It has been almost a year since Phish disbanded after a weekend’s worth of shows in Coventry, Vt., but several releases are in the works to satiate the band’s rabid fan base. Among them is a DVD of a career-spanning film shown at just one concert: the group’s 20th anniversary on Dec. 2, 2003, at Boston’s FleetCenter.
“It’s either funny or memorable moments taken from 2,500 videotapes we’ve collected,” bassist Mike Gordon reveals to Billboard.com of the film, which originally ran about 30 minutes. “The band was going back and forth about whether we wanted to release it. But I’m excited, because we’ve added about 10 minutes of footage. We’ll probably have to subtract because of clearances for appearances and cover songs. Some of them will be impossible to get the rights to for any amount of money.”
“There’s a great moment where we are playing [Prince’s] ‘1999’ and we’re being lowered down onto the stage by contortionists dressed up in costume and on stilts,” Gordon continues. “[Guitarist] Trey [Anastasio] and I, our bodies are perfectly straight. I don’t know how we did it. We eventually were flat on the stage. The groove is a very legitimate version, for us anyway, of a Prince song. It’s such a nice moment. But the licensing coordinating company has said there isn’t any chance in hell we’ll get permission to use it.”
The DVD, provisionally named “The 20th Anniversary Video,” may arrive in time for Christmas but could be pushed to early next year. And while the film focuses on on-stage moments, there are a handful of behind-the-scenes clips.
“There’s a shot of Trey and I on our first tour in Telluride [Colo.] going for a run with our shirts off and our guitars on,” Gordon says with a laugh. “There’s some footage of us kayaking on the Verde River. But it is mainly special guests and unique moments. One of our worries was that it was too much of the silly stuff, but there are some powerful musical moments.”
The band has discussed devoting entire releases to such major festivals as Coventry, but it could be some time before they see the light of day. “Coventry, I think it will happen, but not for years and years,” Gordon says. “And [the Millennium New Year festival] Big Cypress, which people are very excited about doing. We want it to be done right, so we’re waiting for [Martin] Scorsese or someone to say, I want to put it together [laughs].”
Gordon concedes he knows fans are keeping their fingers crossed that Phish will reunite someday, but says the split “has actually been relatively easy for me. I have dreams where I’m backstage in some exotic place with the band, and it makes me miss the whole deal — not just the music. Or I hear some of the music on tape and I feel like it’s amazing how we still clicked together after all those years. But it’s a completely dealable emotion for me.
So, is the door open to collaborate again some day? “I think it’s possible,” he says. “We haven’t discounted it. But on the other hand, there’s a big feeling of avoiding the reunion tour that seems to be cheesy in most cases. Maybe in a different format, like recording the music for a film or something. I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen, but on the other hand, we stay in touch. And we play and record in pairs. [Drummer Jon Fishman] lives in my town and we really like playing together. There’s no excuse not to get together.”