PhanArt is a massive project that Pete Mason has been working on for the past couple of years‚ collecting posters‚ t-shirts‚ stickers and various other items that Phish phans made over the band's career‚ and compiling it all in one comprehensive coffee table book.
I think most of the people that followed the band around found immense inspiration in the music. I know I did. But I also found inspiration in the collective -- for the most part‚ a spirited bunch that sought to gain from the experience and adventure.
Shortly after Phish called it quits‚ Pete was determined to document that part of the experience. I remember him telling me‚ "It was so amazing! I feel like what the fans did has to be documented."
Rightfully so. And I think my experience with Pete is the perfect example of why that's true. We went to the same high school in Albany‚ N.Y.‚ and we might have even played baseball together -- but I have no recollection of ever speaking with him until years after those days. It was at Big Cypress in the Florida Everglades‚ when Phish brought in the new millennium. With about 70‚000 other people traveling to the show‚ and hours and hours of traffic to get in‚ we finally set up camp. And who is camping next to me? Yes‚ it was Pete. That kind of mysterious synchronicity seemed to happen all the time at a Phish show. And you knew immediately that you were next to a kindred spirit. There might have been a millisecond of awkwardness -- "Hey‚ we went to the same high school" -- but because you're in the Everglades in Florida‚ that says that you really dig this music. You really dig this band; you dig the journey and the adventure that it brings. That's the spirit.
In 2001 I ran into Pete again in Syracuse‚ N.Y.‚ waiting in line to get tickets to see Trey Anastasio play. It sold out in minutes‚ and we both didn't get tickets. We left bummed out. Sure enough‚ the day of the show I'm wandering around downtown trying to find an extra ticket. I walk into a bar‚ the Blue Tusk‚ which was packed with people getting ready for the show. All of a sudden‚ I get a tap on the shoulder. "Mike! I've been looking all over for you. I have an extra ticket." I don't think he even charged me -- at that point‚ it seemed irrelevant. There was an unspoken understanding that getting to share the experience was the priority.
The communal enthusiasm that surrounds going to see Phish play is something much‚ much larger than the band. And people believed in it -- that's what made the experience so extraordinary in addition to the music. With Phish coming back‚ PhanArt is a great way to remind us all what we were a part of‚ and for those who will be getting on board for the first time‚ what a great way to show our history and another aspect of how we share the groove.