The Art of Phish

phish-gorge-99-pollockEveryone 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.


Jim Pollock (J. Kaczorowski)

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.

phish-allstate-00-pollockWhat 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.

phish-polaris-00Sold 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.

phish-shoreline-00-pollock-lePollock’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.

Read an interview with Jim Pollock from 2005. < LINK



7.15.99 PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ < LINK

1999-07-15moThis 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


82 Responses to “The Art of Phish”

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  1. Jezmund Says:

    Sweet action, Miner. Over the last 5 years this has been my catch. Unfortunlyly when i was a noob i had a tent at the went next to the posters and stared and never scooped one up. by the eend up phish take two it was part of the experience for me. my friend will be in hampton at 5pm and i told him to fed ex my tickets to me jokingly, so can make sure i can scoop my poster. truth be told i can live without the poster but couldn’t live without phish. pretty much phish is the sickest all around artist out there. from start to finish they got the basis covered. mad props miner for this post that gets forgotten in the mist of excellence.

  2. Jezmund Says:

    oh by the way the 99’s and 2000’s pnc’s were off the hook. and that’s just not because that is home. but maybe some of there roots

  3. c0wfunk Says:

    love that pnc show! I could have sworn when it started that Fishman was playing 2001, then the rest of the band dropped the melt on him .. then the jam section is like a huge cosmic battle between our 4 intrepid phishies. This jam is not for the faint of heart, but it’s an adventure! Another great show from the very underrated summer 99 tour.

  4. c0wfunk Says:

    random question .. did pollock design the original classic phish logo?

  5. c0wfunk Says:

    sorry for the incessant posting, I’ll be gone the rest of the day most likely, so I’m just going to get it all out now :

    I’ve only recently become interested in the poster phenomenon .. got the posters from Nashville Ryman show with some friends who are poster phanatics and I”ve got the buzz now. Saturday’s Mooged out with Umphrey’s McGee event had me coming away with a great original signed Umphrey’s / Moog poster, pretty cool. So the point is, I’m clueless on the poster process (poster nutbag?) .. so my question is:

    Did they usually just do one poster per run or will there be a different poster for each night of Hampton? Anyone remember from the last reunion? Is Pollock still on the bus?

  6. TUWD Says:

    offtopic here but the yellow text you use on this site is impossible to read if you’re reading via the RSS feed because it’s against a white background, not black like on the site.

    ontopic.. there were so many nights in 98/99 that i looked at the poster and thought- eehh that’s ugly who would want a giant rooster poster and passed on it.

  7. Jeff Says:

    i had the C-Bus and Rosemont 2000 Pollacks and had to sell them when I went back to school in 2004. That hurt. But I still have some other cool Phish posters. The poster crazys were out of control towards the end.

  8. Chalkdustin Says:

    Miner, I was wondering when you were going to discuss the genious that is Pollock (and wondering if you already had and I missed it). I have that Coventry poster and a few others. The point you made about unrolling the poster at the end of the show and reliving it is exactly why I like show posters- they’re a vivid reminder of what greatness I witnessed at given show. I’m very into art so it’s always fun to look at Pollock’s designs and try to pick out the pieces that encapsulate the location, season, etc. of the show. It’s sort of like a reverse puzzle- you see the whole picture first but you have to pick it apart and search for different elements that make up the whole.

    @ cOwfunk

    I heard Trey himself did the original Phish logo. Anyone else heard this or did I make it up?

    Thanks for this post, Miner.

  9. dyda Says:

    I thought Trey came up with the original ‘phish’ logo. look at it upside down and it says ‘acid’ … kinda…

  10. panic66 Says:

    Wait a second…I don’t think that encore in Holmdel is correct. I was there and I could have sworn it was “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” . Am I crazy??

  11. HYHU Says:

    You wouldnt look at the poster until after the show was over?

  12. catman Says:

    The Phish jammed out Meatstick on 12.5.99. Equally better if not more so than the PNC. It easily gets lost in a show that featured the awesome Jennifer Dances debut!

  13. ben f Says:

    Why no mention of the Poster Art Show at Hampton?!?!? See below:

    Sunday, February 22, 2009
    BPC III: Phamily Reunion

    Shawn Hughes & Jason Kaczorowski


    BPC III: Phamily Reunion

    a Best Poster Convention production

    While the excitement of Friday night’s show is still seared into your mind, be inspired by the homage of art to Phish created by professional and parking lot artists alike at the third annual Best Poster Convention Saturday afternoon, March 6th, from 11am-3pm at the Best Western Coliseum Inn & Suites, conveniently located within walking distance of the Hampton Coliseum.

    Long-time Phish poster artist and graphic designer Jim Pollock will be on hand meeting and greeting collectors, personalizing art and offering new releases.

    Pete Mason, creator of the 400+ page one-of-a-kind book Phan Art will be selling copies of his chroniclings. Many of the artists featured throughout the book will be on hand to autograph their contributions along with showcasing and selling their limited edition wares.

    Saturday, March 7th, 2009

    Best Western Coliseum Inn & Suites
    1809 W Mercury Blvd
    Hampton, VA 23666
    Phone: 1-757-838-5011

    Jim Pollock
    Justin Helton
    AJ Masthay
    Ryan Kerrigan
    Bruce Horan
    Fred Hosman
    Noah Phence
    Pete Mason on-site selling “Phan Art: Art of the Fans of Phish”
    + more artists TBA

    Ticket Information:
    Advanced ticket purchase is strictly required for admittance. Tickets must be purchased in advance by 3/6/09. Tickets are $10.00 and can only be purchased by calling the Best Western Coliseum Inn & Suites direct at 757-838-5011. The credit card used to purchase tickets must be presented the day of the event to pick up a ticket good for entry. There is a very limited number of these tickets available which are provided on a first come, first serve basis. Once we’ve reached our capacity, no additional tickets will be sold. Only those who’ve pre-purchased tickets will be allowed entry. If you anticipate attending with additional friends, please plan to purchase their tickets accordingly in advance. The credit card holder who places the original order must be present with their credit used to purchase their tickets to pick up any additional tickets purchased prior.

    The Best Western Coliseum Inn & Suites encourages you to pick up your tickets on Friday, March 6th in order to promptly enter the event on Saturday. This will significantly reduce the amount of time you’ll wait to enter the show, assuring you a better chance at purchasing limited edition works by your favorite artists.

    As a courtesy to the hotel and artists displaying, no smoking or drinking will be allowed in line or once inside the convention ballroom. There will be designated smoking areas throughout the hotel as well as places to purchase alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

    We encourage you to reduce your carbon footprint by walking or carpooling to the event. Due to a lack of spaces, the Best Western Coliseum Inn & Suites discourages the use of their parking lot to attend this event. Accordingly, please plan to park at the nearby Riverdale Shopping Center, adjacent to the hotel, and walk to the hotel.

  14. brocksburgh Says:

    I recall from the 2.0 comeback run that Pollock did a NYE poster and at least one for Hampton, but I’m not sure if there were different versions for each night. When they had them, there was a mob scene of people trying to snap them up. I will definitely be gunning for a 3.0 version two weeks from now.

  15. Chalkdustin Says:

    I don’t know how I haven’t heard about that poster show. Actually, I think I heard rumblings of it, but it slipped my mind. Thank you so much, Ben, for bringing that to our attention!

    I also think there’s some symbolism with the number of bubbles and fins/gills on the logo…not sure about that. Will google.

  16. mblume Says:

    Very nice. Back to back days with downloads of shows I was at. I turn here everyday as you decide what my ears hear during the morning at work. Look forward to what tomorrow brings!

  17. Chalkdustin Says:

    This is a random question, but do you guys think that hotel rooms closer to the Coliseum will be opening up this week or next? My hotel is like 15 ridiculous miles away and I don’t want to drive/take a cab everywhere I go. Thanks for your input.

    10 days and counting…

  18. themanatee Says:

    Gorge 99, Coventry, and a limited edition non show poster (the explorer birds) grace my living room as I write this. wait, how do i not have more? do i?

  19. SOAM Says:

    did that just say 10 bucks to get into a hotel lot? wtf

  20. A_Glide Says:

    ^ There’s no one here collecting money yet. Show up now and you can get in before they start setting up and charging a cover. There’s a guy here with French Bread pizzas so I’ll see you when you get here.

  21. nonoyolker Says:

    Pollock is the man. Every band needs a dedicated artist. Every fan needs a memento they can be proud of.
    WAY of topic, but someone was yapping up the Piper from SPAC ’04 yesterday and i was there and didn’t even remember they played it. Never really been my tune anyway, usually too disorganized. I gave it a listen this morning over some cough meds and tea and rocked out HARD at my desk. I think i freaked out some COs. Nice tweeprize jam!

  22. SOAM Says:

    wiiiiilllsssssoooonnnnn.-that’s it glide,10 day pre gig rages rule.

    snag me a chocolate for a 2hr tweak out-1 fat pouch of the holy=6 sammies-1.5 caps and a couple random wacks of your finest or worst whiskey and we are talking boogie time.

    Potential covers:
    Bitch is Back
    Suffragette City
    Flirtin with Disaster

  23. full tour: announced! Says:

    thanks for the post again miner. Those summer 99 shows were the “heat.”

    pollack is the 5th member of the band just as ck5 is! Nothing beats pollacks posters. He is the king of JAMBAND art and phish is the king of the JAMBANDS.

    JAMBAND JAMBAND JAMBAND ….sorry it is the “happiest” word in all human diction!…lol

  24. Andrew Says:

    Does anyone know if will be putting up soundboards of the Hampton shows the day after? I haven’t seen any official statement about that.

  25. Pencilneck Says:

    Thanx for the show Miner! I was remembering this specific show on my way in to the studio this morning. Crazy!

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