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Local Author and Phish Phan Pete Mason Talks Phish & Other Stuff

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Pete Mason Interview: Albany-based Author of PhanArt and PhanFood and Bonafide Phish Phan

By Stacey Stump

Pete MasonAlbany-based author Pete Mason saw his first Phish show in December 1997 at what is now known as the Times Union Center. He remembers liking the music, but it wasn’t until he attended the Lemonwheel Festival the following summer that he felt overwhelmed by the sense of community among Phish fans (known as phans). By the second day of his second Phish festival in Oswego in 1999 he was totally hooked on the band and more importantly his new phriends.

Fourteen years after his first show, Pete has seen 95 Phish shows and is well known in the Phish community as PhanArt Pete for his book and web site, a collection of band-inspired art made by phans. His [amazonify]0615273998::text::::420-page coffee table book,[/amazonify] which was first published in February 2009, showcases more than 1600 pieces of art, including posters, t-shirts, tattoos, stickers, paintings, and vanity license plates. Accompanying the art are interviews and essays chronicling the phan experience over two decades.

Pete has a new book out with co-author Taraleigh Weathers called [amazonify]1438436688::text::::PhanFood: From the Kitchen Pot to the Tour Lot,[/amazonify] compiling the favorite recipes of phans, many of which can be consumed in the parking lot before or after the show. I recently had a chance to interview Pete about his work.

PhanArtTFG: How did PhanArt get started?

Pete Mason: Since the Coventry show was supposed to be the official last show of the band, I wanted to do my part to preserve some of what I had experienced. I had always loved posters and phan art. It took about three years to compile the majority of what ended up being in the book, then another year to lay it out and finalize editing.

TFG: What did it feel like when the band announced they were going to stop touring in 2004?

PM: I was devastated. In retrospect, the music was not where it should have been. It was a real turning point in my life and the life of a lot of phans. A lot of people decided to get married, have kids and just generally grow up after it happened, but there are new phans now joining in and people that have grown with the band.

TFG: All of the proceeds of your book PhanArt benefit The Mockingbird Foundation. How did you decide that?

PM: It didn’t feel right for me to profit off the work of other artists, so I approached the book as a non-profit from the start. The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization formed by the Phish community so it was a no-brainer to choose them to work with. The foundation is all volunteer so there is very low overhead. They raise money for music education. So far, [amazonify]0615273998::text:::: PhanArt[/amazonify] has raised $3,700 for them.

TFG: Has there been any reaction from the band about the book?

PM: Not officially. I went through a legal vetting process with the band to make sure I didn’t use anything copyrighted and I sent them a copy of the book. I am patiently awaiting their feedback.

PhanFoodTFG: Tell me about your new book PhanFood.

PM: Taraleigh Weathers approached me three years ago about putting together a cookbook for Phish phans and we started working on it and had it done within a year. The book has got a little bit of everything for everyone – meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans. There’s a recipe called “Under the Harry Hood Wings” that tells you how to prepare wings and then put them under your car’s hood while you’re driving to the show to cook. We had a kick off party at Nectar’s, the club where Phish first started playing in Burlington, Vermont. All of the profits are donated to food pantries in the areas where Phish tours.

TFG: What do you do when you’re not touring with Phish?

PM: I’m a Special Education teacher working with kids on the Autism Spectrum and with learning disabilities and social anxiety disorders. I’m also a contributing writer for the website as well as the magazine for Phish phans Surrender to the Flow. I also live with my dog Halley and spend a lot of time with her.

TFG: What do you like about living in Upstate New York?

PM: The proximity to pretty much everything. You can be at the State Fair in Syracuse in two hours, be in Boston or New York City in 3 hours. We’re two hours away from the Adirondacks and the best hiking on this side of the country. Canada’s not far either. We have four seasons which is more than a lot of the rest of the country has. I also love the fact that we have a thriving local music scene.

TFG: There was a lot of speculation before the upcoming Phish festival in Watkins Glen was announced about whether or not it was going to take place. Which side were you on–the doubters or the believers? Are you excited there’s going to be a festival in Upstate New York?

PM: I have a good friend in the know and she said that the festival was going to happen so I believed her. I think it’s great that Phish is coming back to Upstate New York to do another festival and I’m jealous of anyone who gets to go. I will be in Europe for a family trip so I won’t be there. I do hope to see my 100th show for New Year’s this year.

TFG: Besides Phish, what bands do you enjoy listening to? Any up and coming acts to watch out for?

PM: Some local and regional acts I have been following include Jimkata, Timbre Coup, the McLovins, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, and Jeff Bujak.

TFG: What’s next for you? Are you working on anything new?

PM: I am currently writing a book on music festivals. I also continue to compile phan art on my web site and hopefully will release an electronic version of the book soon, maybe for the Ipad or other tablets because it has to be in full color.

Click here to read more about Pete Mason’s books, [amazonify]0615273998::text:::: PhanArt,[/amazonify] and [amazonify]1438436688::text::::PhanFood.[/amazonify]

– Stacey Stump is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.



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