It's almost too easy to make fun of Phish and everyone who listens to them and goes to their shows.
That's just fine with me, because my absolute favorite hobby is making fun of myself. And I can fully make fun of myself for how much I love seeing Phish play live, especially in my little hometown of 11 million souls.
I think of Phish like Dungeons & Dragons or cilantro. Unless you like it--a lot--you can't possibly understand why anyone would. But if you do like it, well, you are fucking INTO that shit!
Phish is like cilantro, in that people who like it like it on everything, and people who don't have a visceral reaction to how bad it tastes.
A Phish show is also like a game of D&D, in that when you're playing, you're immersed in the adventure of it. There are four dungeon masters on stage and it's a roll of the dice where you're going next. You're transported to a world with its own subculture, costumes, and lingo. You know it's silly and make-believe, and that the rest of the world thinks it's stupid and ridiculous. Yet you're not quitting that shit or skipping hippie-con for anything.
There is also, of course, an element of nostalgia to anything you've liked for so long and that you associate with youthful exuberance. I have too many responsibilities to just travel around the country seeing Phish like I used to in the 1990s, and I don't have the mental real estate to dork out on all their stats and whereabouts anymore.
But for a few hours a year, it's still fun to travel back to that time and place, only now without the emotional baggage of my largely miserable late teens and early 20s.
The band has grown up too, and if you've seen them a lot over the years you can tell. They're confident and clean, with a bit less frenetic energy, but with a certain unbridled self-possession that accompanies the shedding of fucks that comes with age.
Although Phish has never played in Alaska (fingers crossed), they played their song Alaska last night, in the same venue where I saw my first arena rock concert--Guns n' Roses--when I was 14. It was almost perfect that a fellow Alaskan and O.H.M. reader tracked me down to say hi at his first show at the Garden.
MSG used to be a shithole in a gritty part of the city. It only sold popcorn, peanuts, Kosher hot dogs, and shitty beer like a Little League concession. Times have changed. Last night I found myself eating a Greek salad in the equivalent of an immaculate airport concourse.
I wish I could express in words the shade and side-eye on the face of the guy who sold that Greek salad to me. He looked at me and rolled his eyes contemptuously at my very existence. I wanted to explain that my failure to understand the new weird credit card machine and ordering process was an issue of Alaska-based technology incompetency, and not only dumb hippie-hood, but I didn't have the energy to mount a defense of myself.
I'm almost 40, and I've surrendered to the flow of dorkiness forever.