Phish farewell: Dead's heir band to quit
"Last Friday night, I got together with Mike, Page, and Fish to talk openly about the strong feelings I've been having that Phish has run its course and that we should end it now while it's still on a high note."
So begins the May 25 website notice that Phish, America's longest-running jam band, is going out of business.
Nearly 21 years ago, a youthful wordsmith had an idea for a musical group in a hip college town. The band achieved fame not so much from studio albums but from a relentless cross-country touring schedule that brought college-age fans together in one sweet happy world. The band's willingness to let fans tape their shows, along with the 1995 death of Jerry Garcia and the break-up of the Grateful Dead, assured ever-escalating popularity.
If this tie-dyed success formula sounds familiar to fans of Dave Matthews Band, the Phish-DMB connection intensified in January when Phish founder Trey Anastasio and Dave Matthews traveled together to Senegal and played with the West African band Orchestra Baobab. Their musical foray was the subject of an hour-long documentary on VH1 in early May.
Now Phish-heads must soon join Dead-heads in mourning the original band they have followed around the country. What does it all mean for Dave-heads?
"Dave Matthews Band's support runs a whole lot wider and deeper than Phish's ever did," says radio station WNRN's general manager, Mike Friend. That's why Friend believes the news is "neutral to mildly good" for the Charlottesville-based band.
The news wasn't lost on nancies.org. That DMB fan website considered the Phish breakup a top story.
"I don't see Phish fans flocking to Dave Matthews Band concerts," says nancies.org boss Waldo Jaquith. "I don't think [DMB manager] Coran Capshaw will say a year from now, 'Ah, look at all the money I've made now that Phish has broken up.'"
Indeed, Jaquith points out, Capshaw actually stands to lose some business, since his firm MusicToday, handles online ticketing for Phish shows.
Jaquith remarks that while there is a lot of "crossover" between fans of DMB and Phish, the Phish-heads tend– like Dead-heads– to be "free spirits unencumbered by things like jobs," although Jaquith counts himself a Phish fan.
"We're done," Anastasio told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose on a nationally televised broadcast the day after the announcement. "We don't want to become caricatures of ourselves, or worse yet, a nostalgia act."
The final Phish show, on August 15, caps a two-day festival not far from the spot where the 18-year-old University of Vermont freshman had an idea for a band.
No comment from Dave Matthews.
Trey Anastasio: I'm 40 years old. I have two kids.
Charlie Rose: Mick Jagger is 60 years old, and he's got more than two.
PHOTO BY HAWES SPENCER