Black Phish “Phans” will be the subject of a new podcast, Blackberry Jams, that aims to examine the intersection of jam-band culture and race. The show’s producers are PRX (This American Life, The World) and Ben & Jerry’s (ice cream). The 10-episode series will launch on August 31st with new episodes arriving weekly.
The series’ hosts are Lenny Duncan and Leslie Mac. Duncan founded and previously served as a pastor for Jubilee Collective, which advocates anti-racism, queer acceptance, and affirmation, and he previously served as second vice president of Vancouver’s NAACP branch. Mac works as communications director for the Frontline, which campaigns to hold elected officials accountable to their communities, as well as digital organizer for Black Womxn For, which aims to create intentional political spaces for black women.
Topics will include the jam-band economy, the connections between counterculture and advocacy for African American rights, dating as black, queer Phan, and painful experiences the hosts have had by being stereotyped at big venues. They’re also welcoming black Phans to call a hotline (888-PHAN-JAM) to share their own personal stories, good or bad, from Phish shows.
“As a well-known Black woman organizer and strategist, so much of my life is on display ––my experiences as a Phan have been life-affirming and a self-care safe haven for me over the years,” Mac said in a statement. “I’m so excited to talk about the good, the great, and the ugly with my friend Lenny, who I’ve spent many hours dissecting everything from our favorite ‘Tweezer Reprise’ to which show venues are the most racist. Telling these stories will offer a peek into how music helps me cope with the difficulties of the world and my hopes for how this scene can change to meet the current moment.”
“The truth is that my life has been forever altered by this scene, its people, and of course the music,” Duncan said. “When America abandoned a 13-year-old Black queer boy to its streets, a dayglo bus filled circus-jam-packed with dreams of revolution rescued me. This scene, this band, and others like it, have been my North Star when all other stars have long since faded. The chance to talk about it from a Black queer perspective with Leslie is the icing on the cake. Her power analysis, organizing credentials, and educational work in anti-racism is only topped by her real compassion for those she comes across. The Black Phan experience and ‘Blackberry Jams’ are coming to a shakedown near you.”
Ice cream men Ben & Jerry’s have a long history with Phish beyond producing the podcast. In 1997, the company debuted its Phish Food flavor. “When they were doing it, Ben and Jerry actually came to the office, and we had a meeting with them,” Phish keyboardist Page McConnell told Rolling Stone last year. “They probably had about seven different flavors … but they also said, ‘You know, if you pick a chocolate flavor, it’s going to sell four times as much as anything else.’ We’re like, ‘Oh, well, then how about we do a chocolate flavor? Why don’t we just let you guys decide? You’re the pros.’”