Phish responded to the destruction of Hurricane Irma by establishing the Tortola Relief Fund, which benefits the British Virgin Island in the Caribbean, a favorite destination and “second home” for guitarist Trey Anastasio and his family. The jam band will match donations to the fund, launched via the WaterWheel Foundation, in order to aid Tortola’s rebuilding efforts after the hurricane “devastated” their land.
“I love Tortola,” Anastasio said in a statement on the Phish website. “I’ve written so many songs there. It’s where I’ve gone in the winter to slow down, write, and to bring new song ideas to completion. Songs that were born as little germs of ideas elsewhere, often were crafted and came to life in Tortola.”
“The bulk of ‘Mercury’ was written while sitting by the water in Tortola,” he continued. “Recently ‘Breath and Burning,’ ‘Tide Turns’ and ‘More’ were all written there. Loads of older songs were written there, too many to name, dating all the way back to the early Nineties. I remember writing the melody for ‘Lifeboy’ while walking with my little travel guitar in the hot sun on that first trip in 1992. I can still hear the pace of the island in that guitar riff.”
Anastasio detailed his 25-year relationship with the island, which began in 1992 after his brother-in-law, Kevin, the manager of a local tavern called the Jolly Roger, invited the musician’s family to visit. “We took him up on his offer, and ended up hitchhiking around the island for weeks that winter, exploring and having an unforgettable time,” Anastasio said.
“When the eye of hurricane Irma went directly over Tortola last week, the devastation was incalculable,” he said. “[My wife] Sue and I are so worried for our Tortola friends, most of whom cannot be reached, and with so many people suffering today right here in America, we fear that it could understandably be easy to forget and overlook a small island territory.”
“The island looks like it was leveled by a bomb,” he added. “It’s been completely devastated. There’s no electricity, no basic services, water, shelter…many, many people are homeless – many yet unaccounted for. The situation is desperate.”
In the “spirit of thinking” about the island, Anastasio uploaded three solo recordings – of Phish’s “Brian and Robert,” “Strange Design” and “Love Is What We Are” – he recorded last winter in preparation for his recent acoustic tour.