Freshman year college student, standing in the middle of shakedown street for the first time turns to vendor: ”I found this strange looking rock when I went camping last night and I was wondering if you knew the name of it.”
Doctor, trying to make conversation while talking about the blood work of a patient that is wearing a Phish hooded sweatshirt: ”Are you a fan of Phish? Have you used any drugs in the last year?”
Small child of a Phish fan, climbing up into their uncle’s lap: ”Dad told me that you are a Fluffhead, so I want to show you my Thomas trains.”
Paranoid and uneducated parent to college student: “You want to take a semester off and travel around with a band and see the country? Are you sure this will look good on your resume? What in the name of hell are you thinking?”
45 year old and long time fan of Phish turns to a long time tour buddy: ”This band has jumped the shark…Why am I even here? I better get my “Camel Walk” tonight or I am done and this time I mean it!”
Nitrous seller, trying to make small talk to prove to his buyers that he is there for the music: ”Are you going to be at Alpine Creek or Deer Valley? Keep an eye out for me all tour. I’ll even be set up at Honda Field in Chicago”
Gross misconceptions about the Phish fanbase are all over popular American culture. The colossal hallucination stems from the fact that there are many different kinds of personalities and lifestyles that represent this diverse fan base. Moreover, we need context. However, a person doesn’t have to look too hard to find generalizations and stereotypes when talking to people that have never really explored the community or the culture that surrounds the band. This disorientation derives itself from commonplace stereotypes that existed long before Phish even played their first notes together on a stage and continues to develop in complexity as we move through a completely different phase of modern life in America. There are many different types of Phish fans who go to shows and participate in the rituals of this community for all sorts of contrary reasons. Each of these reasons can be grossly generalized to some extent and we all know that the people who have never stepped foot on a parking lot when Phish comes to town play a large part in shaping the overall stereotypes that the fan base is confronted with once the show is over and we get back into the dominant paradigm of judgment and speculation.
Some Phish fans are engaged in a spiritual relationship with crystals and the bridge that can be created through nature and the unbridled release of energy that can happen during that momentary juncture during a concert, but only so that this may better prepare them for their enlightened future in their life that is not so momentary or fleeting. Some kind of fans come to shows because it is a backdrop to another party. Some people don’t even really come for the music. Some people will lay you out if you talk over one of their favorite parts. There are also some people who are not so easily contained into a generalization. This is the diversity of the Phish culture and much of it is to be embraced and eulogized.
Some Phish fans hyper analyze what the band is doing each night to the point of it not being fun anymore. Some Phish fans will only have true fun if they are hyper analyzing the band. Some Phish fans will talk about the good old days as if there are not any good days left. Some Phish fans will be there for the first time or two and will be showing the exact duplicated exuberance that I felt when it was my first time or two. It’s 2012 and so much time has passed. How can this be possible? How can the same kind of excitement for Phish from a new fan in 2012 be the exact same kind of excitement that I had for Phish in the mid 1990′s? The answer is One.
Some are interested in as many loopy conversations they can get in as possible with people because these sacred and revered exchanges can reveal something about the core of the diversity of the Phish fan experience. The word diversity is the central theme to this everlasting spoof. This word is the key to understanding what The Philler is all about: it is the study of Phish and the fanbase, from before the sparkling emergence of the band and their iconic status as living musical anomalies and myth up to this present moment as I type these words, and of any other type of building component both within or without the actual community that helps explain the fan base and why they continue to exist,operate and thrive outside the normal rules and regulations of our dominant societal paradigm.
Every Phish fan has a specialty, whether it be their ability to rattle off stats like you are watching ESPN, make some sort of unique artistic piece as an ascending supplement to the concert, organize friends to make it all happen, disrupt a show, educate new fans about the nuances of Gamehendge and why it matters, hand off the cannabis cone to the stranger (now new friend) at exactly the right “aha” moment, or to just being able to drive perfectly at three in the morning no matter what kind of stumbling blocks may have presented themselves. In any given town, somewhere in the deeply rooted pulse of America, some Phish fan may be asking their reluctant younger sister if they have checked out that one crazy cover from Jon Fishman, while another one is sitting in their vegetable garden peering into the future of their crop as Trey explains the recipe for time in their ear buds, and another may be feeding their newborn while wondering if this precious life will enjoy going to shows and bonding with dad or if they will completely go in the opposite direction and not be into music in the same way. The possibilities are endless when it comes to the fan experience. The phases of our life come and go and shape our future and how we approach shows. Our priorities exist one day and then are annihilated the next as future experiences shape the things that we consider important. We were jocks, spunions,freaks, geeks, stoners and wizards all in the time that it took for a “Reba” jam to end. We were much more…
Another person may be crafting a piece of custom jewelry or molding a new pin that they think will sell like hot cakes in the ever present lot economy, while still another may be doing yoga while having the most transcendental experience as “Curtain With” chimes on through their body. Another person might just be stressing out about a basketball score.
Another person might be totally overloaded on substances and unable to manage why they are at the show in the first place while delivering the most incoherent lecture about “noobs” or “custies” as they then vomit on your new kicks and proceed to black out right in the way of vehicular traffic. Another, camera ready and poised, is photographing the entire spectacle and it will soon go viral on all the Internet Phish sites within 24 hours of it being uploaded. Another, with that shady look in their eye, is stalking their next victim or is plotting the next opportunist moment that will fulfill their predatory nature and cause the disruption that ruins your currently good trip. Another fan is speculating on venues because he or she needs to plan out their next epic vacation and very good excuse to see the country under the backdrop of the Phish experience. Another person is just the girlfriend or boyfriend that came along because their partner would not stop talking about a show and how it must be experienced first hand to be believed. Another person is master of the water bottle slinging and has figured out a mathematical equation to maximizing profits once the show is let out. This person never stays for the encore and will confidently defend this maneuver. Another is getting their pamphlets printed out that explains their non profit organization that will be distributed at the next local jamband show. I could write out examples over and over again on this blog. Different specialties, but all fans of the same band from Vermont on some basic level. What do these individuals have in common? What do we share?
Each and every individual – in their own stable or unstable way – is searching for One – consciously or subconsciously - internally and externally – struggling or totally on the phucking ball. The chase is on…
It is complicated and never a simple task to define the Phish fan base in a short conversation, blog entry or biting catch phrase. In fact, it is a bit of a disservice. Unable to be conveniently confined to false stereotypes, devotees resolve themselves over and over again within the knowledge that they make up a multitude of diverse styles, philosophies, life ways and opinions on how one should act at a show and in their larger lives away from the bustling escapade found in the lot and on the road. The negative judgments and stereotypes that come from within the fan base are extremely apparent as well and are cause for real concern when trying to constitute a unified force within the common love and excitement that many share on an equally important level for Phish. Again, we are all here for different reasons but the truth that brings us all together is the same legitimacy that should help destroy these very stereotypes from within the community and throughout the dominant paradigm that exists away from this culture. Almost impossible to fragment into negative snippets of catch phrases, Phish culture and the growing diversity within it are the things that will be most frequently relied upon in this blog because it is the core of what allows Phish to do what they do each and every night and it envelopes that which has allowed the music to gain notoriety through the unorthodox method in which it has been obtained. This collective behavior is that which unifies us as a powerful force. It is collective. We are concentrated. We are an assembly. We are diverse. We are dysfunctional. We are functional. We must stand united. Our collective behavior can be harnessed to make the next peak even greater than it was during The Gorge “Rock N Roll” when you convinced yourself that it could not get any better. The Philler is concerned with the idea of the group dynamic and how this unique landscape of individuals can share even further between each other.
One explanation why diversity and culture can not be easily explained with buzz words or propaganda is the fact that what constitutes prominence in one element of Phish culture may not have the same prominence in another element within the fan base and throughout the larger world that helps shape pop culture mentality.
For example, if a young tour head, molded in the rigorous ideals of their christian conservative father, were to drop acid for the first time in their life and then proceed to take their clothes off and run wildly into every girl within distance until they were detained, this would be considered funny by some but repulsive by other on lookers. The guy would be quickly categorized into the mentally ill spectrum and a path would be created for that person. However, if a young tour head, molded in the rigorous ideals of their christian conservative father, dropped the exact same acid for the first time in their life and proceeded to just sit on the ground for hours, fully clothed, silently smiling, this would be considered more suitable for the surrounding group. The infinite details that shape how we act and how we present ourselves cannot be categorized and genralized with the most popular phrase of the day in psychology or just by poorly categorizing someone by negatively calling them a “wook” or a “custie” or any other term that is used to divide the culture and create a rift between the thing that ties all of us together. This thing we call the chase and the quest for One is extremely real.
Any real attempt to explain what the Phish fan base consists of must also understand context. The customs, objects, language, hand gestures, rites of passage, chemical inductions, ideas, mannerisms, and anything else that society pins as a stereotype must be explained within context or else it is just ignorance speaking on behalf of more ignorance.
A lot of people think that the word society and culture are interchangeable. However, there are some vast differences. A society is essentially a group of individuals whose members live in the same place and whose lives and livelihoods are interdependent. The members of any one society do not need to be alike. The Phish society only comes together at intermittent times throughout the year to establish a presence and an economy that is set up, maintained and then broken down to only be re-established in another location. This society reaches the climax when Phish is touring but the culture maintains itself even when the concerts have ended. The loyal members of this structured society do not all come from the same traditions and do not all share the same priorities.
As a member of the Phish fan base or as someone that is just trying to learn more about the community, what makes you similar to other members of your society? Do you see yourself as different or unique in some way from other members that you know or have heard about? The real players in the Phish community will embrace your differences and ability to walk your own path without fear of judgment. The real players in the Phish community will not make you feel alienated because you have a wacky or esoteric thought coming out of your mouth that cannot be easily misrepresented by an emoticon or abbreviation. Phish is and will always be a wacky and esoteric thought. You are welcome here and if we don’t all understand this by now then we are in store for even more divisions through the years. The real players in the Phish community will not fragment your thoughts into partiality. You should be embraced and celebrated within the walls of Phish nation. This is the assemblage of the continuing quest for One.
It is a lot easier to find this acceptance at a Phish show than in some other societies. However, the Phish community is not the only place where this happens. The trick really is to surrender to the flow. People need to let loose because of the trying depression that this country has found itself in over the past few years. We are living in uncertain times and everyone needs an outlet. Older members of this community should embrace the new members. New members should embrace the old and stay mindful of their surroundings and environment. We should all be working on our intuition together so that a strengthening occurs within the bridge of generations. We are all in this together…However, I am strictly a shower guy.
Just a little blurb here about the pin that I have produced. Here is an image of it if you have not already caught a peek of it. Twenty percent of the proceeds from this pin are going directly to The Mockingbird Foundation. Our goal is to make a donation on the third Friday of May in the amount of $240.00. We have currently collected $108.00 dollars for this cause and need your help to reach our goal. Thank you to everyone that has participated so far with this project. The pin is only $12.00 and shipping and handling is free of charge courtesy of The Philler. You can click on the shop button at the top right hand side of this blog or you can just click here to make the purchase. The funds raised from the sale of these pins go to Mockingbird and the rest is used to fund The Philler.
Here is the current list of donors
Thank you current donors to The Mockingbird Foundation and The Philler Production Fund. Your contribution will go a long way to help both projects.
Frederick Hosman – $12.00
Anthony Gatto – $12.00
Thomas Housel – $12.00
Daniel Knight – $12.00
Michael Jiminez – $12.00
Steve Wochnick – $12.00
Daniel Mullen – $12.00
Garret Schenck – $12.00
Max Rosen – $12.00
108 dollars raised so far. We are almost half way there and it has only been two weeks since we began the sale. Thanks guys!
Again, thank you for all the kind words and tell your friends if you like what you see. Take care of each other!