Rock Notes: For Phish fans, New
                  Year's Eve is a guaranteed party
                  By Steve Morse Globe Staff, 12/20/96 
     The hardest FleetCenter ticket to get this time of year is 
     not to a Celtics or Bruins game, but to Phish's two shows
     Dec. 30 and 31. Phish fans go crazy for the band's puckish 
     wit on New Year's Eve. Once, at the Boston Garden, the band 
     came down from the rafters in scuba diving gear while a 
     giant clam opened on stage at the stroke of midnight. 
     Another year the group climbed into a model of a jumbo hot 
     dog and took a ride over the Garden crowd, playing "Auld 
     Lang Syne" while balloons and Ping- Pong balls dropped from 
     the ceiling. 
        ``Yup, we think up all of this stuff,'' says drummer Jon
     Fishman from the band's Burlington, Vt., office. ``It starts
     with some funny idea and grows into total ridiculousness.
     Then we look at our budget to see if we can do it. 
     ``We've got this year's gag all set,'' adds Fishman,
     without revealing the nature of it. ``Nothing will ever beat
     the hot dog, so we don't have to worry about outdoing
     ourselves. But I like this year's idea. It may even be as
      good as the hot dog. 
                  ``But it's really mostly about playing well,'' 
     Fishman says of the shows. ``And on New Year's Eve, we get 
     to play an extra set. So if the gag works, great, but we 
     still get to play more music. And I'm just glad that people 
     want to come to our party.'' 
                  Phish frenzy is running extra high this year 
     because Phish has enjoyed its first hit single, ``Free,'' 
     which comes after years of building a word-of-mouth, 
     improv-rock concert image a la the Grateful Dead. 
                  ``Normally we've been banned by radio, but I 
     guess this time they like the song,'' says Fishman, 
     laughing. ``I haven't heard it much because I don't listen 
     to radio much, but the song has kept us in the public eye. 
     And it's a song I actually like. I like the playing and the 
     riff.'' ``Free'' has an airy, trancelike feel as Fishman, 
     Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell and Mike Gordon deliver a
     simple, hooky riff that's quite different from some of their
     complex jazz-rock. ``We did 40 takes of `Free' in the
     studio,'' says Fishman, a fact that seems shocking given
     the simplicity of it. ``We ended up taking a combination
     of two takes - the front half of the first take and the back
     half of the fifth take.'' 
                  Phish's latest album, ``Billy Breathes,'' isn't 
     doing as well as the single, yet it's the group's best 
     studio effort so far.It resonates with chiming electric 
     guitar tracks and more-than-usual acoustic tunes. And Phish 
     learned a valuable lesson making it, because the group 
     brought in co producer Steve Lillywhite (who has worked with 
     U2) to edit the tapes. 
                  ``We didn't have to go hacking and cutting and 
     editing,'' says Fishman. ``As far as I'm concerned, if I 
     don't have to listen to playbacks of all the tapes, then 
     I'll play 100 ersions of a song. I'll play them standing on 
     my head as long as I don't have to listen to them all 
                  With the aid of a coproducer, Phish was able to 
     focus on the music more, rather than being ``control 
     freaks'' in the studio. And they learned to do fewer and 
     fewer takes, but make them count more. ``We didn't know how 
     to conduct ourselves in the studio in the past,'' says
     Fishman. ``It's so different from the stage. On stage
      we've been musicians and nothing else. But in the studio
     we were trying to be the producers, engineers and
     everything else. We'd be too stressed out.'' 
                  For the next album, Phish will record in spurts 
     between live gigs. ``Otherwise you get bogged down and it's 
     like being in Camp David negotiating with yourself,'' he 
                  Phish will tour Europe this winter and the. 
     States in the summer. However, plans for another Clifford 
     Ball festival (named for the father of air mail) are up in 
     the air. The festival drew 70,000 people to a Plattsburgh, 
     N.Y., airbase last summer, but despite good relations with 
     townofficials, Phish can't get the air base back because it 
     has a new tenant. 
                  ``We're now looking to Colorado for another 
     Clifford Ball. You can only do one of those a year,'' says
     Fishman. The band will mix in some amphitheater gigs,but 
     also hopes to play ``abandoned facilities whether they're 
     indoors or outdoors, as long as people can camp earby. 
                  ``And we also have the fantasy of playing on 
     the edge of the Grand Canyon some day,'' Fishman says. 

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Andrew Gadiel