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”

  1. Little Buddy Says:

    Oy… Kids these days.

    Nice write up, Miner. The sign thing has gotten ridiculous. To each his own, I suppose. I’d rather people bring in a sign than talk through the set. But, they are pretty damn lame IMO. Not as lame as talking, or glow sticks, but they are lame for sure. Just listen to what the band wants to play and dance, ya know. The Phish crowd is so into what they want their experience to be. “oh, I don’t like this song so I’ll just talk through it.” “Let me hold this sign up and block everyone’s view so Trey can play a song for me and my girl.” It ain’t about you kids – it’s about a collective experience for everyone, so shut the fuck up, stop hitting me in the back of the head with glowsticks, and put down that ridiculous Tela sign.

    Did I read that someone brought a Waste sign. Wow – I don’t even want to understand what would bring someone to do such a thing.

    Sorry, a little bitchy this morning, but shit is getting silly out there and my life has been a comedy of errors lately so fuck it.


  2. BeantownBoy Says:


    This piece is an Instant Miner Classic.
    Citing “Waste” as a prime example definitely put a smile on my face.
    Hopefully this piece is spread far and wide.

  3. tela'smuff Says:

    i wish i could listen right now to this Forbins, but my recollection was that it is far from botched. it’s a song played 3 times in the last 10 years. can the boys get a break? Low point of the set? so you sat through the performance of Forbin’s just pissed off waiting for Mockingbird to fly in to the rescue? ha! just busting on ya bit man. we all know the rule of “to each his own”

    the sign hate reeks of a bit of snobbery. i mean, if the sign is blocking a view, fine, i can see the issue. if the signs all say Waste and Bouncin, then yeah, kinda blows. but otherwise, who fuckin cares right? so now i have to worry about a sign guy ruining the flow of the show on top of Trey cutting jams or playing botched versions of Forbins? this is getting all too complicated.

  4. Neighbrhoodwook Says:

    Actually, I believe the famed Fuck Your Face was sign-inspired, as well. The previous night in Raleigh a chic snuck into the front row right beside me w/ a FYF sign. She got kicked out a few minutes later, but trust me, the band DEFINITELY saw it.

  5. albert walker Says:

    I wish

    Mockingbird was rough also

    Actually saved by the tight camel walk
    Nice little version

  6. fat bastard Says:


    i mean,


  7. gratefulcub Says:

    Signs Signs everywhere a sign
    Fuckin’ up the scenery breaking my mind
    Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign

  8. albert walker Says:

    anyone want some hot tracks to spin. here’s a little blues, soul, reggae, jazz mix I’ve been spinning on the phone that’s quite nice

    1. Cannonball Adderley – The Price You Got to Pay to be Free (The Price You Got to Pay to be Free) Capito1
    2. Kings Go Forth – One Day (The Outsiders are Back) Luka Bop
    3. Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Volunteered Slavery – (The Best of Rahsan Roland Kirk) Atlantic
    4. Frankie Paul – Children of Israel (Still Alive) Jammy Records
    5. George Benson and Jack McDuff – Shadow Dancers (Benson McDuff) Prestige
    6. Bootsy’s Rubber Band – Hollywood Squares (Bootsy! Player of the Year) Warner Brothers
    7. Half Pint – Greetings (Greetings) Power House
    8. Keith Hudson and the Soul Syndicate – Nuh Skin Up Dub – (Nuh Skin Up) Pressure Sounds
    9. Hound Dog Taylor – Dust My Broom (Beware of the Dog) Alligator
    10.Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns – Four Play (A Blow For Me a Toot to You) Atlantic
    11.Kool BLues – I’m Gonna Keep on Lovin You (Eccentric Soul – The Capsoul Label) Numero
    12.Yellowman – Love Night (Superstar Yellowman Has Arrived) Joe Gibbs Music
    13.Billy Preston – I got You (Organ Transplant – arranged by Sly Stone) Pickwick
    14.Cannonball Adderley – The Black Messiah (The Black Messiah) Capitol
    15.Swamp Dogg – Do You Believe – (Rat On!) – Elektra
    16.Prince Jazzbo – Natty Past Through Rome (Ital Corner)
    17.James Brown – Funky President…People It’s Bad – (Reality) Polydor
    18.Aretha Franklin – How I Got Over (Amazing Grace with James Cleveland & the southern california community choir) Atlantic
    19.Merl Saunderes – Aunt Monk – (Merl Saunders) – Fantasy
    20.Impressions – Mighty Mighty Spade & Whitey – (Best Impressions Curtis, Sam & Fred) Curtom
    21.John Lee Hooker – Goin to Louisiana (That’s Where It’s At!) Stax
    22.U Roy – Musical Addict – (The Seven Gold) Ujama
    23.Sly and the Family Stone – In Time – (Fresh) Epic
    24.Swamp Dogg – If It Hadn’t Been For Sly – (Cuffed Collared & Tagged) Cream Records
    25.Itals – Herbs Pirate (Brutal Out Deh) Nighthawk Records
    26.Ron Carter Quartet – Saguaro – (Piccolo….Record in performance at Sweet Bail, New York City) Milestones
    27.Billy Moss – Sock it to em Soul Brother(Eccentric Soul – The Capsoul Label) Numero
    28.Serious Nicodemus – Free up Black Man (Nicodemus Meets Roots Radics at Studio 1) Sound System

  9. fat bastard Says:

    Nice aw! i only recognize a few but i’ll def check it out

  10. Neighbrhoodwook Says:

    sweet, thanks AW!

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    Thanks, AW!

    all my listening lately has been dominated by your recs.

  12. El Duderino Says:

    Great post Miner!!!!

    We need more like these IMO

  13. gratefulcub Says:

    If people are bringing Waste and Bouncin’ signs to shows, there is a positive aspect to it. They are obviously new. I realize that isn’t usually seen as a good thing by many, which is why people with less than double digit shows under their belt get derogatory nicknames and the stank eye from many.

    But, for every Waste sign, there is someone that has fallen in love with Phish and the community. Since they see signs at the shows of this all request band, they are just trying to be a part of it. Sure, they fail epicly, but they are trying to be a part of something.

    So fuck signs. Especially the ones telling others what they should and shouldn’t do.

    (just don’t stand in front of me 😉 )

  14. Mitch Says:

    “Maybe folks should start adding times to their signs:
    “15 min Moma”
    “20 min Free””

    Llfa. Wonder if they’d be pissed.

  15. SillyWilly Says:


    yeah, or Im sure they’d love it if someone just blew up a huge picture of a stopwatch.

  16. Mitch Says:

    Listening to the rover now. I’m a huge zep fan but wasn’t entirely familiar with this one. Felt like zep at the show but on relisten it feels like an 80s metal/hair band song. Or is that just me?

  17. Mitch Says:

    Let’s all just start wearing flava flav necklaces silly.

  18. Mitch Says:

    That previous comment was pre jam and does not mean i don’t think this is one of the best one timers of summer, cause i do. Please keep this one around.

  19. Gavinsdad Says:

    Thriller sign guys were the row in front of me Camden 2. They were part of a crew of kids wearing blazers ties and shorts (and baseball caps, natch). But their sign didn’t really bother me because…my eyes were closed and/or I was dancing in the aisle.

    Ps – Tom Marshall and his kids directly behind me

  20. Gavinsdad Says:

    Pps – miners site, miners opinion. Quitcherbitchin.

  21. Gratefulcub Says:

    I just can’t imagine it being fun to carry a sign all night, only to feel rejected every time they play a song that isn’t yours.

    Would the Tela guy continue to raise his sign after they play Tela? I think he would.

  22. tela'smuff Says:

    “miners site, miners opinion. Quitcherbitchin”

    ^you mean silence your dissenting opinion?

  23. themanatee Says:

    your a huge zep fan but not familiar with the rover?

  24. lastwaltzer Says:

    I’m over the sings, yeah it sucks, it also sucks when Bill Walton is standing in front of you, or when a wook spills bear all over your shoes but what can you do?!?!

    all that being said i really feel bad for dognamedwilson (at least thats who i think it was) who IS the dude who brought the waste sign. To rephrase an old bumper sticker “Sign Holders Are People Too!”

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    so the Nightmares on Wax shout out(s) last night caused me to do a little uploading.

    More to come, but here are three of their albums.

    Smoker’s Delight
    Carboot Soul
    in a space outta sound

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