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. lot rat Says:

    word. i need to see them in my hand.

  2. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    Haven’t checked galaxie 500 for some reason, but I like some mazzy star. Is that close?

  3. Gavinsdad Says:

    You could draw a dotted line between those two @Tzara’s, sure.

  4. BrandonKayda Says:

    Interesting music convo. tonight, let’s see what I can add in…

    I dig Sonic Youth, but My Bloody Valentine is better – very different aside from the “feedback” aspect I know. Bad comparison. Sonic Youth is pretty cool stuff.

    Minor Threat was fucking nuts when I used to listen to them like 5 years ago – not too into “punk” anymore, but I do give them props for being one of the only punk bands who were AGAINST partying/drugs/etc. On their albums atleast, there are plenty of stories going around about them not being as sober as they claimed to be. Then again, I’m not really your guy for that, as I haven’t listened to them in a long time.

    Bad Brains was cool reggae/punk if I remember.

    Never listened to the Minutemen, although from the little bit that I have heard they sound pretty unique. Incorporating little bits of jazz into punk.

    Anybody here listen to Sigur Ros? It’s pretty interesting “atmospheric” music. I guess they are kind of alike to Godspeed You! Black Emperor in how they build a lot of their songs to a peak. Very interesting stuff.

  5. Gavinsdad Says:

    Sigur Ros can be positively gorgeous BK. Nice call…close to what I was saying I was looking for but I’d prefer it to have female vox a la Lush…

    I always loved aegytus byrun by Sigur, the first one to get real stateside media praise. That album just had no equal that year.

  6. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    I love it BK, you’re music knowledge is that of a person twice you’re age, at least. Spoken like a true veteran.

  7. Gavinsdad Says:

    To bed gents…sort of pushed that tangent there…hopefully we can pick it up in the future. Don’t forget

    agnostic front
    Reagan youth

  8. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    I like My Bloody Valentine too, but they only have one, maybe two, great albums. Sonic Youth has been active for 25 years. I think of them as one of the few bands that can play a “jam” that is totally their own, and not thought of as a “jamming” band. I’m being careful of the jamband moniker here. I mean Phish/Dead, not Jack Johnson, Blues Traveler, Leftover Salmon jambands.

  9. Gratefulcub Says:

    Forgot how great red rocks 78 is. Aaaaaaaahhhhh. Ooooooooohhhhh. Werewolves of London!!

  10. BrandonKayda Says:

    Ha thank you @Tzara’s!

    Loveless is such a cool album because you hear something new everytime. It isn’t an album that you “listen” to. That album engulfs you. “Pink noise”, as they say.


    I really dug Sigur Ros – () – which is their “Winter/sorrow” concept album (Aegytus Byrun is the “Hope” concept album I believe). I found () very uplifting. I just remember the way the album builds so slowly, then on the last track an hour plus of energy is released. It is pretty incredible. The foriegn lyrics add to the atmosphere IMO.

    Has anybody ever heard Mr Bungle – California? That shit is nuts. It’s like jazz/motown on speed – with Mike Patton (who I can take or leave). But that album is demented and beautiful at the same time. Wild ride of an album. I recommend picking it up…IF you’re into that sort of thing. 🙂

  11. sumodie Says:

    spent all day thinking about my sign for the Greek…still can’t decide…

  12. BrandonKayda Says:

    Hey Sumodie! How’s it going?

  13. sumodie Says:

    @T3: YO, hang in there -sending heady western mass good vibes eastward to you

  14. sumodie Says:

    @bk: good day -lurked in n out today. Finally took care of some outstanding tasks in the real time. And getting uber psyched for leg2

    Hope you’re having a good post-MPP summer!

    Dropping out for zzzzz time 8)

  15. BrandonKayda Says:

    Glad to hear you’re doing well – I hope you have a great time at The Greek man – those shows are gonna be big. Goodnight

  16. Corey Says:


    11.7.96. Best seat in the house, looking up at Trey and Page. Manteca sign in hand, complete with Dizzy references…Page squints to read it, looks surprised, shakes his head and raises his eyebrows as if to say, we don’t remember it. Look, over there. 5 paces to the right, another sign. BIKE, it says, unimaginatively scribed in capitals, markered up. Ugh. My sign was put aside for the Bike antics. They were quite the antics.

    Never made a sign again, for any show. I can’t stand them now. I want PHiSH to play what THEY want to play in the moment, not what I want them to play in the moment…and hope that somehow we land in the same musical pond.

  17. halcyon Says:


    I was just in Iceland and there is a cool music scene over there. has a list of links to check out artists from there.

  18. vegas wolfmans Says:

    mmmmmm MBV. Good call. I’ll oblige- been a while. Would give a testicle to see a Loveless costume.

  19. BrandonKayda Says:

    Thanks Halcyon! I oughta check that out

  20. ChefBradford Says:

    Don’t you just love it when you get home from work, just settled into THE SEAT, whisky (or whatever) and book (or whatever) in hand, and the power inexplicably goes out? As in just your house and two or three on each side of yours? Man, I do, nothing better! Now I’m on the patio being eaten by mosquitos and plagued by moths while inside the AC seeps away. How cam there be anything better?

    People at work put up with

  21. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Whatever Corey- I know you’ve been rocking the Two Versions Of Me sign are gonna kick it up a notch with a Summer of ’89 for leg 2. Don’t front.

  22. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Nice BK, Mr Bungle is interesting to say the least. gashuffin.

  23. BrandonKayda Says:

    No doubt @Phamily – California warped my fragile little mind at a young age.

  24. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    i havent read back but it appears he conversation is about… punk?!

    very interesting. i went through a punk phase. everyone went through a punk phase. there was a time when Greg Graffin was my Trey… i’ll admit. but the thing that finally snapped me out of my punk days ant into my funk daze was my friend sending me primus and phish… changed my life!

  25. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    What’s up flarrwolf? You heading to the Greek?

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