When a Gut Reaction Strikes a Fit of Passion
by Russell S. Glowatz
Lately it occurs to me that a large, or at least excessively vocal sector of Phans hates the up and coming jam act known as Twiddle. The phenomenon confounds me, yet is born out time and time again on Facebook, Twitter, PT, Phish.net, etcetera. Sometimes the chatter is so loud and inundating that these Phish groups should consider a name change. Twiddle Gripers 2017, or Friendly Twiddle Bitchers are names that ring right when peak Twiddle bellyaching is reached.
“Hate” is a strong word, yet it’s the one most frequently confronted when talking Twiddle with Phans. Since most of these conversations are had on the interweb, a medium that often appeals to our lowest common inclinations, I considered that Phans might have a more nuanced and toned down take on the subject in person. As I set out to discuss all things Twiddle with Phans, live at The Baker’s Dozen this past summer, I had no sense how wrong I’d be proven.
In his or her natural habitat, the Phan’s hatred for Twiddle is immensely exacerbated. The Phish heads I met outside Madison Square Garden were extremely passionate, did not mince words, and were sometimes intimidating. Apparently for the most ardent of the Twiddle hating Phans, even bringing up the jam band’s name at a Phish show will harsh their vibe – I learned this the hard way.
When I first arrived at Penn Station on Powder night, I encountered a Phan named Eggz looking for a ticket with his finger held high by the escalators. When I mentioned that I was interviewing Phans before the show, his eyes lit up with interest and excitement. He introduced himself, mentioned that he had to get to all nights of The Baker’s Dozen so he could complete what he called his “baker’s hundozen” (his 113th show would fall on the last night of the run), and he meticulously made certain that I understood “Eggz” was spelled with a “Z.”
After some small talk I asked if he was into Twiddle. The previously mellow, and somewhat excitable Eggz, quickly morphed into a defensive posture. “Twiddle? Twiddle, brah?! Love my dick relentlessly! Twiddle this and get the fuck outta here!” He abruptly shuffled away, yelling “who’s got my miracle or good deal?!”
A little bit flustered by my first encounter, I left Penn Station and perched myself under the Darin Shock mural in the main entrance to MSG. Shaking the Eggz experience off, I quickly approached my next subject. Davey Donuts was an English major at SUNY Oneonta, spending the summer before his last year in college on Phish tour. His non-Phan friends gave him his nickname after he profusely and only talked about The Baker’s Dozen since its announcement.
I asked him what he thought of Twiddle. His face immediately transformed from an expression of chill to complete and utter disgust. He bellowed “Twiddle blows! Typical, white, college kid, super cheese, middle class, trust fund baby band.” When I suggested that he essentially described half of Phish’s audience, including himself, he fake lunged at me, scoffed, and scurried away.
Graphic Credit: twiddlesoundsliketurds.info
Completely verklempt at this point, turning and churning the thoughts in my head, I set my sights on the Pennsy where I could take a load off, take the edge off, and regroup. I struck up a conversation with Katy, whose online handle is Starchild Kind Kat.
When I apprehensively touched upon the elephant in the room, she remarked that she “tried listening to Twiddle once. [She] couldn’t even get through the whole song, Jamflowdude or something? They sounded so derivative. They just plain ripped off Phish, and thought we wouldn’t notice?! Losers!” When I suggested that many would consider imitation a great form of flattery, she said “fuck that,” and walked away with her friends. While scattering, I heard her say to her buddies that “I hope they play a Jerry song tonight!”
I wasn’t feeling the nuance, I wasn’t feeling the love. As I walked outside, a cool breeze made me think about the situation – At this point I decided to bag this whole endeavor, go inside, get a spicy chicken sandwich, and enjoy the show. After going through security, and double timing it to section 119 before the half off promotion ended, I found an empty table to eat my sandwich in peace. Soon a Phan asked if they could share the spot with me. When I obliged and went to introduce myself, I almost choked on my chicken upon seeing his t-shirt. The shirt had a Phish emblem on it with Twiddle written in the middle. Blown away, I asked my new friend Matty if we could rap about this Twiddle hating Phan phenomenon.
A fan of both Twiddle and Phish, Matty was down to dish. As a former psychology major at UC Berkeley, he already came up with a few interpersonal theories on the subject. Matty stated “There’s a large sector of Phans that have been teased for years by their Grateful Dead loving counterparts, so now they need a little cousin to pick on – Enter Twiddle.” His second hypothesis centered around the notion that “many Phans see Twiddle as a legitimate threat to Phish’s legacy, and in turn hate them without giving them a real shot. This is purely a mechanism to secure Phish’s survival as The Beatles of the current jam band scene.”
Pleasantly surprised by Matty’s articulate and well thought through responses, he hit me with one last thought. “Maybe Phans aren’t willing to give Twiddle a real shot because they can’t look passed their nonsensical name. Maybe when folks are so enamored by one band, it becomes hard to open their minds to newer music.” When my eyes wandered sideways pondering Matty’s words, I caught Sam Cutler walking by, powdered donut clenched in one hand, ticket in the other, looking for his seat.
Soon after, Sam Cutler would go down in inPHamy for his hilariously close-minded rant about his experience catching four Phish songs live. Often I see shades of his rant in Phan conversations about Twiddle. The donut does not fall far from the bakery, and no one really gives a crap about what bands one doesn’t like – Different strokes for different folks. I cannot count the amount of times I’ve had these same conversations with Deadheads about Phish. A pattern is forming.
This has been (mostly) satire brought to you by Stand For Jam. The sentiment is real – The quotes were inspired by real comments – The interviews did not happen – I did not see Sam Cutler on Powder night, yet ran into him a few days prior at JRAD…and I got my Sec 119 Spicy Chicken Sandwich on Holes night!
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