It's easy to understand why Phish doesn't get the consideration it deserves on this diplomatic front; the band's heyday was in the '90s, whereas hipsterism really gained steam in the '00s, a decade which saw the Vermont-reared quartet enter and re-emerge from semi-retirement. But an archaeological dig reveals that all the markings were--and still are--there.
Like the Dead, Phish are prone to 15-minute improvisational jams, have huge cult followings, are a boon to black-market sales of Taddy Porter and nitrous, and typically book multiple-date stops in every city they play. But despite playing what many would classify as hippie music, Phish's crowd has always been more Flaming Lips than String Cheese, with a dash of Greek System and a pinch of World of Warcraft tossed in for good measure.
Phish is rangier than the Dead, as adept at bluegrass as at Zeppelin-esque scorchers. Whereas a Dead show always felt like the Oregon Country Fair, Phish's sound can veer toward dirty Vegas on any given night--and California Dreamin' the very next day. If the Dead are a hit of acid with a bushel of pot on the side, Phish is a really strong Ecstasy tab with a sangria parachute.
Phish collaborated with Alison Krauss (coming to Marymoor July 8), Jay-Z, and others long before such oddball pairings became en vogue. But Phish's greatest contribution to hipster/hippie diplomacy was that they always let you knew they were in on their own joke, largely through their Halloween concerts, in which they would let their fans vote for what album they should cover in its entirety. Here's a scorching performance of the Stones' "Lovin' Cup," in which a gaggle of hipster-rock signposts--horn section, dorky white-guy clothing, black female vocalists--come into plain view: