Phishheads, Phishheads, give me rec's, yum.
September 15, 2019 8:27 PM   Subscribe

For our fiftieth birthdays in December, a friend has bought tickets for us to see Phish in LI, NY. I last saw them play on December 31, 1989. Please, this is not a phishing scam—I need to do some catchin' up.

I have since lost touch with the band, and am told they have changed significantly. I'd like to find some shows—e.g. via the Internet Archive or elsewhere—that I can easily download, preferably in mp3 format. (I have ClipGrab so anything on Youtube is fair game for me to convert to mp3.)

What shows do you think are representative of their different phases? What are some shows that illustrate how the band has evolved during the past thirty years? What do they sound like now? What are some of their classic sets?

Moreover: If you had to pick five Phish shows for me to listen to before December, which ones would you recommend?

Links please! Thanks!
CAVEAT: I will not buy you a ewe.
posted by not_on_display to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Hahahaha! I didn't see it was you and I was about to be like "Hey, I'm gonna be there too! Let's have a meetup!"

Don't listen to anyone who says they peaked in the 90s. They're playing better than ever now.

Start here.

From there, you can probably find most of the recommended shows on the spreadsheet. These are all fan recordings of varying quality.

As you listen to shows, check out the setlists on and read a bit about the songs you like.

For recent stuff, listen to anything under the official Phish account on YouTube. You might want to actually watch some of the live stuff because, even though they don't really move around a lot on stage, it's interesting to see how they interact during jams and also so you can get a feel for who each of them are and what they do.

This recent Ruby Waves is actually one of Trey's solo songs but Phish played it on tour this summer and jammed the shit out of it.

This Sand-->Ghost-->2001 from 2016 on the beach in Mexico is pretty sweet. Sand is one of my favorite tunes, very cool groove.

If you want to get a really technical explanation of what's going on behind some of their jams, check out Anatomy of a Jam.

I can't really recommend individual shows since I don't really keep track of what they played when, or which jam was 22 minutes vs. 19 minutes. It's all good.

posted by bondcliff at 9:11 PM on September 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

HAAAAA HA HA thanks for the links to the reddit thread and the spreadsheet and the youtubes. Visual aids do help, agreed. I am actually going to start where I left off - 12/31/89 - and just go a few years forward at a time from there, see what I discover.

Though I'm not marking this as resolved yet—if you good people have any of their five favorites, please lay'em down here, thanks as always!
posted by not_on_display at 10:16 PM on September 15, 2019

I am an old Deadhead, but I appreciate Trey and the entire band. Two or three years ago they played 13 shows at MSG. They did not repeat any songs over those 13 nights. Baker's Dozen. I had the pleasure of attending 5 of the shows. I became a believer. A true believer. I don't know if those shows are available at, but if they are because you will get pretty much their full catalogue and then some, I would listen to those shows.

I would add that for three of the shows I arrived an hour early and got to meet Trey. He is a really nice guy and struck me as a really hard worker at his craft. The entire band prepared a lot.
posted by AugustWest at 10:37 PM on September 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

Bondcliff can have control of the stereo at the IRL party in a few weeks.
posted by terrapin at 6:02 AM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Bondcliff can have control of the stereo at the IRL party in a few weeks.

No way am I gonna be the guy to put Phish on at the party. I might as well pull out an acoustic guitar and play the first 2/3rds of Stairway to Heaven.

To get an idea of who they are as a band, and the lengths they'll go to to be something different, read about their recent Halloween cover of Kasvot Växt's í rokk album, which is a very obscure album by a 1970s Scandinavian prog rock band that nobody had ever heard of. And when you're done reading that, read this.

Then there was the time they shot their drummer out of a canon.

Another Halloween they put together a set of songs to a 1960s Disney Haunted House sound effects record, complete with zombie makeup. Keep in mind this was done in the middle set of a three-set show, the two other sets were completely normal and they never once spoke of the second set. It just sort of happened.

These are not typical of shows, these are Halloween and New Years stunts, but really anything can happen at any show.

They did not repeat any songs over those 13 nights. Baker's Dozen.

Each night had a donut theme. One of those nights the flavor was Boston Cream.
posted by bondcliff at 6:39 AM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm glad bondcliff is giving you a Kasvot Vaxt primer. I saw Phish this December after a 15 year break. The only time I really felt out of the loop was the Kasvot Vaxt stuff.
posted by diogenes at 11:02 AM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you’re both in Long Island and don’t hang out with me, I’m gonna be sad.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:04 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

The show is in Uniondale, though I'm not sure where we'll be staying. And at this point I have an extra ticket if you feel like hanging out at a Phish show...
posted by bondcliff at 11:15 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

We just saw them at Dick's and I thought the whole thing was incredible. "Say it to me S.A.N.T.O.S" was the encore the first night (8/30/19) and would recommend checking that out for an idea of recent stuff.
posted by Bacon Bit at 12:33 PM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I’m down! Yay!
posted by ocherdraco at 2:46 PM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

bondcliff's notes (ha!) are wonderful. I also recommend the YouTube channel LazyLightning55a for live shows.

The show you are seeing is part of an anniversary run of the 1998 "Island Tour" so you could also read more about that here (there's sure to be references). The setlists and some discussion about each night can be found here. Searching YouTube I see a few versions available but I don't have one to recommend specifically. Have fun at the show!
posted by juliplease at 3:17 PM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is the best thread. Just don't let the mods see it.

A couple of things:

If you're into podcasts, there's a new one (literally as of today) called Long May They Run and season 1 is going to cover the history of Phish.

I've been listening to the Island Tour shows that Juliplease mentioned and, yeah, holy shit they are good. I subscribe to LivePhish, which are soundboard recordings but I'm sure there's some decent fan recordings out there. I might even have an MP3 at home, I'l take a look. The first set of the second night (04/03/98) is kind of blowing me away.
posted by bondcliff at 8:03 AM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

> This is the best thread. Just don't let the mods see it.

This is not the thread you seek.

Anyway, these are all great answers, even if they seem to vary from the direct question, because they give me some perspective into the depth of, and different reasons, for fans' love of Phish.

Also I am in over my head!

And yeah, they've evolved—it's immediately apparent when you skim through some shows over time. I like when you can see the evolution of a unique band's or artist's sound. Not like, "This year I'm gonna be ____ genre"; but more like, "This year I'll sound like myself only a little different." And over the years it adds up!

Thanks again! This is a fun journey in bits and bobs.
posted by not_on_display at 9:55 PM on September 19, 2019

posted by bondcliff at 7:22 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

So, any updates?
posted by juliplease at 7:56 AM on December 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

IT WAS A GREAT SHOW! They played covers of songs I knew but would never expect (Avenu Malkeinu, VU's Cool it Down, Ween) and a song about birthdays and friends which was apropos to say the least!

I listened to enough Phish in the rampup to the show that I recognized what had changed about their music, what had remained the same; bondcliff filled me on a lot of the band's history and inside baseball. Turns out, I still like Phish, but without the fervor of 19-year-old me discovering a little-known jam band in 1989.

What I did NOT expect was the AMAZING LIGHT SHOW. When Phish started noodling and wandering and trying to pick up a hook to sink their teeth into (which they always did), I knew I could divert my attention to the crowd below us, and be just as entertained.

Also, LSD is hard to find in a rainy 35˚F Parking Lot.
Also, I blew my knees out dancing. That's when you know you're 50.

posted by not_on_display at 9:04 PM on December 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

CK5 doing his thing on the lights!

It was, indeed, a great show. Phish fans are insufferable when they start reviewing shows so I'm not going to rank it among the shows on the tour, or among the three shows I saw (Providence N1, N2, Nassau) only to say that it was a very good show and I'm glad I got to take three Phish (mostly) virgins to it and they all seemed to enjoy themselves.

Among other things, we got a Martian Monster, a Tube that was jammed out (Harris would have been proud), TMWSIY, Cities, Carini, Roggae, Wedge, and Roses are Free. I was very happy with the setlist and the jams they did.

They just finished the (short) tour without repeating a single song, which is kind of impressive.
posted by bondcliff at 6:59 AM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

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