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Phry-Phish Tribute Band jams for ‘2 Nights in the Valley’

Nicole Lasee, Entertainment Editor
January 30, 2013
Filed under Entertainment

Known on the media circuit for its 17 albums and notorious fanbase, the illusive band Phish has inspired four musicians to follow in its footsteps of long jam sessions and live stage performances.

The Phry-Phish Tribute Band will make its debut in Green Bay at Frets & Friends bar Feb. 1 at 10 p.m. to kick off its “2 Nights in the Valley.” Phry’s second performance will be at the Cold Shot in Appleton Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. Both nights are 21 and above, admission free. The Phry-Phish Tribute Band will perform four sets with no repeats.

“We all enjoy being a cover band,” said Adam Schultz, guitar and vocalist of Phry. “It has been crazy fun to learn all this music and play for people who love it as much, or more, than we do.”

The Phry-Phish Tribute Band, composed of guitarist Adam Schultz, bassist Mike Gephart, keyboardist Kyle Pfeifer and drummer Dean Tassone, hails from Appleton.

“Our rhythm section, Mike and Dean, has been making music together for more than 15 years,” Schultz said. “I met Mike at work about five years ago and we quickly became musical brothers and he introduced me to Dean.  Three years ago the three of us started making music and it worked, but we wanted to add keys to the mix.  None of us knew the right guy for the job so I put up a post on Craigslist and Kyle responded.  He was a Craigslist find!”

All band members sing vocals for their tribute jams and Phry works to capture the energy of live Phish experiences.

Phry focuses on full-band improvisation and, this year its repertoire hit 100 songs. These jams included Phish originals and standard covers.

“Starting out, a large part of our set list was Phish, and we had all the right instruments, so one day at a practice we dreamt up the idea of doing a Phriday Phish Phry where we’d play Phish tunes all night,” Schultz said. “We played our first Phriday Phish Phry and the response was insane so we decided then to just focus on Phish and renamed the band Phry to reflect an event, not just a normal show.”

Keyboardist Kyle Pfeifer recalls growing up playing classical piano and was introduced to Phish’s album “Billy Breathes,” which was released in 1996. Pfeifer said he was hooked four bars in, and has been a fan ever since. Phish helped Pfeifer realize the variations of achieving tension and release in music and began to like the avant-garde flavor further.

“My introduction to pop music was a mostly self-guided tour resulting in appreciation for quality songwriting, diverse music styles and a fascination with improvisation and the art of jam,” Pfeifer said. “Phish uses clever musical devices like dissonance, 12 tone scales, diminished scales and so on. For someone used to hearing diatonic melodies and harmonies it was like taking a first sip of Scotch — an acquired taste for sure.”

Phry members expressed admiration for being part of the tribute group. Members of Phry were attracted to Phish because of the risks they took as musicians when soloing and their uniqueness as a stage group.

“There is so much latitude and creativity expected in the jams and solos,” Pfeifer said. “As long as we can express our creativity and hone our craft, then I will be happy playing this music. We try to take a jam somewhere other than the established paths Phish often explores.”

Other jam bands include Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, MMW, Widespread Panic and SCI. These bands gained their jam band name from multiple night gigs with no repeats. Their loyal followers are known to move with jam groups from city to city to hear their new musical improvisations, rhythmic grooves and chord patterns that cross former genre boundaries.

“We’ve tried to embrace the spirit of Phish as much as possible with this project which extends beyond the songs,” Schultz said. “For example, we played a two night show in Milwaukee a couple years ago.  It’s sort of a Phishy thing to do and we want that to lend to the experience for everyone.”

Phry hopes to replicate at least a portion of the energy Phish brought to the stage. By recreating Phish originals and adding in its own unique jams, Phry is embarking on the jam band dream of extended improvisations, genre crossing grooves and nurturing loyal fans.

“Phish shows are always a unique and epic experience,” Schultz said. “If we can give even just a taste of that locally, it makes for a super fun night for a Phish fan.  Based on the feedback we get, I think we are able to provide that taste.  But without a doubt, the energy that develops at a Phry is largely dependent on the fans who are there to throw down with us.  When a room is packed full of fans jamming to the music they love, the energy in  the room is amazing.”

Phry’s two-night tribute performance starts at Frets and Friends bar located 2105 University Ave.

Requests for the show can be submitted to the band’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePhry.