Thursday, August 27, 2009

limb by limb

i wasn't always into the hard stuff. my first memory of being aware of pop music came from the matching am radios my sister and i had, listening to hall & oates & kim carnes on "the mighty 690". i remember buying madonna's first album on cassette, and i still have men at work "business as usual" and duran duran "rio" on vinyl. i got introduced to reggae when i was in middle school and for a while, it was all bob marley/steel pulse/gregory issacs, all the time. ac/dc's "back in black" was the first album i ever bought on CD - i guess you could call that one the gateway album. because once i was rocking (and ac/dc was saluting me), all i wanted - no, NEEDED - was the rock. punk rock, heavy metal, bob marley who? let there be rock.

once i got into college radio, though, my tastes started to change again as my friends introduced me to everything from spacemen 3 to mark eitzel to funkadelic. one of my favorite things to do on my college radio show was to play a slayer song right into "maggot brain". being around friends with such diverse musical tastes was great, because it opened my mind back up and forced me to question what really made a good song good, and it expanded my ideas about what i wanted to listen to. where i once SWORE i'd never listen to anything other than punk rock, all of the sudden i wanted to listen to everything. and really, that hasn't changed - to this day, i love having my mind blown by something i never thought i'd like. but, phish? for reals, as we used to say?

it started in 1999. when a guy i dated briefly told me he was really, really into phish, well, i may have been a little skeptical, but i didn't flinch. on our second or third date, he began by giving me two mix tapes. one was all live phish, and i was instructed to listen to that one "later, after the first one has had some time to marinate." the "first one" was all phish too, but all of it was from their studio albums. so i listened. and then i listened again, because for me they weren't a fist-listen kind of band. on later dates, he broke out phish books, videos, and the posters and the black light (it's true). phish "phans" are no joke; ex-sleater kinneyite carrie brownstein says of them (us?) on her npr monitor mix blog: "Phish-heads know so much minutiae about the band, its music and its shows that you'd think they had CIA-like capabilities at their disposal. They also speak in their own language, using dates to identify shows. Sitting amongst them, it sounds like a secret code." it's true. and this guy went to great lengths to not overwhelm me with all things phish, but it was clear how passionate he was about the band and it's surrounding subculture. and you know what? it was the coolest musical education, and it worked! well, for me and them: i didn't fall in love with the guy, but i fell in LOVE with phish. i got all of their albums, started collecting their live shows, reading everything i could about them, you name it. and after my first show, i was SOLD. because phish are so much bigger than just themselves - the phish universe is a lively, interesting, joyful little subculture. and being a part of it is truly a gift! wow, is that patchouli i smell?

i do think there is a stigma associated with phish and liking them, one that's especially pervasive amongst my indie rock peers. they jam their songs waaaay out, and yup, they are poster-boys for the nouveau hippie set, but phish! they are brilliant musicians, their songs are interesting, and those jams can be mind blowing. or mind-bowling, depending. someone just compared built to spill to phish on twitter the ohter night, saying basically that built to spill are a jam band that hipsters can admit they like. i loved that.

with phish, it's all (well, ok, MOSTLY) about their live shows. we just spent a night in the bay area seeing them at shoreline, after they'd broken up and spent years apart and i never knew if they'd really actually reunite, and i'll admit it: i cried tears of joy when they started. here's j and i with our friend carlos who flew up with us for it:

and here's a shot of the stage, mid-set:

that smile? my face hurt the next day because i think i smiled that big ALL NIGHT.

and it was one of the, if not THE, most fun concerts i've ever been to. no, we're not going to festival8 in coachella over halloween weekend, because having a two year old and not being able to buy single day tickets just don't mix. but i'll live vicariously through my friends who are going (jules, i'm lookin' at you) and you know i'll be downloading those shows as soon as i can. phish! my love for you is like a clock, berserker.


  1. funny, i've been wondering when (and how) phish came in to your world. our stories are very similar - i, too, was introduced to phish by a boy with a crazy passion for the phish culture, had to take a second listen to really "get it", was 'hooked' (pun intended) with my first live show, and have quite an impressive collection of live shows, posters and what's-it's galore.

    it really is a different world when you are on lot, walking through shakedown and dancing your brains out on the lawn. seriously, you said it best, "the phish universe is a lively, interesting, joyful little subculture. and being a part of it is truly a gift!" it is simply pure joy.

    thinking about it - the fact that in less than two years i went to 14 phish shows and since the reunion in march (which brought tears of joy to my eyes, too), i've been to 9 more - should really speak to how amazing they are as performers.

    signal-strength permitting, i will be tweeting from festival8 all weekend. i can't wait. thanks to the twitterverse, you will be right there with me sister.

    "whatever you do, take care of your shoes..."

  2. That friend that turned you onto Spacemen 3 must be one really cool person!

  3. This is cool. As a former Vermont-er now transplanted in SD, I haven't heard anyone on radio even mention Phish. Their shows shaped a huge percentage of my formative musical years and although I don't listen much these days I will always respect their contributions. AND I'm going to that Phish/Coachella thing in October, which should be insane...

    Glad to know you dig 'em - will have to listen to your 94.9 show more often and see what else you're rocking out..