It wasn't until their 1988 debut; that Phish had become an institution in certain sections of America, particularly college campuses. And their in-concert popularity didn't necessarily translate to huge record sales; their biggest-selling albums usually halted at gold status. Still, Phish were the de facto leaders of the neo-hippie jam band movement until deciding to go on hiatus in 2000.
Guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, and guitarist Jeff Holdsworth formed the band in late 1983 while attending the University of Vermont. After meeting and jamming in their dormitory, the trio posted flyers across campus, recruiting a bassist. Mike Gordon answered the advertisement and he was soon added to the original lineup.
The group began practicing regularly and soon assembled a demo tape. In the fall of 1984, Phish began performing off-campus concerts. At this stage in their career, the band was augmented by percussionist Marc Daubert and, occasionally, a vocalist called the "Dude of Life". Soon, the group was playing concerts on nearby campuses, including Goddard College's Spring fest in 1985. Page McConnell organized the Spring fest at Goddard and he became a fan of the band. Later in the year, McConnell convinced the group to add him as a keyboardist. Shortly after McConnell joined Phish, Holdsworth left the group. In the fall of 1986, Anastasio and Fishman transferred to Goddard College.
Early in 1988, Phish recorded Junta, which they sold at their shows as a cassette-only release. In 1989, the group played their first tour outside of New England states, traveling through the Southeast. Phish also recorded their second album, Lawn Boy, in 1989, although the album wasn't released until the fall of 1990; the record was released on the independent label Absolute A-Go-Go, a subsidiary of Rough Trade. Throughout early 1991, Phish tickets were selling out everywhere on their summer tour. They even recorded their third album, as well as a set of sessions with their old friend, the "Dude of Life".
They would go on to release "A Picture of Nectar" in February of 1992. After its release, the group embarked on an extensive national tour. In the summer, Phish played a handful of shows on the first H.O.R.D.E. tour. Also that summer, they reissued "Lawn Boy" and "Junta". Rift, the band's fourth album and the first they recorded with a producer, appeared in February of 1993. During Phish's 1993 tour, Phish tickets were specifically designed for fans taping the concert, a major gesture of goodwill. Hoist, the band's fifth album, was released in 1994; one of its songs, "Down with Disease," became the band's first video and received some airplay on MTV. Hoist sold better than the group's previous albums, which was an indication of how large the group's fan base had gotten. In the fall of 1994, Crimes of the Mind, the album Phish recorded with the Dude of Life in 1991, was released on Elektra Records.
Having been exhausted by constant touring, Phish decided to take an extended break, announcing a temporary breakup in October 2000. Having realized, they were more a part of American culture than they had thought, they made an appearance on TV show "The Simpson's" before releasing a massive set of live albums and a DVD in the spring of 2002. By the end of the year, the group bowed to fan pressure and came back with the announcement that they would begin to play live again starting at the end of December. They played shows through the following year and a half, and then decided to officially call it quits in the summer of 2004.
However by 2006, the band was itching to reunite and by October of 2008 it was a reality as Phish tickets went on sale for three reunion shows scheduled for March 2009 at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. The band has announced ten dates for a summer tour in June and, according to Rolling Stone magazine they are rumored to be a headline act at Bonnaroo.