Music/Lyrics: Gordon, Linitz
Vocals: Mike (lead); Trey, Page (backing)
Albums: Round Room
Historian: Julia Mordaunt; Mockingbird Staff
When Phish entered The Barn in October 2002 to practice for its upcoming post-hiatus return to the stage, no one expected the result to be a new album. In four days Round Room was born, a name derived from a song Mike brought to the floor.
Mike’s songwriting partner Joe Linitz wrote the lyrics to “Round Room,” sockless, about living forms and spaces that are constricting or pleasant. Linitz imagined the gesture people form with their hands when “making a box” to describe being walled in or constricted. “Come to think of it, it was something like Al Gore used to do when he said ‘lock box’,” shares Linitz.
The inclusion of the line “I went to the lighthouse and I liked the view” was not necessarily an allusion to Virginia Woolf’s 1927 novel To The Lighthouse, but of course, it’s nice to think it was. Despite rewrites, Mike only changed one word from the original lyrics; “The people that surround me are waiting out there” was originally scrawled, “The boxes that surround me are waiting out there.”
"Round Room" – 2/16/03, Las Vegas, NV (Part 1)
"Round Room" – 2/16/03, Las Vegas, NV (Part 2)
Mike then carried the finished lyrics to his office in the historic Woolworth Building in New York City, where he wrote the poppy backdrop and recorded it with his 4-track deck. Although the song was penned with a 9/8 signature, Gordon admits that it wasn’t the original intention. Mike said that when writing, he likes to plop one rhythm over another even if the end results don’t fit together in a completely normal way. The result was both an upbeat and placid ballad.
The band performed the song for the first time live at the Hampton Coliseum on 1/2/03. Played only a handful of times in 2003, the appearance of “Round Room” in Phish setlists is a rarity, but it continues to grow as a fan favorite. After a 140-show absence from the Phish stage, fans were rewarded on 1/1/11 with an appropriate appearance of the song at the decidedly round Madison Square Garden. In addition to the Phish lineup, “Round Room” made its way into the setlists of Mike Gordon’s Inside In solo tour in the fall of 2003.
“Round Room” now joins the ranks of “Billy Breathes,” “Farmhouse,” "Joy," “Lawn Boy,” “Rift,” and “Story of the Ghost” as a song that’s not only a fan favorite, but as a song that lends its name to the album title on which it appears, a gesture that Gordon describes as “touching.”
And hey, doesn’t everyone want a round room at the end of the day? That, my friends, is what I call coming full circle.
"Round Room" – 1/1/11, New York, NY