If you make it to the end of this monster post, there are pictures as a reward. Or, if you just want to skip ahead to the pictures I won't be offended.
When I was 16, I threw myself a birthday party and told all my friends if they wanted to get me a gift, I would love a copy of their favorite cd. This turned out to be one of the best ideas I've ever had. I don't remember all of what I got, but one standout was Phish's Rift. Now I have to say I didn't love it then. But gosh darn, I tried to love it. Most of my friends at that point were Phish fans, and I think almost all of them went to at least one concert while we were in high school. They never asked me if I wanted to go. I don't know if this was because I tended to not be allowed to go to stuff like that, and so they assumed it would just make me sad to be invited and then have to say no, or if they were just awful people. (I know it's the former, but I've always been a little insecure about being left out of stuff!)
So anyway, when I got that copy of Rift, I listened to it as hard as I have ever listened to anything. I wanted so desperately to "get" whatever my friends found in Phish, so I could be as gung-ho and avid a "Phan" as the rest of them. And then maybe they'd talk to me when they were making their concert plans too. But try as I might, I just couldn't totally get into it.
Twelve years later, I've got it.
My boyfriend is probably the biggest Phish fan I'll ever have the privilege of meeting. When the reunion was announced, and summer tour dates set, he had counted me in before I even understood what was happening. And this, to me, was a huge compliment. We went to two shows this summer and about two songs into the second show, I knew I'd never be the same again.
The first show was at Starlake, near Pittsburgh, on June 18th. I had fun for sure (photo evidence below) but I only heard one song that I recognized at all, "Free" which I only sort of knew from hearing it randomly at a friend's house. I loved the crowd, I loved the energy, but I didn't totally love the band yet. Yet.
Over the course of July, my wonderful boyfriend redoubled his efforts in mentoring me towards Phandom. He let me borrow his copy of Rift (that original copy that I had got lost somewhere in the 15+ times I've moved in the last 10 years) and then Hoist and then Billy Breathes. (This all combined with the fact that anytime we were in his car he'd play live shows from the summer tour.) Hearing the album version of "Free" on Billy Breathes and then immediately getting hooked by "Character Zero" and "Taste" and then realizing that I had real preferences for different songs and albums ("Character Zero" is still my favorite song, Billy Breathes is my favorite album, with Rift a solid second and "Silent in the Morning" makes me love it a little more everytime I hear it), all of it started to really grow on me.
And it was just in time to get me really, really excited for the show at Merriweather Post Pavilion outside of DC. I can't really explain what it was or why it clicked, but even though they only played two songs that I knew ("Taste" and "Time Turns Elastic"), I finally reached the point where I felt like I really connected with the music. It was great! And I know that the more Phish I listen to, the more gems I'm going to find.
Carrie Brownstein had a similar, if truncated, journey this summer too.
This is at the Starlake show. Look! I'm pumped! But I think you can kind of tell in my eyes that I'm not as pumped as I could be.
Tailgating at Merriweather. Our friend Lisa randomly had a baby picture in her bag with her. We stuck it up in my trunk and told people that it was a kid that we lost two shows ago. We got some funny looks. Shockingly, the omnipresent police force didn't question us about it. (Also, look at my hippie top! Patchwork corduroy?? I must be into Phish!)
Sometime in the second set, Aaron managed to finagle us this amazing spot right in the front of the lawn. The screen that you see in the upper left was huge and cast this cool funky glow all around us. I've learned that the best thing for me to do at concerts with Aaron is to hold his hand, stay alert, and keep as close as possible when we're moving. If I do that successfully, a great view is my reward. He's a master at getting up close.