The Lot Paradox

There has always been endless debate about the culture that exists on Phish lot.  Many have decried the drug-focused and money-making endeavors that they have observed there.  Others have espoused the lot’s vibrancy, culture, and diversity, using it as an illustration of Phish’s community that has evolved over the years.  If I were to interject in this debate, I would venture to say, “You’re both right!”  The Phish lot is a place that can be both inspiring and downright depressing; a place that highlights the creativity and artistry of Phish fans as well as a place for those unconcerned with the music to hang out, do and sell drugs while pulling down the vibe of the community.  It was always a very delicate balancing act on lot.  Was this a positive place or was it a degenerative place?  The question will never be answered definitively, but it can certainly spawn some discussion.

2311745_fe310e65c9Upon arriving on Phish lot at your first few shows, you couldn’t believe the immense amount of activity going down.  People hawked everything from beer to burritos, from patchwork to Xanax.  The marketplace, itself, was overwhelming as “Shakedown” took on a life of its own.  This was exciting to the new fan; not many other concert experiences could provide the type of extra-curricular entertainment and open market that Phish lot could.  Artists sold their work, from paintings and jewelry to clothes and photos, and creativity overflowed from the committed bohemians who routinely turned lot into an their own craft show.  Witty lot t-shirts, psychedelic artwork, amazing works of blown glass, handmade garments; these were the fabric of the nomadic street market.

508809808_6a5329e1c4But as Phish continued to grow, especially after the Dead’s demise in 1995, the lot gradually became a seedier place.  A population of hanger-ons began flocking to Phish shows for the lot and not for the music.  The potential economic gain was too hard for drug-selling “kidz” to stay away; the customer would come to them every single night.  Soon there was an infiltration of these “pseudo-hippies” who came to the scene to hawk their drugs, take their drugs, and ride the coattails of the greatest band on earth.  Most never cared about going into the venue to see Phish unless a free ticket landed in their hand.  These were the ragged kids that dragged malnourished dogs behind them while listing the drugs they had to offer.  While I am sure there are some innocent folks in this demographic, it was this group who used Phish for personal gain without loving Phish at all.

It was one thing if a fan was on tour trying to get from show to show by selling bags of weed or providing people with their desired party favors.  It was a complete different thing when disenchanted and disconnected kids flocked to the lot just to engage in the harder drug trade of substances such as cocaine, oxycontin, and heroin.  These are the people that eroded the community.  And it was substances like these that drove Phish to quit for survival back in 2004.  Given these circumstances, we arguably have a certain responsibility to maintain a cleanliness to the Phish scene for one another, and for the band.

lsd_blotter_full_sheetBecause Phish grew out of the psychedelic counter-culture of the ’60s, as carried into the ’90s by The Grateful Dead, these mind-altering substances will also always be present on Phish lot.  Psychedelics in moderation, however, don’t usually cause any problems.  One may bug out and miss what they came for, but no one is going to OD on mushrooms or LSD.  It really all comes down to intentions.  What does one want to get from the experience?  The use of psychedelics to enhance your personal show experience can be profound, but no drug should define your experience.  When it comes right down to it, Phish’s music is the most powerful drug on the planet.

2153734696_c2f7c31812What is of far greater concern than people ingesting one thing or another for the show is the rampant drug market that exists after the show, which is an open invitation for fans to hole up in a hotel room and overdo it. I have always thought that leaving a Phish show is one of the “purest” states I have ever felt.  With all the crap in life swept aside, I am able to see what is truly important.  It was always a bizarre juxtaposition to watch people scour the lot, buying all sorts of powders to “party” all night long.  But alas, all you can control in this world is yourself, and if we are all looking after our own and our friends’ best interests, we can all significantly impact where Phish culture will evolve to in 2009.

2206130814_2621f3c169I am not naive.  I don’t think the negatives of the the Phish lot will magically vanish when they return to the stage, and with a new younger generation, who knows what will happen!  I probably won’t spend too much time investigating.  By the time 2.0 came around, my game plan had morphed into “Park > Go in > Come out > Meet up > Get out of Dodge.”  No doubt, it is the greatest to hang out in the lot post-show while feeling Phish’s energy still bubbling inside you; that “post-show glow” is one of the best feelings in the universe.  This energy is enough to carry you through the night all by itself.  Sure, add some decompression drinks and smoke, or absolutely nothing at all.

We all owe it to Phish to bring our best selves to these shows this year, as the band has worked with dedication to do the same.  Bring your spirit, bring your heart, and bring your dancing shoes; let’s keep in real and rage it in ’09!



Western St. College Gym, Gunnison, CO

Western St. College Gym, Gunnison, CO

3.14.93 Western State College Gym, Gunnison, CO SBD < LINK

Here we have a classic relic from the analog era with a tape that almost every fan had at one point or another.  The show took place in a small college gym and was filled with Phish’s zany humor and wonderfully tight ’93 playing.  This is two sets of great Phish, highlighted by a massive YEM medley in the middle of the second set.  A first set “Stash” and a rare “Ballad of Curtis Loew” also stand out in this overall great show. The recording includes most of the soundcheck as well.

Soundcheck: The Ballad of Curtis Loew (missing), Loving Cup, Tale of Ulysses Jam > Sunshine of Your Love Jam

1: Loving Cup, Foam, Guelah Papyrus, Sparkle, Stash, Paul and Silas, Sample in a Jar, Reba, Punch You in the Eye > Runaway Jim

2: Halley’s Comet, David Bowie, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, You Enjoy Myself > Owner of a Lonely Heart > Low Rider > Spooky > Oye Como Va > You Enjoy Myself*, Lifeboy, Rift, Big Ball Jam, Great Gig in the Sky, HYHU, The Squirming Coil

E: Memories, Sweet Adeline, Golgi Apparatus

*End of instrumental jam included a quote tease of “A Spanish Piece” (Pink Floyd). Vocal jam contained: “We Will Rock You” (Queen), “We Are the Champions” (Queen), and “Welcome to the Machine.”

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162 Responses to “The Lot Paradox”

  1. Chalkdustin Says:

    “I think what the scene could use is more brats and Italian sausages.”

    Gotta say, I’ve never seen so many people frying up brats at a show other than at Alpine. It’s our manna at any event, be it a concert or wedding, indoor or outdoor.

  2. R1 Says:

    I haven’t given a fuck about the lot scene since I was about 18 – i.e. 13 years ago. I don’t spend any time thinking about it or caring about it. The only impact the lot has on me is the presence of traffic. I imagine most long time fans feel the same way. And if it bothers you, don’t spend any time there. There’s not much reason it should affect you unless you let it.

    I concur with you “kevin are hollo” and commend your writing.

  3. Scott Bernstein Says:

    “Well done Miner. Someone send a link of this to the soapbox dude on hiddentrack.”

    Knew that was coming.

  4. RWP Says:

    Worst thing on tour: kids bringing their dogs. This has been the bane of my existence since my first phish show in 91. Leave your dogs at home and if you cannot, stay home.

    I saw a dog hit by a car right in front of me on a grocery store on the way back from Went while the “owner” was on the roof of her bus getting lit. I grabbed a blanket wrapped her dog in it and made the poor Maine-er woman who hit the dog (totally not her fault) take all of them to the local animal hospital. Almost completely ruined one of the best weekends of my life.

    Leave your dogs home or don’t come! Tour (especially summer and winter) is no place for a dog.

    Rant concluded.

  5. Dr. Pauly Says:

    Well said, sir.

    The lot has always been a breeding ground for the best of and the worst of Phish tour. I just hope that the external forces (e.g. those weird dudes who have never seen a Phish show wandering around Shakedown wearing tie-dyes selling bunk opium and doses).

    Then again, at the Coventry shows, I was once offered up a tour puppy if I gave a wookette some cocaine.

  6. SOAM Says:

    The bottom line: are they getting back together because they need money or do they miss the applause and acclaim? How do you know these shows won’t be worse than Coventry (they have not played for 5 yrs!!)Lot of naivete here-It blows my mind when people 1. try too tell others what is right and wrong and 2. think they have some type of relationship or knowledge of what goes on inside the heads of 4 musicians. even worse-predict the future. Phish has alot of work to do to get “it” back and they owe their fans alot after acting like a buch of chicks for the last 10 yrs (not you Mike). Let’s see what happens.

  7. SOAM Says:

    The bottom line: are they getting back together because they need money or do they miss the applause and acclaim? How do you know these shows won’t be worse than Coventry (they have not played for 5 yrs!!)Lot of naivete here-It blows my mind when people 1. try too tell others what is right and wrong and 2. think they have some type of relationship or knowledge of what goes on inside the heads of 4 musicians. even worse-predict the future. Phish has alot of work to do to get “it” back and they owe their fans alot after acting like a buch of chicks for the last 10 yrs (not you Mike). Let’s see what happens. YOU GOTTA WANT IT WITH A PURE HEART

  8. camman Says:

    woah soam.. whats up? converty will absolutly have no bearing on how the band performs at Hampton or beyond… none

  9. Pence Says:

    The real question is will they bring the Big ball Jam back.

  10. contact420 Says:

    I remember the ’96 summer tour when the Clean People Suck stickers came out. To me, that sums up all that was wrong and became of the scene in a bumper sticker. I’l be 39 when summer tour rolls around. Mt first show was in August of ’92 Poplar Creek Santana tour to be exact. My advice is come prepared with party favors if possible and try not to rely on the lot for anything, except maybe a t-shirt and a beer or juice before and after, you’ll find you don’t see any of that bs and it makes for a more pleasent experience. Good advice for all !

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    SOAM: This is coming fro a place of purity, not one of greed or neccesity…..

  12. spideyguy0 Says:

    SOAM, difference I see between Hampton and Coventry is that we know that Phish has been in the studio spending a good deal of time practicing since at least October if not earlier. That’s a solid 5 months of time to just work on “getting it right” before they head off and do their first shows. They know they fucked up a lot of stuff in 03 and 04 cause they weren’t spending the time practicing, and I think that’s gonna be the big difference this time around. Weren’t people able to hear them doing Reba in NYC a few weeks ago? You know they’re working on some of the older stuff and trying to make sure it sounds good. Most of the lead up to NYE 02 was just trying to get Round Room recorded as fast as possible.

  13. Mr.Miner Says:

    “My advice is come prepared with party favors if possible and try not to rely on the lot for anything, except maybe a t-shirt and a beer or juice before and after”

    ^^ Yup. exactly…

  14. contact420 Says:

    Here Here SOAM. I’ve been saying this exact;y for 6 years when they came back. A huge amount of work is in store! This will make or break the legacy for these guys. My buddy Dan says if Return to Forever can do it than so can Phish, I agree with that, it can be done but will it?

  15. spideyguy0 Says:

    camman, if it’d be cheaper for you to get to Washington DC first, you could crash by me for a night if you need to, and then a bus from DC to Hampton is fairly cheap and only a few hours. I dunno how hard it is for you to get to DC but I feel like it might be cheaper going to a big city than an out of the way place like Hampton. I wasn’t able to get a Hampton ticket, but if u need the room to crash on the way, I’d be happy to help out any way I could

  16. Jeff Says:

    Make or break their legacy???? what are you guys smokin? how about the lagest concert for the millineum – in the world – from midnight to sunrise? SOAM – aren’t in a way telling me not to think Phish will rip when they get back? this idea that people can’t be excited for the return of Phish, or to somehow reserve applause until they prove themselves is so bizarre to me.

  17. Pence Says:

    Brat Bath is a great idea, premade and chillin in the brat bath ready to serve.

  18. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    Phish has already “proven” themselves to me time and time again. From my first show in 95 onward through every atlanta stop, through big cypress, through mimai 2003 (my last shows). Phish has nothing to prove to me since they have already without a doubt earned my respect for LIFE. They wouldn’t be coming back if they were gonna be shelling out a bunk product. The worst phish show i ever saw isa better than 99% of the crap out there today. I’m excited as a person can be for the comback. I was upset about not being able to go to hampton, but it seems like 80% of other fans won;t be there either. Its not hard to wait 3 more months till summer tour.

    I think people are buliding this up more than it should be built up, but the band has nothing left to prove to me. They have proven without a doubt that they are the greatest band ever to grace the planet. I forgive trey for being HUMAN. Its easy to forget that these 4 guys are not robots. If trey felt that in 2004 it was better to put phish down than to disgrace its memory, then i fully agree with that. I hold no grudges and ultimately they are coming back for me and everyone else who has once loved this band.

    The lot scene towards the end became straight up shady. I DO NOT go to see phish for the lot. iF I WANTED TO HANG OUT IN A PARKING LOT I CAN GO UP TO WALMART OR MCDONALDS ANY DAY OF THE WEEK AND SIT IN A PARKING LOT. the lots are fun if your hanging with your closest friends before or after a show. If you go to the lot looking for trouble, your gonna find it. No doubt. Its just a place to park your car. The real magic is inside the venue. Thats why i feel sorry for anyone who would go to a phish lot with the intention of not seeing the band. Thats why i’m not going to hampton. Because i want o be 100% sure i can get inside the venue. Nothing would suck more than sitting outside hampton in a parking lot wondering what was going on inside.

    By me not going to hampton, i will be putting less strain on the relationship of the band with the community in hampton. Am i the only one who thinks its straight up wrong to show up without tickets to anyshow? Especially a show where thousands of people will show up ticketless?

    The magic is in the music….not a parking lot.

  19. Mr.Miner Says:

    PHISH definitely has NOTHING to prove to ANYONE

  20. Pencilneck Says:

    As usual, Mr. Miner has hit the nail on the heads. Bravo!

  21. Los Says:

    True that miner!!! Nothing at all!

    Rock on Phish!!!!

  22. contact420 Says:

    Ah, love is blind

  23. contact420 Says:

    …and yes, they have a lot to prove!

  24. Panda Says:

    I am one of the few left I guess, who enjoys “lot” and the scene.

    I agree there are many bad seeds out there but if stay away and do your own “good thing” you can create your own reality meet many amazing people and have a blast, except for the tons of thrash and crazy police force.
    I hope that we are not as big of targets for jonny law as 2004, man that sucked.

    Diversity well not really at Phish shows (90% white) and to my own personal dismay people are not as motivated and informed as I one thought.

    See you on lot 2009!

  25. camman Says:

    thanks for the shout of spidey.. but i’m afraid im going to need a lot mroe help then that to go to Hampton, which is why unless another miracle occurs, im not going

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