I heard this expression when livephish.com
released the Headphone Jam
during de 2004/2009 break. The idea was that Phish
would become a virtual band, not performing live but gathering on some occasion to record hour long free form jam. They would still be "broken up" but still playing in a way. I thought it was a good alternative at a time when reunion wasn't even hoped.
But from my point of view, Phish has always been a virtual band. I discovered them in 1997 with a studio album dating back from 1988. As i've never heard about them, I thought they were disbanded for long. Then I became aware that they were still playing lot of shows and starts following them on the Internet.
My computer has always been, and still is, my only link with the band. Browsing several websites and blogs about the band and fans, downloading audience or soundboard recordings of almost every show, watching, at first very poor and then very good quality, videos is a everyday occupation.
I remember watching songs' name appearing in setlists. At one time, some where only names as I haven't listened to them yet. I discovered Mike's Song, for example, with Slip Stitch and Pass.
Internet is also the almost exclusive way to buy Phish related material, although I managed in 1999 and 2000 to buy somes albums at my local store in France. This was possible, I think, because the band toured sporadicly in Europe and Japan from 97 to 2000, so their releases were better distributed outside the US. So I bought a lot of Phish albums, live releases, boxsets, dvds, books, goodies, promo cds. All of that gave me a rather complete view of the band, their music and their career, but in a virtual way. There hasn't been any physical connexion because everything went thought the computer.
Oh wait, There's one ! I managed to buy the Green Sparow, Mike Gordon's last studio album, with a signed booklet. The signed booklet was added to the package along with a regular sealed CD. I understand that it's a lot easier for every one (including Mike) to have a pill of single booklets signed without having to open a cd, pull out the booklet, sign it, pull back it inside and then send it.
Phish is the only active band that have a big impact on me that I've never seen live in concert. In fact, Phish is the artist entity that had the most impact on me for my whole life. Bigger than Michael Jackson back in the 90's, who is the artist that woke up my musical tastes (and I got to see him live in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1997).
The only other band for which I would travel the globe to see live is Pink Floyd. Another dream that I will never live for obvious reasons.
I felt very broken in 2004 when I knew about the break up, again by checking my emails. I cried when I read the news and I cried again on august 16th morning when I woke up and read the setlist and reports on the Internet.
I feel almost as broken up since I took the decision last week not to go to the USA this summer. I always fear that a break up (or worst) can happen any time and that I will never see them, althought the musical and health situation for the band is very different now than in 2004. I'd never listened to the Las Vegas 2004 run since this week, and I'm glade to enjoy the music I heared in 2009.
By the way, 2009 is the only year during which I listened to every single show played by Phish, at worst 2 days after it was played. In 2004, I listened to all of the summer tour but out of order and in the following month, without regularity. I started in January to listen to every 2002/2003 shows and even if it's not 1994 or 1998, I'm enjoying it very much.
By the way, what if all that music was fake ?
I thought about it from the very beginning when I didn't really know the songs and where to find shows. I happened to download concerts from other band (Cousin Fungus, String Cheese Incident, Dave Matthews Band, Greateful Dead, or other jam bands) without noticing at first it wasn't Phish. I even end up burning CDs and labelling CDs as Phish by mistake. At the end of the day, I was still enjoying all this new music, whatever the band was playing.
The idea came then that, even if Phish wasn't really playing this music, I wouldn't care as long as I'm enjoying what I listen to. I mean Phish's music could be computer generated, the band could fake playing on stage (like lips-synch with instruments), all of their improvised moment could be writen in advance. Sure I'd be pissed to have been fooled but, man the music is fucking good ! That's why I enjoy live DJ sets like Daft Punk's Alive 2007. Eveything is written and planed but the music is fun.
That's what's important after all : music.
Phish can still be a virtual band playing (or faking) in a far away country, I don't care as long as I can listen every day of my life to new music from them.