REMINDER: Call for Papers for an Edited Volume, 09/09/19
For the intensely loyal fans of Phish, the mere mention of the band’s name evokes a palpable excitement. Over most of four decades, Phish has developed a diehard fan base with a voracious appetite for all things related to the band – concerts, musical recordings, films, articles, Twitter threads, and books. It is not unusual to meet a fan, or “phan,” who has attended hundreds of the band’s concerts. And, much like the followers of the Grateful Dead, a dedicated community of Phish enthusiasts follow the band around the country, attending every show. Each concert is different; some worry that if they skip even one, they could miss an elusive song or “bust out.” Fans attending the Phish show at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisconsin on July 14, 2019 were treated to one such track. The band played “Avenu Malkenu” for the first time in almost four years, proving the popular Phish fan community adage, “Never miss a Sunday show.”
“Avenu Malkenu” is a classic Jewish prayer whose hauntingly beautiful melody and somber words express submission, service, and dedication to God. When Phish plays the prayer, they honor the composition’s traditional melody and message while reshaping it through funky rhythms played in an arena setting. Hearing Phish play “Avenu Malkenu” is exciting for most enthusiasts due to its rarity. But, the experience can carry special significance for many Jewish fans; a Phish show momentarily transforms into a synagogue, a sanctuary filled with collective, joyous, prayer. This experience is not isolated to “Avenu Malkenu.” For the diehard devotees of the band, a live Phish concert is often a religious experience. Concertgoers might experience moments of spiritual elation and revelation at any point during a show.
It is impossible to know just exactly how many Jewish Phish fans exist. However, members of the Phish community often mention a seemingly disproportionate number of Jewish fans relative to the general population. A recent preliminary demographic study confirms this, as roughly twenty six percent of survey respondents reported growing up in a Jewish household (Cohen, 2018). Phish itself has two members with Jewish heritage and the band plays Jewish songs (i.e. “Avenu Malkenu” and "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav").
Jews, Judaism, and Jewish identity have an intriguing relationship with the band, their music, and the Phish community more generally. Even beyond their performance of Jewish songs, there are numerous elements of the musical, communal, and sometimes transcendental world of Phish that can be interpreted as potently Jewish or examined through a Jewish lens. This book analyzes some of the ways that Phish can be seen, listened to, experienced, and analyzed through a Jewish framework.
Bringing together a diverse range of contributors, this volume provides a scholarly analysis of Jewishness and Judaism in the Phish universe while also allowing for a deeper understanding of how spirituality, ritual, and identity function within the Phish fan community. The chapters in this book should contribute to the field of Jewish Studies by expanding the notion of what Jewishness means in non-traditional contexts while also exhibiting the diverse ways that people perform their Jewish identities and connect Jewishly.
In light of these objectives, we welcome contributions from scholars, clergy, and journalists from a wide range of disciplines and with diverse expertise. We are interested in submissions that address any aspect of the connection between Phish and Jewishness.
Ariella Werden-Greenfield, Temple University
Oren Kroll Zeldin, University of San Francisco