It's hard to be a tribute band. You have to sing, play, even swagger like the original. When the music is incredibly complex, when it's run through with dissonant counterpoint, abrupt shifts in meter and groove, and often requires the players to simultaneously sing and play interlocking parts (all of which have to be picked out by ear), you're dealing with a potential perfect shit-storm.
"I like to challenge myself," says guitarist Josh Weinstein. His band, 7 Below, pays tribute to Phish. "If I'm not challenged, I'm not having a good time. That's why I like playing Phish, because it's so difficult. If it was easy, I probably wouldn't be doing it."
For four musicians who've only been playing together for eight months, 7 Below have been gigging steadily and building up a loyal fan base around the state. Through the fall, they'll do three to five shows a month, mostly between Hartford and Northampton, their two home bases. "We're trying to play more in New Haven," Weinstein said, "trying to build a scene there."
Is the vibe like a Phish show?
"Crowd-wise it's slightly smaller, around 10 to 20 thousand people less," Weinstein said. "We try to recreate the feeling just by playing the songs... I don't think it resembles a Phish show too much in terms of the atmosphere, but hopefully when we're doing more festivals it will feel more like that." —Michael Hamad