The rise of blogs, social networks, webcasts, streaming and near-instantaneous downloads has been a boon to the contemporary Phish experience. We are watching the future of music unfold before our very eyes. More people can tap into the Phish experience than ever before, irrespective of where they live or the size of their bank accounts. And yet, alongside this growth, signals are getting crossed, understandable given the amount of noise that exists out there.
Anyone can voice their opinion on any subject online. And in the Phish world, they often do. It’s quite simply never been easier, in the entire history of human communication, to share a thought, in real-time, potentially reaching, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, or more, people. And with this capability, we’ve also turned what used to be a primarily private exercise, or at least one confined to whoever could fit in our dorm room alongside the bong, into this immediate impulse to analyze, critique and contextualize. We tend to have a very Utopian view of technology, it’s hard envision that the things that save us so much time and energy, that make our lives more productive and enjoyable, could have downsides. But they do indeed. And as Phish fans we should try to understand some of these downsides, not to erase or negate them. But to mitigate them, and act, speak, converse and engage with a full understanding of how technology is altering the Phish experience.
In the past weeks and months, I’ve pondered this need to make instant meaning out of something as divine and ephemeral as Phish’s music. We travel, save, scrimp, sacrifice to attend Phish concerts, and yet we can’t help but interrupt our own experience—and everyone else’s—with instant critique and analyses. To be honest, I—literally—stay off the Internet and social media until my review is done each night, because I don’t want my own experience affected by any Joe’s instant analysis and conclusions. I like my Phish experiences unaffected by opinions outside of my friends’, that way the experience remains pure.
These days, some fans are making conclusions about shows before they’ve even ended, often basing their thoughts on couch tour streams. Let’s remember one thing—Phish is all about the live experience. Though it is always fun—and part of our grander universe—to breakdown the show, analyze the jams, and compare the music to the band’s past accomplishments, we cannot do so while the band is on stage. These moments are sacred and not to be adulterated.
Most of my readers only know me as an online persona, and, thus, I am largely misunderstood. For instance, people often ask me if I take notes at shows. No matter how often I get asked this question it never ceases to amaze me, because as anyone who has met me, or seen me at a show can attest, taking notes is about as far away from the live experience that I have as humanly possible.
For me, live Phish is about immersion and surrender; about attaining heights in our souls if we find the way to release our egos, and mute the incessant stream of thoughts that crowds our consciousness day in day out.
For me, the live Phish experience is about dancing and celebrating the human spirit, not about calling out flubs, bitching about repeats or the length of jams. Live Phish is about living in the moment—the only moment that exists, and the only moment for which the sound actually exists. Everything is secondary when Phish is playing.
Because I write about Phish, some people think I am standing at the show deep in thought and analysis, and nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who has spent a show with me knows that there is absolutely nothing I want to discuss or think about while the band is playing. Nothing else fuckin’ matters. Period. End of discussion.
I love the live Phish experience so much that I think about it all night, discuss it with friends and eventually write my take on it before I go to sleep. But regardless of what conclusions I come to after the show, that is exactly when my analysis is done—separate from the consciousness-engulfing live experience for which we go to the ends of the earth. In my opinion, if one is trying to absorb an emotional experience with their rational mind, they are missing the point of the show. One might say that is exactly what my blog is doing, but I see it differently. I see my blog as a kind of Sportscenter for Phish, pointing out the highlights and giving a brief recap of what happened. But the focus of everything is the live experience. I don’t even consider what I may write until at least 4 am, because in my opinion, the post-show hang is part of the show experience. Listen, I am not here to tell anyone what to do or how to approach things, but I will say this—Phish isn’t about thinking, analysis or critique—it’s about feeling, emotion, catharsis and shared energy. If I’ve confused anyone or been unclear about this, please accept my apologies.
My critique of Phish is born from passion and love; a love so deep that I don’t even bother trying to explain it. That is what my blog is about—my love of Phish and all they mean to me—and to us. If anyone thinks I am looking to pick apart a performance, again, there is nothing further from the truth. I believe Phish to be artists of the highest degree, on par with the greatest creators of all-time, and my sharing of my opinion after the fact is a way for me to give back to the experience that has changed my life.
Opinions need not be judged, they can not be right or wrong. Just because I didn’t love Chicago’s three-setter doesn’t devalue the fact that you did. We are peers on this planet. In fact, you can even use the same free software I do to post your own opinion of the show. Nobody is stopping you and I’m thrilled to see more people are doing so. But let’s not forget why we are all here—those feelings that emerge during a show that occur nowhere else on earth; that connection to the universe when you forget yourself and your pulse becomes one with the music. Highlight shows and analysis come afterwards and are incredible amounts of fun, but during the show we are all part of the action! Play your part—dance now, think later. Love always.