For a band that first made its name touring colleges around the country, it’s fitting that the members of Phish first met as college students. The year was 1983, and University of Vermont students Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Jeff Holdsworth and Mike Gordon started out with some dorm room jams. Slowly but surely, they built a local following, taking on Page McConnell and losing Holdsworth in the process. The band released debut album Junta in 1988; while the album has since gone Platinum through multiple reissues, the story of Phish isn’t one best told through best-selling records and hit radio singles. Rather, it’s a story of live performance. As something of a musical heir to the Grateful Dead’s legacy from previous decade’s, Phish overtook the mantle of America’s foremost jam band.
Like the Dead, Phish toured relentlessly. The band has played over 1,600 concerts over the years, with more than a few Phish superfans having been in attendance for hundreds of them. While impossible to verify, it’s said that the band has never played the same setlist twice—a symbol of the unpredictability that keeps concert-goers coming back for more. The band is so fan-friendly that it even encourages bootleg recordings of its concerts, although there’s certainly no shortage of licensed live albums that are available. Phish hasn’t shied away from the studio in recent years, either, releasing the albums Fuego (2014) and Big Boat (2016) within the last few years. Each charted among the top 20 albums in the United States upon release.