DeadPhish Orchestra at Lyric: Alive and doing swimmingly!
By Shelley Koppel
St. Lucie Voice
Take a few friends who loved playing the music of both the Grateful Dead and another great jam band, Phish, and a desire to form their own group … and the result is the DeadPhish Orchestra.
Paul Murin, guitarist for the group of Colorado musicians who will take the stage at Stuart’s Lyric Theatre on Oct. 7, spoke about why this blending of two very different bands worked and about why they picked the name.
“There’s a very well-known Dead tribute band, Dark Star Orchestra,” he said. “They’re an outstanding Grateful Dead cover band. (Our) band was just getting started and we had a show and no name. As a joke, we picked DeadPhish Orchestra as a joke, a partial riff on their name. Seven years later, it stuck.
“It’s sort of an inside joke to people who (love) this sort of music. A couple of us were Deadheads and we all knew the music. I’m 46 and I saw them in my teens and early 20s. Phish came along in the 1990s and we followed them avidly.”
Murin said that while the sounds are very different, with the bluesy sound of the dead and the edgier sound of Phish, there is a common thread.
“The thread for both is that they’re jam bands,” he said. “It’s very natural to mix the two. It made sense to me. Some people find it kind of strange, but the improvised nature gives us a chance to be creative and find ways to blur the lines between the bands. The songs are not that similar. I consider then cousins, branches of the same tree. The common thread is that both bands tend to write songs that serve mainly as vehicles for improvising.”
For Murin, the ability to improvise so much is important to him. “I’ve played in cover bands and that’s fun,” he said. “This music gives us a lot of room for our own creativity. That’s why we like it so much. “
The guitarist noted that the 500-seat Lyric is about the size of their typical venue.
“We don’t normally play bigger places,” he said. “We’re accustomed to playing clubs, with people dancing in our faces. This is more of a performance, but we’re hoping it will be a fun show. We try to go pretty much fifty-fifty Grateful Dead versus Phish. We alternate or break that rule. There’s a lot of improvisation. Sometimes we even surprise ourselves. There’s a little banter but (the audience) would rather us shut up and play.
“The nice thing about our fans is that they know the catalogs inside and out. The more obscure, the happier (they are). We dig really deep into the catalogs of both bands and play the popular songs, too, to make it a good show. We have almost 300 songs in our repertoire. Some of my favorites are the Dead’s “Help is on the Way,” which I love a whole lot, and Phish’s “Divided Sky” and “You Enjoy Myself.”
Murin said he feels the spirit of both bands when he performs.
“The music gets played with a lot of love,” he said.
“There’s a whole lot of history in that music. Musicians who play this kid really love what they do. You feel like you’re part of something much larger.”
The Lyric Theatre, 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart, presents DeadPhish Orchestra Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35.
Call the box office at 772-286-7827 or order online at www.lyrictheatre.com.