No whimpers: Rubin orchestrates Phish exit
The revolution will not be televised.
It will, however, be broadcast live over XM satellite radio to over 2.1 million subscribers. August 15 will mark the end of an era, and Nick Rubin gets to write the soundtrack.
In addition to an eclectic weekly slot (called "Local Weather" 1-3am Friday mornings) on Charlottesville indie station WTJU-FM, Rubin sporadically serves as a DJ for "The Bunny," a here-today/gone-tomorrow phantom radio station which periodically materializes to document Phish's annual camping festival performances.
"The first few years, the band would rent a temporary FCC license. It would be real low-powered, we'd set up on the site and broadcast for the week," Rubin recalls with amusement. "The station wouldn't exist before or after. If you went to that frequency on the dial before or after the shows, you wouldn't have heard anything."
As the band grew in stature, so did their fans' quirky displays of dedication. "Last year the signal was picked up by a local radio station and we were broadcasting all over Northeast Maine and New Brunswick," he says.
Now they've upped the ante again. This weekend will mark the final performance of the band which might just have the most fanatical following in the history of rock and roll. Thousands of Phish-heads will converge upon Coventry, Vermont, for two days of music and assorted other revelries. (When they played at Charlottesville's U-Hall in the early '90s, there were several parking lot drug busts.)
XM jumped on the opportunity to reach the thousands more who can't afford to trek across the country or weren't lucky enough to score tickets, offering fans a live broadcast of the show surrounded on either side by several days of Bunny broadcasts– and a temporary subscription option by which to get it to them.
All of a sudden, Rubin has jumped from a low powered, temporary station to a cutting-edge broadcast with a national audience. He's not the least bit fazed, though. In fact, he's already working on the perfect set list.
"I want to be eclectic and surprising– the first minute of Beethoven's first 'Rasumovsky' quartet fading out and right into Yo La Tengo's 'One PM Again'– that kinda stuff," he says.
As a third-year graduate student in UVA's musicology program, the 34-year-old Rubin is schooled for the task, and there's no telling how many such tricks he might have up his sleeve.
With the exception of a retrospective hosted by Phish's overworked archivist, The Bunny won't be ensnared by The String Cheese Trap. "The other DJs at The Bunny pretty much play what they want to play, which is, 'Well, not jam bands,' he says.
Rubin won't just be present when an entire subculture spontaneously combusts this weekend– he'll also get to decide just what the bang will sound like.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO