A recovering hater goes to a Phish show for the first time.
Saturday was MY first show, solo but I had a good time. I made sort of a conscious decision to try and get into them in 2020 (funny choice since of course no live shows were happening) and I enjoyed some of the weekly webcasts, but what it actually did was backdoor me into becoming huge on the Grateful Dead. That podcast with Rob and Steve is great and I've listened to some episodes a couple of times. Phish are incredible musicians who write some of the stupidest songs I've ever heard, but you're so right that in the room -- how great was the UC for this?? -- it almost doesn't matter because you're just in it.
The thing that made me realize that Phish was kind of profound in their approach is that the impulse to "study up" on them or hoping to hear particular songs misses the entire Be Here Now mindset. You are exactly right that they have a kinship with DJs - it's about collective experience in a moment, and to embrace that both artist and audience has to have a sort of ego death to shake off a lot of customs around rock music and shows being oriented around hits. In other words the entire appeal of seeing them live is embracing the chaos and feeling the vibe and connecting with who is around you and it sounds like you nailed it.
Nice. Possibly relevant to your vibes:
In high school, my then girlfriend's mom was dating a guy that was reaaaalllly into Phish. That meant she suddenly got into them, which meant we suddenly needed to be. I was absolutely not interested. She tried to sell the Rift LP as "a cool record about sleep," and that was enough for me to check out for the next 25 years--enough so, that I have no idea if that's even close to correct.
I've come around to jam bands in the last few years. I've loved the Grateful Dead for awhile now, but have also warmed to bands like Phish & Goose. Maybe I'm just mellowing with age, or maybe people are doing a better job of explaining why I should get into 'em. I dunno.