After 30 years of touring, a hiatus, a break-up, 11 studio albums (12 if you include the White Tape), several New Year’s Eve (NYE) runs, 9 festivals, and 6 Halloween album costumes, Phish is thriving. Four years after the band’s exalted return to the stage, the Phish community is thriving and possibly hungrier than ever. Phish and its fans endured some “3.0” growing pains and are better off for it. The band has established several new jamming styles, became wiser in selecting tour dates and venues, learned how to cater to its “older” fan base as well as how to cater their own needs, and delivered some all-time jams in the process.
To me, Phish’s reunion has undoubtedly been successful. In the early days of “3.0,” there were concerns among fans that Phish was a nostalgic act; that the band lost its spark; that there wouldn’t be a high enough demand for extensive tours; that new fans would not be drawn to the music; that shows were just about rocking and no longer about experimentation or spontaneity; or that the band members were no longer as into Phish. Some of these concerns were legitimate, but over the past four years, specifically during 2011 and 2012, Phish has proven to its doubters, supporters, critics, fans, and critical fans that the band is for real.
In 2009 and 2010 many fans would respond to critical reviews on message boards with comments like “just be grateful the band is back” or “if you don’t have fun at shows don’t go,” but on the fourth anniversary of Phish’s reunion, such remarks are no longer relevant since the band has proven it’s still taking music seriously and delivering on a high level. Just look to the past two NYE runs. After an underwhelming 2011 NYE run, Phish capped 2012, their most impressive year of touring in years, in wild fashion. The 2012 NYE run included standout jams, antics, teases, stage banter, new covers, and an intricate NYE prank proving the band still cares.
Phish returned to the stage at a time when social media and Internet usage took fandom to new heights. Social media coverage live at shows, instant show downloading, high quality recordings, and a variety of blogs have, in some ways, changed the way we Phish; yet, it’s still about the music and the live experience. In some ways it’s made being a fan more enjoyable and in other ways it’s been frustrating given the amount complaining, bickering, and over-hyping we often read. Either way, it’s a nod to the success of “3.0.” Phish is generating interest and doing so in entertaining ways. From headlining festivals they inspired like Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, to playing with Bruce Springsteen, to pushing the boundaries of live streaming of shows and Phish continued to remain relevant and at the forefront of the musical community, while maintaing the band’s true spirit and respect of the fans.
Early on it felt like each tour or run the helped band get its sea legs back, but now it feels like after each tour the band is developing something new. Expectations were high early on in “3.0” and the band did not always deliver; however, it seems like Phish is delivering more consistently and more impressively than before. There are still gaps in shows and new material would be nice, but if you take a holistic approach to “3.0” the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. Phish is gaining fans and gaining momentum. I have personally taken several friends to shows and each time they have been won over by the band and the community (one special someone even cried). At this point, Phish is prepared to peak once more and were lucky to be there for the ride. So in honor of Phish’s return, listen to “The Fluffhead.” Better yet, listen to the 8/7/09 Gin, 11/28/09 -7->Ghost, 12/31/10 Ghost, 6/25/10 2001, 8/5/11 RnR 8/15/11 Waves->Undermind, 6/7/12 Ghost->Boogie, 9/1/12 Light, 12/28/12 Tweezer, or any of the other standout jams from “3.0” to celebrate the bands triumphant return.