An Evening with Bella Anastasio: An Inside Look at Phish and Her Life
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Bella, one of Trey and Sue Anastasio’s two children. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions and genuine beyond measure; our meeting turned into six hours of hanging out and a new friendship. For a band with a following as large and rabid as Phish, who have been together for 30+ years, they have managed to stay fairly off the public radar. As a collective whole, they have also managed to allow their children to live normal, peaceful lives out of the public eye. I wanted to get a glimpse of life behind the scenes.
Michelle Leigh: Do you personally play any instruments?
Bella Anastasio: I play around on instruments often, but I don’t really play any specifically or very well.
ML: I have seen some of your artwork, and it is really good. What are you hoping to do with your love of art? I know that you designed some shirts to help Tortola after the hurricane.
BA: I could teach art or art history, but my dream job would be to become a museum curator. I would love that! It is a very hard job to get, but I am hopeful. I have never sold any of my pieces because I feel as if I don’t ever finish them. However, the shirts I designed and sold have raised about $1,300 for the One Love BVI. It is a charity helping all the British Virgin Islands with building materials to get housing and important establishments back up and running.
ML: Why Tortola?
BA: My family has been going to Tortola since before I was born. We used to spend weeks there every year until Eliza [sister] and I got older and couldn’t miss school. In my head, it’s a magical place where we created many family memories nearest and dearest to my heart. The people are so kind and welcoming, and many became family friends. None of us wanted to just sit around and let the people there suffer. We needed to at least try to help in some way, especially after everything they had done for us over the years. Tortola has brought so much light into our lives, and it hurts to think of the wonderful people who live there hurting.
ML: What is on your phone that you walk around listening to?
BA: I really enjoy podcasts and Broadway music. I listen to them often while I am walking to class or around town.
ML: When you were growing up, did you and your sister travel with the band?
BA: During the summers we would, but during the year we were at home with our mom and in school. The younger kids of the band certainly have a lot more fun stuff to do now than my sister and I did. They get bounce houses! It’s very different than it used to be.
ML: What do you think about people bringing their kids to shows?
BA: I think it depends on the venue, but at the right place I think it’s great! Some shows and venues I just do not think were meant for young kids. But at the right venue it’s wonderful.
ML: When you and your sister were little, what did you get in trouble for?
BA: We were actually pretty good kids and didn’t get in trouble much, but if we were doing something they didn’t like, they would always say, “It isn’t cute! Knock it off!”
ML: What is the strangest thing you think Phish fans do?
BA: So many fans feel like they know everyone and everything about the band. It’s odd.
ML: Do you have any funny band stories you’d like to share?
BA: A fan made a list ranking their songs 1-300. They [the band] decided they didn’t want to know #1 or #300; they only wanted to know #150 (which was “Ocelot”). Knowing #1 or #300, or even #2 or #299, would probably mess with you.
ML: What about funny dad stories?
BA: When my dad was asked to participate in the Grateful Dead’s ‘Fare Thee Well’ tour [replacing Jerry Garcia in the reunion shows], he was ecstatic! He was on a group text with the other members in the band. He looked like a little kid, he was so happy. He used to follow the Dead, so that was a huge deal for him.
ML: What is your favorite Phish song?
BA: Currently, I am really into “Character Zero.” It had never really been on my radar before, but now I am currently really loving it.
ML: What is your least favorite?
BA: I don’t know that I have a least favorite but probably the older, rarer stuff from the earlier albums. I prefer the more upbeat, funky songs.
ML: What other bands do you enjoy listening to?
BA: The Dead; Ween; Vulfpeck; The Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s; Sinatra; Bob Marley; and Aretha Franklin to name a few. I like a wide variety of music.
ML: What is your guilty music pleasure?
BA: One Direction. I had a roommate that was obsessed with them; she listened to them constantly!
ML: What do you think people would be surprised to know about your family?
BA: Probably that we really enjoy going to musicals together, and we are a very close family. Also, that both of my parents are completely sober and have been for awhile. My mom first and then my dad. My parents live a fairly quiet life and enjoy it that way.
ML: What about your dad?
BA: He is very healthy, meditates, and would go home after The Bakers Dozen [13-night residency at Madison Square Garden] and eat kale chips to unwind. When he’s not on tour, he’s in bed by, like, 8 p.m. and up at 5 a.m.
ML: What is your favorite show as a fan?
BA: Probably December 30, 2017. I was expecting it to be a low-key mellow night, and it was anything but! I assumed they would be saving up for New Year’s, but that whole show was incredible. (Leigh: As a fan, I must agree that it was a fantastic show!)
ML: What do Phish fans do that you hate most?
BA: It is difficult when people talk about not liking certain songs. For me, some of those songs have deep meaning; they are about my family. I also do not like when people say, “Oh, that’s dad music.” Well, they are in their 50s and they are dads! They aren’t 20 years old anymore, eating acid and running around on stage. Also, I really can’t stand the entitlement, fans claiming “their space” (to read more of my thoughts on that issue) and just not behaving the way the scene is supposed to. Fairly recently and on a few occasions some of the family members have tried to come into the General Admission area either as part of a gag during a show or just to be near their family, sadly some of the fans were awful. It was “their space.” (Leigh: remember fans, next time you are at a show, you truly do not know who you are sharing the groove with. We are all in this together!)
ML: What do you love most about the scene?
BA: The people. Although it is a primarily male crowd, the women I meet are fierce! Most of them are just incredible and full of love. I have become very good friends with some amazing women I met in the Phish scene.
During my time with Bella, she took me to Nectars and told me the story of her parents meeting there … how her dad asked out her mom while they were both young and in college and the love story that followed. Bella beams with joy when she speaks of her family, and you can feel the love and admiration she holds for them. She told me she didn’t think it would matter what she or her sister grew up to do for a living because her parents would still fully support them and want to hear every last detail of their lives. Bella is charismatic and has a wonderfully down-to-earth nature. To know her is to love her, and Trey and Sue should be very proud.
Although Bella didn’t become a true “Phan” until somewhat recently (in Phish tour years) she tours just like you and I believe it or not. She works on the budget and logistics months in advance, picks and chooses which shows she is able to attend while working around her life responsibilities. I would think she “could” tour differently but she chooses not to and seems to love it just the way it is. That is part of what makes Bella who she is. There is no entitlement, no expectations, no claiming of “space” (although I am sure she could). For a child that has grown up surrounded by one of the most fanatic fan bases she understands what this scene is supposed to be about. It is very refreshing to meet a 3.0 generation tour kid who is at heart and soul a 1.0 on the scene.
If you would like to purchase one of Bella’s unique shirts, visit her shop, with all proceeds benefitting One Love BVI.
This article originally appeared on Gratefulmommabear.com