|Originally Performed By||Radiohead|
|Original Album||Kid A (2000)|
|Historian||Robert Ker (bobbker)|
In the mid-1980s, a handful of students got together and formed a rock band on campus. Inspired by artists such as Neil Young and Talking Heads, possessing a collective vision for a particular sound of their own, and spurred by a restless curiosity and desire to explore, they practiced relentlessly through the decade, gigging throughout their college town, and steadily attracting a following.
In 1993, their hard work began to show dividends. They broke through to wider audiences across America, and this success invigorated them. Now that they had secured a fanbase, they continued to refine and evolve their sound, catapulting them to career milestones in 1995 and then, in what is arguably their apex, 1997. In the years and decades that followed, they continued to mine new creative paths and found innovative ways to use the internet, staying ahead of their peers and transforming what the fan-artist relationship could look like.
Remarkably, the core members of the band are all still together now—making them one of the longest-tenured rock bands on the planet—and furthermore, they’re still creating new music that’s as vital as ever. You can expect a record every few years, and they’re renowned for their incredible live performances accompanied by ambitious lighting rigs. They’re still capable of selling out Madison Square Garden for several nights in a row, with some fans attending entire runs. Throughout it all, Radiohead has stayed true to themselves and the creative journey they embarked on back when they were young lads in Oxfordshire.
Wait, did you think I was talking about someone else?
Phish and Radiohead have enjoyed career paths of remarkable similarity, and are in rarified air as bands who have retained the same lineup for so long—only acts like U2 and the Rolling Stones are similar company, and they aren’t writing new songs fans generally want to hear.
These career paths, however, have taken the two bands in many different directions. Phish is beloved by their fans in part for their goofy sense of humor and elaborate pranks, which puts critics off. Radiohead is arguably the most humorless band of all time, and also might be the most critically adored band of all time. You will never be considered uncool for throwing on In Rainbows when guests are over. In most company, this is not the case with Hoist.
Musically, despite being prog-adjacent bands with mutual admiration—Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien is a noted fan and friend of Phish—their sounds exist in different universes. Radiohead plumbs the endless depths of studio possibilities, while Phish endeavors to keep pushing the boundaries of their stage show. Lyrically, Radiohead explores the isolation inherent in our technological age. Phish prefers to sing about how we’re one beating heart on a Soul Planet. It’s difficult to think of a single Radiohead song that sounds like Phish, and the most Radiohead-sounding song in the entire Phish catalog might be humble old “Fikus.”
Ed O'Brien with Trey Anastasio & Mike Gordon at Phish Halloween in 2016. Courtesy of Rene Huemer.
Yet the parallel journeys of the two bands veered into an intersection on 08/04/17, when Phish performed “Everything In Its Right Place,” the first song on Radiohead’s celebrated 2000 album Kid A, as part of “Lemon Night” of the donut-themed Baker’s Dozen run at Madison Square Garden. The song’s opening synthesizer chords materialized out of a quiet passage in a “No Men in No Man’s Land” jam, with Trey creating sounds on his pedals and Jon Fishman singing through processed filters and echo effects, attempting to approximate Yorke’s ghost-in-the-machine wail. The song was played as a vehicle to sneak the line “Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon” into "Lemon Night," and the line became a running gag throughout the remainder of the show, appearing again in “What’s the Use?,” “Prince Caspian,” “Fluffhead,” and “Frankenstein.”
It must be said: most Phish performances benefit from attendance bias, and very few songs in their history have taken more advantage of it than “Everything In Its Right Place.” If you were in the arena, the Radiohead drop was a thrilling surprise that melded Radiohead’s singular brand of psychedelia into Phish’s. The next day, however, you likely woke up sucking a lemon when you heard the playback, as the recording comes off flat, repetitive, and off-key. It’s perfectly understandable: “Everything In Its Right Place” is a song that benefits heavily from studio wizardry, a full-time approach to replicating that sound in a concert setting, and Thom Yorke’s unique vocals. It’s so futile to attempt to recreate that song live if you’re not Radiohead that it doesn’t feel coincidental that Phish followed the song with “What’s the Use?”
For these reasons, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see “Everything In Its Right Place” again, the way we’ve seen Baker’s Dozen cover debuts such as “Strawberry Letter 23” and “You Sexy Thing” re-emerge in later tours. You can never say “never” with Phish, but for now, it appears the connection between them and Radiohead intersected briefly on that night in 2017, before returning to the right place on their regular trajectories.Phish ”Everything In Its Right Place” – 08/04/17, New York, NY. Video by William Corcoran
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