Phish began their careers as a Grateful Dead cover band and ended up one of the greatest live bands in history. But why? What makes it possible to enjoy a 25 minute jam without drugs?
Unparalleled skill in improvisational musicianship is the key, coupled with a telepathic connection and a near-forensic level of attention the band pays to creating an unforgettable experience for fans. A Phish show is a conjuring of melodious harmonies that can grow, evolve and morph into what fans refer to as “Type I,””Type II” or “Type III” jams. On any given night, the band might play to a singular theme, or use the setlist to spell out a secret message. They’re a hitless band, but you can reliably watch tens of thousands of heads burst when they tear into a song for the first time in 150+ shows or randomly cover Rage Against The Machine.
Phish are a world unto themselves, purveyors of deep soul-joy and ironclad dedication by a community that continues to grow as an international superfamily of fans. To fully taste the rainbow, we went to longtime AQ writer, Phunion architect and Phish devotee Reverend Justito’s house, just before the Curveball cancellation, for a deep dive into all things Phish. From firsthand account of the shows at The Gorge in Washington (and the nitrous-and-Nazis violence that stained the experience) to a walkthrough of the magical Bakers Dozen shows and beyond, we cover what it means to be a fan of one of the greatest improvisational bands to ever take the stage.
Questions are answered, such as: whether riding the rail worth is it at a Phish show (spoiler: it’s not – with or without Antelope Greg), what the worst Phish songs of all time might be, and what shows a newcomer might listen to for a sense of the band’s capabilities (MSG NYE ’95, jam-filled donut night, the “ass-handed” Chula Vista 2016 show, 4.3.98 and so on). A great first step for newcomers, and a celebratory deep-dive for diehards.
Justito also helped organize the Phunion’s incredible Curveball For Cleveland Clinic Children Campaign, which had an enormous impact on the lives of sick kids through an Amazon page with hundreds of books, toys, DVD’s, art supplies etc.
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