I had no idea what to expect when I first walked through a crowded Pepsi Arena in Albany, NY. I was barely 20 years old (fall of ’98? ’99?), and I felt like I was walking through a carnival. What was this place? Where did all of these people come from? And where had they been all my life?
I had my first veggie burrito created in the back of a van by a handsome dreadlocked hippie. I was struck in the back of the head by a handful of glowsticks. At the end of the night, everyone in my vicinity knew it was my first Phish show and they asked me what my favorite part was.
“Uhhhh, Bouncing Around the Room?” Of course it was. Derp.
Over the years, I’ve lost track of the ticket stubs, my favorite jams, the funny preshow moments—but I’ll never forget the memories Phish evokes, from the happy times spent with good friends to the stress of too many hours locked in a moving vehicle. I have loved everything about Phish culture and after a night in Hartford over the weekend, I wanted to write about what this band specifically means to me, especially since I don’t have the means to travel to see them like I used to.
Also I’m hoping that this post helps anyone who doesn’t quite GET it. Phish is not for everyone, but it’s a welcoming environment for anyone who wants to give it a go.
So what’s the big deal with Phish?
It means bumping into friends—old and new—in the lot. This past weekend, I saw an old friend from college. The last time I saw her? Was—you guessed it!—on Phish tour. You may not have the chance to see everyone, but all is forgiven because you’ll catch up later and discuss highlights.
It means you’ll always remember your first show.
You have a song in mind that you desperately want to hear. And when Phish plays the opening notes, you completely lose your mind.
It means you have a million pictures exactly like this on your camera:
And inexplicably this:
Inside jokes are everywhere—on t-shirts, on merch, on signs, in bathrooms. You’ll find yourself laughing at things that wouldn’t make sense outside of this world.
It means you get excited about food that might otherwise completely gross you out. You eat and drink from places that would never pass any sanitary requirements and you could care less.
Like everything else in life, Phish evolves and changes as the years go by. You notice families blowing bubbles and decorating their children in glowsticks and you start to imagine what it might look like for you to share the experience with your own little posse one day.
I hope Phish is around for many, many moons to come and that I always have the same love in my heart to share with this band. Because regardless of where I am in life, I never feel more at home than when I’m surrounded by my people, barefoot on a lawn in summer.