United States Senate
July 8, 2004
TRIBUTE TO PHISH
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, on August 15 in Coventry, VT, a beloved chapter in American music history will come to a close as the jam band Phish holds its final concert for legions of devoted ''phans'' and ''Phish-heads.'' We in Vermont are well known for our superb maple syrup, our wonderful ice cream, our award-winning cheese and our beautiful scenery, but after 21 remarkable years, the jam band Phish has certainly become one of our most famous exports.
The four musicians of Phish-Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page O'Connell, and Jon Fishman-met and started playing together as undergraduates at the University of Vermont in the early 1980s. The band quickly moved beyond its humble beginnings in a dormitory basement to playing a small nightclub in Burlington called Nectar's. While they toured for 5 years before releasing any commercial albums, the buzz around the band spread as their striking melodies and lively jam sessions endeared them to a growing legion of fans.
Phish released its first commercial album, Junta, in 1989. Since then, the band has put out more than 35 studio and live albums that have sold millions of copies. They have more than 200 original songs, and many of the songs die-hards love most were never recorded in the studio.
But the magic of Phish is not as much in its studio recordings as it is in its live performances. In an era when slick marketing techniques often overshadow the musical accomplishments of the artists themselves, this talented band from Vermont has provided a refreshing contrast by promoting free spiritedness and individuality in their music.
The band has always been unconcerned about releasing catchy singles and making millions of dollars from record sales. Instead they play long jams-oftentimes with songs lasting 30 minutes or longer-and tour year-round. Bucking a trend in the industry, they even encouraged people to
tape their shows for free and trade them on the Internet. For the members of Phish, it really is all about their music and their fans.
Every night on stage is a new and different showcase for the talents of the versatile and endlessly creative band members. Whether they are playing electric guitars, keyboards, drums, or vacuum cleaners, Phish's improvisational talent has never disappointed. Many fans-often referred to as ''Phish-heads''-follow the band from concert to concert living off veggie burritos, grilled cheese sandwiches and the charity of others.
Through it all, Phish has always considered Vermont home. In a tribute to their Burlington roots, the band's first album produced with a major record company was titled A Picture of Nectar. And the band's share of proceeds from sales of the popular ''Phish Food'' Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor goes directly toward environmental projects in Vermont's Lake Champlain Watershed. Now, as they prepare for their final show in Vermont, it is appropriate that they finish where they started.
Though Phish has sold millions of albums and become a huge success, in spirit they remain a group that is unpretentious and unfailingly loyal to their fans. Their admirable generosity has fostered a sense of community among those who follow the group. The band's break-up is a source of sadness to all of us who know and love them.
I congratulate Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Jon Fishman and Page O'Connell on their remarkable success. I am grateful for all they have done for Vermont, for American music, and for their fans. Most importantly, we sincerely appreciate their authenticity, their enthusiasm and their generosity.
While no one wants to see Phish stop playing after this summer, we can all take some solace that their music will live on, in these words from their song, ''Down With Disease.''
Waiting for the time when I can finally say
That this has all been wonderful, but now I'm on my way.
But when I think it's time to leave it all behind,
I try to find a way, but there's nothing I can say to make it stop.