November 2002

After a two-year hiatus filled with solo records and tours, Phish played together as a group in November at a series of recorded practices that took place at Trey’s barn in Vermont. By the time Trey Anastasio‘s solo tour began in Burlington in late October, Phish had already laid down the basic tracks for their first album since spring of 2000, Round Room.

As November began, Fish joined his side band Pork Tornado on their first national tour in support of their first studio record. Having released both an album ( by Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon) and a film (Rising Low) in October, Mike hit the road in November with guitar legend Leo Kottke in support of their new album. Page’s band, Vida Blue had toured earlier in the summer and would record another album the following spring. For the first time in history for a few days at the beginning of November, Trey, Mike and Leo and Pork Tornado were basically touring separately but simultaneously.

Trey’s tour kicked off in Burlington at the end of October and was already nearing its end in November with the last two shows of the tour taking place November 1st and 2nd. Trey performed on November 1st with his band at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, performing an instrumental rendition of Bob Marley’s Small Axe with his ten-piece band that was good enough to land on his first solo live album, which was released the following April. Fish also played on the 1st with Pork Tornado at Slim’s in San Francisco. The following night, Pork Tornado played at Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, performing two raucous sets of their trademark heady party funk. Meanwhile, Trey played on the 2nd at Pompano Beach Amphitheatre in Florida, finishing his short fall tour with a show that yielded another track for Plasma – his rendition of Page’s Magilla performed during soundcheck.

The Pork Tornado tour continued across the West, as far South as New Orleans and Texas and through the Midwest before wrapping up in Clifton Park, New York. Meanwhile, Leo Kottke and Mike took their tour on the road after a couple of introductory performances in New York. The Leo and Mike tour kicked off in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and continued for twelve shows in fifteen days during November. Their tour ended at Colorado’s Boulder Theatre, a venue Mike had played with Phish in the early 1990’s. Performing a mix of Leo and Mike’s solo material and songs from their new album, they made their way across the country with no crew and their guitars on their backs. The shows consisted of a single set of music performed with Mike on bass and Leo on guitar. The songs were well played with a good deal of improvising and both performers peppered the audiences with quick wit. While Mike toured with Leo, he was also reviewing Malcolm Burns’ mixes of his first solo album,, which was released in fall 2003.

With Fish and Mike still touring, producer Bryce Goggin, engineer Pete Carini and the remaining band members resumed work on Round Room on November 4th. They continued round the clock through the 6th, at which point the album was ready to be mastered by Fred Kevorkian at Absolute Audio. The final master of Round Room was approved on November 12th. That same day, Phish’s first live concert DVD, was released. The DVD consists of a complete concert recorded September 30, 2000, among the last concerts the band performed before departing on their extended hiatus. On the DVD, Trey explained the hiatus to the audience, likening the Phish experience to a gift of a precious apple he couldn’t eat and promising the band would return someday (see TMIPH September 2000). Work on Round Room continued through most of the month, as radio edits were prepared of 46 Days, Friday and Walls of the Cave. When not busy with Round Room, Trey found time to work with Brad Sands and old friend Chris Cottrell compiling live tracks for Plasma, which was completed in December.

On the 24th, the band began practicing for their return to the stage scheduled for December 31. About that time, they were booked to make their first appearance as a band on Saturday Night Live (Al Gore hosted) in early December, which coincided with the release of Round Room. Amidst planning for SNL and holiday shows, practice continued on the 25th and was combined that day with a Danny Clinch photo shoot at Page’s house and Trey’s barn. After one more rehearsal on the 27th, the band and crew took a few days off to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families before returning to rehearsals in early December.