Brian and Robert
Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall
Vocals: Trey (lead), Fish,Mike, Page (backing)
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
To the average fan of the intricate, extended, upbeat jams featured in many other Phish songs, “Brian and Robert” is everything they hate: slow, reserved, simple, and completely un-danceable. The song is, however, a lyrical masterpiece, an ironic description of the epitome of what a Phish fan is not: a detached, morose, lost soul who finds no joy in life. Someone who would rather be at home in their TV seat, since there is no one they would care to meet. They are the solitary diner, the loner on the playground, the grumpy old man that bangs on the apartment wall when the stereo is too loud. “Brian and Robert” (named for Eno and Fripp) calls out to the lost soul and hopes to save them from their self-imposed misery.
Musically it is a lilting melody riding a mellow swell of ambient hues. No, the song does not jam, but the message it bears should register loud and clear: life – much like the music of Phish – is to be enjoyed and shared with others. Since the song’s debut at the Grey Hall in Freetown Christiana, Copenhagen, Denmark (6/30/98) the live versions of “Brian and Robert” have not strayed far from the studio release in style or duration. The resonating whine of an empty TV screen, a stylistic underpinning of the song directly borrowed from and presumably in tribute to the work of Robert Fripp, was reproduced perfectly in the constructive feedback that closed the 7/15/98 Portland version.
Trey Anastasio, "Brian and Robert" – 2/16/10, New York, NY
“Brian and Robert” has been performed as an acoustic arrangement on several occasions by both Phish (10/18/98 Bridge School Benefit) and Trey solo during Trey Anastasio solo first sets (e.g. 2/15/99, 5/3/99 and 5/8/99) and a rare open mic night appearance (4/12/99 at Sweetwater’s, Mill Valley, CA) prior to the Phil and Friends run at the Warfield. Trey also performed the song at the Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall (2/22/99) accompanied by Nawang Khechog on Tibetan long flute and Foday Musa Suso on kora. Nawang Khechog reprised this role on 7/31/99 when Phish played the tune at the Fuji Rock Festival. The 9/11/00 version at Great Woods was also notable as it was accompanied by a sign language interpreter. The last pre-hiatus “Brian and Robert” was delivered like an unexpected psychic gut-punch from a good friend; sandwiched between the rather celebratory and upbeat performances of “Golgi Apparatus” and “Bold As Love” that closed the second set of the first night at Shoreline (10/6/00).
The first two post-hiatus performances were both much less painful: the first materialized out of the silence which followed the piano solo tail of "The Squirming Coil” midway through the first set in Denver (2/18/03); the second it was served up as a palate cleansing sorbet between the spicier “Gumbo” and “Taste” that closed the first seating of the 4/16/04 “Three of a Kind” buffet. "Brian and Robert" was in fairly regular rotation during Trey's 2005 tour, appeared once in 2006, and enjoyed another resurgence in 2008. Phish continued the light-but-steady rotation of the song in "3.0" including performances at Hampton (3/7/09), acoustic at Festival 8 (11/1/09) and at Merriweather (6/27/10).
Phish, "Brian and Robert" – 11/1/09, Indio, CA
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This one was for me. I disagree that Phish phans are not the subjects of this song--the feelings expressed are those which Phish, for me, is the antidote for. I have those feelings of isolation sometimes -- perhaps it would be different if I lived on the raft as some can. When the boys played this at F8, it brought me to tears because it spoke to me so forcefully. This song is truly an example of their musical mastery -- a simple song, calmly delivered, intense in its softness that lands with the force of any blasting jammer.We are saying the same thing I think...Phish is the antidote...you may have these feelings but the music takes them away...however briefly.