In honor of April Fool's Day we've put together a list of just some of the pranks Phish has played
the past 30-plus years. They run the gamut from a college prank war guitarist Trey
participated in to "faux" guest appearances to setlist antics.
[By Jamie Huntsman via Threadless]
In the spirit of Frank Zappa, humor has always had its place in Phish's music. The
has used their audience as the straight man at points and other times they used their
to prank the mainstream. There are dozens of instances of Phish pranks over the
today we want to shine the JamBase List light on 18 of them.
1. Trey's Heart Prank - Circa '84
A young Trey Anastasio engaged in a prank war with a friend in Colorado that hits its
climax when Anastasio sent his friend a hand and a heart (there's debate as to
heart was from a human or goat) from UVM's anatomy lab with a note attached that
"I've got to hand it to you, you've got heart." The guitarist was suspended from the
school for a semester which led him to attend Mercer County Community College in New
Jersey, where he rekindled his friendship with lyricist Tom Marshall. After meeting
with his old friend in early 1984, Anastasio invited Marshall over for a home
session for the material that would wind up being released as The White Tape.
two went on to form an extremely fruitful working relationship that still pays
30 years later.
2. Christmas In May - 05/28/1989
If you want to hear Phish at their loosest, look no further than the band's May 28,
performance at Connie Condon's Farm in Hebron, NY. The Vermonters provided the music
one of friend Ian McLean's now legendary parties and didn't hold back on enjoying the
festivities. There's plenty of drunken banter from Trey throughout including in
where he takes numerous opportunities to shout "Merry Christmas," more than five
after the holiday.
3. John Popper Trampoline Hijinks - 7/11/1992 & 7/27/1993
At the Holmdel, NJ inaugural H.O.R.D.E. tour stop on July 11, 1992; Phish invited up
longtime friend John Popper of Blues Traveler during the trampoline section of "You
Myself." A note on Phish.net explains what happened next, "On his first jump, though,
Popper jumped right through the trampoline. Embarrassed, he left the stage." A little
a year later, on July 27, 1993 in Richmond, a wheelchair-bound Popper jammed on
during "YEM" from the side of the stage while an effigy of the (then) big man was
onto the stage. Phish had it set up that the cord lowering the effigy of Popper would
and break right through the trampoline leading to cheers from the crowd.
4. Fun With The Radio Audience - 12/31/1992
Flyers were distributed to fans attending the band's New Year's Show on December 31,
at Matthews Arena in Boston cluing them in on a batch of new secret language signals
"designed to confuse and confound the average radio listener" as a recording of the
performance was to be aired the next day on Boston's WBCN radio station. Anastasio
fans in as to when to react by holding up signs. Some of these signals included "mass
hysteria" in the middle of "Fly Famous Mockingbird," "yay/boo" during "I Didn't Know"
the "lip flop" for "Harpua."
5. Phish "Fires" Mike Gordon - 2/6/1993
When Phish returned for the encore at NYC's Roseland Ballroom on February 6, 1993
started up a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire." The band struggled with the intro
Trey to tell the crowd they were relieving Mike Gordon of his bass duties so Jimi
Experience bassist Noel Redding could take over. Redding then emerged on bass, while
Gordon moved over to keys. In the middle of the song Anastasio "let Popper take over"
the Blues Traveler front man came out for a harmonica solo.
6. Gene Simmons Guests At The Roxy - 2/20/1993
In the middle of one of the most memorable "Mike's Groove's" in Phish history at The
in Atlanta on February 20, 1993; the band brought out fan Jay von Lehe, who was
Gene Simmons of KISS, to help sing the chorus of "Rock And Roll All Nite."
7. Neil Young Guests In Portland - 4/01/1993
On April Fool's Day in 1993 Phish not only headlined their own show at the Roseland
Theater in Portland, OR; they also performed at a benefit for Ancient Forests. Neil
was among the artists who played the benefit leading some fans to wonder if Phish
would be able to convince Neil to guest later that night. The band played into the
by inserting teases of a pair of Neil Young songs at their headlining show. According
Phish.net, "After the Big
Ball Jam, Trey looked offstage and introduced 'Neil Young,' which turned out to be
[drummer Jon Fishman]. Fishman responded by singing a line of 'After The Goldrush'
launching into 'Terrapin.'" In 1998 Phish finally had a real opportunity to perform
Neil Young at both Farm Aid and that year's Bridge School Benefit Concerts.
8. Phish Teases Thriller Musical Costume - October '95
As there are every year, there were rumors Phish would cover Michael Jackson's
Thriller as their musical costume on Halloween 1995 in Chicago. The quartet
added to the speculation by teasing "Black & White" and "Beat It" on October 21, 1995
followed by "Beat It" teases on October 27 and 29. Then, during a first set "Harpua"
Halloween, Trey said Jimmy was listening to the album Phish would cover later that
and the band started playing "Beat It." The joke continued into the second set as the
group's performance of Quadrophenia was preceded by recorded bits of Michael
9. Fans Help Record The Dog Log Album - 12/11/1995
On December 11, 1995 Trey told the crowd the band was recording an album filled with
different versions of the soundcheck staple "Dog Log." Anastasio asked fans to scream
boo them following the first short take on the tune, while on the second take he
crowd members to let out high-pitched squeals. Nineteen years later we're still
for the Dog Log album to come out.
10. Trey Teases Bruce Springsteen Guest Appearance - 7/16/1999
For the encore of Phish's July 16, 1999 performance at PNC Bank Arts Center in
Trey introduced "the greatest songwriter of all time," who like himself and
Page McConnell grew up in the area around the venue. While Anastasio was leading the
audience to believe Bruce Springsteen would emerge, it was Tom Marshall who came out
dressed like Springsteen to deliver vocals for a cover of The Boss's "Born To Run."
Springsteen would go on to perform with Phish at Bonnaroo '09.
11. Say It Like You Mean It - 1/1/2000
In yet another case of Phish screwing with the mainstream, Trey instructed the crowd
the band's Millennium shows at Big Cypress in Florida to chant "Cheesecake" at the
"Heavy Things" that was broadcast on ABC in an attempt to confuse the television
12. Tom Hanks Welcomes Back Phish - 12/31/2002
At Phish's "comeback show," held on December 31, 2002 at Madison Square Garden, a
from the movie Cast Away was shown in advance of a performance of "Wilson."
"Wilson," Trey brought out the film's star - "Tom Hanks" - to sing the final lyric.
fans (and news outlet) believed it really was Hanks, but it was actually keyboardist
McConnell's brother Steve.
13. Eric Clapton Guest Appearance - 6/18/2004
On June 18, 2004 Phish welcomed hip-hop star Jay-Z to guest on "99 Problems" and "Big
Pimpin'" at Keyspan Park in Brooklyn. Following a performance of "Chalk Dust
Trey announced that Eric Clapton would be joining them. Alas, he was only kidding.
14. Phish Re-Starts "You Enjoy Myself" In Hampton...Again - 3/6/2009
Here's the most controversial entry on our list as it's not confirmed Phish was
playing a prank on this one. When the Vermonters first played the complex "You Enjoy
Myself" in Hampton, VA on January 3, 2003 just a few shows after returning from a
they struggled with the intro leading them to re-start the song. Six years later, at
first show following a five-year "breakup," the quartet once again screwed up the
"YEM" and re-started the tune. Was it a nod to the 2003 version or did they just mess
tough song? Depends who you ask.
15. "Sarah From Pittsburgh" Plays Drums With Phish - 12/31/2009
For Phish's New Year's "gag" in Miami on December 31, 2009; drummer Jon Fishman was
inside a cannonball and supposedly launched from a cannon. The band appeared to have
Fish, leading Trey to ask if anyone in the audience knew how to play drums. Anastasio
picked out a woman named Sarah from Pittsburgh, who told him her favorite Phish song
"Fluffhead." At some point the actress swapped places with Fishman in drag and the
launched into "Fluffhead." Fish went on
to play the rest of the third set and encore dressed as Sarah.
16. Zepp Madness And Fun With Feat - 10/30-31/2010
Atlantic City legend Pinky Kravitz said that Phish would cover a Led Zeppelin album
Halloween in a Pinky's Corner column that ran just before the band's three-
at Boardwalk Hall in 2010. While Phish wound up covering Little Feat's Waiting for
on Halloween, they did work in parts of four Led Zeppelin songs into "Tweezer" on
30, 2010 and later "Whole Lotta Love" into "Chalk Dust." Then, on the 31st, before
kicked into "Fat Man In The Bathtub" the band had some fun as described in the notes
Phish.net, "In the tradition of some of Phish's previous crowd experiments in the
'90s, flyers explaining a new Secret Language prank were included in the Phishbills
were passed out to fans as they walked into the show. The prank, designed to confuse
who would later listen to the recording, consisted of an announcer introducing Phish
Little Feat). When the announcer would say a letter of the band FEAT ('Give me an
the crowd would respond with letters corresponding to PHISH ('P-H!')."
17. Most Shows Spell Something - 8/30/2013
Phish started two traditions on September 2, 2011: annual Labor Day weekend runs at
Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO and setlist antics at the first show of each
Every song the band played that night started with the letter "S." The first letter
every song played at the 2012 Dick's run opening show on August 31, 2012 spelled
Your Face" leading up to a performance of the tune itself followed by a fitting
"Meatstick" encore. Then, at 2013's Dick's opener the band spelled out "Most Shows
Spell Something" using the first letter of each song played in reverse order.
18. Lushington Setlist Antics - 8/29/2014
Phish engaged in setlist spelling antics once again at the first night of last year's
Labor Day weekend run at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The show came a few months after
Phish fans voted obscurity
"Lushington" as the "Best Phish Song" in a Rolling Stone readers poll.
"Lushington" had last been performed by the Vermonters on September 2, 1987 so when
the first letter of the first ten songs Phish played at the Dick's '14 opener spelled
"LUSHINGTON," fans thought they would finally get to hear a live performance of the
rarity. Alas, Phish was just toying with fans and played "Ha Ha Ha" immediately after
Thanks to Phish.net for
some of the info used in this post.