Updated: Feb 28
Some people have been catching the great jam-band, Phish, for decades! But Phish can be SO far away from you! The Philipsburg LaunchPad has a solution on Saturday, March 4th, where you can groove close to home with a top-class Phish Tribute band from Scranton: Don't miss "iSH!" Tickets are available NOW!!!
Steve Dixon (piano), Bob Scorey (drums), Eamonn Geraghty (bass) and Andy Sleboda (guitars) are "iSH!"
When Steve Dixon started listening to Andy Sleboda about forming a Phish Tribute band, Steve needed led to the water. The two had played together around the Scranton area through various lineups over the years and Andy thought a side-gig as a Phish Tribute band was called for. That they would wind up bringing that show to "phans" in the hinterlands of Philipsburg, Pa. may or may not have phactored into the equation. So to help this party down this Saturday, March 4, at 7 p.m. at the LP, we thought we'd have a chat with Steve Dixon, who plays keyboards with "iSH!", and also with a special phan who has been to roughly 250 Phish shows and who will be spending a special night with us Saturday. Fans first! Ryan O'Neill, of Altoona, is this week celebrating his his 40th birthday and 20th anniversary of Phish shows. Epic. I know. "Yeah," said O'Neill. "My last (Phish show) was New Year's Eve at Madison Square Garden." O'Neill has celebrated 13 new years with Phish; ten at MSG and three in Miami.
"My next show will probably not be until summer in Alabama or Georgia," said O'Neill, who appreciates catching a Phish show closer to home.
Ryan O'Neill (left), his fiancee Kristal Oknefski with Brett McDivitt of Philadelphia 8.1.21 in Alpharetta, Georgia!
"I was pretty shocked, actually, the first time I heard a Phish cover band was coming to Philipsburg," said O'Neill. "My first two 'iSH!' shows were a lot of fun and exceeded my expectations. They have definitely captured the essence of Phish, which is not an easy thing to accomplish based on the complex nature of the music. You can definitely hear the years of practice that have gone into learning the solos and riffs that it takes to pull it off."
Dixon can testify. "What makes Phish different and interesting is that they often do not play the songs in the same format every time. Each performance of a song is a unique take on it and as such leaves so much room for exciting things to happen." O'Neill says a given song in a live show can be 6 minutes in one performance and 35 in the next and it is this improvisation phans are looking for. He describes in one early show he attended where drummer Jon Fishman came out and started - no lie and you have to see it to believe it - playing a vacuum.
The LaunchPad's own Steve Dixon dishes on 'iSH!'
"Phish will often change the progessions/tempos/time signatures on the fly in the middle of a well known song," says Dixon. "And make this whole new thing out of it. Sometimes they make huge mistakes! It takes very competent musicians that can all adjust on the fly like that and it showcases how amazing these guys are on their instruments and in music in general."
So. I'm understanding here. You roadmap a song and there are different routes home and someone has to steer? I asked Dixon if 'iSH!' does that. "We certainly try!" said Dixon. "We definitely have our favorite songs that we have favorite versions of and do a lot of copy-catting and emulating what the big boys are doing. But we also do try, when stepping out and doing the improvisation, to be ourselves and do our own 'tricks' as it were." Dixon describes how hard that is.
Steve Dixon, keyboardist for iSH!, says he spends most nights watching Andy Sleboda's fret hand 'like a weather vane!"
"I am not as deeply educated on Phish as Andy and Eamonn so I am often trying very hard to find the groove and fit into the Page McConnell box. Most nights I am watching Andy's left hand like a weather vane. He is absolutely driving the bus most of the time. But that is also something we've been working on. The other guys all have the capability to change the groove and try new things, just like Phish, and we're getting better at letting everyone have a chance to hold the wheel and be a part of leading and interplaying with everyone." Easy right? "I am definitely the person in the band that looks most terrified when doing these shows," said Dixon. "Musicianship and fun antics definitely got me hooked on Phish," said O'Neill. "I had never heard a “rock” band be so talented and improvisational as Phish. I had also never experienced a band that seemed to be having as much fun playing music as they do." O'Neill says it is the variety, the friendships and the many places he's been that makes him keep tabs on his favorite band.
"I have made friends with people from all over the country that I have met at shows and when we get back together a year or two later, it’s like time stood still. Definitely, the locations I end up is also a big draw. From Maine to Miami from L.A. to Seattle, pretty much all corners of the country and most states in between, I have gotten to visit and experience because Phish drew me there." Well, Mr. O'Neill, it is nice to have a show that scratches your itch so close to home to help you turn 40. And to Mr. Dixon? Here's to sticking the landing at the end of the next improvisation! Tickets for all Philipsburg LaunchPad productions are available at www.cultureandcriticism.com .