Phish phans rejoice

Phishville

The muddy fields of Coventry, Vt. were supposed to be the final resting place for Phish, the wildly popular jam-band known for its quirky compositions and transcendent improvisations. After spending more than 20 years on the road building one of the most devoted grassroots followings in rock history, the band collapsed under the pressure of substance abuse and personality conflicts, ending its run in August of 2004 with a farewell festival in its home state.

Foreshadowing the epic Hampton opener, Asheville fans ask for "Fluff Head," one of the band's most complicated songs. Fans waited days for tickets, camped out in the January cold. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Now, after nearly five years of rest, recovery and solo projects, the members of the band — guitarist Trey Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, drummer Jon Fishman and keyboardist Page McConnell — have reunited for what fans are dubbing “Phish 3.0.”

The jam-band kings started their new reign last March with a widely-hailed string of shows in Virginia at the Hampton Coliseum, a legendary spaceship-looking venue held in high esteem by the band and its fans. Fueled by the positive buzz generated from the reunion performances (Phish made recordings of the entire three-night run available for free download), the band has now embarked on a sold-out summer tour, stopping in Asheville on its way to headline two nights at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee.

The band's decision to play the Civic Center in lieu of bigger venues in bigger cities likely owes to members' professed love of Asheville. Although Phish proper has never played in town, all of its members have played in the area with various side projects, including Anastasio's 2001 performance as part of Oysterhead (a supergroup that included Les Claypool and Police drummer Stewart Copeland) and his collaboration with Gordon and the Grateful Dead's Bill Kreutzmann at the 2005 Christmas Jam. At the shows, Anastasio praised Asheville from the stage, making it clear that it's one of his favorite towns to play.

Aided by the extensive trading of bootleg recordings, word of Anastasio's affectionate feelings for the town has spread far and wide throughout Phish-dom, helping make the local show one of the most sought-after tickets of the tour. Several hundred fans waited in line at the Civic Center on a frigid morning when they went on sale last January, many of whom camped out overnight. Most left empty-handed however, due to overwhelming national demand and a computing snafu that released the allotment of tickets reserved for the box office into the general pool. There's sure to be fierce competition for any extras on the day of the show as fans pre-party and tailgate downtown. 

Mountain Xpress spoke with local fans about their love of the band, its reunion and their last-minute schemes to try and score tickets for the Asheville show.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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22 thoughts on “Phish phans rejoice

  1. whattayaddapapa

    Please don’t sneak into these shows and ruin it for those of us that do have tickets.

  2. jen

    I will never understand why people like this band so much. It will remain a mystery to me. They are not the Grateful Dead..you missed that boat.

  3. julie houston

    i think interviews should not be conducted when I’ve been drinking, who knows what’ll come out of this mouth LOL!
    whattayadda – us kids been sneakin into shows for ages, have we ruined every single show you’ve been to? I didn’t think so :)
    But smile – my ticket found me after interview was done!

  4. jen's a fool

    Jen – was Phish supposed to be the Grateful Dead?

    Two different bands that for some reason get lumped together. I personally enjoy the Dead, but would take Phish any day of the week.

    This boat is still around…and might be worth looking into.

  5. whattayaddapapa

    Julie…

    an extra couple thousand at Alpine Valley goes unnoticed.

    But Hey sure lets cram 10,000 people into the civic center, why not!

    “us kids been sneakin into shows for ages”

    as far as sneaking into shows maybe you should read this

    http://www.hake.com/gordon/deadletter.html

  6. julie

    haha! That would be pretty hilarious to see 3,000 people try 2 sneak into our civic center! :) But what your missing is it’s all about ratio – you may get 1,000 sneak into big outdoor venues like AV, but I’d be surprised if any more than 100 or so are ballsy enough to try and get into the civic center unnoticed.

    Enjoy the show!

  7. D'roc

    Yes, it’s true- people sneaking into shows is part of the reason for heightened (and grumpy) security at concerts. It’s also a LARGE part of the reason bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish always seem to attract road blocks around the venues.
    So far, Asheville proper seems to be very open to such a large band taking over the city for a day. They’ve taken some large steps to accommodate the large influx of people. They’re shutting down several of the biggest roads downtown for the night.
    And finally, don’t forget about what happened the last night EOTO played the Em Lounge. FD showed up, realized the place was oversold, then sent the whole crowd out into the streets. THAT was awkward…
    However- as I mentioned before- several of the biggest streets downtown will be closed for the concert, and I’m sure being outside will be nearly as fun as being in… ;-)

  8. whattayaddapapa

    Julie

    you enjoy the show as well!!!

    didn’t mean to come off like a jerk. the local self entitlement about this show is a little silly, and i have heard what seems like well over 100 people saying they are gonna get into that show one way or another….Hopefully all will have a good time and be respectful of one another, as well as the band…who knows maybe they will be allowed back,

    Don’t Red Rocks Asheville!!! ;)

  9. Piffy!

    Phish are sooo not NWA in their prime. Way to miss the boat, guys.

    Where’s the afterparty?

  10. Piffy!

    Oh my lord. With Granola Funk Express playing the same night at the Orange Peel?

    Crazy Hippies.

  11. tim

    jen

    I saw the Grateful Dead 22 times. And as a Deadhead, let me say…..you’re right. You will never EVER understand this band. And that’s your fault, not theirs

  12. CrazyHippie

    Being a longtime, and I mean longtime Grateful Dead fan. I really cannot stand the comparison of the Grateful Dead and Phish. If you are a fan of the Grateful Dead, it’s a good chance your a avid music lover, and if this is the case then why bash Phish. They are great musicians full of passion. They come from the same school of improvisational music as the Grateful Dead. No need to compare, just enjoy, or don’t. But to quote a great song “Sometimes you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right”…..Don’t hate…..LOVE LOVE LOVE..

    It’s all regurgitated music one way or another, we all are influenced by eachother. Jerry regurgitated so many of John Coltrane’s licks into his own beautifully crafted melodies. Should we hate Jerry for snagging riffs from Coltrane? I think not my fellow music lovers..

    Keep those minds open, closed doors leed to knowhere.

    PEacE ThRouGH MUSIC

    CrazyHippie

  13. boatrocker

    I don’t hear any of Coltrane’s stuff in Jerry’s playing. That one seems kind of a stretch. Just tell me when Phish is gone and I’ll go downtown again and maybe I can find a parking spot.

  14. Piffy!

    “Should we hate Jerry for snagging riffs from Coltrane?”

    how about for being a stinky junkie?

  15. Kevin J. Smith

    I work at Evergreen Community Charter School and we were recently surprised by the non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996. It’s called the Mockingbird Foundation and they mailed an unsolicited $1,000 check to our beloved EMBE Marimba Band. Apparently, they mailed checks to music education programs in each of the cities included on Phish’s Summer 2009 tour. You can read more about it on our website. – http://www.evergreenccs.org

    Being a charter school we must seek out funding in a variety of ways. A lot of energy in spent in writing grants. It is extremely rare that a check appears out of the blue like that. I just thought everyone should know. Thanks!

  16. d

    Whether you like Phish or not, the show will draw an ENORMOUS crowd of people to town, which will also bring lots of money to the local economy.
    Not everyone in Asheville realizes how much money little hippie bands like this bring to the community. This city is known for being very kind and compassionate for freaky happening like this.
    Which is why this article, published in the OTHER newspaper, worries me:
    http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090606/NEWS01/90606011
    Sounds like they have been jumping from arrest to arrest for the past 5 or 6 weeks, and are now reaching some of the “sources.”
    Be careful out there this weekend, folks.

  17. boatrocker

    Uhh, reading the posts about this one. While still not the main point of the thread, I don’t hear any of Coltrane’s riffs or influence in either Jerry G.’s playing or Phish. Sadly, like Jerry and Trey, Coltrane had some substance abuse problems (heroin) which indirectly caused his death. But I still like Coltrane’s stuff.

  18. Piffy!

    so, you’re saying you dont hear an influence in a band you dont listen to?

    I see.

  19. boatrocker

    Nope, not what I’m saying. I went through a Dead phase in college (and Phish indirectly through my friends) and am familiar with their studio and live work, but just don’t hear Coltrane in either one’s work. That and I don’t listen to them now. I still listen to some John Coltrane once in a while.

  20. evolved

    man, ya’all can rant all you want, I’m just excited to boogie… Ain’t felt this way since Aladdin theater ’96…

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