What Is A Musical Costume?

Phish has performed Halloween shows many years - 1988, '89, '90, and '91 as conventional shows; then '94, '95, '96, '98, '09, and '10, by donning "musical costumes", performing three-set shows with the second set being a live performance of an entire album by another band. 

In the summer of 1994, via a radio interview, Phish announced that they would take votes from phans about what album to play for the second set of Halloween of that year. The Beatles' White Album won by a long shot, though with only circa 50 votes (and there were reportedly very few votes overall). The voting was repeated but fudged for 1995: Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage got the most votes, but with insanely complex overdubs, potentially offensive lyrics, and several tunes (esp. "Watermelon in Easter Hay") that Zappa had requested never be performed live again, the band (after learning a considerable amount of it) decided they just couldn't make it sound like it should and chose to instead play Quadrophenia (which reportedly came in second in the voting).

Mocking the Broadway staple Playbill, most of the costume shows have featured a Phishbill to identify the album and the band's relationship to it. Additionally, souveneirs have often been distributed, such as chocolate coins with date, venue, and logo at '94 and '95.

Others have since done things similar.

  • MTV developed a show called "Master Works" in which musicians would perform entire albums of those musicians who influenced them most.
  • A series of three classic albums were covered in New York in 1999: The Roots performed Prince's 1982 album 1999 in its entirety for two shows (Dec. 11 and 12 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, featuring guests including Joan Osborne, Angelique Kidjo, and N'Dea Davenport); a group of jazz musicians performed Miles Davis' Kind of Blue in June; and Chaka Khan, Joe Jackson and others performed songs from five Joni Mitchell albums at a Central Park show in July.
  • Beck organizes the Record Club, "an informal meeting of various musicians to record an album in a day. The album chosen to be reinterpreted is used as a framework. Nothing is rehearsed or arranged ahead of time. A track is put up here once a week. The songs are rough renditions, often first takes that document what happened over the course of a day as opposed to a polished rendering. There is no intention to 'add to' the original work or attempt to recreate the power of the original recording. Only to play music and document what happens."

"There's kind of a competitive edge in the band where we hear somebody and we think 'I want to be able to do that"
-- Trey to Keith Sperar, Times-Picayune 4/26/96

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