The following is an essay written by Fox 5's Steve Lacy:
The 28 minute 'Chalkdust Torture' (aka the Randall's Chalkdust) that Phish opened the second set of the final night of it's triumphant three night run at Randalls Island in New York City this past July was precisely the type of unexpected musical highlight that has inspired me (and many of my closest friends) to chase the band across the country for the past 20 years.
At the time, I was blissfully unaware that the brilliantly disarming, subculture-trolling Howard Stern show contributor Wolfie had been working the parking lot outside Philly's Mann Theatre a few nights earlier, gathering sound bytes that would make their way onto the show earlier this week.
When those clips finally made air, I took a deep breath and prepared myself to be disappointed. As a huge Stern fan, I knew what was coming.
Wolfie had managed to find and give voice to the most cartoonishly wasted, spent-sounding subsection of fans he could find. That's his role. It was great radio.
But it's not actually all that representative of who I tend to run into when I'm at shows. Sure there are plenty of 'wooks' there. But what I see a lot more of, is fellow fans like myself, faking their way through 'real life' in their 30's and 40's, not quite fitting into their 'Carini' t-shirts as well as they used to, and seeking temporary passage back into their youth for a night or two.
The fascinating thing is, as a diehard Phish and Stern fan, I've long thought about how much the band and Howard, as well as their respective fan communities, have in common.
"They're like the Grateful Dead without the hits." - Howard Stern
Like all analogies involving Phish and the Dead, this one was doomed from the start. And it was clearly meant mostly to provoke and get laughs - but it does highlight the biggest reason behind both bands' staying power: their ability to cultivate long-term fans by making sure each show is unique. Fans are afraid of what they'll miss if they don't catch every show.
Which is pretty much exactly the same reason I became such a huge Howard fan.
Howard 100 News interviews Phish Fans
Would Howard appreciate the music of Phish?
That's something I've actively thought about long before Wolfie's interviews injected the band into the Sterniverse. While on some level I'd like to believe Howard would immediately be wowed by each member's 30 + years together spent collectively honing their undeniable musical chops, it's probably much more likely a weak vocal, nonsensical lyrical snippet or jam that takes too long to develop would only serve to irritate him, thus confirming his worst preconceived notions of the band in the process.
Which would essentially be the equivalent of trying to get someone into the Stern Show, by playing a clip of High Pitch Erik pretending to be Kelly Clarkson. Like the Randall's 'Chalkdust,' it's music to the ears of the initiated but probably not the ideal vehicle to convert a skeptic.
The one thing I do know, is that any member of the band, but particularly Trey & Page together would be excellent guests for the show.
Howard did manage to make one brilliant observation about the band though, when he pointed out how insane it would be for anyone to quit and leave all that money on the table. When informed that they actually had broken up briefly a decade earlier, he said "it just goes to show you how dumb everyone is."
Truer words have never been spoken.
And who knows, if the whole band does ever make it in-studio someday, maybe they could finally compose Wolfie his long-overdue theme song.