Phish and friendship. They can be separate things, but when they go together there is truly nothing like it.
Phish gave me the opportunity to get to know one of my closest friends.
The world tragically lost Joel Prince suddenly on 12/31/2021.
I can remember the exact day I met Joel. June 8, 2011. That day changed my life.
I was fresh out of a long crappy relationship and headed to see Phish at Darien Lake with my two best friends. I was introduced to a group of their friends that I instantly fell in love with. Joel was the first one I met. He was dating (and later married) a young woman I had known most of my life. I was great friends with her brother, and his future bride was good friends with my sister. We instantly bonded over this crazy coincidence. I liked him instantly.
He had a massive smile, was easy to talk to, and really fun to be around.
From there, my new found crew traveled to Superball where I would cement 15 of my closest friendships. It’s truly amazing that a weekend of Phish can forge a bond of friendship. One weekend sharing music is the equivalent of years of friendship. Over the next 10 years, Joel became one of the most important parts of my life. I think back with such reverence for Phish over that timespan, and Joel was such a massive part of that.
I thought a lot about Joel the last couple days. I hope I told him just how much he meant to me, and how much I loved him. I’ve come to so many realizations about Joel in the last couple days that I’ll never get to tell him.
Most importantly, Joel taught me a very valuable lesson: I can be an asshole.
One night in Merriweather, I was ragging on Joel. I’ve been known to use whatever I can to get a laugh. Joel was a big guy and people often mistook him for a cop. He hated that. I was beating that joke into the ground and pushed him to a point where he snapped at me.
At first I thought it was normal guy stuff… just messing around. I realized later I had really pissed him off. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more upset with myself. I strive to be the best friend I can to the people that I care about. To discover I had pissed off one of my best friends was heartbreaking to me.
That incident turned into a moment of serious self-reflection for me. Joel and I have probably talked about that day at least 10 times and it’s only deepened our friendship.
Joel gave me a gift. He helped me become a better man. I started to realize that even with no ill intention, laughs at someone else’s expense are just not worth it. There are so many other ways to be funny.
Recently I’ve become new friends with an incredible ray of light in this world, and I realized I was doing some of the same things to him that I did to Joel that day. I sat back, caught myself, and vowed to make sure I didn’t repeat the same mistake. I called him and told him this exact story and our friendship has flourished since.
This was just a couple months ago, and now it seems so incredibly timely. How many of us have friends that have truly taught us a life lesson?
As important as this lesson from Joel has been in my life, it certainly doesn’t define our friendship.
Joel was an original member of the phone call list. I called Joel on the way to work for years. We talked about Phish, sci-fi, but mostly just laughed at all the amazing memories we were lucky enough to have created.
Joel was the Phish fan you wanted to be with. He absolutely loved the band. I loved how he seemed to soak in every moment. You could see it in the way he swayed with his hands on his backpack straps.
Joel loved Phish and he loved seeing Phish with his friends. Watching someone experience those two things together is such a beautiful thing.
He used to send me screenshots of his jams he was loving while running on the treadmill.
Joel was the glue. He had it all. He was completely hilarious, bought beers, partied just enough, and always fun to be around. Throw Joel in any group and everyone instantly loved him. He was always down for whatever just as long as we got to be together. God, I love people like that.
Joel crushed it at Phish every single time, then went home, crushed it at work, and then crushed being a husband and father. He was the fucking man! He did all those things as well as you can do them. He’s what we all strive to be. Joel balanced his life perfectly.
Joel swung the most recent Phish shows in Las Vegas experiencing his first trip there and his first Halloween. I’m so thankful I was there with him.
We were supposed to be at MSG together (but were not due to the cancellation) on the night he passed. It’s a pretty heavy thing to think about. It’s certainly hard to know what to think at this point, what to say, and certainly what to write.
I’m really going to miss our phone calls and Phish trips together. It’s not often you find someone you connect with so deeply. Phish just won’t be the same without him.
I’m thankful for every second I got to spend with Joel Prince, I truly loved him, and admired him.
It’s a sad day when our Phish community loses one of our very best. Cherish your friends and your time spent with them. Every moment matters.
“The memories we shared, I will never forget”.
A GoFundMe has been sent up for Joel’s wife and children, if you feel so inclined.