There has always been discussion about the differences between east coast and west coast Phish shows. “The band plays more intensely on the east coast; the shows are so much better!” “The vibe and the scene is so much more laid back out west, and the band rips; it’s so much more fun!” People can debate which they prefer until they are blue in the face, but we need look no further than The Naked Gun’s Frank Drebin for an answer to this debate. When he encounters both his ex and his enemy at the Queen’s reception, an event from which he was banned, his ex exclaims “Frank!” while, simultaneously, his enemy proclaims, “Drebin!” Caught in an awkward position, Drebin looks up in the absurd way that only he can, and says- “You’re both right!” And that, my friends, is the answer to our regional Phish debate.
East coast shows and west coast shows carry a very different feeling for several legitimate reasons. Being an east coast band, Phish’s core of fans still lives in the Northeast. This holds true for most older fans, while younger fans in the east are constantly being indoctrinated to Phish music and culture. As a result, east coast shows are more populated and generally more rambunctious. As you move further west across the country, fewer and fewer people are familiar with Phish; especially in the younger demographic. I taught high school in San Francisco for the last five years, and I can honestly tell you that none of the kids knew who Phish were- until I told them. Phish are just are not part of youth culture out west- at all.
The lack of out-of-control young’uns at west coast shows further contributes to the already mellower vibe and increased space. General east/west stereotyping becomes truthfully magnified in the microcosm of a Phish show. At an east coast show, confronting a denser and rowdier crowd, you are far more likely to get bumped into while dancing, have beer spilled on you by a passer by, get offered “molly” by someone with a cocked hat looking no older than sixteen, get into an altercation with police, or see medics dragging drugged out fans out of a show on a stretcher. You get the drift.
But the flip side of that coin is that Phish plays their biggest, most intense, shows on the east coast- by far! I’ll trade being pushed into the back of a GA floor in exchange for a psychedelic Nassau odyssey. I’d easily have a beer poured on my head in exchange for a ripping night at Hampton or MSG. So what if there are hundreds of teenagers running around The Centrum? You won’t see them when the lights go down. East coast shows may be crazy, but this is Phish’s home turf! This is where the shit goes down- and has gone down- for over twenty years. And there’s no arguing with that.
Growing up in the east and living out west, I will sometimes encounter a “west coaster” who says something like, “Yeah- I love Phish, but I can’t go see them on the east coast anymore- it’s just too hectic.” And while I always politely finish my conversation without laughing, inside my head I am thinking- “Won’t go to an east coast show?….Hmm…Do they even know Phish?” Not to sound dismissive of anyone or their decisions, but Phish will always be an east coast band, and to not see them there is like always watching your favorite sports team on the road.
But west coast tour is like paradise. Not nearly as humid in the summer or cold in the fall, the weather plays the first part in this idyllic experience. The venues are more interesting and less cookie-cutter. Then, as previously mentioned, take away the under-20 crew, as the audiences out west are generally made up of local 21+ heads and east coast transplants. The vibe throughout the audience, while maintaining the feel of a psychedelic circus, is far more chill. It is like people out west are “experienced”- in the Hendrix sense- and understand what this is all about. The lack of east coast aggression plays into this feel as well, providing a far more laid back experience for the average fan.
Phish most definitely picks up on this aura, and, more often than not, echoes it in their improvisation. The Gorge, for example, has produced so many jams that simply could not have been played anywhere else. Although this is the extreme example of the influence of western nature, Phish also responds to the smaller audiences that are often prevalent on the west coast (see Utah 11.2.98 and Boise 9.14.99.) Things generally run smoother out west, with less arrests and dangerous incidents than routinely take place at east coast gatherings. And then you have your surroundings. Instead of strolling out into Camden, NJ, you generally find yourself in more amicable and beautiful locations as you wind your way through the west. Yet, despite this relaxed energy, Phish has consistently cranked out top-notch shows up and down the coast; they just create divergent experiences.
You’ll never hear me say that east coast shows are better than west coast shows, or vice-versa; the argument is futile. They are both the greatest. This summer will provide a perfect taste of both flavors, as Phish is hitting some of their classic haunts on both coasts. A renewed energy will certainly encompass every crowd across the country, but no matter how hard you’re tripping, you’ll never mistake Shoreline for Great Woods. Why? Because the east is the east and the west is the west, and that’s just the way it is.
ALBUM UPDATE: A lot of nonsense has been flying around the internet about Phish’s new album. Such absurd rumors had their newest album, “Party Time” (in reference to Trey’s quote in Rolling Stone) containing mostly past unrecorded tracks dating back to the band’s collegiate days. But yesterday, these pictures from Phish’s studio- a track list and Trey’s new guitar- surfaced at surfaced over at liquidgoggles.com. While the list may not be the final track listing for the album, we can see what the band is working with. Ironically, a track, and possibly the album, is called “Party Time!” Not all the tracks are legible, but most of it is, and it looks very exciting! This is what I can make out; the songs that have been performed in any capacity have asterisks.
Backwards Down the Number Line*
20 Years Later
Splinters of Bat (?)
Let Me Lie*
Starting Time From the Fourth Plan
Only a Dream
If I Told You
I’ve Been Around
Time Turns Elastic*
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
12.28.96 The Spectrum Philadelphia, PA < TORRENT LINK
By avid reader request, here we have the first night of Phish’s New Year’s Run from 1996. A solid show from start to finish, this kicked off the celebratory run in style. First set highlights include the first quasi-jammed out “Wolfman’s,” “Split, and “Mango.” The second set started with a standout “Makisupa > Maze” that was featured Monday, and a proper “Mike’s Groove” to end the set.
I: Runaway Jim, NICU, Wolfman’s Brother, It’s Ice, Billy Breathes, Ginseng Sullivan, Split Open and Melt, The Mango Song, Frankenstein
II: Makisupa Policeman > Maze, Bouncing Around The Room*> TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu, Mike’s Song > Strange Design > Weekapaug Groove, The Star Spangled Banner
E: Johnny B. Goode
*With Digital Delay Loop Jam before “TMWSIY”.
Source: Schoeps cmc641>oade>da-p1