It seems that throughout all of human history, most scenes have been harshly divided into two camps: the jaded vet and the hopeless noob. The both have their uses, but if I had to pick one, give me the hopeless noob every time.
First off, we were all noobs once. Whenever we discovered the whole Phish universe we were just blown away. It’s like this crazy never-never land had been under our noses the entire time, we just didn’t know it was there. When we found it, we knew we wanted to revel in it as long as possible and most importantly: we wanted to go back.
When we got there, however, there were other people there. They had been there. They had seen shows that you’d only heard on tape (or whatever the chosen media of your day and age might have been) and man oh man, if only you’d been there. And off we’d go in wide-eyed wonderment to ride the ride again and again and again until all of a sudden, we had been there too.
However, after all that working to no longer be a hopeless noob and finally become a jaded vet, all of sudden, I kind of wish I could go back. All the best shows I saw were in 1998. That’s not because 1998 is the best year ever (though it’s a good one), it means that’s when I was seeing a lot of shows in a lot of places for the first time. I’ll admit, as unjaded as I try to be, I’m a bit of a setlist fetishist myself. Especially when the band is on tour and I’m not. I’ll watch the streams and check out the setlists as the roll in, but unless they do something they don’t ever do, I don’t feel like I’m missing much. But I’m wrong.
The problem with the jaded vet is that they’re always looking towards the past. This summer was good, but it was no 1995. This festival is okay, but it’s no Cypress.
The noob however, is just the opposite. Wide eyed wonderment at everything. Every song is a bust out. Every peak is a roller coaster. Every Trey solo is his best.
Besides, the silly things that hopeless noobs do that are such an integral part of the Phish experience, I can’t even imagine what a show would be like if that was gone. First off, they dress to the nines. They want to fit in, and they want to impress. I don’t dress like a crazy hippie anymore, but I love me some people who do. Without the kids at their first or second Phish show to get a little out of hand and let their hair hang down, it just wouldn’t be as fun.
The noob is also participating in things that some people got tired of long ago. Waving a ticket stub during Golgi. Check. Screaming “Wilson” like they were trying to reach Gamhendge itself? Check.
Most importantly, for the noob, every song is being seen for the first time. Face it, you see some shows, you see some songs. After awhile there are tunes you feel like you’re seeing all the time. You take the foot off the pedal a bit. Not the noob. They don’t care. They’re not here to judge the setlist, they’re here to experience it. They keep dancing, singing, moving and they never once wonder if this one’s an “all-timer”. There’s something to be said about that.
We all know the best Phish song at any Phish show is rarely the bust out. Bust outs are for statisticians, but the Phish experience is about the big songs. It’s about YEM and Bathtub and Divided Sky and Harry Hood, regardless if the band doles them out in a fairly predictable rotation. I’ve always said that my favorite Phish song is the next one, and the only time that changes is when I’m at a show. Then my favorite is the one I’m hearing right then and there.
That’s actually all hyperbole. My favorite song is Harry Hood, but I digress.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to live in the moment and Phish is the best ‘live in the moment’ band because that moment is just so indescribable.
Be a hopeless noob and go live in the moment, don’t be a jaded vet and pine for moments past.