The following is a series of essays tracking Phish’s improvisational development across three important & symbolic months in their history: December’s 1995, 1997 and 1999. The goal here is to showcase how the band, thirteen years into their career, peaked, and then rediscovered their sound and artistic inspiration over a four year period that saw them grow in greater popularity while fighting off personal demons. It’s this writer’s hope that this series helps to showcase the development of the band, their insatiable pursuit of musical connection, and the ultimate toll this took on the members of Phish.
Just for a minute step back and consider the multitude of events that had to go right to create a scenario for a month like December 1995 to occur for Phish, or for any band for that matter.
First and foremost, Phish had to form, which means its four members - all from a variety of parts of the overpopulated Northeastern United States - had to meet each other, and see enough potential in their relationships to spend the time playing music together. Then they had to want to continue playing music together. Not want in the way of casually enjoying hanging out with someone, but fully believing that their other three counterparts were talented enough, passionate enough and driven enough to continue working - keyword: working - toward some obscure, intangible, somewhat undefinable goal. No matter what direction they would decide to take their music, they had to keep working at it to move forward. Working at it when all looked hopeless and they had graduated from college - burdened with the added pressures of adulthood and careers, mortgages and marriage, blah blah blah - and were still overjoyed when just 2000 people came out to see them play. One Time.
Working at it when their hard work began to pay off, when they began to make money, and began to develop some sense of a national following, rather than allow the success to get to their heads. Working at it even when they surpassed probably their own wildest imaginations of what they could actually be, in April 1992, in August 1993 and again in June and November 1994.
Working at it day-in-and-day-out in the way an elite basketball team works on defensive schemes long after practice was scheduled to end. Working at a craft in a focused and driven manner all in the name of creating the music that played in their heads in a live, improvisational setting.
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