What It Means To Me: Phish

In between all the film reviews I’ve written in 2012, I’ve done some personal writing. My pieces on film, social media and writing all let me open myself up more. This is something I’d like to do more.

That’s where “What It Means To Me” comes in. No, I don’t think that I am important enough to anyone that they actually care about why I love certain things and what those things mean to me, but I figured it’d serve as a good writing exercise for myself.

And now we come to the band Phish. A person who spends a day with me will get at least one Phish reference somewhere. I’m sorry about that. I’m still a new fan. I didn’t pick up the band until after they made their return in 2009 and didn’t see my first show until they came to Hartford in 2010 (seven in total now, as well one Trey Anastasio Band show and one Mike Gordon Band show).

That said, my obsession (or whatever you’ll call it) with the band is a bit much. Last.fm says I’ve listened to them nearly 14,000 times and that’s not counting all the plays they get when I’m driving. I hardly listen to much else while evading morons on the Connecticut roads and highways.

A few weeks ago I started thinking about why I first listened to the band. Growing up, my first favorite band was Primus. That love for Les Claypool, Larry LaLonde and Tim Alexander had me spiraling to different artists and bands, but none of them were Phish. That surprises me today, especially since Claypool played with Anastasio in the band Oysterhead, a trio I was totally into.

This then led my mind to start wandering about chance and the like. After graduating high school I had my sights set on attending St. John’s University. Things didn’t work out and I left the school not even a month into the first semester. I attended Central Connecticut State University from the minute I got home and five years later graduated with a degree in journalism and more importantly a passion in the field.

Mike and Trey after the first set of their "final" shows in 2004.

I’m talking about Phish. Why does this matter? Sitting in a journalism class in the winter of 2009 I found myself reading the New York Times – a mandatory but always pleasurable experience. The band had just announced their big reunion show in Hampton and the Times had a lengthy, interesting and awesome piece about the group I’d heard so much of but never gave a chance to. That right there is what sparked my first interest in Phish.

I likely went home, found a starting point and dove right in. I remember it not sticking really well at all the first try. I was listening to the band’s studio albums, which while regarded as second fiddle to their live stuff, is actually a decent starting point for a newcomer. It took me a long time to get into the band. Once they finally played their three nights in Hampton I tried the live shows. Obviously this wasn’t Phish at its best – they were playing their first show in nearly five years – but it worked.

The time between those March shows and their 2009 summer tour, which began in May, was a transition period for myself with the band. I found the studio albums interesting and loved songs like “Fee” but couldn’t get hooked. It didn’t happen until their tour began and I started listening to each night’s show, which would be released to the Internet shortly after. That’s when the music started to really work its way inside my brain and make sense.

It’s all really funny, you know. I remember one of my babysitters having a Phish patch sewed onto her backpack. It always stood out to me because fish was spelled wrong. I was probably told it was a band, but that was that.

And now it’s everything. The band and its music brings me happiness, laughter and pure joy. Once I buy tickets to a show, it’s the number one thing on my mind. In December I went to a show with my dad, which was probably my favorite day of the entire year. I listen to every show I can get my hands on.

I’m now trying to plan my summer with Phish. The tour openers in Worcester and the leg one closing shows in Saratoga seem like great bets, but I’m not sure yet. I’ve gone to a few Phish shows alone and had a blast, but I am not sure about a three-day run. Still, I’ve never done anything like it and this summer might be my best chance for it. If the leg two dates includes a cool west coast city, I’m going to consider flying out for a few shows.

You’ve noticed now (or maybe not) that I haven’t used this space to try and convince you to like the band. I don’t bother unless someone wants to like it or get into it. To me, the music, lyrics and vibes attached to the whole thing is the greatest thing on this planet. For another, those same things might be irritating. That’s the beautiful thing about it all, really. Phish isn’t for everyone and why would anyone want it to be? But here’s a nice tune if you want to try.

Would I have listened to Phish if I stayed at St. John’s and never opened up that New York Times with the Phish reunion article inside of it? Maybe. But there’s no telling that a similar course of events would happen. I could still be stuck in a life without their existence. Scary!

Phish means more to me than just music – it’s a feeling, a memory and a symbol of so much that’s gone right in my life in the past few years. It also can drag me from the doldrums of any day and right feelings that are wrong with the click of the play button. I might still be a Phish noob with less than 10 shows under his belt, but don’t discount this fan’s thoughts. My thoughts too come from an inspired place. And even though I haven’t seen 100 shows, gone on tour for an entire or walked my way through traffic to see their “final” shows in 2004, I still feel like I owe a lot to Trey, Mike, Page and Jon. Thank you, Phish.

5 thoughts on “What It Means To Me: Phish

  1. Great article! I happen to be in a similar place due to the fact that I didn’t truly get into the band until 09.

    However, the purpose of this comment is to encourage you to do a 3 night run solo. It may seem like a lot, but as a person who did most of last summer’s shows solo, I can assure you that it is a worthwhile experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation not only of the music, but the community as a whole. You will meet incredibly interesting people along the way, and you just might form some great friendships. I know I have!

    Jump right in and have fun! Hope to see you on the road this summer.

  2. Pingback: Phish In Charlotte: Great Expectations « Walsh Words

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