Every Phish show I have been to over the years impacts my life positively in some way. As the tour has ended, I find myself reflecting on the fun and friendships that I shared in for six of the twelve shows the jam legends played during their fall tour honoring 30 years of stellar music.
Most of us can admit we connect to music on a deep and meaningful level. However, for many people who have never been to a Phish show, it may be hard to understand the connection between soul and music in such a profound way. Some may even consider one’s passion for touring with a band strange, unfounded, or beneath them. I’m sure a few of us have heard it before, you know, the whole “I have a job… adult responsibilities,” schpeel which- I think- is supposed to make us feel unwarranted in our love for being on the road. The most common reaction to those misunderstanding the culture of Phish fans is that we just want to get fucked up; we build up the hype on a foundation of the scene: drugs, alcohol, debauchery.
It took a while for me to realize that who I am, not just what I enjoyed listening to, was the culture that embraces jam music. I love setting up camp at festivals and cracking open a beer, withstanding the elements for three days without running water, and immersing myself in a type of music scene that draws young adults and seasoned veterans the same. But at the end of the day, no festival big or small can ever compare to the energy of a Phish concert.
I was shown a video once called, “What Phish Sounds Like to People Who Don’t Like Phish.” Although the video initially was pretty funny, it was entirely inaccurate. The musical prowess of this band is unrivaled, and I say that in comparison of bands today and of bands past. While we can link other musical acts to a certain level of excellence and accomplishment, none align with the particular sound of Phish. And as a fan of new alternative music, while slightly different in genre, I have seen no promise of a musical act that can or will cultivate a following to such capacity.
Every note we hear, Trey, Page, Mike and Fish play wholeheartedly in a unseemingly methodically put-together song that is astoundingly surreal. They don’t just stand up on stage strumming, beating and tapping aimlessly at their instruments hoping that all 14 thousand people are too high to realize that what they are playing is actually any good.
I was lucky enough to get within 10 feet of the boys for the Saturday show in Worcester. I saw the raw emotion on Trey’s face as he took the band into an amazing journey through Sand. I witnessed the pure concentration on Gordon’s face as he stood there dropping bombs on the arena during Mike’s Song.
On that note, a slight to the haters: any educated or self-proclaimed music lover would know that there is no faking in Phish, there is no “everyone’s fucked up, play whatever you want and hope it fits” mentality. Every moment you spend inside a show is a purely emotional experience- it reverberates throughout the arena- executed by extremely talented musicians who want nothing less than the best for themselves and for their insanely devoted fanbase.
And if you are of said fanbase and you have nothing more to do post-tour than to bitch and moan about second set Halloween, then I suppose you invest your time in some other type of music, because there’s no room for your truly unwarranted hate. Everyone has an opinion, but if you are a phan and you’re complaining, then there’s something to be said for your commitment to the band; a band that has been known for all the beautiful differences that have set them aside from anything mainstream for thirty years.
Admittedly, I was thrown off when I read the Phishbill upon walking to my seat. But honestly, what more could a fan ask for? Do I want to hear their rendition of classic rock staples, I mean, sort of. But the fact that fans in attendance were open to such admirable vulnerability of the band, in and of itself, was worth standing (and dancing!) through an hour and a half of songs I have never heard in my life. More over, did the complainers not hear 555, Fuego and Wombat? This is Phish 3.0. It’s here, it’s happening and you (and me) should be happy they still play… and at the very best they ever have.
Open your minds and expect nothing, and nothing can disappoint you. See you at Madison Square Garden this New Years. Fingers crossed for a very scary, dirty Guyute.
Below is a small gallery of photos, all taken by me! Worcester 10/25 & 10/26, Hartford 10/27 and the 3-night Halloween run in Atlantic City 2013