Everyone loves souvenirs. Whether it’s a Van Halen mirror that you won at the county fair for popping balloons with darts, an “I heart NY” tee you scooped on your first visit to Times Square, or a new snow globe to add to your collection, every grand experience deserves a memento. Experiences don’t come much grander than Phish, and while there’s always generic tour merch available at each venue, Phish often took it a step further and offered limited edition posters that represented their stop along the road. By the end of 2.0, other artists had entered the Phish poster scene, but the artist who will forever be linked with the ultimate Phish souvenirs is Jim Pollock.
Pollock’s unique and labor intensive hand-pulled prints became a staple of big Phish shows and weekends come the late ’90s. A hand-press process using linoleum or wood blocks resulted in every print being unique depending on how much pressure was applied, how much ink was on the block, how the paper was pulled, and other such variables. These one of a kind reminders of epic nights gone by created a subculture within the Phish scene of serious Pollock collectors. Appreciating in value from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars depending on the rarity of the print, the initial $40 price tag no longer seems so steep. The posters of Jim Pollock have become cultural icons- representing the magic-filled evenings of yesteryear.
What make Pollock’s art so special is not just the limited nature of his print runs, but the subject matter of his posters and how they convey the band’s place in time. Pollock used all types of imagery to symbolize the venue and location of a particular show- and often went further, symbolizing where Phish’s music existed at that point. Some examples of this congruency are the posters from Deer Creek ’99 where a tractor amidst a cornfield is pictured with a farmer yelling the dates of the show; Hartford Meadows ’00 where a pilgrim is depicted riding on a rooster as a horse grazes in the background, symbolizing the bucolic life of the nation’s first settlers in New England; Polaris ’00 where a Hindu goddess clutching many fish in her arms represented the more layered ambient psychedelia that the band experimented with that year; Shoreline ’00’s cowboy lassoing a fish for the last shows of 1.0; or Coventry’s image of a Phish corralled within fences. From the literal to the abstract, Pollock’s posters always held meaning to their specific time and place.
Sold all over E-Bay and Expressobeans, Pollock prints have acquired status in the world of art collectors. And it all started so many years ago. Pollock attended Goddard College in the early-mid eighties and wound up roommates with Page McConnell before he was even in Phish! Having been there for the genesis of the band, Pollock was in the right place at the right time. He began early on doing work for the Phish, creating ink drawings for their early show posters. Their affinty for his work soon developed into Pollock doing the classic art for Junta. Over the years, Pollock’s art grew inseparable from Phish, as his images graced their tour shirts, mail order tickets, concert (and non-concert) posters, and their Live Phish CD covers, each of which contains hidden clues that represent that show. Pollock also had booths at Phish’s initial festivals where he created unique postcards and prints.
Pollock’s work became so popular among fans, that many began to go into venues early just to make sure they could scoop one (or ten) before they sold out. There were many a night in ’99 and ’00 where the posters were actually sold out before the first set began. Unique in style and always vibrant in color, Pollocks made classy home decorations for even the most mature fan. And with the online secondary marketplace, believe it or not, some fans found a way to scalp their extras for a pretty penny.
When the final jam had ended and the last cymbal crashed, the front-of-house music welcomed you back to reality. Alas, it was time to go. Sometimes the experience was so powerful, you just wanted to curl up on your dance space and stay forever. But even if you tried, and I have been near the last one out of a venue or two in my time, the security guards will always, in fact, make you leave the building. However, when this harsh reality descends, you could always grab your poster tube, head back to the hotel, and unravel the colorful night right in front of your eyes. That night was with you forever- poster or no poster- but hey, everybody loves a souvenir.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY
This is the first, and far more psychedelic, night of a northern New Jersey stand during Summer ’99, and it never really gets the credit it deserves. Following some lengthy “Meatstick” banter to open the second set, the band improvised out of the ’99 anthem for the only time ever- and it was a smashing success. Creating a gentle funk-ambiance out of the song, Phish creatively played their way through a unique jam landing in a massive “Spilt Open and Melt.” Crashing into “Kung” at full speed, the Split jam then morphed out of the golf cart marathon into an eerie psychedelic opus. This was some truly intense Phish, not to mention the chock-full 90 minute first set.
I: Punch You in the Eye > Ghost, Farmhouse, Horn, Poor Heart, Axilla > Theme from the Bottom, I Didn’t Know, The Sloth, You Enjoy Myself
II: Meatstick > Split Open and Melt# > Kung > jam, Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture
E: Brian and Robert, Frankenstein
Source: Senheiser mics (model not known)/FOB