The Slatest

It Doesn’t Sound Like Mayor Pete Is Really a Phish Fan, Guys

Pete Buttigieg set against the backdrop of a Phish show.
Tripping balls … for America?
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Marc Nozell/Flickr and Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.

There was an interesting report in Politico on Wednesday morning about Mayor Pete (i.e., South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a long-shot presidential contender who’s been getting some good press lately):

ABOUT BUTTIGIEG’S PHISH FANDOM … South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has a secret history on Twitter: He’s a Phish fan. In 2017, he thanked a fan on Twitter for liking “Tweezer Reprise,” the kind of deep cut you would only know if you know. Lis Smith, Buttigieg’s top adviser, helped us fill in the details. Buttigieg’s favorite Phish album is “Picture of Nectar” and his favorite song is Tweezer. He went to a show around 2000 in the Indianapolis area.

You can see the tweet in question, in which Buttigieg responds to a user whose avatar refers to the Phish song “Tweezer,” here. The Politico item, and the tweet, has inspired some lively online discussion about what a Phish fan candidacy or presidency might mean, e.g.:

I’d like to throw some cold water on this burgeoning meme, though, without disrespecting the investigative work that Politico’s Jake Sherman did in tracking down the details on Buttigieg and Phish. By which I mean it’s important to note that while it sounds like Mayor Pete is certainly a Phish fan in the normal conception of the term fan, i.e., he likes some of their songs and once went to one of the band’s shows, that’s not quite the same as being a Phish fan as a cultural identity. Phish fans, as commonly understood by other hardcore Phish fans, are people who go to multiple shows a year, often on consecutive nights at the same venue, and listen to recordings of entire concerts, for fun. Sherman appears to be fairly knowledgeable about Phish himself, so he probably knows this; I’m just putting it out there as a matter of clarification for the general public.

As far as where this limited fandom puts Mayor Pete culturally, I’d argue that it’s another reminder that he is a characteristic member of Generation Catalano—too young to really be Gen X, too old to really be a millennial. People from this age group who went to college did so during the file-sharing era, when you could get almost any song you wanted for free (illegally) but still had to keep it on your own computer to hear it, which meant that a lot of people ended up with one or two random songs by a ton of different bands. (There is still a pirated copy of Tonic’s “If You Could Only See” on a hard drive somewhere in my apartment.) A few of those random songs that seemingly everyone ended up having were Phish songs, especially “Bouncing Around the Room.” It would not surprise me based on the description above if, in 2000, Mayor Pete had “Bouncing Around the Room” and “Tweezer” or “Tweezer Reprise” on the hard drive of his comically large Inspiron desktop computer, and so when some of his buds were like, Hey man, hey Pete, you want to come to Deer Creek with us?, he was like, Sure, sure dude, that would be off the hook.

For the record, if Phish’s 2020 summer tour is scheduled for roughly the same dates and venues as its 2019 summer tour, which would not be surprising, the band’s shows at the Alpine Valley venue in Wisconsin could very well overlap with the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, which is 40 miles away. Phish for president!