Phish, Deer Creek 1

Sat Aug 07 2021

Last night at Deer Creek, the third song Phish played was “Sand”. Every other time I’d seen Phish play “Sand”, it had been a fairly ordinary thing, but something unusual happened this time. You see, the man responsible for that bass line, Tony Markelis, passed away earlier this year. As with so many things during this pandemic, the loss had to be filed away, the grief compartmentalized, never to be properly dealt with, because the next trauma is always right around the corner. Last night, though, I got to bring that loss back to the fore, and experience that grief viscerally. Every time Trey plays that song now, it’s got to be in tribute to Tony. Every time he plays it, he helps some people work through that loss. It can’t be an easy thing for Trey, but I think he knows that it helps.

Phish shows as I get older are more and more about missing people. It’s what life is more and more about, too. I’m learning that this isn’t the tragedy it can appear to be on the surface. Every song is a tribute to someone, every note is a prayer of gratitude for the beauty of this moment and everyone we’ve lost in getting here. With all that we’ve been through and continue to endure in this world, a simple moment of mourning and reflection in a space that was created for it meant everything. I needed to reclaim that act. When we say Phish is church, this is really what it’s about. Remember, so many of the folks we miss are still around. We can’t let that notion slip our minds.

Cal Roach

Cal Roach is a word whore currently being pimped sporadically by Milwaukee Record and the Journal Sentinel, and giving it away for nothing right here at He also co-hosts the Local/Live program on 91.7 WMSE FM every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and spouts nonsense on twitter as @roachcraft.

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