The Time Phish (Sort Of) Changed Their Name To ‘Mrs. Pizza Shit’

Back in 1991 the band jokingly altered their name for a couple of shows.

By Andy Kahn Nov 15, 2023 1:03 pm PST

The subject of Phish’s band name has been the source of debate throughout the band’s 40-year history. Speculation about the name “Phish” was substantial enough to warrant its own Phish.net FAQ page, which begins “There are, of course, many explanations for the [band’s] name.”

The FAQ page then lists many possibilities of varying plausibility and probability. While guitarist Trey Anastasio debunked the longstanding belief their first show was billed as “Blackwood Convention,” another alternate name was unofficially coined for the band for a brief period beginning 32 years ago tonight.

On Friday, November 15, 1991, Phish returned to Trax in Charlottesville, Virginia, where they played for the first time the year before and two additional times earlier in 1991. As Phish.com described the concert:

This was Phish’s fourth show at Trax. It was an 18-and-over gig and the first “Mrs. Pizza Shit” show. Fish announced before the show started that the band had changed their name from Phish to Mrs. Pizza Shit. Trey added “Mrs. Pizza Shit Rocks Trax!”

At the time, Dave Matthews Band played every Tuesday night at the venue where they had performed for the first time in March of that year. Prior to Phish playing their first set that Friday night at Trax, drummer Jon Fishman made an announcement.

“Before we begin I’d just like you to know that we’ve changed our name,” Fish said. “It’s no longer ‘Phish,’ we’ve decided to call ourselves ‘Mrs. Pizza Shit.’ Tell all your friends.”

Anastasio then fired up “Chalk Dust Torture” to get the show underway properly. Trey dropped the first of several “Mrs. Pizza Shit” references within the “Chalk Dust” opener. Another came at the end of the first set-closing “Golgi Apparatus.”

“Mrs. Pizza Shit is gonna take a break, don’t go away!” Trey exclaimed as set one came to an end.

There was more “Mrs. Pizza Shit” banter at the start of the second set before they opened with “Llama.” More “Mrs. Pizza Shit” references surfaced two songs later when they played “Poor Heart.” Shouts of “Mrs. Pizza Shit!” came from the band members during their “Poor Heart” solos.

Later in the set, following the last performance of “Destiny Unbound” for 796 shows, “Harry Hood” also contained more “Mrs. Pizza Shit” call outs. The intro to “Harry Hood” saw Trey again calling out Mrs. Pizza Shit and Fishman introducing Page McConnell as “Mrs. Pizza Shit on the piano.”

Trey introduced Fish (“Henrietta”) as a “founding member of Mrs. Pizza Shit,” while “Hold Your Head Up” played, teeing up Fish’s vacuum-augmented leading of Syd Barrett’s “Love You.” Fish also apologized for not donning his Zero Man outfit, as he had the last time the band played Trax in February 1991, noting he did not have his jock strap and that during the last show, a woman yelled, “Ew, you can see his balls!”

The second set ended with “Possum,” which Phish.net explains, “contained two Charlie Chan signals and Simpsons and Popeye signals (but, notably, the band responded to the Popeye signal by singing a random note, which is the Random Note signal’s ‘secret language’).”

“Thank you, it was a nice time, Mrs. Pizza Shit!” Trey said at the end of “Possum.”

Here’s an audio recording of Phish’s first “Mrs. Pizza Shit” show held on this date 32 years ago:

November 15, 1991 – Audio

Set 1:

Chalk Dust Torture [1], Sparkle, Cavern, The Curtain > Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil, My Sweet One > Guelah Papyrus, Rhombus Narration > Divided Sky, Lawn Boy, Golgi Apparatus

Set 2:

Llama [2] > Bathtub Gin, Poor Heart [3], Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Eliza, Tube, The Landlady > Destiny Unbound, Harry Hood [4], Hold Your Head Up > Love You > Hold Your Head Up, Bouncing Around the Room > Possum [5]

Encore:

Highway to Hell, Suzy Greenberg

Prior to the start of the show, Fish announced that Phish had changed their name to Mrs. Pizza Shit. Chalk Dust, Llama, Poor Heart, Harry Hood, and the conclusion of both sets (as well as the start of the second set) all featured references to Mrs. Pizza Shit. Poor Heart and Hood also had bandmembers calling each other "Mrs. Pizza Shit." Page teased Blue Monk during the Rhombus Narration. In Lawn Boy, Page referred to Trey as "Lawn Boy" prior to him taking a guitar solo. Before Love You, Fish apologized for not wearing his Zero Man outfit, explaining that he didn't have his jock strap with him. He said that the last time he was there some girl said "Hey you can see his balls!" and so that was it for Zero Man without the jock strap. Possum contained two Charlie Chan signals and Simpsons and Popeye signals (but, notably, the band responded to the Popeye signal by singing a random note, which is the Random Note signal's "secret language").

Mrs. Pizza Shit antics arose the following night when Phish played for a sixth and final time at The Bayou in Washington D.C. The November 16, 1991 show also included Mrs. Pizza Shit mentions during the first set “Wilson” and the second set “My Sweet One” that preceded “Bathtub Gin.”

Excerpts from the Phish.com description of the November 16, 1991 concert detail some of the times “Mrs. Pizza Shit” surfaced during that show:

[D]ubbed the second “Mrs. Pizza Shit” show because of band “slice of pizza, bucket of lard” vocalizations and references that started during the soundcheck and dotted the show …

After “Bathtub Gin,” Fish (accompanied by Trey’s “translation”) reiterated that the new band name was Mrs. Pizza Shit …

“You Enjoy Myself” began with a false start during which Trey confirmed that the band had indeed changed its name to Mrs. Pizza Shit. Mike teased “The Brady Bunch Theme” during “YEM” and the vocal subsequent vocal jam included more “Mrs. Pizza Shit” and a bit of “William Tell Overture.”

Reportedly Trey at one point, possibly during “You Enjoy Myself,” strummed his guitar with a slice of pizza “borrowed” from a waitress.

Listen second “Mrs. Pizza Shit” show Phish played back on November 16, 1991 at The Bayou in Washington D.C. here:

November 16, 1991 – Audio

Set 1:

The Landlady, Uncle Pen, Wilson [1] > Runaway Jim, It’s Ice > Sparkle > Fluffhead, Foam, Stash, Ya Mar, Cavern

Set 2:

Tube > My Sweet One [2] > Bathtub Gin, Brother, You Enjoy Myself [3], Horn > Chalk Dust Torture, Hold Your Head Up > Terrapin > Hold Your Head Up, Llama

Encore:

Glide, Rocky Top

Wilson, My Sweet One, and the YEM vocal jam contained Mrs. Pizza Shit references. YEM was preceded by introductions of lots of friends and family, and was halted and restarted by Trey so that he can confirm that Phish had indeed changed their name to “Mrs. Pizza Shit.” YEM contained a Brady Bunch theme tease from Mike. The subsequent vocal jam contained William Tell Overture quotes. At one point during the show, Trey even grabbed a slice of pizza from a passing waitress and used it to strum the guitar. Sanity was teased before and during Terrapin.

Loading tour dates

JamBase Collections