[A Phish fan since 1996, Brian Weinstein has been running the Attendance Bias podcast since the spring of 2020. We hope you enjoy this interview of him, and subscribe to the podcast, wherever you get your podcasts. -Ed.]
How did you first get into Phish, what was your first show?
I first heard Phish in the summer of 1996. I was at a summer camp in Charlton, Massachusetts, and we were driving to Mt. Washington in New Hampshire for an overnight hiking trip. At some point on the four-hour drive, the head counselor put A Picture of Nectar on the van’s CD player. It was like time froze. This was new music that I hadn’t heard before, at a breakneck tempo, and I was hooked. I loved “Llama” and “Cavern,” but it was “Glide” that sold me. Once I heard that cowbell intro and the thunderous chords interrupting it, something inside me sparked and I had to listen to the rest of the album again ASAP.
Over the next year, I absorbed everything I could about Phish: I got A Picture of Nectar the second I got home from camp that summer and listened to it on repeat; I bought The Phishing Manual by Dean Budnick later that year and memorized it; I got A Live One at some point and became obsessed with “Harry Hood;” I found a local head shop that would copy tapes for you while you waited. When Phish came to MSG for two nights in October 1996, I begged my parents to let me see them, but I was 14 years old and they were mid-week shows.
But while I couldn’t see those shows, I lived, breathed, ate, and drank Phish from mid-1996 until I could see my first show on December 29, 1997, at Madison Square Garden. I was all the way in the 400s, behind the stage. I still think it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, and one of the best two-set shows Phish has ever played.
What drew you to Phish's music back then?
I think it was the combination of their musicality with their collective sense of humor. I was deeply into classic rock at that time (The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles…all the classic rock radio heavy hitters), and Phish comes from those same roots. But they also had a sense of humor, and explored genres that I would never come across on classic rock radio. So something like “Stash,” which has fun, silly lyrics but also has the motor of Latin jazz, appealed to me. The intro of “Glide” reminded me of the opening of “Pinball Wizard,” but with different instruments. They covered all of The White Album, which is an unbelievable feat. “YEM” had hints of “Thick as a Brick,” by Jethro Tull in its segmented structure. They also played a bluegrass version of “Foreplay/Longtime” and covered “Good Times, Bad Times.”
It was as if your goofy buddies were jamming in the basement, but your goofy buddies also happened to be musical savants who could sell out Madison Square Garden.
What online Phishy communities have you participated in over the years?
Oh man, so many. Since I got into Phish when internet access was becoming more and more widespread, finding online Phish communities was the only way I could connect with other fans outside of my very few friends who also liked the band.
I had a routine when I was able to get online: First, check www.gadiel.com/phish for rumors and tour dates. Then, go to the AOL Phish Bowl and chat a little bit with whoever else was on there (including a member with the screen name “FakeMike” who purported to be Mike Gordon), and then look up my favorite lyrics on Phish.net.
A couple of years later, Phans.com would be part of the routine, but I really found my home at TheRhombus.com. The Rhombus was originally a collection of guitar tablatures with a side forum for Phish discussion. Since then, the forum has grown and matured and has become OceansofOsyrus.com. Nowadays, it’s my main source for Phish talk, along with the Phish.net forum and various social media.
I'm sure it is a labor of love: how were you inspired or what inspired you to begin the Attendance Bias podcast--and to keep it going?
Attendance Bias began as a pandemic project in the early spring of 2020. I live in New York City and everything was shut down. There was nothing to do except take my dogs on long walks while listening to podcasts.
As I got deeper into the podcast world, I enjoyed some of the Phish-centric podcasts out there. A lot of them focused on music analysis, or interviews with people who were somehow involved with the Phish organization. There were none that had what I was looking for: stories about the shows from the fans who attended them. I wanted to hear stories that explained what makes Phish so special to their fans. I know what makes them special to me, but I wanted to know what convinced other fans that this band is the greatest. It sounds pretentious, but I wanted to hear stories from the collective memory of the Phish fanbase. I’m a middle school teacher, so I was sort of looking to form the Phish version of The Giver; an infinite number of stories from the community’s past to be shared with everyone.
So after lots of brainstorming sessions and bouncing ideas off of friends, I got Attendance Bias off the ground. The first episode aired on August 6, 2020, and featured SiriusXM DJ Elisa Allechant, taking the audience through Phish’s show at the MGM Grand on November 2, 2018.
What inspires me to keep the podcast going is that I find out about hidden Phish gems from their entire history, I get to hear tons of meaningful stories, and I meet so many great people. Frankly, these are the same reasons that I keep going to shows after 26 years.
How many episodes of Attendance Bias have there been?
There have been 150 episodes of Attendance Bias, with more on the way, including one being released tomorrow [Wednesday, October 11, 2023].
I'm sure every episode of Attendance Bias has been and is meaningful to you in at least some if not many ways, so I hesitate to ask you which ones are your favorites, but for someone who has never listened to your podcast before, can you recommend some episodes you would recommend they listen to (especially if they involve Mockingbird Foundation or Phish.Net volunteers lol) ?
Thank you, Brian, for Attendance Bias!
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