One of America’s strangest artistic troupes has just announced a four-day performance extravaganza in the heart of New York City’s theatre district. There will be plenty of live music, plus balloons, costumes, glow sticks and a countdown to 2013. On the surface, it looks like quite an exciting time. Many families will be in town to take in the fun at the department stores, skating rinks and Broadway shows over the holidays. Yet parents need to be warned that the advertising surrounding this particular stage event is dangerously misleading.
The Phish are a group of farcical, vaudevillian entertainers from Vermont known for attracting a very colorful audience. Most of the “Phishheads” are young. Most of them come from upper class homes. On the average, they are expensively educated, or could be if they wanted to. But they do not want that, or much else in our modern, ethically capitalist civilization, except on their own illicit terms. In many ways their own terms have the passion and the frenzy of outcasts, iconoclasts and revolutionaries, but it appears to be style without content.
The Phish and their fans object to the ills which they believe beset society– marijuana prohibitions, Judeo-Christian morality, anti-nudity laws, the failure to recycle human waste…. but their remedy is to withdraw into private satisfactions. When one thinks of the problems of our day which cry for attack and imagination and youthful energy, this seems to be the greatest waste of all.
The movement appears to be growing. Use of “pot” appears to be spreading. There is the real danger that more and more young people may throw their educations and the love of their mothers away to go on tour with The Phish.
Well, there are the Phishheads. They make you uncomfortable because there is obviously something wrong with the world that they never bothered to change if it leads them to rebel against decent, healthy music with these types of protest concert series.
But granting the faults of our society, you can say three things about them. They, at their best, are trying for a kind of group dope high and dopes running in groups are likely to be stupendously ignorant. They depend on flashy, vapid tunes for their personal philosophy. This is not a new idea and it has never worked. And finally, they offer the salacious attraction of the young, a corruption of healthy sexuality with pot and rock music. Nothing in the world is as appealing as youthful sexuality but it is, by definition, rather creepy to pursue this wantonly.
People who can grow beards and sell love so brazenly are really the last ones you want to spend your holiday season with.