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Doctor of Phishography

Dean Budnick, A.M. '92, wants the world to know what it means to be a "phan." While sharing trivia about Phish, his favorite band, with his little sister and some friends on a road trip between Colorado concerts,
Dean Budnick, phan.
Dean Budnick, phan.
he realized there ought to be a reference book to answer their questions, and that he ought to write it. The result was The Phishing Manual: A Compendium to the Music of Phish (Hyperion), which traces the band's 14-year rise from a group with a small, mostly New England, following to a musical phenomenon of massive popularity--despite very little radio airplay. However, notes Budnick, "Their base of fans has grown to the dissatisfaction of prior fans. Everybody seems unhappy with the idea of Phish becoming very popular." He hopes his newly published book will help bridge the knowledge gap separating the newer "gup pies" from older "phans," and close some of the divisions that show up in the crowds who turn out to enjoy the band's combination of rock-and-roll, bluegrass, funk, and jazz influences, witty lyrics, and kooky stage antics.

Drawing from his personal journal and collection of years of Phish bootleg tapes, Budnick has Book Coverpulled together a detailed history of the band and its music, complete with a brief description of each Phish song, plus Phish-related jargon, and a compilation of great concerts and their set lists. He intended the book "to be so comprehensive that a fan with any level of knowledge would enjoy it." The writing process "wore me down," he admits. "Every waking hour I wasn't reading, I was listening to Phish. But," he adds, "I was very proud of the useless bits of information I found, the minutiae that would impress the true, hard-core phans."

When he is not on the road attending Phish concerts, Budnick is a Ph.D. candidate in the history of American civilization and a teaching fellow who is writing his dissertation on "celebrity trials and the construction of celebrity" in American society. He hopes eventually to teach a course "on bands throughout this century that developed a grassroots following, a course about how people cling to music and the role of bands in American culture." Until then, he says, Phish will remain for him "a very intense hobby."

~Brooke Donovan


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