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When most bands "break up", it is a foregone conclusion that they will release no more albums. But Phish has never been content to make music in a way that fits anyone's expectations. Shortly after they stopped touring in October 2000, they announced that they would feed their starving fans by releasing not one, but twelve live albums per year: A wave of six every six months.

The clear template for these releases is the Dick's Picks series chronicling live Grateful Dead shows, which are also released in waves of six, and currently number twenty-four. However, since the death of Dead archivist Dick Latvala in September 2000, that series has been understandably discontinued. All four members of Phish are still alive and very much involved in selecting which shows get pressed on Elektra.

Though the band's vault contains 40-track multitrack digital recordings of every show from Fall '94 and after, these CDs are mastered from Paul Languedoc's original live 2-track soundboard mixes, the same way Hampton Comes Alive was (but not A Live One or Slip Stitch and Pass). They feel the live mixes are strong enough not to need augmentation or expansion, and in addition communicate a "you are there" sensation of immediacy. Plus, it helps them get more shows out faster.

If you're somewhat knowledgable about this band, you might be saying, "Wait. Why shell out $20 for a show I can get for free off of the internet?" Good point. However, the quality of these recordings makes it worth the price. Phish's music is nothing if not densely layered, and these issues allow you to pick up numerous details you literally could not have heard on those roomy audience tapes. In addition, once a show has been officially released, audience recordings of the same show DO NOT become contraband and hence illegal, however duplications of these soundboard mixes do. (I hate it when the FBI goes through my stuff.)

The design for these albums is rather innovative. There are no clacky jewel cases. Each jewel case-sized cardboard cover contains a polyvinyl sleeve which unfolds then unfolds again to reveal room for three CDs and a booklet. These sleeves can then be fastened in as pages in a special ShowCase manufactured by CaseLogic under the band's supervision. Each CD is stamped with a distinctive fisheye logo, with each show a slightly different shade of bright color, so as you turn the pages, you observe a rainbow effect. The ShowCase holds all 20 releases-- around 60 hours of music.

Is that much music really necessary, and do they actually expect people to buy it all? Yes, and yes, considering most hard-core fans (of which there are, say, between 50,000 and 100,000) already own hundreds more hours. Why would anyone listen to that much of one band when there are countless other talented musicians and songwriters? Well, because you need to see as much of the big picture as possible before you can properly appreciate any one detail. This is a jam band. More than 50% of certain songs are simply made up on the spot, and next week, remade up. A good rule of thumb is to listen to five different recordings of a song from five different years before you feel confident in knowing how a jam section was created-- what the guidelines are and how the process has evolved.

That's right, it's our favorite nerd game, compare and contrast. But it's not a dry intellectual pursuit. I can safely say that doing my Phish homework for years has resulted in unequaled joy and excitement and maybe even profound understanding of the mysteries of the universe. But that's a story for another time.

These CDs also add to a certain setlist debate. Some consider it bad form to write "jam" on a setlist, since there's usually no concrete point to determine where one begins. However, several tracks on these CDs are listed in this fashion, using the city or town name and the number of occurrence in the show: as Darien Jam #3 or Fukuoka Jam #2. On the other hand, some highly unique jams, such as the Vol. 1 Halley's Comet or the Vol. 6 Weekapaug Groove are not track listed in this way, so the distinction may at first seem arbitrary. Upon careful examination, however, I realized only jams emerging from covers are tracklisted separately - to minimize the amount that must be paid to other record labels.

Wave 1 was released on September 18, 2001. The colors spanned from yellow through orange to red. The covers could be laid left to right, 1-6, to form one long mosaic of illustrations by longtime Phish collaborator Jim Pollock. (Actually, the images on 6 circle back around to the left side of 1, too.)The individual covers have references to the shows inside: a song title, or a type of weather, or a venue reference, transformed into dense, funny, casual images.

You can see that 2000 shows dominate. Originally, the band planned to release only their latest performances, since they felt those represented a creative apex. However, repeated emails drove them to listen to many fan favorites and release some of those too. Trey recently admitted in an interview with Billboard that the fans are much better than he at telling the good Phish from the bad.

Wave 2 was released on April 16, 2002. The colors range from maroon through violet. The covers comprise another panoramic Pollock illustration, in the same thick-lined monochromatic style. You can even put these covers alongside the first six to make one big mural. Four of these six releases include filler tracks from neighboring shows-- a longstanding fan tradition.

Now you can see them branching out and trying to get a show from every year of the 90's out there. Though we still don't have '90, '91, or '92 (it is widely agreed upon the band really found their collective groove in '93), we do have a hard-to-find show from the '80s. These releases now span more than a decade and include fall '97, thought by most to be the band's very best tour.

Wave 3, colors indigo through blue, was announced on August 14, 2002 (along with the band's return to the stage on New Year's Eve 2002 and their first concert DVD) for release on October 29, 2002, just in time for a certain holiday. Instead of being 6 shows spanning 17 discs, this wave is 4 shows on 16 discs, because the shows chosen are three set Halloween monsters-- the infamous "musical costume" shows during which they would cover an entire classic album. I never guessed they would release these:

A) They're too long (to fit four discs, they had to cram one in behind the booklet).

B) The hard core fans already have them, since they're known to be some of the weirdest and best stuff the band has ever done.

C) Can you imagine what purchasing the rights to all these songs must have cost???

Anyway, that's not to say I'm not thrilled. They made the rules, they can break 'em.

In a post-hiatus interview it was revealed that only Mike and Page were willing to dig through the archives to select shows, and this next wave is exclusively Mike's picks. Yes, four, not six, seems to be the current trend, though with the band back on tour and kicking ass I haven't much to complain about. The '94 shows are legendary; Providence for the longest ever Bowie, the Bomb Factory for its massive Tweezerfest spanning the entire second set. The '98 is a tour opener, containing many premieres, and the '91 show has HORNS! Released on May 20, 2003:

From this point on, Live Phish CD releases are not numbered, but I'll be numbering them anyway. The fifth wave was only three shows, and highlights some excellent out-of-the-way moments from the 2003 reunion. Released on February 24, 2004:

The sixth wave, released on July 19, 2005 was a run of four consecutive shows known as the "Island Tour" - Long Island and Rhode Island, get it? While recording their seventh (official) studio album, The Story of the Ghost, in upstate New York, the band members got bored and decided to blow off some steam. The result was some of the most amazing music they've ever made in a career that spans more than twenty years. You can actually hear the same jam motifs recur night after night, no matter what the setlist says. (Personal note - This was a huge deal for me, as the band's archivist had promised these were coming back before Wave 1 came out, and one of these was my first show.)

These releases all took place individually. Technically they're not Live Phish at all - they've been remastered from multitrack recordings, instead of using the stereo soundboard mix - but I include them here for the sake of completion.

The seventh wave was released on November 20, 2007 - that's the same day as the Vegas 96 set above, but these definitely ARE Live Phish. However, they'd been available through the band's website for months. The CD versions come with bonus tracks, usually from the soundcheck.


Wave 8 announced on January 23, 2008. Currently only available through LivePhish.com but that will surely change soon.

  • 33: Live Phish 5/8/93
    UNH Fieldhouse
    Durham, New Hampshire

  • 34: Live Phish 12/7/97
    Ervin J. Nutter Center
    Dayton, Ohio

  • 35: Live Phish 7/6/98 (announced 3/25/08)
    Lucerna Theatre
    Prague, Czech Republic

  • 36: Live Phish 12/30/97 (announced 12/9/08)
    Madison Square Garden
    New York City, New York

  • Let's rearrange that list into chronological order:

    7/28/88 (COL)
    8/26/89 (LP9)
    7/12/91 (LP19)
    2/19/93 (RXY)
    2/20/93 (RXY)
    2/21/93 (RXY)
    5/8/93 (LP33)
    8/13/93 (LP28)
    8/14/93 (LP7)
    5/7/94 (LP18)
    6/22/94 (LP10)
    7/16/94 (LP2)
    10/31/94 (LP13)
    12/29/94 (LP20)
    10/21/95 (LP29)
    10/31/95 (LP14)
    11/14/95 (LP30)
    12/1/95 (LP31)
    12/14/95 (LP1)
    12/31/95 (MSG)
    8/13/96 (LP12)
    10/31/96 (LP15)
    12/6/96 (VGS)
    3/1/97 (SSP)
    11/17/97 (LP11)
    12/7/97 (LP34)
    12/29/97 (LP32)
    12/30/97 (LP36)
    4/2/98 (LP24)
    4/3/98 (LP25)
    4/4/98 (LP26)
    4/5/98 (LP27)
    7/6/98 (LP35)
    7/15/98 (LP17)
    10/31/98 (LP16)
    11/20/98 (HCA)
    11/21/98 (HCA)
    11/27/98 (LP6)
    7/10/99 (LP8)
    6/14/00 (LP4)
    7/8/00 (LP5)
    9/14/00 (LP3)
    2/28/03 (LP21)
    7/15/03 (LP22)
    7/29/03 (LP23)
    6/17/04 (BKN)

    This is a list of where to find officially released live recordings of Phish songs.

    ALO = A Live One
    SSP = Slip Stitch and Pass
    HCA = Hampton Comes Alive
    MSG = Live at Madison Square Garden
    BKN = Live in Brooklyn
    COL = Colorado '88
    VGS = Live in Vegas
    RXY = Live at the Roxy

    Phish (the White Tape)
    1. Alumni Blues (COL)
    2. And So to Bed (never performed)
    3. You Enjoy Myself (ALO, 7, 9, 11, 14, 15, 27, MSG, COL, VGS, 30, 32, 33, RXY)
    4. AC/DC Bag (2, 9, 12, 19, 22, COL, 33, 34, 35, RXY, 36)
    5. Fuck Your Face
    6. Divided Sky (HCA, 7, 9, 12, 13, 14, 18, BKN, 30, RXY)
    7. Slave to the Traffic Light (ALO, 1, 9, 12, 13, 22, COL, 34)
    8. Aftermath (never performed)
    9. Ingest (never performed)
    10. NO2 (2)
    11. Fluff's Travels (8, 9, 10, COL, 28, 32, RXY)
    12. Dog Gone Dog aka Dog Log (6, COL, 29, 30)
    13. He Ent to the Bog (never performed)
    14. Run Like an Antelope (2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 25, COL, 32)
    15. Minkin (never performed)
    16. Letter to Jimmy Page (COL)
    The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday
    1. The Lizards (2, 9, 12, 20, 26, MSG, COL, 29, RXY)
    2. Tela (1, 12, COL, 33)
    3. Wilson (ALO, HCA, 8, 14, 17, COL, VGS, 29, 31, RXY)
    4. AC/DC Bag (2, 9, 12, 19, 22, COL, 33, 34, 35, RXY, 36)
    5. Colonel Forbin's Ascent (9, 15, MSG, COL, 31, RXY)
    6. Fly Famous Mockingbird (9, 15, MSG, COL, 31, RXY)
    7. The Sloth (24, MSG, COL, RXY)
    8. Possum (HCA, 5, 9, 20, 27, BKN, COL, 32, 34, 35, RXY)
    Junta
      Disc One
    1. Fee (4, 19, 23, RXY)
    2. You Enjoy Myself (ALO, 7, 9, 11, 14, 15, 27, MSG, COL, VGS, 29, 30, 32, 33, RXY)
    3. Esther (7, 30, RXY)
    4. Golgi Apparatus (2, 6, 8, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 23, 32, 35, RXY)
    5. Foam (HCA, 1, 9, 20, 28, 30, RXY)
    6. Dinner and a Movie (9, 19, BKN, RXY)
    7. The Divided Sky (HCA, 7, 9, 12, 13, 14, 18, BKN, 30, RXY)
    8. David Bowie (9, 12, 13, 19, 20, 21, 23, 26, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 35, RXY)
      Disc Two
    1. Fluffhead (8, 9, 10, COL, 28, 32, RXY)
    2. Fluff's Travels (8, 9, 10, COL, 28, 32)
    3. Contact (2, 9, 21)
    4. Union Federal (never performed)
    5. Sanity (7/25/88) (6, 15, MSG, COL)
    6. Icculus (7/25/88) (10, 13, COL)
    Lawn Boy
    1. The Squirming Coil (ALO, 4, 7, 13, 19, MSG, 33, RXY)
    2. Reba (3, 6, 11, 13, 15, 19, 25, MSG, 29, 33, 34, RXY)
    3. My Sweet One (1, 10, 19, RXY)
    4. Split Open and Melt (HCA, 1, 7, 9, 12, 18, 20, 27, RXY)
    5. The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony (3, 19, 27, BKN, 28)
    6. Bathtub Gin (HCA, 8, 17, 19, 21, 27, 28, RXY)
    7. Run Like an Antelope (2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 25, COL, 32, RXY)
    8. Lawn Boy (SSP, HCA, 16, 26, RXY)
    9. Bouncing Around the Room (ALO, 13, 19, 21, 26, RXY)
    A Picture of Nectar
    1. Llama (1, 4, 5, 10, 12, 18, VGS, 28, RXY)
    2. Eliza
    3. Cavern (HCA, 2, 7, 10, 19, 27, 30, 31, 33, RXY)
    4. Poor Heart (5, 7, 13, 22, VGS, 30, 31, RXY)
    5. Stash (ALO, HCA, 2, 10, 16, 24, 28, 30, 31, 33, RXY, 36)
    6. Manteca (16, 30, RXY)
    7. Guelah Papyrus (HCA, 7, 10, 29, 33)
    8. Magilla
    9. The Landlady (19)
    10. Glide (12, 33, RXY)
    11. Tweezer (ALO, 1, 5, 8, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 26, 33, RXY)
    12. The Mango Song (HCA, 31)
    13. Chalk Dust Torture (ALO, 2, 6, 7, 8, 16, 17, 24, MSG, 29, 30, 31, 33, RXY, 36)
    14. Faht
    15. Catapult (2, 10, 31)
    16. Tweezer Reprise (5, 8, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 25, 29, RXY)
    Rift
    1. Rift (HCA, 10, 13, 28, 33, RXY)
    2. Fast Enough For You (12, 18, RXY)
    3. Lengthwise (28)
    4. Maze (2, 10, 12, 15, 27, MSG, BKN, 30, 35, RXY)
    5. Sparkle (2, 7, 8, 13, 14, 18, 27, MSG, VGS, 29,RXY)
    6. Horn (1, 17, 18, 21, 24, 28, RXY)
    7. The Wedge (HCA, 30)
    8. My Friend, My Friend (33, RXY)
    9. Weigh (SSP, RXY)
    10. All Things Reconsidered (RXY)
    11. Mound (7, 18, 33)
    12. It's Ice (7, 33, RXY)
    13. Lengthwise
    14. The Horse (2, 5, 7, 13, 20, 33, RXY)
    15. Silent in the Morning (2, 5, 7, 13, 20, 33, RXY)
    Hoist
    1. Julius (13, VGS, 30, 35)
    2. Down with Disease (2, 11, 15, 27, VGS, 31, 32)
    3. If I Could (10, 18, 20)
    4. Riker's Mailbox (never performed)
    5. Axilla (Part II) (MSG)
    6. Lifeboy (12, 28, 29)
    7. Sample in a Jar (2, 3, 10, 18, BKN)
    8. Wolfman's Brother (SSP, 5, 11, 16, 17, 24, 31, 34)
    9. Scent of a Mule (2, 10, 18, 22)
    10. Dog Faced Boy (3, 30)
    11. Demand (10)
    Billy Breathes
    1. Free (HCA, 14, 17, BKN, 30)
    2. Character Zero (HCA, 11, 15, 26)
    3. Waste (12)
    4. Taste (SSP, 1, 26, 36)
    5. Cars Trucks Buses (17, VGS, 29, 32)
    6. Talk
    7. Theme from the Bottom (22, 27, 31, 32, 34)
    8. Train Song (HCA, 11, 12, 25, 32, 35)
    9. Bliss (never performed)
    10. Billy Breathes (25, 30)
    11. Swept Away (15, 34)
    12. Steep (15, 34)
    13. Prince Caspian (3, 15, 16, 27)
    The Story of the Ghost
    1. Ghost (11, 16, 26, 35)
    2. Birds of a Feather (6, 8, 16, 17, 21, 24, 25, 26, BKN)
    3. Meat (HCA, 6, 17, 35)
    4. Guyute (HCA, 5, 14, 17, 20, 34, 36)
    5. Fikus
    6. Shafty (25, 27)
    7. Limb by Limb (17, 26, 35)
    8. Frankie Says (16, 24)
    9. Brian & Robert (17)
    10. Water in the Sky (8, 17, 36)
    11. Roggae (HCA, 8, 16, 17, 25, 35)
    12. Wading in the Velvet Sea (HCA, 6)
    13. Moma Dance (17, BKN)
    14. End of Session (never performed)
    The Siket Disc
    1. My Left Toe
    2. The Name is Slick (never performed)
    3. What's the Use
    4. Fish Bass (never performed)
    5. Quadrophonic Toppling
    6. The Happy Whip and Dung Song
    7. Insects (never performed)
    8. Title Track (never performed)
    9. Albert (never performed)
    Farmhouse
    1. Farmhouse (HCA, 23)
    2. Twist (4, 5, 24)
    3. Bug
    4. Back on the Train (4, 21)
    5. Heavy Things (4, 5)
    6. Gotta Jibboo (23)
    7. Dirt (32)
    8. Piper (HCA, 5, 16, 25, 35)
    9. Sleep (4, 21)
    10. The Inlaw Josie Wales (3)
    11. Sand
    12. First Tube (5)
    Round Room
    1. Pebbles and Marbles
    2. Anything but Me
    3. Round Room (21)
    4. Mexican Cousin (21)
    5. Friday
    6. Seven Below
    7. Mock Song
    8. 46 Days (BKN)
    9. All of These Dreams
    10. Walls of the Cave (21, 22)
    11. Thunderhead (23)
    12. Waves
    Undermind
    1. Scents and Subtle Sounds (intro)
    2. Undermind (never performed)
    3. The Connection (never performed)
    4. A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing (BKN)
    5. Crowd Control
    6. Maggie's Revenge (never performed)
    7. Nothing (BKN)
    8. Two Versions of Me (22)
    9. Access Me
    10. Scents and Subtle Sounds
    11. Tomorrow's Song (never performed)
    12. Secret Smile (22)
    13. Grind
    Not released on studio albums: Live Phish Originals:
    Covers:




    Since the band resumed touring after their hiatus, they have offered official soundboard downloads of EVERY show through www.livephish.com. However, at the risk of needlessly duplicating another site's content, those releases do bear the "Live Phish" brand and I think it is fitting to include a list of them here. I also include soundboard downloads of pre-hiatus shows which haven't yet been released on CD. If anyone wants to write reviews of them, we can deal with namespacing then, but for now the daylogs seem safe enough to link to.

    UPDATE May 25, 2004: Phish has announced that after August 15, they will break up. There will be no more shows ever. They really mean it this time. Well, that sucks.

    UPDATE October 1, 2008: Apparently they did not really mean it.

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