation of fan-recorded concert tapes.

In late 2000, Phish went an indefinite hiatus until December 2002. That return was ultimately short-lived, as the band broke up in 2004. They ultimately reunited in 2008 and have been together ever since. Their 2009 reunion tour was one of the top money-making tours of that year. In 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic cancelled their shows for the year, but in summer of 2021 they were able to start playing live again. These four segments of Phish's career are referred to by fans as the 1.0 (1983-2000), 2.0 (2002-2004), 3.0 (2009-2020), and 4.0 (2021-present) eras.

Phish is also notable for being one of the first musical acts for whom the internet contributed significantly to both their rise in popularity and how their music was spread. The band were fourth musical group (after The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan) to have a Usenet forum dedicated to them in the early days of the World Wide Web., which emerged from that forum in 1992, was one of the first pop music websites to appear on the internet. The site is not an official one (Phish has one of those, too), but the band is aware of its existence and its importance to its fans. remains a hub for information (containing setlists and notes for every concert the band has played) on the band and its forums are still the main community for Phish fans on the internet.

Additionally, Phish allows and encourages fans to tape their concerts and circulate them for free, something they picked up from the Grateful Dead and which significantly contributed to the growth of their fanbase. Nowadays, the best-sounding fan recordings for each concert are legally available on streaming services such as Phishtracks and Relisten (which also includes tapes for other jam bands).

Studio album discography

  • Phish (1986, reissued in 1998)
  • 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)note 
  • Farmhouse (2000)
  • Round Room (2002)
  • Undermind (2004)
  • Joy (2009)
  • Party Time (2009)note 
  • Fuego (2014)
  • Big Boat (2016)
  • Sigma Oasis (2020)

Live album discography

  • 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)
  • Hampton/Winston-Salem '97 (2011)
  • Chicago '94 (2012)
  • Ventura (2013)
  • Niagara Falls (2013)
  • Amsterdam (2015)
  • St. Louis '93 (2017)
  • The Complete Baker's Dozen (2018)
  • The Clifford Ball (2022)
There's also the Live Phish series, in a similar vein as the Grateful Dead's Dick's Picks series. Between 2001 and 2003, the band released 20 entries in the series that contained soundboard recordings of particularly popular shows. After 2003, there were seven subsequent Live Phish releases - three popular 2003 shows and all four nights of the band's famed April 1998 Island Tour - that were issued on CD without a volume number.

When the band returned from hiatus in 2002, they set up Live Phish Downloads and began selling official soundboard recordings of every show they played from that point forward. They have also released a hefty selection of archival recordings of concerts or multi-show stands from before the hiatus that were not included in the Live Phish CD series. Typically, they will also issue an archival box set or CD release of some kind every year.

The band also has their own streaming service, LivePhish+, which features hundreds of shows, including every single one the band has played since their 2009 reunion.

Live DVD videography

  • Live in Vegas (2002)
  • It (2004)
  • Live in Brooklyn (2006)
  • Walnut Creek (2008)
  • The Clifford Ball (2009)
  • Coral Sky (2010)
  • Alpine Valley (2010)
  • Live in Utica (2011)
  • Star Lake '98 (2012)

Phish provides examples of:

  • Album Title Drop: A Picture of Nectar in "Cavern".
  • Audience Participation:
    • For a while, Phish used to have their own "Secret Language" of audience cues, used to mess with newcomers, each tipped off by a high guitar trill.
      • If Trey played the opening bars to The Simpsons theme song, the audience would yell "D'OH!". When the band actually appeared on The Simpsons, they included this cue in their brief performance of "Run Like An Antelope", but replaced the "D'oh!" with a standard "Boom!" to avoid a Celebrity Paradox.
      • If they played the opening to Here Come The Gladiators, everyone in the audience would hum a random note.
      • If they played a four-note downward arpeggio, the audience would fall over.
      • If Trey played a Scare Chord on his guitar, the audience would hold their hand up, curl in their middle finger to make it look like it was cut off and yell "AH, FUCK!"
      • And most amusingly, if Trey played the opening bars "Turn! Turn! Turn!" the audience would turn towards the back of the building and cheer as if Phish were playing there.
      • And on the WBCN New Years' 92 broadcast, they handed out a flier with an even more elaborate set of instructions. (source)
    • They also used to throw three giant bouncy balls into the audience and have them throw it around the venue. The band would time their playing to the balls' behavior, in essence making a different composition each show.
  • Audience Participation Song: WILSON! (dunn-dunn dunn-dunn) WILSON!
    • There is also "Harry Hood", "Fluffhead", "Stash", "AC/DC Bag", "Bathtub Gin", "Harpua" and "Golden Age".
    • 7/31/13 at Lake Tahoe saw them turn "Tweezer," "Run Like an Antelope," and "Tweezer Reprise" into this kind of song.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Jeff Holdsworth, a co-founder of the band who left it in 1986, returned to play with the group for their 20th anniversary show in 2003.
    • In concert, Phish may perform a song they hadn't played in years, which fans refer to as a "bust-out." The most famous of these was at 2/28/03, when they played "Destiny Unbound", a Mike Gordon-penned song that became something of a legend among fans because the band hadn't played it since November 1991. The song has appeared sporadically since the 2009 reunion, usually being performed about once a year. Another famous bust-out came on 12/29/2018, when the band played "Glide II", which had only been played once before, in 1995.
  • The Cameo: Hoist is filled with guest spots: Bluegrass singer and fiddler Alison Krauss sings backing vocals on "If I Could", Rose Stone from Sly and the Family Stone sings backing vocals on "Down with Disease" and "Julius", the horn section of Tower of Power play on "Julius" and "Wolfman's Brother", Camper Van Beethoven violinist Morgan Fichter plays on "Lifeboy" and banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck plays on "Lifeboy" and "Scent of a Mule". That album also features an appearance from actor Jonathan Frakes, who plays trombone on the short, experimental tune "Riker's Mailbox".
  • Cover Version: The band has dozens of cover songs in their repertoire, the most frequently played being Talking Heads' "Cities", Ween's "Roses Are Free", The Mustangs' "Ya Mar", Led Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times", ZZ Top's "Jesus Just Left Chicago", The Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein", Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen", Son Seals' "Funky Bitch", Norman Blake's "Ginseng Sullivan", The Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup", Frank Zappa's "Peaches en Regalia", The Beatles' "A Day in the Life", Stevie Wonder's "Boogie On Reggae Woman" and TV on the Radio's "Golden Age". The band is also well known for their space-funk version of "Also Sprach Zarathustra", based on Brazilian musician Eumir Deodato's 1973 jazz-funk version of the song.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Zig-zagged. Being a jam band, they've had their fair share of mind-altered experiences, but during the breakup, Trey got a DUI and had to go to drug court. He had become addicted to Oxycontin in the early 00s, and has spoken candidly about how his addiction almost ruined his life and led to Phish's breakup. He's been clean since his arrest, and his recovery led to Phish's reunion in 2009; Trey has thanked the officer that arrested him for saving his life. It can be assumed the other three have mellowed out significantly as they got older.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The band performed the ending of "Down with Disease" shortly after midnight at their 1993 New Year's Eve show, four months before the full song was debuted in concert in April 1994. Footage of the New Year's Eve performance made its way into the song's music video
    • "Driver", "Piper" and "Farmhouse" all appeared on the Hampton Comes Alive box set in November 1999, about half a year before studio versions of those three songs would appear on Farmhouse. Phish had been playing those songs for a few years before they recorded them, and it's not all that rare for the band to not get around to recording a song until years after it had made its live debut. However, this trio of songs are the only three to have appeared on a live album first before the studio versions came out.
  • Epic Rocking: Ooooh yeah. Although they have shorter, poppier tunes in their catalog, it's uncommon for them to play a song for less than five minutes. The bulk of their jams last between 10 and 20 minutes per song, and some can even go past 30 minutes. Some songs, especially "You Enjoy Myself", "Tweezer" and "Mike's Groove", dependably go for at least 20 minutes live. Those songs can get longer when they merge two songs together. Even then, there are a couple of long ones.
    • In addition to the songs that are jammed out, the band have several songs that are simply long by design, even in their album versions. These include "Guyute", "Reba", "The Lizards", "Fluffhead", "The Divided Sky" and "Esther".
    • The longest single-song improvisation they've ever done was the 11/29/1997 "Runaway Jim," at 58:49. This version is commonly nicknamed the "Jim Symphony," or "Jimphony."
    • The longest multi-song improvisation is the 5/7/1994 second set, where after two songs, the band played "Tweezer" and just kept going, fusing multiple disparate songs together (including covers of Sparks, Sweet Emotion, and Purple Rain) and still teasing hints of "Tweezer" throughout. The final runtime clocked in at 1:08:31. This performance is commonly nicknamed "Tweezerfest."
    • Special mention should be given to "Down with Disease", one of the band's most accessible songs and one of their biggest rock radio hits, which has become the starting point for monster jams over the years. For instance, here's the band stretching out the song, which is only four minutes long on their Hoist album, to nearly 25 minutes.
    • has a chart of every jam that has gone over 20 minutes (except for "You Enjoy Myself" because 20 minute versions are the rule rather than the exception; Instead the chart features all 30+ minute versions of the song), as well as a whole database full of annotations on different jams.
    • This is sometimes averted; Many Phish fans believe that a jam's quality is not necessarily tied to its length. This is especially true of songs like "Maze" and "Foam"; Highly regarded versions of both tend to clock in around 15 minutes in length.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: The four founding members met and formed the band at the University of Vermont.
  • 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. At some shows in the early '90s, Fish would be joined by his mother Mimi, who would also play the vacuum.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Every song on Rift with the exception of "The Horse" and "Silent in the Morning", which have a proper segue between them.
  • Fake Band:
    • For Halloween 2018, Phish invented an obscure 1980s Progressive Rock band called Kasvot Växt, whose only album í rokk they "covered" in its entirety for the second-set of their concert that night. In reality, it was album's worth of new Phish songs done in the style of 1980s prog and Krautrock. Phish even came up with a fake backstory for the band - which was supposedly formed in Scandanavia by a group of research scientists, and whose album was lost to time until it was rediscovered by record collectors - and enlisted Allmusic and radio station WFMU to post fictional reviews and interviews with the supposed members for their fans to discover when they Googled the band. Several the Kasvot Växt songs have subsequently entered Phish's regular setlist rotation.
    • For Halloween 2022, Phish invented another fake band, this time Sci-Fi Soldier, a funk rock band from the far future of the year 4680, introduced through a comic book and whose story is tied into both Kasvot Växt and Phish's long-running Gamehendge mythology.
    • Garbage Dick was a one-time live "jam session" (for lack of a better term) that several members did in collaboration with the members of Cattle Decapitation (who Fishman is a big fan of) in 2015 when the latter played the upstairs of Nectar's in Burlington; the "performance" consisted of both bands in disguise beating the piss out of the cheapest, shittiest old instruments they could find with loaded trash bags while shouting nonsense and profanity into the pickups of pawn shop guitars that they ran through various effects.
  • Genre Roulette: Their discography jumps to several disparate places, from Psychedelic Rock (their usual starting point, prominent particularly on "Bathtub Gin", "Mike's Song" and "Free"), to Progressive Rock ("You Enjoy Myself," "David Bowie", "Guyute"), to funk ("Tweezer", "Birds of a Feather", their version of "Also Sprach Zarathustra"), to jazz fusion ("Fee", "Stash", "Cars Trucks Buses"), to jazz-funk ("Split Open and Melt" note , "Ghost"), to bluegrass ("Runaway Jim," "Scent of a Mule"), to folk rock ("Back on the Train"), to adult-alternative pop ("Heavy Things", "Waste"), to Dream Pop ("Waiting All Night"), to even aleatoric music ("Big Ball Jam"), and everywhere in between. They can even jump from genre to genre within the same song, as is the case with "Reba" and "Harry Hood".
  • Greatest Hits Album. Their only one is 1996's Stash. The album was a Europe-only release, and was compiled as a sampler of their studio albums and A Live One. It was intended to introduce Phish to European audiences while they toured the continent as the opening act for Santana. It seems to have done its job, as many European fans have fond memories of it.
  • Hidden Track: The last listed song on Hoist is the two-minute long "Demand". That song is followed by the sound of someone getting into a car and putting on a cassette tape. What follows is a nearly eight minute long segment of a jammed out "Split Open and Melt" from the band's April 21, 1993 concert in Columbus, Ohio. The band loved that specific version of the song, and have said it helped them figure out how they were going to play it from that point forward.
  • Horror Comedy: "Esther", which has a macabre but humorous narrative about a girl who acquires a cursed doll, is a mix of both horror-comedy and Gothic Horror. The song's offbeat and grim tone is similar to what The Decemberists would be doing a few years later with their narrative songs.
  • Hymn to Music: "Roggae", which begins with each member of the band singing a line about what playing music means to them. Page's line directly references a concert in November 1985, during which Mike had an epiphany that he wanted to be a musician for the rest of his life.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: "Fuck Your Face", A Mike Gordon song that appeared on their White Tape collection in the late 1980s. It's awkward title is part of the reason why the song was only played live once, in April 1987, before Phish dropped it from their repertoire entirely until it resurfaced in 2010.
  • It's A Small Net After All: In the early 90s, 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.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Maze".
  • Lighter and Softer: The band's repertoire includes a few ballads, like "Strange Design", "Wading in the Velvet Sea", "Fast Enough for You", "Lawn Boy", "If I Could" and "Waste". They also have several shorter songs that are relatively poppy and are typically not jammed out live, like "Heavy Things", "Sample in a Jar" and "Bouncing Around the Room".
  • Limited Lyrics Song: "You Enjoy Myself", "Tweezer", "David Bowie", "The Divided Sky", "The Curtain" and "Run Like An Antelope" all only have a couple lines of lyrics. Most of those songs are also often jammed out past the 10 minute mark, which means only a very small fraction of any given version of "Tweezer", for example, will include lyrics.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Fish almost always performs while wearing a blue and red muumuu. Apparently, it's more comfortable.
  • Long Runner Lineup: The Trey/Mike/Page/Fish lineup is a type 2, having stabilized in 1986 when Jeff Holdsworth departed and still continuing today, barring two breakups.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: Believe it or not, Phish's studio albums are mostly a subversion to this, despite the band having many songs that are over 10 minutes long. The band typically likes to put long songs like "Reba", "David Bowie" and "Time Turns Elastic" in the middle of their album tracklists. The only albums that end with their longest song are Farmhouse (and "First Tube" is only six minutes long) and Big Boat (which ends with the 13-minute "Petrichor", one of their longest-ever studio recordings).
    • Similarly, the band does not save big jams until the end of their concerts, and jammed-out songs can fall anywhere in a setlist. For encores, they usually play a song like "Loving Cup", "Character Zero" or "Tweezer Reprise", and performances of those songs are typically about four to seven minutes long on average. There are exceptions to this, and it isn't unheard of for longer songs like "Run Like an Antelope" or "Fluffhead" or even 20-minute versions of "You Enjoy Myself" showing up as an encore.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The poppy ballad "The Line" is about University of Memphis basketball player Darius Washington Jr. after he, one of the game's best shooters, missed two of three free throws during a crucial game against the Louisville Cardinals.
    • In 2018, Trey revealed that the hard rock tune "Carini" was partly about a friend whose dog Lucy had a cancerous tumor in her head, and in order to spare her from the pain, had killed her while on a walk.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Julius", "Character Zero", "Roggae", "Lawn Boy", "You Enjoy Myself", "Lifeboy", "Shafty" (which was once called "Olivia's Pool" - a play on the phrase "oblivious fool", which appears in both songs) and "Frankie Says", among others.
  • Non Sequitur: During their famous "Big Cypress" concert on New Year's Eve 1999, the band instructed the audience to chant "Cheesecake" instead of cheering after "Heavy Things", because they wanted to screw with television viewers (ABC was simulcasting the performance of that song as part of their 2000 Today millennium coverage). Unfortunately, ABC cut away too early to notice the ruse.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Trey was one of two composers for the musical Hands on a Hardbody.
  • Psychedelic Rock: Neo-psych, to be more specific. The band, particularly Trey and Fish, were heavy psychotropic users back in the 90s, and their drug usage (crossed with a love of previous psych bands) was a major influence on the band's music.
  • Rock Star Song: "Simple" is a very surreal take on this. The opening lines We've got it simple/'cuz we got a band are fairly standard, but the song ultimately builds to a part about the band owning a skyscraper.
  • Rockumentary: They have two: The first was 2000's Bittersweet Motel, directed by Todd Phillips, which follows the band on their 1997 American tour, the Great Went festival and their 1998 European tour. The second was 2019's Between Me and My Mind, which is specifically about Trey as opposed to the band as a whole, but Phish is a focus of the film and its other members appear throughout.
  • Scatting: Performances of "You Enjoy Myself" are regularly ended with a "vocal jam", an extended a capella scatting improvisation by the four members. Similarly, the moments between "Bathtub Gin"'s final verse and the jam are filled with Trey and Page scatting the song's main melody.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Mike's Song" and "Weekapaug Groove" are the book ends of the "Mike's Groove" suite. There's usually one or more song played between them (traditionally, it's "I am Hydrogen" and/or "Simple", but also it could be whatever song the band feels like playing at the moment), but if you hear "Mike's" during a show, you're going to hear "Weeakpaug" sometime before the set is over. There are a couple exceptions, however.
    • "The Horse" and "Silent in the Morning" were recorded with a segue on Rift and continue to be performed that way live.
    • "Colonel Forbin's Ascent" and "Fly Famous Mockingbird", from the band's Gamehendge song cycle, are usually always performed together, complete with narration from Trey linking the two songs. Usually the story involves the audience taking a fantastical journey to Gamehendge to witness the events detailed in both songs. Notably, Trey used that narration to announce the band's two-year hiatus at their September 30, 2000 concert.
    • Setlist notators generally label live occurances with a "->" between the fused songs. It is not to be confused with ">", which means the band finishes playing the first song and then immediately starts playing the next.
    • In addition to songs that were specifically written or performed as a suite, there are also songs that were or are regularly performed together in concert. These include "Runaway Jim" and "Foam", which was a popular show opening pair in the early '90s, as was "The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony" and "Suzy Greenberg". Combinations like this all but disappeared starting the mid 90s once the band stopped pre-planning their set-lists.
  • Silly Love Songs: "Waste", which is probably the most overtly romantic song in the band's catalog. "Sparkle", which is about a marriage proposal, also counts.
  • Sixth Ranger: Chris Kuroda, the band's lighting director who is responsible for the light shows that accompany their concerts, is held in high regard by their fans. He syncs the lights with the band's music to create his displays, and can even be seen behind his boards at shows "playing" his lighting rig in a similar way to how the band plays their instruments. He even has a fan club, "CK5", which treats him as if he was the fifth member of the band.
    • Tom Marshall is the band's primary lyricist, having written most of the band's songs with Trey, his childhood best friend.
    • There's also Paul Languedoc, who was the band's soundman until he retired in 2009 and was responsible for developing the band's live sound mix. He also oversaw all of the band's live concert recordings until his retirement. Basically, if you're listening to a Phish live recording, you have Languedoc to thank for how good the band sounds on more ways than one; He's also the band's luthier and has custom designed all of Trey Anastasio's guitars (and some of Mike Gordon's basses) since the late 1980s.
  • Solo Side Project: Trey and Mike both have active solo careers, Songs from their solo albums have wound up in Phish's rotation, like Mike's "Yarmouth Road" and Trey's "Show of Life".
  • Special Guest: Sometimes their concerts have one. These range from rock musicians to comedians to jazz players to even rappers. Some notable ones include, but are not limited to...
    • The Grateful Dead's surviving members have popped by several times; Bill Kreutzmann on 8/2/09, Bob Weir twice (10/6/00 and 10/18/16), and Phil Lesh on 9/17/99. Trey would later fill this trope himself by playing guitar for the Fare Thee Well shows.
    • Steven Wright came by on 12/30/1994 to ring a desk bell 3 times during "Scent of a Mule."
    • Les Claypool, leader of fellow goofy alt-rockers Primus came on 5/28/1994 and 12/06/1996, the latter of which saw him joined by Ler LaLonde.
    • In 1991, the band were accompanied for their whole summer tour by a horn section they dubbed the Giant Country Horns. One of these shows is documented on Live Phish 19, and several others are fondly remembered by fans. Members of the Horns have continued to appear with the band live over the years. Trumpeter Carl "Geerz" Gerhard has joined them 31 times, both solo and as part of the Giant Country Horns. Saxophonist Dave "The Truth" Grippo is the only other musician to have appeared with the band more than 20 times, having played at 29 shows.
    • Writer and counter-culture icon Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters came out on stage on 8/14/1997 during "Col. Forbin's Ascent", with a unique jam taking the place of its regular companion song "Fly Famous Mockingbird".
    • Kid Rock, who baffled the audience when he came on stage at 9/29/00 to sing on four covers that Phish would never perform again.
    • Jay-Z got a much better reception from fans when he appeared on 6/18/04 to play two of his songs with the band.
    • Actor Abe Vigoda appeared on stage with the band during the 10/31/13 show, during the first-ever performance of the song "Wombat", dancing in a wombat costume. The lyrics to the song mention both him and his 1970s sitcom Fish by name, hence the appearance.
    • Members of other jam bands are some of the most common guests at Phish shows. Blues Traveler leader John Popper sat in on harmonica at 13 shows between 1990 and 1996. Aquarium Rescue Unit leader Col. Bruce Hampton appeared at four concerts, and was joined by his entire band at the first one in 1991. Several members of The Dave Matthews Band have appeared at their concerts, including Matthews himself (4 times) and saxophonist LeRoi Moore (joined Matthews for three of his appearances, plus one by himself)
    • The band have been joined onstage by their parents several times. All four of their fathers appeared on 6/19/11 to do part of the narration on "Harpua". Page's father Dr. Jack McConnell, a famous physician and medical researcher who co-invented Tylenol, also appeared at six other concerts to perform "Bill Bailey, Won't You Come Home?" with the band. Fish's mother Mimi, who occasionally followed the band on tour, appeared onstage at eight concerts before her death in 2001.
    • Phish toured with Santana twice as an opening act in the early 90s, and Carlos Santana loved the band so much that he often invited all four members to play with his band during his headlining set. Santana percussionist Karl Perazzo would return the favor by appearing at four of Phish's shows in 1996, including their Remain in Light Halloween concert and the show that appears on the Coral Sky DVD.
    • Phish headlined Farm Aid in 1998, and festival co-founder Neil Young joined the band on guitar during their set. Young came in halfway through a "Runaway Jim" jam, and then led them through a 20-minute version of "Down By the River". Young and Phish were also joined by Willie Nelson and Paul Shaffer for the bluegrass song "Moonlight in Vermont"
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Free", "AC/DC Bag", "Axilla" (both Part I and Part II)
  • Textless Album Cover: A Picture of Nectar, Farmhouse, and Sigma Oasis, although some releases of Nectar include the band's name and/or the album title.
  • Train Song: Um, "Train Song".
  • Triumphant Reprise: "Tweezer Reprise" sometimes fulfills this trope when live, especially after capping off long, multi-part improvisations.
  • Uncommon Time: "Split Open and Melt"'s jam section is in the extremely rare time signature 33/8, counted as 8+8+8+9/8. When playing "Melt" in concert, particularly in the early 1990s, the band would follow this time signature in discordant, complex, free-jazz jams.
  • Unplugged Version: The band performed acoustically a few times over the years in different variations:
    • The first was a bluegrass setup the band began to deploy in concert in 1993 with Trey on acoustic guitar, Mike on banjo, Page on upright bass, and Fish on washboard. They often performed traditional bluegrass numbers like "Nellie Kane" and "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome". Often these performances were also unamplified like their a capella numbers sometimes were, meaning fans at the show had to remain perfectly silent to hear the band. This often didn't go to plan, with woos and shushing often drowning out the band on tape.
    • The second came in 1995 with "Acoustic Army", an improvised number which featured all four members on acoustic guitar.
    • The third were the acoustic mini-sets of 1996, best remembered for its appearance during the Clifford Ball where they played a few ballads from the Billy Breathes era like "Waste" and "Strange Design".
    • The band also performed two fully acoustic concert for Neil Young's Bridge Street School benefit in 1998, and did an entire acoustic set for Festival 8 in 2009.
  • Visual Pun: The cover of Hoist depicts a horse being held up by a pulley as a pun on the expression "hung like a horse". Hung Like A Horse was a Working Title for the album: They went with a different title, leaving the cover as a Stealth Pun. Having a horse on the cover also made up for an omission on the cover for Rift, which features representations for every song on the album aside from "The Horse".
  • Vocal Tag Team / Step Up to the Microphone: Trey takes the lion's share of lead vocals, but everyone gets their turn behind the mic. Fish usually sings the explicitly silly cover songs ("Purple Rain", "Suspicious Minds", "If I Only Had a Brain") and covers that happen to be in his vocal range ("Crosseyed and Painless"), but also has a few serious vocal turns like "Lengthwise" and "The Moma Dance". Gordon has "Mike's Song," "Possum", "Scent of a Mule", "Ya Mar", "Weigh" and backing vocals on a sizable amount of the discography. Page has "It's Ice", "Most Things Aren't Planned", "Lawn Boy"note , "Strange Design", "Silent in the Morning", "Walk Away", "Tela" and more backing vocals. This is not a comprehensive list at all.
    • There's also a handful of songs where all of them sing at once, most notably "Carolina", the chorus of "Birds of a Feather" and the vocal jam that ends most versions of "You Enjoy Myself". All four members also get one line a piece on the first verse of "Roggae", and have different vocal parts on "Meat".
    • The band also has a small cache of songs they perform a capella, in four-part barbershop harmony. These include barbershop standards like "Hello, My Baby" and "Sweet Adeline", offbeat renditions of classic rock tunes like "Free Bird" and originals like "Grind".
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Fish almost always wears a muumuu on stage. Apparently, he wore the dress as a goofy spur-of-the-moment decision at a show in the late 1980s...and just simply kept wearing it every night from then on. For 30 years. Apart from television appearances and the band's 1997 tour, he's worn it ever since. Its blue-with-orange-donuts pattern has even been worked into the band's official merchandise.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Often, with varying levels of meaningfulness and coherence. Most of their songs are written by lyricist Tom Marshall, whose writing style is very quirky and psychedelic, and full of surreal and nonsensical humor. Trey sometimes mixes and matches lines from Marshall's poems to create new songs. Mike, the band's other major lyricist, also has a very offbeat writing style, as seen on songs like "Weigh".
    • Some songs, like "Cavern", "Stash", "Gumbo" and "Reba", feature vivid imagery worked into a narrative that makes no rational sense, whatsoever. Even their songs with coherent narratives typically have very cartoony ones, like "Fee", "Esther" and "Scent of a Mule".
    • When the band was recording Hoist, the gospel choir that sings on "Julius" needed the meaning of the line Cause if you lay it on a brother when he's sleeping, You'll wake up in the morning and he'll be gone explained to them before they sang on it. Marshall told them that the lyric was completely meaningless, and he simply thought the lines were the best fit for the tone and tempo of the song. The choir accepted the explanation and recorded the song as is.