Phish at the Spectrum

Thanks to Bubblepipe for posting this to rmp
PHISH STORY By Tim Perlich
Phish at the Spectrum, 12/12/92, Sold Out

The members of Vermont's Phish want to make it clear that they're not the
new GD.  In spite of numerous similarities between the two
groups-indulgence in lengthy jams, abhorrence of set lists and a devout
tie-dyed following-they couldn't differ more when it comes to music and
Far from the sun-baked excursions into feel-good mellowness of grandad
Garcia and company, Phish's workouts are tightly structured marvels of
skewed arrangement sprung with drill-team precision.  The way Phish
guitarist Trey Anastasio effortlessly shifts in and out of rock,
bluegrass, and latin forms-often in the course of a single song-it's
difficult to tell where the improvisational bits begin and end.  Actually,
the four members of Phish never really stop improvising.

"We all grew up on rock music" says Anastasio, "But we've all constantly
progressed through different musical forms.  Bassist, Mike Gordon started
bringing things to the band he wanted to play, like Bill Monroe's Uncle
Penn and we'd say 'Uh, Really?'  But, I wound up getting hooked on
bluegrass.  Page would want to do jazz standards and I was studying with a
composer at college who was introducing me to the compositions of
Stravinsky, Francis Cook and Ravel.
Listening to big band music of Duke Ellington and especially Eddie
Sauter's work with Benny Goodman was a real eye-opener for me.  Just
learning about the power of arrangements-how you can take a three minute
Gershwin tune and keep it outwardly easy-going and danceable with this
incredible substance and variety inside.  It was a whole new way of
thinking for me.  The more I learned, the more fund I had.  And that goes
for all of us in the group."

When you consider Phsih's brain busting eclecticism and the fact that they
spend a good portion of their three hour shows playing while sprinting
around, bouncing on trampolines or lying flat on their backs, the Dead
comparisons seem even less relevant.  However, one thing the two have in
common is a genuine respect for their extended family, which includes a
loyal following and the people who help stage their shows.  Phish's vast
and incredibly organized fan base is connected via the Phishnet-an
elaborate Phish-oriented electronic mail forum which exists on the
worldwide Internet computer network.  The band's computer literate
following can dial into the Phishnet for concert listings, critiques of
performances, tape trading info, upcoming album releases and open
discussions of all things Phish.  The connectedness of Phishheads has made
the gap between band and audience virtually negligable.  When Anastasio
refers to the crowd as the group's fifth member, he isn't speaking
figuratively.  Audience participation has become an essential component of
Phish's performances.

"We treat people who come to our shows exactly like we do each other.  We
like to think they have the same musical standards that we do.  We just
love playing live and we focus so much of our energy into putting on a
show and trying to make every show unique by playing different songs,
improvising and allowoing spontaneous things to happen.  I think people
respond to that.  At one point in the show last night, I started telling a
story in which everybody was getting weak in the knees and turning into
gelatin.  The people in the club started dropping down, like some baseball
stadium wave, and slowly rocked back and forth as if they were becoming
liquid.  So I started to change the whole story to revolve around what the
crowd was doing.  It was a totally give and take situation.
We have these coloured beach balls which we throw out into the crowd in
the middle of any given song.  Each ball corresponds to a member of the
band and we play according to the bouncing of the balls.  If someone grabs
ahold of the ball, I'll play a sustained note.  Essentially, we're giving
control of the music to the crowd.  We've also got this secret musical
language where we have signals within phrases.  A certain combination of
notes might mean we're all going to do something like suddenly fall flat
as if we've been hit by a giant hammer.  So right in the middle of a big
jam it'll be doo-doo-dum-dum-doo, then boom.  Everybody drops to the
ground except the people who didn't catch the signal.  The whole idea came
from thinking 'Wouldn't it be weird if you walked into see a show and for
no apparent reason, everyone in the place suddenly fell dead?'

As with most dedicated practical jokers, the greatest prank is always the
next one and the fun-loving Phish boys have a killer waiting.
"About six months ago"  Anastasio recalls, "Mike picked up this hitchiker
who turned out to be the actor who played Malachi in the horror film
Children of the Corn.  We got to know him-his real name is Courtney-and he
looks just as scary now as he did in the film.  So when we play in Los
Angeles now, Malachi hangs with us.  We chose my high school buddy, Chris
for the prank because he's the only person we knew with a strong enough
heart to take this.  He isn't aware that we know Malachi and he hasn't
seen the movie, Children of the Corn.  So the next time we play in L.A.,
Chris is going to be with us.  We'll get him lossened up with a few beers,
put on the movie and then sit back and watch as the film gets scarier and
scarier.  Chris will have so much brew in him that sooner or later he'll
have to take a leak,  Did you ever have the feeling you were in the
bathroom and you were being watched?  Well, when Chris steps up to the
porcelain, we're going to have Malachi himself standing behind the shower
curtain.  When Chris starts thinking he might not be alone and pulls back
the curtain, he'll be looking straight into Malachi's face.  Now, I think
that would be pretty scary."  laughs Anastasio.
"I just hope Chris lives through it.:

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