No, people were not smoking pot. And there were no drum circles.
Daniel Bowes has found himself debunking these stereotypes lately after he describes the academic conference he attended last month at Oregon State University that dissected all things related to the jam band Phish.
Phish, like the Grateful Dead, inspires a loyal following of fans who often follow the group around the country.
The 25-year-old Avondale resident — the only Chicagoan in attendance at the conference — said being at the first-of-its-kind conference had the feel of attending a Phish show while wearing a pocket protector.
“It was filled with Phish nerds, but also regular nerds as well,” he said.
At one lecture, Bowes contemplated ethical quandaries through the lens of “What would a virtuous Phish fan do?”
Take “tarping” for instance — the practice of laying down a tarp at an outdoor concert venue to claim a space as your own.
“In general, it is not virtuous, based on what Phish preaches and the accepted values of the scene,” Bowes said, noting an exception for fans who bring kids to a show.
Asked if he’d ever tarped, Bowes replied: “God, no!”
Another lecturer compared the devotion exhibited by Phish fans to the love shown by a child to a caregiver who provides stability and security.
Bowes, a mental health counselor with a nonprofit that works with clients on the West Side, attended not as an academic, but as a fan mulling a future career in music therapy.
Bowes, who has a degree in child counseling and previously provided mental health support to kids on the South Side, sees listening to Phish as valuable to his personal health.
“It’s a form of self-care, really, to help recover from people who need care all day,” he said.
His connection to the band is deep. Bowes, who grew up in Indianapolis, has been to about 30 shows. And his mom, an emergency room doctor, and his dad, a paramedic, have both worked in medical tents at Phish shows, helping people suffering from drug trips and alcohol poisoning.
Bowes also has considered working at festivals and concerts to support people who are having difficult psychedelic experiences.