I discovered Phish in 1994 playing basketball with my brother. HORSE was our game. We’d play on our blacktop driveway in rural upstate NY while listening to CDs on a Sony boombox. One day my brother brought home Rift. I wasn’t serious about playing keyboards at the time but I was interested in that instrument in general probably because my father played. When I heard Page McConnell play piano and B3 on that album, I was amazed. The piano could sound like that? Wow.
It was soon after that I discovered how prolific the band was with their live performances, all of which were different. There were costumes (musical and otherwise), secret languages, vacuum cleaner solos, a fantasy epic, and extended improvisation (“jamming”). Also a bunch of weird drugged out brilliant people who followed them around.
Phish allows the audience to record and trade their shows as long as no money or promotion is involved. In the nineties, the only way to hear live shows was by trading cassettes with other fans. There was a head shop in Rochester, NY that I would visit whenever I could get someone to drive me (I was 14 at the time). They had a book listing all their Dead and Phish tapes. If you left a cassette they would make you a copy for free. This was how my tape collection grew to about 50 tapes. The era of mp3s soon took over, at which point I stopped adding to my collection.
In 2010 I was at a Phish show discussing tape trading and other ideas with a fellow software engineer. He mentioned he had begun work on an idea we (and many others) had - a website that hosted Phish audience recordings in mp3 format. At the time, the best we had was the “Phish Spreadsheet”, which was a Google spreadsheet of dates linked to Flacs hosted on low end file sharing sites like Mediafire.
My colleague’s vision was to have a simple mobile app where you could quickly navigate and play tracks. My vision was a bit different in that I wanted a desktop version that had a lot of bells and whistles.
We started by creating PhishTracks, importing audio from the Spreadsheet. We released the site in 2012. I then forked that into Phish.in to complete the vision I had individually. True to our original visions, the former works great on mobile while the latter provides more features in a desktop setting. Phish.in also provides an API which powers apps such as Relisten.
Over the last ten years I’ve continued to add features to the site and curate the recordings provided by generous community tapers. To cite a cliche, it’s been a labor of love. I am very lucky to have found this community and this will likely be a lifelong project for me.