If there was ever a band that could follow in the footsteps of the Grateful Dead, it’s the band simply called Phish. Their albums, to be sure, sell quite well but the truth is that the band is really more of a live phenomenon than anything else. They are, more than almost any other band performing today, the embodiment of a “jam band”.
The fans that follow Phish around the country when they tour, going from city to city and trading their bootleg tapes (with the band’s blessing, of course) are as passionate as any of the Deadheads that came before them, and will spend hours of time debating which of their past gigs was the “best”.
The reason it’s up for debate is that, similar to the Grateful Dead, Phish will never play the same set twice in concert. It’s because of their dedication to fans and their true nurturing of what can only be called a grassroots following that the band has been able to evolve over the years and do it without the usual help from radio. In fact, today they are one of the hottest live concert attractions in the United States.
Phish recorded their first album in 1988. It was called Junta and was sold on cassette tapes at their live gigs. By the time they released their second album in 1990, Lawn Boy, they had already established a growing fan base and even had a fledgling presence on the new phenomenon called the Internet. Electra signed them in 1991 and, in 1992 they released their third album, A Picture of Nectar. Later that same year they also reissued their first two albums.
It was in 1993 with the release of their album Rift that Phish actually started to really gain a lot of popularity and also chart success. In 1994 they not only released their album Hoist but also recorded their one and only video for the song “Down with Disease”, which went to number 34 on the charts.
That was followed by a string of successful albums including A Live One which was a double disc and released in 1995, Billy Breathes in a 1996, Slip, Stitch, and Pass which was a live album and released in 1997. In 1998 they released The Story of the Ghost which reached number eight on the charts and then, in 1999, there was the six disc release Hampton Comes Alive. In 2008 they also released the album Farmhouse which reached number 12 on the charts.
Throughout all that time, and all those album releases, the fact is that Phish still was best known for their live performances and the amazing crowds, groupies and followers that went with them literally everywhere they toured. One of the reasons for this is their semiannual tradition of performing a classic album live on Halloween night, including the Beatles ‘White Album and the Who’s Quadrophenia.