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Published: 2013/12/02

Birds of a Feather: Artists Reflect on Phish

Ted Nugent

I saw Phish on Austin City Limits and I thought they were very creative and they were very tight. They paid attention…Unlike the Grateful Dead, the guys in Phish appear to be very creative and very disciplined musicians. I thought Jerry Garcia was nothing but an absolute pathetic lump of shit.

Alex Bleeker (Real Estate)

[I’m still young] so the first Phish show I saw was the very first post hiatus New Years Eve show at the Garden [in December ‘02]. I saw them as much as I possibly could during that time period… We covered “Dirt” from Farmhouse and we also did “Character Zero.” We would play “Dirt” for like half an hour like in practice, just like jam on it. Our “Character Zero” cover would rip.

Dan Kanter (Justin Bieber)

At summer camp when I heard “Divided Sky,” it was all over. That just took it to the next level. While I love the Dead, Phish is a band that I discovered myself, and I just got knee deep in it. At the same time, I’ve always been involved in pop music, where everything is quite scripted and rehearsed. That’s almost the complete opposite. It’s a release when I go to a Phish show: completely spontaneous, I have no idea what’s coming up next. So it’s really been important to me to have both of those worlds in my life.

My wife is also a huge Phish fan. She’s been listening to Phish longer than I have. She was in university when they played [on the marquee] at The Late Show with David Letterman and went to that show. My brother-in-law, he’s seen over a hundred shows—he’s completely obsessed. So now Phish is our family bonding, too. As soon as we have a break from anything Bieber, the first place we all meet up is at a Phish show. I’ve actually tried to plan our entire tour schedule [and rehearsals] around the summer tour. I think we have four or five more weeks to get this show together and then we begin the never-ending tour.

Kyle Glass (Tenacious D)

Second greatest band, hard to say, hard to say, Phish?....I went and saw one of the final shows. It was great. I did nitrous on the bus, and they’re big pot smokers so I had a good time. Until I got kind of paranoid and had to hide in the bus.

Jose Pasillias (Incubus)

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 CD sales are so minimal compared to their live show, but they are going to be known as one of the biggest bands out there.

Aaron Dessner (The National)

Everyone in The National pretty much grew up listening to Phish and jambands besides Matt Berninger…Once in high school [National drummer] Bryan Devendorf borrowed my car and went to a Phish show with Scott [Devendorf] at Deer Creek without telling me—I was so pissed!

Jack Johnson

Zach Rouge [of Rouge Wave] and I went to the Laguna Seca Daze festival and [saw Phish]. And we used to see Phish shows together in college.

Jeff Austin (Yonder Moutain String Band)

In 1993 or 1994, I did a whole tour with Phish and stood in the front row right in front of Trey and I had that epiphany moment of this is what I’m supposed to be doing. It had happened in the spring of ‘93 at the Dean Smith Center with the Grateful Dead, where I kinda went, ‘I don’t know if I want to do musical theater anymore Mom and Dad.’

It’s amazing, sometimes, a band gets one run. They influence one chunk of time and then everyone gets to listen to the tapes. Because something tragic happened or something time-wise happened. I’m almost 40 years old and you go to shows and you see guys my age and kids who are 18 years old. They all get to now, get back into the well and be inspired by it. We’re better that they’re playing music. A lot of times in this whole career, our heroes don’t make it and luckily they kinda did. I’m just glad they’re playing music and making music in real time. I listen to a lot my heroes on tape and I’m really glad I don’t have to do that with those guys.

Ed Helms

My college roommate and lifelong bandmate, Jake, was a die-hard fan, so I got a pretty good education on all things Phishy. And like every guitar nerd of my generation, I spent hours trying to master Trey [Anastasio]‘s tasty licks from “Stash” on A Picture of Nectar. Their musicianship was just staggering – so technically advanced, but light hearted and free spirited. I saw them a few times. I remember a show in Atlanta where the crowd was just incredibly joyful. When they played “Fee,” it was like an old time religious revival. They’re brilliant guys, but clearly terrible spellers.

Brett Dennen

I went to Phish shows in college and played in a band that sound liked Yonder. I played in Vermont once and actually Fishman was there and he came to see a show. Then I came back to play again, and I got an email from Mike Gordon saying, “I want to get together, can you come up to my house or to the Barn.” I’m like freaking out but I couldn’t go, I didn’t have time. But I got together with Mike and from what I’ve known about him, I knew he was a cool guy. I hadn’t really hung out with him before that except for one time when I got a drink with him at a bar in Boulder at some conference. So the introduction was made there but I think later he heard my record and we started talking. He had just he finished doing some stuff with Leo Kottke, and he was making a record and didn’t know what he wanted to do but knew he wanted to write a lot of words. He was attracted to something about my songs, so he just wanted to hang out and talk about songs and songwriting. I’ve been back to Burlington since then and he’s always come to the show and usually he’ll get on stage with me. We’ll just sit around, drink tea and talk about music. It usually starts out with him asking me questions about songwriting and then him telling a story that is so interesting that it leads to a follow-up story and then him telling me about the times he played with different members of the Grateful Dead. I’ve never played with members of The Dead! He loves to tell a story and have people listen to him, and I’m fascinated by him. I don’t think we ever got anything done except talking about songwriting. He’s a wild guy man, he’s fascinating.

Stephen Malkmus (Pavement)
I have a tiny connection with Phish through their recording engineer Bryce Goggin. People have said they hired him after hearing Pavement’s albums. [In Pavement] it was pretty classic having a singer/songwriter guy with everyone add their parts. Probably not too different from Phish in that way. We’re a little darker, a little harder than maybe what has carried jambands into the money.


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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