Hordes of Phish fans will descend on Atlantic City this Halloween weekend for what may be the last of the band’s Musical Costume concerts.
Halloween is most significant to children, candy manufacturers and members of Phish, not to mention fans of the latter.
Whenever Phish hosts a Halloween show, it’s a special evening for the band, which will perform three sold-out shows Friday through Sunday (Oct. 29-31) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Phish has played 10 Halloween shows, which are known in the Phish camp as “Musical Costume” concerts, during its well-chronicled history. The iconic jam band played All Hallow’s Eve during its club days from 1986 to 1991. Phish also performed during Halloween back in its heyday in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1998.
After a healthy hiatus, Phish regrouped and played Halloween in 2009. You never know what Phish will wear or play when it hits the stage during Halloween.
“The unpredictable is part of the appeal of this band,” bassist Mike Gordon told me earlier this year. “That makes it fun for the fans and those who are in this band. We do things a little differently than other bands.”
The Halloween performance became an art form for Phish in 1994. That year and in 1995 fans were invited to vote on which album the band should cover in concert via a Phish fan newsletter. (Remember that quaint form of communication, which sounds as old as the quill pen?)
In 1994 Phish played every track from the Beatles’ White Album, save “Good Night,” which was played on the venue’s P.A. at the conclusion of the set. After the band rendered the White Album, vocalist-guitarist Trey Anastasio kicked off the second set with the riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Custard Pie.” However, that was just a joke. Phish didn’t offer Led Zep cover tunes. The group primarily rendered original tunes.
There was a costume contest and Phish member Jon Fishman surprised the audience by appearing nude during a version of “Revolution #9.”
“You never know what I’m going to do,” Fishman once told this writer. “Whatever I do, it’s all in good fun.”
That’s so, whether Fishman is wearing dresses or performing on a vacuum cleaner.
The Who’s Quadrophenia was played during Halloween ’95 even though the word was that Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage scored the most votes collected via a fan poll. For whatever reason, Phish went with Quadrophenia and it was an inspired choice. The tracks offered were some of the most visceral Phish has ever played.
Perhaps the hottest tune of the night was “My Generation,” which was not a Quad cut, but is a Who tune. Much like the legendary British band, the Phish band members destroyed their instruments to cap the evening.
The Talking Heads’ Remain in Light was the album of choice in 1996. The band jammed on for 62 minutes.
Remain in Light is a 45-minute release.
The Velvet Underground’s seminal Loaded, which launched more bands than albums sold, was the choice in 1998.
The Musical Costume in 2009 featured Phish riffing all over the Rolling Stone’s classic double album Exile on Main Street.
What will Phish deliver in Atlantic City this weekend? And will this be the last Musical Costume concert as rumored?
Who knows? You never know what Phish will do.
“[The Musical Costume] is always a good time with Phish,” Gordon says. “That’s why we go back to it. There’s always something that we do that we’ve never done before and have a great deal of fun with.”
But Phish is more than a band that plays memorable Halloween shows. Phish, which formed in 1983 but broke up in 2004 before reuniting in March 2009, is unlike any other act.
Sure, Phish is compared to the Grateful Dead, but the band stands fine on its own. The band’s sonic mix is a total potpourri. Funk, folk, rock, country, blues, reggae, prog-rock, bluegrass, jazz and avant rock, are some of the styles the band mixes into its musical stew.
“We’ve always liked to play many different types of music,” Gordon says. “It makes it interesting for us. We like to challenge ourselves.”
The group flies in the face of industry convention, which would rather pigeonhole acts for the sake of marketing. However, Phish doesn’t need marketing, hit singles or a slick look. The band, which also includes keyboardist Page McConnell, does things its own way and has come up with a unique sound forged by a group that hasn’t experienced a lineup change since 1986.
“We’ve never needed any guidance,” Gordon adds. “I think that’s the best way to go about it.”
That’s evidently so since Phish arguably possesses the most loyal fan base. Its followers routinely follow the group around the country, if not the world.
Phish, which will close its tour in Atlantic City this weekend, is one of the most adventurous bands on the circuit and in terms of what the group might try — there is no ceiling.
The band’s risk-taking and obvious skills as players help Phish stand out in a relatively milquetoast scene. Phish actively engages with its audience every night and that’s the way it’s been since the band was playing clubs during the 1980s. Why change now? The unique band continues to craft challenging music and deliver live performances, which should be the envy of most of its peers.
On a solo tour in 2006, Anastasio played a New Year’s Eve concert at the House of Blues at Showboat in Atlantic City. The music would appear on Anastasio’s Original Boardwalk Style: Live in Atlantic City, which was released in 2008.
Count on Phish to make more sonic history when it performs its three shows at Boardwalk Hall.
Where: Boardwalk Hall, A.C.
When: Oct. 29-31
How Much: Sold Out
"I never set out to emulate Jerry Garcia. I set out, in the 1990s, to learn about music and how it was constructed, and I was playing in bands that played original music."
“The unpredictable is part of the appeal of this band. That makes it fun for the fans and those who are in the band. We do things a little differently than other bands.”
The second of four musical events has been revealed for Bader Field with the band Phish announcing on its web site a summer tour that includes a trip to Atlantic City for three nights of performances on Friday, June 15, Saturday, June 16 and Sunday, June 17.
Ever since Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford stated in early January that his office was working on a deal with a "big-time" national promoter to bring a three-day music festival to Atlantic City this June, the Web has been bubbling with rumors about the possibilities. Will Phish return? Could the Dave Matthews Band make its Atlantic City debut? How about Robert Plant and his Band of Joy? Will it be along the lines of an Atlantic City version of Memphis' Bonaroo or Chicago's Lollapalooza, where there are multiple bands, stages and performance areas, and fans camping out? Web sites and blogs such as Hidden Track, Jambands.com and the Dave Matthews fan site, DMBNews.net, have been following the story closely as their users are very interested in any jam-band festival news that is revealed throughout the year, throughout the country. Many fans of certain jam-bands — a moniker that has become popular since the death of Jerry Garcia and the end of the orginal Grateful Dead more than 15 years ago — such as Phish heads, follow the bands across the country and see every show they can get into. This would mean that Bader Field, the intended site of the three-day music festival, could...
There could be a link with the success of that Phish residency in Atlantic City — where the band's Trey Anastasio recorded a live album a few years back at the House of Blues at Showboat — and the three-day music festival that is expected to take place in June 2011 at Bader Field in Atlantic City.
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