One of the consequences of this generation’s taboo-free music consumption is the breakdown of the hippie/hipster taste barrier — that is, a member of a leading indie-rock band feels perfectly comfortable publicly praising Phish. That is something that would not have happened 10 years ago, and certainly not 15 years ago, but it happened today on The Talkhouse, the website that lets musicians review other musicians. The passionate Phish head in question is Vampire Weekend drummer Chris Tomson, whose review of Trey Anastasio and company’s new Fuego (which is actually more like an essay about self-conscious urbanites’ relationship with Phish) begins like this:
I used to be obsessed with Phish. I once responded to a $1000 cash offer for my ticket to their NYE ’02 show with a terse yet decisive, “No fucking way, bro.” I once drove 12 hours to see a weekend of Phish shows in northern Maine and competed in the attendant Runaway Jim 5K for a chance to get onstage. I still know what YEM, PYITE, TMWSIY and DWD are acronyms for and who Jeff Holdsworth is. I’ve seen 25-30 Phish shows in the last 15 years. And, to a lot of people, that still makes me a newbie who doesn’t know shit.
But Tomson does, in fact, know shit about Phish, and about the cultural divide that keeps many Vampire Weekend fans far away from the world’s ruling jam band. Here’s more from the middle of his essay:
While a lot of Phish fans do not conform to the stereotypes that are the anathema of cool for young, urban, liberal, internet hipsterdom, many in fact do. HACKY-SACK AND FRISBEES. WHITE PERSON DREADLOCKS/TRUSTAFARIANS. KICKING A DOOB WHILE DANCING WITH A HULA HOOP AROUND YOUR WAIST. This is scary stuff, people.
To dismiss an artist because of such window dressing is bullshit, I think, but it still occurs. It certainly influences attitudes towards the band itself and how people approach its music. Do they have long songs? Yes. Are they hippies with synthesizers? No. As evidenced in their late-’90s-era documentary Bittersweet Motel (from director Todd Phillips, the man who brought you all three The Hangovers!), Phish’s intrinsic Phishiness is something the band has struggled both to get away from and embrace, often simultaneously.
[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.]