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Phish Dress Up for Halloween

Jam band takes on classics on live CDs

For the most recent batch of the Live Phish series,
volumes thirteen through sixteen, the Vermont rockers are releasing
a set of musical masquerades recorded over the course of four
Halloween performances. The band’s own versions of the Beatles’
“White Album” (which they covered on Halloween, 1994), the Who’s
Quadraphenia (1995), the Talking Heads’ Remain in
Light
(1996) and the Velvet Underground’s Loaded
(1998) will be in stores October 29th.

Frontman Trey Anastasio still feels a bit funny about hearing
his versions of albums that were major influences in his life. “The
whole idea of releasing them has been a little bit painful for me,”
he says. “I really love all those albums, but, to my ear, they are
just lame versions of great albums. When we first started
suggesting this release, I was reluctant at first. As cool as it is
to do Remain in Light live, you’re talking about this
seminal record — it would be like doing Band of Gypsies.
Turning on the radio and hearing this might give me a little
stomach ache. I was a huge Talking Heads fan. As you can see with
my band, they were a huge influence. I’m basically going in the
same direction they were — with horns.”

A recent meeting with Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz of the Tom
Tom Club — and formerly the Talking Heads — calmed some of
Anastasio’s nerves. “I saw Tina and Chris at the Jammy Awards,” he
says, “and they came up and said something about how happy they
were that we had done it. I had a huge thing for Tina, and I used
to go see them all the time when they had this guy who would just
hold a big light around. He would project the light and make
shadows, and she would have this short skirt on. For her to say
that was great.”

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Part of Anastasio’s goal is to serve as a bridge between
uninitiated fans and classic rock albums. “If you don’t know about
Remain in Light or Loaded or whatever,” he says,
“you should. And for that matter Brian Eno — everyone should own a
copy of [Eno’s] Another Green World.”

The biggest risk the band has taken with the “musical costume”
idea might have been their tackling of the Who’s
Quadraphenia in 1995. Despite it being a classic record
from a guitarist’s vantage point, the idea to cover it didn’t come
from Anastasio. “I had a relationship with that album, certainly,”
he says, “but that was more of a [keyboardist] Page [McConnell]
thing. I wasn’t that familiar with that album.”

Perhaps the original record that these releases will send fans
into stores seeking will be the classic 1970 Velvet Underground
effort, Loaded. How tough was it to capture the vibe, let
alone the voice, of Lou Reed? “Well, it will always sound bad to
me,” Anastasio says of his effort, “but I had a great time doing
it. I mean you can’t sing “Sweet Jane” and have it not be a little
like a joke. Why even try? But when we did those albums they were
like mirror images — it scares me a little having it out
there.”

Each release contains not only the set in which a classic record
is covered, but also the rest of the gig’s playlist. The “’98” disc
features not only classic Phish material but also a raging
treatment of Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca.

Phish, after a two-year hiatus, will reunite this winter for a
tour that kicks off New Year’s Eve at New York’s Madison Square
Garden.

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