While Phish continue their hiatus, guitarist Trey Anastasio will play ten East Coast dates, beginning February 21st in Boston. He’ll be joined onstage by bassist Tony Markellis, who plays in the Unknown Blues Band, and drummer Russ Lawton. Both backed Anastasio on his only other solo outing in May of 1999. A three-piece horn section (sax, trumpet, trombone) will also assist.
“This band is a real different feel than Phish,” says Anastasio, who admits he is craving to start playing more. “Phish is rhythmically nuts, and these guys are just a groove. They’re the Yodas of Groove.”
The backing duo of Markellis and Lawton are also partly responsible for Phish’s 2001 Grammy nod. It was on Trey’s solo tour in 1999 that the trio wrote “First Tube,” later recorded by Phish, which scored a nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. “The first night of the tour is Grammy Night,” says Anastasio, “and the last time we played together was the tour when that song was written. It’s a big tangled pretzel.” Is he concerned about taking home the gold? “What’s there to get nervous about?” he quips. “I know we’re gonna win.”
What Trey should start worrying about are songs. “As of today,” he says, “we have no material.” But he does have an idea. He’ll mix songs that the trio wrote together on the first tour that morphed into Phish’s repertoire, as well as Trey’s solo material and the inevitable cover songs. “There’s some Professor Longhair stuff that I’ve been wanting to do,” he says. “Some Impressions . . . There’s a song by the Band that I’ve been wanting to sing for a long time. It’s called ‘It Makes No Difference.’ Hopefully people don’t mind long songs.”
Unfortunately for the legions of fans who remember how fast tickets went for Anastasio’s ten-date tour in 1999, no further dates will be added. But, as one door closes, another opens: He’ll soon be reuniting with his old outfit — Oysterhead, the supergroup he formed last year with former Police drummer Stewart Copeland and Primus bassist Les Claypool. After the solo tour concludes March 4th in Atlanta, the three will enter the studio to record a full-length album. “It’s definitely happening,” he says. “[Stewart and Les] are really excited. We’ve got a bunch of original stuff.”
And what’s up with Phish? “No idea,” says Trey. “Really, no plans right now. There’s a lot of stuff going on right now, and we just needed to take a breather. And we are.”