Oh hey! We’re back at the Lincoln Theatre exactly a week later, but this time for something a little different, and with no children in tow. We saw Mike Gordon and his other band – his primary band being Phish.
Have I mentioned before that my Boy is a big fan of the Phish from Vermont? He is. He gets into the music, and it gives him this sort of transcendent focus, and so he listens to the music when he’s working or needs to concentrate, and loves to go to live shows every opportunity he gets.
And here we reach a moment of … stereotypes. I’m sure when I mentioned Phish a few of you immediately rethought everything I’d mentioned about him in the past and were adding an air of slacker hippy to him. But he’s not. And so many other Phish (and jam-band in general) fans are not. In fact, there was an article in Vogue last December about a woman whose husband is a “phan”, but who also works in finance – something that doesn’t seem too uncommon. This idea of corporate bros who still love them some 18-minute jams and can just bounce around happily the entire time. The article also talks about the choices she has to make regarding things like…New Years Eve. When they do a multi-night run of concerts, usually at Madison Square Garden, but also in places like Miami. And the phans don’t like to go to just one show – that wouldn’t be enough. It’s usually 2, or 3 or all 4. And they’ll go out to support other related acts – lead singer Trey Anastasio also has a band, and there are more jam bands out there that will attract similar audiences who draw different crowds based on regional affiliation (I feel like I’m learning about new bands every day).
So when we got to the Mike Gordon, I looked around. Yes, the audience is mostly white. Yes, it’s mostly men. But it’s not that stereotypical image of hairy people with bad teeth dressed in tie-dye. They look normal, because they are. It’s people out for a good time, and a sort of musical release that they can’t get elsewhere, and perhaps they have girlfriends who look at them askance when they do spinny-dances in their living rooms to recordings of live shows. There was a smattering of these stereotypical “wooks“, but they were also there just enjoying themselves.
And that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in my time with the Boy. Phish fans are generally just really nice people who want to have a good time. He’s told me stories of people in the lots at shows gifting tickets to those who weren’t able to get them (he likes to do it sometimes too – he feels like a hero when he does it). There’s a whole barter/sharing economy that happens in the lots, with food being very reasonably priced. There is a whole subset of fans who (are encouraged to) record shows, and who then make those shows available online for FREE. Or they’ll post videos of shows on YouTube. Fans will post the set-list live as it happens on websites so that fans who can’t be there or pay for a live-stream (couch tour) can know what’s being played, and what to look for later when the show becomes available. At the shows, people are just nice. I was wearing an old Phish shirt of the Boy’s and a girl walked past me at one point and stopped to tell me that she thought it was cool. Nobody questioned my “phandom” or lack thereof.
Because as much as he wants me to GET IT…I’m not going to (and I’m not the only one who feels this way). I enjoy the music, but the live show is just not really my thing. There is no switch that gets turned on in my brain when the music starts that goes “YES – NOW I AM ALIVE”. At the show last night, there were songs that I recognized from Mike’s repertoire, but the fact that the boy said “the second set was worth the price of admission”…I mean sure? I get that he likes it, but for me, it’s just not fun in the same way. I’m not a big fan of standing for hours on end (there’s a reason why I don’t work retail anymore). I get tired easily, and when a jam goes on for 10, 15, 20 minutes – I’m getting tired and wondering when the next song will play so we can get closer to the end of the set, and head home and get in bed. I am not made for wondrous late-second-set amazements. Especially when those happen past 11 pm. I’m really not a fan of the pervasive pot smoking. I don’t really care if other people do it in general, but in relatively close quarters when it’s coming from every side, and you’re sensitive to the smoke, it’s not a fun feeling to have a dry throat, headache and upset stomach. Towards the end, I started to feel like a killjoy, and yet I stuck through to the end of the show because I didn’t want to ruin it for the Boy.
Mike and his band were great. I did enjoy the second set when there were songs and melodies that I recognized. When the reel came out, it was fun to be right there and to touch the panels and contribute in some way to the music on stage…even if I couldn’t tell what I had done. I loved the lights, and the surprise of the light-up guitars, and how it was all designed to be a total sensory experience for the people at the show. Who knows if I’ll make it to another Phish or Phish-adjacent show. I don’t want to stop my Boy from having fun, and I don’t want to be the killjoy bringing down the vibe at a show. Maybe I’ll keep trying it out to see if it clicks, or maybe I need to resign myself to being a Phish widow the times that my Boy is away, and know that we’re both better off without me there.