Music Column: Take a gander at the Phish Phanatics

Music Column: Take a gander at the Phish Phanatics
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Phish “phans” have an app. It can be phound in the App Store and downloaded to your phone. Through this app, phanatics have, at their phingertips, twenty-phour minute jam sessions that drastically evolve phollowing the song’s phruition. 

The phanbase (my last phonetic pun) has an energetic website,, which actively charts and tracks every Phish performance, set list, venue and more, adding to the collectivist culture that is Phish. Users contribute and debate varying topics from exciting show stories to individual reviews of shows. 

Say what you will about Phish–and I have said a lot–but my newly formed, never researched theory is that most people come around to the jam band. The fan base continues to grow exponentially, as seen during their 13 night Baker’s Dozen run at Madison Square Garden last year, the longest run ever for the indoor arena, which seats over 20,000 patrons. 

As many have come to realize, the members of Phish are masters of their instruments, making their notoriously long jams–the longest being a 59 minute rendition of “Runaway Jim” performed in 1997–a trek through sounds that ebb into various forms and spaces. As I stated earlier, I theorize that everyone who bashes on Phish slowly becomes aware of the more nuanced aspects of their artistry and their ability to hold large audiences captive with their escapading songs and covers.

This conversion can and should be attributed to Phish phans through a two-pronged approach. The first attack on the defenses is through constant baraging of Phish praise. The waves of praise hit in rapid-fire succession until the adversary wonders if it’s time to give it the old college try, if you will. Then, once the opposer attends a Phish show, they become impressed by the audience’s excitement and joy at seeing Trey Anastasio and crew. Eventually, they become excited themselves, make 18 friends and plan their next concert. It’s just what happens. 

I will now make the argument that Phish’s positive and welcoming presence and community is representative of the band itself. Before doing so, I’ll be upfront about my Phish stance: I have yet to see the band live, but I have heard from Phish phans about the wonder that is the jam band.

The diverse fan base that follows Phish from coast to coast is willing to buy tickets for shows that last multiple nights for the possibility of hearing an elusive cover or original. Another use for the fan base's website is to track the average gap between performances of these elusive tracks, as well as all of Phish's songs.

Those that attend these shows approach each opportunity with wide-eyed glee, welcoming all experiences headed their way. As a community, Phish phans are excited to advocate for the band's music by welcoming others into their fervent passion for attending live shows.

The band itself must have a similarly appealing personality if it is capable of mobilizing such a unique troupe of characters at various stages of life. Phish encourages this community of supporters and allows a dialogue to flourish between the band and its following. All that Phish phans want is the chance to see another show. Phish allows for this in an unmatched manner by touring constantly, often for multiple nights in varied venues. The positive atmosphere at each concert is consistent and warranted.

Other bands' fans occupy a similar space to that of Phish phans, but it’s rare that they play such a large part in creating converts in favor of the band. However, with its inside jokes, puzzling set lists and untraceable music references, Phish isn’t your typical band 

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