Fresh Art – October: Pete Mason
Words by Balarama Warner
Published October 20, 2016
ShowTheShow had a chance to sit down with the multi-talented Pete Mason for a chat. Even if you don’t know Pete, it is likely that you have enjoyed his work in one way or another. From growing and fostering the art scene surrounding Phish via PhanArt to his work with digital magazine NYSMusic.com, Pete is one of the busiest men in the jam band scene.
Pete Mason: I’m very excited to bring PhanArt back to Las Vegas and Brooklyn Bowl, thanks to Relix Magazine presenting and promoting the show. I am very excited to improve upon the show we had there in 2014. It has been great to bring these shows around the country and continue to feature artists from these different regions. For example, out west, artists like Jon Rose and Jay Rizzi who don’t make it east very often are able to show their work, and hopefully fans from back east who attend the Vegas PhanArt show have the chance to discover these amazing artists. This show will provide the only indoor space for fans to purchase art you would traditionally find on lot, while enjoying a venue as amazing as Brooklyn Bowl.
STS: And two more PhanArt shows coinciding with Phish’s New Year’s Eve run in New York City.
PM: We are looking to replicate the success we had on January 2, 2016 in New York City. We will have more than two dozen artists at the Hotel Penn on December 29 and will make it a really full day event. We want to create events that fans don’t want to miss, something music and art centric that leads to their arrival at the show that night. PhanArt shows have always been and always will be free events designed for fans to interact with the artists, discover new artists, and meet up with friends old and new.
One of the things I am most excited about is that on the 29th we will be introducing a way for fans to ship their art purchases home safely from the show, if they so choose. This way your art may be at home waiting for you before you even return from the run.
At American Beauty on the 30th I am excited about once again aligning live music with a PhanArt show. This show will be a little smaller with ten artists, meanwhile, downstairs Albany, New York’s Formula 5 will be performing two sets.
STS: How did you initially connect with Formula 5 and what role do you play in their organization?
PM: I discovered Formula 5 at the recommendation of a friend in 2012. The first time I saw them I really liked what I heard, and shortly after I wrote a review of their first album. Sometime after that they asked me if I would be interested in becoming their manager. In time, I stepped into the managerial role and it has been a thrill to work with them and help spread their sound, and show fans of live music just how great their jamming really is. Their sound is something you don’t hear in all bands, they’re very studious and dedicated to their craft. It has been great hearing their sound evolve and watching them grow over the years since I first heard them and it brings it full circle to have them performing during a PhanArt show, something that I have tried to bring together for two years now. American Beauty will be a perfect setting for both Formula 5 and the PhanArt show on the 30th of December.
STS: The PhanArt brand has grown over the years into an integral part of the Phish community, providing artists a venue to expose their work to a like-minded audience. What are your thoughts on the strong connection between Phish’s music and the visual arts.
PM: I think the two go hand in hand. It is why there are concert posters and why fans are buying more and more merchandise. If you find artists who really enjoy the music and find inspiration from it, they are able to create something amazing from that inspiration. Prints, stickers, pins, hats, shirts, anything, there is an integrated history and the connection between the music and the art, some of them are very iconic. A Woodstock poster, a Steal Your Face, the Phish logo: iconic imagery connects directly to a band and their music. Then there is the inspiration fans take and put into their visual art from the music. The visual arts are an amazing translation of what music conveys to someone. I love celebrating what both musicians and visual artists are doing, getting to help make the connection between fans and art, and how it brings people together. And seeing artists have the ability to make a living through their craft is just amazing. In the Phish world we are blessed with a bevy of artists that create everything under the sun, then when you think you have seen everything, something new and amazing comes out. When PhanArt shows come together, with these artists that are taking inspiration from the music and sharing their art with the fans, we want to get as many people as we can to discover their work.
STS: You also have multiple books published including: “The Alphabet Book, for Little Phans: From Antelope to Zero” and “A Well Traveled Dog.” When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
PM: The books you mention came about from my role as a special education teacher. Some of my classes incorporate children’s books into the curriculum and I found that instructional method very intriguing. During graduate school I decided that I wanted to share my dog Halley’s story. She traveled with me for years and had been to 48 states, National Parks, hiked all over with me and was an amazing dog that was by my side for years and known by many Phish fans, despite never once setting her paws on lot. I really wanted to share her story and sent an early draft to my friend, artist Ryan Kerrigan. He and I bounced ideas around for a couple of years, then we finally put it together into a children’s book. It feels like an amazing tribute to the years Halley and I had together and I hope the book appeals to children and inspires them to explore.
The Alphabet Book actually came together quite quickly. Ryan Kerrigan and I collaborated on this book as well, which was initially a poster ‘The alPHabet’, featuring Phish songs for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. As we came up with 26 images that connected with readers of all ages (although geared towards the kids). This ended up being my best selling book, and both kids and adults love it. We are working on another kids book, due out this upcoming spring.
Previously, I collaborated with many artists to compile and produce “PhanArt: The Art of the Fans of Phish,” a collection of more than 1600 pieces of art from the first 20 years of Phish, with profits benefiting The Mockingbird Foundation. A year later, I co-published “PhanFood: From the Kitchen Pot to the Tour Lot” with Taraleigh Weathers, celebrating recipes of Phish fans with profits going to food banks around the Northeast. The PhanArt book is what led to everything else we’ve discussed so far.
STS: Tell us about your role as co-founder of NYSMusic.com.
PM: Back in 2014 I was an editor at another magazine along with NYSMusic co-founder Jim Gilbert. Jim and I reached a point where we decided we wanted to focus on the amazing music happening all over New York State but branch out on our own. In early 2015, Jim and I brought the staff that we had assembled at our previous website and launched NYSMusic.com. The site a focuses on New York state bands of all sizes and genres, as well as bands touring or playing in New York, while highlighting the amazing and diverse music scene that New York State offers. This state has an amazing geography, with I-90, I-81 and I-87, allowing for easy travel for bands with major cities with classic music venues located throughout. Some bands will play four to six shows of their tour just in New York State alone and you don’t really see that in any other state. We have a state-wide music scene that covers all genres and ages, there are venues of every shape and size, some dating back to the late 1800’s. These historic venues may only be known to those local to them, and we want to get the word out there and tell the story of these rooms and the bands that play them. It is an thriving and amazing music scene that I love to celebrate. If you look at our events calendar there are so many shows in New York on any given weekend, there is always something going on. Living in Albany, I cannot recall a time when the music scene was more vibrant than it is now.
One of the things I am most proud of at NYSMusic is our relationship with the Bandier Program at Syracuse University. This music industry program is one of the best in the country and we work with incoming students who join our staff as contributing writers where they develop writing skills, get experience in the music industry, and help them make future connections for their careers. As an alumnus of Syracuse University, it is an amazing pleasure working with the Bandier Program and bringing in incredible talent year after year.
STS: Thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat with us.
PM: Thank you.