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Published: 2013/12/02

Birds of a Feather: Artists Reflect on Phish

Danny Clinch with Phish (Photo by Dean Budnick)

Chris Tomson (Vampire Weekend)

I think the ultimate experience, for me, is when Vampire Weekend headlined Merriweather Post in the fall of 2010. The first Phish show I was at was September 17, 2000 at Merriweather Post. Then, ten years later, it is early September and, as it happened, on our last big US tour, the fall of 2010, and we played Merriweather Post within a week of the 10-year anniversary of me seeing that first Phish show. That was kind of one of the cooler conceptual experiences for me, to remember how much that show meant to me and then playing a show at that thing 10 years later. That was probably the most full-circle thing I could ever achieve.

Danny Clinch (Film Director, Photographer)

They are always on the move and never stay in one place musically. You certainly have to give the Dead credit for starting the genre of jamband music, but I think Phish stretched it out musically and are the forefathers of what is now the Jamband scene. They did things the way they wanted to. They didn’t really do any videos or much press. What press they did, they didn’t really search out. They just weren’t interested in that. Even when I photographed them, they weren’t interested (laughs). They were interested in hanging out, but they weren’t interested in taking pictures necessarily. Later on, Trey got more into it than anyone. He’d bring extra clothes. They’d be all wrinkled up in a bag and he’d dump them out and say, “Danny what do you think I should wear?” Fishman would show up with a sweatshirt and a t-shirt underneath. That’s about all I got out of him (laughs).

On his favorite live Phish memory:

Big Cypress in ’99. I was there shooting and it was just so unbelievable to watch the sun rise. They invited me and my whole family down there and put us in a really nice RV. There were a lot of kids backstage too, so they set up a pool. My son Max was about 3 at that time. It’s funny now he’s taking drum lessons from this guy who must be about 22 and is in to their type of music. We were talking about Phish and he said, “Max, have you ever seen Phish?” He was like, “Yeah, I saw them in Florida and I went swimming with Trey.” Whenever they have a special guest come around, they don’t really let anyone in dressing room where they are rehearsing. But they always let me in there and I feel very privileged to be witnessing that first meeting. I was there with BB King, Kid Rock, and recently with Jay Z. Jay Z was really skeptical about how he was going to be received by the Phish fans. He was saying, “Are you sure these guys aren’t going to say, “ Ok enough with Jay Z, let’s get the band back?”” But when they did “99 Problems” and “Big Pimping” the crowd went completely crazy and knew every single song. They completely embraced it.

Joe Westerland (Megafaun)

Actually, the first time I heard Phish was at Justin [Vernon]’s house in high school. He played Hoist for me. He liked them but he never actually went to a show with us. Before that I was listening to Nirvana, and I had a Germs record. I was either going to go the jazz route or the punk route, and the punk thing didn’t work out for me. After Justin played me Hoist, I bought it and I just couldn’t stop listening to it.

Cass McCombs

I am a big Phish fan—I had a subscription to Relix in the early ‘90s. I’m incredibly indebted to Mike Gordon for being on my record. He’s such an amazing player. I mean, God, he’s so unique. I’ve never played with someone who plays like that. He’s one of the best—not just bass players, but musicians—I’ve ever been around. He was game for the chaos. He didn’t flinch. We also met through that TRI show.

Andrew VanWyngarden (MGMT)

I was a huge Phish fan. I was obsessed with Phish. And I remember reading at some point in high school Trey talking about something he called the “kill mommy” phase, I think he was talking about Jerry Garcia, just how at one point he kind of forced himself to break from that and step out and try something else… I think the most special show for me was probably when they came to Memphis back in ‘99. They played at the Pyramid and the crowd sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Trey. (As testament to his fandom and leadership, VanWyngarden actually helped start the famous chant by distributing hundreds of flyers he had printed before the show.)

Les Claypool

Phish and Primus had a mutual friend or friend’s girlfriend in the early ‘90s, and they gave us one of their CDs. We would run around the house singing “Bagit Tagit.” Trey got a hold of me and we started talking about Sun Ra and a few things that we were both into. My band Sausage opened for them at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, CA but I had no idea how big they were until they asked us to come to Vegas to play with them. We road tripped out there and sat in—we did a bit with dancing girls, Fishman’s Elvis things and a bit of Wildwood Weed [in 1996]. I remember they wanted to bring a tiger onstage and there was some drama with animal control. A few years later my manager—who also managed Galactic—asked me what I wanted to put together for Jazz Fest and I called Trey since he is a jam kind of guy. He said, “I really want to do something with Stewart Copeland.” Only later did I learn that he was politely trying to decline doing the jam and saying someone who he thought was impossible to get like Van Halen.


There are 32 comments associated with this post

Frank December 2, 2013, 13:20:50

Jeff Holdswoth WAS A GUITARIST! Jesus Christ

Honey Potter December 2, 2013, 13:29:52

What became of Jeff Holdsworth?.

Bonnie December 2, 2013, 13:37:26

To Ted Nugent. Your descrption of Jerry Garcia is describing your pathetic self. There is a reason why at this point in time you are reduced to playing dive bars.You suck!.

Peachy December 2, 2013, 14:32:04 just threw a serious meatball for anyone who is annoyed by Ted Nugent. Please folks, make me laugh!

the highway terror December 2, 2013, 14:59:52

what the hell, Nugent hasn’t had a hit in 30 +years he has to get everyones attention somehow …...

Shockadow December 2, 2013, 15:11:15

Both Keller Williams & Adam Levine mentioned Phish “going away” or “the end” of Phish…
Is there something we don’t know?

Shockadow December 2, 2013, 15:13:42

Both Keller Williams & Adam Levine mentioned Phish “going away” or “the end” of Phish…
Is there something we don’t know?

Dino December 2, 2013, 15:20:02

“Both Keller Williams & Adam Levine mentioned Phish “going away” or “the end” of Phish…
Is there something we don’t know?” These qoutes were taken over the years and I believe this was after the breakup between 2004-2009.

frankytanky December 2, 2013, 15:22:01

“Many artists have given Relix and their two cents on the Vermont quartet over the years, and we’ve compiled many of those thoughts here today. “

Greatfuldunn December 2, 2013, 15:30:31

“Both Keller Williams & Adam Levine mentioned Phish “going away” or “the end” of Phish…
Is there something we don’t know?”
The Coventry shows in August of ’04 were supposed to be the end of their run. Of course, they have obviously reunited since then. And thank God they didn’t go out on that show! What a muddy mess that was!

Jay December 2, 2013, 16:11:03

I once saw Ted Nugent sit in with Lynyrd Skynyrd from the front row. I am not exactly Carlos Santana when it comes to guitar playing but even I can play Sweet Home Alabama. Sure enough they bring out the Motor City Asshat to join them on one of rock and roll’s most famous anthems. After the first verse the guitar player gives Ted the nod to solo. Within 5 seconds every person in the audience that was not utterly inebriated on sour mash, and even some that were realized that old Ted was soloing in the wrong key. It sounded like someone was taking the cat’s temperature with a curling iron. Ted Nugent criticizing Jerry Garcia’s guitar playing holds about as much weight as a desert Bedouin criticizing the Red Wings power play. Long Live The Phish!

smile December 2, 2013, 16:16:50

ted nugent …child molester

Ron Grady December 2, 2013, 23:59:18

Haha Ted Nugent knows as much about guitar playing as he does about politics fucking idiot!

ZamMan December 3, 2013, 07:02:53

F Ted Nugent. . The last time I saw hin he was playing a water park in Hot Springs, Arkansas and he sucked ass

jerry blows December 3, 2013, 10:00:32

Jerry noodled on the guitar and was a mindless drug addict.

MotorCity December 3, 2013, 14:34:35

The Nuge is still shooting flaming arrows across the stage and Jerry is no more than dust…

Enigmatic Recluse December 3, 2013, 22:20:28

Good to hear from folks around the country that Teddy the Nudge is reduced to playing crap gigs. Here un Detroit he can still get suckers out to the big amphitheater every summer. Teddy may be a sack of shit, but Jerry did coast for two-thirds of his career because he was dumb enough to get hooked on smack.

Goldenblue December 4, 2013, 08:38:42 ought to be ashamed of themselves for even printing such garbage from the mouth of someone who has zero credibility in the jamband world. Hey Relix or where would you even be without Jerry and the Deadheads? NOWHERE so why did you choose to even print what he said in an article about Phish? I think this will be one bookmark that I will delete.

From Europe December 5, 2013, 04:15:00

Finally, someone said the truth: Garcia wasn’t a great musician. Compare him to the great r’r guitarist Jimmy Page Townshend Hendrix Blackmore Clapton ec
Garcia and the Grateful Dead create a sociological attitude around the concerts but musically they were nothing special.

Colonel Angus December 5, 2013, 14:02:14

Love these features! Keep them coming.

Col. Lingus December 5, 2013, 16:26:12

Ted Nugent must have mistook his catalog for Jerry Garcia. I’d be willing to bet Jerry spent more time practicing in one year than Ted has his whole life. It certainly shows when you compare their guitar prowess, or lack thereof in Ted’s case.

Col. Lingus December 5, 2013, 16:28:45

Hey From Europe… are obviously not a musician

Fred December 6, 2013, 10:37:49

“Jerry noodled on the guitar and was a mindless drug addict.” ^ Jer did noodle and was a drug addict. But, “mindless”? have you even listened to him speak for as little as 30 seconds? One of the most articulate, knowledgeable, interesting minds anywhere, then and now.

Relevant December 6, 2013, 17:19:06

From Europe: During one of the stops on the Plant/Page tour in either 88 or 89, a reporter asked Page how it felt to be the “world’s greatest living guitar player”. Page’s answer: “I wouldn’t know. You should aks Garcia.”.

Hippietrip December 6, 2013, 17:19:11

Like my balls Nugent!

dk70 December 7, 2013, 10:36:12

I would love to see how Ted Nugent could solo over the chord changes on Missippi Half Step, Music Never Stopped or even Deal, for that matter. His wanker pentatonic Foghat wanna-be riffs would fall flat after two measures.

finalvinyl60 December 7, 2013, 12:44:42

Ted’s entitled to his opinion, but what I don’t understand about people of his ilk is why is he so angry and mean spirited. Jerry’s music is celebrated by countless numbers of tribute bands and some of the finest symphony orchestras in this country. The only one playing Ted Nugent’s music, is well, Ted Nugent. A hundred years from now people will still be listiening to and playing Jerry’s music. Nugent’s music dies with him.

From Europe December 7, 2013, 14:11:59

It’s not important if you use a penthatonic or mixolydian or arabic or some difficult and strange scales: I personally consider the solo from Since I’ve been loving you (led zeppelin 3) the most expressive solo in r’n‘r history. It’s your theoretic approach. For example, Jimmy Page create this increadible and intricate songs with open chords (listen the rain song).
Just my opinion: Phil Lesh was the only great musician in the Grateful Dead.

Nick December 7, 2013, 15:53:32

Fuck You Ted Nugent!! If u really said that, that is… I mean, WTF do u know about playing guitar anyhow

kye December 7, 2013, 20:11:22

guys/gals Ted is a Douche he said that like 10 years ago too he is a child raping fool who has about 3 decent guitar rifts. he coulda never have written songs that Jer bear did so F him he is now worth the time. He has one city DETROIT! Now there is a city to be proud of. Bankrupt and taking pensions while Jerry lives on even brighter today When TED dies know one will care except for his lil girl of a wife and the NRA.. HEy but he liked on phish lol #clueless

Carlos December 9, 2013, 13:54:56

So who is the bigger douche bag? John Popper or Ted Nugent?

dk70 December 10, 2013, 18:27:29

Jimmy Page is a Rock God, master studio album producer, genius riff meister and songwriter. To compare him to “The Nuge” is well, ya know…..PS..“Since I’ve Been Loving You is Diatonic Minor. Jerry in his prime was arguably the best singer songwriter lead player on Earth 1970-1978.

Steve C August 24, 2015, 14:24:53

I was never a fan of Ted Nugent or his music, and I’m even less of a fan now. Personally, I think the guy was a pretty fair guitarist in his day. His day passed long ago. All that’s left for him now is trying to have sex with his fans’ daughters who have grandad fetishes. However, all that is irrelevant here. If you’re a real artist, you don’t shit on others. You don’t have to. In reality, like Garcia or not, the Grateful Dead songbook is one of the most prodigious and powerful in this history of rock ‘n roll… right up there with The Rolling Stones, Beatles and Bob Dylan’s songbooks. It’s no coincidence that Dylan was a huge fan of both the band and Jerry. Dylan understood the power of the music… it’s deep EMOTIONAL content. I’m sure that the Nooj would have a hard time grasping that. Guys who gloat about having sex with underage women and bow hunt animals with bait (!) are not just tasteless… They’re criminals! Truth be told, Ted Nugent should be in prison. He’s no different than Gary Glitter or Jimmy Saville. A rapist!

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