Phish, a US band, was formed in 1983 (1983 in music) at the University of Vermont by guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio, rhythm guitarist Jeff Holdsworth, and drummer Jonathan Fishman, later joined by bassist Mike Gordon. Jeff soon left the band (he found religion) and Page McConnell joined on keyboards, finalizing the lineup.
Origins and elements
Phish began playing at local clubs in Burlington, and their live shows gained a reputation for extended improvisational jams. Their musical ethos is a playful mix of skilled improvisation, psychedelic rock, folk, bluegrass, funk, a capella/barbershop quartet, and intricate compositions. Some of their original compositions (such as "Theme from the Bottom" and "Farmhouse") tend towards a psychedelic-rock and bluegrass fusion, with more rock and funk elements than the Grateful Dead and other earlier so-called jam bands. Their more epic compositions (such as "Divided Sky" and "Fluffhead") are often said to resemble classical music in a rock setting.
They recorded their debut album, "Junta" in 1988 (1988 in music), and began touring nationally soon after, playing 150 concerts in 1990 (1990 in music) alone. They were signed to Elektra Records and released:
- Junta (1989 in music)
- Lawn Boy (1990 in music)
- Picture of Nectar (1992 in music)
- Rift (1993 in music)
- Hoist (1994 in music)
- A Live One (1995 in music) - Recorded live during the fall of 1994.
- Billy Breathes (1996 in music)
- Slip Stitch and Pass (1997 in music) - Recorded live at Markthalle, Hamburg, Germany, March 1, 1997
- The Story of the Ghost (1998 in music)
- The Siket Disc (1999 in music) - "All music on this disc was recorded live (no overdubs) during two multi-day jam sessions at Bearsville Studios in 1997 in music."
- Hampton Comes Alive (1999 in music)
- Farmhouse (2000 in music).
- Round Room (2002 in music)
- Undermind (2004 in music)
Note: All album information is taken from The Phish Companion book released by The Mockingbird Foundation in 2000.
Phish is also releasing a steady stream of recorded live concerts from their archives, which contain thousands of concerts. Six albums are released twice each year. The Live Phish Series began in late 2001. They have also released a DVD of a performance in Las Vegas from September 30, 2000.
Recently, the band released a DVD of their penultimate festival "It" (Dry Goods -- IT. The first of this 2-DVD set was aired as a PBS special.
Their fame grew with each successive release and, instead of succumbing to the pressures of huge stadium concerts, the band began organizing massive festivals such as the Clifford Ball (1996 in music), Great Went (1997 in music), Lemonwheel (1998 in music), Oswego (1999 in music), a 3 day millennium concert at the Big Cypress Seminole reservation at the end of 1999 (1999 in music), and the "It" festival at Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine. Phish toured throughout the summer and fall of 2000, and began a hiatus at the end of the tour (The first break longer than a few months for 17 years). The band members then began embarking on side projects: Trey fronting his own 10-piece band and working with Stewart Copeland of The Police and Les Claypool of Primus in the super group Oysterhead, Page forming the trio Vida Blue with Russell Batiste (The Meters) and Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers), Fish performing with Pork Tornado and Jazz Mandolin Project, and Mike working on films such as Outside Out and The Deep End.
Phish ended the self-imposed hiatus with a sold-out New Year's Eve (12/31/02) show at Madison Square Garden in New York City followed by a 3 show run in Hampton, VA. They have completed a Winter and Summer Tour for 2003, a 20th anniversery tour (Nov. 28-Dec. 2), a four day New Year's run in Miami, an April 2004 Las Vegas run, and the final summer tour of 2004.
Despite the great successes by the band, the group seldom found themselves regularly on the radio or MTV, with the great culture surrounding the band's performances more often receiving news before the actual music was. The band in fact only had one non-album b-side on all of their officially-released singles, an outtake from Billy Breathes entitled "Strange Design" from overseas copies of their song "Free".
Ben and Jerry named a flavour of ice cream after them, "Phish Food." It has chocolate ice cream with gooey marshmallows and fudge fish. It is Ben and Jerry's third highest selling flavor as of 2000. All profits go towards the cleaning of Lake Champlain. Other music groups have had flavors named after them as well, with the Grateful Dead being the first ("Cherry Garcia") and Dave Matthews Band being among the more recent ("One Sweet Whirled").
Phish fans are often associated in the public eye with a revival of some elements of hippie culture, especially marijuana use. The free and artistic community which often accompanies them has as its roots the followers of the Grateful Dead. While the band knew and emulated the group they are quick to point out they are technically different from them.
Like the Grateful Dead before them, Phish (along with an increasing number of bands these days) have always allowed people to record and distribute audio of their live performances. Though soundboard copies of Phish's shows are shortly pressed and sold on the band's website, fans are also permitted to tape any performance they so desire, with the understanding that no profits from the recording are to be made. They may freely give or trade them with other fans, however, and many do. All net profits from the sale of soundboard recordings are donated directly to the Mockingbird Foundation, a non-profit organization of Phish fans supporting music education for children.
On May 25, 2004 Phish frontman Trey Anastasio announced via the Official Phish website that the Summer 2004 Tour will be their final tour, and that the 2004 album Undermind will also be their final album. Trey stated ".. We don't want to become caricatures of ourselves, or worse yet, a nostalgia act." This ends Phish's twenty-one year run. Their final show, Coventry, was held in the band's "home state" of Vermont on August 14 and 15, 2004. The festival was an emotional event for the band and fans alike, attended by 70,000 fans (many of whom hiked upwards of 20 miles to the show after weather conditions made further onsite parking impossible) and was also broadcast locally on FM radio, on XM satellite radio, and simulcast in high-definition video to hundreds of movie theaters nationwide.