Here is a YouTube mix of music by Phish.
Just an average group of college guys, the members of Phish got together in 1983 on the campus of the University of Vermont. In the dorm rooms of this university, Trey Anastasio, a philosophy major, Jeff Holdsworth, an electrical engineering major, and Jon Fishman, a chemical engineering major, overheard each other's music playing in the hall. So the three of them decided to jam, Trey and Jeff on guitar and Fish on the drums. It made good sense to these three that they should start a band, but they were in need of a bass player. To solve this problem, they posted signs around campus advertising an opening for such an addition. Mike Gordon appeared in reply to the signs and soon had the job.
Gathering in the dorm lounge, they attempted to make their very first demo tape. Going under the name of Blackwood Convention, they soon found themselves at the threshold of their virgin performance, a party in the basement in a conservative dorm. The glory of their first gig, however, was abruptly ended after the playing of the covers of "Proud Mary" twice and "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress", due to the popular vote of the party-goers to pop in a Michael Jackson tape.
And from these humble beginnings, a band called Phish emerged. Often hailed as the Grateful Dead of the 1990's (and some of the 1980's, too), Phish amassed a faithful following similar to that of the Dead. And like the Dead, Phish's album releases were often far less interesting than their live performances, for the most part. Unlike the Dead, whose image was almost solely based on drugs, Phish offers a sound and image that is funky, carefree and sometimes hilarious. Phish's music relies on no particular form and is often impromptu, grazing in the fields of bluegrass, folk, rock, jazz, country, and pop, but never picking a favorite.
The band spent its first few years traveling the college circuit in the New England states. In December of 1984, Phish landed its first job in a bar called Nectar's. A couple more members appeared at this show including a mysterious singer called The Dude Of Life as well as Marc Daubert in the percussion section. During 1985, the band traveled to Goddard College, where Page McConnell attended school. Page McConnell had a little rhythm and blues band at the time and he and Phish enjoyed each other's sounds. McConnell, a keyboard player, was at first not wanted by Phish, for they had decided that they were a guitar band, but eventually Page won them over and gained his spot with the band. By 1986, Holdsworth had left the band.
Anastasio, who had transferred along with Fishman to Goddard College, composed and even recorded the song "The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday" for his senior thesis in 1986. This song wove the tale of a sinister monarch and his people's struggles to free themselves and their land, Gamchendge.
Despite the fact that this piece was never recorded on any album, it is often included in live performances as "Wilson". Finally, by 1988, Phish had come out with their first album, "Junta", recorded by the independent label, Absolute A-Go-Go, and available only on cassette tape. Songs of a gargantuan length graced this recording like "David Bowie", "Fluffhead" and "Divided Sky". Though these songs were each over ten minutes long, they lacked clever lyrics, according to some critics. The music itself, however, proved to be much more rewarding. Some of the songs only had three or four decipherable words. Still, an endearing goofiness prevailed as Phish's style and it kept the fans coming.
By 1990, Phish had expanded their touring to the Midwest, capturing even more fans with their highly entertaining three-hour long concerts. They were also the subjects of Phish@world, an e-mail listserve dedicated to conversation about the band. Their second album, "Lawnboy", also came out in 1990, proving to the world that Phish could come up with lyrics that matched the cleverness of their songs. Jazzy, energetic songs issued forth from "Lawnboy" like the bluegrass flavored "Poor Heart" and the title track. 1991 brought a free show at the farm of friend and fan, Amy Skelton as well as the temporary addition of a horn section to the original band. Having had some technical trouble with the collapse of their record company, Absolute A-Go-Go, in 1991, the band began negotiations with Elektra and achieved a contract by the fall of 1991.
Album number three, "A Picture of Nectar", was released in 1992. This release proved to be a mixed success with the dynamics of Phish's live performances well preserved but with a definite lack of flow of the music. The band jumped around from rock and lounge to bluegrass and jazz, never being able to settle with a type of music. Still, Phish kept up a healthy following and surely the fans did not mind the scattered album. Later that summer, Phish helped to christen the very first H.O.R.D.E. tour and then toured with Santana. The liaison with the seasoned performer Santana would be very influential in helping to make the band stronger and broaden their fan base.
Two more albums were released in 1993 and 1994, respectively, "Rift" and "Hoist", that proved to be more cohesive and commercially acceptable. However, the power Phish had on stage was still lacking. To combat the trouble they were having with studio-recorded albums, as the Grateful Dead did many years before, Phish released a live album, "A Live One", in 1995. To the gleeful reception of fans, this LP boasted much adored older songs like "Harry Hood" and "Slave to the Traffic Light." Preceding their 35 show tour of the U.S., Phish released the album "Billy Breathes", in 1996, in which they finally mastered a pleasant flow through the genres of music they performed.
In 1997, they took a trip back to live recordings and issued "Slip, Stitch and Pass". Their 1998 album, "The Story of the Ghost", seemed to be finally bringing them into the mainstream, much to the dismay of some of their hardcore fans. In 1999, they released a six disc live album called "Hampton Comes Alive". Their most recent release is "Farmhouse", from 2000.
The Phish concerts are still the most legendary aspect of the band, however, the concerts are currently on hold as the band is on a temporary sabbatical. Such elements of intrigue can be found at Phish concerts such as naked vacuum cleaner playing and signals played by the band that alert the audience to respond with such enticing phrases as "Doh!", the battle cry of Homer Simpson. They are also known to have played the entirety of albums such as the Beatles' "White Album" and "Remain In Light" from Talking Heads during concerts. Of course, they can do such things as play entire albums by other bands considering the concerts often last an epic three sets. The impact of Phish on alternative music lovers is shown in more areas than merely music. The band even has a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream flavor named for them, "Phish Food".
This is only an introductory installation of the vast stories of Phish, the Internet is the place to go to find more intriguing Phish tales.
Page author: N.G.