On-Stage Antics

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Besides being one of the greatest musical performance acts in all of history, skilled at their craft in both composition and improvisation, these guys are also masters of delivery -- not only a great act, but a great show. They've historically and routinely incorporated special antics into their shows and stage presence, and have structured entire antic-y events.

Note that, often, the antics are something of a distraction. For example, yes, Mike and Trey are playing their instruments while bouncing on the trampolines, but pretty steadily; meanwhile, Page is wailing away. And some find Fishman's playing the most interesting during the It's Ice gliders, on which Mike and Trey slide but don't play a whole lot.

  • Trey rollerbladed around the venue, out in the crowd, with a wireless guitar during Weekapaug 9-28-91.
  •  CHESS: The band played chess against "the audience" during late 1995, starting 9/30/95. The band made its move during the first set, audience members gathered at the Greenpeace table during setbreak, and one of them made the move during the second set. Phish won the first of the two games played, when the audience conceded in Florida 11/15/95. The audience won the second, when Phish conceded at the New Year's Eve show at Madison Square Garden, 12/31/95.
  •  TRAMPOLINES: Trey and Mike have jumped on trampolines during songs since at least 3/10/90, including during Mike's Song (right before I Am Hydrogen), YEM, Antelope, Runaway Jim, Divided Sky, Scent of a Mule (11/23/94), Walk Away, and Wilson (tho that's usually just jumping up and down). Their dances are synchronized and mostly choreographed, though with some variation (e.g. Trey might spin 270 degrees left instead of 90 degress right to face Page). Notable appearances include 4/29/90 during YEM (and again during Walk Away), 5/6/90 during Mike's Song, and 7/27/93 (poking fun at John Popper's having broken a tramp on 3/14/92). As tramps age, the band has given them away to audience members - including on 4/5/93 (the night they introduced the pink and blue ones), 12/7/91 (ultimately awarded by a three-round match of rock/paper/scissors), and 12/7/91 (after which one audience mmber did his own tramp bit during Golgi. They've also been used in other songs, e.g. Been Caught Stealing 12/28/98.
  • Macaroni and cheese: Boxes were distributed to the audience at the 9/28/85 Slade Hall show and at the 5-27-94 Warfield show, and shaken en masse as percussion during "Possum".
  • Fireworks: First 7-3-94 at the Old Orchard Beach Ballpark in Maine during "Antelope" (thanks Allan Abrams), then during the encores on 8-16-96 and 8-16-97 (the first nights of the The Clifford Ball and The Great Went). The band also played along to fireworks at 10-22-94. (They were not Phish's fireworks, but were from a Disney anniversary party a few blocks away. They started during Julius, and Phish did an extended Julius jam.) They also played along with nearby fireworks during the Antelope at the '93 IC Light show.
  • Planes: Gliders as well as for the symphony sets at the The Clifford Ball and The Great Went
  • Acapella: Acapella songs: "Memories", "Carolina", "Ragtime Gal (Hello My Baby)", "Amazing Grace" (though 5-8-93 and 10-20-95, for instance, were not acapella), and "The Star Spangled Banner" (both at Phish shows and at various sports events, including the Sunday 2pm Philadelphia Flyers game 5/5/97). Also, "Wolfman's Brother" between "You Enjoy Myself" and "Wolfman's Brother" at (4/26/96 I), and the "YEM" intro on the White Album. The band even took barbershop quartet lessons.
  • Costumes: Mike often wears a lime-green jump suit. (Actually, Fishman has wore a lime-green shirt, e.g. playing with Pork Tornado on 1/26/97.
  • Special dances by Trey and Mike in "Guelah Papyrus", "Landlady" (and therefore also in PYITE), "It's Ice", "Cavern", "Manteca", and, of course, "Moma Dance". Plus, new as of Summer 1999, the Meatstick Dance.
  • Dry Ice: Phish started pumping insane amounts of dry ice in 1987, particularly at shows at the Living Room. See lights for discussion of effects.
  • Bubble Machine: Only once so far: 10/31/94.
  • Glider things: blue mats and slick socks, so the user can slide back and forth as though skating, used in 1993 "Glide"s and "It's Ice". Reportedly ordered from a latenight TV commercial seen by Trey and Fish in a hotel room while on tour.
  • Odd instrumentation, in particular Henrietta's Vacuum cleaner
  • Beach Balls: The Bill Ball Jam (1st time played was 11-19-92 Ross Arena - St. Michael's College, Colchester, VT ) where giant balls were pushed into audience, each ball named Trey, Page, Mike, and Fishman. When a ball was touched the audience the respective band member would play, creating a spontaneous free form jam and the balls bounced around the room. I only got to see this once in 1994 at the Bob Carpenter Center, Deleware. They did the Big Ball Jam extensively in '93, '94. Havent done one in awhile. (Thanks to Jason Espie 7/15/99)
  • Musical costumes: Mostly at HalloweenShows ' ;return true" _cke_saved_href=">HalloweenShows ' ;return true" _cke_saved_href=">HalloweenShows ' ;return true" _cke_saved_href=">HalloweenShows ' ;return true" _cke_saved_href=">HalloweenShows ' ;return true" _cke_saved_href=">HalloweenShows ' ;return true" _cke_saved_href=">HalloweenShows ' ;return true" _cke_saved_href=">HalloweenShows ' ;return true" _cke_saved_href=">HalloweenShows ' ;return true">Halloween shows, Phish has imitated the Beatles, The Who, Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, and Pink Floyd by playing a seminal album by each, in its entirety.
  • Rotation Jams: where the band swaps instruments while jamming. They did this at the following shows 12-29-96 Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA; and 02-13-97 Shepherds Bush Empire, London, England. The rotation does not lend itself to quality jamming (this is one where antics disctract from the music some), but is a novelty and is testimony to the multi-talented nature of the group.(Thanks to Jason Espie 7/15/99.) See also instruments - rotation and jamming types - rotation.
  • Nudity: Nakedness: If you're lucky (?), you might see Henrietta get naked. He did it first in April of 1989, lowered from the rafters at the Front trying to play an unamplified vacuum, and did it more recently during "Revolution #9" at the Halloween show 10/31/94. (The entire band stripped for a Feb. 1997 Rolling Stone issue.)
  • Props: Phone: During the fall and NYE 1997 tours, there was a mug, then a phone, then a rubber chicken, and then a plastic cup on Page's piano. For summer 1998, it was a white phone. Each is believed to have concealed a microphone with which Trey communicated to an earpiece Page wore. (Thanks also to Steve Cunningham
  • Silent jams: Phish continues "jamming" without actually creating sound, as in the YEM at 12/9/95.
  • Stage banter: Things they've said during or between tunes are often interesting for their arbitrariness, but also because it sometimes stretches across several shows. For instance, the worm banter at 7-1-97 or the "Prison Joke" at 4-11-91.

"Impose rules to make life simpler. Break them to make life more fun."
-- Jon Fishman

If you're going to watch bands stare at their boots, you might as well come to our shows. Our boots are more interesting."
-- Paul Stanley of KISS


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