Phish Sucks

About once a year I try to give Phish a chance, because I really enjoy the Dead (had thousands of hours of tapes, have dozens of concerts on disc, went to the concerts back in the day, and, well, I just love them), and I figure all those people can’t be wrong about Phish. So I tried again while riding the bike (figured I was captive and would be forced to listen for a half hour).

I tried. All those people who like Phish ARE wrong. Plain and simple, Phish sucks.


I had to listen to Delbert McClinton and Little Feat for a half hour to get the unpleasant sounds out of my head.

But back to my point. Phish sucks, I don’t get them, and they are a 4th rate jam band compared to the Dead. And it isn’t because I hate Trey Anastasio, either, because he’s great with Oysterhead. Then again, I think Les Claypool is a genius.

And just as a side note, while many people think the greatest band instrument is the guitar, I argue that the Hammond B-3 organ is one of the greatest achievements ever in the production of musical instruments.

57 replies
  1. 1
    danelectro says:

    why not hate them *because* they are a jam band? it’s much more satisfying, and as a bonus you have an excuse to leave that one guy’s apartment who won’t keep playing dead bootlegs and talking about that summer he spent following them.

    of course, all bets are off if that guy is you.

  2. 2
    KC says:

    I don’t hate Phish, but they’re definitely NOT the Dead. Never could have been and never will be close.

  3. 3
    Vlad says:

    “And just as a side note, while many people think the greatest band instrument is the guitar, I argue that the Hammond B-3 organ is one of the greatest achievement ever in the production of musical instruments.”

    I’m with you there, brother.

  4. 4
    Otto Man says:

    I don’t know why I hate Phish, but I know that I do.

    Maybe it’s my congenital hatred of hippies.

  5. 5
    bg says:

    I like Lawn Boy, but that’s about it.

  6. 6
    jaime says:

    Phish sucks, I don’t get them

    Say that to yourself again and see what a dumb statement that is.

    You may be too…old to like Phish. They are most definitely NOT the Dead. I’d consider them more technically proficient and branier, but they don’t embody what the Dead did.

    Phish is also NOT music to listen to on a bike ride.

  7. 7
    jaime says:

    Ever listen to Moe?

  8. 8
    Ancient Purple says:

    They are certainly no Steve and Edie.

  9. 9
    Steve S says:

    I hate the Grateful Dead and Phish. Seriously, that music just plain doesn’t appeal to me, and I’ve never understood the appeal. Maybe it has to do with the whole pot smoking hippy culture. I don’t know, I don’t care… I just can’t stand the music.

    As for instruments…

    Well, I used to know how to play the piano, but haven’t played for years. But I decided last week to learn to play the guitar. So I bought a Seagull 6+ Spruce, and can now play G and C chords and my fingers hurt.

    As for the greatest band instrument of all time.

    That’s still the Bango. I just love the sound of a Bango. There’s no way you can make a Bango sound depressing.

  10. 10
    DougJ says:

    I couldn’t agree more. And Little Feat and Delbert McClinton are just the antidote.

    When you’re right, you’re right.

  11. 11
    Mark says:

    Do you intentionally go out of your way to piss off your readers, or does it come THAT naturally? heh.

  12. 12
    John Cole says:

    Oh, I am a natural, all right.

  13. 13
    Nitin says:

    cripes…i’m a liberal and a phish fan…AND i root for the Baltimore Ravens! i guess i just moved to the top of your shit-list? ;)

  14. 14

    I argue that the Hammond B-3 organ is one of the greatest achievements ever in the production of musical instruments.

    Well considering that the Doors are one of my favorite bands, I’d have to agree. The organ is a really great instrument that often gets overlooked.

    As for Phish, I never really listened to them or gave them a chance. I do like the Dead and some other jam bands so I might check them out sometime.

  15. 15
    aop says:

    Phish sucks. It is noodly bullshit crapola. I don’t care if it’s performed on trampolines or wearing gorilla masks, it still sucks.

    That said, their stinky trustifarian fan base sucks even worse.

  16. 16
    terry says:

    First Post,

    I agree completely. With reference to Delbert, does this mean I am turning into fucking Don Imus. Help Me !!!! By the way John, I enjoy your writing.

  17. 17
    SoCalJustice says:

    the Hammond B-3 organ is one of the greatest achievements ever in the production of musical instruments.

    You’d love going to Dodger games, then.

  18. 18
    smijer says:

    OK, the Dead is the only Dead… this coming from a short-haired dork who only knows Jerry’s name and has never tried any psychadelic drugs (unless you count pot). The Dead is in a class by itself, and in a category apart from what Phish does… But, Phish is good. Sometimes a little too noisy, and sometimes a little too cutesy… but the boys have quite a bit of talent with the instrument that is to me the greatest instrument of all time: the human voice. And I’ll listen to Phish all day long before I’ll expose my beautiful mind to the horrors of top 40… Just sayin’…

    If you don’t like Phish, it’s ’cause you don’t like the weird rock/fusion style they play in… That’s fair enough… but you ought to say “I don’t like weird rock/fusion”.

    And, anyway… who can diss a band that duets with Alison Krauss???????

  19. 19
    aop says:

    A joke:

    How many Dead fans does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    None. They just wait for it to burn out then follow it around for thirty fucking years.

  20. 20
    PotVsKtl says:

    That’s still the Bango. I just love the sound of a Bango. There’s no way you can make a Bango sound depressing.

    What the holy cock is a bango? Am I missing some joke here?

  21. 21
    smijer says:

    Not everyone is born knowing how to spell banjo.

  22. 22
    Jane says:

    Theres a fat man in the bathtub with the blues.

  23. 23
    ubernerd83 says:

    Frankly, I don’t like Phish OR the Dead. I’d rather be skanking the night away to the Beat or Reel Big Fish; ska is undeniably awesome.

  24. 24
    6PointsOut says:

    Shalom –

    You know, I’ve lurked around here for a while, enjoyed the writing and some of the comments – but this post, THIS POST – why, I agree whole-heartedly with ALL of these propositions!

    –The Dead are awesome
    –Phish is overrated and lame (i went to ONE show, that sufficed amply, thanks)
    –The B3 is one of the most incredible pieces of musical engineering ever, and and under the hands of, for example, Jimmy Smith? Joey DiFrancesco? Brent Midland? Rick Wakeman? possesses a powerful and emotive voice that any instrument could envy.

    Kol Tuv

  25. 25
    6PointsOut says:

    Oh –
    Jane, John, Yes! Little Feat is also groovy.

    Am Yisrael Chai!

  26. 26
    papa joe says:

    2 words for Deadheads who are still looking for something to go see live: Widespread Panic. You missed the greatness of Michael Houser, the late great lead guitar player, but the band rolls on with George MacConnell, and the main character is the under-rated John Bell, lead singer and an excellent guitar slinger in his own right. Another attraction is David Schools on bass, a real serious rock star.

    Hammond B3, yup, love it. But there are some guitars that can realy sing: Fender Telecaster, Guild archtop hollowbody electric.

    Have a groovy day,
    Papa Joe in Minneapolis

  27. 27

    and and under the hands of, for example, Jimmy Smith? Joey DiFrancesco? Brent Midland? Rick Wakeman? possesses a powerful and emotive voice that any instrument could envy.

    Ahh hemm…you forgot Ray Manzarek.

  28. 28
    6PointsOut says:

    Shalom, Voter –

    Not listed, but not forgotten. There are a lot of greats. . .and agree Ray is one.

    Am Yisrael Chai!

  29. 29
    Thomas says:

    Phish–their only redemption from being a lame jam band is that occasionally a lame prog band emerges, sucks, and goes back to jamming.

  30. 30
    zzzz says:

    Phish was awesome back in the day, can’t stand their later years weird slow stuff. If you saw them live back when they were playing small venues, you would all understand.

    My first show, they all came out with acoustic guitars and played some awesome songs. Then they rolled 4 grand pianos out and jammed and did some more songs. Then they went back to their normal instruments for one song. They promptly all switched instruments and everybody plated someone elses parts. Best, most talented musical band ever. They just didn’t always decide to rock like they can.

  31. 31
    caleb says:

    I like the dead, but when I saw them it was in their death throws…the 1990’s… then they were stale, old, and too predictable. And while the whole “space” thing was fun to get stoned to….it killed the flow of a concert.

    Phish was everything I was looking for back in college….faster music…..better jams….more jazz/fusion influenced…more noodling. I loved them in the early 90’s, then they started to play the bigger venues more consistantly in the mid 90’s and their music went away from the tension/release, which I love to this day, towards what the dead did….spacy jams…..and that’s when they lost me.

    One of the biggest misconception John falls right into….the old (paraphrase)”I liked [blank] so I must like [blank]”….”All these people can’t be wrong…”

    For every deadhead I know that likes Phish…I know 5 that hate them. To each his/her own…….

    Now….I don’t know what Phish you are listening to (studio album or bootleg), but might I suggest….listen to any bootleg from August 1993…..if that don’t hook ya’….. ya’ aren’t ment to be hooked.

  32. 32
    Mr Furious says:

    Phish has a few select tracks that I really like, but I could never sit through even an entire CD, never mind a show, or even a taped show.

    My deadhead college roommate found me to be an oddity—a guy who likes everything Deadheads like (Feat, Rads, Allmans and others) but doesn’t like the Dead. I’m probably missing out, but I don’t lose sleep over it.

  33. 33
    Steve S says:

    PotVsKtl wrote: “What the holy cock is a bango? Am I missing some joke here?”

    Oops… sorry… Banjo I meant!

  34. 34
    Mike Quinlivan says:

    I really enjoy the sound of a hammond organ, but I gotta go with slide guitar/pedal steel,etc. as the best sounding instrument. I’m a sucker for pedal steel or lap steel guitars especially. John, being a Dead fan, should recognize the beauty of Jerry’s simple little steel guitar solo on “Candyman”; simply beautiful. Duanne Allman, Elmore James; that shit has soul. Anyways, off topic, sorry, just gotta admit my love for slide crap. Resume Phish bashing…Now! (I remain neutral).

  35. 35
    Baron Elmo says:

    John, if you want to hear some truly STAGGERING Hammond B-3 playing, get thee to the nearest emporium of recorded sound and check out the first three albums of Brit prog ensemble SOFT MACHINE, cut from 1968 to 1970. Mike Ratledge’s keyboard sound is as thick and fuzzy as a Swedish down comforter… you’ll think your speakers are distorting on first listen. And as a bonus, you’ll get the percussive mastery of Robert Wyatt, one of the greatest rock drummers of all time.

    Jimi Hendrix was a HUGE fan of these guys… dug them so much that he tapped them as the opening act for his first U.S. tour. Nuff said.

    The pair of CDs to get are “Volume One and Two” (a Big Beat import that squeezes their first two lps on one disc), and “Third.” Avoid any Soft Machine album recorded after Robert Wyatt left (he bailed after the less interesting “Four”)… they are mainly limp fusion outings.

    Oh, and a jazz dude who makes the Hammond truly sing is the great LARRY YOUNG – the Coltrane of the keys. Try his 1965 “Unity” disc on Blue Note. Righteous!

  36. 36
    Al Maviva says:

    I’m with John wholeheartedly on this one. I love the Dead, especially the older stuff. Great lyrics, great glosses of traditional American music, great times at the shows. I hate Phish, and always have, and even when I tried to like them, their smelly trustifarian fans (nice one AOP), who remind me of smelly WTO protestors/rioters, completely turned me off. In the words of that great anonymous London banker, “Sod off, swampy!”

    Widespread Panic? Nahhh, more like Pervasive Boredom.

    If you have to go with one of the more or less current jam bands, I highly recommend Rusted Root.

  37. 37
    caleb says:


    You don’t like Phish because of their smelly, trustafarian, WTO-like fans, but you do like Rusted Root?…….I’m guessing you haven’t been to too many Rusted Root concerts…..or had been to many Dead concerts for that matter.

  38. 38
    JP says:

    JC. I love the guitar and play it myself, but I agree with you the the B3 adds so much to a band’s sound. As Baron Elmo said, check out Soft Machine, Early Mott the Hoople (in particular the live version of “Keep a Knockin'” – they get a drum, guitar, B3 thing going that is like a freight train coming doen the tracks) “Real Love” by the Sutherland Brothers (Rabbit plays a solo that will raise the hair on the back of your neck – I think he was trying to impress Stevie Winwood who was on piano) and even CCR’s Pendulum – Fogerty does a great job on the B3.

  39. 39
    Gratefulcub says:

    never tried any psychadelic drugs (unless you count pot).

    HA. Did you listen to the silent trees? Did you discover the secrets of the universe only to forget what you were thinking about? It doesn’t count.

    This thread is so wrong on so many counts.

    1- JC: “I just don’t get them” Then, with all due respect, don’t listen to them and stop bashing. It isn’t their fault you can’t ‘get it.’
    2- Tons of posts that can be paraphrased as “I hate them, never listened to them much, but I hate them.” Same as above.
    3- TRUSTAFARIANS. You guys have the wrong band. Go see Widespread Panic, there you will find your SUVs and trust funds. We have TOUR RATS. They are probably worse than trustafarians, but get your insults straight. We have the kids traveling and working the scene to get to the next show. It is dirty and sketchy, but we don’t have trust funds.
    4- If you include the Dead in the conversation about PHISH, you don’t get it. they are nothing alike.

    Sorry to get all bent out of shape, but I always hated these types of comments, “Phish Sucks.”

    Well, many people didn’t get Miles Davis. That is fine, but don’t go around saying he sucks. I don’t personally enjoy the musical stylings of Clapton, but I am not boneheaded enough to say that he sucks.

    So John, you are correct when you say, “that many people can’t be wrong.” For that many people to be that devoted for that long does mean that they are doing something right. It just isn’t for everyone.

  40. 40
    Al Maviva says:

    There’s a lot of older ex-hippies in the Rusted Root conclave, and I don’t mind older ex-hippies since a lot of them are pretty genuine folks, and actually have a lot of paleo-conservative tendencies I can relate to, like a love of old things, rural places, olde skool craftsmanship, etc. A slightly older crowd seems to follow Rusted Root than the one following Phish. That, and what Rod Dreher would call crunchy conservatives. Yeah, I have a beard and ride a bike to work and shop at FreshFields, but I usually vote “R.” I have a fair number of right leaning and libertarian-ish friends who are RR fans for some reason, kind of like a lot of conservatives I know really liked the Dead. Yet I don’t know any conservatives who like Phish for some reason. Some of those older white dudes with beards at the RR shows are probably Republican precinct chairmen, I have to warn you. That’s probably pretty disturbing to you, I know, but there it is. It may have something to do with qualitative differences in RR’s and Phish’s music – in other words, maybe RR’s music doesn’t stink to high heaven, even if some of their fans do.

  41. 41
    caleb says:

    I guess it’s good to know Rusted Root has a decent following. Used to see them a ton down at the Nyabinghi. Then, they really pissed a ton of folks off back in the mid 90’s(me included) when they were just starting to make a name for themselves(opening for GD at last pittsburgh show), when they first started headlining shows for more than 5 bucks/head….stoping concerts numerous times because they thought the crowd was dancing “too hard”, walking off the stage and treating their fans like crap….their heads swelled too large too fast.

    It’s nice to know they have found a gentiler, more docile following that they don’t have to yell at to slow down.

  42. 42
    bobby says:

    hey john phuck ewe, there are no wrong music liteners-it’s all good… worriies just PANIC

  43. 43

    […] Third, I agree that if you catch your children listening to John Mayer, Nickleback, Kansas, The String Cheese Incident and Phish that you do have a problem on your hands — but the problem is not homosexuality, the problem is that you are raising child with horrible taste in music. You must take swift and drastic action to reset their aesthetic thermostat. […]

  44. 44
    BtRB_Ver2 says:

    well shut my mouth wide open…

    i just stumbled onto this blog by googling “Phish Sucks”- i had to know what that would turn up.

    this blog is amazing, it has everything for me: respect for the Dead, the understanding that Phish does in fact- upon scrutiny, suck, and a conservative bend.

    cheers my friend(s), cheers.

  45. 45
    anna says:

    RIP Phish Crappy band for all of it’s existence… and the lyrics I mean PLEASE could we get something a little less meaningful? Widespread Panic is where it’s at!

  46. 46
    george de la porge says:

    i used to be a die-hard phish phan, 30 shows, hundreds of bootlegs, and though im not really a rabid fan anymore, they most definitely do not suck. what kept my interest is the direction they took in late 90’s. long experimental, trippy jams, peppered with bright hippy-dippy noodling. this my friends is something that the dead and WSP cannot do as well. in fact i think that most shows the dead played after 73 or so suck. as for widespread, i dig them but they dont let my mind leave my body the way late phish does. though many of phish’s early lyrics are nonsense, their later material is more serious. as for the fanbase….Ive definitely seen some bad shit on tour with phish, stupid zoinked out wookies, shady drug deals,naked trippers(this i actually enjoy if nobody gets hurt), but i have to say these instances are few and far between compared to the happy faces, and good vibes of the semi-responsible phish kids.

  47. 47
    Styngyn says:

    Phish is highly musically talented, no argument there. Very versatile and unique.

    Their problem: They can’t write good tunes. With few exceptions, their own forumulated songs suck! Half their concerts in later years they did other people’s music. And I know where I stand when I say this. I was living near the Burlington, VT area when they were first becoming big, and was excited when Picture of Nectar was released to the big scene.

    So I attended as many shows as I could, and bought their next few albums. But then I found myself less impressed with Phish and their entire scene. And Bored. When I listened to a Phish lp, I could’nt wait for it to end. Sure, great jams, but it left me uninspired and I could never remember what the tunes sounded like afterwards. So I went back to my good ole Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, Deep Purple, Rush, bands that could WRITE and play. (Notice I didnt mention The DEAD)

  48. 48
    Vash the Stampede says:

    Phish are a bunch of nazis. They came to Hampton (the mothership-huh,huh) and basically told the police to confiscate any bootleg stuff and arrest people. So even thought the greedy bastards made like 17 million on their last tour they had to ruin it for the fans. Good job losers.

  49. 49
    Alex says:

    First of all, if you intend to judge Phish soley on a studio album, or even all there studio albums for that matter, your an idiot. Phish are masters of jamming, or improvising on stage to create full length songs.


    For those who are clueless about phish and simply "don’t understand them", listen to live albums and go to a live show, because thats where the magic happens. Thats where phish happens.

  50. 50
    Alex says:

    And god damn stop comparing phish with the Dead, the Dead covered something totally different than what phish did. The main simularity is that they both jammed, (GD being the founding fathers of it, and Phish taking it to a whole new level and perfecting, what is, phish.)

    And to the guy who talks about "music turning kids gay", to say phish is horrible is one thing, but to say that John Mayer, Nickleback, Kansas, The String Cheese Incident and Phish fit into the same genre, well then, sir, you are a complete dumbass and have no sense of the word "music" that i wouldnt be surprised if you didn’t know what "genre" means.

  51. 51
    JB says:

    Thank you Alex… Can we PLEASE stop all these absurd and pointless Phish/Grateful Dead comparisons?

    I feel like anybody who compares Phish to the Dead in seriousness hasn’t really listened thoroughly to either band’s music.

    Phish and the Dead’s only similarity is in the fact that they are "jam bands" (a vague umbrella term if there ever was one). In reality, yes, they are both rock n’ roll bands… but the Dead’s music was much more country/bluegrass/folk heavy, whereas Phish is a lot more jazz/funk heavy.

    The two bands’ styles really aren’t similar at all, apart from the fact that their live shows are the stuff of legend and their fans like(d) to take psychedelic drugs.

    I just think everyone needs to give up on this comparison as a means of discrediting one or both of the bands. It’s a lazy man’s comparison with no real foundation in anything other than the stereotypes surrounding each band.

  52. 52
    Marco Esquandolas says:

    All the haters can suck a dick.

  53. 53
    S Flavius Mercurius says:

    Phish is a classic suburban middle class white boy band. They have no soul, cause they have no reason to. They are extremely jaded.

  54. 54
    TJ says:

    phish are the most talented 4-piece band improvisers of all time.

  55. 55
    Sara says:

    “Half their concerts in later years they did other people’s music.”

    …What? I’ve never seen / heard a single Phish show in which they’ve done more covers than originals. They will occasionally go into a few covers here and there, but what band doesn’t?

    Additionally, I saw them in Chicago on the 11th and they didn’t play a single cover song. Wouldn’t that qualify as later years?

    Phish is not about the studio albums and I am likewise irked by the comparisons to The Grateful Dead; I listened to them quite a lot through high school, and never even listened to one Phish song, said I hated Phish constantly, whatever. A friend actually got me to listen to Phish (live stuff), and I really got into them. If you don’t “get it”, that’s not Phish’s fault. They’re not for everyone.

    Finally, they’re not horrible songwriters. I can think of hundreds of people far less talented and far less capable of writing music.

    Just admit it — you hate Phish’s success and it has very little to do with the music.

  56. 56
    J says:

    The lyrics that Phish offers are feather-weight, obtuse and monotonous.

    Trey’s voice is also as bleached as a piece of Wonderbread, but I think ultimately the band sometimes falls into the pocket and come out with some cool stuff. When they play live it can get pretty intense and Trey’s musical phrases start making more sense and are less cliched than they usually are on the albums. Over-all, though, I’d say I’m also not a huge fan.

  57. 57
    Hot Biscuit 34 says:

    I went to 5 shows this summer (’09) and they were very much on point, i will say that coventry sucked because i was there. I will say though as a Phish fan i take all the negative comments a little personal because they are in my opinion one of the most talented bands (for what I have seen and heard). So to all you nay sayers go check out a show or listen to some live shit (especially 97 and 98) and maybe you will change your mind.

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  1. […] Third, I agree that if you catch your children listening to John Mayer, Nickleback, Kansas, The String Cheese Incident and Phish that you do have a problem on your hands — but the problem is not homosexuality, the problem is that you are raising child with horrible taste in music. You must take swift and drastic action to reset their aesthetic thermostat. […]

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