Phish in Relix Magazine circa 1989
by William Ruhlmann
It never ceases to amaze me how many great un-signed bands there are out there. Phish, a four-piece that hails from Burlington, Vermont, is one such band. It consists of Trey Anastasio on guitar (he also writes most of the music), Page McConnell on keyboards, Jon (Phish) Fishman on drums and trombone, and Mike Gordon on bass.
Phish has a strong base of highly original material that it liberally laces with jazz, rock, funk, calypso, and blues elements, as well as some truly bizarre lyrics that would do Frank Zappa proud.
The Band has been playing the New England club and college scene for the past five years to ever-increasing audiences, and on the strength of their self-produced cassette release, Junta, it’s easy to see why.
The tape is superbly recorded and shows the band possess a musical flair almost beyond belief. Sure, the songs are a little odd, especially the whimsical “Contact,” a love song to a car, and the poetic “Ester,” but the underlying strength of all the material is the virtuoso musicianship and why sense of humor that runs through it. Guitarist Anastasio’s playing is of a highly exploratory nature and ranges from jazzy runs through the melodic phrases to daring improvisations. Keyboardist McConnell embellishes the sound with some intricate playing, while the rest of the band creates a complex mesh of syncopated and polyrythmic sounds. This is most notable on the lengthy, mainly instrumental “David Bowie” (the only lyrics are the title and UB40 repeated!), and the equally exciting “The Divided Sky” and “You Enjoy Myself.”
According to a spokesperson for the band, the tape only reflect a small part of their complex repertoire of originals. They even have an entire suite that runs an hour and a half! I hope we get a chance to hear more form these extremely talented musicians in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, this tape comes highly recommended. For gig dates and other info call 802-655-9068. For the tape, send $9 to: Dionysian Productions c.o 168 Waver St., Winooski, VT 05404.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PHISH - Here’s to another 29!