Phish is about to wash ashore again at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater.
The band, playing sold-out shows tomorrow and Wednesday, is perhaps the most visible member of the loose collective of groups specializing in that sprawling prog known as "jam bands." And even if you're not into that genre, you've probably heard of the Vermont band, or at least seen it animated: Phish - guitarist-singer Trey Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, drummer Jon Fishman and keyboardist Page McConnell - has cameoed on "The Simpsons" and been satirized by "South Park." But thanks to the guys doing their own thing since the very beginning, there are a few things you probably don't know about them. Here are four:
1. HELLO, ZACHS BAY! Tuesday marks Phish's 10th appearance at Jones Beach. The group's first show at the beach came during the inaugural edition of the traveling jam-band fest H.O.R.D.E. Tour. (Joining Phish on that beach bill in 1992: Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors.) Since then, Phish has headlined the theater eight times, including a three-show run last year, which came after a five-year hiatus.
2. COVER YOUR TRACKS Phish has dropped a bunch of covers into its sets, even reproducing full albums by the Rolling Stones and Talking Heads during special Halloween shows. They can get more minimal with their homages, too, dropping in quotes from other tracks into selections from their own catalog. And at Jones Beach, Phish has covered such rock stalwarts as the Beatles and Velvet Underground. The band also dipped into music from the turn of the last century, performing the standard "Sweet Adeline" (which you may remember from the Marx Brothers flick "Monkey Business") and Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra," which was immortalized in "2001: A Space Odyssey." "I always get chills when they play ['Zarathustra']," said Phish fan Denise Zandides Gorman of Bethpage, who's seen the band live a whopping 77 times since 1997.
3. TOTALLY WIRED Since the earliest days of dial-up, the Phish fan base has been one of the most Net-connected in all of music. These days, the band-operated website LivePhish.com allows fans to buy high-quality recordings of shows - and new recordings are generally added within 48 hours of a concert's last note ringing out. (It's like the post-concert rock block on the radio, only with the actual set list!) The band even has an associated iPhone app, which allows fans who have bought music through the site to stream songs they've purchased to their phones.
4. UNDER THE INFLUENCE The local jam band Cousin Fungus started out as a Phish cover band (known as Stash); after playing a cover show that was assisted by Fishman, Stash changed its name and expanded its repertoire. As a dessert for this week's Phish shows, Cousin Fungus plays Thursday at Mulcahy's in Wantagh; check muls.com for more info.
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WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
INFO $50; 800-745-3000, livenation.com; sold out, but check on show days to see about last-minute availabilities.
From the Aug. 10 Telluride, Colo., show
1. The Squirming Coil
2. Stealing Time From the
3. Ya Mar
5. Let Me Lie
6. The Divided Sky
7. Walk Away
8. Roses Are Free
9. Limb By Limb
10. Bouncing Around the
11. Run Like an Antelope
1. Party Time
2. Mike's Song
3. Crosseyed and Painless
4. I Am Hydrogen
5. Weekapaug Groove
6. Destiny Unbound
9. Heavy Things
10. You Enjoy Myself
1. Shine a Light
What critics say
"Phish showed zero weariness, offering a wandering and unexpected collection of songs with a single theme: dance time."
- Jason Blevins, Denver Post
"This singer-guitarist can trade licks with the best of 'em, but Anastasio didn't go in for mock-heroics during Phish's neo-psychedelic extravaganza."
- John Soeder, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Phish is your best friend's band who made it big, but who are still the same guys after all these years."
- Dave Slusarcczyk, The Saratogian