Phish: A Pathfinder




This pathfinder will lead you into the wonderfully phun world of Phish. Phish is a jam band comprised of four members - Trey Anastasio (guitar), Page McConnell (keyboards), Mike Gordon (bass), and Jon Fishman (drums, and the occasional vacuum cleaner). The band was formed in 1983 in Vermont, while the members of the band were attending college. They created the name Phish as a play on drummer Fishman's last name. Phish has come a long way from the initial years of playing in college dormitories at the University of Vermont, to performing before 75,000 people (known as phans) during a three day music festival celebrating New Year's Eve 1999 on a remote Indian reservation in South Florida (gaining enough notoriety somewhere in between to even have a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream flavor named after them). This pathfinder is intended to lead you to a variety of sources, from print to electronic to audio recordings, enabling you to gain a better understanding of Phish's history, their music, and the community of dedicated phans that surround the band.

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This pathfinder is for anyone wanting to learn introductory information about the band Phish, particularly students at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Resources included in this pathfinder can be found in the Music Library, the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library, The Undergraduate NonPrint collection in Wilson Library, at the Bull's Head Bookshop, through utilizing the UNC Libraries e-indexes and databases, and also on the World Wide Web. If you're able to leave campus, you can find resources at the Main Branch of the Durham County Library, and also the Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough. By no means is this a comprehensive list of all the information out there pertaining to Phish, but rather, as the name implies, it is a tool for getting you on the right starting path.

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Library of Congress Subject Headings

Phish (Musical group)

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Locations of Resources

Davis Library
Music Library, 106 Hill Hall
North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library
The Bull's Head Bookshop, Daniels Building
Undergraduate Library NonPrint area, Wilson Library
Durham County Main Library-300 North Roxboro St. Durham, NC 27701
Orange County Public Library-300 West Tryon St. Hillsborough, NC 27278


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Phish Texts

There are a number of books written about Phish. Some are fantastic, a few are terrible. Included here is a list of books worthwhile to new and seasoned Phish Phans. These books can be found either on campus in the bookshop or at any bookseller's location, and some also in area public libraries. You may want to review the books you can access for free first, to help determine your interest in Phish before you make any purchases. If the campus bookshop does not have the book in stock for your perusal, they are able to order it for you, providing the book is in print.

The Mockingbird Foundation. The Phish Companion: A Guide to the Band and their Music. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 2000.

This 928-page tome is quite up-to-date and comprehensive, created by members of the Mockingbird Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 1997 by Phish phans to raise money for charity, especially music education for children. Included in the book is a chronology of Phish history, band member biographies, a discography, song histories, show reviews, set lists, photographs, interviews, descriptive statistics, essays from phans, and more. If you are interested in very specific details about the music or the band, this is the book for you.
Location: The Bull's Head Bookshop, Daniels Building.

Gehr, Richard. The Phish Book. NY: Villiard Books 1998.

This book is the first and only authorized biography of the band. Over the span of a year, author Gehr conducted interviews with the foursome, gaining insight into their perceptions of how they create music together, song and lyric origins, their interpersonal relationships, and their thoughts on the Phish community. A highlight to this book is the 200 pictures and photographs from the band's private archive.
Location: The Bull's Head Bookshop, Daniels Building.
Additional Location: Durham County Main Library, Adult Non Fiction 782.421 Gehr

Cassels, Kevin, and Richard Northrup. The Pharmer's Almanac. Vol 6. NY: Penguin Putnam, 2001.

This is the sixth volume of an entire reference book devoted to Phish. These books are compiled by phans for phans, also offering information on the band, shows, venue information and tour facts. What is unique about this Almanac are the pages devoted to those other than Phish. Included is a fan survey spanning over two years, as well as information on artists that have appeared onstage as a guest of Phish's, Phish's guest appearances with other artists, and bands that have been inspired by Phish.
Location: The Bull's Head Bookshop, Daniels Building.

Budnick, Dean. The Phishing Manual: A Compendium to the Music of Phish. NY: Hyperion, 1996.

Although this book is less current than some, it is still a handy resource. At the time it was written, Dean Budnick was a Harvard graduate student studying American Civilization and had attended over 100 Phish shows. In fact, he was inspired to write this book on his way to a show in Red Rocks, CO. Budnick does a superb job of including information about the meaning behind Phish's songs, listing cover songs Phish performs and the reasons why they perform them, as well as insight into Phish traditions and in-jokes. Also included are easy to follow setlists for concerts up to the date of his book's publication.
Location: Orange County Public Library, Adult Non Fiction 782.421 BUD

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Indexes to Newspaper/Magazine articles

By accessing the e - indexes and databases available through the libraries website, you can find hundreds of articles about Phish. Using Lexis Nexis' Academic Universe, a web service covering general, regional, and international news among other topics, you can perform a keyword search for Phish, and retrieve over 100 magazine and journal articles, in addition to over 1000 newspaper articles mentioning Phish, most in full text. Following are a few key articles worth reading. These particular articles were selected because they come from a variety of sources, and are written over the years by different authors, giving comprehensive media coverage to the band.
Location: Davis Library, or any campus computer with an internet connection.

Bream, Jon. "Fanfare For The Uncommon Band; Phish has become rock's biggest cult band, luring phanatics with of-the-moment music and good vibes." Star Tribune [Minneapolis] 1 Oct. 1999, metro ed.: sec. freetime: 5.

This article gives excellent accounts of the different types of Phish phans that are out there, and to what lengths those phans will go to in order to see the band on tour. Also in the article is a description of the online aspects of the Phish community.

Hargreaves, Darron. "Hooked on Phish." The Daily Yomiuri [Tokyo] 5 Aug. 1999: 7.

Here's an article from Japan, showing that Phish's appeal is international. It's an informative article for anyone to read, particularly someone wanting a quick introduction to Phish, from a different perspective. In a short amount of space, it comments on Phish's founding, it's phans, and what to expect during a Phish show.

Locey, Bill. "Music; Reputation on the Road Makes Phish a Big Catch; Touring the Country in Relative Abscondity Until Recently, the Vermont Quartet is Now Tasting Fame." Los Angeles Times 12 May 1994, Ventura West ed.: J27.

This LA Times article describes just how Phish was able to proceed from performing on a small scale to a much larger one. It comments on their recording contract with Elektra, and also contains an excellent interview with Trey Anastasio, Phish front man.

Phalen, Tom. "Phish Meets the Mainstream." The Seattle Times 21 Nov. 1996, final ed.: I3.

From 1996, this article exemplifies how Phish has gone from a little-known college band to gaining widespread popularity. Most of the content of the article comes from an interview that bassist Mike Gordon did with Bass Player magazine, where he comments on the success and dynamics of the band, and makes some noteworthy predictions about the future of the band.

Schrof, Joannie M., and David Fischer. "Vermont's Hot Band Phishes for Musical Nirvana." US News and World Report 25 Dec. 1995-1 Jan. 1996: 99.

Ever think a magazine such as US News and World Report would take the time to write about Phish? This article offers yet another perspective on the band's successful touring, quotations from band members, and a glimpse into what the band is doing right before they go on stage to play.

Strauss, Neil. "Phish Phinishes an Act, Bidding Phans Pharewell." New York Times 10 Oct. 2000, late ed.: E3.

Strauss' article details the last Phish performance before their current break from touring, their first break of indefinite length following seventeen years of constant touring. There are pertinent fan comments, information from the band's management, and also interesting tour commentary in this article.

Violanti, Anthony. "Fans Soak up Phish, Band Wet-Vacs in Rain as Crowd Showers Flowers." Buffalo News 15 Sept. 2000, final ed.: G15.

This article is a typical concert review, of the 9/14/00 show the band played at Darien Lake, an amusement park/concert venue outside of Buffalo, NY. The reviewer, Anthony Violanti provides a descriptive critique of certain songs, includes fan commentary, and also tells of the weather, which contributed to the setting of the performance. This Phish show was the last show the author of this pathfinder was able to attend, so it is of special importance to her.

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Guides and Encyclopedias

Erlewine, Michael, ed. All Music Guide to Rock: The expert's guide to the best recordings in rock, pop, soul, r&b, and rap. 2nd ed. pp. 703-04. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1997.
Location: Music Library Reference ML156.4.R6 A45 1997

This reference book provides reviews of the band's studio recordings to date. If you are specifically looking for tangible sources on the UNC campus pertaining to Phish, this is one of them.

Jancik, Wayne, and Tad Lathrop. Cult Rockers. pp. 217-18. NY: Fireside Books, 1995.
Location: Music Library Reference ML102.R6 J36 1995

Another reference guide that devotes a blurb spanning over two pages devoted to Phish. It details their devoted following as well as their musical history and style. This is another valuable source if you are looking for on campus resources.

Larkin, Colin, ed. The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Concise 3rd ed. pp. 975 London: Virgin Books, 1999.
Location: Music Library Reference ML102.P66 G844 1999

This book provides an encyclopedic entry about Phish including basic band member information, as well as a description of their music, which it says draws from jazz, funk, bluegrass, country, punk, and pop. This book rates their albums, and discusses their concert successes. It also gives information on further reading about Phish.

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Web Resources

Andy Gadiel's Phish Page. 2 Dec 2001.

This is Andy Gadiel's personal page dedicated to Phish. He keeps his page up to date concerning news about Phish. He provides current tour information, so this page is a great place to go if you are looking to catch the members of Phish separately performing anytime in the near future. His page is also linked to a number of relevant websites relating to Phish, and jam band music in general.

Mir Ali's Home Page. 2 Dec 2001.

If you want to obtain copies of live performances of Phish, this is the place to go. Mir Ali has posted a list of all the recorded music shows he has on this page ( , and he has over 200 Phish shows you can peruse by date of the show. He provides links to the set lists, in case you're looking for a particular song, and you can contact him at if you would like to make arrangements for receiving a show. This page is great if you want access to Phish's live music.

The official 2 Dec 2001.

This is the band's official homepage. It offers news, tour dates, a list of all their official album releases, an online merchandise store, and much more. The format has recently been changed, making it a tad difficult for someone unfamiliar with Phish to navigate, but nonetheless it's a good resource, with official information straight from the band itself.

The Phish.Net - By Phish Fans, for Phish Fans. 2 Dec 2001.

Visiting this website is a must, if you're searching the web for information about Phish. Maintained by phans for phans, it includes a page specifically designed for those who are new to the world of Phish (

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Additional On-Campus Phish Resources

Phish. Junta. Elektra Entertainment, 1992.
Location: Undergraduate Library NonPrint area, UL NonPrint 65-CD881

If you're curious as to what a studio recording of Phish actually sounds like, and you're on campus, you're in luck! You can listen to a copy of Phish's 1992 recording of the album entitled Junta, there's a copy in the Undergraduate Library NonPrint area.

Richter, Jennifer Suzanne. The role of youth sub-cultures in the process of cultural transmission: the social implications of Phish sub-culture for middle class American Society. 1998.
Location: North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, NCC C378 UOL14.2 1998 V.3

In 1998, in partial fulfillment of her honors degree in anthropology, Jennifer Richter composed a paper detailing her personal experiences on Phish tour. If you are looking for another on-campus resource, this is a great one to read. It offers genuine insight as to what life on the road following Phish is really like, as well as a socio-cultural explanation about why Phish phans are drawn to their wandering lifestyle.

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This page was last updated on 2-dec-01 by:
Karen Jeremiah

photo credit:
The Phish.Net - Newbie Central. 18 Nov. 2001

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