Madam Speaker Skelton, Vice President Marshall, fellow Phanners, distinguished Newbs, and fellow Americans:
Approximately 196 sets ago, Jon, Page, Mike and I returned to the stage amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and right on the heels of vocalist Steven Page leaving the Barenaked Ladies. Experts from across the musical spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a prolonged hiatus that would be insurmountable to return from ...so we acted -- immediately and aggressively – with a hair-raising Fluffhead opener. For those of you who made it to Hampton, we’d like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts -- those mug shots were priceless. We now find ourselves two years removed, the worst of the whale jams have passed, but the devastation remains.
Today, Phans still run the risk of getting TTE’d. One in ten Phisheads still cannot find work. Liquid Time is still on the bench. Many lot grilled cheese operations have shuttered. Drum circles have declined. In this time of struggle, let us not forget about the suburban white kids in the Pacific Northwest who have been hit especially hard this go around as the touring recovery has left them high and dry - for those who'd already known hiatus in this region, life has become that much harder. Even TAB passed you up. Twice.
This recession has also compounded the burdens that Phishead’s friends and families have been dealing with for over a decade -- the burden of shorter tours and longer travels for less jams; of being unable to save enough to buy a new snowboard or help your brah’s access quality buds during harvest.
So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They're not new. These struggles are the reason I started doing oxy in the first place. These struggles are what I've witnessed for years in places like Noblesville, Indiana; Bonner Springs, Kansas. I hear about them in the letters I receive and the PT posts that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by disenfranchised, deep forest Wooks -- asking why they have to fly to Colorado so much or why the dirty south got the Harpua.
For these Phisheads and so many others, jams have not come fast enough for you. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on the lot is rewarded, but hard work at the Pizza Hut isn't; or why Burlington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They're tired of the partisanship ‘WSP Sux’ attitude…the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now. Not with this many crunchy grooves at stake.
So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the Phans hope -- what they deserve -- is for all of us to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our endless best-version-ever discussions. For the Phan base has different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. Their aspirations to achieve IT are shared: a good hookup that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.
You know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in the face of a Friday encore – a tragedy we dare not repeat. After 2009, arguably one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy traveling often long distances in rusted out cars, slanging hetty t-shirt merch, chasing the fluff, sharing hotels with their neighbors and even going back to Yonder shows or talking with old Clown Posse friends. One woman wrote to me and said, "We are strong, but hopeful, struggling but encouraged that the epic jams will once again return."
Deep down inside, the spirit of Karissa is with us all. It's because of this spirit -- this great decency and great strength -- that I have never been more hopeful about Phish’s future than I am tonight. And I can assure you we will keep Golden Age in the rotation (Applause). Despite our hardships, our phreunion is strong. We do not give up on Halloween. We do not quit during the last show of the New Years run. We do not allow naked-streaker-dude fear or setlist anxiety to break our spirit. In this new decade, it's time the Phans get a Phish that matches their decency; that embodies their strength, and can remember what key Curtain is played in. (Applause).
And tonight I'd like to mention about how together we can deliver on that promise.
It begins with a rusty, yet enthusiastic, 4 night stint at Hampton on Memorial Day weekend, a warm-up tour through the northeast in early summer, culminating with a police infested festi in Watkins Glenn, NY.
Yes we can.