Every Concert Phish Have Played To Be Detailed In Book

Rock band's Internet fans compile setlists, poems, essays, photos.

The more than 1,000 shows Phish have played in their 16-year history will be cataloged in a book that its editor — who compiled it largely over the Internet — said will be the "definitive desk reference" to the improvisational rock band's concerts.

"There are books of their shows that have setlists and things, but they are largely incomplete," editor Ellis Godard said. "We know of 100 or so shows that haven't been mentioned before."

Godard, a 28-year-old graduate student, chairs the Mockingbird Foundation, a charitable organization formed by Phish fans on the Net in 1997. He said the core team of about 30 people working on the book has received hundreds of e-mail and traditional mail submissions from fans for the book, which will be called "The Mockingbird Project."

The book is the foundation's first project. Proceeds from it will be donated to various charities that have yet to be determined, Godard said.

The submissions include long-lost setlists, essays and poems inspired by concerts, photos from shows, and observations on the band's development.

"[The band] was aware of the project from the beginning," Godard, who lives in Soquel, Calif., said. "They've been supportive, implicitly and explicitly. They shared info with us, and we've shared with them."

Godard said the manuscript stands at nearly 1,200 pages, which will translate to 400 to 500 pages in print. The foundation is shopping for a publisher now. Godard said the book could be out as early as next summer.

Phish — guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardist Page McConnell, bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman — formed in Burlington, Vt., in 1983. Their live jams and frequent curveballs — such as an a cappella rendition of "Freebird" — have attracted a cult following big enough to make them the 17th-most popular concert draw in North America in 1998, according to trade magazine Pollstar.

Godard estimated that Phish have performed around 1,150 shows through the years. The book organizes those shows into themed chapters. One chapter, for example, explores the evolution of the band's longer, jammier songs, such as "You Enjoy Myself" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Mike's Song."

In recent years, Phish have steered away from jams that focus on Anastasio's incendiary guitar work toward a stronger presence of Gordon's bass and McConnell's piano.

"They are able to communicate with each other musically in a much better way than they used to," Geneva Anastasio, Trey's stepmother, said backstage at a Phish show in Washington, D.C., last week.

The band has integrated more reggae, funk and blues covers into its setlists, including Stevie Wonder's "Boogie on Reggae Woman" and Son Seals' "Funky Bitch," in the process.

Phish will stage a two-day New Year's festival Dec. 30–31 on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in the Florida Everglades. They recently wrapped up a string of gigs in the Northeast U.S.

(Correspondent Bob Margolis contributed to this report.)