Sharon Van Etten is an emotionally wrenching singer-songwriter. Phish is a goofy jam band known for their cult following and massive live shows. They don’t seem to have a lot in common, so perhaps it’s not surprising that her one experience at a Phish show was not pleasant. It was made even more unpleasant by the fact she almost died.
In an interview with the Guardian before her performance at the Governor’s Ball, Van Etten told the harrowing tale of her time within the world of Phish fandom. Phish’s Big Cypress, which included a seven-and-a-half-hour long set from Phish to ring in the new millennium, was Van Etten’s first ever festival. She decided to tag along with her brothers and sisters, who were fans, and the result was the nightmare scenario that non-Phish fans imagine it would be.
Van Etten tells tales of dirty hippies in ice blocks, toilets filled to the brim after one day, and her body beginning to swell. She finished her tale by saying, “And I sat there thinking that I was dying, and all of a sudden, Phish start playing, and my brothers and sisters left me. So, I was sitting in a camping chair, and I guess I had some heat exhaustion, and Phish are playing, and I’m surrounded by all these really tripped out people on a campsite, and I literally thought I was going to die. That was my first festival experience.”
Fortunately, Van Etten didn’t die, and furthermore didn’t suffer the indignity of dying at a Phish concert surrounded by hippies. Otherwise, we would have missed out on a lot of great music that she created. As for Phish, they have continued their lives of epic tours and major jam sessions. They’re doing a new festival, Magnaball, starting this August. Stay out of the sun, and stay hydrated.
By the way, the show Van Etten was speaking of is available in its entirety on YouTube. She exaggerated in calling it seven-and-a-half hours long. It was a much more reasonable five hours and 48 minutes.