One of the most entertaining aspects of Trey Anastasio‘s The Beacon Jams has been the engagement’s interactive element. Fan interactions by way of the Twitch chat section have woven their way into each of the first seven installments to amusing and exciting ends. At Friday night’s seventh edition of The Beacon Jams, Anastasio responded to a nurse from Maine named Heather McDougal not just with a “thank you,” but a full-band song crafted off-the-cuff using her name—and a “Heather McDougal Song Reprise” later, taboot.
In an instant, Heather McDougal was the talk of the Phish community, so Osiris‘ Phemale-Centrics podcast, which discusses “all things Phish from a woman’s point of view,” tracked her down for a conversation about her work as a nurse during the pandemic, the fateful comment, and the music it inspired.
As with all Phemale-Centrics guests, McDougal started things off by divulging when she first caught the Phish bug (her last year of high school) and her first show (7/13/94 at Big Birch Concert Pavilion in Patterson, NY). She went on to explain a bit about her road toward becoming a nurse, which didn’t start until after she had already finished college. “Basically,” she joked to host Dawn Jenkins. “What I did in my undergrad is just, like… Phish.”
The Maine Medical Center operating room nurse drew some laughs from the host when she explained her OR’s jam-heavy playlist rotation. “We play Phish all the time,” she said. “In fact, we have tie-dye Tuesdays, which is Grateful Dead and Phish, and on Fridays is full-album Phish Friday. So that’s going on.”
When the discussion turned to working as a healthcare professional during a pandemic, McDougal explained that while nurses tend to have a “just doing my job” humility with regard to their work, “it’s a lot. It has been really weird. March was the worst. March and April were scary. We didn’t know what to do, we didn’t know how to do it, we didn’t know how to keep ourselves safe, our patients safe, our families… As it’s gone on, we’ve kind of dialed that in, so I don’t feel as worried going to work [now], although this second surge is getting us a little worked up again, just in terms of supplies and space to take care of people. You know, it’s sad and scary.”
The strain of the spiking pandemic, the presidential election, and the coming winter months had been weighing on McDougal leading up to Friday night’s edition of The Beacon Jams. “I was just this last week being a little apprehensive about it all,” Heather explained. “And I said to a couple people, I even wrote in a couple texts, ‘I need something. I need something, I don’t know what it is, I need something.’ And of course, I said it to the universe too. I was at home with my kids on Friday night, we watched all The Beacon Jams, and you watch those comments go streaming by. They’re quick, there’s tens of thousands of them, they’re continuous. It’s an onslaught, so the idea of him actually reading your comment is a far-fetched one … Being a nurse, it’s a hot topic now. But I wrote, ‘I’m a nurse in Maine, and these shows have been getting me through these last few weeks. You guys keep killin’ it and I’ll keep savin’ it’ … and I fired it off.”
“As I’m watching the show,” she continued, “I’m on all these chats with my friends, and I said to my friends, ‘I wonder if he’ll read my message,’ and as I hit send, he did that big inhale he does with the things he reads, he goes [gasps], and then he said my name. He, like, stumbled my name, and I go, ‘Oh my god!’ Oh my god, he said my name. That’s it, I’ve reached the pinnacle of my Phish life. He said my name. And then, he sung my name… and he kept singing my name [laughs]! And I’m losing it, I literally fell off the couch and I screamed at the top of my lungs to my daughter to come out. It was like no scene you could ever imagine, my whole body was just flailing around. Breathless. They all chimed in, and then the strings chimed in. … I sort of blacked out a little because it was just too much to take in. The whole scene, I was like, what is going on?! And then, there’s the reprise…”
“It was amazing, it’s like two separate songs!” she beamed. “And after I dissected it, I tried to figure out what he was talking about, for some reason he stood up and picked up his electric guitar and came to the mic… and he goes, ‘Oh, I guess Heather McDougal just deserved the electric guitar!'”
It didn’t take long for Heather McDougal fever to light up the internet (“4 seconds,” she said). Judging by Phish fans’ affinity for keeping up inside jokes, we wouldn’t be surprised if the name “Heather McDougal” continues to ring out on lots and message boards for years to come. Who’s got our heady Heather McDougal Song Reprise t-shirt?
Stream the Heather McDougal episode of Phemale-Centrics in full below. For more episodes of Phemale-Centrics, head here. Stream The Beacon Jams Night 7 (featuring “Heather McDougal Song” and “Heather McDougal Song Reprise”) here. For full coverage of Trey Anastasio’s ongoing virtual residency, head here.
Heather McDougal Talks “Heather McDougal Song” – Phemale-Centrics
THE Heather McDougal Interview!
Heather is a nurse in Maine that wrote into @treyanastasio & he wrote a song on the spot for her! Mini-episode w/her awesome story!
Link: https://t.co/lgLz85znYf @osirispod @JamBase pic.twitter.com/cF0nhgWRQm
— Phemale-Centrics (@PhemaleCentrics) November 23, 2020
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[UPDATE 11/23/20]: Heather McDougal was the subject of a profile on News Center Maine this week. McDougal Madness is alive and well in New York, as well, where Heather’s name is currently emblazoned on the marquee of the Beacon Theatre. Watch the news segment and check out the Beacon marquee below.
News Center Maine – Heather McDougal Story
[Video: NEWS CENTER Maine]
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