Miracle Builders: The Unlikely Empire of Phish (Relix Revisited)
For many of us Thanksgiving weekend will always be associated with Phish shows. So in addition to the video clips we’ve presented, here is an archival piece that ran in our November 2004 issue following Phish’s “final” performance at Coventry, which explores the business of Phish.
In the south end of Burlington, Vermont, on the first floor of the former Maltex cereal factory, is the home base of Phish’s business side, Dionysian Productions. Inside, there’s little indication this is a management company that oversaw an estimated net profit of 19 million dollars in 2003. The design is spacious, sleek, and minimal. Bare white walls are occasionally interrupted by select Phish memorabilia: a picture of the band from the 2003 New Year’s Eve show, a poster from the 1999 Big Cypress festival and a promotional poster for 2002’s Round Room. In the lobby, there are hardwood floors, a leather couch, a fish tank, and a wide coffee table with several magazines strewn about, including a Relix that is conspicuously near the top of a small pile.
The office is unusually quiet. The only sounds are the subdued hum from the central air system and the bubbling fish tank. There is no music to be heard, Phish or otherwise, and the phones are nearly silent. (Later, during my tour of the facilities, Trey Anastasio calls and Jason Colton, Phish’s internal publicist and marketing director, excuses himself.) It is a rainy afternoon in early September, nearly three-and-a-half months after Phish announced their retirement, and there is a palpable anxiety that lingers in the office. As of this writing, there has yet to be any official announcement of Dionysian’s fate.
Phish management is hesitant to grant this interview given the nature of their current situation. Colton, who is visibly uncomfortable being interviewed, explains, “We very much like to stay in the
shadows. We tend to be very much not-public, and that’s what you’re seeing. We’re the management company—who gives a shit?”
Horatio Alger Never Envisioned Hemp Bootstraps
After meeting with many Dionysian employees, I sit with founder John Paluska in his long, narrow office. Tall and skinny, dressed in corduroys and a striped shirt, Paluska is calm, confident and grounded as he recounts the long history of his organization. In March of 1988, Paluska, a junior at Amherst College in Massachusetts, took a break from a ski trip to see the young
Phish perform at Burlington’s Nectar’s. At the gig, Paluska spoke to Mike Gordon, who handled Phish’s early business.
“If you wanted to book the band, he was the guy you talked to,” says Paluska. The next day, Paluska followed up and booked them to play The Zoo, a co-op house in Amherst where he was
living. Invigorated, he obtained press kits and demo tapes from the band and began canvassing Amherst and the surrounding area colleges, trying to encourage people to book Phish. “It was very organic and unassuming,” says Paluska of the beginnings.
Shortly thereafter, Paluska began working with friend Ben Hunter as the unofficial co-managers of Phish, landing some Boston gigs over the summer. “I remember not even telling people that I was a manager because I didn’t have any experience whatsoever and didn’t have any clue what I was doing,” says Paluska. “It was a pretty primitive form of management. It was almost like being a door-to-door salesman.” Because of their existing relationship and enthusiasm, in the fall of 1988, Paluska and Hunter—while still students—were asked to manage Phish in a more official capacity.
Upon Paluska’s graduation the following year, he managed the band part-time. Hunter was soon relieved of his professional duties in circumstances that Paluska prefers not to discuss, but mentions student status as having some bearing, and—ultimately—a decision by the band that they wanted Paluska alone.
The Howlin’ Brothers take to the Relix rooftop and share a song they wrote with Warren Haynes.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
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.
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- Visions of Bonnaroo Friday (Paul McCartney, Passion Pit, Conspirator…)
- Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Free Download "Dear Lord (Give Me The Strength)"
- God Street Wine with Warren Haynes "Sweet Little Angel" (Live 1996)
- The Howlin’ Brothers "Big Time"
- Primus in Toronto
- Twice "The Joker" on Saturday at Bonnaroo (Gov’t Mule and Jack Johnson)
- The National’s Grateful Dead Tribute Album Dead Hot In Motion
- Interlocken Confirms Daily Lineups, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Punch Brothers, Keller & The Keels and More Added
- Mumford and Sons Cancel Bonnaroo Show, Summer Tour
- Ed Helms: Bonnaroo, Banjos and a Bit of Phish
- Robert Hunter Will Return to the Stage for Eight Shows
- Warren Haynes to Play Jerry Garcia’s Wolf on Symphony Tour
- Tedeschi Trucks Band Share New Song
- Jack Is Back: Jack Johnson Talks Bonnaroo, ALO and New Album
- Patty Griffin in Boston
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll