Vocals: Trey (lead), Page (backing)
Historian: Mockingbird Staff
Last Update: 2013-12-20
“Brother” debuted with a bang in 1991. It was the first song played on the fall 1991 tour, and was played in four of the tour’s first five shows. It was the perfect addition to the Phish repertoire, combining quirky lyrics with an odd, dissonant jam. Though subsequent years saw the technique used in originals like “Taste” and “Limb By Limb,” “Brother” was the first Phish original to feature a jam that centered upon Arabic-sounding solos. Trey mentioned in an interview that he wrote “Brother” to have a song with a “sick” jamming section.
“Brother” remained a song that did not jam outside of itself, but the searing solos provided by Trey and those fun lyrics (complete with warbling at the end of the song) endeared the song to fans. Twice, on 11/20/91 and 3/24/92, the band used “Brother” to showcase the talents of Carl “Geerz” Gerhard on trumpet or cornet.
"Brother" – 3/24/92, Richmond, VA
The song was still played regularly in the spring of 1992 and likely reached its humor pinnacle on April 17 of that year. In the middle of the band’s legendary west coast run of shows, Phish played “Brother” while family, friends, and road crew members literally jumped into a bathtub that was placed on stage! To the band’s credit, they didn’t take the easy joke and follow with “Bathtub Gin.” Though it remained a regular soundcheck number, it was not heard again until the zany 8/2/93 show in Tampa. And then, for some reason, the band stopped jumping in the tub.
Fans missed “Brother,” and they let it be known on the internet and at shows. One example was caught on tape on 12/14/95 (released as Live Phish 01). At the start of the encore, Trey remarked that the band was going to play a song for a fan holding a sign. One fan holding a “Brother” sign up front got visibly excited but Trey quickly brought him back down: he was referring to another fan, who was holding a “Bold as Love” sign. Said Trey, “You gotta bring a sign, but you also have to bring a sign for something that we want to play.”
"Brother" – 6/21/09, East Troy, WI
It took a pair of ice cream moguls from Vermont to finally bring “Brother” back on 8/17/96 after over a 258-show absence. Ben and Jerry sat in on vocals in their own backyard when Phish played The Clifford Ball. Fans were treated to four more versions in 1996, none in 1997, and only two in 1998, before the song was tossed back on the shelf until a single performance on 9/27/00 (153 show gap), and then not again until the classic 7/29/03 Star Lake gig. After one more version that summer at IT on 8/2/03, “Brother” was back on the shelf until after the break(up).
Bringing back the bathtub – with all band members now being parents – “Brother” has taken on new meaning as Phish’s Father's Day tradition. "Brother" opened the 6/21/09 Alpine Valley show with a whole new generation of Phish family members, as each of the band members' children jumped into an onstage bathtub. The bathtub returned on the next three Father’s Day gigs, on 6/20/10 at SPAC, 6/19/11 at the nTelos Pavilion and 6/17/12 at Atlantic City's Bader Field. Soon we’ll need a bigger tub!
"Brother" – 6/19/11, Portsmouth, VA
One fan-favorite version wasn’t played for an audience. Seek out the 5/5/93 soundcheck to hear the band jam “Brother” in a unique, loose atmosphere. If guest percussion is your bag (which works quite well with this song), go for 10/23/96 with Bob Gullotti or 10/31/96 with Karl Perazzo. And for a “Brother” with some stage banter and a serious jam taboot, grab your copy of 4/4/98 (every fan should be born with one!) for the humorous “Brother” and subsequent “radio friendly” reprise.