Sometimes it’s best to let the fans speak for themselves.
So here, taken straight from the depths of the Internet, are a few words from Phish fanatics in the Phish.Net.
“Phish is a lifestyle, a way of thinking. It is a way of allowing your mind to roam freely to the sound of music. It is the unexpected, yet better than your wildest expectations.”
“Phish is the coolest nerds in the world.”
“Phish is the epitome of spiritual and musical creaminess.”
Just in case you don’t know what the epitome of spiritual and musical creaminess is, let me translate Phish-ese for you: Phish is four guys who hook their songs on rock, bluegrass, country and jazz and then stretch them out to fun-house proportions.
Decidedly eccentric, these guys jam and then they jam some more. Single songs have been known to last an epic 30 minutes. Sometimes they play vacuum-cleaner solos. They have been known to cover the Beatles (the entire “White” album in one concert) and AC/DC. They even perform barbershop-quartet harmonies.
Sometimes they jump on trampolines.
Like their forefathers, the Grateful Dead, Phish has legions of fans (Phishheads) who follow them about the country, hawking hemp jewelry and homemade brownies so they can earn enough money to follow the band some more.
Those who visit the Phish encampment will notice that Volkswagen buses are the vehicle of choice and that the smell of a certain incense hangs heavily in the air. Some critics would say it is this aroma that makes Phish’s incessant noodling actually sound good.
Phishheads would, of course, disagree.
“In my humble opinion Phish is a band made up of four unbelievably talented musicians gifted in the art of improvisation,” says one fan.
Feel free to judge for yourself when Phish arrives at The Gorge for performances on Saturday and Sunday.
The Phish story is refreshingly unlike the usual music industry force-fed success tale.
It begins in 1983 when the band first spawned on the campus of the University of Vermont. The lineup settled on the current members in 1986 with Page McConnell on keyboards, Mike Gordon on bass, Jon Fishman on drums and Trey Anastasio on guitar. All four sing.
Over the years, Phish’s popularity multiplied not because of MTV, Top 40 singles or cheesy industry hype but by word of mouth and hard-core touring.
Although not considered hugely successful in the recording field, its latest album, “Billy Breathes,” is a marvel in un-Phish-like restraint. Delicate acoustic bits and pretty vocal harmonies infuse the album with a beautiful balance. The songs rarely last longer than an average radio tune.
However, during its live performances Phish is prone to impromptu twists and turns that could take a listener who-knows-where. It’s a trait its fans dig.
Of course, Phish concerts are as much about the music as they are about the spectacle that surrounds them. Anyone who has ever been to a Grateful Dead concert will quickly realize these guys have taken on a similar free-spirited mantle.
It is this neo-hippie community that has helped propel Phish into one of the top-grossing concert acts in the country.
The Clifford Ball was the pinnacle of the group’s 1996 tour. More than 135,000 people attended the two-day event at the vacated Plattsburgh Air Force Base in New York.
Two weeks after stopping in The Gorge, Phish will try another massive concert called The Great Went at the former Loring Air Force Base in Maine.
Undoubtedly, its spiritual and musical creaminess will be at its best.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CONCERT Phish will perform at The Gorge Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. Saturday’s show is sold out. Tickets for Sunday are $27, available at Ticketmaster outlets or charge by phone at (206) 628-0888.
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