As we find ourselves in the midst of arguably the most-highly touted Phish tour since their return at Hampton in 2009, fans are often overloaded with info – before, during, and immediately after the shows. Between certain outlets, such as this one, and social media sites, such as Twitter & Facebook as well as the instant gratification of smart phones and official (and sometimes unsolicited) webcasts, fans are allowed to surf “couch tour” at home, while never having to fire up the VW Bus in the driveway.
While these attempts serve to satisfy the insatiable hunger of the Phish masses, there all also some negative points that may in fact hinder the overall experience and take away from the long legacy and lore of certain shows. In short, fans are programmed to only think about the most recent shows, and develop a “what have you done for me lately” attitude that is a true double edged sword with rewards but also pitfalls and perils.
For anyone that knows me, or follows me on Twitter (@BrianBavosa), they know that 99% of my tweets are music, or more-than-likely, Phish related. I try and give my honest-to-goodness, 140 character opinion of a show, as it’s happening, in real time. While I feel this is in part my obligation as a journalist, fan and someone who’s seen the band almost 300 times, it sometimes can even hinder my own experience in a very, very, very small way. Yeah, I know. I can simply not do it, but my Phish FOMS gets to be at an all-time high during the in-show period, seeing what my friends at the venue, or across the country on their couch think of what they are seeing/hearing. On the other hand, it’s a sensory overload of sorts, much like Chris Kuroda’s light show, and in my opinion, the core essence of every rabid Phish fan to begin with. But, don’t let my in-shows tweets fool you. I still know why I’m there in the first place and don’t let Twitter dictate my show-going experience as a whole, but rather enhance it.
It’s great to be able to digest critiques, or be alerted to teases/quotes in songs immediately that used to take months to identify in the earlier days of tape trading, but it still spoils the surprise sometimes. It’s like a 6 year-old knowing what’s waiting for him under the Christmas tree without even opening his present: satisfied he got what he wanted, but takes all the excitement and adrenaline out of the journey of getting through the wrapping paper. A true quagmire.
Look at the end of 2011 for a perfect example. The three-night, Labor Day Weekend Run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver was praised by many as a spectacular run of shows, including the now infamous “S” show, which many fans called just a few songs in. A show of such epic proportions that took place in the ’90s would have been something of much greater lore. Fans would’ve had to wait weeks or months to get their hands on the tapes from a friendly trader through a B+P (blanks and postage), once the taper got home and transferred the show from their DAT deck. (Sound like a foreign language? Trust me, once upon a time, it was the vernacular).
Such shows as the ones from Dick’s set the stage for the New Year’s Run at MSG, and had fans’ expectations running wild. But, as I stated in these here electronic pages – gasp! – the band fell flat. And…for six months, that’s the bitter taste that many had in their mouth in the world of Phish. And so it goes in the age of 3.0 and instant gratification.
Fast forward to this summer. Shows are blowing up, fans are buzzing, Twitter is going wild and MSG is a long-forgotten distant memory. (Oh, how quickly we forget!). The concept of a “sleeper show” is all but extinct. The days of getting a random tape, with only handwriting on it and allowing your own ears and brain to form their own judgement are over. Now – it’s all but predetermined for you, almost before it happens. Hell, call ME the nostalgia act these days, but I can say I miss the days of four hours of uninterrupted solace at show, with nothing to remember it by, but your own experience – not that of thousands of others. (Which is just one reason why the AC shows ,with no cell service, was so nice).
In the end, I’m as guilty as the next guy. I’m someone that loves being in the action – at the show, on Twitter, writing my night-of review to be published immediately as I did for many years, or chatting with the fan next to me (between songs, of course). But I also long for modern-day teenagers in the burbs, for that experience of discovering the wonder of Phish and other bands, through their own distinct journey and at their own pace. It’s like the argument for vinyl or CD’s versus iPods. Again, I happen to love both, but the former are things of the past and being left behind in the dust ever more each day.
But readers, Phish just destroyed Blossom this past Sunday with the Tweezerfest, and for now, all is well in Gamehendge. Until the next time when, god forbid, they screw up a song, repeat Possum or don’t jam enough – and everyone on Twitter says so.
Check out more of Michael Stein’s photos from Phish at First Niagara Pavilion…