When you think of iconic drummers, Jon Fishman, the drummer for Phish, undoubtedly makes the list. With his distinctive dress sense, often donning a muumuu and his unparalleled drumming skills, Fishman has carved out a unique space in the world of rock and jam bands.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Syracuse, New York, Jon’s journey with Phish began in the early 1980s, and he’s been an integral part of the band’s sound and success ever since.
But who is Jon Fishman beyond the drum kit and the muumuu? Dive in with us as we explore the life, the beats, and the passion of this legendary musician. Ready to groove to the rhythm of Fishman’s story?
Jon Fishman: Drummer for Phish
Jon Fishman was born on February 19, 1965, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Growing up in Syracuse, New York, his surroundings were always filled with the beats and rhythms of life. It wasn’t just the environment; it was in his blood.
By the age of 10, Jon had already developed a fascination with drums. His first drum set? A gift from his parents, which he would play tirelessly in the family garage. As for education, Jon attended Jamesville-Dewitt High School in Syracuse and later pursued higher studies at the University of Vermont. It was here that the seeds of his musical journey were truly sown.
The University of Vermont wasn’t just a place of academic pursuits for Jon; it was where he would meet the future members of Phish. But before that iconic union, Jon had his fair share of gigs. His first gig? A local bar in Syracuse where he played for a crowd of barely twenty. But the size of the audience didn’t matter; it was the thrill of the performance.
In the early 1980s, Jon met Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon while still at the University of Vermont. The trio, along with Jeff Holdsworth, formed the initial lineup of Phish. The rest, as they say, is history. From playing at college dorms to selling out arenas, Jon’s drumming became an integral part of Phish’s unique sound.
His journey with Phish was about evolving with the band, experimenting with new sounds, and always keeping the audience on their toes. From his first gig in Syracuse to jamming with Phish, Jon Fishman’s career has been a testament to passion, dedication, and the love of music.
The Clifford Ball – August 16-17, 1996
One of Phish’s most iconic performances, this two-day festival in Plattsburgh, New York, saw Jon and the band play to over 70,000 fans. Fishman’s drumming on tracks like “Wilson” and “Reba” showcased his impeccable timing and unique style.
Big Cypress – December 31, 1999
Phish’s millennium celebration in Florida was nothing short of legendary. Playing until sunrise, Jon’s drumming during “Sand” and “Down with Disease” kept the energy high and the crowd dancing.
The Baker’s Dozen – July 21 to August 6, 2017
A 13-night run at Madison Square Garden without repeating a single song. Fishman’s versatility was on full display, especially during the performance of “Lawn Boy,” where he took center stage with a Marimba Lumina solo.
The Jazz Mandolin Project
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Jon collaborated with this group, bringing his distinct drumming style to a jazz setting. Their renditions of Phish songs, like “Black Orpheus,” showcased a different side of Fishman’s musicality.
A comedic rock band where Jon showcased not just his drumming but also his vocal talents. Collaborating with Colby Dix, Chris Friday, and Aram Bedrosian, the band’s performances were always filled with humor and tight musicianship.
Yonder Mountain String Band
While not a regular member, Jon has collaborated with this progressive bluegrass band on several occasions. His drumming added a unique flavor to their traditional sound, especially during live performances of tracks like “Two Hits and The Joint Turned Brown.”
Awards & Accolades
- 1998: Nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the song “First Tube” from the album “Farmhouse.”
- 2001: Nominated for Best Live Album for “Live Phish Volume 3.”
It’s worth noting that while Phish and its members, including Jon Fishman, have been influential in the jam band scene and have a dedicated fanbase, they haven’t been frequently nominated for or awarded major music awards. Their impact is more evident in their live performances, dedicated fanbase, and the culture they’ve created around their music.
- Junta (1989)
- Lawn Boy (1990)
- A Picture of Nectar (1992)
- Rift (1993)
- Hoist (1994)
- Billy Breathes (1996)
- The Story of the Ghost (1998)
- Farmhouse (2000)
- Round Room (2002)
- Undermind (2004)
- Joy (2009)
- Fuego (2014)
- Big Boat (2016)
- Sigma Oasis (2020)
Live Albums and Notable Performances:
- A Live One (1995)
- Slip Stitch and Pass (1997)
- Hampton Comes Alive (1999)
- Live Phish Series (2001-2003)
- Live in Brooklyn (2006)
- Live in Utica (2011)
- Amsterdam (2015)
Collaborations and Side Projects:
- The Jazz Mandolin Project
- Yonder Mountain String Band (guest appearances)
- Cattle Decapitation (guest appearance on their 2019 album, “Death Atlas”)
Jon Fishman – The Phish Drummer Drum Kit
- 22×14 AYOTTE round badge bass drum.
- 6×6 Noble & Cooley Tom (in Black Finish).
- 8×7 Noble & Cooley Tom.
- 10×7 Noble & Cooley Tom.
- 12×8 Noble & Cooley Tom.
- 14×12 Gretsch Floor Tom.
- 16×14 Gretsch Floor Tom.
- 14×6.5 Ayotte 18-Ply Maple Snare.
- 14×6.5 Precision 21-Ply Maple Snare w/ custom 3D Phish logo.
- 21″ Sabian AA Dry Ride
- 20″ Zildjian Custom Dark Ride
- 20″ Zildjian Riveted Flat Ride
- 18″ Zildjian K Ride
- 16″ Zildjian Platinum Medium-Thin Crash
- 16″ Wuhan China
- 15″ Sabian AAX Dark Crash
- 14″ Zildjian A Custom Dark hi-hat
- 8″ Zildjian K Splash
- 8″ LP Icebell cymbal
- 6″ LP Rancan cymbal
- 10″ LP wood block
- 9″ LP wood block
- 6″ LP wood block
- 4″ LP wood block
- 8″ LP Cowbell w/Ridge Rider
- 6″ LP cowbell
- 4″ LP Jamblock w/Axis Pedal
Growing up, Jon Fishman was deeply influenced by a myriad of drummers. Bill Bruford of Yes and King Crimson was a significant influence on young Fishman. The intricate rhythms and progressive beats of Bruford’s work resonated with him.
Another major influence was John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Bonham’s powerful and groovy style, combined with his technical prowess, left a lasting impression on Fishman. These drumming legends, among others, shaped the foundation of Jon’s approach to the drum kit.
Jon Fishman’s drumming style combines precision, creativity, and energy. One of his signature moves is his ability to interweave complex rhythms without overshadowing the melody. This is evident in Phish tracks where the drums are both supportive and stand-alone in their musicality.
Another standout aspect of Fishman’s style is his use of the vacuum cleaner during live performances. It’s not just a gimmick; it’s an extension of his quirky personality and his willingness to experiment with sound. This unique addition to his drumming repertoire showcases his sense of humor and his commitment to pushing musical boundaries.
Lastly, Fishman’s versatility is commendable. Whether it’s jazz, rock, funk, or bluegrass, he adapts and brings his unique touch, making him stand out in the vast sea of drummers.
Jon Fishman resides in Lincolnville, Maine, with his five children: Ella Cynthia (21), Jack Bradley (19), Rose (Rosie) Lorelei (15), Lily Millay (12), and Fredrick (Freddie) George (9). The Fishman family had a special feature on the Magnolia Network’s home restoration show, “Maine Cabin Masters,” in March 2018. Apart from his musical endeavors with Phish, Fishman has a penchant for the death grind genre, particularly the band Cattle Decapitation. He even made a guest appearance on their 2019 album, “Death Atlas.”
As for more on his private life, Jon Fishman is known for his active involvement in local politics. He’s not just a musician but also a civic-minded individual. In 2019, he was elected to the Lincolnville Board of Selectmen, showcasing his commitment to his community. Additionally, his iconic donut-patterned muumuu, which he often wears during performances, is a testament to his unique personality and sense of style.
What makes Jon Fishman’s drumming style unique in the world of rock and jam bands?
Jon Fishman’s drumming style stands out due to its blend of precision, creativity, and energy. He has a knack for interweaving complex rhythms without overshadowing the melody, making his drumming both supportive and stand-alone in its musicality.
Additionally, Fishman’s versatility across genres, from jazz to rock to funk, showcases his adaptability and broad musical influences. His use of unconventional instruments, like the vacuum cleaner in live performances, further adds a quirky and experimental touch to his style, making him a distinctive figure in the drumming world.
How did Jon Fishman meet the other members of Phish and become a part of the band?
Jon Fishman met Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon while attending the University of Vermont in the early 1980s. Along with Jeff Holdsworth, they formed the initial lineup of Phish.
Their shared passion for music and improvisation led to the creation of a band that would later become iconic in the jam band scene. Over the years, their bond strengthened, and their collaborative spirit became a hallmark of Phish’s sound and live performances.
Outside of Phish, what other musical projects and collaborations has Jon Fishman been involved in?
Beyond Phish, Jon Fishman has been involved in various musical endeavors. He collaborated with the Jazz Mandolin Project in the late 1990s and early 2000s, bringing his distinct drumming style to a jazz setting.
He’s also a part of Touchpants, a comedic rock band where he showcases not just his drumming but also his vocal talents. Additionally, Fishman has made guest appearances with the progressive bluegrass band, Yonder Mountain String Band, and even contributed to the deathgrind band Cattle Decapitation’s 2019 album, “Death Atlas.”