Believe it or not, 2013 is the thirty-year anniversary of Phish, Vermont's pied-pipers of Wookie stoner trash. Yesterday I was poking around on the Internet and I came across an article that Katie Bain wrote for the LA Weekly in defense of jam bands. In the piece, she defines these musicians as "rooted in the tradition of exercising one's basic urges through an ecstatic musical experience," but just so we're working from a shared definition, a jam band is a group of smelly men who can't write real songs. Phish, a four-person group now in its 30th year of giving bong boys a reason to get off the beanbag chair, is one of those bands.
For those looking to eviscerate shitheads, Phish is pretty low-hanging fruit: They're only a hair of a step above Wings, or Adolph Eichmann. But I grew up in the Northeast, where L.L. Bean, Birkenstocks, and, yes, Phish are our birthright. It was pretty much all I knew until I left the fourth grade, a lineage passed down by conga-beating counselors at the camp I was forced to attend. I owned a few Phish CDs, saw them live once (I didn't buy a ticket though!), and even rocked a "Gamehenge" shirt, a reference to singer Trey Anastasio's fictional fantasyland senior project.
Point is, I feel like I have something to say about it, and I'm going to try to do so without using the words "dirty," "hippy," "stoner," "weed," "Danny Tamberelli," "trustafarian," "jester hat," "hackeysack," "rainstick," or "retard."
TREY ANASTASIO IS A PILL-POPPING, HYPOCRITE ENABLER
In 2006, Trey Anastasio was pulled over in Washington Country, New York, and arrested for driving drunk and carrying a shit-ton of Vicodin, and other opiate-based painkillers he was addicted to. He performed 215 hours of community service, cleaning toilets at the community fairgrounds. Now he's five years sober, and an outspoken lobbyist for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
Now I know what you're thinking: How can you call Trey Anastasio a fumbling, intolerable dickweed for getting addicted to drugs, getting over it, and going on to help others get over their own problems with abuse. But do you really think he's sending a good message by hosting massive, bacchanal drug parties on a semi-regular basis? According to the Daily Press, a recent Phish show in Virginia saw over 200 arrests, mostly for possession or distribution of narcotics. Over three nights of Phish shows, police reportedly seized a load of drugs with a street value of over 1.2 million dollars. This means that, at any given Phish concert, the audience is cramming hundreds of thousands of dollars of substance into their arms, down their throats, or up their O-rings.
If Trey really wanted to help people with substance abuse problems he'd break up his shitty band. Also…
THEIR MUSIC IS NOT GOOD
I wish I could make that sound smarter, but that's all there is to it. Whenever you confront a true Phish Head about his or her terrible taste, you get the same response: "But they're such great musicians!"
And let's be honest, that's true: These guys absolutely fucking shred. But a talented musician does not a good band make. There's more to rock 'n' roll than just virtuosic noodle soup that goes to Nowheresville. If I spent my hard earned money on Phish tickets and drugs I'd at least expect the band to utilize their combined talent to make something of value and substance, not just a mushy jambalaya of the Dead, Pink Floyd, and the Sesame Street theme song.
THEY HAVE A TERRIBLE NAME AND LOGO
Seriously, just look at that growler. Can you think of a worse band name than Phish? Just writing it gives me that slimy, I-just-accidentally-stepped-in-rotten-cod feeling, and that's not even taking into account that they're named for their drummer, Jon Fishman, who wears a dress and looks like this:
PHISH FANS ARE PIECES OF HUMAN GARBAGE
The caliber of Phish's fan base is a classic, time-honored reason to hate the band as much as the Khmer Rouge. Phish fans are basically dead-eyed jocks that are too drugged-up to rape. They're often referred to as "Wookies," a reference to the slack-jawed, non-verbal state they perennially exist in following consumption of olympic amounts of lysergic acid diethylamide. Most of these people are harmless enough, if you consider the vegetarian, cross-dressing sons of chemical biologists with names like "Murph-nugget" harmless.
Some Phish Heads admit to "getting into one Tool album in college," but ultimately write their pre-Phish days off as "a weird time in my life" while gawking at a table of neatly organized bubblers, bowls, bongs, one-hitters, and vaporizers, all with ridiculous nicknames like "gussy" or "chillum-fish." They're also guilty of quoting Dr. Seuss in their AOL Instant Messenger profile (in a sea foam-green font color) and using Phish lyrics for both their email account name and email password. Which brings me to my next point…
NO BAND HAS EVER HAD WORSE LYRICS
…In the history of rock and roll. For example: "Got a blank space where my mind should be. Got a CLIF Bar and some cold green tea."
That's all I can write about them. I wish there was more to say but these guys really do just suck. Happy birthday, Phish!
[UPDATE: After Ben wrote this story, the entire Phish-loving Phinternet declared war on him. Here's what happened.]
Ben's favorite Ben & Jerry's ice-cream flavor is Phish Food. He also says dumb things on Twitter - @b_shap