Monday, March 09, 2009

The Evolution of the Internet from a Phish Fan's Perspective...

This weekend saw the triumphant return of Phish playing to sold-out audiences in Hampton, Virginia, amidst what were (trust me on this) ridiculously impossible-to-get tickets.

Without sounding too much like an old graying Deadhead who's partaken in too many parking lot balloons over the years, I nevertheless couldn't help but feel nostalgic, not only about the shows themselves, but about how the remote experience has changed so drastically over the years.

I spent the past three nights, to varying extents, glued in front of my computer screen, following setlist updates and chatting with other fans on Twitter, viewing people's Flickr photos, and watching a live streaming video of the concert itself. Within about two hours of the show's conclusion each night, I also downloaded a crisp, soundboard-quality recording of the concert in MP3 format. Legally.

Man, how times have changed. Before these halcyon days of Web 2.0 and widespread broadband adoption, people like me had to get tickets through a mail-order system that required you to physically walk into a post office, buy a money order, and send it through snail mail. I remember looking at setlists through the hard-copy newsletter that the band periodically sent out, and listening to their concert recordings after a painstakingly slow process of chatting up a taper in a USENET group and then mailing blank cassettes and pre-paid postage to him, finally being able to listen to a concert recording weeks after it had occurred. And that's if you were lucky.

It all used to be so much more effort. The remote Phish experience is now light years ahead of where it was just 15 years ago. Thanks to the internet, it's now almost completely instantaneous and as effortless as a few passive mouse-clicks. Instant gratification has won the day.

Some of my buddies actually perceive this as a negative evolution. They wax nostalgic about the lack of personalization and humanity in the current process.

But it's easy to idealize the way things used to be, and forget how much of a pain in the rear-end certain processes were when you actually had to go through them. We tend to gloss over the negatives in retrospect. Personally, despite being shut out of tickets for all three Hampton shows and every single concert of this summer tour (!), I'm still grateful for Twitter setlist feeds, live streaming video, and legal high-quality downloads. The internet has undoubtedly enhanced the experience. It may be less personalized, but it's also more accessible.

Such is the tortured soul of today's aging Phish fan.
  

7 Comments:

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the second show was sick! best of the three. been listening to the mp3s non-stop.

 
At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being one of the graying "Phish-heads" I am on the fence with all this technology. I too sat in front of my computer all weekend and downloaded the shows long before the crowd became sober again, but I do miss the days of trading tapes, calling the hotline for setlists, or talking to a friend of a friend of a friend that was at the show. Either way, they sound GREAT and I will be trying hard to get tickets this summer.

 
At 1:09 PM, Blogger Rob Domanski said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. I definitely feel you on missing those days. Our tape collections gave each show so much more meaning since it was such a process to get every recording. Now we don't appreciate it as much because clicking a mouse is so easy.

However, that said, my lazier side really loves how things have evolved - especially for those of us unable to go on tour anymore and be there.

 
At 1:15 PM, Blogger Dan J. Oliver said...

Though not a Phish- or Dead-head, I agree that getting to see and hear our favorite bands quickly and with less grief - and expense - is a definate upside to the internet. Another great article Rob.

 
At 1:21 PM, Blogger Rob Domanski said...

Thanks, Dan!

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger Adam said...

Rob you arent an old greying deadhead (yet)....thats my bother Eric

 
At 8:46 PM, Blogger joanna said...

robbie d...i must have uttered the words, 'i can't believe i'm not there' about 10 times this weekend. it's blasphemous! xooox jo

 

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