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. Los Says:

    i luv phish!!!

  2. camman Says:

    been thorugh what before? i dont think you can compare the build up to post hiatus phish to what we are living right now. by the way, what will this era of -phish be called, post break-up? v3.0?

  3. axillalot Says:

    First of all, i’m pretty sure the sentence is correctly stated “they have proven themselves . . . “, not proved.

    secondly, this conversation is quickly becoming close to that of a thread on PT, which is NOT a good thing. this site and the discussions on it are usually too good, fun and positive to be lumped together w/ that atrocity of a website.

    and lastly, phish has nothing to prove to anyone except themselves. i have to believe they are coming back b/c they love playing music together and want to continue doing so, now that they are in more of their collective right minds.

  4. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    yes, some of post hiatus was sloppy. But listen to the jams man! Often times the mix on the live phish sbds leave a lot to be desired and it actually sounds nothing like it did live. A good matrix mix would solve this problem.

    for me composed sections and lyrics took a back seat to that amazing “dirty” jam style they had going for them in 2003. Part of that new direction they were shooting for was abandoning all structure and just letting the jams flow in a new direction. It’s all about the jams. Its pretty obvious that they arn’t gonna play the composed sections like they did in the early days. But now that they are practicing and sober i bet they come out and nail both the lyrics and composed sections along with the JAMS!

    Maybe when they come back the shows will be structured differently? What if it was just one long 3 hour jam that happened to weave its way in and out of known “songs”. The main concern being the jams. What if the hampton shows will be all jam with just entry points and exit strategies?

    Give it a chance. To say that they are willing to come back and have it suck just dosen’t seem like a possibility to me. If they were willing to pick something back up that we thought was lost forever, then i’m behind them 100%. why not wait until we have solid evidence (new shows) before we assume it won’t be up to standards.

    And to hold 1998 up as the best year ever because they practiced more, your missing out on some serious jams that took place in 99-03….and yes there were a few amazing jams in 2004 when they wern’t practicing. I personally have heard some sloppy, directionless jamming in 1998. The “ambient” style was good sometimes, but often it just lead to chaotic noise jams. Even though they didn’t practice in 99-2000, there are some absolutely amazing shows from that period.

    Camman…i like your style kid. You got a good attitude and its good to see someone as optimistic and un-jaded as yourself!

    Its time to put the past to bed, either your really excited about the return or your holding on to past grudges. I hold no grudges and am ready to surrender to the 2009 flow.

  5. guyforget Says:

    camman, with all due respect, you can absolutely compare this time to the last time they “came back” at MSG. Only difference, we know the result of that last come back and this one is yet to be seen…

    We can speculate all we want about them practicing, being healthy, etc, but once the show gets on the road, we’ll see.

    I for one am optimistic, but some feel like they’ve been burned before..

    what’s the cliche? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame one me.

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    settle down folks… lets not get at each other and keep this a discussion about music and the band and culture, please..

  7. camman Says:

    i disagree guy…. this circumstance are compltely different.. and nothing about phish is shameful…. except for having jay-z on stage at the same time 😛

  8. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ Cam, that was an AWESOME moment in Phish history my man

  9. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    can someone post a link to the “soapbox” guy on hidden track? I just wanna check it out! thanks–

  10. guyforget Says:

    Miner – absolutely right, i just was saying how i understand why some people are cautiously optimistic about th upcoming madness. No negativity from me!!! Long live Phish and all us nerds on this site!!

    Camman, or Kid Rock 🙂

  11. camman Says:

    haha… i guess so… i heard the tapes and thought it was a little rough.. but im sure it was great in person….

    how do you feel like the build up to the reunion shows is turning out miner? do you feel like it was before the hiatus?

  12. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    Jay-Z kicks ass IMHO! He is the “phish of hip hop.” Most of his songs use the riffs from many classic rock songs.

    Did anyone see that glastonbury festival that was on palladia HD? Well, the asshats in Oasis said that Jay-Z shouldn’t be headlining a rock festival. So Jay came out with a guitar and totally mocked the shit out of the oasis song “Wonderwall.” A kind of a big F-you to oasis before they completely destroyed that festival and burned it to the ground.

    It was amazing 200,000 all white Europeans getting down hardcore to some jay-z. Quite a site to see….and jay didn’t disappoint. I got mad respecK for jay-z….and his wife is F-ing HOT!!!! lol….i’d love to “Upgrade” anytime with beyonce 🙂

  13. camman Says:

    haha it was a joke man… i can get down to j-z….. but i’d prefer to get down to a wolfmans

  14. guyforget Says:

    Full tour – best…post..ever.

  15. camman Says:

    i still congressmen offering me those tix goes as best post ever… but maybe i’m just biased ;P

    p.s. The “Get Cameron To Hampton” fund is still wide open 😉

  16. guyforget Says:

    you said it’s a parental permission issue, not money….

    are you trying to take advantage of us!!! j/k

  17. SOAM Says:

    Punch>Piper>Circus>DWD>My Soul>Free>Rocky Top> Antelope>Waves>Antelope

    Famhouse>Mike’s>Twist>Walls>Weekapaugh>Fast Enough>Wedge>Slave>Loving Cup

    ENCORE>Tuesday’s Gone>GBOTT>Pebbles>RocknRoll

  18. camman Says:

    well guy.. the parents would be eaier to convince if i had the funds.. thats a main reason they are saying no…..

    whats up with that soam?

  19. SOAM Says:

    Frankie says is by far the worst

  20. SOAM Says:

    3.6.09 , son. I am the east coast tune caller

  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ except when it’s the best

  22. elbows Says:

    I’ve been reading your site since summer, and, first off, I am very impressed with the transformation it has taken, from simply reviewing music to broadening itself iinto discussions involving personal journeys, national themes, and, like todays, an almost sociological examination of our scene. Keep going…your posts have become much more thought-provoking, as evidenced by the exponential growth of the comments section.

    I love the lot…but I agree that there are too many there for the wrong reasons. If you’ve ever been in the lot DURING a show, you know how frightening it can be. What I noticed in the late nineties was that a certain image, kind of a strung-out-look, began permeating the lot. You know the one: the aloof, unconcerned, almost-miserable face of some kid, walking through the lot like it’s his job, not his pleasure, unsmiling, a skinny sick dog at the end of the leash he holds carelessly. I began to notice that the younger kids were copying this new look…and whereas in the earlier days everybody was smiling, now it seemed like the tour ‘uniform’ was to look miserable. Smiles, indeed, seemed to become unhip.

    But I could never tell people how to act, because that goes against the nature of the scene as well. I think the best thiing we can do is to set examples for the young kids, not by lecture but by joy, by behavior.

    And I know the feeling of wanting to skip lot altogether…but that just redeuces the ‘smiling’ army, and allows the lot to become more saturated with the unsmiling. Let’s bring joy and love and kindess to the lot…let’s take it back.
    Wow…I’m usually not this hippy-dippy. Miner, you’ve done it again.

  23. SOAM Says:

    3.6.09 , son. I am the east coast tune caller frtom way back

  24. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    lol….thanks guy!

    I love this site! everytime i come here i come away just feeling all sorts of good vibes. Its an “oasis”(no pun intended 🙂 ) compared to PT and their bad vibes non-sense.

    everyone here is like family to me now! (sheds tear)

    Maybe we should have a “Mr. Minors” group meet and greet at some upcoming shows?!?

  25. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^^ lol….this quote says a lot:

    But I could never tell people how to act, because that goes against the nature of the scene as well. I think the best thiing we can do is to set examples for the young kids, not by lecture but by joy, by behavior.

    ^^ I agree, all we can do is make good decisions for us and our friends.

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