- SXSW 2014
A Live One plays for free on Friday
Austin band A Live One is dosing with the ultimate Phish tribute. Recently Neil Ferguson sat down with lead guitarist Josh Pearson for a heady conversation about all things Phish.
The band Phish rarely travels to Austin, which is strange considering that there’s certainly no shortage of hippies here and, from personal experience, I can say there are plenty of Phish phans in Austin. To add insult to injury, the Vermont jam legends recently played a show in Oklahoma. OKLAHOMA! Sure, they played ACL Festival in 2010, which got rid of the painful Phish withdrawal many of us phans feel on a regular basis, but ultimately the appearance just left us craving more. If Phish just wanted to come to Austin and piss in our ears the phans would be waiting with open arms.
However, Austin phans collectively shared a sigh of relief after an Umphrey’s McGee show on April 20, 2011 when they were gifted with the next best thing to Phish on the indoor stage of Stubb’s: a Phish tribute band and a damn good one at that. A Live One (named after Phish’s first official live album release) was started by Josh Pearson and Dan McGreevy, the lead guitarist and drummer from legendary local jam band Moving Matter.
“Moving Matter was slowing down and we weren’t really writing new tunes or playing much. Danny really wanted to start a Phish tribute band and was the one who got it going,” says Josh Pearson.
After trying it out with some different musicians Josh and Danny eventually got serious and connected with Wes Haynes, the keyboard player behind the J Wesley Haynes Trio, who was in to the idea. The band tried out some jams, hit if off, and found bass player Mike Boyd on Craigslist, who Josh insists they didn’t hire because of his name.
“Within the first song, which was “Bathtub Gin,” we knew Mike was perfect for the project. He was an amazing bass player and just vibed really well,” says Josh.
After the first performance at Stubb’s the band realized just how much Austin Phish phans missed their favorite band, and A Live One took off with regular gigs around town, as well as packed shows in San Marcos and Dallas.
The band members may be having a good time, but these guys are serious about Phish. Josh and Danny went to their first Phish show in 1994 and have since managed to catch the band live on semi-regular basis. Wes Haynes and Mike Boyd are also major phans and got in to the band around the same time.
Recalling his first show, Josh says, “I was 16 and had just gotten in to playing guitar. I had a bunch of beers on the way to the show, but I remember seeing Phish and thinking these guys aren’t that good. I thought Page was doing all of the work. I was so new to the jam scene, and I thought their lyrics were weird.”
Like most fans of the band, the sound clicked for Josh two years later when he saw them at Alpine Valley and had the type of experience more conducive to a Phish show (wink wink). When asked what his favorite Phish show of all time is, Josh said seeing the band play their famous millennium gig at Big Cypress Indian Reservation in Florida where they played for nearly 8 hours.
So what’s next for A Live One?
Since they started the band has built up a loyal following in Austin and just got back from a well-received Colorado run that kicked off at the tail end of Phish’s summer tour, which ended with a 3 night run at Dick’s Park near Denver. If you know anything about Phish it’s that some of their most hard core fanbase is in Colorado, and if a Phish tribute band can do well there they can pretty much do well anywhere.
Back in Austin, the band is working on learning some of the more difficult Phish compositions. “Some of the Phish tunes are so technical, and a lot of it lies on me because Trey [Anastasio] usually writes the tough compositions. Right now we’re working on ‘You Enjoy Myself’ and ‘Divided Sky,’ ” says Josh.
Besides mastering Phish’s material, A Live One has also covered acts such as Prince, Talking Heads, and Huey Lewis. The band has even followed Phish’s famous tradition of playing a musical costume on Halloween where they choose an album and cover it in entirety. Expect them to be dropping some hints soon for their “Big Halloween Bash” at Antone’s.
“There’s been great demand for different cover bands, and even though it’s kind of a joke to us, a lot of people really like it,” says Josh.
The band will also be kicking off UTOPiAfest (see our ARTICLE on UTOPiAfest) with a special late night show to welcome people in to the festival with some Phishy goodness. A Live Onemay not be aspiring to become a major act, but for right now they are just having a great time playing Phish tunes and giving Texas phans a taste of their favorite band.
“As musicians, I don’t think any of us want to be just known for our tribute band, but for right now it’s a lot of fun and we really enjoy it,” says Josh.
Moving Matter reunites for a show at The Sahara Lounge tonight!