[We want to thank Patti C. (.net user @SharingintheGroov) for relaying her tale of discovering Phish 30 years ago today...]
It was a semi-stormy Wednesday afternoon in April 1990, and I was walking across campus on my way back from class at the University of Notre Dame. I could hear some grooving sounds coming from what I assumed was a campus band playing on the quad by the fountain, as often was the case for one reason or another on any given day. But something different was catching my ear and I found my feet moving to the sound, rather than back to the dorm.
I sat down in my favorite patch of grass in front of the band that was playing, among a small handful of other students and I watched. And I listened. I was intrigued, yet thoroughly puzzled (particularly by the bass lines, truth be told). My frame of musical appreciation at this point in my life was Springsteen, U2, Tom Petty... You get the idea. I had no idea who was playing or what was happening, but I was shook.
The storms returned, and the band stopped, and I sat there for a little while just yearning for more, before finally standing up and heading to the dining hall for an early dinner.
In the next edition of the campus paper The Notre Dame Observer, I learned the name of the band, Phish, a New England-based band booked for Spirit Week. This, of course, was pre-internet (at least as far as I knew of it) and pre-label, so it was all left there until later that year, when I met the Student Union member and Phish phan responsible for booking them. Thank you, Rich Pagen -- forever indebted.
And that's when I truly began walking the path of what became a life-changing obsession with the band. Thanks to Rich, I went to my first "real" show at a bar (with a whopping 150 or so in attendance), bought my tee and Junta/Lawn Boy tapes at the merch table, joined the mailing list, found the Phish email digest (in its earliest form, later PhishNet, not even yet Phish.net) and dutifully bought my high-quality dubbing machine and XLIIs to jump on every tape tree I could. I also submitted the soundboard of the Notre Dame show, which was otherwise not yet in rotation amongst the group. My Walkman had bootlegs playing round the clock. I was a "regular" in posting in and reading the digest, obsessed with every kernel of anything Phish, as this group felt "home" to me and instantly displayed the true connecting power of social media long before social media was a thing. I knew there were others out there that "got it," just like I did.
It's funny: At that bar show, I remember standing starstruck about halfway through the night and asking the person standing next to me, "Why doesn't the world know about this band?" His response was, "You're giving the world too much credit."
Thankfully, he was proven quite wrong in just a few short years. I lovingly followed the band from bars to minifests (a la Arrowhead) to clubs to theaters to arenas and stadiums and you know the rest of the beautiful story. Me? I changed my major to pursue music, picked up a bass, joined a band, eventually became a school music teacher to help others find a "home" and their own joy through music -- and, well, it all started with that walk across the campus lawn.
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