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National Jam Band


More than the living Dead

Phish As the death of Jerry Garcia recedes further and further into the past -- most of this year's college freshmen are too young to have ever attended a Grateful Dead concert -- it gets more and more tempting to stop calling Phish "the new Dead." After all, Phish have way better taste in cover songs, they've never employed two drummers, and Jerry never put together a side project as cool as the Trey Anastasio/Les Claypool/Stewart Copeland trio that just played the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest. But the parallels remain too striking to ignore. Phish have become the same kind of cultural phenomenon unto themselves, easily ignored by the record industry despite impossible concert grosses, and written off by hipsters while the rest of America follows them around the country.

Which means the years tend to run together for Phish, just as they did for the Dead. Still, the past year can hardly be considered anything but huge for the group. Their new Farmhouse (Elektra) is barely in stores, but last year's monumental six-disc live set Hampton Comes Alive added yet another curiosity to the band's long line of phan-friendly gestures. They closed out the year with the only Y2K rock blowout anyone seemed to care about, setting up shop for two days at Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in Florida and causing a once-in-a-millennium traffic snarl. And though Phish have pulled the plug on their annual summer camping festival for this year, they'll still be hitting the shed circuit in full force. Not even a hit single could stop them now.

-- Sean Richardson

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