One of the most entertaining parts of the Phish experience was “the lot.” Whether you were someone who arrived at the venue at 3pm and hung out all day, or you pulled in at 6:45 and walked right to the doors, you inevitably witnessed some absurd lot humor each and every night. This humor could take the form of someone offering offering good vibes and hugs for a ticket or a hippie sporting a hemp necklace so thick, it would have made LL Cool J jealous. It could take the form of fans’ clever signs asking for a “miracle,” or simply a “puddle” for the night. Anyway you cut it, the parking lot at a Phish show was a hysterical place, and had a language all to its own.
One of the funniest parts about the lot, and “Shakedown Street,” was the incredibly diverse items you could buy outside a show. The ability to purchase so many things brought convenience, humor, and spice to the scene- especially after the show as your saucer-eyed self meandered through the madness. Let’s look back at some of the things most readily available at a show.
Food: A downright buffet of questionable cuisine, the lot provided many options for the diner daring to go there. The most popular item being hawked had to be the veggie burrito. Having to be made at some point during the day (hopefully the same day) and inevitably sitting in a van until after the show, I never understood the people whose eyes lit up when they saw these on lot. Then you had your french bread pizza, somehow cooked in ovens that heads traveled with around the country. These were always the highlight of my purely olfactory experiences. Moving on, some standard fare included quesadillas, pizza-dillas, and the classic “grilly,” or simply put, the heady grilled cheese. From ganja gooballs to rasta pasta, you could compile a lot cookbook of recipes you would never use. (On a side note- ganja gooball!? Are you kidding me? What that means is, “Do you wanna’ buy a kneaded orb of sticky, sugary, “organic” crap that was on sale in the local grocery store today mixed with ganja butter?” Sounds like a perfect pre-show snack.)
Clothes: If you were late, and couldn’t stop at Walmart, odds are you could find what you needed at the show. From “freshies” (new socks) to “hoodies” you could pimp yourself out with “heady” lot gear. First and foremost, you had your classic culture of bootleg Phish lot t-shirts. Whether it was the classic Antelope Crossing long sleeves or the Star Wars take on Mike’s Song, everyone, at some point bought a lot shirt. It’s probably still in your drawer right now, cherished, tucked away for watching Sunday football. Maybe its the upside down Hood milk logo or the Glide version of Tide detergent that you sport when you work around the house. Perhaps you bought the classic LL Bean Llama or the Camel Walk cigarette pack tee; the Ghost on the GI Joe logo or Forbin’s Ford Truck shirt, and just can’t get rid of it due to nostalgia. Too many to remember, the t-shirt market had a life of its own, yet there were other items for sale. Fans sold patchwork of all shapes and sizes sewn into shirts, pants or dresses; hemp and beads twisted into any form of necklace, anklet, or dread holder were hawked like wildfire. This was the high hippie fashion of the ’90s, and lots of fans and “custies” bought into the trend. Let’s also note that once these folks stepped off Phish lot, they appeared as if in some sort of costume to citizens of the rest of the world! (On another side note, you gotta love the term “custies,” derived by the tour head selling items to get from show to show to describe their customers who drove up in mom and dad’s Ford Explorers, and broadened to mean uncool or mainstream.)
Drugs: The lot was an open air drug market in which you could score just about anything if you hung out on Shakedown long enough. All you had to do was stand still and allow enough people to whisper in your ear. Whether it was “gellies” or “25,” “pressies,” or “molly,” “sexy beasters” or “headies,” “pharmies” or “mushies”, the Phishies had you covered. Party favors for the show and beyond, the lot was a psychedelicitessan that never closed its doors; just avoid the middle aged men with moustaches and bright tye-dies. They like to hang out in Virginia Beach.
Smoking Devices: With the herb being such a large part of Phish culture, the market for ways to smoke it became huge on lot. Ranging from a recreational activity to a holy sacrament, just about everyone had their own routine of puffing. Part of this ritual was something to pack. Having evolved from a utility to an art form, certain glass bowls, bubblers, and bongs began to be identifiable by who blew them. A psychedelic form of art in its own right, this could be a place to score a “head piece” to display and use in your home, or a “traveler” to roll with and dispose of after tour. With more glass available on Shakedown then on Haight Street, the glass market proved that it clearly matters to fans what they burn their weed in.
Alcohol: Fans liked to “schwill.” There was never a lack of adult beverages available for consumption on Phish lot before and after a show. While Summer tour was the high season for beer sales, they took place throughout the year. Hippies like “heady” beer- the darker the better- with a Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout being the king of lot ales. Known affectionately as “Oaties,” these were a staple of any Phish lot. Going as far as selling shots of Jaegermeister and other bottled liquor for a few dollars each, fans created their own versions of a bar- the bartenders just usually weren’t as pretty as usual.
Ahhh. The days of lot. A tradition carried over from Dead tour, the lot existed as container for the scene. Buying, selling, bartering, and trading, fans, “kids,” and “custies” conducted a self-experiment as an independent free-market economy, living on asphalt from state to state. With cash flow that could be analyzed by economics students, the lot was a natural phenomenon in basic principles of supply and demand. More than just an extension of the show, the lot was an independent entity all together, attracting hangers-on often not interested in seeing the band. But when it was all said and done, the lot was a place for natural social interaction, transaction, and a unique stage for human comedy.
PHISH LOT VIDEO
What are your favorite lot memories and stories? Share in comments!
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: 7.6.94 Theater St. Denis, Montreal, CAN
This short trip due north of their home in Burlington brought back a winner of a show. Known for many fans’ favorite Reba of all time, and a ridiculous Tweezer, this show comes amidst a tour and a year that featured some of Phish’s most adventurous risk-taking and ballistic jamming. With ten days remaining in a tour that started on April 4th in Burlington- three full months earlier- this show illustrates a band that was well polished and heading for home.
I: Llama, Fluffhead, Julius, Bouncing Around the Room, Reba, Axilla [Part II], My Minds Got A Mind of its Own, Carolina*, David Bowie
II: The Landlady, Poor Heart, Tweezer# > Lawn Boy, Chalk Dust Torture > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars > Sample in a Jar > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, Harry Hood, Tweezer Reprise
E: The Old Home Place*, Nellie Cane*, Memories, Funky Bitch
#With a very “Also Sprach Zarathustra” jam, especially by Trey. *Acoustic and without mics.Tags: Culture