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The Phishing Manual

The Phishing Manual: A Compendium to the Music of Phish

Review by Sam Davis of Dog Gone Blog

For his book, The Phishing Manual, A Compendium to the Music of Phish, Relix Executive Editor and longtime Phish fan Dean Budnick etched an account of Phish’s origins and history, starting with the band’s initial meeting at the University of Vermont in 1983, and tracing their rise to fame up until 1996. The Phishing Manual is very much, as its title states, a manual for fans, offering an account of the band’s history, in addition to insights on Phish compositions, covers, gags, people associated with the band, as well as extensive tape recommendations, concert reviews and setlists. The book was one of the first to be written on Phish, published on December 12, 1996.

The book begins with Budnick’s brief account of Phish’s history, a straightforward, yet informative account that offers facts that may even surprise some of the more knowledgeable fans. Since only a single volume of The Phishing Manual was published, the history stops following Phish’s famed 1995 New Year’s Eve run at the Worcester Centrum andMadisonSquareGarden. However, the history is only a small part of this manual, which could fill the tote of any fan looking to gain a greater perspective on some of the best versions of songs or particular tapes to seek out.

One of the big selling of this points of The Phishing Manual is the way Budnick—a Phish veteran with over 1500 hours in tape and more than 100 shows under his belt at the time of publication—delivers these recommendations from the perspective of a geeky fan present from the band’s very early years. Take this passage from the “Bathtub Gin” song history: “one final ‘Bathtub Gin’ fact is that the lyrics to this song were composed by a friend of the band named Suzannah Goodman. If you can catch her on a good night and ask nicely, she’s been known to sing this one with a phan or two.” Each song history includes a detailed history of its origins, along with best versions, atypical versions and other tidbits like guest appearances and so on. All come from the personable voice of this humble, geeky, yet delightfully informative fan.

The Phishing Manual is divided up into Phish-themed chapter names like “Vermont’s Phinest” (history), “Welcome to Gamehendge” (song histories), “If I Only Had a Brain” (covers), “Secret Language,” “Phriends,” “Phishing Lures” (show reviews), and “Bagged and Tagged” (setlists) in a small, novel-size format that makes it one of the more transportable Phish compendiums. Today, copies of the book are hard to come by but if you search the interwebs hard enough or poke around a veteran fan’s bookshelves, you just might find one.

Buy a copy of The Phishing Manual here.

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