[Thank you to Dr. Stephanie Jenkins for this recap, and to her friend Yaron Marcus for the fabulous photography.]
This year’s Philosophy School of Phish concluded in late August. For the fourth summer in a row, I’ve had the privilege of teaching this course, offered through Oregon State University’s Ecampus program. During this session, I introduced fifteen non- (or not yet-) phans to our favorite band through an eight-week survey of the philosophy of art and music. Witnessing student’s reactions to their first Phish shows and answering their questions about what Dr. Jnan Blau has termed the “Phish phenomenon” helps me to remember what it’s like to be a Phish neophyte and gain some reflective distance on what it means to be a phan of Phish.
In preparation for writing this recap, I’ve been reflecting on the significance of Phish’s annual Labor Day tradition. Without question, Dick’s is my favorite spot for seeing Phish; it’s the only venue for which I’ve had the honor of attending every show. Each year, the stadium has been blessed with numerous unanticipated song placements, contenders for “best of” versions (such as the 9/1/2012 “Light”, 8/31/2012 “Undermind,” 8/29/14 “Simple,” 9/2/2011 “Slave,” and many more), top-notch jamming, and creative setlist pranks. Over the course of seven years, Dick’s has acquired a mysterious, otherworldly atmosphere that evades linguistic description. It’s certainly not the only sacred site for Phish phans; Madison Square Garden, Watkins Glen, and, of course, Big Cypress, for example, carry their own mystical charm and historic weight. What is so special about Dick’s? Why does my annual journey to Commerce City feel like a pilgrimage?
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