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Happy 25th Phish

Kanada Kev

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I guess it's a day late, but what the hell. Happy 25th anniversary Phish :)



Monday, 01 December 2008

As many readers may remember, Phish played its first show on December 2, 1983 in the Harris-Millis cafeteria at the University of Vermont. At the time the group was known as Blackwood Convention and focused primarily on covers by bands like The Hollies ("Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress"), Creedence Clearwater Revival ("Proud Mary") and the Grateful Dead ("Scarlet Begonias"). According to legend, the musicians used hockey sticks as microphone stands and were cut off during a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" so the predominantly ROTC crowd could dance to Michael Jackson records.

Since today marks the 25th anniversary of Phish’s first concert, we thought we’d reprint the first article Relix ever published on the band. The following clip was written by longtime editor Mick Skidmore for our Too New to Be Known column, a precursor to our current On the Verge section . It originally ran in October 1989, shortly after the release of Phish’s debut album, Junta:

It never ceases to amaze me how many great unsigned bands there are out there.

Phish, a four-piece that hails from Burlington, Vermont, is one such band. It consists of Trey Anastasio on guitar (he also writes most of the music), Page McConnell on keyboards, Jon (Phish) Fishman on drums and trombone, and Mike Gordon on bass.

Phish has a strong base of highly original material that it liberally laces with jazz, rock, funk, calypso, and blues elements, as well as truly bizarre lyrics that would do Frank Zappa proud.

The band has been playing the New England Club and college scene for the past five years to ever-increasing audiences, and on the strength of their self-produced cassette release, Junta, it’s easy to see why.

The tape is superbly recorded and shows the band processes musical flair almost beyond belief. Sure the songs are a little odd, especially the whimsical “Contact,†a love song to a car, and the poetic “Esther,†but the underlying strength of all the material is the virtuoso musicianship and wry sense of humor that runs through it. Guitarist Anastasio’s playing is of a highly exploratory nature and ranges from jazzy runs through melodic phrases to daring improvisations. Keyboardist McConnell embellishes the sound with some intricate playing, while the rest of the band creates a complex mesh of syncopated and polyrhythmic sounds. This is most notable on the lengthy, mainly instrumental “David Bowie†(the only lyrics are the title and UB40 repeated!), and equally exciting “The Divided Sky†and “You Enjoy Myself.â€

According to a spokesperson for the band, the tape only reflects a small part of their complex repertoire of originals. They even have an entire suite that runs an hour and a half! I hope we get a chance to hear more from these extremely talented musicians in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, this tape comes highly recommended. For gig dates and other info, call 802-655-xxxx. For the tape, send $9 to: xxx.

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