Before the Internet Age

Just now you logged onto your computer, clicked your trusty Phish Thoughts bookmark and bang– now you are reading.  Maybe you’ll grab the show for download today, or perhaps you’ll delve into the archives and download many gems of years past.  There is always the “Google spreadsheet,” BitTorrent, or phishows.com to select virtually any show your heart desires.  Feeling ornery?  Hop over to Phantasy Tour to vent!  If you need a portal to all things Phishy, look no further than Gadiel’s legendary page or Scotty B.’s You Enjoy My Blog; for archives and setlists, click over to Phish.net.  Yup, the Internet has it all when it comes to Phish and our community was one of the first to utilize this great democratic tool to spread the word (and music) of our band.  These days, just log on and the entire Phish universe is at your fingertips.  But what was Phish life like before this crazy World Wide Web existed?  How the hell did we know what was going on?  Let’s reminisce.

005f1Before Phish.com gave us the official low down of what was up, the band used their hilarious and now defunct newsletter, Doniac Schvice. Initially titled “The Phish Update,” the newsletter was divided into the informational and the absurd.  The Schvice’s sections included the official scoop for tour dates, mail order tickets and festival info, but also included the tongue-in-cheek mail in questions and answers, “Fish’s Forum,” and the abstractly humorous “Mike’s Corner.”  Always fun to read for anticipatory excitement or straight entertainment, the Schvice was the band’s way of disseminating information– “from the tongue to the Schvice.”  There was nothing like looking at the upcoming tour mapped on the 0060centerfold of the newsletter as you plotted and schemed your personal course of action.  Turn the page, and you’d enter the land of the absurd via comical musings of the band members themselves, as their personalities saturated the paper– something noticeably buried in their cookie-cutter website of today.  The Schvice made the entire Phish experience more personal; you were a part of this special community who got these crazy newsletters delivered right to your door.  And each time you got one, you were psyched!

One of the primary shots of adrenaline that came from the Schvice was the Tickets-By-Mail order form.  Having to follow exact specifications to ensure your request was both received and filled, the ordering process became a quarterly ritual for fans.  A separate postal money order for each show and one for the seven dollar Fed Ex fee, a self-addressed stamped envelope, the correct postmark, a properly labeled envelope with the dates of the requested shows in the lower left hand corner; these were the facets of the game.  Then there were those who decorated their envelopes meticulously, hoping to dazzle the eyes of the ticket fillers.  The beauty of this paper-heavy system was that everyone nearly always got their tickets!  Aside from Halloween and New Year’s Eve, the largest suspense was where your tickets would be located.  Ahh, the days…

7ec5_1If the Schvice was the tool that got us where we needed to go, The Pharmer’s Almanac “Tour Extra”s handed out on every lot was the tool that kept us abreast along the way.  Providing setlists and updates from the current tour, these “Extras” allowed anyone who just hopped on, to understand the context of the show they were about to see.  With the knowledge of what had been played over the tour, fans could better predict and guess what songs might be unveiled on the current night. Meanwhile, the Tour Extras helped fans keep track of what shows they’d seen and what shows they wanted to get on tape.  With advertisements for like-minded businesses and short articles of interest, the Tour Extras became a trusted source of information in the scene.  Thanks to Almanac co-founders Andy Bernstein and Larry Chasnoff, we were handed a new update every time we stepped out of our car on lot. Much like their book, the Tour Extra looked at Phish through the lens of a fan, keeping us updated on all the nerdy things we love.

8a_7Once shows were over, we all wanted the tapes!  Yet, without BitTorrent, LivePhish downloads or FTP technology, it was every man for themselves.  There was no listening to the show 24 hours later unless you taped it yourself.  Before we could shoot our tape lists across the nation via dial-up modems, first we were relegated to snail mail.  One of the main pre-Internet sources of tape trading was the back of Relix magazine where fans posted “classifieds” offering printed out tape lists and B & P (blanks and postage) for freshly spun analogs.  Tapers, the cornerstone of the trading community, were the ones to get the tapes out maxellxlii90there and then we all spun generation after generation of copies.  One friend would simply approach tapers after shows, asking for their name and address to facilitate a B & P situation.  “Hey man, d’you get a tape of that?”  When successful, this was by far the most efficient way of procuring those sought after grey Maxells.

With every rumor, piece of information, and performance available at the click of a mouse today, it’s hard to remember the quaint paper-based era of the early to mid-’90’s.  With nothing but our own resourcefulness, we navigated the Phish scene, scored tickets, and hit the road– destiny unbound.  Believe it or not, all of this coordination happened not only without the computer, but even without cell phones!  How we ever found each other, I’ll never know.  But it did happen, and it was good.

What are your memories of “back then?”  Respond in Comments below!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

6.30.99 Sandstone Pavilion, Bonner Springs, KS RMSTR < LINK

1999-06-30mo2One of the best tour openers of the modern era, Phish annihilated Bonner Springs’ open-air amphitheatre to kick off the countdown to 2000.  With two sets of phenomenal improv, this night set the tone for what would be a legendary summer.  Thanks to Paul Gwynne Smith, we now have a spectacular sounding copy of this superb evening.  Wasting no time whatsoever, the band opened the tour with a 20+ minute standout excursion of “Bathtub Gin.”  Following up the statement-making opener, Phish threw down hot first set versions of “Tube,” “Maze,” and “Limb By Limb.”

One of history’s most colossal “Free”s came out of the second set opening, “Squirming Coil.”  With the stage flooded in red smoke, Phish created a militant incarnation of the jam that has stood the test of time.  A great summer combo of “Swept Away > Steep > Piper” continued the momentum, while the set came to a dark close with the debut of “My Left Toe” oozing out of “Bug” and leading into “Stash.”  Again, these are single song downloads, so create a folder and have at it!

I: Bathtub Gin, Farmhouse, Tube, Horn, Get Back On The Train, Maze, Limb by Limb, Golgi Apparatus

II: The Squirming Coil > Free, Birds of a Feather, Simple > Swept Away > Steep > Piper, Bug > My Left Toe, Stash

E: Bouncing Around the Room, Sample in a Jar

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56 Responses to “Before the Internet Age”

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  1. c0wfunk Says:

    Definitely miss mail order — all the other heads at the PO — that postal worker who already knows you need a bunch of random money orders plus one for seven dollars (return postage!) … the cool, tour themed tickets that would invariably show up — the group of people you’d then see near you in the pavilion all summer because their envelope must have been stacked near yours. This whole “tickets now” fiasco that has gone unaddressed has really shed light on how easy we had it! Those old tickets with the 20 dollar price tag make me nostalgic too!

    I got on the bus in 96, when the phish internet was just beginning to explode — during the segue from the times you speak of to the digital palooza of now — we had a burgeoning rec.music.phish newsgroup, with Charlie Dirksen still posting his reviews of Mike’s Groove, YEM, and Tweezer, we had Gadiel’s page set as our home page in our Netscape Navigators, we had some really great tapers willing to setup “tape trees” when the new crispy Schoeps FOBs came around..

    and before cell phones, we found each other with 2 way radios! Just don’t try it at the festie unless you’ve got subchannels!

  2. bhizzle Says:

    Ah.. the Schvice. I WAS stoked everytime I seen it in the mail. I instantly knew there’d be a tour and immediately went to the centerfold to see what shows I could pray my whip could make it to. Afterwards I would read that mutha from front to back; non stop hilarity, non-sense and confusion. My old lady would check to see if she got a response to her letter from one of the four (not once to her demise). I still have all of mine. Unfortunately, once in the lot I never once seen an Almanac and never knew of it until just now reading the PhishThought of the day.

  3. paul hannon Says:

    The schvice (mailorder),it showed who really wanted the tickets..I thought it kept phish out of the public eye more..Now,all u gotta do is just Google phish,and you have everything you need…to easy,Im so GLAD GLAD GLAD i was around at that time..THANKS MOM!!!
    Fvck RED LIGHT MANAGRMENT!!
    and Coran Capshaw..Like I said,I liked the WERE DONE thing bette,r than this return for $$$$

  4. TheDropper Says:

    …I miss the updates in the mail.

    As for Bonner Springs, the 2000 show was the Tots. You have this, by chance, Mr. Miner?

  5. Jeff Says:

    paul – a little off base, and short sighted. that type of thought belongs on PT quite honestly. if you haven’t figured out by now this is a spot to be positive and happy about Phish. (imo)

    In 95, it was alla but Gadiel’s site for me. I also started the first official Tapers Club at Miami university. It only lasted 3 meetings, but it was cool nonetheless. Those Maxell’s you speak of were gold! When I got my mailorder for the 95 Holiday run that was one of the happiest moments of my young life.

  6. Joe England Says:

    Does anyone remember ASSFACE? It was just an insert in the newsletter with the boys wearing pantyhose on there face. That in itself is funny but what killed me is when someone wrote in an asked fish where he could get more info on that new band ASSFACE. Minor if you had a pic of ASSFACE you would blow my mind

  7. Little Buddy Says:

    Mr. Miner – Funny that you posted the Bonner Springs 1999 show today. This weekend I was just thinking about how I’d love a copy of the 1998 Bonner Springs show. It was a great night for me personally, and I had just an incredible time (great state of mind that night), but I never heard the show after the fact. I’m not sure if it was as good as I thought it was that night or if my mind just happened to be in the right place, but I do remember a Mango and Lengthwise, which were both bust outs…and I think a YEM encore. Anyway, just wondering if you could post that when you get around to it.

    Great post today – I miss the Schvice. Those were the days! If only mail order could some how return to those glory days. Something that you all might find interesting that I think shows that Phish is still the same bunch of guys that we all grew to love – I ordered some stuff from Dry Goods to fill my wife’s stocking. Once of the things I ordered was Mike’s album from last year, along with a couple other disks and a t-shirt for my kid. The really cool thing was that when I opened the box I noticed a Green Sparrow lyric book with Mike’s autograph. I just thought this was cool and reminiscent of the old days.

    Keep it positive!

  8. jon_hansen Says:

    I definitely miss the days of the “traditional” Live Phish series. I’m all for downloads now, but I always liked having a concrete, physical CDs. It’s almost absurd now to think of a release coming with binder pages to store the CDs in. Although you can still buy the CDs, the alternative of a download–both cheaper and takes up less space for an ever-growing collection–is sometimes too tempting to pass up.

  9. Noah Wilderman Says:

    Mista – thanks for that great read. You hit upon many concepts at the heart of my documentary – the actual personal relationships and community developed through not only a positive vibe, but by necessity. No talking box of wires was giving you a show back then. The XLII is actually a strong graphic design element in my new web design (not up yet) because I think it’s an icon of my generation and the community movement you describe. The sixties had the peace symbol, we have the XLII. Who still has theirs? I had a crazy idea involving starting an old school XLII collection, but that’s a story for later…

    I still remember in Boulder 94 when we printed out the entire Helping Phriendly Book or Almanac once we had internet (cant remember which, at the time!). We printed it on dot matrix paper and it took a whole day and was like 600 pages or something of just solid set lists. My roommate Brad was one of the biggest tape traders on the west coast and definitely the biggest in Boulder for several years. Brad received about 10-30 XLII’s a week and we used my stereo to sit around and dub show after show – listening to them in real time (you’re welcome 😉 . That’s one thing that’s changed. We used to listen to the shows over and over again as we dubbed them until we heard the struggle for dominance in a show where Trey and Page go at it, or that tease of some obscure song in the middle of a jam.

    As for mail order tickets…ahh the good old days. This was Dead, not Phish – but I still remember that last set of mail order dead tickets for the 3 nights at McNichols Arens in Denver in 1994 or 1995; with the dancing bear holigram. The whole town was a-buzz the day tickets came into town. Everyone knew it, it was in the air. We prepared those envelopes just like Miner said – like it contained the cure for Cancer. There was something communal about the experience.

    I’d love to recapture this history, that feeling, etc., on camera for the documentary. I’d love to hear from people who were involved in the old school community; people who deserves our thanks for spreading the love and embracing technology until it became a social phenomenon. Let’s show the world what a cutting edge crew we’ve really been and claim our place in music history!

    Thanks again Mr. M! (call me!)
    noah@msmnthemovie.com

  10. Jacob Says:

    I was a dedicated tape trader until about 2003 or so, when people kept telling me “Dude, just download it from livephish!” That kind of got old.

    But, I think one of the things I like about Phish is how they embrace new things so well, and I guess that encouraged me to try the downloads, and I’ve got to say, there are pros and cons to both tapes and downloads. The first show I downloaded was 12.31.02, and I remember how fresh and new the whole thing felt to me. Downloading the tracks, burning them to a CD, and listening to new Phish, I felt like I was jumping into the 21st century with Phish. And yes, I’m quite a Luddite, in case you couldn’t tell.

    And Jon, yes, I would love to see a return of the “traditional” Live Phish series, although the annual special releases are really growing on me (At the Roxy, Vegas ’96, Colorado ’88, etc.)

  11. kbill23 Says:

    i love this this free, 1 of my favorite jams of all time.

  12. Al Says:

    Sorry – just off the subject here: What’s the policy, when it comes to posting the tapes of the upcoming Hampton shows here? Would that be allowed? I mean I definitely would get both. LIVEPHISH Sbds and the audience tapes….

  13. cason Says:

    those were the days!!! i remember scouring the lots trying to find the kids passing out the Tour Extras.

    the kids that are just getting into phish have no idea what we all went through for years trying to get tapes!! i mean really!!! i took weeks if not months and then when you got them you never knew how they were going to sound.

    seems to me the community was much tighter back then. now it is all much more individualistic, from getting tickets through the lottery, what a fucking joke, or trying to get tickets through ticketmaster, which i have never been able to do, it is every phish head for himself. and that sucks.

    sorry i know we are supposed to stay positive…

  14. AbePhroman Says:

    Yeah I still do B&Ps but it is alot easier now, those not as fun, haha. It was nice getting tickets, but with the internet and scalpers it’s alot tougher. But ce la vie.

  15. Coleman Says:

    @Joe England:

    http://www.expressobeans.com/IMG.php?t=lg&id=24358

  16. paul hannon Says:

    maxwell Double XL. 100min tapes.were the best…u appreciated it more back then..for example Hartford 11-26-97,took me a year to finally find that tape..ment so much more to me then… just goin to live phish,google spread,phishows.com or whatever is to easy..as the saying goes you appreciate things more when u work for it,than it bein handed to you!!!which that how it feels!!!

  17. Wash_Uffizi Says:

    Wow. Discovering this blog has begun to rekindle my interest in fresh Phish. I discovered the band back in 6th grade (1989 – 90) though didn’t see them till I was a Freshman in Highschool. Ever since those days I have truly felt a connection to their work. I must admit to feeling a strange cosmic kindredness to Trey’s body of work, it has always seemed that what was current and relevant musically for him was totally clicking with me. This continues today with his body of work solo and post-Phish. ANYHOW. I’ll also admit to having “moved on” to some extent post-Coventry and I’m finding myself slowly beginning to accept this return and hoping beyond HOPE that I reconnect in meaningful fashion again.

    So alas this recent post brings a whole rush of memories on. I recall sitting in a friends room as a kid and looking at his brother Phish Update it was a black and white one pager. It was probably 1990 or 1991 so there was a crap load of tour dates listed and a few odds and ends. One such “odds and ends” was letters from the fans. I recall the question was “What do you guys say during YEM?” They toyed with a bunch of lines but didn’t reveal anything. This became a re-occuring Schvice letter in later years as well. “Wash your feet and drive me to falansing”.

    Next thought quickly turned to the end of highschool and freshman year of college. The internet was just making inroads into “my everyday” life. There weren’t really pictures at first or sites per se. It was all text UNIX, PINE, etc. One of the first really truly cool things that I think happened in the Phish community with the age of the internet was “Rosemary’s Digest”. Anyone recall this. Current setlists would be posted and a multitude of conversations would be had. Folks dissected shows, and songs and sets, and made plans, and traded tapes it was very lively discussion to say the least.

    This all just lead me to the realization that stashed in the basement is a ream of old printer paper the extra wide green and white lined stuff with the track holes on the sides. No such thing as font it just prints type-writer style. This ream was sent to me by a good friend back in March of 1995. It contains a whole slew of old phish interviews. Mostly from 1991 – 1993 ahhhh the days of sitting down to digest 100 pages of Phish interviews…….here’s to reconnecting and rekindling!

  18. Jonathan Says:

    Those were the days!
    I used to get into my Datson 510 wagon (the silver bullet as it was called, RIP silver bullet) with my tape of David Hasselhofs Greated Hits in German and hit the road. My tape player didn’t work so I had to keep a boom box on my back seat with like 18 D batteries stuffed in the ass of it.
    The beginign of these journeys were so exciting. I am so happy to do this once again with all of you.
    Wait a second, I am 32 years old now with three kids….I ask, can I go on Phish tour again? Will my wife allow?
    Well maybe not the whole tour, but if they come to Jones Beach, Hartford, Providence, Albany, Worcester, or pretty much anywhere on the East Coast – I’ll be there.

  19. Scott Bernstein Says:

    I love that you can go to Google Groups and search for your old posts on Rec.music.phish. Here’s my first post from May 25, 1994:

    Hi My name is Scott Bernstein, and I am a phish fan very into info
    and news about the band. I have decided to start a fanzine about the
    band to satisfy my needs, and to satisfy a demand I see of phish
    fans. I do not know the legalites of doing this, and would like the
    help of anyone who knows about these afairs. I believe with all the
    dead zines out there, I will be allowed to do this. I have already
    started work on the zine, which I hope will be 8-10 pages. I request
    any advice, contributions, request for samples ,etc. I am especially
    looking for articles or ideas from articles from you pholks.
    I will take the first 40 or so requests for sample issues, that will
    be free of charge. When the second issue does come out I will charge
    $1 an issue plus a stamp, I figure this should take care of my
    expenses, and after 5 or so issues help pay for a scanner.

    Thank you for your time,
    Scott

    I finally got around to starting that “zine” twelve years later!

  20. empire Says:

    I threw all of my analogs away by accident..I have one left here in my office its a maxell XLII 100 min St.Pete 10-20-94 set II. man it was crazy collecting all those tapes, it was usually 2 or 3 tapes per show..audience recordings and generations up to 3, by the 4th spin it would sound like shit. It was fun buying the 10 pack and sending them out or sometimes i would take it to my friends house who is a taper and he would hook me up!!
    I thought about somehow taping the tapes together and running it somehow to play continuously..that would be so kewl
    how about RMP?? and many years later phishhook

  21. contact420 Says:

    For some of us who are unfortunately/fortunately old enough to have seen the Grateful Dead before ’90 that’s where it all began. Phish is very thankful for the template that the Dead provided for them and the huge head of steam that was provided by Jerry and the boys no matter how bad Garcia’s health and habit was failing him. They showed us/Phish the way. And for us who were getting tired of the weak performances of Jer moved on to Trey and Phish more and more. Hell, I remember when Mike would be riding his mountain bike in the lot looking for nugs and when it was taboo to play Jer and the boys on the lot. Wow, where does the frickin’ time go. Anyway, I always felt that the old-school mail-order made things much more fair for people to get tickets, I thought it was convenient too.

  22. verno329 Says:

    I used to get Christmas cards from the company I ordered my Maxell’s from. I guess when you order 200 or so at a time they tend to like you quite bit.

    I for one like the way things are now as far as access to Phish shows. Back in the days I was always saying how I would love to be able to get everything as soon as possible. Once it became possible I did just that, even when it got to the point that I’d look at a show on BitTorrent and go “First Sparkle, huh? Well I guess I have to get this show if just for that.”

  23. shpongleyez Says:

    Love the walk down memory lane in the pre-web, RMP days.

    Jacob, definitely something is lost in the Live Phish releases: the CROWD, and sense of the venue. A really good AUD tape beats a Live Phish release. Of course, once they’re remixed to include the crowd, it gets pretty hard to beat.

    A great example of a excellent, crispy AUD tape that captures the venue, 1998 Portland Meadows. Wow.

    Al, as long as it’s not a Live Phish release it can be posted here, as far as I understand it. So, I for one, can’t wait to hear a nice, crispy Hampton 09 AUD!!!

  24. gills Says:

    ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh soundboards
    What does everyone think about a “Destiny Unbound” opener for Hampton, or is it too old school. Love that ditty, would send a good vibe though….

  25. Joe England Says:

    @Coleman nice hit. That shit is still funny to me

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