Phish: Live in Concert

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I’m not a Phan.

Let me just say that I’ve heard quite a bit of their music, but I’ve never been to one of their concerts. When I tell Phish fans this, they respond by telling me I need to see them live. I’d been told the same thing a hundred times by Grateful Dead fans when I told them I didn’t care for that band, either. It seems that Phish fans (and Dead fans) all have the same thought: we can win you over if you see the band live.

So I went. I had a friend who had been after me for years to go and we made a deal – I told him I would go if he bought me a ticket, so he did. I went in with as open a mind as I could muster. I did not allow myself to automatically shut down with the opinion of, “I don’t like this band and I’m not going to have any fun.” Instead, I planned on having an experience.

We arrived early, did a little tailgating, walked around Shakedown Street, enjoying the jumble of vendors, some who looked legitimate – others, not so much. We went inside the venue when the doors opened and got good seats. We sat and chatted while the sun slowly set (it was a beautiful night in Denver) and the stadium filled with people. My friend made sure to fill me in on as much information as he thought I could handle. He knew I wasn’t a fan, and so he was careful not to oversell, but his enthusiasm was enjoyable. Soon enough, the lights went out and a roar erupted from the crowd. Phish took the stage and launched into the music immediately.

Firstly: I will give mad respect to the band – they are fantastic musicians who love what they do and are good at it. I can see that. They played for over three hours, with only one break. The light show was spectacular. Everyone around me was dancing their hearts out with big smiles on their faces, while glow sticks and light-filled balloons sailed through the air.

So, for the big question: was I converted? Will I listen to Phish at home or call myself a fan? No. My earholes like what they like. I can’t make them enjoy a 20-minute noodle jam. They just don’t care for it. There were a few grooves I liked, and a couple of songs I enjoyed, but overall, the concert didn’t really change my opinion much. You either like asparagus or you don’t – it doesn’t matter if it’s steamed or pureed – if it doesn’t please your taste buds, you can’t make yourself like it.

Am I glad I went? Absolutely. Here’s what I took away from the experience: my favorite moments did not even involve the band – it was the audience. The whole crowd was a bobbing sea of energy, arms in the air, dancing, smiling, loving the moment. It was amazing to watch as they sang along, a rising tide of joy and community. Because I know that feeling when attending the concert of your favorite band and everything they play hits you in that spot that moves you and you’re in that same place with everyone around you. It’s an incredible feeling, and I felt honored to be able to witness it in the people around me. Mad love to you, Phish Heads – you do your thing.