Wednesday 08/01/2012 by Lemuria


Originally posted nine years ago today...

IT has long referred to a transcendent moment of sudden appreciation for Phish and their music, an eruptive combination of sensation and experience. Those who didn't previously "get" Phish, and even some who have disliked Phish's music, become unexpectedly entranced. Whether due to a particular jam, new song, stylistic direction, innovative cover or composition, special guest, silly antic, or simply solid performance, they finally "get IT". And with this band, you can get IT again and again.

I got IT the first time I heard Phish. I probably only barely “got” music at all by that time. But when I heard Lawn Boy on the afternoon of 10/10/90, my ears exploded. And when I attended my first Phish show that night, I was absolutely stunned. This was IT – as strong, diverse, original, and fun as I could imagine – more so, certainly. I was awakened to IT.

I have since gotten IT many times, including special sensations at festivals prior to this one: the revolution of the Clifford Ball, the mystery of Lemonwheel, the power of the Great Went, and the endurance of Big Cypress. Much of these sensations cannot translate to recordings or paper. Like the turns of 2-20-93, you had to be there to fully get IT. And I will not have such an experience of the IT festival, for I am not among you. I am missing this IT, and will experience it only through the vagaries and selectivity of recorded history.

I can anticipate some aspects of the IT festival without being there, because of routines and patterns likely to be found at any show. But the idea can be exag7gerated, and has been. I am often asked by reporters to comment on the "culture of Phish fans". As a professional sociologist, I question whether fans so extensively share some set of characteristics and/or beliefs that they (you) could be describable summarily as having one culture.

The persistent patterns that matter probably have more to do with past histories and official procedures than with clothing colors, dancing maneuvers, and drugs of choice. Whatever "culture of Phish fans" might mean, reporters who ask about it are probably not a part of it. They don't get IT, because they rely on recorded history rather than native experience. And the recorded history of Phish (as of anything) is imperfect and incomplete.

All of you at IT are perfectly poised to improve the record. Those of you who have seen and heard Phish previously may come to know their music in a new way, and may soon find yourself revisiting older IT moments through tapes and mementos. Even those experiencing Phish for the first time, who do not yet know what IT there is to get, will have important reactions: Unlike most reporters, you are there, are a part of it, and will come to know IT – the festival if not the feeling.

Each of you can help reduce the vagaries and selectivity, fill out the facts, and round the corners of fact with the smoothness of sensations. You can even become part of Phish history, by helping document it. Simply submit your input – essays, reviews, photographs, ideas, and almost anything else – for the second edition of The Phish Companion. This encyclopedic work about Phish is produced on an all-volunteer basis under the auspices of the Mockingbird Foundation (, a nonprofit fundraiser and grantmaker incorporated by Phish fans in 1997.

Proceeds directly fund music education for children, and have so far generated over $180,000 in dozens of grants nationwide, thanks to the support of thousands of fans, as well as Relix,, and many others.The money is desperately needed, as music education budgets everywhere experience drastic cuts. We’ve reinstated scholarships at jazz camps in several states, fully funded innovative programs like bluegrass for troubled kids in Kentucky, purchased instruments and instruction, and helped reintroduce the native Athabascan fiddle to an impoverished river valley in Alaska.

While the IT festival will be fun, and maybe more, the IT feeling is vital. Whatever IT is, it doesn't just come from Phish. IT can come through any music, particularly when performed and shared. By contributing to The Phish Companion, you help more kids experience IT. I’m sad to be missing the IT festival this weekend, but I can’t stomach kids never getting a chance to experience the IT felling. Hopefully, this weekend will remind you why it is important to help preserve both for future generations.

(The author, executive director of the Mockingbird Foundation and file maintainer of the FAQ, is at home with his wife, preparing for the birth of their first child, tentatively named HIM.)

If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.


, comment by davey0110
davey0110 I bought 10/31/94 in high school because I was a Beatles fan. I had listened to a lot of Phish, but still didn't get IT. Months later on the third or fourth listen to Divided Sky, it clicked. I remember the road I was on, the time of day, and the strong realization that Phish would always be my favorite band.
, comment by whrdina
whrdina I didn't really get IT until my first show in Nov. 94 (the UIC show the boys were kind enough to release officially). I'd heard Harpua on a few tapes (remember when every show wasn't available in hours?) but seeing it along with the first glow stick war followed later by Fish on vacuum during Purple Rain- it just floored me in a way listening ona stereo never could. I remember standing there on the floor, tears of laughter running down my face thinking, "I will follow these guys anywhere." 18 years later I've seen them as far south as Miami, as far north as the northern tip of Maine as far east as Jersey and as far west as CA. I've written 2 novels that take place in Phish's world, a fun interp of Gamehendge I did just to do it, and a Tour Diary novel where each chapter takes place at a show on their 2000 tour that is my 2nd best selling title. Phish is the constant companion to my writing regime and now that I'm older and can't run off for long strings of shows, their embracing of couch tour allows me to get IT from home. It's not exactly the same, but after about 80 shows, I can use my imagination and be at the show in spirit.
Here's to IT!
, comment by RabeldyNugs
RabeldyNugs Great read, but I do think it was posted 9 years 10 years ago the boys were still on hiatus...
I was on the whole summer 03 tour but I missed IT too but it was because my dad was dying of cancer and passed away exactly as the boys played the ambient soundcheck. Everytime I hear that sdck I can invision my dads soul being raised to the heavens. I very tough time for me and here we are 9 years later, wow.
, comment by B_Dub
B_Dub I was introduced to Phish in 98. First show was at Lakewood 8/6 and then went to Lemonwheel. (Lemonwheel was a coin toss loss on my part between that and Cancun with a buddy). Saw 7/3-4 at Lakewood the next year. Although I was very intrigued by the band and had traveled to Maine from Atlanta to see them, I still didn't get the whole jumping on tour and seeing them 75 times thing. I actually got IT at Oak Mountain 9/28/99. I was still in college and for some reason, woke up that morning and said fuck it, I'm driving there by myself and met up with some other friends there. What a night. Still on my top 5 list. Highlights were the Tube, Maze, and the Halley's/Tweeprise encore. The day after the show, I opened a Best Buy credit card and purchased every Phish album I could find and a surround sound speaker set to listen to them the right way. I was hooked for life. Been married w/ children since and try to see my fair share. I'm about to move overseas and will be closing out my Phish career for the time being with #49 and #50 at Oak Mountain and Lakewood respectively. Can't write it any better than that. Outside of friends and family, this is one of the hardest things to leave. Thank you Phish for being such an inspiration and a huge part of my life for 14 years now and many more to come. COME BACK TO EUROPE!!!!!!
, comment by Real_out_casty
Real_out_casty I got "IT" in 93 & numerous times in 94, and despite many, many attempts, have not gotten "IT" since. OK Dayton 97 got me off, but not much else. So in 2000 I quit going to phish shows. In 2009 I reconsidered and still was not getting "IT". So I have officially put Phish in my past. Honestly, I think I got too old, I believe Phish is/was music for the young. At least 93/94 Phish was. Now im 40 and dont really relate to larval crazed rhinotropic micro-gazes like I did when I was 20 and enjoying the beautiful Orange Sunshine.
, comment by Fitz2001
Fitz2001 Wasn't the IT Festival in 2003?
, comment by lbag420
lbag420 I got IT in 94 but somehow wasnt impressed with IT (the one in maine). I had alot more fun before IT and after IT then i did at IT. Does that make sense?
, comment by mellifluouslife
mellifluouslife @lbag420 said:
I got IT in 94 but somehow wasnt impressed with IT (the one in maine). I had alot more fun before IT and after IT then i did at IT. Does that make sense?
IT does...
, comment by gratefulkeith
gratefulkeith I'm from van buren. The next town up from limestone. Being from there and never seeing anything. Phish brought IT to me first was the great went I'm missed that show then all my friends changed before my eyes lemonwheel changed my life. I got it and now all these years later post rehab I get it even more now than I did by overloading on chemicals. I just got clean two moneyed ago and can't wait for my first clean show. For those of u that also struggle with addiction check out the phellowship I know that's where I'll b at my next show!
, comment by weaverbe
weaverbe Im relatively new to this whole scene, seeing my first show in 2010 at the first night of SPAC, But I am happy to say that I got IT from the very first note of that show. I had listened to them at the encouragement of my friends for a little while, really enjoying live phish 3, but being at SPAC and feeling that rush of adrenaline from the crowd as Trey laid into the opening riff of tweeprise, I knew that this band was going to take me. Ever since then ive been hooked. Seen 18 shows in just over 2 years and have had an amazing time doing IT, meeting amazing people and sharing incredible (if not the best) times ive ever had ie. Superball.
, comment by antipop20
antipop20 @weaverbe said: [quote]Im relatively new to this whole scene, seeing my first show in 2010 at the first night of SPAC, But I am happy to say that I got IT from the very first note of that show. I had listened to them at the encouragement of my friends for a little while, really enjoying live phish 3, but being at SPAC and feeling that rush of adrenaline from the crowd as Trey laid into the opening riff of tweeprise, I knew that this band was going to take me.

I had an IT feeling then as well. Something inside me knew they were going for another Reprise as we were breaking for the encore. I ended up recording (video) the Coil piano outro until IT (the encore) was over. I just relived that moment last night at work during a power outage-coworkers wondering what the hell I was jamming to so hard in the dark. I love that IT feeling!! Not sure I can give up going after IT, since I've gotten IT so many times now-especially when I say that they can't impress me on a given night-that's when I come away most floored (it's as if they know I talked some shit).
, comment by jaredprox
jaredprox "IT has long referred to a transcendent moment of sudden appreciation for Phish and their music, an eruptive combination of sensation and experience."

Jack Kerouac penned this definition long ago in On the Road...describing Neil Cassady as being the living embodiment of IT. It's not necessarily a Phish thing; but they are masters at producing the IT moment.

And so we chase.

My first was June of 1991. Lying on the bedroom floor, I cranked my "system" and listened to Lawn Boy start-to-finish. I paid attention to every note--looking back it was probably my first meditative experience--and towards the end of Antelope, IT happened. Things have never been the same.

I felt IT throughout most of my first show (3/11/92). But being 16 and high on L probably had as much to do with it as Phish did. Sanity was an appropriate encore.

I've chased IT ever since. I've never seen Phish and not had atleast one of those moments. Even at my last show, 6/8/12, I experienced IT a couple times, sober. Roses-> Jam and Sand.

For me, Phish's draw is their ability to consistently create these IT moments. No one does it better.

, comment by splitopenandmelted
splitopenandmelted IT is IT is IT is IT.
I can't wait for IT in Colorado.
Hell, I can't wait for IT when I get home from work and crank up the "Twist" from Cinci or that "Lizards" encore at Star Lake that had me dancing around security guards shouting "the trick was to surrender to the flow" to the big ol' dude in a yellow colored shirt trying to get me out of the aisle with a bunch of strangers who were feeling IT just like I was.
The next night at Blossom, I was feeling IT, but way less than the first two nights. But, IT found me when I was leaving the music center, humming "Walk Away" either in my head or outloud because post show it's hard to tell, and ran into one of those strangers from the night before who helped give some some sound advice about eternal joy and never ending splendor to a security guard. He smiled, we hugged, we walked up Blossom's hill, he said he walked past our row during the second set but found his way to the pit, and we said our goodbyes. 'See ya next time', Dane with-no-last-name said.

And something (I think it was IT) told me we would.
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