Hard to Hold, a Romance Novel, featuring a Phish fan

A review of Hard to Hold, by Julie Leto

Once upon a time, there was a phan, and he met the girl of his dreams. They dated, went through peaks and valleys, took trips throughout the world and eventually settled down and got married. But like all things Phish, the story behind this relationship is not easy to explain to others not in the know. For Mike Davoli and Anne Miller, their true story is the focus of the new romance novel by Julie Leto, Hard to Hold.

Now I know what you are thinking – why is a romance novel on the PhanArt Blog? Well, two reasons. One, Mike is featured in PhanArt: The Art of the Fans of Phish with the art he created in the late 90s through Coventry, plus he’s a great friend. That and his story sets the tone for what many Phish fans who moved forward with life, despite not having their favorite band touring for much of the past decade.

Hard to Hold is a love story centering around a Mike, a Phish fan with over 200 shows under his belt, and his wife Anne Miller. They met by way of coincidences – first at a Jeff Tweedy show at The Egg in Albany, NY (the town where much of the book is set), then Mike moving into her building and finding Anne able to walk his dog Sirus while he transferred his life from Oregon to New York. Living in the same building leads to their relationship, as well as putting the past behind them and moving forward towards their respective futures.

The complexities of their relationship is detailed in Hard to Hold, an easy to read, weekend on the road book that keeps the reader focused on the next chapter. Having known Mike since he moved back to Albany, even I was turning the pages looking for the next part of their story, filling in gaps of what I had observed in the past couple years. There are of course, the sexy sex scenes, per all romance novels, and while not as tawdry as a Fabio-front-covered book, they do add a bit of reality to the book. What relationship doesn’t involve some hibbity-dibbity? A boring one. This book and true story are nothing short of the opposite.

Added to the mix are Mike’s Tourette’s Syndrome, which has an impact on the relationship early on, as he reveals to Anne something that he has lived with his whole life and wanted her to be aware of and understanding towards. Coupled with that is the impact of Phish at Red Rocks last summer on their pending marriage and wedding plans. I was honored to be invited to attend the wedding, forgoing Red Rocks. Mike and a few others did not skip making a trip out to Morrison. And that’s where some of the drama of this story develops.

Fans will enjoy this book for the coming of age story many of us faced between August of 2004 and the return announcement in October of 2008. We grew up, jobs turned into careers, dating gave way to relationships, and we still had to reconcile our changed lives with the return of Phish four years later. Some went ahead with life and made phish a small part, some returned phish to prominence in their lives, and others are still sorting it all out.

Pick up a copy of the book on Amazon

This book is PhanArt Recommended and PhanArt Approved

Come meet the real characters Anne Miller and Michael Davoli on
November 9th from 7-9pm.
Barnes and Noble Bookseller–Park Slope
267 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215

From Mike Davoli and Anne Miller, stars of Hard to Hold

My Phishy Romance Novel, by Michael Davoli

In nearly thirty years Phish has become one of the most popular modern bands in America selling millions of tickets each year. Yet you would barely know it if you only followed mainstream media. While there have been the occasional mention on a few teenage sitcoms in the early 2000s and of course the unforgettable Simpson’s episode, Phish has rarely made it out of the alternative music world. That is about to change.

Last month HCI Publishing released a new novel featuring a Phishhead as a main character. To be precise, they released a new romance novel featuring a Phishhead..  The novel is a fictionalized account of the real relationship between my wife Anne and I and our beloved Weimariner Sirus. Hard to Hold, by Julie Leto, went on sale in bookstores nationwide and online in September.

Anne and I first met in October 2005 at a Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) show in Albany. I was in Albany for a job interview and decided to catch the show while in town.  Anne and I chatted briefly before going our separate ways.  It was a quick but memorable meeting.  I would be moving to Albany in a few months and I hoped that at some point I would run into her again.

In February 2006 I was loading boxes into my new apartment building when I heard a voice say my name.  It was Anne. To my surprise I was moving into her apartment building.  This is just one of the many remarkable coincidences in the early days of our relationship and are told in detail in the pages of Hard to Hold.

Hard to Hold covers how we met, first dated, fell in love and eventually married.  The novel captures the challenge of a Phishhead marrying a non-Phan from the announcement of the Phish reunion in Hampton to planning a wedding while the summer Phish tour rolled across the country.

Before sharing with Anne the extent of my love of Phish, I shared with her a very private but important thing about myself that she needed to know. I have Tourette Syndrome—a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable muscle tics.

Hard to Hold accurately depicts the very moment when I shared with Anne the extent of my Tourette’s and of my Phish fandom.  Would this be the end of our relationship? The novel tells the story.

When Anne and I got engaged in July 2008 Phish was still broken up with no signs of reuniting.  The novel captures how soon after the announcement of the Hampton Phish shows Anne quickly began to realize what life would be like if she married me. While the Tourette’s may be a pain sometimes, it would not take over our lives like the way Phish would.

Shortly before our wedding a writer for the New York Times decided to write a story about our relationship for the Sunday paper.  The story, which ran on the last day of the summer 2009 tour, featured the potential conflict that arises when a Phishhead marries a non-phan.  After the story appeared HCI Publishing reached out to us and asked if we would allow them to publish our story.

Last spring while I was busy planning my summer tour, I also spent hours emailing Leto all the details she needed to accurately tell our story.  The hardest question to answer was one that I imagine many of you have faced yourself.  Why do we follow Phish?  For Leto, understanding why I fell in love with my wife was easy but understanding why I love Phish so much was much more challenging.

Nearly a year later the book is for sale.  Beginning this fall Phish and Phishheads will enter a place in American culture that very few musicians and their fans, if any, ever have.  From now on, people will never look at Phishheads the same way. After all, if one of us appears as a main character in a romance novel, how strange could we be? While I thought that being included in the New York Times wedding section was the ultimate example of mainstream acceptance, I never imagined a Phishhead being featured in a romance novel.

Hard to Hold is part of a new series of reality based romance novels being published this fall by HCI Books and it is sure to leave you smiling.  Anne and I are excited to share our story with the Phish community and the world.  But be warned—there are some steamy scenes in the novel, and I am not referring to the Drowned>Cross Eyed from Red Rocks.

So to paraphrase Trey, be sure to READ THE BOOK, Hard to Hold by Julie Leto. You can read samples from the book at http://vows.hcibooks.com.  Ask for it wherever you buy books.  With your help we just may be able to get the story of a Phishhead onto the New York Times Best Seller list!

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