Phish reunite for tour. The jam band ends its two-year hiatus with plans for concerts and releases of live performances

By Gary Susman
August 15, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

When Phish announced two years ago that the beloved jam band was going on an ”indefinite hiatus,” you could be forgiven if you assumed that meant you would never see them again. But you’d have been wrong. Turns out the break really was just a break, and that Phish plan to reunite for New Year’s Eve. The band announced yesterday that it’ll play a marathon three-set gig at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Dec. 31, followed by three dates Jan. 2 to 4 at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Va. Said the announcement on Phish’s website, ”The band plans to schedule additional tour dates later in 2003 and will likely record an album sometime next year as well.”

But no, wait, there’s more. The band also announced the release of four more concert albums in its ”Live Phish” series (there have been 12 so far). Recorded at the band’s legendary (and much-bootlegged) Halloween shows, each features the band donning a ”musical costume” and covering a classic rock disc in its entirety: the Beatles’ ”White Album” (1994), the Who’s ”Quadrophenia” (1995), Talking Heads’ ”Remain in Light” (1996), and the Velvet Underground’s ”Loaded” (1998). Aptly, these will be out on Oct. 29. Also, on Nov. 12, the band is releasing its first concert DVD, ”Phish: Live in Vegas,” from a show filmed on Sept. 30, 2000.

The members of the Vermont-based quartet have been busy in the intervening two years. Singer-guitarist Trey Anastasio released a self-titled solo album and teamed up with Primus’ Les Claypool and the Police’s Stewart Copeland in the supergroup Oysterhead. Bassist Mike Gordon filmed a documentary about the late Gov’t Mule bassist Allan Woody. Keyboardist Page McConnell formed a funk trio called Vida Blue. And drummer Jon Fishman toured with the Jazz Mandolin Project and formed his own band, Pork Tornado, which is touring in October and November.

Despite its unique and eclectic mix of genres, Phish’s jam-driven concerts and traveling schools of Phishhead fans had made the band the reluctant heirs to the Grateful Dead after Jerry Garcia died in 1995. (Like Garcia, Phish even got a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor named for them.) Coincidentally, the band’s announcement of its reunion comes just after the surviving Dead members reunited for a concert in Wisconsin (as The Other Ones) and announced plans to tour this fall.