Steven Vickner (a.k.a. The Vic) is many things. He is a passionate fan of live music, a loving father and husband, and a loyal friend. He is a podcast host, a dedicated community builder, and a valuable member of our scene. He is also the recipient of the 2019 Wook of the Year Award.
Steve is someone you feel you've known forever the first time you meet, and yet I still learn something new about him every time we talk. When trying to decide who should be my first interview, Steve was the first person I thought of and I am honored he agreed to play along.
Steve The Fan
Weekend Wook: How was your summer tour? How does this year compare to past years?
Steve: Summer tour was fantastic, and hot, and sometimes too long away from home. Ultimately it was amazing! My family joined me for several shows (Gina - 10; Molly 2) and I loved crossing paths with so many new and old friends. The way it’s shaping up, 2019 (20 shows so far) will eclipse 1998 (26) as the most shows I’ve seen in a year...not that I’m counting, but thankfully we have stats!
WW: Tell me about your first encounter with Phish.
Steve: The very first actual encounter I had with Phish was Fall 93’ when I visited a friend who went to NYU. His roommate was playing guitar with headphones on while listening to an entire drawer of his dresser dedicated to audience recordings. I am sure I listened to some that day, because as I have now become that guy (minus the musical talent) that is what I would have subjected my guests to.
My first show, Halloween 94’, is likely the first time I heard the band, but we will save that story for another time.
WW: Do you have a favorite member of Phish?
Steve: Would you ask your parents who’s their favorite child if they had more than one? How dare you ask me this question! Next.
WW: This year, Phish Twitter officially decided which Jam reigned supreme. Which jam do you believe should have won the 3.0 #JamBracket?
Steve: I didn’t follow the entire bracket, but you can’t go wrong with Tweezer/Caspian from Magnaball as the representative from your conference. Ruby Waves running into that monster so early is tough because I consider Ruby Waves an amazing journey jam that will stand the test of time.
Dick’s 2012 is a spoil of riches and was well-represented. I personally would listen to Dick’s Undermind 8-10 times more than the Magna Gin, which could be residual disgust with my backpack being stolen during that Gin peak. Tweezer was winning this contest regardless, and that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.
WW: What was the last band/artist you saw live that was not Phish?
Steve: I saw Vida Blue at the Fillmore, some local music here in New Hope, and before that it was Trey Anastasio Band at The Peach Music Festival, and The Disco Biscuits and Umphrey’s McGee at Camp Bisco.
WW: What is your favorite part of the scene?
Steve: The community and the music take equal halves of importance for me. Music brings people together, commonality helps stimulate conversation, conversation strengthens the community, and Type II jams bring out the smiles.
The music will live on forever. I’m thrilled to be a part of this community and this is an amazing time to be a Phish/improvisational music fan.
WW: Rank the following triggers: Wooing, Tarps, Talking (during jams), Excessive Glowsticks, Pit Puppies, Pit Babies, Ranking/Brackets
Steve: Tier 1: Wooing, Tarps, Talking (during jams), Excessive Glowsticks, Pit, Puppies, Pit Babies
< massive gap >
Tier 2: Ranking/Brackets
Steve The Family Man
WW: What is your favorite thing about being a dad? What is your least favorite?
Steve: That’s a loaded question, because after all, if you’re an engaged parent with your children it’s a rollercoaster of emotions and a journey you embrace and question yourself along every moment. I currently enjoy having earnest conversations with my eldest, learning TikTok with my middle and getting ready for a lot of DIY Halloween decorations with my youngest.
My least favorite are the times when I feel like I am failing, which happens a lot, but obstacles and steppingstones, ya know?
WW: Do your kids understand your fandom? Are any of them into jam music themselves?
Steve: They have listened to Phish all their lives, have heard us talk about Phish all their lives, and have seen it with their own eyes at shows. Our 8-year-old genuinely enjoys dancing to Phish, and while her older sisters will be caught humming a song or quoting a lyric, they are not fans but tolerate me. Each of our children appreciate music, I have attended a couple Khalid concerts with them and I will always make time to bring them to see their favorite musical act.
WW: Who is a bigger fan of Phish, you or Gina? Would she agree with your answer?
Steve: I am definitely the bigger fan, no question there, but G is a vet and knows a ton. As I look through my own stats and attempt to jog my memory, she’s definitely approaching the 100 show milestone which unlocks secret levels of fandom. She’s been there through almost all of it, and I’m thankful for her tolerance of a crazy person like me for so long.
WW: What advice would you give someone becoming a parent for the first time?
Steve: Shower your child with love, engage with them as often as possible and enjoy the ride. And pay close attention to someone who knows how to swaddle a baby because they love being wrapped up like a burrito.
Steve The Host
WW: Why did you start the podcast?
Steve: I began Tweezer Tonight to satisfy my urge to create something I could call my own, connect with people through a new medium and learn a new skill that would serve me in whatever future business endeavor I would pursue. When I pitched Dan on being the co-host I only had two pre-requisites: have fun, and (hopefully) provide listeners with a little reprieve on their daily commute. We are still having fun, the listeners seem to enjoy it and if all else fails we all have a Tweezer to look forward to at the end.
WW: What have been your favorite episodes so far?
Steve: Episodes with guests are favorites of mine, and that stems from my admiration of Howard Stern’s ability to always get the goods from his guests. I enjoy engaging with new people and seeing what comes out when commonalities lower barriers. Just about every interview we have done was the first time Dan and I met the guest(s), but the conversation seems to flow so well because we’re all sort of on the same wavelength.
Here is the last episode with the me, the Weekend Wook...
WW: Do you plan on keeping Tweezer Tonight going for the foreseeable future?
Steve: I expect Tweezer Tonight will continue because it’s still fun and there are 300+ Tweezers we have yet to play! A new podcast built around Peak Builders Network will launch in the not-too-distant future, so it’s possible Tweezer Tonight will downshift a bit. The great thing about change is that it forces us to get creative, but we could remain at the same pace and reach 1,000 episodes by 2045.
WW: What is it like working with Dan?
Steve: Dan is truly the star of the show, and everyone makes a point to share this opinion with me. His off-the-cuff, 65-year-old retired oil tycoon terminology and incredibly funny hashtags (#tonebone #401Trey) are hilarious to me. We have spent countless hours talking about life and work after our podcasts, and he’s one of the better people you will meet in your life.
He also saw Phish in 1.0 at the age of 15, which is a lot headier than me! Dan introduced me to Ween, brought me into his circle of friends when we moved here, and I am beyond grateful to call him a friend.
Steve The Founder
WW: We’ve all seen a lot about Peak Builders Network over the last year, but we’d love to know more about what it’s all about.
Steve: Peak Builders Network is a shared interest, professional networking community built upon the values of trust, safety, transparency, equality and philanthropy. We strive to connect people in the improvisational music community who seek products, services, employment or simply wish to connect with others whom, at a minimum, share a common interest in music. We plan to accomplish these goals through in-person networking meetings, built around pre-show meetups, or separate from a concert; a membership-based system that leverages trusted relationships across our diverse networks; promoting the vast experience and talent of our community via a business directory, newsletter, podcast and beyond; and providing a new incentive to get out and see live music by curating connections between consumers and businesses before we head to the show.
We are still under construction, but membership is growing and connections are happening. There are options you need to hear so you can weigh them, whaddaya say you give us a follow and learn more about how to get involved?
WW: What gave you the inspiration for Peak?
Steve: The ideas have been percolating in my brain for the better part of a decade, but it all came together last July when I realized the key was not to build the Peak (events) but to help people get to basecamp. The improvisational music fanbase is rabid, which means if they’re not already going to the show, they are likely trying to figure out a way to get there. Find a venue, put people in a room together who could likely converse for hours about music, curate the event by connecting people, enjoy food and drink with community members and get everyone out the door with plenty of time to get in the venue and get ready for the real Peak event: Live music!
WW: Why are you pursuing this venture? What are you hoping to get from it?
Steve: Unless the business you work for is Victorinox, I have come to believe that on a long enough timeline we are all numbers on a piece of paper. When those numbers cease to make sense to the powers that be your number may be up. There are obviously great companies out there, so please don’t take that as a blanket statement, but I have been part of many frustrating situations I hope to guard against as this business matures. My hope is to help others succeed, and make a living doing it. But at this point my primary hope is to make it to the next month.
WW: What is the one thing you want people to know about Peak?
Steve: It takes a village and we need all the help we can get! Please follow us, ask questions, come out to a meetup and help us build this unbreakable net the band sings about.
We have meetups planned October 5th, before Pigeons Playing Ping Pong with Aqueous, and November 1st before Umphrey’s McGee at the Fillmore in Philadelphia, PA, Peak will be holding meet-ups at North Bowl Philly from 4:30-6:30pm. On October 14th at Brooklyn Bowl, we’ll be supporting our friends at Groovesafe for an all-star jam and fundraiser, so please come out to support a great cause!
PS. Happy belated, Trey!
Some Final Questions
Before I let Steve go, I had a few more questions I wanted to ask him...
WW: What is the last lesson you learned?
Steve: I learned that being a promoter is tough, but it was really a reminder that event planning and project management is the first role I will likely fill for Peak.
WW: What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?
Steve: I just checked with my Mom to confirm my thoughts - I had no clue, but I loved sports. Looking back I have always been searching for something, and music is where I’ve decided to stake a claim and open for business.
WW: You are a fairly public figure within the community... What is something most people don’t know about you?
Steve: I’m adopted, which is not a secret but also likely not widely known. At an earlier point in my life it was a source of self-interpreted shame, but as I aged it became a source of strength and pride as I realized how many things needed to go my way for me to be here today. Fun fact - our favorite dress-wearing drummer is also adopted.
WW: If you could pick only one thought, quote, or song that you will be remembered by, what would it be?
Steve: “Can’t I live while I’m young?” I began this interview listening to Twenty Years Later from June 30th in Camden this year, and just as I read this question Chalk Dust Torture came on; amazing!
I hope you enjoyed this interview with theVic. Steve has a lot of big things planned for the future that should prove to be very exciting. If you are not already, I encourage everyone to give him a follow. Also, you can find out more about the Peak Builders Network here.