New from PhanArt in 2011 is our weekly Friday Feature: This Week in PhanArt History. Each piece of art we share is from days of Phish in the past, typically from the 1.0 and 2.0 eras, something of note that fans of all ages can appreciate that is featured in the book PhanArt: The Art of the Fans of Phish, with some commentary on the piece by PhanArt Pete. If there is a piece of art or genre of PhanArt you would like to see, leave a suggestion in the comments below.
The Japanese connection to Phish has been consistent since the 1999 Fuji Rock Fest shows which were recently released on Live Phish. In the Summer of 2000, Phish returned to Japan for a run of shows that a lucky few American fans were able to take part in.
In reflecting on this era of Phish and PhanArt, as well as the recent events in Northeast Japan, we share with you the story of Jason Lees, featured artist in PhanArt: The Art of the Fans of Phish. Also, PhanArtists Lizzy Layne and Ryan Kerrigan have generously donated some of their original artwork to raise funds to benefit Peace Winds America’s Japan Relief Fund. Read to see how you can help and the great art you can get in return for a small donation.
Japan 2000, by Jason Lees
So we’re in Japan of all places, in the midst of a week of Phish shows. We’d been just living it up every night and really getting along with the local heads. Though the language barrier was certainly apparent, a shit eating grin is a shit eating grin no matter what language you speak. It seemed everyone on this tour wore this shit eating grin the entire time.
As we’re walking out of one of the venues (forgive me if I can’t recall which), after another glorious night of music and there’s actually a mini-shakedown street happening. And when I say mini, I mean 4 or 5 vendors selling shirts, one selling jewelry as well as the ever-present Japanese mushroom vendor. One shirt vendor has this great shirt with the word Japhan on the front with a hook through one of the letters. An instant classic. Another shirt vendor had one with a rectangle of Japanese characters where the missing characters spelled out ‘PHISH’. This shirt also had a great print on the back with all the dates and a fish in a kimono waving a Japanese flag. These were quality shirts sold by eager vendors and were an easy sell at 10 yen a piece ($10).
Anyway I’m walking away with two new tour shirts in hand and I see off to the side a young native guy with who appeared to be his girlfriend. They couldn’t have been more then 19. He was tentatively holding up a purple t-shirt but it was really hard to see what was printed on the front. He was almost unsure if he wanted anyone to look at it. Well I walked over to him and asked to see it. The front was like a small jigsaw puzzle of intersecting fish, almost looked like a wood block print of an M.C. Escher design but it wasn’t an M.C. Escher. I gave him a big smile and he turned it around. The back read “Welcome this is the…. PHISH Japan tour 2000″. Then in chicken scratch lettering it gave all the dates and venue information. Below that was the outline of a farmhouse and the words “Think Global Act Local”. All this was obviously hand drawn with different colored paints. And this young guy was obviously the artist. When I expressed how much I loved the shirt his entire demeanor shifted from uneasy to ecstatic. He and his girlfriend were so happy that I appreciated his work. And I sincerely loved the shirt. It was a one of a kind, very unique and I just had to have it. I bought the shirt, exchanged several more smiles with these folks and headed on my way.
But the story doesn’t end there. A show or two later I’m wearing my new purple lot shirt enjoying the buzz of set break when who comes eagerly walking up to me but the couple I bought the shirt from. Though I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, it was obvious they were excited to see me actually wearing the shirt. And it became even more obvious that he wanted to have his picture taken with me wearing his shirt. How could I say no? So the simple act of buying a lot shirt fueled so much positive energy. It helped bridge the language barrier of two very different cultures. And who knows, it may have encouraged this young artist to keep creating beautiful works of art.
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