On the alternate version of Earth where Covid never happened and the Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, Rage Against the Machine, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and the Who all toured this year, Phish are probably gearing up for their semi-annual Halloween concert where they cover an entire classic album. Fans never know what they’re going to hear until they arrive at the gig, but that doesn’t stop them from engaging in months of feverish speculation in the weeks building up to the big night.
The tradition of wearing a “musical costume” started on October 31st, 1994, at the Glen Falls Civic Center in Glen Falls, New York. That night’s show started like a regular Phish gig, with the band breaking out originals like “The Divided Sky,” “Sparkle,” and “Reba.” But after a break, they returned to the stage and played all four sides of the Beatles’ White Album in sequence. Thankfully, a fan managed to get a camcorder into the arena and captured the whole thing in pretty decent quality for 1994. Check out the opening two songs, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Dear Prudence.”
In the following years, Phish tackled The Who’s Quadrophenia, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, the Velvet Underground’s Loaded, the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, and Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus. Things started to get weird in 2013 when they covered their future selves by unveiling a ton of new material that wound up on their 2014 LP Fuego.
The next year, they played the 1964 Disney children’s record Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House, leaving many fans more than a little confused and disappointed. They made it up for it in 2016 by honoring David Bowie by playing The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. But they got right back to the weird in 2018 by “covering” the fictional album í rokk by imaginary Scandinavian prog-rock band Kasvot Växt. They went to elaborate lengths to make the whole thing seem legit, but a portion of their fan base found the shtick a little less than amusing.
Phish haven’t played since the conclusion of their February 2020 residency at the Moon Palace hotel in Cancun, Mexico. But Trey Anastasio is keeping busy by staging a weekly digital residency at the Beacon Theatre in New York. He’s booked the week of Halloween, which means that some sort of “musical costume” is a possibility. Here’s hoping he finally fulfills his dream of playing the 1974 Genesis album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in its entirety. It would be a perfect gift to Phish fans who have been deprived of live music for way too long.