Phish: A Heartfelt Celebration Of Companionship

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Throwing on a studio album by Phish can be like sitting in a dentist's chair: At least in theory, the experience begs for some sort of pain reliever. The Vermont-based jam band has long thrived on the live stage, though, with marathon concerts that highlight Phish's uncanny gifts for improvisation. (Be sure to download that May 8, 1993, set at Studio albums? More Novocaine, please.

Monday's Pick

  • Song: "Backwards Down the Number Line"
  • Artist: Phish
  • CD: Joy
  • Genre: Rock
Phish i

Phish's "Backwards Down the Number Line" finds the reunited jam band in a joyful mood. courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of the artist

Phish's "Backwards Down the Number Line" finds the reunited jam band in a joyful mood.

courtesy of the artist

Now comes the exception that proves the rule: The leadoff track from Phish's first studio album after a four-year breakup is the strongest, most pop-friendly song the band has ever written. In "Backwards Down the Number Line," guitarist Trey Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, keyboardist Page McConnell and drummer Jon Fishman sound genuinely thrilled to be playing together again, as they crank out a five-minute rock 'n' roll anthem that's a heartfelt celebration of enduring companionship. Cornball? Absolutely — after all, this is Phish, which isn't exactly known for its icy insincerity.

Still, it's the music that matters, and Phish pulls off the music with ease. When Anastasio winds up for one of his trademark, reach-for-the-skies guitar solos — as McConnell shouts the wonderfully cryptic refrain, "All my friends, go backwards down the number line" — the hairs on the arms of Phish's naysayers will finally be standing on end.

Listen to yesterday's Song of the Day, and subscribe to the Song of the Day newsletter.

Purchase Featured Music


Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music


Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?




Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from