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Trivia / Phish

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  • Black Sheep Hit: "Heavy Things". It's poppier than most of their other songs and has an atypical-for-the-band standard song structure. The song was their biggest hit ever on the adult alternative chart and was even a minor hit on adult Top 40 radio. Although the band has been playing the song for nearly 20 years now (including being a regular fixture at Trey's solo concerts), it's never really lended itself to being expanded upon live the way that their other big radio hit, "Down with Disease", has.
    • "Heavy Things", however, has had an unusual legacy with the band, because an integral part of the song has resulted in a permanent addition to Trey's guitar rig: A special loop pedal labeled "ONCE", which manually plays a sample one time as opposed to looping it. That button was specifically designed for Trey to perform "Heavy Things", for which he manually plays back a single, chiming guitar note throughout the song. It has since found other uses during concerts.
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  • Creator's Oddball: The Siket Disc, the band's only instrumental album, consisting of improvisational studio jams from the Story of the Ghost sessions compiled into an album by Page McConnell. The album was initially released only through the band's online store in 1999 and received a very limited retail release the next year, meaning that casual fans may not be as aware of its existence. Only one of the album's songs, "What's the Use?", has been regularly played by Phish in concert.
  • Cut Song: In the summer of 1990, the band booked studio time at Wendell Studios in Boston and recorded studio versions of several of their most beloved concert staples, including "Harry Hood", "Suzy Greenberg", "Runaway Jim", "Possum", "Mike's Song", "I am Hydrogen", and "Weekapaug Groove". However, the band decided not to release any of the material they recorded: Lawn Boy was already completed and was released a few months later, and the band decided to start fresh when they began recording A Picture of Nectar in the summer of 1991. To date, the only two songs from the Wendell sessions that eventually wound up on an album were "Tweezer" (re-recorded for Nectar) and "Rift" (which was recorded at Wendell in its original slower version; The better known faster version, which the band has been playing since 1992, was re-recorded as the title track of Rift)
    • The same thing happened while the band was recording The Story of the Ghost in 1998. Left on the cutting room floor in those sessions were studio versions of live favorites like "Meatstick", "NICU", "Tube" "Bittersweet Motel" and "Vultures". Many of the other cut songs found their way onto either The Siket Disc or Farmhouse.
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    • There's a few more instances throughout the band's discography. They tried "Runaway Jim" again during the sessions for A Picture of Nectar and Hoist, but it didn't make it onto either of those albums. "Alumni Blues", "The Lizards", "Wilson", "The Curtain" and "I Didn't Know" were all at one point considered for Junta, "Buffalo Bill" and "Simple" were cut from Hoist, and "Bittersweet Motel" was also attempted for Farmhouse.
    • "Mercury" was cut from Big Boat by producer Bob Ezrin. However, the song has since become a fan favorite, and Phish have now played it more often than some of the songs that actually made the album. The song was even the midnight countdown centerpiece of their 2018-19 New Year's Eve show. "Mercury" eventually found its way onto their 2020 album Sigma Oasis.
    • Several takes of "Strange Design" were recorded for Billy Breathes, but the one that was released was a very experimental version, and only as the B-side to "Free" on a very rare CD single.
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    • "Driver" and "Mountains in the Mist" were cut from Farmhouse, but were released as bonus tracks on the Japanese version of the album.
  • Fan Community Nicknames: "Phans" or "Phish Heads".
  • Follow the Leader: In the early '90s, Phish and other jam bands were considered to be following in the The Grateful Dead's footsteps by the music press. Phish played Dead songs in concert during the early part of their career, but had stopped doing so by the late 1980s. Despite this, the comparisons to the Dead only grew as Phish rose in popularity. The focus on comparing the two bands usually took up more space in articles than mention of Phish's other influences, like jazz fusion and prog rock. In interviews, Phish's members were usually hesitant to talk about the Dead and actively resisted most comparisons. That changed in the late '90s, by which time Phish had firmly established themselves as something completely different from the Dead, and the members became more open to talking about the Dead's influence on their music. This newfound acceptance culminated at a 1998 concert where, on the third anniversary of Jerry Garcia's death, Phish encored with a cover of "Terrapin Station".
  • 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 was often the way that most physical tapes circulated before the internet. Nowadays, the highest quality recordings from every circulating concert are available through a meticulous, maintained spreadsheet that circulates around the community, as well as streaming sites such as Phishtracks and Relisten.
    • The band is also fine with the fan-run websites that offer the highest quality audience tapes from throughout their career for free download, including hundreds of shows that have never been officially released. Trey Anastasio has even said that he to listens to both the fan recordings and the band's official soundboard recordings, because they give him different perspectives on a performance.
    • The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday, which the band recorded as Trey's senior thesis for Goddard College in 1987, has never been officially released. The recording has circulated among fans for decades, and contains the only studio versions of the songs from Trey's famous Gamehendge prog-rock opera. Many of these songs, particularly "The Lizards" and "Wilson", remain live staples for the band to this day. Trey claimed he was going to give the album an official release in the mid-90s as a multimedia CD-ROM, but this never came to pass.
    • The 1999-2000 Big Cypress festival, considered by many fans and the band themselves to be Phish's crowning achievement, has never been given an official release on CD, DVD or streaming. What's more, an official soundboard recording is not known to circulate. Both concerts, however, circulate as high quality fan audio recordings. A five hour portion of the festival's monster eight hour-long New Year's Eve show is available on Youtube, but cuts out after "Free".
    • Likewise, the Great Went festival hasn't been given an official release, even though it was filmed for both a pay-per-view broadcast and Todd Phillips' Bittersweet Motel documentary. The only high quality, professionally shot video footage that can be found on Youtube is the festival's famous version of "Bathtub Gin" from the second day, and it cuts out midway through the jam and well before the "peak" that makes it so revered.note .
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The Complete Baker's Dozen, a massive limited-edition 36 CD box set, which featured all 13 of their 2017 Baker's Dozen concerts at Madison Square Garden. In addition to the CDs, the set came with a ton of original artwork from the band's poster artist Jim Pollock, setlist notes from the band and replica tickets. The asking price? $500.
  • Milestone Celebration: The band celebrated their 30th anniversary at their 2013 New Year's Eve concert at Madison Square Garden (the band had played their first show in December of 1983, so it was even in the right time of year). They had their first equipment truck driven into the middle of MSG, and they played the show's entire second set atop of it. The setlist consisted entirely of songs the band has been playing since the 1980s, and they performed on some of their earliest musical equipment.
  • Missing Episode:
    • Over 1500 Phish concerts circulate as live concert recordings taped by fans, all with the blessing of the band. Every concert they've played since 1993 is more or less accounted for - some shows may be missing songs up through the end of 1994, often the acapella numbers or encores - but it's little spotty before that year. About 250 of the band's concerts are unaccounted for, most of which are from the 1980s, before they built up the fanbase they have today and were only really known in Vermont.
    • The band's March 8, 1993 show in Santa Fe, Arizona was their last show from that year and most recent concert that was unavailable as an audience recording, in part due to the lack of tapers in the southwest at the time. That was until 2020, when the band themselves released their own archival soundboard recording of the show.
  • Name's the Same:
    • While Phish toured North America extensively, former Marillion singer Fish toured Europe extensively. Made yet more confusing by the fact that both artists appeal to the Progressive Rock fandom, although their styles are quite different. Additionally, the nickname of Phish drummer Jon Fishman is "Fish", and he's almost exclusively referred to as "Fish" by his bandmates and their fans.
    • Phish have two songs called "Timber" in their repertoire. The first and best known is also known as "Timber Ho!" or "Timber (Jerry the Mule)" and is a cover of a song written in the 1930s by blues singers Josh White and Sam Gary. Phish probably learned about this song from a 1957 cover by folk singer Odetta, and they've played it many times since they first debuted it in 1987. The second "Timber" is a song from Phish's 2014 Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House Halloween performance, but was only played twice more after that show.
  • Newbie Boom: There have been a couple, many of which were instigated by Phish playing in larger venues, colleges and parts of the United States to which they hadn't been before. The biggest, however, came in 1995 after the death of Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia left generations of Deadheads without a band to follow around the country. Those who were interested in checking out Phish over other jam band options like Widespread Panic or Blues Traveler couldn't have picked a better time: fall 1995 is considered to be one of Phish's very best tours, with several of their most acclaimed concerts happening in that span of time. While some older Deadheads were turned off by Phish's different mix of styles and jamming techniques, and did not stick around for long as a result, others continued to follow them due to the quality of their concerts. The larger fanbase cemented Phish's status as the "heirs" to the Dead's status as the top group in the jam band scene.
  • No-Hit Wonder: Has a large, loyal fan following despite never hitting the Hot 100. They have, however, had multiple chart hits on the Billboard Adult Alternative chart since it was established in 1996.
  • The Pete Best: Guitarist Jeff Holdsworth, a co-founder of the band, left it in 1986 following a religious conversion and well before they established their live reputation. Two songs he wrote for the band, "Camel Walk" and "Possum", are still played by them to this day. Since Holdsworth left the band, vocals on "Possum" have been taken over by Gordon.
    • Percussionist Marc Daubert was an official member for only a few months in 1984. He was in the band so early in their career and for such a brief time that he and McConnell were never in the band at the same time. Like Holdsworth, Daubert's lasting legacy with Phish is a song, the fan favorite "The Curtain", which he co-wrote with Anastasio.
  • Promoted Fanboy: All four members of Phish love The Grateful Dead, and the surviving members of the Dead have occasionally collaborated with the band. The highest profile instance was Trey replacing the late Jerry Garcia for the Dead's Fare Thee Well reunion concerts in 2015. Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann have all made guest appearances at Phish concerts, joining the band for a few numbers. All four members have performed as part of Lesh's Phil & Friends supergroup at one point or another, with Anastasio and McConnell being part of that project's inaugural April 1999 lineup.
  • Saved from Development Hell: The band's Baker's Dozen concerts of 2017 - 13 straight shows at Madison Square Garden with loose "doughnut" themes each night and not a single song repeated over the course of the whole run - was actually conceived by the band much earlier. In 2007, McConnell told Relix Magazine that the band had been considering the concept before they broke up in 2004, but decided that it wasn't economically feasible to pull off in the late 1990s or early 2000s.
    • Although the band didn't wind up playing those shows at the theme appropriate Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island like McConnell mentioned in the article, one idea mentioned ultimately did come to pass: A medley of songs by Boston and Cream on the "Boston Creme Night". When they played that medley on August 5, the twelfth night of the Baker's Dozen, Anastasio joked from the stage that "We’ve been waiting for that joke for 20 years. This whole thing was just so we could do that."
  • Throw It In!: As with the Grateful Dead before them, a mix of this and Improv is the guiding force behind most of their shows. At first, Trey would sometimes plan setlists in advance, which helped create popular segues like "The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony" -> "Suzy Greenberg", or "Runaway Jim" -> "Foam". In the early 90s, the band switched to working from a loose setlist of songs they might play at each show, but eventually abandoned even that. At every concert, they can play almost anything, with the usual exception being whatever songs they played the previous show.
    • One oft repeated story is that before every show, the band gives a list of songs they might play that night to their lighting director Chris Kuroda, so he knows what songs to expect to create light shows for. Apparently he just throws away that list every time because the band almost never sticks to it.
    • The fan-base has identified the two main types of jamming the band does as "Type I" and "Type II". Type I jamming is based off variations of the song they are performing, while Type II jamming creates a whole new melody, chord progression and structure. Many jammed out songs will have both types, with a performance of a song leading to a Type I jam in the middle or at the end, which then evolves into a Type II. If this happened in the middle of a song, it's up to the band whether they decide to complete it, or leave it unfinished when they segue into the next number. The band's famous "Bathtub Gin" from the Great Went, for instance, never completes the final bars of the song and goes straight from a Type II jam into the song "Uncle Pen". The similarly beloved version of "Gin" at Riverport just under a year later (7/29/1998), by contrast, sticks to the piece's harmony throughout the entirety of its 21-minute runtime, and is thus a Type I jam.
  • What Could Have Been: Curveball, the band's planned 2018 festival, was cancelled 24 hours before it was set to start due to flooding in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York where it was to take place. A combination of flash floods, unsafe road conditions and concerns about the quality of the drinking water played part in the state's decision.
    • Phish has planned to perform Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in its entirety at a Halloween concert for several years. At one point, the band even contacted Peter Gabriel to see if he would perform the album with them. However, this idea has yet to come to fruition.
    • The band planned to record the album that would become Round Room live at their December 31, 2002 concert that ended their early 2000s hiatus. However, the band liked the demos they had recorded to prepare for that performance so much that they released that as the album instead.
    • In 2009, the band released a list of dozens of albums they were considering covering in their entirety for Halloween that year at Festival 8. All the albums were listed on their website, and were eliminated one by one by having an "axe" put through their cover. Eventually, only one, Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones, was left and was covered that Halloween. Fans wonder what the band could have done with some of the more out-there choices, like Oracular Spectacular by MGMT (one of the very last albums to be eliminated and a favorite of Trey's).
    • Neil Young once offered to take Phish on as his backing band for a European tour, having greatly enjoyed playing with them at the 1998 Farm Aid festival and that year's Bridge School Benefit Concert. Trey was very excited about the idea, and even spoke to MTV about a possible recording project with Young, similar to the Mirror Ball album he had released with Pearl Jam a few years before. Unfortunately, the album and tour never happened.
    • The band's summer 2020 tour was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the dates were moved to 2021. This means that 2020 is the first year without a summer tour since Phish reunited in 2009. In fact, the only Phish concerts in 2020 at all were their annual three-day stand in Mexico in February. The pandemic also postponed a tour by the Trey Anastasio Band and the much-awaited reunion tour of Oysterhead, the supergroup Trey is part of with Les Claypool and Stewart Copeland. Oysterhead were able to play two shows before the pandemic hit, and TAB eventually reconvened for eight audience-less concerts at the Beacon Theatre in New York that were streamed live for free in October and November.


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