Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs

Merriweather 2010 (T.Wickersty)

Song requests via signs has always been a part of Phish show culture. But ever since Trey adopted the moniker of the “all-request band” early this summer, honoring more than a few audience member’s calls, the number of personal billboards has grown exponentially. Standing at the back of the floor in Alpharetta, as Phish took the stage for the first set of their final show, the sheer number of signs was absurd. What has always been a fun band-audience interaction has caught like wildfire this summer, causing seas of cardboard cavorters.

This 2010 craze started in Portsmouth, Virginia, when Phish came out on a sunny evening and a “Tube” sign immediately caught Trey’s eye. Everyone in the intimate amphitheatre saw Trey’s shifting attention, and began to chant, “Tuuuuuuuuube!” A minute later, an asteroid crashed into nTelos Pavilion, and “Sign-Mania” officially began.

7.3.10 (W.Rogell)

Two shows later in Hartford, Trey preceded the “Sleeping Monkey” encore by announcing that they were playing it for a guy who held the sign throughout the previous night. After this second vocal acknowledgement that Trey is reading these signs, fans began flocking to the front holding placards of all shapes and sizes. Varying from the standard Sharpie-on-poster-board to elaborate, cut-out and painted wooden song titles, Phish fans unleashed their renowned creativity in this renewed endeavor.

Without hanging out up front at every show, it is impossible to know how many setlist choices were actually influenced by fans signs, but there were certainly more than a few. In fact the central theme of Merriweather’s second night – summer’s most well-loved set – was sparked, believe it or not, by a sign. A group of fans had traveled for multiple shows carrying a “Saw It Again” sign on wooden dowels, and finally, on Sunday night in Columbia, Maryland, their wish was granted in the biggest way. Segueing from one sign-inspired song to another, Trey brought the band from “Meatstick” into “Saw It Again,” the latter becoming the well-known foundation for a Phishy escapade.

This tour-long interaction between Trey and the audience came to a peak in Alpharetta on July 3rd. Not only did Trey respond to a sign calling for “McGrupp,” he reached down, pulled the sign on stage, and held it high before starting the rarity. After watching Trey egg on his fan base, and the ludicrous amount of signs on the 4th of July, something tells me this trend isn’t coming to a screeching halt. But just think, every time Trey responds to a sign, he could have been on the verge of dropping “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.” So there are two sides to this coin.

If fans are going to continue bringing signs to Phish shows en mass, we might as well set some guidelines for this fanboy behavior. If you’re going to be that guy or girl who jumps up and down trying to catch Trey’s attention with your artwork, here are three things to consider.

"Tela" Sign During "Tela" - 6.27 (G.Lucas)

1. Don’t mess with peoples’ experiences. – If you’re sign takes four people to hold properly due to its outstanding craftsmanship, maybe it’s not the best idea to bring it onto the floor at a GA show. Additionally, until they make transparent poster board, if Trey doesn’t choose your song, put down your sign and try harder next time!

2. Consider the entire audience. – Bring signs that will benefit everyone! For example, a “Crosseyed and Painless” or a “Cities” sign could payoff for the entire audience, because if Trey chooses to recognize either, the show will immediately elevate. On the flip side, don’t bring a sign for “Waste” just because it’s your girl’s first show and it’s her favorite song off Billy Breathes. Trey is so happy these days, it could catch his eye and make him ditch “Ghost” for his heartfelt ballad. Seriously.

3. Know what’s going on. – With a little setlist research, you can avoid looking like a total noob. Dial up your trusty Phish website to see what the band played at least the night before, and leave those signs at home. Make sure the over-sized cardboard you choose to carry to the show, through the lot, by security, and around with you all night at least has some relevance.


Jam of the Day:

David Bowie” 6.19 II

This “Bowie,” in my opinion, stands head and shoulders above all other 2010 versions.




6.19.2010 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY < Torrent

6.19.2010 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY < Megaupload

6/19 SPAC Pollock

The opening night of SPAC, featuring one of the “Rock and Rolls” of Leg I, and the freshest “Bowie” to hit the streets in some time.

I: Tweezer Reprise, Chalk Dust Torture, Funky Bitch, Runaway Jim, Ya Mar, Sample in a Jar, Axilla, Fluffhead, Bathtub Gin, Suzy Greenberg

II: Rock and Roll > Free, Backwards Down the Number Line, Halfway to the Moon* > Prince Caspian, Joy, David Bowie, Show of Life

E: The Squirming Coil, Character Zero, Tweezer Reprise

Source: Neumann U89i > Grace Design Lunatec V3 + Neumann KM184 (DIN ) > Grace Design Lunatec V2 > Oade Concert Modified Edirol R-44

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798 Responses to “Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs”

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  1. Matso Says:

    Second set opener on 6/20 (Carini) was sign-inspired.

    I like the fan/band interaction element of the signs, but agree that certain protocols are necessary, ie. put down your sign when the band is actually playing as it’s only going to distract everyone – band, audience and you – from the music.

  2. Solsun Says:

    Oh why are people so selfish…

  3. myers Says:

    ace of base’d

    Shaggy Dog at Jones

  4. McGGGGG Says:

    Make a “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” Sign! Get on this! You know you want to be that guy Miner! He played the song cause of MY sign! Yeah !!!!

    That’s a long title….. could take up a whole row…. which would be funny if they saw that as they walked out to start the 2nd set!

    Still waiting for Power of Love by Huey Lewis, or Shambala by 3 Dog Night, or Jive Talk by the Bee Gees… but making signs for covers they don’t even play is….. well really dumb.

  5. McGGGGG Says:

    You should re-title this post:

    Signs: 3 Simple Rules

  6. Mr. Murph Says:

    My buddys and I started the Tube chant at nTelos and brought a Weigh sign on the 1st and 4th. They hadn’t played it yet and its a great song. Hope they do so soon because I would still love to hear it on couch tour.

  7. m00nshake Says:

    “On the flip side, don’t bring a sign for “Waste” just because it’s your girl’s first show and it’s her favorite song off Billy Breathes. Trey is so happy these days, it could catch his eye and make him ditch “Ghost” for his heartfelt ballad. Seriously.”

    now that sh*t is funny!!!

  8. The Light Between Says:

    For all you always needed bustouts — here are the top ten songs I want to see at the Greek. Keep in mind the only shows I’ve seen since 99 were Chicago and Shoreline last summer.

    10. Vultures
    9. Wolfman’s Brother
    8. Foam
    7. Weigh
    6. YEM
    5. 7 Below
    4. Halfway to the Moon
    3. Tweezer
    2. Ghost
    1. Light

  9. Robear Says:

    Miner, you’re so polite re: the signers

    I like the message between the lines.

  10. Luther Justice Says:

    I can read between the lines.

  11. Robear Says:

    ‘Forbin’s and Waste’

    two low-lights of Alpharetta, played for sign requests.

  12. joe Says:

    waste sign guy got another jab. poor kid seems like a nice guy too. One hour left till my work day is done. have appointments with my girlfriend at noontime (almost 7 right now here). might be able to sneak in a couple of zzzzz’s. Staying awake all night is so much easier on things harder than coffee. In the pro catagory for the overnight, though, is dawn is a great time of day.

  13. willowed Says:

    I guess I will have to trash the Summer of 89 poster I’ve beeen working on over the last month.
    I was crafting a real nice one since my wife and I are hitting up Jones togther.
    I truly feel that song has face melt potential….and it’s guaranteed to get me laid that night!
    Oh well, guess I’ll trash that one and move on to the Let Me Lie one.
    Morning Boys!

  14. Mr.Palmer Says:

    All started last fall in Albany by a couple of crazy kidz with the “Face Melting Sparkle” sign…been all downhill since.

    They should play the song “Signs”… the Tesla version , of course.

    Have a great day. Have a class all day again and then off to NYC for the Jimmy Herring show.

  15. willowed Says:

    My top four signs for Leg 2 Face Melting…..Engaged

    Jennifer Dances.
    Let Me Lie
    If I Could
    The Connection

  16. willowed Says:

    Hey Hood…If you’re out there.

    Good luck today!

  17. prosin Says:

    wow…now Miner is telling people what songs to request….talk about an ego.

  18. Luther Justice Says:

    Hood may be a baby daddy as I type this. Congrats again double H!

  19. jdub Says:

    I liked Posterkids idea of a “BE PATIENT TREY” sign.

    Hood is gonna be a daddy today. How exciting.

  20. phoammhead Says:


    How are three things to consider telling people what songs to request – i think miner is being somewhat serious, but it may also be a bit tongue-n-cheek, if you know what i mean . . .

  21. c0wfunk Says:

    On my way to disney world!!

    On july 4th down front there was a girl with a huge package of blank signs and markers and lots of time. This very much contributed to the excessive number of signs that night. She had made one that said “all request band” and was a whole setlist. Funny thing was the band came up with a much better “fantasy setlist” on their own!

    The waste sign comment is pretty ironic to me based on the jamcentered tilt of this website, that doesn’t necessarily consider the general desires of the crowd all around.

  22. pabalive Says:

    @Robear – “Forbin’s a low-light”? For real? Forbin>Mockingbird is viewed in the same category as Waste. Wow, that has me completely puzzled. Let me try my hand at this type of logic. Camel Walk and Sample were low-lights for me at Great Woods.

  23. albert walker Says:

    Miners just being nice

    Don’t bring signs to fuckin phish shows

    It’s not a new kids on the block concert


  24. albert walker Says:

    It’s cuz that forbins fuckin sucked
    Total mess

    Requesting songs they aren’t ready to play can be disastrous

  25. Luther Justice Says:

    Justin Beiber likes signs.

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