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Phishheads, fans of the jam band Phish, are uniquely known for their close, grassroots community. Fans were originally attracted to the band for the improvisational content of their live shows. The band's manager credits their permissive policy towards recording live shows as the most important factor in Phish's rise in popularity. Even prior to the band's major label debut, Phishheads collected bootlegs of live shows, each with different improvisational flourishes. The band had one of the first Internet communities via a mailing list, and the Internet helped spread specific show recordings. The band also enjoys an uncommonly close connection with its audience, and has historically had large-scale concerts without the usual security issues expected from such crowds or reliance on corporate sponsorships. In 2000, Billboard wrote that music industry professionals "marvel at the relationship between Phish and fans".[1] With a dedicated community, the band tailors shows to both longtime returnees and first-time audience members. As a community, Phishheads socialize new fans and self-police to the extent that concerts resolve more incidents than they create. The group has been noted for its cult and countercultural qualities, in that it has attracted fans discontented with mainstream American culture.[1] Fans have also viewed the community as a family.[2] Former Deadheads, fans of The Grateful Dead, have contended that compared to their roving fan tradition, Phishhead subculture has a more pronounced prep and punk influence, catering to stereotypes of Phishheads as "overindulged white kids who were looking to rebel against their parents, but not rebel so far as to never be able to turn at the first sign of trouble".[3] Of their impact, Billboard wrote that Phishheads are "etched into rock'n'roll history"[1] with a fan passion rivaled only by those of The Grateful Dead and Dave Matthews Band.[2] The New York Times wrote that Phish fans took the mantle of "most ostentatious band-following nomads" from the Deadheads around 1990, though faced with Phish going on hiatus in the early 2000s at the height of their popularity, Deadheads were hesitant to accept Phish fan refugees into non-Phish jam band culture.[4][5]

Fans have written multiple books on the subject of Phish. Dean Budnick's The Phishing Manual presents cultural, historical, and intellectual analysis from a Phishhead perspective. Other fans made compendiums, such as The Pharmer's Almanac and The Phish Companion, which cover song histories, set lists and venue information, and show reviews. The Phish Book was co-written with the band and adds their autobiographical reflections on their history.[6]


Further reading[edit]