Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign seems to be going Phish-ing… in the best possible sense. (Unless you just hate the band Phish so much there is no best possible sense.)
The Democratic presidential candidate has previously indicated his love for the group, and when a reporter suggested Phish play at his theoretical swearing-in festivities in 2021, he took to the idea. “If you could get Phish to do an inauguration, that would be something,” he said. “Well, it’s worth a shot. Maybe we should ask them.”
The combination of the South Bend mayor and Phish has been a recurring theme this week on TMZ, of all places. Before their reporter ambushed him with the inaugural ball question, he’d brought the group up himself in a formal interview he did in their studio, along with other musical favorites.
“I’m kind of turning back to the classics right now,” he said. “I spent a lot of time with my dad listening to ‘Cosmos Factory,’ [the 1970 album by] Creedence Clearwater, that kind of classic.” Asked about his college days, he cited “a lot of Dave Matthews in my life back then, a fair amount of Phish kind of thing. But also again the classics. I thought I was gonna be Jimi Hendrix on the guitar.” The hosts then produced a Les Paul, on which he strummed a snippet of “Hey Joe.”
Additionally, he added, “I’ve been on an ‘Angel from Montgomery’ kick lately,” referring to the John Prine classic popularized by Bonnie Raitt. “It’s such a beautiful song. I never noticed it before. But I’m always trying to expand my horizons a little bit, get into new stuff. Any time Radiohead and Thom Yorke come out with something new, that’s pretty exciting.”
He seems like a guy who puts the “indie” back in Indiana, but some transparency on the campaign trail: “I don’t listen to music as much as I wish I did,” Buttigieg confessed. “Chasten (Glezman, his husband) found this song by an artist Shea Diamond… a trans African-American woman, called ‘American Pie.’ Obviously the original ‘American Pie’ we all know is an amazing song. But this one, it says something — I can’t explain it, but it’s so rousing, and it’s about everyone wanting to be part of America in their own way.”
The idea that a presidential music diet might consist of something besides Lee Greenwood again someday has transfixed many hopeful Democrats… and maybe even secretly a few Republican Phish fans who would like to see the band do, say, “Dark Side of the Moon” in its entirety in front of the Washington monument.
“Mayor Pete” has been heard to have Phish’s “Tweezer — Reprise” blaring on the campaign trail. And fans have circulated an essay from his very brief stint as a rock critic, when he wrote about music trends for the Harvard Crimson in college, including an appreciation of Radiohead. (“Given the temperature of the times, it should surprise no one that their dyspeptic experimentation is popular,” he wrote about “Hail to the Thief.” “We, too, are nationally unwell.”)
Video also circulated of him playing Spoon’s “The Way We Get By” on piano before a speaking gig, although he may have trouble lining up their direct support for the Democratic nomination. That band already has some loyalty to Beto O’Rourke, having played at one of his senatorial campaign rallies in Texas last year.