|I've been a Phish fan for a while now. I was talking to a friend recently who was saying something about how they "never quite got the appeal of Phish", and that's something I totally understand. Phish is an acquired taste. But not an acquired taste like fine wine or Scotch, which are objectively good products that are sometimes unenjoyable for newcomers.
Phish is objectively bad. Trey is a pretty good guitarist who sometimes hits the right notes. Mike is a sub-par bassist who still hasn't locked in a good bass tone. Paige is an ok pianist. Fishman is a mediocre drummer at best. Phish is known for their live shows, but any newcomer who's heard a recording of a live show notices immediately that it sounds like Phish have never played their own songs before. They're sloppy. They miss notes. The singing is terrible. And the jams ... just too damn long.
So what exactly is the appeal of Phish? It's hard to explain in a way that doesn't sound crazy, but here goes: Phish is a band that manages energy really well. This is best demonstrated in a live show. There's a sort of palpable energy at pretty much any live music event. There's the excitement of getting to hear live music, preferably from a band you like. You're there with friends; there's alcohol; weed smoke floats lazily through the air. The lights dim; the band gets on the stage. Phish's claim to fame (sort of) is that they routinely play songs from their entire 40-year catalog, so you never really know what you're gonna get on any given night. The song could be fast or slow, short or long, happy or sad, old or new. The lights follow along to the music. Then: The jam. That's where the magic happens. Veterans know what's happening, but it's still sort of a surprise every time. It starts off slow and steady. Meanders through ups and downs. Dies off for a while. Then slowly and steadily it comes back, and it builds and builds and builds to a climax. Music blaring; lights blinding; crowd screaming. Rinse and repeat.
By any objective measure, Phish is bad. Wrong notes; bad singing; weird lyrics; dumb songs. But that's looking at it the wrong way. Phish is about energy. They follow a pattern of excitement, anticipation, surprise, delayed gratification, climax. And they're quite good at it. #entertainment