Ever wondered about the background of “YEMblog,” perhaps the most widely used Phish blog on the web? I did, and I asked Scott Bernstein (“SB”), the man behind the site, to chat about it and he graciously obliged:
CD: When did you begin YEMblog and why? What inspired you?
SB: I started YEMblog in September of 2008, a few weeks before Phish announced the Hampton shows.
Ever since I listened to Phish for the first time (CD version of Lawn Boy), I’ve been incredibly fascinated by the band and have read everything I could get my hands on about them. With the explosion of blogging and YouTube in the mid to late ‘00s, it became easier for fans to share their thoughts about the band and videos, which made the work of keeping up with everything published about Phish more difficult. Each day I would perform the arduous task of querying various search engines and content portals looking for the latest and greatest article/video/audio file. Once the word “phish” and “phishing” started to get used to describe the way hackers try to acquire information from unsuspecting victims, those searches became even harder and anyone that tried to create a way to automatically compile new Phish-related content was foiled.
With each passing week I realized there was all this amazing content that no one was seeing and that there was little interaction between those writing the articles and uploading the videos. One morning, just as I woke up, the vision for YEMblog came to me. I figured I would just create a blog that I would update each day with links to all the new content I found in my searches. I woke up and called a friend to tell him about my idea and he thought it was a good idea, so I ran with it.
I originally just threw links and video embeds on a simple wordpress.com blog at YouEnjoyMyblog.com and it worked, but looked low-budget and thrown together (as it was). Todd Levy from Jamtopia.com came across youenjoymyblog.com on day two of its existence and asked if I’d call him to talk about it. He took my concept and brought it to the next level by creating a real website that laid out the links in a smart and effective way. I still use his design to this day. Without his help and vision the site may not have ever caught on. He also contributed the Sean Parker-esque idea that I change youenjoymyblog.com to yemblog.com and here we are.
CD: That’s great! What's the connection, if any, between YEMblog and the Hidden Track site?
SB: Well, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Hidden Track and often write articles about Phish, so the one “perk” I give myself is that if Phish does something newsworthy that 20 outlets write an article about, I’ll link to Hidden Track’s story. Other than that, there’s very little interaction between the two. I’m very appreciative of the audience I’ve built for YEMblog and do my best not to take advantage or make it all about me.
CD: When did you begin tweeting song-by-song during Phish shows in progress, and when did you start having “guest tweeters” do this?
SB: During the Hampton shows [in March 2009] I shot off about five or six tweets a night, but heading into the Fenway Park performance I realized I could set it up so that I could tweet by text message. That night I tweeted the setlist and commentary from the show. When I looked at my inbox after the show was over, I saw that I had about 200 new followers. Obviously fans were enjoying what I was doing so I continued to tweet the setlist and commentary from the Jones Beach, Great Woods and Camden gigs that followed (June 2009). I began interacting with other Phish fans on Twitter and discovered this wonderful community called the “Phish Twibe.”
My friend Wade Wilby (@originalwyllys) was set to attend the next two gigs (Asheville and Knoxville) and volunteered to tweet the setlist and commentary, in essence starting the Guest Tweeter program. Ever since Fenway Park, @YEMblog has had someone tweeting the setlist and commentary from each and every Phish show, thanks to the efforts of myself and dozens of Guest Tweeters.
It was something that happened quite organically and to be honest has turned into a bit of an albatross for me and my enjoyment of Phish shows. And I’m not talking about just tweeting, because I try to limit my tweeting of setlist and commentary to once per tour, but just making sure that every show is covered by someone who wants to do it and will do a good job, and that the technology cooperates. This became a real pain somewhere along the line.
Even though YEMblog costs me money to operate and I originally did it for fun, I take it extremely seriously. I want our coverage of the show to be accurate and engaging and I want to appeal to a diverse range of Phish fans from someone who just saw their first show to someone who has seen hundreds of shows and all points in between. It’s not easy towing that line.
CD: Well, you have towed that line well and I thank you for it. When was your first Phish show and what do you recall about the experience?
SB: My first Phish show was 4/15/94 at the Beacon Theatre. I remember everything about that night so vividly and once wrote an essay about my crazy experience. In short, by the third song I knew I had found “my” band, and by the time I walked out after the Giant Country Horns had guested, there was no turning back.
CD: What Phish shows do you count among your favorites?
SB: Certainly Big Cypress is at the top of my list, but also my first show (4/15/94), Albany ‘95, New Year’s Eve ‘95, Hampton ‘97, 12/30/97, 8/8/98, 7/25/99, 6/22/00 and 2/28/03 round out the list. I’m also a sucker for the ‘80s, as I’m fascinated by the band’s early days and approach to music back then.
CD: You sure caught a lot of fantastic shows! Any songs you'd really like Phish to bring back?
SB: There’s an amazing instrumental called “Leprechaun” that Phish played three times during July of 1993 but has disappeared ever since. If they would dedicate the time needed to nail this difficult composition, that’s one of the few remaining songs on my wish list along with “Highway To Hell,” “Fixin’ To Die,” “Born Under Punches” and “Chalk Dust Torture Reprise.”
CD: Nice. “Leprechaun” probably tops my list, too, although I am thankful I at least got to see it. What's your paying day job? I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering how you manage your time in order to make YEMblog so awesome.
SB: I work for a technology development firm at a job which has a bit of down time each day. Over the years I’ve learned how to quickly update the site and the Twitter feed as well as HT in that down time, but I put in the majority of time to maintain both sites before and after I get home from my “real” job. It’s not easy, and I essentially burn the candle at both ends all week long, all year long.
CD: Amazing! Is there anything fans can do to help you out, given all you've done for the Phish fan community ?
SB: Well, Todd and I have put hundreds and hundreds of dollars into hosting and maintaining the site over the past four years out of our pockets, not to mention the hundreds of hours of work I put into updating the site each year, but unfortunately the Phish Fansite Policy prohibits me from asking for/accepting donations, advertisements, sponsorships or anything that in the band’s sole discretion could be seen as “commercial.” So a simple thanks from anyone who uses the site would work or if they feel so inclined, donations to Mockingbird Foundation are always appreciated and put to good use.
If anyone comes across any content which we haven’t tweeted about or posted on yemblog.com, please shoot me a note at feedback at yemblog dot com.
CD: I am sure I am not alone in wishing you the best and in thanking you so much, Scott, for your contributions to the Phish community!
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Honored I could be a guest tweeter for one of the shows, even if there was a Verizon fail for the first set. Everyone helps out in their own little way; just another example of the great community that has coalesced around this band.