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”

  1. nonoyolker Says:

    Can someone set up a simulcast of the lot scene??? I wanna hear “GARLIC GRILLED CHEESE” and see some tweeker asking strangers “WHO’S GOT MY SHOES?!?” Just strap a camera to some wookkee’s head and set him free. Damn I WANT TO GO TO HAMPTON!!!

  2. gills Says:

    second that

  3. gills Says:

    No FN simulocast huh. would certainly ease the lot full of ticketless phans, don’t u think…………

  4. RobAins Says:

    I’m assuming, and counting on LivePhish having the shows the next day. But you know what happens when you assume things…you make an ASS, out of U and me.

  5. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    I’m sitting in my office staring at 3 Pollacks right now. And I’ll be carrying a tube into Hampton all three nights, just in case there are three posters. Folks were getting pretty crazy about the prints by the end of 2.0, though, and I’m guessing that will continue.

    No mention of the Miami Pollack art show, immediately after Hampton? I’m hoping he’ll be on my flight from VA to the MIA. Anyone else planning on going to visit Jim in Miami? I haven’t spoken to the man since the Ball (where I was too far in another dimension to even buy a poster – kicking myself for that one).

    The work of artist Jim Pollock will be featured in a Miami gallery from March 6 through April 4. 101/Exhibit will host Jim Pollock: A Phantasy Pheast, which will highlight his art for Phish, among other endeavors. In addition to this retrospective, which will present pieces from 1989 through the present, Pollock will create a print specifically for the exhibition. The creation of this work will be filmed and then streamed online at

  6. SOAM Says:

    beware of the dosed poster maker-dude is spun-Haaaard core

  7. full tour: announced! Says:

    hey rob… if livephish dosen’t have the shows up by the next day, we can get comndt. Lassard to send tackleberry, hightower, mahoney, and officer jed (bobcat) over to hampton to issues citations…. lol

  8. full tour: announced! Says:

    everything i need to know in life i learned from the police academy movies:

    superglue and megaphones not only mix well, but are a party stopping pratical joke that is sure to cause laughs amongst bikini clad partygoers and hospital staff alike….

  9. Mr.Miner Says:

    “The Phish jammed out Meatstick on 12.5.99. Equally better if not more so than the PNC. ”
    ^^ not even close , IMO

  10. Mr.Miner 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”
    ^^ oh well, looks like you’ll have to come to the site 😉

  11. SOAM Says:

    are they doing another naked picture like somewhere I vaguely remember being-nude dudes on a runway or something like that.

    pretty phreaky shit-man

  12. nonoyolker Says:

    ^^that was at great went

  13. SOAM Says:

    Title it-“dosed ballbags hanging at the hotel lot ” or “Balls Inn”

  14. Pence Says:

    does anyone have info on camping at knoxville. Does anyone have plans to stay in something other than hotel…Id just prefer to sleep in my car, but not on the street. It be nice if they would just leave the lot open for the night…What is hampton like with that?

  15. Jeff Says:

    Pence – just drive straight to Bonnaroo. Problem Solved.

  16. RobAins Says:

    Full Tour…How funny was that last night?

    Hightower: I was a florist.
    Mahoney: A Florist?
    Hightower: Yeah, you know, flowers and shit.

    Love it!

  17. full tour: announced! Says:

    ^^ it kept me laughing through the night…into the morning…and now at 1pm i still have a huge permagrin on my face….

    good times…thanks man!

    you gotta love operation miami beach! its a classic…the goldfish in the carry on bag….lol

  18. gho2it Says:


  19. gho2it Says:


    I randomly stumbled across this PNC show yesterday after reading all the 99′ general tour comments on the review archive. People were referring to some animosity amongstthe band at Deer Creek that was traceable back to this PNC show. I looked at the reviews for PNC and sure enough everyone was saying the vibe was weird, the band was acting strange so I decided to give Set II a spin last night. What struck me is that people’s reviews are based on judging what is going on during the show saying that Mike is pissed at Trey so he starts SOAM instead of 2001 etc etc.

    SO I gave it a spin, and guess what? It f’ing rocked. Those guys were playing ‘loose’, but had such mastery and control over all the elements in the music. Guess that’s what a little perspective will give you.

    Maybe we should hold off on judging the Hampton shows until 2017???

  20. gho2it Says:

    Not sure this link made it up, sure does take you back…..

  21. full tour: announced! Says:

    ^ that entire summer 99 tour was sick. They were playing like never before or after. really experimental stuff since trey was still using his new pedals and effects like never before.

    Don’t ever pass on a show from reviews alone. Its all in the eye of the beholder. It wasn’t just this show that they seemed to be acting “weird.” I wuldn;t really call it acting “weird”, but rather them just exploring the new sonic playground they created that summer. Soaring jams, thunderous bass riffs, nasty organ/clav….driving drum beats. Summer 99 was a great time!

  22. SOAM Says:

    split open some pelt

  23. catman Says:

    Just pointing out your flub Minor. It’s in my phishy mentality for better, for worse. 12.5 is still better. I love 99. Thanks.

  24. SOAM Says:

    Good times – bad times opener

  25. full tour: announced! Says:

    whatever song opens, i’m still gonna need a daiper when i deuce my drawers….lol

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