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. SOAM Says:

    admit you are Kirk Cameron-80’s sit com star, camman as for minor being bothered with us wack jobs-he’s one of us man

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^^ @ Davey…you make perfect sense….PB & J…..hit me up next time your are scouring the lot– no need to do that…..

  3. SOAM Says:

    I’ll be in the lot selling Pabst Blue ribbons for 50 cents, no teeth, balding with a back of the head mullet rocking to frankenstein selling dirt weed and asking female wookies for companionship

  4. Davey Says:

    ^^ @ Miner, thanks. It’s a major bummer when that one time you’ve been excited about for months turns out to be a dud, it really makes me wish I was born 20 years earlier.

  5. Jerrydamule Says:

    -7 opener. There, I said it.

  6. camman the kid Says:

    soam… you are certainly an inteersting character…

  7. SOAM Says:

    Life without music would be like life without humor-J.Garcia

    peace to all you phreaks and don’t bogart my fatcat suprise if I pass it to you.

  8. Chalkdustin Says:

    ^^@ Davey
    “So basically I am jealous of the people who say “Park > Go in > Come out > Meet up > Get out of Dodge.” Because they know they can acquire what they want with their buddies. The lot scene is sketchy and bunk L is rampant. I just wish I was older and had a good set of old friends and a good sheet or two. It would last me a lifetime.”

    I can relate. I got onto the Phish scene kind of late and although I’ve seen a good handful of shows, I don’t have a tight-knit group of phriends who would pack up their things and hit the road at any mention of a Phish show (like I wish I could) and consequently don’t have all the “hookups” that I’d like to have while at a show. I’ll be going to Hampton with one other person who really isn’t as anxious as I am to be back in the groove again.

    I am, however, confident that we will all be taken care of. In some way, shape, or form, the music gods will be looking down upon us- and I know that every person at these shows will find whatever it is they are looking for, whether it’s a good score in the lot or a tight jam during a Tweezer. I look forward to meeting new friends and I can’t wait to meet up with them at future shows and hopefully develop that group of lifetime friends that you’re talking about. For what it’s worth, this whole period of anticipation for what is to come has really made me come to believe that it’s all about staying positive and going with the flow. We’re lucky to have Phish back and should be thankful to be a part of this whether we’re going to Hampton or waiting until the summer, whether we’re seasoned Phish veterans or seeing our first shows.

    “We’re all in this together…”

  9. Jamez Says:

    Can anyone tell me who the kid is singing at the end of reba in todays download?

  10. camman the kid Says:

    i agree man.. i wish i had the group of guys that were as fired up as i was to see the band/….

  11. Chalkdustin Says:

    You’ll find one for shizzle. With an attitude like yours, you’ll make friends right away. Just be sure you find the right ones…

  12. doctorfret Says:

    Just a word of caution-I’ve seen some very realistic undercovers at Phish before. I walked up on a police car one time and the DEA was having a meeting before getting ready to scour the lots. These guys did not have on the cheesy shirts. They looked like tour rats. Dirty, dready, the whole nine yards. Everytime I’m on lot, I never forget that image. Don’t look too hard-if it’s meant to be it will.

  13. Chalkdustin Says:

    Good advice. They’re all over Alpine.

  14. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    “keep whats important, AND KNOW WHO’s YOUR FRIEND…..”

  15. guyforget Says:

    i have a family friend who’s a NJ state trooper and was working the lot for the 6/28 & 29 shows at Holmdel. He told me two things. One, they would have an on-site processing holding facility where you would be booked right there at the venue. He said the troopers pretty much viewed the whole scene as a bunch of burnout losers, thus don’t give any respect or freedom to the crowd.
    The second thing he told me was that if i did for some reason get caught for doing anything, just go with the flow and don’t start name dropping. He told me he would take care of me if i ended up at the processing station, so that was pretty sweet.
    Luckily, i didn’t need his assistance, and was able to catch that rediculous 6/28 Gin in all it’s glory.

  16. guyforget Says:

    June 2000 btw.

  17. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    usually the coolest people in the lot (who usually have quality whatever) are the people you’d least expect to have anything.

    Was anyone here at the 7-26-2001 trey show in atlanta? There was this one guy with the sticks of gum with the little square surprise in them….turned out to be some of the best/cleanest i ever had. And looking at the guy, you wouldn’t even think twice about asking him about anything. We got lucky i guess. Real lucky cause that 1/2 hour “mr. completely” in set two was some of the sickest shit i’ve ever seen at any show period. It being kuroda’s b-day show didn’t hurt either i guess…

    so it goes to show you don’t ever know….watch each card you play and play it SLOW!

  18. c0wfunk Says:

    “usually the coolest people in the lot (who usually have quality whatever) are the people you’d least expect to have anything. ”

    this is so true .. the random old yuppie guy who doesn’t look like a head at all ends up passing around a j of the best stuff or something.. Remember, most kids in the lot just hawking stuff are not your friends, they think of you as someone to make money off of. What they are selling is not the creams of the crop — they save that for themselves and their friends.

    If you go to a show looking for friends, what you need will find you.

    When I was going to shows back in the day I didn’t have a big crew, mostly internet geeks and a few close buddies. But since I’ve been in Asheville it seems like everyone I know came from that world, even if I dind’t know them then, so when I go to shows now I end up seeing tons of people from home.

  19. wilshire & bunday Says:

    thanks mister minor – inspiring words

  20. HYHU Says:

    Great post. Hampton will be my first shows. Phish has been the love of my life for almost three years now. One of the biggest questions I have as Hampton approaches is whether I should experience the first shows sober or not. The issues here are: I would love have the pure, enhanced, and natural experience of Phish. Being sober will allow the expression of my natural and real connection with the music. I’m not sure of the words to describe this. A second issue is (and Im not sure if drugs will help this or make it worse) my fear that I will hear Phish’s music within the framework of their previous musical styles. Each of the bandmembers are bringing new sounds, styles, and ideas to the table. I want to be able to appreciate these new directions in their own light. (err…I mean in Kuroda’s light 🙂 )
    Any thoughts?

  21. harrisc Says:

    Hey SOAM:

    “it’s what I was afraid of..I stumbled into you”

    You flubbed the lyrics – better get practicing buddy. ;p

  22. HYHU Says:

    *I would love have the pure, UNenhanced, and natural experience of Phish.

  23. lot rat Says:

    Long live the lot! I cant wait to mix it up with the tourheads, custies, & lot scum. This a place that has molded some of the finest influences of my life…for instance tie dye cat outside deer creek in 95 selling a dye the he claimed “was buddha taking a dump”….or brother dave popping out of his tent at Lee’s Campground in Saratoga, alone, except for his 4 foot nitrous tank that he rarely shared. Or who can forget the Roadster…he was lookin to crash at my buddies places in albany after the first night of 00′ and wound up leaching rides all the way to shoreline. And more recently raging the lot after 2/16/03 with 3 chineese dudes who couldnt speak a lick of english but had a tasty bottle of saki to share…..all good things donger!

    The band doesnt owe us anything, but they owe it to themselves to fuckin kick ass when they hit the stage. drop your guard and open up your skull…

    “Its time to sling the baskets off this overburdened horse, sink my toes into the ground, and set a different course…”

    see you in the lot……rats

  24. hawkinbj Says:

    I’ve thought about the message board idea a few times with regards to this site; would definitely use 🙂

  25. Big E Says:

    It is with great humiliation and respect that I am responding to this latest post about the lot scene at Phish shows. I am a newby to Phish having never seen them live, but I am not a newby to life. At 52 years old I am a obviously old enough to be a father to most of the posters on this web site, but young enough to still enjoy the music. And I do enjoy it. I was raised on the funk of Motown, Acid rock of San Fran, Southern rock of Georgia and Florida and the English Invasion. Some concerts I remember, some I don’t. They said I was “stoned” at a Robin Trower show in 1975. Today I would be a called a wookie, I suppose. I remember only the first few minutes of that show. It was a great show, or so I am told. Went to see YES later that year completely sober, and I still remember everything about it. One of the greatest shows I have ever seen. Got older and fell away from going to concerts on a regular basis. Recently, in the last 5 years, I got into the Jam Band scene because of the musicianship of the artists. UM, moe, Phil, AOD, SCI, RRE and so on. I listen to the music. I feel the music. It is the sound that stimulates the soul. That YES concert taught me that in 1975. Longevity = moderation. The reason I still am able to hang with you 30 somethings is moderation. If you party like it is your last show you will ever see, it may be your last show you ever see. Listen to me. I might be your father.



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