During the early '90s, Phish emerged as the heirs to the Grateful Dead's throne. Although their music is somewhat similar to the Dead's -- it's an eclectic, free-form rock & roll encompassing folk, jazz, country, bluegrass, and pop -- the group adheres more to a jazz tradition than a folk tradition of improvisation and they have a looser, goofier attitude. After all, their drummer regularly plays a vacuum during their concerts.

Phish's main claim as the inheritors to the Dead's legacy is their approach to their musical career. The band didn't concentrate on albums, they dedicated themselves to live improvisation. Within a few years of their 1988 debut album, Phish had become an institution in certain sections of America, particularly college campuses. And their in-concert popularity didn't translate to record sales -- by the middle of the '90s, Phish was able to pack stadiums, but none of their albums had gone gold.

Guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, and guitarist Jeff Holdsworth formed the band in late 1983 while attending the University of Vermont. After meeting and jamming in their dormitory, the trio posted flyers across campus, recruiting a bassist. Mike Gordon answered the advertisement and he was soon added to the original lineup.

The group began practicing regularly and they soon assembled a demo tape. In the fall of 1984, Phish began performing off-campus concerts. At this stage in their career, the band was agumented by percussionist Marc Daubert and, occasionally, a vocalist called the Dude of Life. Soon, the group was playing concerts on nearby campuses, including Goddard College's Springfest in 1985. Page McConnell organized the Springfest at Goddard and he became a fan of the band. Later in the year, McConnell convinced the group to add him as a keyboardist. Shortly after McConnell joined Phish, Holdsworth left the group. In the fall of 1986, Anastasio and Fishman transferred to Goddard College.

Early in 1988, Phish recorded Junta, which they sold at their shows as a cassette-only release. In 1989, the group played their first tour outside of New England, travelling through the Southeast. Phish also recorded their second album, Lawn Boy, in 1989, although the album wasn't released until the fall of 1990; the record was released on the independent record label Absolute A-Go-Go, a subsidiary of Rough Trade. Throughout early 1991, Phish toured America. During the summer, they recorded their third album, as well as a set of sessions with their old friend, the Dude of Life.

Late in August, Rough Trade collapsed, taking Absolute A-Go-Go with it. Phish was left without a record contract but they were soon signed by Elektra Records. In February of 1992, A Picture of Nectar was released by Elektra. After its release, the group embarked on an extensive national tour. In the summer of 1992, Phish played a handful of shows on the first H.O.R.D.E. tour. Also that summer, Elektra reissued Lawn Boy and Junta. Rift, the band's fourth album and the first they recorded with a producer, appeared in February of 1993. During Phish's 1993 tour, the group sold tickets that were specifically designed for fans taping the concert. Hoist, the band's fifth album, was released in 1994. "Down with Disease," one of the songs on Hoist, became the band's first video and it received some airply on MTV. Hoist sold better than the group's previous albums, which was an indication of how large the group's fan base had gotten. In the fall of 1994, Crimes of the Mind, the album Phish recorded with the Dude of Life in 1991, was released on Elektra Records.

In the summer of 1995, the band released the double-live album, A Live One. In early 1996, Trey Anastasio released a free-form jazz side-project called Surrender to the Air. In the fall of 1996, Phish released their sixth album, Billy Breathes, which was produced by Steve Lillywhite. Slip, Stitch & Pass, their second live LP, followed a year later, and in 1998 the group resurfaced with Story of the Ghost.



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