Written by Charles “Bones” Frank
Hello Jamwich nation! Good news everyone: it’s summer! Festival season is upon us all, summer tours are about to side wind across this great nation, and the excitement that regrows like a perennial flower is again in our hearts and minds. Let us all rejoice! Amongst all the wonderful performers headed out on tour this season is a little band from Vermont, whom in recent years have delivered an ample amount of new, off the wall material, and consistently pioneered their tremendous live show again and again. Yes, I am of course referring to Phish, a band that holds a special place in my life as they do in so many of my peers and members of this community. Phish continues to bring generations of friends back together, as well as cultivating newer, younger fans along the way. As they prepare for their run, which includes some familiar stops as well as a two-fer at the famed Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee, somewhat of an unlikely celebrity has risen and stumbled into their midst. Enter Lexi Edelstein, a 21-year-old native of St. Louis, or as she is known in the Twittersphere “Lil Nug” (@GH0STGRLS).
“Lil Nug” has quickly ascended the Phish Twitter celebrity ranks following a tweet she made shortly after the lineup for Bonnaroo was released earlier this year. Following the release, “Lil Nug” casually tweeted out “don’t attack me, but who tf is phish and why does he have 3 different sets.” As you can imagine, the Phish Twitter user population is quite active and vocal, and to her extreme surprise her comments were picked up and given the viral treatment immediately. Phish is of course not a “he” at all, and their hordes of adoring super fans quickly pointed out to young Ms. Nug the error in her words, in addition to an onslaught of information about the quartet from Burlington. Prior to her tweet, “Lil Nug” was simply a normal 21 year old excited for her trip to Bonnaroo, following her tweet she was a mystical Phish celebrity. Her tweet was turned into stickers, retweeted constantly, it appeared as a quotation in Bella Anastasio’s (daughter of Trey Anastasio) Instagram bio, and she was recently even referred to in The Tennessean, Nashville’s largest public newspaper. Yes, the era of “Lil Nug” has begun. This story goes deeper though. I had the pleasure of catching up with “Lil Nug” to discuss Phish, Bonnaroo, and we even got into deeper topics such as mental health.
Bones: Your tweet “Who tf is Phish and why does he have three sets?” is still rippling among the Phish community. Let’s discuss it a little bit-
Talk for a second about your experience as a fan of live music, concert going, and your background with Phish, if any.
Nug: I started going to concerts at a relatively young age. My first show was The Cheetah Girls when I was about six years old. Although it is a bit of an embarrassing first concert, I am extremely grateful to my mom who surprised my twin sister and I with floor tickets to see a group we idolized at such a young age, thus starting our obsession with live music. Since then we’ve seen nearly 200 different artists at shows and music festivals and have loved every second of it. Unfortunately, Phish hasn’t made it onto that list yet, but that will all change in June!
Bones: What was your initial reaction to the spread of your tweet and were you surprised people latched onto it so quickly?
Nug: I was extremely surprised by the attention my tweet received. I had been anticipating the Bonnaroo lineup pretty bad and immediately hopped on Twitter once I saw it. I honestly had no idea who Phish was therefore I was genuinely confused at this seemingly random artist having three headlining sets. I also saw the “Grand Ole Opry” in big letters and, knowing this isn’t a band, my tweet also contained a joke about why a building was headlining. I pressed “send.” Fast-forward twenty-four hours. WOW! I was more or less trolling the first thing that came to mind about the lineup. When the tweet started to get some attention, and I learned through the replies of some avid Phish fans that they’re a popular band with a frenzy following, I realized why the tweet was so funny. I was completely ignorant to this band that not only has a huge following but that greatly influenced the creation of festivals like Bonnaroo. I felt pretty naive after learning that.
B: I know since then you’ve listened to some of Phish’s music, talk for a second about how that has been and what interacting with Phish fans has been like, given your lack of knowledge regarding the band prior to your viral tweet.
N: I’ve been listening to Phish here and there since my tweet went viral. I enjoy their music and their sound is definitely up my alley, I just get a bit overwhelmed trying to dive into their music. They have so many albums, many of them live shows, and I just don’t know where to start. Some “phans” (are they called that?) have linked me to their performances on Youtube, which I have yet to check out just because watching videos of live performances isn’t necessarily one of the ways I enjoy consuming music. That being said, how a band perform live is extremely important to me and I have become fans of countless artists after having no clue who they are and seeing them put on an incredible show. Thusly: I’m really looking forward to experiencing them.
B: You speak a lot about mental health on your Twitter feed, about your own, and about the stigma surrounding it in general. Have you found any interactions with your followers has changed regarding your comments on mental health after gaining so many new followers due to your initial Phish tweet?
N: The topic of mental health is something that’s important to me, not only because I struggle with it myself but because of the amount of people in this world suffering due to their mental health with little to no support to go off of. I think it’s easy in today’s world, when you’re just an online persona, to fine tune exactly what you share so as to control how people perceive you. But no one is perfect, and I guess to try and counteract that ideology, I’m just honest. When I have bad days, I talk about it. I share my worries and concerns and doubts. It’s absolutely normal to feel things and no one needs to come across as living the perfect life, because I can guarantee no one is. Besides me trying to change the stigma that people online lead dreamy lives, it also comes down to me personally struggling with anxiety and depression, and sometimes you just need an outlet to vent on. The difference since my viral Phish tweet is that I often have people replying to my tweets where I’m venting or clearly struggling. It is so sweet and uplifting. Phish fans, and often only Phish fans, will direct message me and ask if I’m okay, or share their stories relating to their mental health. It’s definitely reminded me that live music doesn’t just make me happy because of the music, it’s the sense of community that gets built around those shows that truly makes me feel like I’m a part of a family.
B: What ways do you find that mental health and live music are related? Have Phish fans surprised you with their support of your comments regarding mental health?
N: I can’t speak for everyone, but live music does wonders for me. I have never felt such pure, unparalleled joy as I have seeing some of my favorite bands live. Even on my worst days where I feel I physically can’t get out of bed or I’m crying too hard to socialize, I can think to myself “yes, this sucks right now, but in __ days you’re going to see _____ in concert and everything will be alright.” When you’re stuck in a loop of negative thoughts, it can be so hard to tell yourself that these feelings will pass and you will have good days, but having a show to look forward to makes it that much easier to remind yourself of the good times. What has surprised me the most about Phish fans is that so many of them stuck around and read my tweets on a regular basis, and actually care about how I’m doing. I fully expected the tweet to blow over and for everyone to stop caring after that, but that wasn’t the case at all. I’m extremely appreciative of everyone’s kind words and friendship over the past couple months since my tweet. I am really excited to see them at Roo and experience them for the first time and who knows, I may become even more of a part of the Phish community, traveling to shows and such before you know it you’ll see me in the crowd.
B: I hope so. “Lil Nug” it has been a pleasure getting to know you a little bit, we’ve spoken some behind the scenes and I believe you can be a beacon of hope for many people, even within the Phish world who may struggle. I look forward to more interaction with you and wish you safe travels to the farm in a couple weeks!
N: Thank you Bones, this has all been wonderful, now I’m on my way!
It has been quite an enlightening experience collecting thoughts from “Lil Nug” as we prepared for this interview. We went back and forth several times via Twitter messenger and I discovered her to be a true young music lover, a young lady wise beyond her years, and someone that is capable of enrichment simply by being herself. I look forward to catching up with Nug again following her first Phish shows. Until then friends, keep it dialed in right here with The Jamwich and set your soul free!