‘Phan of the Night’ Spotlight: “We can tell when they’re comfortable”

Erica Koval with her husband (& Baker’s Beat author) Shawn at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, California.

Listen to the Baker’s Beat’s first in a series of interviews profiling a “Phan of the Night” (spoiler: it’s mah-wife!) using the link above. OR – read on for the full transcript.


Hello Phish phans! Welcome back to the Baker’s Beat, your go-to stop for coverage of Phish and the Baker’s Dozen during their Madison Square Garden residency this summer. I am here with none other than my wife. She is our phan spotlight as we look to preview the run. Erica, welcome!

Thank you Shawn. Great to be here in our apartment doing this with you.

(Laughs) Yeah! Very comfortable setting I think. Tell us what you do, where you’re from, where you live now, and all that stuff.

I’m from Madison, Wisconsin and I now teach third grade in Berkeley, California. Before we knew the Baker’s Dozen was happening, we were already going to be in New York City where I am going to grad school during the summer.

The ultimate coincidence, right?

The ultimate coincidence! (Laughs)

Nobody believes us, but we say it’s the band that’s following us this time, we promise! Erica, tell the good Phish fans out there who you are as a Phish fan or in a Phish setting?

I have been going to Phish shows since 2009. My first one was at Alpine Valley, the summer of 2009. I was always a fan of the music before that, went to my first shows, and fell in love even more and have been following them around ever since when I can and it’s really enriched my life.

Me too, especially since I’ve been at so many of those shows with you!


What’s your fondest memory involving Phish, whether it was at a concert or maybe something else?

I think it was the summer that we did our big road trip to Colorado. We went to six shows in a row on the same tour and followed them around a little bit. We went to Telluride and then Deer Creek and then Alpine Valley. I loved doing that and following the band through six shows in a row in different places. It was kind of a rush and it was fun to meet people along the way who were doing the same thing as us. I had always loved the music, but that summer was really when I realized how special the community is.

I remember how hot it was at Deer Creek that summer….
…and then cold in Colorado at night, it was extremes!

…at Telluride, yep. But Deer Creek, it’s always either too hot…

…and no shade!

Right, and there’s no shade. Or there’s some sort of crazy storm that comes through, without fail. I love Deer Creek, I do hope they go back there.

Me too.

It’s one of my…the midwest sheds are a part of our background, definitely. So about the Baker’s Dozen. What’s your involvement and what are your plans for which shows you’re going to see? How are you approaching it? What’s your opinion of the Baker’s Dozen in terms of Phish…not as a career move, but at this point in history, in terms of the context of who they are as a band? I feel like, at least in the online communities that we’re a part of, that people have charged opinions about what it means and represents. What do you think?

I don’t get too much into the analysis of the band. I really…I’m just a music purist, I just love going to see them live and so anytime I get to see them live is special to me. I’m going to be seeing the first set of shows and…the first weekend and then the last weekend and hopefully I can pick up some more in between depending on my school schedule. For me, I don’t really think too much about what their thinking is behind doing this. I’m kind of excited for it, clearly! I think it’s something new and different. I’ve never been a part of something, or a band, that’s does a residency like this where we’ll be living in the city and going to see them. So, I am excited to see, and I know we’ve been talking about this, if they’re going to do something different as in are they going to have guests? Are they going to do some more…like, how comfortable are they going to get in that space together over the 13 nights? I’m kind of excited to see what that will bring.

What would your hope or dream be in terms of…like a themed night, or guests…what would be that fresh, new thing that they could do, your favorite thing that they could possibly pull out of their hat?

I’m not that into musicals or theater per se, but New York City is a big place, is a big hub for that. So maybe doing something theatrical in some way or something with musicals. I also love hip hop. I think it would be really fun to get some New York City hip hop artists…


…or local artists, working with local artists. Maybe some visual art could be a part of the shows. That could be really fun.

That’s interesting…

Jay Z “Big Pimpin’” reprise maybe.

…Maybe! (Laughs) It’s not in Brooklyn this time though. All those things that you mentioned I think would require a lot of planning in advance and what Trey said in the Rolling Stone interview, I believe with David Fricke last month, was that, up to this point, they’ve been very open about their approach. Publicly, he hasn’t committed to anything but he also hasn’t said, “I’m so giddy, there’s so much planned!”. He hasn’t said that either and so I wonder if…Maybe he’s playing coy and they have something special planned in terms of that kind of stuff. Or maybe they can pull something together quick. That’s the beauty of New York City is….city that never sleeps and there are so many talented people that really could pull that off in the moment. But a theatrical production, like a New Year’s Eve-type gag? I wonder if they could do that.I would be surprised if they pulled something off that was really production-heavy, outside of…I could see them creating some sort of art installment within the building and keep them up for the whole run. I wonder if there are any bands coming in in between. I would guess not, I haven’t checked the Madison Square Garden schedule. I could seem them more doing some sort of themed interior art or production, in terms of a permanent installation, throughout the run rather than a single show. But if they did do a single show, man that would stick out and that would make me think that they would be doing other stuff that is more lo-fi, with the setlists or something like that, on other nights which would be great. Some people are like, “that would be too novelty”, but whatever man! If they’re inspired to do it, bring it on! And if they’re not inspired to do it, just play and that’s good enough!

Right, exactly.

Lastly, what would be your message to the band, or your fellow Phish fans, as we prepare for the Baker’s Dozen and another summer of Phish?

My message to the band would just be that…I know there can be some paralysis by analysis in the Phis community about what they like, what they’re going to do and not do. Just that, ultimately, we love you and that we…I can just speak for myself, that I feel very grateful to be a part of this, a part of this as in Phish and going to see you play and that we can tell when they’re comfortable and feeling it and that we support them wholeheartedly.

And for the fans: to enjoy it, to have so much fun, to come with an open heart and open mind, and, of course, blaze on….


..(laughs) but it’s just such a special time and it’s really a reunion of friendship and family.

Well put and heart-felt! Thank you Erica, love you.

Thanks Shawny, love you too.