People do not tend to answer the question, “do you like Phish?” with, “yeah, I guess they’re okay.” Those who like Phish, love Phish, devotedly and without reservation. And those who don’t like Phish, well….
For the purposes of maintaining objectivity, I shall pretend to remain agnostic on the question, but I do happen to think this kind of polarization is a mark of greatness, wherever one lands. Great art provokes. What could be more provocative than awesome riffs, 20-minute jams, and obscure in-jokes? There is, admittedly, a significant you-had-to-have-been-there quality to Phish fandom….
Phish, and The Grateful Dead before them, have been instrumental in keeping live music—played at length and with abandon—relevant, not only through their constant touring but through the number of bands in their orbit who inspire their own devoted followings. Now the pandemic has made it impossible for fans of Phish, the String Cheese Incident, the Dave Matthews Band, Widespread Panic, or the Avett Brothers to make it out to shows.
To ease their pain, JamBase launched a Live Video Archive, a music aggregator that allows fans to search 100,000 free streaming concerts on YouTube. “Looking to find videos of Phish performing ‘Harry Hood’ in 2013? Enter ‘Harry Hood’ in the song filter and you’ll see a list of every version in our database,” Jambase explains.
“Use the ‘Event Year’ filter to pick 2013. You’ll then see many videos to choose from. Press ‘Play’ to watch in the player or press ‘queue’ to start a list of videos that will display in the order you selected to view at your leisure.”
Given their audience, JamBase’s catalogue skews heavily toward jam and jam-adjacent bands. But you’ll also find a huge archive of performances, over 14,000 clips, from Seattle independent radio station KEXP. “Performances from The Barr Brothers, Wilco, Jason Isbell and Yo La Tengo are just a few of the dozens of acts featured in KEXP videos on the JBLVA.”
JamBase’s own homepage is also full of great stuff for fans not only of jams and bluegrass bands but other genres as well, from Lucinda Williams’ gritty country folk to Emily King’s acoustic R&B, such as her latest single “See Me,” released in support of Black Lives Matter. These are tough times all around. It can be easy to lose sight of the good things we’re missing as we watch current events unfold. Let the JamBase Live Video Archive remind us of groovy times we had, and will have again.
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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
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