30 Years of Phish
After 30 years of creating free-form musical fusion, over 8 million albums and DVDs sold worldwide, a discography of 14 albums, and an ice cream flavor named after them by Ben and Jerry, the Vermont-based band Phish is still very much relevant in the ever-changing landscape of popular music. Trey Anastasio (guitar, vocals), Mike Gordan (bass, vocals), Jon Fishman (drums, percussion, vocals), and Page McConnell (keyboards, vocals) have been mesmerizing audiences with their no-two-shows-the-same approach to live performances for three decades and show no signs of stopping anytime soon.
The success and longevity of Phish can be attributed in a large part to their ever-loyal grassroots fan base. Without the help of corporate radio airplay, Phish, like The Grateful Dead before them, has become a vital part of pop/counter culture and transcended the trappings and boundaries of commercial success. To be a Phish fan means being unafraid of mental, physical and musical exploration. At any concert of festival where Phish is present, the sweet aroma of marijuana is the unofficial fifth member of the quartet.
Extended solos, total genre combination/permutation, and improvisational exploration of their original songs when performed live, is and always has been, a staple of the band’s character. So much, in fact, that their live performances, which can last over 90 minutes, have sometimes consisted of only four songs. And while music publications categorize Phish as a “jam-band,” the moniker is the only phrase that attempts, but never successfully describes, the musical experience that is Phish.
Phish is not the only band to have a 30th birthday. In fact, Phish may be the least commercially successful band in the 30-plus year group, but there is no denying the fact that they very well may be the most influential of the thirty-something groups. Always a festival favorite, Phish has rarely ever known what it feels like to play in front of anything less than a capacity crowd. Understanding that album sales never reflect musical quality, Phish has always allowed their fans to record their live shows and share them free-of-charge to new and old fans alike. The band has always been able to let their songs take on a life of their own, to exist in the moment without boundaries or expectation; in this way, the songs of this legendary band, are living a life that we, the fans, are lucky to experience for a brief moment in our lifetimes.
Happy birthday, Phish, and many happy returns.
Photo Credit John V