Updated March 18, 2022: Ten years ago, we celebrated the launch of Phish Food by sharing our favorite moments with the band since the flavor launched. We thought we’d update the list with the new milestone of 25 years . . .
Updated July 17, 2018: Four years ago, we celebrated the launch of Phish Food by sharing our favorite moments with the band since the flavor launched. We thought we’d update the list...
On March 18th, 1997, Ben & Jerry’s and Vermont-based jam band Phish launched the flavor Phish Food®, chocolate ice cream with gooey marshmallow and caramel swirls and fudge fish. It’s been a well-loved, iconic flavor ever since. On this 20th anniversary, we look back at our 20 favorite Phish moments since the flavor launched.
Banner Photo Credit:Andrea Nusinov AZNPrints
Launch of Phish Food
Flynn Theater, Burlington, VT 3/18/97
The night the flavor was announced in our collective hometown of Burlington, VT, Phish played a fantastic show for the hometown crowd filled with special guests including Ben and Jerry, who kicked off the show introducing Phish Food. You can read a full review of the show with details of how the partnership between Ben & Jerry's and Phish came to be in this essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro.
Long Island and Rhode Island, 4/2/98 – 4/5/98
This run of shows was one of our favorites from the late 1990s. Phish's funky jams that had come to dominate the end of the decade were on full display throughout the series of shows. One of the highlights is the opener on the last night in Providence: Oh Kee Pa > You Enjoy Myself.
Eight Foot Fluorescent Tubes
Higher Ground - Winooski, VT 4/17/98
In April 1998, music fans in Vermont were excited to welcome a new club to the scene. Higher Ground was about to open and little did we know how much it would change many of our lives. The second show in the club's existence featured a band of local Vermont musicians put together by Phish frontman, Trey Anastasio. On this night, the band debuted material that became part of Phish's regular rotation. The show included costumed dancers, people being hoisted above the stage by cables, a variety of props (including Mike Gordon walking out with large cardboard Cactii), and use of large fluorescent tubes as part of the stage lighting. It was a one-time only performance and truly memorable for those of us in attendance.
Virginia Beach 8/9/98
For those of us who attended this show, it remains one of the most special musical moments in our lives. Phish had not played a Grateful Dead cover since the early eighties and on this night, the third anniversary of Jerry Garcia's passing, they encored with their epic tune, Terrapin Station. The moment the crowd realized what they were playing, the amphitheater exploded with joy. On the way back to the parking lot that night there was almost complete silence; the crowd was in awe. It still gives us goose bumps.
Dark Side of the Moon Set
West Valley City, UT 11/2/98
Phish has a wonderful tradition of covering entire albums during their Halloween shows; a musical costume, if you will. In 1998, after a highly anticipated Halloween show in Las Vegas, the band showcased another one of their traditions: surprising their fans when they least expect it. To barely a half filled venue (when most of the tour was sold out), Phish covered the entire Pink Floyd album, "Dark Side of the Moon".
When They Make a Song a Set
Every once and a while, Phish will take a song and weave it through a whole set or show. Here are three of our favorites:
Wipe Out set, Worcester, MA 11/27/98
A second set filled with "Wipe Out" teases and great drumming from Jon Fishman.
Moby Dick set, Deer Creek, IN 7/11/00
After teasing the song earlier in the tour, Phish devoted the second set to Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick". Fishman channeled his best John Bonham.
Layla with Seth Yacovone
Worcester, MA 11/29/98
The fall tour of 1998 was a special one, but one of our favorite moments was seeing our Vermont neighbor, Seth Yacovone, just a teenager at the time, join Phish for a rousing cover of Eric Clapton's "Layla".
Phil & Phriends
Warfield Theatre, San Francisco 4/15/99 – 4/17/99
In April of 1999, Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell from Phish played three shows with Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead (along with Steve Kimock and John Molo). These shows marked a coming together of the Grateful Dead and Phish communities in a meaningful way, and produced 3 stellar nights of music. One of our favorite moments was Trey's take on "Row Jimmy":
New Year's Eve Y2K Set
Big Cypress, FL 12/31/99
Not many bands can draw close to 100,000 fans to ring in the new millennium in the middle of Alligator Alley in Southern Florida. Phish rewarded them with a truly epic 8 hour set from midnight to sunrise on New Year's Day. This was a magical night that took all the anxiety around Y2K and funneled it into a truly legendary concert.
Phish at Higher Ground
Winooski, VT 4/11/04
In the spring on 2004, Higher Ground, our beloved local club, was closing down for the summer to move to South Burlington. As one of the final shows, they booked "The Easter Jam" with Dave Grippo and Friends. Grippo is a long time collaborator with Phish and member of the Trey Anastasio Band. Toward the end of the show, members of Phish joined the stage while Grippo and the others left, leaving just Phish to play two songs to the tiny club crowd.
Jay-Z and Phish
Brooklyn, NY 6/18/04
In the summer of 2004, both Jay-Z and Phish were calling it quits. Jay-Z joined the band on stage to 2 outrageously fun songs, "99 Problems" and "Big Pimpin".
The Comeback Fluffhead
Hampton, VA 3/6/09
Let's just say we're all so happy to have live Phish back in our lives, and this is the moment it began. You can barely hear the band over the crowd's excitement in this video:
Playing the Same Song Twice in an Encore
Hartford, CT 6/18/10
For the encore after a blazing show in Hartford, CT, Phish rocked out "Tweezer Reprise". They had so much fun, they played it again.
Irene Relief Show
Essex, VT 9/14/11
When tropical storm Irene ripped through the Northeast in August of 2011, it devastated many communities in Vermont including our Factory's hometown of Waterbury. Phish stepped up to play a benefit concert a few weeks later which raised over $1,000,000 for Irene relief.
World's Largest Cowbell Ensemble
Burlington, VT 4/14/12
When Phish Food and the Waterwheel Foundation turned 15, we wanted to mark the occasion with something unique, have some fun in the community and raise some money for Irene relief. So we gathered a great band, led by Jon Fishman, to break the world's largest cow bell ensemble record. We did it with over 2,000 people outside of our scoop shop in downtown Burlington. Over $25,000 was raised by The Waterwheel Foundation to help Vermonters still affected by Irene.
Tweezer at Tahoe
Stateline, NV 7/31/13
This "Tweezer" had many of the things we love about Phish, truly improvisational jams and spontaneous crowd participation.
Van Set, New Year's Eve
Madison Square Garden 12/31/13
Phish used their New Year's Eve show to celebrate their 30th year together as a band. Rarely in rock and roll history do original members of a band stay together this long continuing to evolve and progress as musicians. For the second of three sets, the band stripped their normal stage set down on the top of a van. They drove it into the middle of the floor of MSG where they played classic Phish songs like "Colonel Forbin's Ascent" and "Lizards". It was a night that made you remember what a fantastic band they are.
Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Denver, CO 9/6/15
For the last five years, Phish has called the Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Denver home for Labor Day weekend, and in doing so have made it a destination for all Phish fans. Many of these shows have been some of the best we've seen, but they've also had some fun with the song order in the set lists to spell out messages or only play songs that start with a certain letter. On the final night of their run in 2015, they spelled out T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U as a message to the Phish community.
In reflecting on the last 25 years of Phish Food, we realize the music has been inspired and downright euphoric. But the impact that the WaterWheel Foundation has had in Vermont and communities around the country is just as important. Check out our celebration of 25 years of the Waterwheel Foundation.
The Baker's Dozen
In August, 2018, Phish completed a historic 13-night residency at Madison Square Garden in New York City! After 34+ years and thousands of shows, the band played some of their best music ever. And apparently the city of New York agrees, because this weekend they declared August 6th to be Phish Day in New York City. Over 13 nights, the band did not repeat a single song. Check out our 13 favorite moments from the run.
From the festival installations by artists like Russ Bennett, Lars Fisk, and Abby Manock to the poster art of Jim Pollock, David Welker, and countless others to the art created by fans, the visual art and creativity around the band and community has exploded in the last 25 years.
Phish has a long tradition, dating back to 1994, of a “musical costume” on Halloween, covering albums by great artists including The Beatles, Talking Heads, and David Bowie. Always innovative and up to break their own traditions (and prank their fans), for Halloween 2018, Phish created a fake band called Kasvot Vaxt and “covered” their album í rokk. The faux band with mythical backstory as Scandinavian prog rockers provided the perfect muse for some of the most original Phish music in years.
Dinner and a Movie and Beacon Jams
The Spring of 2020 was a scary and unprecedented time. Live music was shuttered, all plans were off, and people had very real concerns about the future. Phish wasn’t going to solve all that, but they did provide a weekly (then monthly) oasis for fans to enjoy free broadcasts of archival shows together apply named, “Dinner and a Movie”. The group texts and twitter feeds lit up as Phish provided live broadcasts of shows that spanned from the late 80’s to current day. In the process, fans donated over $1M to WaterWheel, who directed the donations to different non-profits each week.
And in the fall of 2020, Trey announced The Beacon Jams, an eight-week virtual residency to be live from New York City’s Beacon Theatre. Fridays in October and November become a beacon of joy for Phish fans. Trey used the opportunity to launch the Divided Sky Fund, and all proceeds went to help to those affected by addiction and to open a treatment center in Vermont.
Those shows featured Trey acoustic, members of the Trey Anastasio Band, Jon Fishman from Phish, and the crowd favorite, “rescue squad strings”.
After the pandemic kept fans and Phish apart for 17 months, Phish returned to the stage on July 28, 2021 in Rogers, AR. The subsequent summer and fall tours were fan favorites showing this latest era of Phish will be one of the best.
Lemons into Lemonade: Tahoe to Shoreline and MSG to the Ninth Cube
Even after the band came back, natural disasters and COVID still created some real challenges. In late August 2021, the Caldor Fire was raging in the greater Tahoe area. Instead of canceling the shows, Phish relocated them a few hours away to Shoreline Amphitheater and raised over a $100,000 to support those affected by the fire. Then later in the year as Phish’s historic return to Madison Square Garden for a four-night New Year’s run loomed, the Omicron variant had different plans. Phish had to cancel the MSG shows, but played a free webcast to fans on New Year’s Eve from the “Ninth Cube”.
While we believe there are a few indisputable, objective facts listed above, we realize people’s favorite moments with a band like Phish are highly subjective; these just happen to be the favorite moments of the collective Ben & Jerry’s team. What is your favorite Phish moment from the last 25 years?