.

Phish

     Junta (1988; Elektra, 1992)
   Lawn Boy (1990; Elektra)
    A Picture of Nectar (Elektra, 1992)
   Rift (Elektra, 1993)
     Hoist (Elektra, 1994)
     A Live One (Elektra, 1995)
     Billy Breathes (Elektra, 1996)
     Slip, Stitch & Pass (Elektra, 1997)
      The Story of the Ghost (Elektra, 1998)
     Hampton Comes Alive (Elektra, 1999)
     Farmhouse (Elektra, 2000)
     The Siket Disc (Elektra, 2000)
      Live Phish 01: 12.14.95, Broome County Arena, Binghamton, NY (Elektra, 2001)
     Live Phish 02: 7.16.94, Sugarbush Summerstage, North Fayston, VT (Elektra, 2001)
    Live Phish 03: 9.14.00, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Lake, NY (Elektra, 2001)
     Live Phish 04: 6.14.00, Drum Logos, Fukuoka, Japan (Elektra, 2001)
   Live Phish 05: 7.8.00, Alpine Valley Music Theater, East Troy, WI (Elektra, 2001)
    Live Phish 06: 11.27.98, The Centrum, Worcester, MA (Elektra, 2001)
     Live Phish 07: 8.14.93, World Music Theatre, Tinley Park, IL (Elektra, 2002)
     Live Phish 08: 7.10.99, E Centre, Camden, NJ (Elektra, 2002)
    Live Phish 09: 8.26.89, Townshend Family Park, Townshend, VT (Elektra, 2002)
    Live Phish 10: 6.22.94, Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Columbus, OH (Elektra, 2002)
      Live Phish 11: 11.17.97, McNichols Sports Arena, Denver, CO (Elektra, 2002)
   Live Phish 12: 8.13.96, Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN (Elektra, 2002)
      Live Phish 13: 10.31.94, Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY (Elektra, 2002)
     Live Phish 14: 10.31.95, Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, IL (Elektra, 2002)
     Live Phish 15: 10.31.96, The Omni, Atlanta, GA (Elektra, 2002)
   Live Phish 16: 10.31.98, Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV (Elektra, 2002)
     Round Room (Elektra, 2002)
     Live Phish 17: 7.15.98, Portland Meadows, Portland, OR (Elektra, 2003)
       Live Phish 18: 5.7.94, The Bomb Factory, Dallas, TX (Elektra, 2003)
     Live Phish 19: 7.12.91, Colonial Theatre, Keene, NH (Elektra, 2003)
      Live Phish 20: 12.29.94, Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI (Elektra, 2003)
      Undermind (Elektra/Atlantic, 2004)
   Live Phish 7.15.03 USANA Ampitheatre, West Valley City, UT (livephish.com, 2003)
    Live Phish 7.29.03 Post-Gazette Pavilion at Star Lake, Burgettstown, PA(livephish.com, 2003)
     Live Phish 2.28.03 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY(livephish.com, 2003)
      - Live Phish 04.02.98 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY (Phish Archives, 2005)
     Live - Phish 04.03.98 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY (Phish Archives, 2005)
     Live Phish 04.04.98 Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI (Phish Archives, 2005)
     Live Phish 04.05.98 Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI (Phish Archives, 2005)
     Live at Madison Square Garden: New Year's Eve 1995 – (Rhino, 2005)
   Live in Brooklyn – (Rhino, 2006)
   Colorado '88 – (JEMP, 2006)
     Live Phish 11.14.95 University of Central Florida Arena, Orlando, FL (JEMP, 2007)
   Live Phish 12.1.95 Hersheypark Arena, Hershey PA (JEMP, 2007)
   Live Phish 12.29.97 Madison Square Garden, New York NY (JEMP, 2007)
    Live Phish 8.13.93 Murat Theatre Indianapolis, IN (JEMP, 2007)
     Vegas 96 (JEMP, 2007)
     Live Phish 12.7.97 Erwin J. Nutter Center Dayton, OH (JEMP, 2007)
     Live Phish 5.8.93 UNH Fieldhouse, Durham, NH (JEMP, 2007)
   Live Phish 7.6.98 Lucerna Theater, Prague, Czech Republic (JEMP, 2007)
     Live Phish 12.30.97 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY (JEMP, 2007)
     At the Roxy (JEMP, 2008)
    Live Phish 3.6.09 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA (JEMP, 2009)
    Live Phish 3.7.09 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA (JEMP, 2009)
    Live Phish 3.8.09 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA (JEMP, 2009)
     Joy (JEMP, 2009)
   Party Time (JEMP, 2009)

Want to know what a jam band is? You came to the right place: Phish is the living, breathing, noodling definition of the term. From its humble start in the mid-Eighties touring around the New England college circuit, this Vermont quartet—Trey Anastasio (guitar), Page McConnell (keyboards), Mike Gordon (bass), and Jon Fishman (drums)—grew to become a cultural phenomenon, followed across the country from summer shed to summer shed by thousands of new-generation hippies and hacky-sack enthusiasts, and spawning a new wave of bands oriented around group improvisation and superextended grooves.

Comparisons to the mother of all jam bands, the Grateful Dead, are unavoidable, and in some cases warranted. Like the Dead, Phish had a pronounced fondness for the rustic and drew from a seemingly bottomless well of cover tunes. Like the Dead, Phish was helmed by a guitarist with a casual, conversational lead style who enjoys playing lots of notes. And like the Dead, Phish lacked a singer who's any more than competent. But in its frequent bursts of prog-style musical complexity as well as its taste for goofy humor (this is a band, after all, that incorporated trampolines, vacuum cleaners, and a giant hot dog into its concerts), Phish shows that it was very much its own entity.

It took a while for Phish to get its sound onto disc in any convincing way. The first five albums listed above all have great moments (the stunning replication of early-Seventies Genesis on Lawn Boy's "The Squirming Coil," the Thelonious Monk-ish twists on A Picture of Nectar's "Magilla"), but inconsistency plagues them. Billy Breathes, The Story of the Ghost, and Farmhouse are much more like it, presenting an appealing rock/jazz/folk hybrid with a tasteful mix of looseness and precision. Cut quickly following a two-year hiatus, Round Room sounds undercooked, while The Siket Disc collects a few in-studio jams that are less than revelatory.

But then there are the live albums and, in recent years, Phish have been releasing them in force through their website LivePhish.com. Though purists will argue, rightly, that you could only get the full Phish experience in person, many of these discs make a pretty decent substitute. The best are Hampton Comes Alive (documenting two November 1998 concerts in full), At The Roxy (a heavily-bootlegged 1993 show that shows the band at its goofiest and most experimental), Live at Madison Square Garden (from a 1995 New Years Show) and Live Phish 15 (which features a flawless cover of the Talking Heads' album Remain In Light). Other live documents offer cool highlights – the improvisation on "Reba" from Live Phish 5.8.93 is spectacular – but are by no means essential.

Shortly before the release of Undermind in 2004, Phish announced that it was breaking up. Ironically, after almost two decades of near-constant touring, the resulting disc proved to be one of the band's most cohesive collections, produced with warmth and flair by Tchad Blake and combining outlandish psychedelia ("A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing") with winning folk rock ("The Connection").

But old habits die hard: Phish reformed in 2008 to record a new album with producer Steve Lillywhite, who helmed their 1996 album Billy Breathes. Even with a four year break, Phish sound as well-polished as ever: "Backwards Down the Number Line" is a gleeful power-pop romp while the thirteen-minute "Time Turns Elastic" offers plenty of twisted, prog-rock thrills. (Party Time, packaged in a deluxe edition of Joy, features leftovers from those same recording sessions undercooked.) Still, what's most remarkable about Joy is that for the first time ever, Phish finally sound like a great live band who had also mastered the art of making great studio albums.

Portions of this album guide appeared in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (Fireside, 2004).

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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