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. Mitch Says:

    Just caught up with the comments. People on edge about some signs. This is too heated for the am. Coffee break and lets come back refreshed.

    I for one love the FMS sign. I will say that. It’s about community after all as little buddy said. I also think the bed sheet banners look cool draping over the rail at arena shows.

    I’m not a big sign fan but if its out of the sight lines during the songs and they get to have a cool moment with the band, more power to em. That said, follow the rules set forth by miner. They are legit.

  2. Little Buddy Says:

    “I’m a huge zep fan but wasn’t entirely familiar with this one.”

    Does not compute… Physical Graffiti has some of their best work. You gotta get familiar with it, Mitch.

  3. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Nice play list Adub! Grabbing it for certain. Gracias.

    T-minus two weeks!

    Anyone up for an Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Thursday AM?

    I am making an exception to my no booze rule for that. Just one, right?

  4. tela'smuff Says:

    and for the record, i’ve never carried a sign to a show. i did make a Dog Log one for Blossom since i was front row, but was to lazy to actually carry it in. it’s not my thing personally, but i don’t care if people want to hold up a sign inbetween songs.

  5. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    damn it! stupid no good banned poeple gettin’ my posts moderated…

    so the Nightmares on [alternate word for vinyl pressed recordings] shout out(s) last night caused me to do a little uploading.

    More to come, but here are three of their albums. the first two are classics. the third one has its moments.

    Smoker’s Delight
    Carboot Soul
    in a space outta sound

  6. zzyzx Says:

    “Bring signs that will benefit everyone! ”

    The day that there’s a Phish song that the entire crowd wants, will be… something unlikely, think of something unlikely… the day that Phish play a major Seattle run.

  7. BingosBrother Says:

    Poor dog. Just when he thought it was over…

    @Hood : LOOK AWAY! Stay in the cockpit.

    Signs? I can barely keep track of my stub, $, extracurriculars, jolly ranchers, smokes, lighters, etc.

    My sign : Has anybody seen my mind?

  8. Dinasaur Funk Says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more Miner on the sign thing, good article

  9. albert walker Says:


    It’s ball busting over a waste sign
    Not a big deal imo

    You make a 6 ft waste sign you are putting yourself out there

    He put emself out there and now he’s famous

    He wanted to be seen
    Was he ever

  10. Mitch Says:

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

    I know. Fail. One of those “I know this song, think it’s zep, but can’t name it”

  11. albert walker Says:

    I’ll leave the setlist to trey

    He has trouble enough

    Doesn’t need help from billy from Hartford

  12. zzyzx Says:

    I remember holding up signs on those little Rift promo cards they had to entertain Cameron on 3/14/93 when he was onstage all night on a keyboard that wasn’t plugged in, but that’s about it for me and signs.

  13. Little Buddy Says:

    The only sign that I’d like to see at a show is the one that says, “Jam!” You front row folks should get that done.

  14. albert walker Says:

    I’m out kids

    An electricaltransformer blew up at 5AM setting my neighbors garage on fire

    Know my AC won’t turn back on and its hotter than a crotch

    Have to figure this shit out


  15. zzyzx Says:

    Oh my all time favorite sign was from 12/31/03:

    “Just stretching my arms”

  16. spasm waiter Says:

    Palmer- Hitting Herring show as well tonight. Pellets and Row EE should keep me entertained. Either going to Virgils BBQ or Old Castle prior.

  17. Little Buddy Says:

    “Just stretching my arms”

    That’s pretty damn funny.

  18. Mitch Says:

    Oh my all time favorite sign was from 12/31/03:
    “Just stretching my arms”

    well freaking played. LLFA

  19. Mitch Says:

    text me. maybe we can get a beer. i’m off at 6:30

  20. zzyzx Says:

    “The only sign that I’d like to see at a show is the one that says, “Jam!” ”

    That’s the kind of thing that can easily backfire. There’s a difference between saying, “I’d like to hear this song,” and, “You need to change your approach to how you’re playing your shows.” The former can inspire the band, “Hmmmm, that IS a good song,” whereas the latter…

    Trust me, I know the myriad number of ways of pissing off the band from the front row and that sure sounds like one of them 😉

  21. fat bastard Says:

    have fun @ wsp all…philly looked like a winner

  22. zzyzx Says:

    …just zapped Phish from my iTunes! 2 weeks!

  23. El Duderino Says:

    “An electricaltransformer blew up at 5AM setting my neighbors garage on fire
    Know my AC won’t turn back on and its hotter than a crotch
    Have to figure this shit out”

    AW you should try down here.
    Going up to 97 degrees folks here in Charlotte.
    It’s fuckin’ hot as all get out.

  24. El Duderino Says:

    @ zzyzx

    I’m curious what you delve into when you take a Phish hiatus?

  25. gratefulcub Says:

    Yep Dude. Can’t wait to spend two August days in the cornfields of Deer Creek. It’s 98 degrees all weekend long. And I am sure Charlotte gets it a little worse.

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