The Lot Paradox

There has always been endless debate about the culture that exists on Phish lot.  Many have decried the drug-focused and money-making endeavors that they have observed there.  Others have espoused the lot’s vibrancy, culture, and diversity, using it as an illustration of Phish’s community that has evolved over the years.  If I were to interject in this debate, I would venture to say, “You’re both right!”  The Phish lot is a place that can be both inspiring and downright depressing; a place that highlights the creativity and artistry of Phish fans as well as a place for those unconcerned with the music to hang out, do and sell drugs while pulling down the vibe of the community.  It was always a very delicate balancing act on lot.  Was this a positive place or was it a degenerative place?  The question will never be answered definitively, but it can certainly spawn some discussion.

2311745_fe310e65c9Upon arriving on Phish lot at your first few shows, you couldn’t believe the immense amount of activity going down.  People hawked everything from beer to burritos, from patchwork to Xanax.  The marketplace, itself, was overwhelming as “Shakedown” took on a life of its own.  This was exciting to the new fan; not many other concert experiences could provide the type of extra-curricular entertainment and open market that Phish lot could.  Artists sold their work, from paintings and jewelry to clothes and photos, and creativity overflowed from the committed bohemians who routinely turned lot into an their own craft show.  Witty lot t-shirts, psychedelic artwork, amazing works of blown glass, handmade garments; these were the fabric of the nomadic street market.

508809808_6a5329e1c4But as Phish continued to grow, especially after the Dead’s demise in 1995, the lot gradually became a seedier place.  A population of hanger-ons began flocking to Phish shows for the lot and not for the music.  The potential economic gain was too hard for drug-selling “kidz” to stay away; the customer would come to them every single night.  Soon there was an infiltration of these “pseudo-hippies” who came to the scene to hawk their drugs, take their drugs, and ride the coattails of the greatest band on earth.  Most never cared about going into the venue to see Phish unless a free ticket landed in their hand.  These were the ragged kids that dragged malnourished dogs behind them while listing the drugs they had to offer.  While I am sure there are some innocent folks in this demographic, it was this group who used Phish for personal gain without loving Phish at all.

It was one thing if a fan was on tour trying to get from show to show by selling bags of weed or providing people with their desired party favors.  It was a complete different thing when disenchanted and disconnected kids flocked to the lot just to engage in the harder drug trade of substances such as cocaine, oxycontin, and heroin.  These are the people that eroded the community.  And it was substances like these that drove Phish to quit for survival back in 2004.  Given these circumstances, we arguably have a certain responsibility to maintain a cleanliness to the Phish scene for one another, and for the band.

lsd_blotter_full_sheetBecause Phish grew out of the psychedelic counter-culture of the ’60s, as carried into the ’90s by The Grateful Dead, these mind-altering substances will also always be present on Phish lot.  Psychedelics in moderation, however, don’t usually cause any problems.  One may bug out and miss what they came for, but no one is going to OD on mushrooms or LSD.  It really all comes down to intentions.  What does one want to get from the experience?  The use of psychedelics to enhance your personal show experience can be profound, but no drug should define your experience.  When it comes right down to it, Phish’s music is the most powerful drug on the planet.

2153734696_c2f7c31812What is of far greater concern than people ingesting one thing or another for the show is the rampant drug market that exists after the show, which is an open invitation for fans to hole up in a hotel room and overdo it. I have always thought that leaving a Phish show is one of the “purest” states I have ever felt.  With all the crap in life swept aside, I am able to see what is truly important.  It was always a bizarre juxtaposition to watch people scour the lot, buying all sorts of powders to “party” all night long.  But alas, all you can control in this world is yourself, and if we are all looking after our own and our friends’ best interests, we can all significantly impact where Phish culture will evolve to in 2009.

2206130814_2621f3c169I am not naive.  I don’t think the negatives of the the Phish lot will magically vanish when they return to the stage, and with a new younger generation, who knows what will happen!  I probably won’t spend too much time investigating.  By the time 2.0 came around, my game plan had morphed into “Park > Go in > Come out > Meet up > Get out of Dodge.”  No doubt, it is the greatest to hang out in the lot post-show while feeling Phish’s energy still bubbling inside you; that “post-show glow” is one of the best feelings in the universe.  This energy is enough to carry you through the night all by itself.  Sure, add some decompression drinks and smoke, or absolutely nothing at all.

We all owe it to Phish to bring our best selves to these shows this year, as the band has worked with dedication to do the same.  Bring your spirit, bring your heart, and bring your dancing shoes; let’s keep in real and rage it in ’09!



Western St. College Gym, Gunnison, CO

Western St. College Gym, Gunnison, CO

3.14.93 Western State College Gym, Gunnison, CO SBD < LINK

Here we have a classic relic from the analog era with a tape that almost every fan had at one point or another.  The show took place in a small college gym and was filled with Phish’s zany humor and wonderfully tight ’93 playing.  This is two sets of great Phish, highlighted by a massive YEM medley in the middle of the second set.  A first set “Stash” and a rare “Ballad of Curtis Loew” also stand out in this overall great show. The recording includes most of the soundcheck as well.

Soundcheck: The Ballad of Curtis Loew (missing), Loving Cup, Tale of Ulysses Jam > Sunshine of Your Love Jam

1: Loving Cup, Foam, Guelah Papyrus, Sparkle, Stash, Paul and Silas, Sample in a Jar, Reba, Punch You in the Eye > Runaway Jim

2: Halley’s Comet, David Bowie, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, You Enjoy Myself > Owner of a Lonely Heart > Low Rider > Spooky > Oye Como Va > You Enjoy Myself*, Lifeboy, Rift, Big Ball Jam, Great Gig in the Sky, HYHU, The Squirming Coil

E: Memories, Sweet Adeline, Golgi Apparatus

*End of instrumental jam included a quote tease of “A Spanish Piece” (Pink Floyd). Vocal jam contained: “We Will Rock You” (Queen), “We Are the Champions” (Queen), and “Welcome to the Machine.”

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162 Responses to “The Lot Paradox”

  1. jdub Says:

    Nice site miner! A little background… since everyone here seams so friendly… I fell into Phish when I heard Junta in 92 or so. A young one at the time and straight edge but loved them. Didn’t get the psychedelic thing until years later. Didn’t see them live until Lemonwheel. Did get to see them 2.28.03 and is my greatest Phish experience… full on! I remember thinking that night “were they always this incredible or is it the shrooms”. Turned out to be both. Phish is whatever they want to be or you conceive them to be. It doesn’t matter either way. I find the lot scene to be an incredible people watching experience. Never do you get to see such colorful creatures, however dark or dimented we may be. We are all one and the same anyway. Let us not judge… trust me there is someone waiting to judge you! I actually look forward to the lot scene as it is so fascinating to me. I’m pretty straight edge and to experience the underbelly of the drug culture, which we all belong to, is educational to say the least. These guys are just people playing music, nothing less nothing more. We decided to go along for the ride… enjoy it

    To those suffering unhappiness in one form or another…

    “Why are you unhappy?
    Because 99.9 percent
    Of everything you think, and
    Of everything you do,
    Is for yourself-
    And there isn’t one.”

    -Wei Wu Wei

  2. spideyguy0 Says:

    HYHU, I was just thinking about this same question. I don’t do any kind of drugs, not even weed, (I know, possibly a first for a Phish fan) but I’ve been thinking about whether or not to drink a lot at the show, since I know from experience that alcohol can add to my enjoyment of music, and what I decided was that for something like Hampton, I would see the Friday show completely sober, then I would drink for the Saturday show, and then I would do whatever worked best for Sunday.

  3. Drinks>Chainsaw Says:

    I love hanging in the lot before and after a show. It is hilarious. I don’t consider myself a vital part of the lot-economy, but hanging back and watching things unfold, talking with peeps, listening to convos’, looking at chicks, drinking a couple beers…it’s fun. Just people watching, it’s a blast. I look forward to it and I miss it. Because if I’m strolling through the lot it only means one thing, I’m either headed into or out of a phish show.

  4. SOAM Says:

    lot rat-I know you man-I know you.

  5. SOAM Says:

    I suggest a couple small tokes of crack , a little ether and some wild turkey for your pre-game snacks. Cap it of with a mescaline milkshake and your good to go (until set break , then re-up x2) if you tweak-dont phreak it’s Tela you seek.

  6. Clod Says:

    M-Squared –

    I love your site. To echo a previous posters comments, It has been refreshing to witness the site morph from Classic TAB reviews (when I first came upon your site) into it present state. It certainly has made my excitement for three days in Hampton grow exponentially. My one comment about your format, which will be hopefully for your benefit as well as the readers: SLOW DOWN!. Although your daily posts are refreshing and look to them each day with great anticipation, I can only hope you can maintain your torrid pace up to Hampton, through Summer Tour and beyond (how about Phish laying it down in Albany and Worcester for some good old time Fall fun!). In addition to avoiding your own potential burn-out (who knows, I could be wrong, and your potential is limitless), but as v 3.0 approaches, more and more people will discover your site and I think your posts will need more time to absorb a greater amount of people. All in all, I think it is a good problem to have. As for the lot scene, I love your comments and hit it right on the head. I have one memory that pre-dates the “Demise of Jerry” take-over which comes to mind. It was the summer of 1991, and I was a junior at UVM. In July, northern Vermont got his with a big trifecta: Phish played at Battery Park, the Rainbow Gathering held their annual gathering in the Green Mountains and I can seem to remember the third: it was either the Vermont Reggae Festival on Lake Champlain or a Santana concert in Stowe. Anyways, for about a week, Burlington was taken over with the equivalant of later day Phish parking lot scene. At the time, the blame fell to the Rainbow gatherers – that scene, which had its benefits and good people (like all scenes, I suppose) had been taken over by the Grateful Dead tour rats. As a result, freeloaders were abundant and harder drugs were rampant. In my mind, it was first combination of Phish and its soon to be adopted Grateful Dead scene, a reality that was not to set in for few more years. The Battery Park concert, which was free, was fantastic only to be supplanted by the Townsend concert that summer (my friends bribed the “security” and we rolled a keg right on in.) An earlier poster commented on best “lot scene”. I would have to say that the Sugarbush parking lots were truly memorable as self contained wild zones. The Sugarbush lot was my first exposure to Hi-Tech – the portable disco van that was oft copied but never comparable. And finally, after the craziness of the Clifford Ball (did anyone really expect what that was really going to be like? Thank god for the DVD to bring all those memories back), Burlington was once again invaded for week as Burlington’s City Hall Park become a temporary homeless shelter as hordes of Phish fans decompressed from an unbelievable weekend across the lake in Plattsburg. Thanks MM for allowing me to conjure up these memories, and please consider my opening advice as I want to continue to enjoy your well thought out and constructed posts for months (years?) to come.

  7. Clod Says:

    Phishbill 1998:

  8. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:


    i’ve been looking for that roggae ad since i saw it at the show! We were laughing non stop for what seemed like an eternity when we first saw that.


  9. lot rat Says:

    Lights are gonna drop in march…bag it tag it

  10. lot rat Says:

    Thank god for the DVD to bring all those memories back), Burlington was once again invaded for week as Burlington’s City Hall Park become a temporary homeless shelter as hordes of Phish fans decompressed from an unbelievable weekend across the lake in Plattsburg

    For a week? That town was freak central from the ball until lake placid in october. some cat named fro-jay running around with the oregon closed caps….melting faces nightly. That park was a complete shakedown, good introduction to college. fah-fah-fah freakwtown…

    Wedge>Funky Bitch out of the gate in hampton…

  11. Rum Says:

    Set 1:Fikus>Sleep>Train Song>Billy Breathes>Velvet Sea>Swept Away>Steep>Water in the Sky>Llama
    Set 2:Frankie Says>Strange Design>Mist*>Dirt>Driver>Roggae>BBFCFM

    * 35min long

    Ahh wouldnt this setlist just freaking rock for the first show in 5 years???

  12. BDunn Says:

    excellent read. i agree with your plan of park>show>meet up>get out of dodge. there were a few times when the lot was a positive experience. waiting for a friend with a box of honeycombs is always a good thing.

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