Phish has long had an intimate relationship with their fans and followers, exemplified over the years in a secret language, mid-show chess matches, recognizing regular rail riders from stage and more. Long known as masters of improvisational rock, what happens at a Phish show isn’t always solely dictated by the four musicians in the band. During their career 30+ year career there have been a number of occasions in which Phish was prompted by one or many of their notoriously devoted fans to play a certain song or add an unexpected element to a concert.
A recent example can be found at the quartet’s last show, when a Twitter account created by a fan led to a song that had been light on improv in the past seven years finally getting the “treatment.” We’ve put together a list detailing similar instances when requests by Phish fans brought out memorable moments on stage – along with an instance when taunting from Trey’s daughters led to one of the greatest Halloweens of all-time.
1. Fan vote leads to title “Spock’s Brain” (May 16, 1995 – Lowell, Mass.)
Phish played a one-off Voters For Choice benefit in Lowell, Massachusetts on May 16, 1995. The band used the occasion to debut a group of 10 songs including covers and originals. One of those originals was a song penned by the quartet that didn’t have a name coming into the show. Phish surveyed fans by giving them four titles: “The Plane,” “The First Single,” “Israel” and “Spock’s Brain.” The biggest cheer by far came when Trey said “Spock’s Brain” and the name stuck. Unfortunately the song didn’t really stick as Phish played it four times the following summer, twice in 2000 and a final time (for now) in 2003.
2. Green Crew selects songs for Phish to play at Deer Creek (July 25, 1999 – Noblesville, Ind.)
Just before Phish took the stage for a pair of shows at Deer Creek in Noblesville, Indiana to end Summer Tour 1999, the band held a party for the Green Crew which cleaned up the lot after each concert. According to a Green Crew member who was at the party, Trey passed around a yellow legal pad for setlist suggestions. Many of the song choices were played on July 25, 1999 including “Whipping Post” which reportedly was accompanied by “Trey Singing” on the list of requests.
3. Phish debuts Elton John cover thanks to hundreds of “Rocket Man” signs (August 9, 2011 – Lake Tahoe)
One of the many “Rocket Man” signs
As the Phish.net song history describes, a grassroots effort by fans led to the quartet playing their first and only (to date) public performance of the Elton John classic “Rocket Man.” The story starts in Cincinnati on November 21, 2009 when a “Rocket Man” sign made its debut. The sign was made out of “bright yellow paper, cut out in the shape of a rocket and on the back was a running count of ‘Days Since Last Rocket Man,'” according to Phish.net. The “Days Since” part referenced a pair of 1991 soundcheck performances of “Rocket Man.” The sign traveled to dozens of shows until fans upped the ante at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s in Lake Tahoe. Not only was the original sign on hand, but a huge banner was made and 1,200 signs featuring yellow rockets were passed out. Phish gave the fans what they wanted and debuted a Page-sung cover of “Rocket Man” that night.
4. Conversation between fan and Jon Fishman leads to “Tweezer” for the ages (July 31, 2013 – Lake Tahoe)
Two summers after the “Rocket Man” show Phish returned to Lake Tahoe for a pair of shows on July 30 and 31, 2013. Fan Kevin Hansen engaged Jon Fishman in a conversation after the first concert. Hansen recounts what happened, “I was sitting next to [Fish] at a table. I asked him if he knew what the longest ‘Tweezer’ to date was. He looked at me with a blank stare and said he had no idea. I told him it was my first show, June 15, 1995 at Mud Island. I responded by saying ‘you guys have been doing it wrong ever since.’ He chuckled.” The next night Phish unleashed the longest “Tweezer” since the Summer of ’95 and what a “Tweezer” it was.
5. Fans hire plane which brings about return of “Icculus” (August 30, 2013 – Denver)
One of the rarest treats in the Phish world is the song “Icculus.” The early original, which includes narration from Trey, has only been performed six times in the last 20 years. One of those occasions took place at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver on August 30, 2013. The “Dickulus” was prompted by a fan campaign to get Phish to play the song in Denver that aimed to have a plane skywrite “Read The Book” above the venue. Eventually those leading the campaign settled on having a plane fly over Dick’s with a sign trailing that stated “Read The Book.” Anastasio mentioned the plane during the performance of “Icculus” which was part of a setlist that read “MOST SHOWS SPELL SOMETHING” when taking the first letter of each song played that night in reverse order.
6. Phish busts out “Walfredo” in memory of fan (October 27, 2014 – San Francisco)
A longtime Phish fan named Adam Berger passed away on April 1, 2014. Berger ran a fan site called Walfredo.com and following his death Adam’s friends started a campaign to have Phish play “Walfredo” in his honor during a set of Fall ’14 shows in San Francisco. On October 27, 2014 Phish opened with “Walfredo” which features each member of the band on a different instrument than they usually play.
7. Fans vote “Lushington” as Best Phish Song, band responds with “L-U-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N” setlist (August 29, 2014 – Denver)
In June of 2014 Rolling Stone celebrated the release of Fuego by polling readers about their favorite Phish song. Fan site YEMblog decided to troll the magazine by getting its followers to vote for “Lushington,” a song the quartet hadn’t played since 1987. The mission was a success and “Lushington” took the top spot when Rolling Stone published its list. However, Phish had the last laugh as the setlist for the first set of the band’s August 29, 2014 show at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park spelled out “L-U-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N” when taking the first letter of each song played. Instead of following the “N” song (“No Quarter”) with the return of “Lushington,” the band played “Ha Ha Ha.”
8. Trey’s daughters call out dad which leads to Chilling, Thrilling Halloween (October 31, 2014 – Las Vegas)
In an interview with Jeremy Goodwin of the Boston Globe Trey revealed what led to Phish covering an album on October 31, 2014 in Las Vegas:
Trey Anastasio was on the brink of looking lame, until some teenagers set him straight.
He was taking a beach walk with his two daughters this summer , when one asked him what his band, Phish, was cooking up for Halloween this year — typically a red-letter date on its concert calendar. He said the group might not do anything special this time around.
“They both looked at me and were like: What? You are so lame!” says Anastasio, 50, on the phone from his New York City home. “They were just in my face about the whole thing. I think right then was when the idea sprung up.”
Phish wound up adding their own music to a Disney album of sound effects from the ’60s and performed Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House as the second set on Halloween ’14. The set was one of the more ambitious and well-received performances in the band’s history and we have Trey’s daughters to thank.
9. Conversation with fan gives us first “Mike’s Song” second jam in 15 years (August 4, 2015 – Nashville)
Professional musician Drew Hitz attended Phish’s debut at the Ascend Amphitheatre in Nashville on August 4, 2015. He was invited and went to the show with Don Hart, a longtime Trey collaborator. Drew, who had performed with Anastasio at a symphony gig previously, had an opportunity fans dream of when he found himself chatting with the guitarist. Instead of fumbling for words, Hitz had a plan. He wanted to see the return of the second jam within “Mike’s Song,” a key springboard for improvisation that was regularly played as part of the tune between 1993 and 2000. When Drew asked Trey about it, Anastasio didn’t quite know what Hitz was talking about, but Drew was prepared and played the guitarist the last “Mike’s Song” with a second jam. Later that night Phish began “Mike’s Song” and #phishtwitter was abuzz as Hitz had tweeted about his interaction with Trey a few hours earlier. Would this be the night? Indeed it was.
Nashville’s wild “Mike’s Song” showed us what a second “Mike’s” jam would sound like in the age of 3.0 – at times dark and dirty and at times light and pretty, just like many Phish jams from the era. Unfortunately for fans of the second jam in “Mike’s Song,” the second jam disappeared again just as quickly as it returned.
10. Twitter account leads to Phish jamming out “Tube” (July 23, 2016 – Chula Vista, Calif.)
The latest instance took place at the most recent Phish show, when the band finally gave “Tube” the improvisational treatment fans had been begging for. One fan went so far as to create a Twitter feed dubbed @TubeJamUpdate. While the answer to the question of “Did Phish jam out ‘Tube’?” was “no” for years and years, that changed on July 23 in Chula Vista. Phish jammed on “Tube” for nearly 10 minutes giving us our most expansive version of the song since 2004. Obviously @TubeJamUpdate was overcome with joy. A Twitter user named @DonFogliani mentioned he showed Trey the @TubeJamUpdate feed after that evening’s soundcheck at the urging of Phish lyricist Steve “The Dude Of Life” Pollak. The Dude re-tweeted Don’s tweet about Anastasio checking out @TubeJamUpdate which is as close to a confirmation as we’ll get that the Twitter feed did indeed lead to the jammed out “Tube.”
- Upcoming Shows
Gov’t Mule will perform three shows in two cities to ring in 2018.
A hologram of late musician Frank Zappa will be part of an upcoming live concert tour.
Anders Beck talks about a busy few years for Greensky Bluegrass, his multiple other projects and much more in a wide-ranging conversation.
Vermont jam quartet Phish confirms a four-night New Year’s Run at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Next month’s annual Tedeschi Trucks Band residency will feature the return of keyboardist Kofi Burbridge who was recently sidelined following heart surgery.
STS9 will ring in 2017 with performances in Los Angeles and San Francisco.