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”

  1. Joe England Says:

    @Coleman nice hit. That shit is still funny

  2. Absher Says:

    This KC show was a great one. I remember it was raining cats and dogs and there were tornado warnings in the area. I slipped on a rock on my way out and screwed up my leg pretty bad. Almost didn’t make it to TN the next night. That was a long drive but well worth it.

  3. Uakari Says:

    Say it aint so, but yes tour has so much more unknown qualities and was considered very mystical “back then”
    Now with texts, cell phone videos and iphones rating the show as it happens, it just does not leave much for the discovering. A tour kid can now virtually do everything before tour even starts. How many times have you seen kids calling-texting someone during a show? Now we wake up and check the internet for dates, not wait for the Schvice. It was so amazing when it finally came and then having to actually meet people at the show to ge the tapes and not just use livephish. Too many distactions these days, nothing left to go discover, but hey in five or ten years the new kids will be lamenting the current tours. Cheers to Phish 3.o yall, see you on lot 2009, but I’ll be wishing it was like “back then”. Same as it ever was not.

  4. Asher Says:

    Killer Post!!! I’ve been thinking a lot about how different the Phish experience will be in version 3.0. Miner, you grabbed the thougts right out of my head.

    Don’t forget “Surrender to the Flow”, the free lot mag given out on almost every tour in the late 90’s that was geared toward kids doing all or a lot of each tour. It’s best features by far were the directions from venue to venue and the list of nearby campgrounds and hotels. And I have great news, it’s coming back!! Look for a new issue in Hampton!!!

  5. Mike Says:

    Its not too often I can say this, but I have to disagree with your assesment of 6/30/99. For a tour opener, this show lacked energy from start to finish. It was cold and rainy and the crowd’s lack of energy seem to rub off on the band. The jams while long, sounded pretty sloppy. I just listened to the Gin for the first time in years and it didn’t sound any better. Free was definitely the show highlight along with the debut of the new funked GBOT. Other than that, pretty weak. I’ve always referenced this as the worst Phish show I’ve seen. For those that have never been there, Sandstone has no roof. It rained cold and hard….we left the lot to seek shelter only to discover the shedless shed. Long night, bad show.

  6. Andrew Says:

    Anyone else getting a lot of clicks and noise in the background of the 6/30/99 remaster? I’m getting it throughout every track, so I figure it was not just my download, since I downloaded each track separately.

  7. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^^ Mike, I have to say respectfully…”You’re insane!” Its funny, I don’t remember any rain at all- might you be recalling the next night in Nashville? The Bonner Springs show was one of the best of Summer– huge jams all over, with a KILLER Gin! Guess I’m not sure what you are looking for. Its very weird, i didn’t get rained on.

  8. Mr.Miner 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.”

    ^^ gotta love Terrapin Tapes!

  9. waiting for full tour announcement Says:

    oh the good ole days of mail order tickets. I truly miss those glory days before the internet and scalpers killed any hope of scoring any tickets below $400. Every order i ever placed came back with tickets. I was never shut out in over 100 shows. Sure, i got my share of lawn tickets, but i was never left out feeling the cold shoulder. Maybe if the tickets by mail was brought back, the band could actually enforce their so-called “no scalping” policy. Maybe if i had those hacker speed dial programs the scalpers use I could actually score tickets. Bring back tickets by mail to ensure fans access to tickets in a legitimate fashion that won’t cost anyone a months rent for three shows. I hope summer tour will be that tour where people will be “handing away” miracle tickets, but something tells me the scalpers are here to stay as long as they have people shelling out the $$$$ to feed on.

  10. showhe Says:

    Ok, I really need to get back into trading…yeah it’s easy to just d/l shows off the web but it just isn’t the same as sending out shows to folks in the old manilla bubble envelopes. Trying to stay in contact with the person you’re trading with…”hey, i’ve got mine ready to mail…are you sending yours anytime soon?”. Then getting that package in the mail, knowing you’re about to listen to shows you haven’t heard yet. I agree with shpongleyez you really can’t beat the audience recording….it brings chills to my spine whenever I hear the crowd at the beginning of a show or hear the roar of appreciation for busting out the ‘old skool’ gem. You just don’t get that with livephish it seems.

    So on that note…how about posting an taper copy of the 7.11.2000 Deer Creek show and hear the insanity for yourself?

    07-11-00 Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN

    1: Ya Mar*, The Moma Dance, Uncle Pen, Drowned > Chalkdust Torture Jam** > Chalkdust Torture, Theme from the Bottom, Cavern (1:09)

    2: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Down with Disease -> Moby Dick > Down with Disease > Runaway Jim -> Moby Dick, Back on the Train -> Moby Dick -> Back on the Train, Harry Hood# -> Moby Dick, Hold Your Head Up > Terrapin## > Hold Your Head Up > Moby Dick^ > Hold Your Head Up, Character Zero (1:19)

    E: First Tube > Moby Dick > Chalkdust Torture Jam^^ (0:10)

    *With Trey on keys. **Bizarre jam, with the words “chalkdust torture” (not the lyrics to the song of that name) sung over it; lasted about 5 minutes; previously played 12/10/94. #With “Moby Dick” teases during the intro. ##Fish introduced as “star of the film Gladiator, Russell Crowe”; with vacuum solo; Fish introduced the entire band; a small cactus was put on stage by Mike’s amp; Trey introduces Chris Kuroda. ^With Trey drum solo and Jon vacuum solo. ^^Reprise of the “Chalkdust Torture Jam” from the first set; afterwards; Trey said he hoped everyone who is camping has a good time, announces that “we are the Phish from Vermont,” and suggested that if people missed anything that they read the book or see the movie

  11. Ziesenitz Says:

    Calling the Phish Hotline and getting show dates from Page. Phish Hotline was printed on standard size business card available at the concession table. Buying tickets from Ticketron. Phish giving their Plymouth Volare away. Trey rollerblading through the crowd while taking a solo.

  12. HSV 007 Says:

    Ah, Mr. Miner you take me back……..Nothing like taking the time to fill out the mail order CORRECTLY & awaiting that FedEx package at your door. Always a crap shoot what shows you got, where your seats were, & what your freinds got. Loved the Schvice for the tour date/venue listings, pics, interviews & musings etc…Surrender to the Flow & the Tour Extra were great lot readings

    I was an avid tape trader in college & still have numerous Maxells in their wooden racks collecting dust in my closet (although I havent listened to any in a really really long time). Anyone else have like 100,000 Max points (coupons at the bottom of the labels provided with Maxell tapes)?

    Phish 3.0 will be incredible & I cant wait to see what unfolds. Mr. Miner, you’ll have to run a poll of what everybody thinks the opener will be. See everybody @ Hampton (58 days!!!!!!)

    “Till once again I bask in morning stillness……I love so”

  13. jerrydamule Says:

    Me loved the doniac. And although I would re-read Mike’s corner over & over to try to figure out what he was saying, eventually I would just give up.

  14. Noah Wilderman Says:

    Just wanted to say WE LOST THE FILLER. That’s my working title for the subject of tape trading days of yore. When you dubbed someone a righteous tape, the filler you put on the end told them something about you. Bob Marley live in Europe, cool? Dave Matthews, who’s he?

    I have a friend who would make Phish/Dead mixes, and I don’t mean separately. He would give you a 155th generation mix tape from 26 different shows. The quality was so bad that they were instant classics – like it was pirated from a space antenna in 1972.

  15. Drinks>Chainsaw Says:

    “Who needs a Chinger?”

  16. NC Says:

    Joe England – I have a mint condition Assface poster if anyone is interested… I bought it from drygoods.com when they were having one of their fire-sales a number of years ago, and (shocker) my girlfriend wouldnt let me hang it up. It’s still in the plastic in a tube in the back of my closet!

    Let me know if you (or anyone) is interested…

  17. Read Icculus Says:

    aww man…………Don’t get me started………..

  18. Mitch Says:

    off topic… Anyone else hear tomorrow is the big day for announcements? Not trying to start the board off with a bunch of hearsay and arguments just asking if anyone else heard this?

    fingers crossed

  19. brandofunk Says:

    Trey got the ross!!!!

  20. Mike Says:

    Mr. Miner,
    Hey man, I’ve been reading your page for months and have always found your reviews to be right on and your writing superb. I just differ with your opinion on this one. Just to make sure I wasn’t suffering from old man memory loss, I read many reviews: http://www.phish.net/reviews/shows/6-30-99.html .
    These not only confirm the rain, referred to by many as a “downpour” but also feature mixed opinions on the musical quality of the show. Hey, summer 99 was a blast, but IMHO, things didn’t really get rolling until the Atlanta shows. Still the best band ever….just an off-night.

  21. Badger Says:

    4th row NYE MSG `98 via mail order. had not yet had tickets refused. Alas, he internet opened the door to a much wider audience for tickets.

  22. hebob Says:

    Calling the hotline is definately something worth mentioning. In the early/mid 90’s it was Shelly that recorded the message. The hotline was updated before the newsletter was received in the mail, so this was the qucikest way to find out what the new dates were. You’d be jotting everything down on your note book, and then if you missed something, you’d have to listen to the whole message again! Also, in those days, a whole tour wasn’t generally announced at the same time, so basically you would get a newsletter once a month while they were on tour, and each issue would have the tour dates for the next month! It was like one big “to be continued” story!

  23. shnozstradamus Says:

    The image of the old Maxell blank tape reminds me of one special place where I spent many an afternoon as a teen – -Prime Cuts (Rockville Center, NY). Two dollars for a set of music—can’t beat it!!

  24. Asher Says:

    Finding your friends at Phish shows before cellphones was easy. You just needed to know one thing -UPS!! (that’s Upper Page Side also known to some as Page Side High) I was always able to find friends to rage with at the top of the lawn on Page side or in the Page Side Pit- the concrete walkway between the lawn and the seats. Indoor venues made things a little more difficult but the Page side rule always applied.

    Yes, mail ordering for tickets and the associated anticipation ruled and will be greatly missed. All the local post office employees knew me. I was always greeted with “So, where are you going this time?”

    As far as the 6/30/99 Kansas debate, I’ve got to side with Mr. Miner. I remember it as a ragin’ tour opener. The Gin is killer and Set 2 is solid top to bottom. Lot before the show was sunny and festive. Being the first show since NYE 98 it was like a nonstop reunion with old friends not seen for 6 months. I do recall some rain during the show but nothing a severe as the deluge the next night in Antioch. It was so wet there that our Vanagon was stuck in the muddy lot for hours after the show and needed to be towed out of the muck.

  25. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ I remember coming out of Antioch in a monsoon, going the wrong way around the venue, and feeling like I was in ‘Nam.

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