Happy Birthday Jon Fishman: 10 Fish-Led Phish One-Timers

By Andy Kahn Feb 19, 2016 8:53 am PST

Today is the 51st birthday of Phish drummer Jon Fishman. In celebration of the affable vacuum-playing, dress-sporting percussionist’s special day, we’ve compiled a list of 10 one-timers Phish has played over the years with Fish out in front taking on the role of frontman or behind the kit providing lead vocals.

Whether introduced as Henrietta, Bob Weaver or any other of his many nicknames, Fish has long been called upon by his bandmates to step in front of his drums and handle lead vocals – typically on a cover song. Other times he’s managed singing duties from his usual seat behind the array of snares, toms, kicks and cymbals he calls home. The following list reviews 10 times Fish has taken Phish through a lone performance of nine covers and one original during the course of the band’s lengthy career.

1. “Lively Up Yourself” April 21, 1992

Starting off is a Bob Marley cover Fishman helped debut at Redwood Acres Fairgrounds in Eureka, California. During a second set that saw bassist Mike Gordon sneak in a “Catapult” after Fish was brought out to the familiar tune of “Hold Your Head Up” for a vacuum-led song, the sole performance of “Lively Up Yourself” saw Fish playing bass as well as Gordon playing guitar and making his only attempt at playing the vacuum.

2. “Cryin’” September 29, 1995

Fish chose the band’s fourth appearance (and first time headlining) at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles as the stage for his vacuum-infused take on the Aerosmith hit single “Cryin.’” As would be seen other times, the drummer had the help of a lyrics sheet to make it through the debut.

3. “Wind Beneath My Wings” November 28, 1995

The only time Phish has presented a selection from Bette Midler’s catalog, the one-time take on “Wind Beneath My Wings” was serenaded to Col. Bruce Hampton who was brought out during the performance. Hampton, however, appeared unmoved, opting to read a newspaper while seated on stage at Knoxville Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee.

4. “Cecilia” June 25, 1997

Phish’s second trip to Europe in 1997 continued the trend of adding new songs to their setlists and this show at L’Aeronef in Lille, France included the first “Meatstick” and the one rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia.” Sporting a tailored black suit, Fish used a pillow for a drum while struggling his way through the verses of the tune.

5. “I Kissed A Girl” August 16, 2009

Pop star Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” got the Fish treatment in the summer of 2009. This humorously executed cover was trotted out during the band’s tour closer at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York, coming within a “Harpua” narration and resulting in some spirited banter between guitarist Trey Anastasio and Fish.

HarpuaFSB (See 462 videos)
Phish (See 3,802 videos)

6. “Happy” October 31, 2009

At Phish’s Festival 8 at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, the band debuted a number of songs during their second set Halloween performance of The Rolling Stones’ classic LP Exile On Main Street. Supported by a horn section and backup singers including Sharon Jones, Fish did his best to mimic the vocals famously delivered by The Stones’ Keith Richards.

7. “Tomorrow’s Song” November 27, 2009

This list’s lone original, the history of the Fishman-penned track from Undermind is explained in great detail by Phish.net, explaining the lyrics came from Jon’s personal journal kept during a visit to Chile in 2000 soon after the band’s Big Cypress New Year’s Eve festival. It wasn’t until Fall Tour 2009 that the song made its debut at Times Union Center in Albany, New York.

8. “Willin’” October 31, 2010

Another Halloween musical costume debut, the Lowell George-composed standout track from Little Feat’s Waiting For Columbus was led by Fish just once at their holiday gig at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

HarpuaFSB (See 462 videos)
Phish (See 3,802 videos)

9. “Big Balls” July 3, 2011

The final set of Phish’s Super Ball IX festival at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York opened with the drummer singing lead on AC/DC’s “Big Balls.” In a move similar to Phish’s audience-driven improvisation “Big Ball Jam,” the band released oversized balloons onto the crowd during the debut set two opener.


10. “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” August 8, 2011

Fish treated fans in Hollywood to another one-timer when he gave the Paul Simon hit “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” a try at the Hollywood Bowl. A mini drum kit was set up at the front of the stage for Fish to pound out the song’s marching beat, while also showing off his vocal skills.

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