59°F
weather icon Clear

Phish jamming at MGM Grand

Phish changed Tom Roman’s life.

Twice.

The first instance was a tragedy: In April 2013 in Washington, Pa., near Pittsburgh, Roman’s son Nate, then 30, was shot and killed in a dispute over Phish tickets with another man, who later committed suicide.

After Roman’s son’s death, the tickets arrived in the mail.

“I didn’t know exactly what to do with them,” Roman recalls from his home in Canonsburg, Pa.

So he logged on to the Phish.net fan site, which he knew his son frequented, and offered to sell the tickets to fellow visitors.

“They were like, ‘Well, we can hook you up with people to buy the tickets, but you should go to see a show, see what it’s all about. Your son loved it.’ ”

And so Roman decided to attend a show in San Francisco in memory of his son, a Phish die-hard who had traveled all over the country to see the band 83 times.

And that’s when the Phish community got involved.

One fan offered Roman his frequent-flier miles in order to cover his airfare.

A nonprofit organization founded by Phish fans, The Mockingbird Foundation, took him out to dinner once he got into town.

And then there was the show itself.

Roman remembers his son playing him Phish tunes from time to time, but they never really sunk in.

“Their songs are long, is the thing,” he says. “I would listen to ’em and listen to ’em, and I’d finally say, ‘Put the next song on.’ I really didn’t get it until I went to actually see them live — just the energy of it. Everyone was just so friggin’ happy, people were beaming, just glowing and dancing like crazy. The energy was just incredible.”

Roman, approaching 60, was hooked.

Shows in Maryland followed this summer, where he made friends who persuaded him to come see the band’s Las Vegas shows this weekend.

“It’s been a bright spot in a really dark time for me,” he says.

Roman’s story encapsulates the story of Phish, in a way: Like the Grateful Dead, whom they’re frequently compared to, the seminal jam band is at the center of a culture and a community that has sprung up around them, of which the music plays a central part — yet is but one part.

Phish’s supremely dedicated following, their self-anointed “phans,” have a symbiotic relationship with the band, generating the giddy atmosphere at their shows and making phish phandom a lifestyle, an identity, that extends far beyond the group itself.

“When I run into another phan, there is an instant ‘you get it’ connection,” says Kyle Henson, a full-time RVer who is coming to the band’s Vegas shows and will see Phish nine times this year.

“They’re always likened to The Dead,” adds Keith Scherer, a phan who has seen the band 85 times. “They’re different musically, but in devotion and community, not very different at all.

“Any musical act develops a fan base with its own culture, it’s own sayings, nuances,” Scherer adds. “Our bond is the love of music, of all kinds. It’s also a bond of shared adventures, shared musical experiences. Sitting in traffic jams. Trudging through mud. The musical peaks.”

Those peaks invariably include Phish’s storied Halloween gigs, where the group has been known to put on “musical costumes” and cover an album from another band in its entirety.

The one time Phish played Las Vegas on Halloween, at the Thomas & Mack Center in 1998, they performed Velvet Underground’s “Loaded.”

Whether or not they take on a full album this year, Phish’s Halloween show is among the band’s most anticipated of the year.

“It, along with New Year’s, is the Super Bowl of Phish shows: elusive tickets, extra sets, the musical costumes, the hype, the unpredictability of what they will play. It’s very exciting,” Henson says.

For Roman, a big part of this excitement is meeting fellow Phish.net regulars face to face, some of them for the first time, people he mainly knows by the nicknames they give themselves when posting on the site message boards.

He notes that one such poster is coming to the show all the way from Germany.

He got the guy some Pittsburgh Steelers shirts.

It’s a small gesture, giving a fellow phan something indicative of where he’s from.

But for Roman, it has a bigger meaning, making him a part of something that was a part of his son.

“It’s a hell of a community,” he says. “Now, I can see why my son loved this so much.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
EDC Las Vegas makes festivalgoers feel like family

Upon immersing oneself in the festival’s friendly fanaticism for three days, the question arises: Just what makes EDC elicit such a passionate response from many of its 450,000-plus annual “headliners”?

Celine Dion’s lounge gig a boon to Las Vegas act

Celine Dion performed “Because You Loved Me,” “Ashes,” Beauty and the Beast” and “My Heart Will Go On.” Her arrival drew a roar from the 300 VIPs in attendance, who were not informed of the night’s entertainment.