Band-Supported Causes

The Phish Organization has been actively involved in numerous philanthropic projects (benefit concerts, grant making, hosting organizations at shows, etc.) since the early 1990's. Phish has performed a number of benefit concerts over the years, most recently Farm Aid in Chicago and the Bridge School Benefits near San Francisco. Closer to home, the band sets aside a portion of each year's net profits for direct grants to charitable organizations close to home, working on environmental concerns, social issues, and the arts in Vermont.

Greenpeace: Phish first met Mike Hayes in the summer of 1992 when they toured with Santana for several weeks. At the time, Mike was staffing the Greenpeace table on the Santana tour, signing up new members and raising awareness. When the Santana tour ended, Mike expressed interest in hosting a Greenpeace table on future Phish tours and we agreed. Along the way, Henry Schwab joined Mike at the table and the two became fixtures on Phish's tours (essentially beginning 4/17/92, although they were not at some shows for the first two years, e.g. 7.17.93.) In addition to representing Greenpeace, their table also became a a source of positive energy for fans, a gathering place for activists, and (in Fall 1995) the audience's strategy headquarters for the Band vs. Audience chess match. Over the years, many have helped a the table, including Amy Noel, Matt and Mike Beck, Joeann Costa, Russ Kreitman, and Rick Stansby.

The Touring Division began in 1997, the same year that Phish became involved in the efforts to clean up Lake Champlain. (Look for their tables inside, one on each side of the arena -- aka Page-side and Fishman-side, which is now Trey-side.) Since the WaterWheel's Touring Division began in 1997, you, the fans, have raised over $77,000 and helped 70 non-profits!

In the Fall of 1997, as part of a major restructuring, Greenpeace discontinued their touring division, and a philanthropic void was left that had to be filled. With Mike and Henry's assistance, the WaterWheel's Touring Division was born. Its mission is to help non-profits raise awarenesss and funds at Phish shows. Phish started the Touring Division to help non-profits in each city that the band plans, in particular, organizations working on issues such as homelessness, low-income health care, clean water, organic gardens, and women's and children's concerns. From these guidelines, Mike and Henry research organizations in the various cities on the tour and select a different local group to table at each show. All the proceeds raised at a particular show (including sales of WaterWheel t-shirts and other merchandise, raffles, and donation) go directly to the organization tabling at that show, after deducting a small fee to help cover the program's overhead. (For the Fall 1997 tour, they also invited Rock the Vote to join us at as many shows as they can attend to register voters.) If you are interested in helping out, talk to anyone at the WaterWheel table, and/or see contact info, below. 


Intro: Phish created the non-profit WaterWheel Foundation in 1997 to oversee the band's charitable activities. Initially established to oversee contributions toward the Lake Champlain clean-up, the foundation now continues and establishedtouring program and now manages Phish's long-standing Vermont-based giving program

Chris Prang ran the touring devision from 2002 to the end. (thanks to Libby!)

Some Phish shows have had explicit political or social beneficiaries:

  • A show 4-6-85 at Finbar's (for which admission was one dollar!) served as an Oxfam benefit and raised money for Central American humanitarian aid via the Tools for Peace and Justice in Central America effort.
  • --88 was a benefit for NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).
  • 4/15/89 was a benefit for VPIRG (Vermont Public Interest Research Group)
  • 5-16-95 was "a three-band benefit that raised more than $30,000 for for Voters for Choice, a national committee to help elect candidates who support abortion rights." (Paul Robicheau, Boston Globe) The show featured Gloria Steinheim as the opening "act", nine debuts (six originals and three covers), a "Gloria" encore, t'boot!
  • Some proceeds from 7-2-95 went to support the King Street after-school program. (More information would be appreciated.)
  • 10/17-18/98 and again 10/--99, Bridge School Benefit. (See also Concert Guide.)
  • 10/3/98 Farm Aid (webcast) Trey made specific mention of Vermont congressmen Patrick Lahey and __ and of Farm Aid's efforts to stop expansion of the first factory farm in Vermont.
  • At a number of shows (examples), Phish has encouraged people to bring canned goods.

In perhaps only one interview, Trey's made specific political statements, printed in Rollingstone 's October 23 issue (Bill Clinton on the cover). RS asked musicians for their opinion about "Lewinskygate" and included a reponse by "Trey Anastasio - Phish guitarist: "Clinton may be guilty of a lapse of judgment, but Kenneth Starr is a politically motivated, narrow-minded dirt bag. Privacy is a fundamental right in a democracy. If we allow Kenneth Starr to dismantle this presidency over basic issues of privacy, we'll have taken a dangerous step toward censorship and the loss of individual and personal freedom."

The only explicitly political song in their original repertoire was "Dear Mrs. Reagan", which hasn't been played since sometime prior to the presidential election in 1988. (Page's "Army of One", a Vida Blue song that PHish has played, e.g. 7/12/03 and 8/3/03, is not explicitly political, but is full of references to the warwongering of the time in which it was written and played.) However, discussions on Phish.Net occassionally address implicit sociopolitically ethicultural ideas. And Trey has written about The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday that, "It turns out that the revolution is funded thru Palmer's extorition of Wilson's money. (Shades of America in the eighties.)"


"I also think that when you go to play music, you're there to play music. you're there to play music. You're not there to spread any particular... If you're Bob Marley you're there to spread a message, but very few people can do that effectively without shoving opinions down someone's throat. When I go on stage man I just want people to have fun, I don't want people to think about their problems, I want people to get energy and nutrition and food from that so they can go back into the real world and work on their problems. I don't want them to think about that shit when they're there, and I don't want to think about it." -- Jon Fishman,  11/7/96 is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.

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