TVD Live: Going Phishing at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 6/11

A lot of kids get told bedtime stories by their parents; my dad played me the Grateful Dead. That is how I was raised, falling asleep every night to the sound of Jerry Garcia’s guitar, and the story of a sailor risking his life for the high maintenance maiden in “Terrapin Station.” The Dead are in my DNA; I didn’t have a choice.

So when there was an outbreak of Phish fanatics among my friends, I was hesitant to catch the obsession. After all, wasn’t Phish just a glorified cover band? I never really gave them a chance, which made my disdain for them easier to maintain. This wasn’t hard considering the first real song from Phish I ever heard was “Meatstick,” not exactly a lyrical masterpiece or sign of musical genius.

It wasn’t until two good friends of mine, whose taste in music I admire, started going to multiple shows a year that I caved in and bought a ticket for their show at Merriweather Post Pavilion, Saturday June 11th. I wasn’t expecting much, just a bunch of old hippies holding on to the past, playing instruments, as well as newborns slamming together mom’s pots and pans. I was half right.

There were a lot of old hippies. There were a lot of young ones, too. Generations united in drug-induced bliss while they hopped to the music in perfect, disjointed rhythm. One Phish-head in bright green neon Converses was so burnt out he was dancing in the road before the music even started, his glazed eyes concentrating on the melodies in his head, like he was afraid that if he stopped, so would the universe.

In a way, I guess that is how a lot of the attendees felt. In a world where Disney churns out pop-stars from a conveyer belt, there is no shame in wanting to hold on to how things used to be. Although, maybe that one particular guy should come back down to Earth, at least long enough to share the name of his dealer.

As for the music itself, I owe Phish my humble apologies. I cannot believe I had intentionally deprived myself for all these years. I am hesitant to go out and buy any albums, mostly because I doubt they can compete with how great they sounded live. I actually squealed when they played “2001,” their cheeky tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and found myself hopping around barefoot with everyone else on the lawn. For some reason, “Suzy Greenberg” was the song that really got me dancing, even singing along during the chorus. After the show, I went straight to their website to download the songs from both sets. I cannot stop listening to them.

Funny enough, I had never felt closer to the Grateful Dead. It was probably the closest I had gotten to what it must have been like to see them live: the jam-band, the solo rifts, the tie-dye, the mushroom cloud of smoke, the men in ponytails, the beards in ponytails, and of course the guys selling acid and tickets in a package deal. I even heard someone in the crowd shout “Phish is awesome dude!” with such conviction that it could have been Jeff Bridges himself. It was fucking Phish-tastic.

I am still a deadhead at heart, but I don’t think Jerry would mind me having a little Phish on the side. Then again, maybe we should just keep this between you and me.

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