After 17 Years, Phish Takes A Break

Sonicnet Music News

After 17 years together, Vermont jam band Phish played its final show Saturday in Mountain View, California, before taking an extended break from touring.

During the band's September 30 show in Las Vegas, guitarist Trey Anastasio formally announced the hiatus to the audience -- and to those watching a Webcast of the show -- explaining that the band needed some time off and would use the break to write songs and to recharge for "another 17 years" (see "Kid Rock Joins Phish At Vegas Show").

"Everybody just hit an undefinable point of exhaustion at the same time," manager John Paluska was quoted as saying in Tuesday's "New York Times." "They realized that not only do they want to take this break, but to re-envision their careers in a way that's consistent with being family men."

The band has long hinted at being ready for a break, particularly in the lyrics to "Down With Disease,"

from 1994's "Hoist": "Waiting for a time when I can finally say/ This has all been wonderful, but now I'm on my way."

Charlie Dirksen, 30, a San Francisco lawyer who sits on the board of directors of the Mockingbird Foundation, a charitable organization run by Phish fans, said he thinks the break is well deserved.

"They finally get to take a break that a lot of them have wanted off and on for the past five years," he said. "It's pretty exciting, at least for everyone who doesn't base their living on touring -- I haven't spoken with [any fan] who's upset. I think they really will play again, but if they don't, more power to 'em. They've been putting their fans ahead of their families for the last 15 years or so."

Ex-Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir joined Phish for a three-song encore during the band's Friday show at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, the first of a two-night stand in the San Francisco Bay area. The Dead also took a hiatus from touring in 1975, but the band

returned a year later and played until guitarist Jerry Garcia's death in 1995.

Formed in 1983, Phish -- Anastasio, keyboardist Page McConnell, bassist Mike Gordon, and drummer Jon Fishman (the final lineup solidified in 1986) -- has released eight studio albums since 1988, but the band is best known for its live act.

For those who simply can't live without their Phish phix, two new books -- "The Pharmer's Almanac," an unofficial guide to the group, and the Mockingbird Foundation's "Phish Companion" -- are due in November, while a documentary on the band, "Bittersweet Motel," is in theaters. A Mockingbird Foundation tribute album, "Sharin' In The Groove: Celebrating The Music Of Phish," featuring Phish tunes performed by Willie Nelson, Little Feat, Los Lobos, Arlo Guthrie, and others, is expected to follow the release of the books (see "Blues Traveler, More For Phish Tribute LP").