East and West

Shoreline (Designed to look like GD's Steal Your Face)

Shoreline (Designed to look like GD's Steal Your Face)

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.

Great Woods - Mansfield, MA

Great Woods - Mansfield, MA

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.

Madison Square Garden, NYC

Madison Square Garden, NYC

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.

The Gorge

The Gorge

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.

Coors Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, CA

Coors Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, CA

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.

1Backwards Down the Number Line*

Kill Devil

Ocelot (?)

20 Years Later

Splinters of Bat (?)


Party Time

Let Me Lie*

2Starting Time From the Fourth Plan

Only a Dream

If I Told You

Sugar Shack



I’ve Been Around

Time Turns Elastic*



12.28.96 The Spectrum Philadelphia, PA < LINK

12.28.96 The Spectrum Philadelphia, PA < TORRENT LINK

1996-12-28moBy 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

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211 Responses to “East and West”

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  1. Al Says:

    Oh Miner! I love you, man!!!!!! Thanks from the other side of this planet…this Philly show is HOT. It was very hard to find a good sounding source. Here we have it.

    Having looked at Trey’s new guitar (your link) it scares me cause the sound might be quite different, because it isn’t a semi-acoustic anymore…looks like a remodelled Paul Reed Smith or Ernie Ball. Let’s see…

  2. Ryan Schloffel Says:

    If that’s a track listing for a new record, I’m surprised that “Alaska” isn’t on it….

  3. paulywals Says:

    Looks like the new guitar is a G4 which is the other model made by Paul.


  4. Al Says:

    And this SPLIT OPEN (see yesterdays topic) is pretty crunchy, too! Typical 1996er – Trey led, short and right to the bone. Good one like the Knoxville 11/06/96 Split.

  5. Litteringand Says:

    Miner why is there no love for the Midwest?

  6. hairy pood Says:

    @Al- It is a semi-hollowbody, (the cut-outs in a different spot, above the strings towards the hip) and its a languedoc. Its a new model called a G4. I wouldn’t be too worried, I imagine he’s got more than one guitar in the studio, and I doubt he’ll switch axes for live shows. who knows, though…

    @Miner- This summer will be my first west coast shows (I moved out here in ’06). I’m really stoked to hear/feel the difference. I just wish I could afford to do some dates back east or DC/ Alpine…

    See you in Colorado–>Gorge!

  7. hairy pood Says:

    ^I’ve heard a lot of people on the west coast refer to the illinois/minnesota/wisco/indiana region as “the east coast” or back east. not that miner would, being a seasoned tour vet and east>west transplant, but i figured i’d put a couple pennies on the lack of a midwest mention.

  8. Baxter Says:

    Thank you Mr. Miner,
    At first I thought it would be a typical East is least, West is best write up, but having lived bi-coastal, I have picked up on the totally different vibration thing of which you speak. I like the cut of your jib.

    Litteringand, hairy pood, all other mid-westers: There IS another coast, IT is the middle coast, and Phish will put on the best show of all there, this summer in chi-town.

  9. c0wfunk Says:

    while I love the laid back vibe of west coast crowds – and denver crowds fit this bill too – it drives me crazy how no one will cheer or really act excited at all. They’re much more likely to be chatting than cheering. The too cool for school vibe bores me. Being in the South, I’m used to people hootin it up and hollerin and generally carrying on, which is pretty much absent once you cross the mississippi

  10. Mr. Icculus Says:

    Miner i teach high shchool out here in the east (WV) and i get the same response year after year. Whoooo Fish no Phish. A school of 2000+ and none of them have ever heard of phish that is until they have me for class. I play some jams during lunch when students are doing makeup work. And i have to laugh because i always catch a couple bobbing there heads or swaying to the groove. Its infectious and once you get infected there is no vaccine.

  11. Dan Says:

    Wow. Glad to now that at 17 and not having seen any Phish shows, I’m part of the problem and the ‘bad vibes’. Nice word choice.

    I still haven’t got to seen Phish, countless people have told me I don’t deserve it, I can’t win simply because I’ve been stereotyped. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen youth stereotypes in action. A lot of stupid young kids dance too wildly, take pictures with their cell phone, sing along, and just try too hard in general. It’s because of this I have to spend my first show sitting down to prove a point. I will be accepted to the scene no matter how hard someone born in 1991 has to try.

  12. Mr. Icculus Says:

    Can’t comment on this east/west thing. Furthest west ive seen phish is Deer Creek. But i can agree that some of the venues on the east are very hectic for a phish show. Merriweather comes to mind back in 2000 does any one remember the helicopter that floated over the lot all day with a guy that had a spotting scope. Crazy shit ther! The Tweeter up in MA wouldnt sell us beer cause we were from out of state. Cuyhoga falls was awsome. Plaris and Starlake are pretty chill.

  13. Mr. Icculus Says:

    Oh and one more thing my work place has blocked my access to this site. Why im not sure anything that has music is music related is blocked but i was able to use ur site untill very recently. Any ideas how i can back door my way in at work?

  14. c0wfunk Says:

    I remember the merriweather helicopter! added to an already paranoid vibe around there. That place is super hectic indeed.

  15. Jon Bailey Says:

    Haven’t posted in a while, lot’s of things going with me….all good stuff (new career etc.).
    Miner, you are so right. Both are great, diffrent but great. As I get older now I think I woud prefer the West Coast shows, but then I would miss out on an off the hook Great Woods show etc….
    I think the crazines of the East Coat makes fans feel like they earned the expereince, it didn’t come cheap. There are casualties along the way that we have to deal with. You can go out west see a show but mentally, you didn’t earn it. It’s like being a red sox fan back in the day. Somehow we liked that everyone thought we were losers. We felt we earned that. It was ours.
    I look at East Coast shows the same way. You have to role up your sleaves and prepare yourself for the battle that is too come. Your reward is a kick ass show!!

  16. camman Says:

    as always dave, great post. i don’t think i’ll ever get tired of reading your posts each morning while drinking some caffee 1st thing in the morning. i would love to hear about what you have to say about Phish in the South and Midwest. Is there as big a difference as between east and west?

    also i have a question for everyone, how good is the Chicago (Toyota Park) show going to be? this may be a rather stupid question to ask, but after rescheduling my summer a dozen times over, this may be the only show i can make it to. I just wanted some input before i buy a ticket. i did read though on Conventry Blog though yesterday that some tickets for that show are already being scapled for under face…

  17. camman Says:

    and no to complain or sound whiny at all, but does anyone else think its not too fair that New York gets 5 shows this summer? yea it is the northwast and it is a massive state, but come on guys! spread the love around a lil 😉

  18. MadtownCows Says:

    I hope tomorrow’s article is about how Phish consistently throws down in the Midwest.

    A ridiculously high proportion of legendary shows have been played in the Midwest.

  19. Brimley Says:

    Midwest is the Shiite!!! Minor, I love the Naked Gun quotes…”I love swimming in raw sewage, I love it..!”

  20. Chalkdustin Says:

    Seen one westie in Vegas and only easties were Miami (does that count?), Coventry, and Hampton. The rest were in the best Midwest. Seeing only one out west this summer at the Gorge and can’t wait for it. Don’t remember Vegas being distincly different from other shows, so I’m looking forward to a new experience. But most of all looking forward to DC->Alpine.

    @ Cam, Toyota park is big and nothing too spectacular, IMHO, but Midwest shows are awesome and Phish is awesome regardless of where you see them. I’d see them play in a stinking pile of garbage while only using one eye to see and it woudl still be a good show.

  21. notkuroda Says:

    I remember moving from PA to Colorado in 95, my first phish show there was at red rocks. You could tell the difference in the scene and the show pretty quickly. But it wasn’t better, or worse, just different.

    BTW, 12-29-96 has an AMAZING second set, featuring a fantastic Bowie, YEM with rotation jam, and Harpua!

  22. Al Says:

    If I won the lottery, my first tickets would be The Gorge, Red Rocks, Deer Creek, Fenway, and later on any show at MSG! I personally prefer indoor shows because of the ck5 effects.

    Completely off subject – cause I was just listening to a bad screw up in a song. A new idea for an essay would be Phish’s past screw ups on songs. While many people complained about the sloppyness of Post Hiatus Phish and the restarted YEMs (actually only 2), Phish managed to screw up quite a lot in their best eras, too. But at that time, nobody gave a shit. Like the Straßburg summer 97 “Guelah” or the Munich 97 “My Friend” or even the NYE 95 “Squirming Coil” and “Reba” (composed section). But one thing turned out to become a rule: When Trey fucked up the composed section badly, the drop & Jam section was to become EPIC (Reba NYE 95, Reba Darien Lake 00, Reba NYE 03)

  23. Al Says:

    @notkuroda – Miner posted that 12/29/96 jewel a few weeks ago. What a great show too. One of the best YEM out there.

  24. Chalkdustin Says:

    Also, Happy Earth Day everyone!

  25. nonoyolker Says:

    Miner – LOVE the write-up. Really captured the vibe without starting a Biggie/Tupac-esque beef.

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