Someone once said to me, “You’re about a decade and a half late on that whole Phish thing.” Another person questioned the love I have for this band based on the amount of shows I’d been to. Even others doubt my knowledge of Phishtory because I’m young for this crowd (23, really?). And to be honest, sometimes this makes me feel like I really did just jump on the bandwagon. But no, let’s go back and I will tell you the story of a baby phan who came to the party right on time.
I saw Phish for the first time in 2004 on top of the David Letterman building. It’s a show that changed me, for sure, but didn’t have the impact that my next, and really first, two shows had. I had been a fan of Phish during their hiatus, and even kept up spirits when we all thought they would be gone forever. Upon their return in 2009, I didn’t think for a second that my life was about to change dramatically, and in so many beautiful ways. So I went to Bonnaroo, and though neither of those sets compare to what we can expect from Phish these days, it still set me on the roll that has yet to slow. Since then, I have seen 20 stunning shows that keep getting better and better.
During summer and fall of 2009, I fell in love with the crowd, the passion of the phans, the welcoming neighborhood of each lot. Foolishly, neither Halloween nor New Years was on the roster for me then. If only I had known!
When it came time to write my thesis for graduation, my professor said, “Well, what do you love?” and I said, “Phish.” So I wrote it on the band, phans, and love of the music, and in so doing, fell into the endless tunnel that is Phish phandom.
Dancing through that tunnel- more like a spiral of joy- summer 2010 was my tour of confirmation. Finally, the boys were close to home and I could afford to follow them around. Each show taught me more about their playing techniques, styles, personalities, and genius minds. (I had been listening to Phish non-stop, mind you. Every day was- and still is- filled with different live recordings, from all the years of their music making.) Each song seemed to fill out every time I heard it, the exploration of new songs constantly amazing me. I uncovered the depths and wonders, the layers of the cake, the jazzy, smooth, funny, serious, weird, and true corners of Phish, and each of these amazing musicians.
By the end of my summer of love, I decided to dedicate my life to Phish. I know, I know; this sounds a little crazy, and I realize, of course, that my life can’t be solely dedicated to Phish (or can it…). So I’m not twiddling my thumbs waiting for the guys over at Red Light to up and quit. But during fall tour, I got some sort of unspoken message through every Phish avenue that this was my calling: through the band, obviously, the lights and Koruda himself, the crowd culture and the lot scene, the individual phans, our subcultural market of toys and garments and food, hell, our language. It all made me absolutely positive that I had found some sort of affirming identity, some real group I could be a part of and relate to. And some fucking incredible music to guide us on the way.
My real point is that I don’t think I’m the only one in this situation. There are a lot of younger phans who didn’t get to see Phish back in the 90’s, either because we were too young, weren’t into it yet, whatever the reason. This is not to say that we’re resistant to learning: so many of us are finally getting into the groove of what Phish really was. The boys are back, there’s no denying that. The “reunion” part of this is definitely over; though to an older phan I’m sure it still seems different, they are certainly back in action and we’re all here together now. Sure, there’s some unspoken merit behind having seen a ton of shows, but if you love it, and if you’re feeling the good vibes, then boy, man… god… shiiit rock on!