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Published: 2013/12/02

Birds of a Feather: Artists Reflect on Phish

Dave Schools (Widespread Panic)

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.

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

Marc Brownstein (The Disco Biscuits)

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.

JJ Cale

I also opened for Phish at one time, though I didn’t know who they were. They said, “Do you want to open for Phish?” I said, “Is that Country Joe and the Fish” [laughs]. They said, “No, this is a new group—- they are a jamband.” They felt bad about me not having a full band, so the bass player [Mike] Gordon came out and played bass with us.

Luke Montgomery (Strangefolk)

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.

Hank Sullivant (Kuroma)

My first Phish show was July 29, 1998 outside St Louis. I had heard Junta at my summer camp, so knew they had really long, orchestrated songs but I didnt know how much they improvised until they opened with this amazing, 25-minute version of “Bathtub Gin.” Andrew and I were listening to so much Grateful Dead and Phish around then that our music sort of came off as jam-funk even though we had these really good funk arrangements

Brandon Boyd (Incubus)

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.

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