It all started in Long Beach. During a setbreak conversation, a friend told me that Justin Bieber was the show and had stood right next to her at the soundboard for much of the set. “Interesting,” I thought. I had heard of Justin Bieber. He was the teen-aged idol of today’s generation of young girls; a teen pop star through and through. I had never heard a lick of his music, but I thought it was cool that the kid came to the LBC to see Phish. After the show, more information came out. Bieber’s guitarist, Dan Kanter, was a huge Phish fan and had brought Bieber and his girlfriend, Selena Gomez (who I had never heard of) to the show that night. The trio had met the band during setbreak and hit it off while talking music. Then more. Since Phish had no plans for fall tour, Chris Kuroda would be designing the light show for Bieber’s upcoming tour (!), which was one of the reasons Kanter brought him to the show. Over the next couple of days, there was some confusion in the Phish community—was Kuroda actually going in tour with Canada’s pretty boy, or was he just designing the lighting schemes? It soon came out that Kuroda would actually hit the road on Bieber’s “Believe” tour while Phish spent time with their families and solo projects. Taking his Jedi-like skills to the most mainstream act around, CK5 would now see how the other half lived, all while lighting up the minds and imaginations of teeny-boppers across the land. Kuroda worked for The Black Crowes, Aerosmith and R. Kelly during Phish’s haitus, but this would mark his most crossover effort to date. Once everyone figured out the truth of the matter, laughter prevailed in community, but Bieber Fever went into remission as Phish went on to crush the second leg of tour.
Fast forward to last week when Bieber’s North American tour kicked off in the southwestern states. In scrolling my Twitter feed, I noticed YEMBlog had posted a short piece about Kanter teasing “Divided Sky” in a live show! “Cute,” I thought, but certainly didn’t think anything of it. And I didn’t even bother to check the clip. In addition, the short piece mentioned that Kanter had also threw in a tease of “Fluffhead’s” “Bundle of Joy” section in a different song! Apparently, Kanter and Kuroda were having some fun while getting paid. It’s doubtful if Justin, himself, let alone the thousands of prepubescent girls in the audience, knew anything of the musical trickery.
Then yesterday, the Phish Internet exploded with Bieber talk. Kanter had worked in significant sections of “Sand” and “First Tube” into Bieber’s show! Several websites had written up the entertaining blurb (all which contained priceless comments from a mix of Bieber and Phish fans.) This time I checked the clips. Amidst a more “grown up” part of the show that flashed images of street action and aggressive music, Kanter sure enough tore right into the themes of “Sand” and “First Tube!” It was not subtle. To see Bieber running and dancing around in a multi-million dollar, mega-production to Trey’s melodies was just too hilarious for words. I immediately retweeted the clips to my followers as I watched and laughed. Kanter had taken the prankster spirit of Phish and wove it right into one of the cheesiest shows on the planet! And I can only imagine the shit-eating grin on the guitarist’s face, let alone Kuroda’s, as he did so.
I jokingly Tweeted to Kanter, “When are you gonna drop “Tweezer” licks in a Bieber show?” Within a minute, YEMBlog responded that Kanter had already posted on Phantasy Tour that “Tweezer” was coming next! My mental response was a fusion of “WHAAAT?!?” and “That’s fuckin’ awesome!” Within minutes, a multi-party conversation started with people making all sorts of Phish/Bieber jokes, primarily focused on the absurd possibility of a Bieber-focused gag on New Year’s Eve. I suggested that Tom Marshall would be announced as Bieber as he descended from the rafters of MSG at midnight with the goth-angel outfit that Beiber has worn for the same stunt to kick off each and every show. Marshall responded, suggesting he would be introduced wearing an overcoat onstage only to have Bieber shed the costume and appear on stilts to sit in with Phish as the clock struck twelve! Everyone was in on the humor! But then people started worrying about Phish embracing the Biebs too much. “Really?” I thought. Fans were actually concerned that Bieber’s fans—and more particularly his music—would cross over to Phish. Now this seemed a bit absurd. Perhaps the guys work a Bieber allusion into a New Year’s joke or tease a pop song in jest, but theories hypothesizing the potential of Justin singing with Phish felt a bit too ridiculous for me. But, hey, he’d probably pull it off far better than Kid Rock did! The bottom line is “Who Cares?!” But for those sweating it out, the Canadian heartthrob is off for New Year’s Eve!
Regardless if the pop star ever steps foot Phish’s stage, I really don’t see an influx of fourteen year old girls and their parents infiltrating the Phish scene. Nor do I see Bieb’d out setlists as even a remote possibility. But to see fans began to sour over the potential was enough for another personal chuckle. Would some Bieberheads get turned on to Phish? Probably. Is that a bad thing? Hell no! But regardless of fan crossover, the real humor here is that Phish music that will continue to be woven into Bieber’s upcoming concerts! While the band is off tour, the question every morning will now be,” What songs did Kanter dropped on the domes of 20,000 unknowing teens last night?” And we will all sit back and laugh. Shit, if you were a Phish fan playing guitar for Justin Beiber, wouldn’t you do the same thing? I know I would.
Jam of the Day:
“Tweezer” 8.17.97 I, Limestone, ME
Something groovilicious for any potential Bieberites stopping by.