Set I: Buried Alive, Runaway Jim> Weigh, It's Ice, Ginseng Sullivan1, My Friend My Friend, The Mango Song, Stash, Sparkle, Cavern
Set II: Mike's Song> The Great Gig in the Sky> Weekapaug Groove, Esther> All Things Reconsidered, Bouncing Around the Room, Rift, Jesus Just Left Chicago, My Sweet One2> Run Like An Antelope2 3
Encore: Sweet Adeline, Bold as Love4

 
 
Phish-y antics add to band's appeal
August 11, 1993 - Grand Rapids Press
By Tim Pratt
 

TONIGHT PHISH, 8 p.m. at Club Eastbrook. Tickets cost $19 and are available at the Club Eastbrook box office.

Just who are these guys?

They've never had a chart-topping single or album. You won't find them on MTV. And they don't stir up much controversy.

Yet, the four-man band known as Phish (and yes, it is pronounced like the aquatic creature with gills and scales) is a growing phenomenon. While the group's albums never seem to sell a whole lot, Phish is engaged in one successful summer tour.

The band's August schedule includes dates at the Bayfront Park Amphitheater in Miami, the World Music Theatre in Tinley Park, Ill. (near Chicago), and the Meadowbrook Music Festival in Rochester.

Truthfully, the members of Phish didn't think the tour would be as successful as it has been.

"This is the first time we've done anything like this," said vocalist/keyboardist Page McConnell by phone from Atlanta. "We didn't anticipate selling out any of the dates. We just decided to take a step up to the next level from theaters and take the plunge."

Phish will perform tonight at Club Eastbrook, in a show that will likely be as much of a surprise to the band as it will be to the audience.

In the past, the group - which infuses a range of musical styles such as calypso, bluegrass, jazz, hardcore punk and just about any other musical genre - has been known to incorporate an exotic variety of, shall we say, objects and outlandish antics on stage.

One element that has generated much conversation about Phish is the use of trampolines by the band - while they're playing. Though there are no guarantees Phish will be bouncing to the beat at Club Eastbrook, McConnell said fans should expect the unexpected.

"One thing we've been using a lot on this tour is an EZ Glider, skating back and forth on stage," McConnell said. "Who knows? It's different every night - we don't use the vacuum every night, but it's always an option.

The band, which also includes Trey Anastasio (guitar, vocals), Mike Gordon (bass, vocals) and Jon "Tubbs" Fishman (drums, trombone, vacuum cleaner), is always looking for new and bizarre things to try.

"We try to approach each show with a sense of fun - we really try to enjoy it," McConnell said. "Maybe that's why our albums don't generate huge numbers, simply because our shows are more fun, they're a bit more spontaneous."

Phish was formed about 10 years ago by Anastasio, Gordon and Fishman while they were attending the University of Vermont. After two years, McConnell stepped into the picture and the lineup has remained a constant since.

The quartet began performing on the East Coast and generated a sizeable following. Finally, the band released its debut album "Junta" in 1989, followed by "Lawnboy" in 1990.

The group was picked up by Elektra Records soon after "Lawnboy" hit the racks and released "A Picture Of Nectar" - Phish's major label debut - in 1991.

The band toured the United States and Europe on its own in support of "Nectar," then joined the H.O.R.D.E. tour, which included such relatively "unknowns" as the Spin Doctors and Blues Traveler.

"Rift," Phish's latest album, was released in February and has sold more than 100,000 copies.

"We sell a lot more concert tickets than albums," McConnell said.

Since Phish has attained such a massive following, many have compared the quartet to another "must see live" band - The Grateful Dead.

While the groups share audience similarities, McConnell stressed Phish is much different than the Bay Area icons.

"Yes, there are a lot of people that like the Dead that like us, and there's a lot of people that follow us around, but I don't think we sound anything like them," he said.

There is one commonality, though - like the Dead, Phish tends to play for a long time, with any number of improvisational solos and free-for-all jams. McConnell said the quartet often plays two 75-minute sets but that changes from night to night.

Article 1993 Grand Rapids Press

 

 
Phish definitely in the swim here
August 12, 1993 - Grand Rapids Press
By Tim Pratt
 

Some might say a Phish show is a mini-Grateful Dead concert.

One needed only to walk around the Club Eastbrook parking lot before and after the concert Wednesday to note the similarities - tie-dyed T-shirts, hats and flags everywhere, with would-be vendors hawking everything from jewelry to candy bars, and old Volkswagen buses with awnings to house as many people they can.

But while the atmosphere is similar, Phish has carved out enough of its own sound to set it apart from the Dead, creating an entire following by itself.

The quirky quartet packed Club Eastbrook with more than 1,500 free-wheeling, dancing fans night. Phish, playing two sets that added up to nearly three full hours of music, was mesmerizing and overwhelmingly brilliant.

It was enough that Phish's show was a joy to watch and listen to from start to finish, but the group brought along an enormous lighting system that captured the essence of the music.

Don Dorshimer of Belkin Productions said the show, which featured scroll and Altstar lights, was one of the biggest the club has ever hosted.

Though the colorful lights were present throughout the performance, it was during the second set that the wide array of hues were out in full force. The opening number was played almost entirely in the dark, with pulsating strobe lights piercing the thick smoke covering the stage.

Later, during the jazzy "Esther" (taken from the band's 1989 debut "Junta") the stage was awash in a milky blue that only enhanced the song.

But make no mistake - the music was the real reason more than 1,500 fans sang and danced in the sweltering club. Hitting the stage at about 8:30 p.m. (the group rarely has an opening act), Phish delivered both sets consisting of a mixture of old and new material, including a pair of songs guitarist Trey Anastasio said had never been played in concert before.

The first tune was especially appealing, as drummer Jon "Tubbs" Fishman played a steel washboard while the other members lent a hand in the dixieland blues number.

Other songs featured included "Weigh" and "My Friend, My Friend."

Both songs - from Phish's latest album "Rift" - included some humorous vocal arrangements and harmonizing. "My Friend" ended with a jolting and intense scream that seemed to startle almost everyone.

Other highlights included "You Enjoy Myself," with its confusing lyrics, the fast-paced "Sparkle," and "Run Like An Antelope."

Anastasio kicked out an amazing, extended blues solo during the group's rendition of ZZ Top's "Jesus Just Left Chicago," though Page McConnell's vocals and piano accompaniment were just as jaw-dropping.

The group took everyone by surprise in the first encore when all four members asked the audience to be quiet and proceeded to sing a barbershop quartet version of "My Sweet Adeline" - without the use of microphones. It was a compelling and memorable moment, to say the least.

Of course, what Phish show would be complete without a few props to spice up the evening? First, huge beach balls were tossed into the audience, and were bounced to and fro throughout the evening. Then it was on to the mini-trampolines, which Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon jumped on while playing - for about 10 minutes.

Finally, Fishman - wearing a dress - took center stage and played a bizarre song, sounding somewhat like Pink Floyd's "Great Gig In The Sky," by blowing into the the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner. No, this was not your ordinary show.

It's easy to understand why Phish causes such a stir among concert-goers. The group provides an enjoyable atmosphere with creative versatility and musical talent. Phish combines all sorts of musical genres in its sound, while plugging in its own unique quirks.

Each member is multi-talented musically. Three of the four handled the lead vocal chores throughout the concert, yet still had the energy to pump out both rehearsed and improvisational solos. McConnell's keyboard work on the grand piano and Hammond organ was particularly impressive.

Don't miss Phish's show next time around. It's a musical smorgasbord that will astound you.

Article 1993 Grand Rapids Press