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WYEP Friday Phish Fry: 2023

Fish fry season is upon us once again and you know we can’t resist a good pun, so… Join Joey Speharevery Friday morning at 9:40 for a musical delicacy in the form of Phish – a very tasty band from Vermont.

Fly Famous Mockingbird – April 7, 2023
We’ve got a special guest on the Phish Fry today – Andrew Hitz from The Mockingbird Foundation. Phish fans can be a generous bunch and The Mockingbird Foundation has been enriching the lives of young musicians for years now.

The Mockingbird Foundation is currently looking to make two unsolicited tour grants in the Pittsburgh area to coincide with Phish’s tour dates at Star Lake Amphitheater in July. If your music education program is in need of funding, please reach out to grants@mbird.org.

Named after a character in Phish songs known to be a defender of the good, the Mockingbird Foundation is an all-volunteer non-profit that is dedicated to broadening access and opportunities for children’s music education programs across the country. Since its founding in 1996, over $2 million in grants has been dispersed to nearly 600 grantees nationwide via annual rounds of competitive funding, emergency grants, and miracle tour grants in the areas the band plays.

“Having the opportunity to spread the love I have for music to those in need has been one of the most gratifying experiences in my life,” says Chip Parker, President of The Mockingbird Foundation. “In my 24 years following Phish, I can say with ease that this is my favorite part about being a part of the fandom.

”The Mockingbird Foundation has been active in the Pittsburgh area over the last 15 years, granting a total of $14,000 to local music programs such as The Farina Foundation, Burgettstown Area Middle School Guitar Club, Girls Rock Pittsburgh and Bishop Canevin March Crusaders. Through this funding, children across the region have been positively impacted and had the opportunity to become tomorrow’s rockstars.

Furthermore, all of the grants that the Mockingbird Foundation gives out come from the organization’s contributors. With less than 5% of net proceeds going to administrative costs, essentially each dollar given goes to fantastic organizations across the country. To donate, please visit https://mbird.org/donations/. from The Mockingbird Foundation

Let’s Go Out To Dinner And See A Movie (But The Movie Doesn’t Exist) – March 17, 2023
If you’re reading this today, we’re wrapping up Decades Week: Vol. 3 on WYEP. It’s been fun looking back through 50 years of music, drumming up memories, and remembering how we got to where we are now.

2013 was a busy year for Phish, beginning with a TAB tour in the spring and ending with their annual New Year’s run at Madison Square Garden. The rest of the year saw summer and fall tours with a Halloween run in Atlantic City that saw the debut of what would become the album Fuego the following year. On top of that, there were lots of non-Phish projects happening. Mike put out the Overstep album, Trey was working on a musical called Hands On a Hardbody, and Page wrote soundtracks to movies that don’t exist.

Unsung Cities And Movies Never Made is an instrumental album from Page McConnell with guitarist Adam Zimmon, bassist Reed Mathis and drummer Gabe Jarrett. Recorded back in the winter of 2009 at The Barn with longtime recording engineer John Siket, the album came out on Record Store Day. It’s a nice listen and a fun thought experiment. It always reminds me of the old Tim & Eric bit about how Steven Spielberg always starts his movies with the poster.

Sharing In The Groove – March 10. 2023
We are absolutely swimming in high-quality live recordings these days. Most bands known for their stage shows make recordings of their concerts readily available in one way or another and Phish are at the very top of that game with webcasts and downloads available for couch-tourers along with about a million officially-released CDs and records and, of course, the LivePhish app. It’s wild and wonderful, but it used to be wayyy harder.

Phish played their first show on December 2, 1983 at Harris Millis Cafeteria at the University of Vermont and their first recording, known colloquially as The White Tape, came out 3 years later. As the band gained traction, tapes of their live shows would begin to circulate among fans, but there wouldn’t be an official, from-the-soundboard recording until almost a decade later when A Live One came out in 1995. Though the liner notes mention that the songs were recorded at “The Clifford Ball,” but The Clifford Ball Festival wouldn’t happen until the next year. (The recording of “The Squirming Coil” from A Live One came from the band’s show at the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh in 1994. Also, scroll down for another Pittsburgh connection around The Clifford Ball.)

A Live One was a massive success, selling over a million copies in two years and showing lots of people why people go absolutely crazy for live Phish. The band retreated to the studio and made the masterful album Billy Breathes in 1996. They closed out the year at the Fleet Center (now TD Arena) in Boston, took 2 months off, and hit the road for Europe. The band played incredibly well overseas, leaning into the “cow funk” sound that would dominate the next year or 2. They made a movie – the (I think) brilliant Bittersweet Motel – and they made another live album.

Slip Stitch and Pass was recorded on March 1, 1997 at the Markthalle Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany. The album features solid recordings of well-known songs like “Taste,” “Lawn Boy,” and “Wolfman’s Brother.” There are 3 popular covers on the album – Talking Heads’ “Cities,” ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” and the a capella standard “Hello, My Baby.” Along with all of that, a few songs that hadn’t been recorded in the studio made it onto the album. “Mike’s Song” and “Weekapaug Groove” were (are) fan favorites that only live in the live space. On top of all of that, the songs on Slip Stitch and Pass also feature teases of well-known classic rock songs like “The End” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” There’s something here for almost everyone.

Two years after Slip Stitch and Pass came out, Phish released an amazing box set called Hampton Comes Alive. Two years after that, the LivePhish series began and the rest is history. Let’s share in the groove together. It’s easy and very rewarding.

Busting It Out at Star Lake – March 3, 2023
Phish first played live in Pittsburgh at Metropol in 1992 and they’ve been leveling up on venues ever since. In 1993, it was the IC Light Amphitheater, then the A.J. Palumbo Center, followed by shows at the Civic Arena in the falls of 1995 and 1996. Then, in the summer of 1997, Phish made their debut at the (then-called) Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater in Burgettstown where they’d play an additional 6 summers, ending in 2012. They haven’t been back to the shed since, but that will change this summer!

Phish’s storied history with Star Lake continues in 2023 with a pair of weekend shows in July and I, for one, am pretty excited about the possibilities. I don’t know if it’s luck, chance, or something more, but it feels like special things can happen when Phish find themselves in this small corner of southwestern Pennsylvania, especially when it comes to bust-outs and debuts. A few of these shows have been released commercially if you care to investigate further.

Maybe it’s something about Pittsburgh in general that excites the fans and band alike, because recent indoor shows have seen the trend continue with 436-show-bust-out of “Terrapin” in 2019 at The Pete and a pair 2 years prior when they debuted “Marissa” and “Rise/Come Together” and pulled a “Mr. Completely” out of the back after being on the shelf for 380 shows. Hell, as far back as that 1993 show at IC Light, the sound-checked the first-ever performance of “Guyute” – a song that wouldn’t appear in reality for another 15 months.

At the end of the day, it’s easier to herd your pet cats than predict what Phish have in store on any given show day, but it’s always fun to try.

There’s Nothing Quite Like the Taste – February 24, 2023
Fish Fry season begins in earnest today and Pittsburghers are awfully excited. Nobody said you couldn’t eat a fish sandwich in December, but nothing satisfies that craving like devouring a big ol’ hunk of fried fish in a church basement, social club, or volunteer fire department, ya know? That being said, there’s something about Phish playing at Madison Square Garden that feels both comfortable and extremely exciting, especially if that show happens to fall on the 30th of December. For some reason, the day before NYE sometimes shows up the big day during Phish’s annual New Years run in New York City. Maybe it’s the fact that Trey can walk home and get a good night’s sleep in his own bed. Maybe it’s fate. (Full disclosure: 12/30 is my birthday, but lots of folks agree.)

December 30, 1997 ranks high among longtime Phish fans as an all-time favorite show. From the super-bust-out opener (“Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley” hadn’t been played in 920 shows) to the epic story of “Harpua” to Fishman’s vacuum solo on “Frankenstein,” this show is full of surprises. Today we’re taking a big bite out of the song “Taste.” The song debuted in June of 1995, a little over a year before it appeared on the album Billy Breathes. Expect epic solos not only from center stage, but Page side (rage side), as well, and 12/30/97 doesn’t disappoint on either. Just when you think they’re out of peaks, another one or two or five come around. Take a taste and savor it.

Every Man Rise From The Ash (Wednesday) – February 22, 2023
Today is Ash Wednesday. Some of us will have ashes on our foreheads while others will just scratch their heads. Regardless of your religious affiliations, it’s always good to stop, reflect, and take the steps needed to be a better, more loving and understanding human being. In the end, we’ll all turn to ashes and dust, anyway.

There’s a lot of beauty in this world. It’s just that sometimes, especially these days, we have to actively search it out and open ourselves to the experience. It can be hard to turn off the noise of daily life, but it’s also very much worth it. Back in the late 90s, Trey Anastasio and lyricist Tom Marshall would actively disappear for a while to hang out, reconnect, reflect, and write, and that’s where “Farmhouse” came from.

"In the nineties Tom and I began renting houses in the Stowe area of Vermont and disappearing for long weekends to hang out together and write. To be perfectly honest, the hanging out part was even more important to me than the writing. With Phish’s exponential growth in the mid nineties came a whirlwind of confusion and frantic energy that I don’t think any of us in the band were completely prepared for. Our quiet little scene in Burlington and on the road exploded. Suddenly the idea of hiding out alone for three days and nights on a farm with one of my oldest friends became a precious idea that I anxiously looked forward to for weeks in advance of our trips. At that time I had neither a cell phone nor a computer, so when we disappeared, we really disappeared." — Trey Anastasio

Read more at phish.net

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.