Friday, November 5, 2010

Phish and "Journalism"

There are basically three types of articles written about Phish shows. There are articles written about the music, written about the fans, or written about drugs. The latter category is reserved for those who have little regard for the first two.

It's no secret that the some fans of this band " to alter their consciousness" as Gordon has been quoted saying in the past. Considering the impact a band like Phish has on the economy of any area that they play, focusing solely on this one aspect is somewhat myopic, though not without precedent. All one has to hear is that they are a band with "...a following somewhat like the Grateful Dead." Once that image is implanted, the article almost writes itself. Those guys were big druggies, right? If this band is anything like them, then let's run down all of the arrests that took place around the shows. They are pretty much the only band that has arrest records like this, right?

You should be able to ignore the hundreds of thousands of dollars pumped into the local economies through lodging, restaurants and local attractions. It's not like these people are taking time off of work, and flying in after saving for months to make these destinations part of their vacations. A boost to your economy is no big deal, right?

Also ignore the level of musicianship playing right there in your area. A band that has B.B. King, Sharon Jones, and Springsteen among their peers is no big deal. It probably doesn't matter that the band takes a few months off to learn an entire album for their Halloween shows. Lot's of bands do that right? Tonal fugues? What the hell are those? Look, they probably just play a single chord over and over again. This is pretty much the same thing as a rave. What's the big deal?

Writers like this perpetuate the stigma because it's easy. It's stock. They don't know, or care to know anything more than what they read on the police blotter. Their readers may not know this, but we do. To the writers that choose to dig a little deeper, I thank you.


  1. Hear, hear, Jiggs.

  2. great read, completely agree with you!

  3. I'm beyond a big Phish fan, but I feel compelled to point out a few things.
    -Any touring band helps infuse local economies it visits.
    -Phish fans probably do do more drugs than the average concert going fan. Can this really be argued? I'm not judging...I'm just stating. You can find nearly anything in the lots.
    -Demanding that locals, to say nothing of music critics, "like" the music because you think it is good or just difficult and demanding for the band isn't really fair or rational.
    That said, yes, it is annoying that all articles lead with a reference to the Dead. Write about the show, tell me it was a good experience, something very different than you see most days, and that the music was if not good to you, quite interesting at least. Then you're conveying you've written an article with an open mind! I defy anyone not to have fun at a Phish concert, anyway....

  4. "-Phish fans probably do do more drugs than the average concert going fan. Can this really be argued? I'm not judging...I'm just stating. You can find nearly anything in the lots.
    -Demanding that locals, to say nothing of music critics, "like" the music because you think it is good or just difficult and demanding for the band isn't really fair or rational."

    ...well, I think you may have illustrated my point perfectly. "Probably do more drugs...". Based on what? My point is that there is no way to know this. It's based on 'probably'. My point is whether you are seeing Lynard Skynard, DMB, STS9, Bisco, or Insane Clown Posse, it is impossible to poll the crowd and see who is doing drugs. Many of the people in the lot are there to make money, and do not care for the music. However, Phish fans have to bear the stigma of this. was not my intention that any local journalist "like" the music. As fans, we know that the music is clearly not for everyone.

    Many thanks for a thoughtful response. Thanks very much for reading!

  5. I cite empiracle evidence only. I like live music, not all of it on the jam scene. I've never seen a more lively, weird, interesting crowd than at Phish shows. I've also never been offered more drugs of every stripe...or seen as many people out of their minds. That's all of I've got. And no, I've never seen the Disco Biscuits live, but if they should become as mainstream as Phish they will suffer the same banner, I imagine. Also, I don't mind the drug some cases, I enjoy observing it or enjoy it in the abstract, knowing there are still wonderfully creative places to, say, drop acid or what have you. - Previous Commenter

  6. I would think Phish fans do more to "infuse local economies" than those of other touring bands. Most band/performers don't "bring" fans along with them, rather they just pull from the local community. This being the case would bring additional consumers to the region where the concert is taking place (e.g. lodging, food, alcohol, etc.).

  7. this has bothered me since the mid-90's. In the early 90's I devoured the local music reviews and seeked out the local newspapers after all the shows because the articles were about the music! this changed over time, and now I can't be bothered to hunt down the "reviews". There are great music writers in most cities but sadly it is the lifestyle reporter that is tasked with covering the show. lame indeed. and no, they don't need to like it, just write about it intelligently, as a sports writer that loathed the Yankees could write a compelling account of an exciting playoff game. this just doesn't happen as much as it should (save for Bob Lefsetz who gets it)

  8. It's the shallow, one-sided articles like the one's you're dissing that kept me away from Phish until 2002. In other words, I bought the hype: they were Dead clones (I don't like the Dead at all), all the fans were hippie burnouts stuck in the 60's, all their songs were 20 mintue jams etc.

    I bought it and I totally regret doing that because I would have gone nuts during 1993-1995, I definitely would have spent my vacation time following them on the west coast. Oh well, it would be nice if the actually toured the west coast any more! :-)

  9. I agree 100% Jiggs. Unfortunately, I feel oneof the first steps is getting rid of the nitrous mafia and the littering of balloons before this perception can change.

  10. In 2003 (bad year, I know), I brought a friend to her first Phish show and, having seen shows since 1995, got to sort of experience a "first show" again, this time through her eyes. It was the first time that it made sense why journalists consistently write about the drugs: because there was a *lot* going on in the lots that year (as well as backstage).

    Good commentary, though. I enjoy the site.

    I think that many journalists who cover a Phish show rarely attend an event where so many people are actively engaged in the sale, trade or use of drugs. It probably is a little jarring if you were at the same venue one night earlier seeing the Miley Cyrus show. It's notable, and it would be hard to write about what "happens" at a Phish show without mentioning the drugs, simply because people openly do drugs at Phish shows.

    Do I wish they would write about the music, or the attitude of fans or the positive impact on the community? Of course (especially the music), but I understand where they're coming from when they hit that subject more than others.

  11. Who cares what we choose to do, we're not bothering anyone. We don't hurt anyone(99% of the time, there is always the random idiot at every show.) We're proof to LEGALIZE IT!