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COVENTRY CoverageWhat Is The Theme of this Everlasting Spoof? Thoughts On Phish

Mike Greenhaus did some fine, fine work in contacting a number of musicians prior to Coventry and asking for their opinions on Phish. Here is a sampling of what he discovered- there are many more in the papers but we do offer you some bonus material that was omitted due to space limitations (again, a common theme).

John Popper: Blues Traveler

What is your favorite live Phish memory? /

By far my favorite Phish memory is when we all participated in a H.O.R.D.E scam during the end of the tour jam in Richmond, VA in 93. A year before on H.O.R.D.E, I had jumped on their trampolines and, as a joke, it collapsed. But everyone thought it was serious and said, "Oh, don’t worry John trampolines break for some people." I was like, "No, it was a gag," but nobody believed me. So the next year I happened to be in a wheelchair and we brought one of those 14 ft trampolines onstage. We got a life-sized dummy of me in another wheelchair, dressed the same way I was, and dangled it from the stage above where Phish, Widespread, and some of the Flecktones were all jamming. Then they dropped the dummy on the trampoline and, of course, it breaks, but I am off stage on a wireless microphone going, "I’m all right, I’m OK." People were calling for weeks going, "Is John OK?" It was the only time I ever saw Trey really impressed with a gag we did. They were always so far ahead of us on that front.

What will Phish’s legacy be?

Their interaction with their crowd. Phish always figures out new ways to play with their audience, whether it’s setting up a giant game off chess onstage or throwing a ball into the audience and making that tell a story. No other band has that sort of relationship with their fans.

Col. Bruce Hampton: the Codetalkers, Aquarium Rescue Unit

What is your favorite live Phish memory?

We were down south in ‘89it was the first, second, or third gig we had played with them. There must have been 100 people there between the two bands or something. Gordon was jumping on the trampoline and he missed and went flying off, but he never quick playing. I said, "that shows everything to me." He was so focused on playing it didn’t matter if he splattered all over the ground. Personally, I don’t get on trampolines past age 12.

What will Phish’s legacy be?

Music is only two things: it’s intention, and they grade about 100% on intention, and it’s playing for the cause. And they play for the cause. I don’t know what the cause is, but I know they play for it. Always what keeps you around is space. It’s not the tunes, its what you do with space. And they will be around for a long time. They did a wonderful job and I see nothing but a positive legacy. All four are talented cats and I think they will keep on putting out creative ideas galore.

Chris Baron: Spin Doctors

What is your favorite live Phish memory?

H.O.R.D.E ’92. In the early 1990s, we were touring clubs at the same time as Phish and would sort of leapfrog with them. We’d play a town one night, they’d be there the next. Everywhere we’d go people would say, "You have got to check this band out." John Popper and I actually grew up in Princeton with Trey and I vaguely remember playing hockey against him, but we never met. But, finally, on the H.O.R.D.E tour we got everyone togetherPhish, Blues Traveler, the Spin Doctors, and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. At the end of the tour’s first leg, we got everyone onstage with Blues Traveler. I remember meeting Trey backstage. They had a dog out on the road with them and I remember thinking, "Now that’s cool." They also had a funny word for people who complimented them: "Guysers." They’d say, "You guy’s are so great."

What will Phish’s legacy be?

At some point in the 1990s Rolling Stone ran an article about the Neo-hippie bands.
The label Jamband wasn’t a term back then, but the slant of the article was that Phish, Blues Traveler, and the Spin Doctors were the next generation carrying on the Grateful Dead’s tradition of improvisation. But, of all of us, Phish really kind of inherited their legacy: they are in the rock and roll scene, but exist somewhere different and they influenced all the jambands that came to be.

Jamie Shields, The New Deal

What is your favorite live Phish memory?

My favourite phish show is 11/20/92 palace theater, Albany, NY because it was my first. I had been listening to their music for about a year but hadn’t had a chance to see them up to that point. Everything I had thought about them (which was all good) went out the window, to be replaced by exponentially greater superlatives. They were everything I wanted in a band at that time. To me they sounded like progressive rock meets John Mclaughlin and I just happened to be a big prog rock and John Mclaughlin fan. I proceeded to see another 40 shows or so up to about 1994. They had a major impact on my musical life. It became clear to me that if they could do what they were doing and affect that many people, then you could be successful making music that you WANTED to make, and not necessarily have to make music you feel you SHOULD be making.

Dave Schools: Widespread Panic, Stockholm Syndrome

What is your favorite live Phish memory?

Phish and Widespread played together once at the Cotton Club in Atlanta. We got so wasted on Jager backstage the club owner almost threw both bands out before the show [laughs]. But then Phish got up there and made up something called the "Jager Song"—-to this day you can still find tapes with the "Jager Song" listed on it. Man, it was hilarious. A few years latter, while they were recording the Hoist album, Page and Trey came out and played with us at the Roxy in LA. It's amazing how well Trey and Mikey [Houser] got along. They never tried to outshine one another and really listened to each other's playing. Their version of "Low Spark of the High Heeled Boys" is just amazing.

What will Phish’s legacy be?

At the end of the 80s it was cool not to know how to play your instruments. But Phish made is cool to be a musician. Those guys really know how to play and truly love music.

Marc Brownstein: The Disco Biscuits

What’s your favorite live Phish memory?

The last show I saw in Brooklyn. It might not have necessarily be the best show I've seen, but it was the moment I realized I wasn't going to see Phish again after that encore. I was just hoping that they were going to play "Tweezer Reprise" and they did. Songs like "Tweezer Reprise" and "2001" are what Phish is all about: they're so big they tear the roof off the joint. It's that moment at the end of the show when you're just out of breath: It's not even about the music, it's about the exercise of the show.

What will Phish’s legacy be?

I didn't get Phish until I heard A Picture of Nectar, which is funny because I have friends who have seen 500 shows and still don’t own a Phish album. People discredit their albums. That’s bullshit: their albums are brilliant. Rift is especially brilliant music. There are jams on Rift, but that's not what is it about. It's about the brilliance of composition and that's what caught my attention. Now don't get me wrong: Mike Gordon is still my favorite bass player, but, for me, Phish has always been about Trey and his compositions. It was Trey who pulled me in: his discipline and his skill. It got me into music. I then went onto study music: jazz, classical, and all these other things. It was the gateway drug.

Luke Montgomery: Strangefolk

What is your favorite live Phish memory?

9/15/90: Colonial Theater, Keene NH. What a magical place to see Phish shows. This evening they pulled off a stunt that I’ll never forget. It’s hard to describe in words because it all happened at once and it happened so fast: The moment was "Bowie:" the jam was building to it’s climax, that moment just before Trey dives into that frenetic head-bobbing guitar lick, when suddenly the band stopped dead on a dime and Kuroda flipped all the lights off and fired up a nearly seizure-inducing green strobe. In the silence, the band all simultaneously started air swimming, for lack of a better term. It came off as if they were all frantically paddling in slow motion in some flickering green underwater cavern. It was so out of left field. I can’t recall exactly how long they kept it going but it was long enough for everyone in the place to do a quick mental recap of what they’d consumed that night, if only for reassurance. Then, as if a needle was being dropped back on a record, they resumed the full-tilt jam at the millisecond they left off and the lights all went back to normal. The whole thing was a crazy detour, as if nothing had happened. It was absolutely mind blowing and it was typical of the many antics this
band would pull out of its hat during that era. I brought in a little portable recorder and taped that show for kicks. All you can hear during this Bowie moment is me and my friends laughing our asses off in disbelief. It was one of those magic moments where you just had to be there – the tape will only show a silent gap with crowd noise. I’ll never forget it.

What will Phish’s legacy be?

In this age of instant nostalgia, I’m not sure. I think they deserve to be remembered as one of the most dynamic, creative, and unique bands of the last 20 years. Phish absorbed so many varied elements of the music that preceded them and distilled it into something truly singular and widely appealing, a rare feat. The level of popularity they achieved brandishing their particular sound and sense of showmanship is testament to their ingenuity. Luke Montgomery was interviewed by Tom Russell

A Quick Q& A with Incubus

Incubus cut their teeth in Phish’s parking lot drum circles. Long before their stream of radio-hits and arena tours, Mike Einziger (guitar), Brandon Boyd (vocals), and Jose Pasillias (drums) used Phish’s canon to find their musical fingering and summer tour to foster their band’s creative bond. In fact, a flip through Incubus’ early sets reveals a series of rather intriguing covers: "Stash," "Weigh," "Rift," "Maze," and "Llama." (also be sure to check out the group’s nod to "Maze" during the instrumental breakdown of their new track, "Priceless.")

What is your favorite live Phish memory?

Mike: There are so many of them. I first started to see Phish when I was about 15. I was in High School, about tenth grade, and saw them open up for Santana at the Greek Theater in LA. A bunch of kids I knew used to follow them on tour, so started to go to bunch of shows. They were much smaller than they are now and playing for about 1,000 people, but those are some of the best concert experiences I had.

I saw was this one show at the Ventura Theater which was really, really amazing and another at San Diego State University. I just remember they played "Reba" which was my favorite song at that time—-the jam in the middle was just amazing. I remember just losing my mind at the show.

I was also Phish in 1995 and met Fishman and Page backstage. I remember I was all exited because I was going to go to music school at the University of Vermont and told Page. He just looked at me like I was crazy [laughs]. He was just like, "Oh, Good for you." I remember I was so bummed like, "oh, he doesn’t like me [laughs]."

Brandon: Mike and I saw Phish at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, CA. Les Claypool’s Sausage also played, but Phish closed that night. It was about the music, but also way more exponential than any other concert I’ve been too. The band’s music was a catalysis, for everything else involved. It was a camping adventure too. You felt like you’re in some different world as soon as you pull into the parking lot. You’re in this separated sub-culture that isn’t trying in any way to be part of the mainstream.

Jose: The Wiltern in ’95. It was just a great show—-I "hipping" out, doing the chicken dance. Fishman had his drum set turned inward and I remember thinking that that was a really unique style. So I basically just knocked it and used that in my setup with Incubus.
Brandon [Boyd] and I used to go to all of those shows. We’d walk around the lot with a little drum and start jamming

Are their traces of Phish in Incubus current sound?

Mike: I have been hugely inspired by all of those guys, especially Trey. Not just his stuff with Phish, but his work with Sun Ra, his solo records, and his compositional skills. He is an incredible musician and some day I’d love to play music with any of those guys. We were just starting Incubus when we were also getting into Phish. When you listen to our records it may not be as apparent, but if anyone comes to our live show there are a lot of sections where we just go off on a tangent and improvise. I think our Phish influence there is much more apparent, as opposed to our records which are much more compact.

Brandon: People usually cite the Grateful Dead when they talk about the impact of jambands. But for me, Phish had much more of an impact since I wasn’t alive during the Dead’s inception and throughout their peak years. Phish were at their peak at a time when I was most easily influenced by music. Phish was one of the first bands I got really, really into. I’d drive halfway across the country to go to one of their shows and we’d always make an adventure out of it. If they were playing within a 2,000 miles radius we’d probably go to their show. People say what you listen to from when your 15-19 years old really creates the musical person, like the experiences you have from when your 1-4 dictate your behavior. The personalities created in that band are so unique.

Jose: Fishman was definitely an influence when I first started playing. I would just sit down and play to their music with headphones, though obviously I couldn’t play all the technical stuff he was doing. Mike and I used to like to play "Llama," since it was pretty simple for a Phish song. I also used to like to play "Rift"we would bastardize their songs. We’d do the bastardized versions of little parts of their songs [laughs].

What is Phish’s legacy?

Mike: They really pioneered a fusion between improvisational jazz-music and rock music and brought it to a mainstream level. Even though they’re not as commercially successful in the world of modern rock, in terms so four people just setting up instruments and playing they’ve accomplished something huge. They have had a massive, massive impact on musicians all over the world. It just goes to show, you don’t have to write radio friendly songs to have a career as a musician. They stuck to their values and made music they way they wanted to make it and haven’t compromised anything to do what they wanted to do.

Brandon: It was really influential to see a band that wasn’t commercially successful, but still hugely successful. They didn’t have to do what everyone else was doing in music in order to get successful. They are definitely a band that did things on their own terms.

Jose: They are one of those bands that will always reinvent themselves anytime they write music and anyone who is a fan of music can’t deny their musicality. It’s probably a common ground for musicians and I think you’ll see in the future that they’ve influenced a lot of bands that you wouldn’t think of. We don’t necessarily play their style of music, but we listen to it and that seeps in. Their CDs sales are so minimal compared to their live show, but they are going to be known as one of the biggest bands out there.

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