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Phishin’ With Perpetual Groove: On Slow Jams, Big Cypress, And Inevitable Gear Malfunction

Phish’s Baker’s Dozen run is quickly approaching. As is tradition for summer tour, there will be an enormous amount of talent surrounding the entertainment with pre- and post-shows galore. Phish’s thirteen nights at Madison Square Garden will be no different, as Live For Live Music plans to take over New York City with over a dozen shows of our own.

L4LM’s Official Guide To Phish Baker’s Dozen Late Nights

As the shenanigans approach, we’ll be discussing Phish with a number of artists who will be in town performing some of these late-night shows. So far, we interviewed Craig Brodhead from TurkuazMatisyahuRyan Jalbert from The Motet, and Jake Goldberg and Chris Houser from The Werks. In the fourth installment of our “Phishin’ With” series, both Brock Butler and Matt McDonald of Perpetual Groove discuss their relationship with the band Phish ahead of their after-show at B.B. King Blues Club on July 29 (tix here).

Since the group came off a two year hiatus back in mid-2015, Brock Butler (guitar, vocals), Adam Perry (bass, vocals), Matt McDonald (keys, vocals), and Albert Suttle (drums) have been putting together some of the strongest and most inspiring shows of the bands now twenty year career. To add to that, P-Groove released the EP Familiar Stare this past August, which witnessed a new chapter of creativity, maturation, and an evolution of sound for the quartet. The future looks very bright for Perpetual Groove.

[Photo: Phierce Photo by Keith G.]

Live For Live Music: Tell us about your first Phish concert experience.

Matt McDonald: My first Phish show was in 1994 at the University of Florida bandshell. It was a free show on campus and I was blown away by Rift, which came out earlier that year. I had very high expectations; needless to say, those expectations were met and then some.

Brock Butler: My first Phish show was July 3rd, 1999 at Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta. It was my sort of setlist. I’m a big fan of what I’d call the slow jams like “Gumbo,” “Moma Dance,” etc. I believe, it was the first bust out of “Meatstick” in a couple of years at that point. Though I wasn’t in attendance for the 4th of July show the next night, I heard they introduced the dance aspect to the song. Perry and I went together, it was a great time and certainly a special moment for two bandmates to share, I think.

L4LM: How would you describe the music of Phish?

MM: Wide open. All encompassing.

BB: All across the board. Versatile. If it were in the context of someone seeing their first show, I’d explain that depending on the song selection they might be incredibly moved, or it might ask more of them as listener if it’s a more daring show. If it’s paint-by-numbers they’re looking for, they’re in the wrong place.

L4LM: How many Phish shows have you seen?

MM: A couple dozen. I couldn’t tell you exactly how many. I seem to remember something about how men drink and boys count.

BB: Roughly 15 or so.

L4LM: Do you have a favorite show, or most memorable experience?

MM: Favorite show and experience for me was Big Cypress. I grew up in Naples, FL so Big Cypress was a bit of wildlife staple growing up that close to the Everglades. I had so many memories from my youth there from fishing with my grandfather, air boat rides, countless camping trips with friends and family, that Phish playing Big Cypress for NYE was a bit of a homecoming. I was in the army from 98-02 so these shows landed right in the middle of my four years and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me personally. It served as a reminder of why this band was so important to me, the community around the band, and why so many love them so much.

BB: It’s a tough call, I enjoyed Big Cypress, but as a collective whole, when I saw four consecutive shows in a row (Antioch, TN > Lakewood x2 > Walnut Creek ) it was incredibly cool to see how they changed it up from night to night. In Antioch, Mike’s bass amp malfunctioned during the opening notes of “First Tube.” Then, two amazing shows in ATL. However, Walnut Creek was straight up lousy. I mention this because as someone just hoping to be a musician for a living, it was cool to see every aspect. Nobody is above gear malfunction. Phish, like all bands will have amazing shows and then after the longest drive of the four dates, it seemed for better or worse, the band as well as the audience were in sync.

L4LM: What are two of your favorite Phish songs?

MM: “Lifeboy” and “Rift”

BB: Studio song – “Silent in the Morning”
Live version – “The Curtain With”

L4LM: What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever seen at a Phish show?

MM: I think CBGTWH has the wildest “thing” that happens at any show documented and covered pretty well. Musically, one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen the band do was just a week after my first show when I flew up to NY for the Halloween show where they covered The Beatles White Album. That’s no easy task for any group of musicians, but to add to the theatrics the way Phish did completely blew my mind. Fortunately, they would go on to continue blowing my mind for many years to come.

BB: “Wildest,” is a bit broad and subjective. I’ll assume you mean from the group, so I’ll
keep it to strictly the bands antics. Riding in on a big hot dog at Big Cypress was certainly something crazy to see. I don’t know if this is wild as much as if was “weird,” but Wynona Judd singing “Freebird” at Antioch was….really something.

Purchase tickets to Perpetual Groove at BB King’s NYC on 7/29 (post-Phish) here, or enter to win a pair of tickets below.

Check out L4LM’s Official Guide To Phish Baker’s Dozen Late Nights!