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Tuesday, July 10

Phish Summer 2012: What Is A Band Without Fans?

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Before tour starts, or even before dates are announced we as fans have this desire to keep ourselves as closely connected to the band as possible.  The way that we do this is by listening to shows, watching videos, creating and visiting fan sites and Facebook pages.  We speculate on tour dates, where will they go this year, how long will their tour be.  Fake tour dates arise, some are close to accurate some are way off the charts.  Then as the tour comes near we begin to settle into the debate of what they will play, what songs of theirs and what covers and more importantly how will they sound.  Will it be jammy plinko’d with type II shrouded space or neat and clean composed songs, all straight and clean down the number line?  
We do this in order to fill the time between the shows that are the tours.  Simply enough if we put this behavior under a microscope we actually do it on every level.  Between era’s we debate the difference of the band’s sound, and between years we debate where the one that has just past will stand in the history books, between tours we compare and contrast the shows played.  Between shows we speculate what will be seen at the next venue.  Between sets we clamor with excitement as to which direction said show is going.  Between songs we guess as to what will be the next tune blown through the walls of speakers that bookend the stage.  And during the songs themselves we speculate where that song is going.  Will it be cut short, turned into an elongated jam and take us on a ride through passageways of uphill climbs and downhill runs?  The reason for all of this is our need to be close to this band and our love for them.  It is a rare relationship in any context, but in the context of fan and band it is quite rare, and one of the reasons Phish is so unique. 
I’ve written before about the fans, and the role that we all play in making the band who they are.  What is a band without fans?  That question led to me ask, what in the hell is Phish doing this summer and the conclusions that I came to astounded me, and asking around I found I wasn’t alone with my conclusions.  For the first time in many years, since 1995 to be exact I believe Phish is truly playing for themselve’s.  They are a band playing as if they have no fans.  Yes they are taking requests and don’t get me wrong they go out on stage and want to impress and leave every last soul, well, sold on the three or so hours that proceeded.  They want merchandise purchased, if they didn’t they wouldn’t sell it.  They want seats filled and stadiums packed.  They enjoy seeing all of those signs and smiles and dancing patrons.  But the way they have picked their set-lists and the songs they have played and in the manner in which that they have played them I can only conclude that they are so content with themselves that they are truly at a place of enjoying themselves.  
The fun that they’ve displayed on stage from the Star Wars nonsense to the Tuck theme that weaved its way from Virginia to Wisconsin, to me it is all self amusement in the finest manner.  I believe we are seeing Phish play similar to way they did in late 1994, and all of 1995 where while they completely engaged their fans, really and truly they were just good buds up on stage playing music.  It happened again in Europe, mainly in the summer of 1997 that they had this “I don’t care” attitude.  It’s like when you’re recently single and trying to find a new boyfriend or girlfriend.  The desperation itself is a turnoff.  And in most cases you don’t, it’s in the not trying that you actually find that one.  Well, I think that it’s in the not caring that Phish has put together one of the most memorable and conscientious runs in recent memory. 
Four friends up on stage again playing for themselve’s and enjoying each and every run, show, set, song and moment as if it were there last.  What leg II has to offer is anyone’s guess and at the expense of becoming a parody of my own editorial I’ll just leave it with what is a band without fans.  In this case the answer becomes more infinite and limitless than ever before.  The enjoyment that we all will experience as we await their return in the middle of next month is half as good as the enjoyment of a good show.  Therefore as we exhale the 200+ songs played, the antics, and all the tucks in between I find myself once again grateful that Phish enjoys themselves, as much as we always have.
Words: Samuel Martin
 © Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication