Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio is among the featured interviewees in a special section appearing in the latest issue of Relix, “The Power of Live,” in which “singular voices chime in with their thoughts on the importance of in-person gatherings.”
In addition to addressing the dire realities of the pandemic for the people on the frontlines in his home of New York City, pondering the spiritual connectivity created by a live performance, and reminiscing about the first concert he ever attended (Bruce Springsteen at Princeton University‘s 3,000-capacity Jadwin Gym in 1978), Trey addressed a question about which Phish fans have debated since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis: whether or not he will be getting in on the growing trend of crowd-less, live-streamed shows.
In response to a question about Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires‘ recent live performance from an empty Brooklyn Bowl Nashville, Trey responded,
I’ve been asked numerous times to do similar things to what Jason did. I love Jason and I’m friends with him. It was a great thing. But for me, so far, I’ve said no.
So much of what I do is informed by the close proximity of the people in the front row—in the front 10 rows—and even by the person in the back row. We don’t have a song list because that connection is a big part of who we are as a band and who I am. … I don’t know if I want to play without our community with me. It’s a bridge I haven’t been able to cross.
I have been asked by many people: “Let’s do this Zoom concert” or “Let’s do it Brady Bunch style.” Maybe it’s my spiritual belief system, but I feel like this is where we are today and this is where I am— “I’m home. The concert isn’t happening right now.”
I almost don’t want to go halfway. If it’s possible, I want to celebrate that resurgence of live music with our family, which is our audience. And it doesn’t even feel like an audience—it feels to me, like a community.
I’d like to connect with that community, but I’ve found a way to do it because I’ve put out those 14 songs from my bedroom. I like being in contact but I might just wait [for a show]. I’m trying to follow my heart through this.
I’ll tell you another thing: We had to stop Phish once before. We went many years and then we paused and the pause was from 2004 through 2008, while I was getting my health together. Then, we did end up making an album and maybe that’s something we’ll do. I don’t know. But we didn’t do any shows and we didn’t do any kind of half-shows. We waited.
Then, we came back to Hampton Coliseum in 2009 and our community was there. Not everyone was there but it was a large group of people. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live, which was the opening song in Hampton when everybody was back. When I think of that moment, it can make me cry.
So that was five years. I really hope we don’t have to wait another five years. But I would prefer to gather with everyone. I want to gather with Page and Mike and Fish and everyone, if it’s possible.
While Trey noted that he had considered the notion of a drive-in show with the Trey Anastasio Trio, he ultimately decided against it. “I want to see people’s faces,” he concluded. “I need to listen to people in the room. It’s what I do … I can’t think about all the stuff that’s gone because it’s too much to even think about. So the way I’m trying to respond to the moment is by writing songs until they let me play again. But when I do play live, I’d really like our community to be there with me, if there’s any possible way.”
As Trey mentioned, while he is staying away from livestreams, he has released a steady stream of new videos from his Manhattan apartment since the lockdowns began including “I Wish I Could See The World“, “Evolve”, “Till We Meet Again“, “The Silver Light“, “My World Is My Home“, “Are You There Colleen?”, “If Again”, “Lonely Trip”, “Shaking Someone’s Outstretched Hand”, “I Never Left Home”, “Lotus”, “When The Words Go Away”, “Timeless”, “I Never Needed You Like This Before”, “The Greater Good”, and “Lost In The Pack”. All of this is in addition to the new Phish album, Sigma Oasis, released on April 2nd.
Phish also continues to offer some semblance of a shared experience for fans with the band’s weekly Dinner and a Movie archival webcast/cooking series.