Destiny Found? Phish Come Clean (Relix Revisited)
With Phish taking Halloween off this year and thus no fevered anticipation regarding their costume in the days leading up to October 31, we figured we’d share this cover story from December 2003 for those of you hankering for some Phish. On Halloween, we’ll run a piece from this era in which the band members name their favorite albums.
Trey Anastasio is sitting at the bar in a hotel restaurant not far from The Barn, the bucolic Vermont studio that serves as something like Phish’s recording headquarters, rehearsal space and spiritual home. He’d been working at The Barn all day that Saturday—and from his wild-eyed, amped-up, giggling demeanor, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that he’d been born in that idyllic space surrounded by instruments and equipment, fallen incurably in love with music and simply never left. He’d spent much of the afternoon working on a woozy piece inspired by his tapes of one of his young daughters banging on the piano keyboard as she sat on his lap. A mini-orchestra will be arriving in a few days to record it. “It’s very possible that all this stuff will end up on the new Phish album,” he declared with a mad glint in his eyes. Cabin fever had set deeply in.
Now, however, he was calmly eating a sandwich platter and nursing a beer. On the television set above the bar, the Florida Marlins are in the process of eliminating the San Francisco Giants in the National League’s western division playoffs. This being New England in early October, the (inevitably heartbreaking) fate of the Boston Red Sox is on everyone’s mind, including Anastasio’s. “I had this fantasy,” he leans over and says, barely able to contain his glee, “of posting on our website that I had had a dream that Babe Ruth appeared to me and told me that the curse of the Bambino was finally over, and the Red Sox were finally going to win the World Series this year!” Did he actually have that dream? “No!” he says, slapping the bar in emphasis. “Not at all. But I figure if they lost, everybody would just forget that I ever posted it. But if they won, people would think I was some kind of prophet!”
Anastasio obviously finds the idea of perpetrating a hoax like that hilarious—the master of the revels exulting in his Trickster role. But his fabricated dream is also a spoof on an image of the guitarist that is all too real for many Phish fans, and that Anastasio often has felt the daunting responsibility to live up to. As Phish approaches its twentieth anniversary this December and attempts to chart the course of its future after a thrilling reunion year, Anastasio deeply feels the need to keep that notion of himself in clear perspective. He’s successful part of the time.
“Trey’s not reading articles about the band so much any more,” Phish keyboardist Page McConnell had said at lunch in downtown Burlington earlier that day. “He would stress out about it when he would read things and felt that he was misrepresented. He’d take stuff really hard. He worries about what people think.”
Worrying about what people think and freeing himself of what he perceives as the expectations of others was a large part of the reason why Anastasio initiated the so-called “hiatus” in October 2000 that put Phish on hold for two years and called its very future into question. “It was hard for me to feel resentment from people who were our fans, our friends or even members of the band that I was busting this thing up for my own personal reasons,” Anastasio had said that day at The Barn. “I mean, all I’d done my whole life was work on Phish. I loved it and I wanted it to be healthy. But I remember thinking during the period around Billy Breathes, that I’m leading this thing and I want everybody in the band to be happy, but I didn’t want to create resentment, so I stepped back. In 1996 when we were on tour I stopped playing lead guitar. It was like, okay, well, somebody else do it then, somebody else lead it. I don’t need to do this.”
His eyes searched the loft space at The Barn, and then he continued to speak. “Maybe I worried about it too much,” he said, “‘Is everybody happy? Are you writing enough?’ The interpersonal relationships—feeling that responsibility, that was the biggest thing for me. I felt a great amount of pressure for years: What would happen if Phish broke up? What do people have to fall back on? So it somehow became important for me to sustain it, and I got confused. It became a problem for me, because I didn’t want to resent Phish. But I don’t think it’s healthy for any of us to have our whole lives based around the band.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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