The music catalogues of legendary bands like the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and the Talking Heads are so powerful that generation after generation of musicians continue to pay tribute to their music both on stage and in the studio. Some musicians are so deeply influenced by certain bands they will even devote a significant portion of their own careers to honor their music. When this sort of tribute manages to find that perfect balance of upholding the spirit of the original music while simultaneously injecting its own character into each composition, the group manages to pay the ultimate form of respect by revitalizing and building its own unique following. The Dead have JRAD. Sublime has Badfish. The Talking Heads have Stop Making Sense. But for some reason, the school of rock Phish has built over the past three plus decades has yet to spawn a tribute band with its own significant following. Perhaps its because Phish is still touring? Who’s to say. One thing’s for certain though: Phish’s catalogue deserves a truly unique tribute to preserve and continue its legacy. This is where Holly Bowling steps in.
If you haven’t yet, meet Holly. Holly’s taken the jam scene by storm over the past few years by reinterpreting the music of Phish with original classical piano compositions. At the early age of five, Holly’s parents laid the foundation of her music career by training her on classical piano. Unlike some students of classical music, Holly experienced a unique opposition throughout her musical upbringing. While she spent hours receiving classical training, Holly was naturally drawn to the music of the Grateful Dead, Little Feat, and Phish. She attended her first Phish show over New Year’s in 2002, right after the band came out of a multi-year hiatus. Since that watershed moment, Holly’s seen the legendary Burlington quartet in concert over 300 times. So rather than siloing her career from this seemingly contradicting passion for Phish, Holly instead brought both worlds together to build an incredibly unique brand of Phish that pays tribute in a way that’s only hers, in a way that’s just, “Holly.” What JRAD and Badfish have done for the Dead and Sublime is the type of impact I’m confident Holly will have on Phish if she keeps up her work. I’m not the only person who thinks this either. Even Rolling Stone called Holly one of the top 10 new artists to watch out for last November.
At the end of last year, Holly released her newest album, Better Left Unsung, which is a collection of Grateful Dead songs she composed for the classical piano. Since its release Holly’s toured extensively across the East Coast, even sitting in with the likes of Phil Lesh and Tom Hamilton’s American Babies. On March 30th, Holly’s tour brings her to The Iridium in New York City, a historic jazz club located on Broadway. The last time Holly performed in New York she sold out the Cutting Room in Manhattan for a pre-Phish show during the band’s annual New Year’s run. This said, buy your tickets here while they’re still around, this isn’t a show (or artist) to sleep on.