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”

  1. Mr.Miner Says:

    and Naked Gun quotes could go on forever— 🙂

  2. Manny Phresh Says:

    Is the new album scheduled to drop this summer?

  3. Bandito Says:

    Agreed Miner! New material AND a new guitar. So many exciting things happening with this band. I CANNOT wait to see them again. I’m thinking if Trey is going to be playing that new guitar live it is definitely going to change his tone some. Having lived on the west coast my entire life the majority of the shows I’ve seen have been out here, but I’ll say I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve seen, be it on the west coast, east coast, or midwest, it’s Phish, and there’s nothing else out there that even compares…

  4. Weyoun42 Says:

    I don’t suppose there are any rumblings on just how quickly they’ll get that new album out for sale, is there Mr. Miner? Considering that it should be available as a download from LivePhish (their entire back catalog is, now), I’d think the turnaround could be pretty quick. Then again, I don’t know what all goes into the production of an album, so I have no idea how fast they could have it in our hands.

  5. Forest Says:

    Nicely balanced analysis, Mr. Miner!

    There are of course exceptions – Vegas is as hectic as anywhere, without the sketch molly wackos – and the show I saw at Radio City in 2000 was unlike any other in terms of behaviour and music, both exemplary (Project Phormal)

    The exceptions prove the rule. After the Dead’s Hell Tour of Summer 1995, many of us west coasters have been reluctant to go back and tour the east.

    I would mention another thing – goes to another commenter talking about the amount of east coast shows. My only major problem with East Coast Phish nation is that they aren’t the tourheads of Grateful past, rather the entitled inheritors of a legacy teetering in the balance. West Coast Phish Nation is a direct descendant of Jerry’s Kids, and respect the scene and Mother Nature.

    The hysteria about the Red Rocks performances is driven largely by East Coasters who want to “experience” this western vibe. Since there are only 7 shows west of Nebraska this summer, I wish the East Coasters would be happy with their 20+ shows, NYE, Halloweens and Hampton reunions.

    East coasters fly to shows, rage and stay in hotels. West Coasters drive, camp and groove.

  6. msbjivein Says:

    OH YEah!!! All new songs pretty much I can’t wait! If Trey bust out the new Doc this summer it won’t be the first time he’s had another guitar on stage. I know in ’03 he had another Doc on stage quite a bit. I only saw him play a couple times mostly on the newer material they were playing at the time. That one actually looks pretty Bad Ass! It does kinda look like a PRS semi hollow body. But It’s not!!! I would almost bet he’ll be busting that out this summer for some of the new songs he’ll keep the old school Doc for the old school stuff. I know the Doc he plays now isn’t the original one is it?? I thought the original was a lighter wood finish????? I’ve heard he has many.

  7. notkuroda Says:

    @John, I wouldn’t worry about the “mainstream vibe” at Bonnaroo. Phish loves it there. I have no doubt that they will play two excellent shows there. That late night especially is going to be ridiculous.

    AT least that’s what I’m counting on. I swore I’d never go back to the Roo but it just seemed dumb to miss those shows. I think a lot of Roo haters will be kicking themselves…

  8. Billy Breathes Says:

    Wow Wow Wow. Fresh Phish, comin’ right up!

  9. Brimley Says:

    Call me crazy, but i’ve been to Alpine and Deer Creek and as far as the venue itself goes, I don’t really see the huge appeal with Deer Creek…Phish has definitely played some sick shows at the Creek but the venue itself doesn’t have the aesthetics as the view from the top of Alpine does….just my 2 cents. The camping at Dead Creek is always a blast though!

  10. msbjivein Says:

    @ Brimley, If you take away the camping Deercreek isn’t the best. IMO As long as there’s camping all around the venue it will continue to the place to be in the summer.

  11. notkuroda Says:

    Speaking of Alpine, has the sound quality on the lawn improved over the last few runs? I went there in 96 and it was the worst phish experience I’ve ever had, it sounded like a shitty old tape being played thru one of those tape recorders you used to play with in elementary school. But everyone just loves Alpine so much I’m just wondering if it ever got better. Everyone I know who has gone gets pav seats, and I won’t go back unless I get the same.

  12. Brimley Says:

    @msbjivein- Agreed…My first time seeing Phish was at Alpine and i’ve seen the most shows there so it holds a spot in my heart for sure though…
    @Jay- I live in Illinois and have seen 6 shows at the Rocks just because it’s the sickest outdoor venue in general…3-4 different lots of differing elevations looking over Denver…The sights from the lots and the top of the venue will no doubt be engrained in your dome for life…The Rocks is definitely a venue where you want to be higher up in the seats so you can get the skyline/city view…be prepared for the high altitude though because walking from the stage to the top of the venue is a fucking workout..!

  13. Brimley Says:

    Some may argue for the Gorge which I can’t say because i’ve never been there, but the pics look sick…

  14. Mr.Miner Says:

    Yeah- Deer Creek is legendary for the camping, surroundings, and the shows there, but when it comes down to it- it’s just another amphitheatre….

  15. Manny Phresh Says:

    Completely off topic, but I’m flying into NYC and wanted know if anybody knew where I can find out what people have been saying about the dead shows.

  16. voopa Says:

    I dunno about being at the top of Red Rox…I was in the 6th row on 8/6/96 and had a great view of the city and surroundings. 8/7 I was up top, and felt like I was a mile away.

    I’ve lived in California all my life. Over the years it became clear that I needed to experience the end of a Phish tour in the Northeast. Especially after hearing the “Bring the Dude” show. Finally in ’99 my girlfriend (now wife 🙂 ) and I worked it out, and caught the October shows at Nassau and Albany.

    While not nearly as thrilling as 12/13/97, each of those 4 shows had some incredible moments. Tom Marshall singing The Who, pregnant Sofi doing the Meatstick dance, Trey nearly falling off the trampoline, 17,000 phans yelling “BUT I SURE GOT SOME POWERFUL PILLS, OH YEAH!”, and of course, Limb>2001>DWD. Oh and possibly the only standalone Hydrogen?

    Trust me, if you’ve never experienced an East Coast show, do so. And vice-versa. Maybe I’ll get to Alpine someday…

  17. whole tour! Says:

    there are good people on both coasts. there are douches on both coasts and in between.
    i wouldn’t ever give up seeing east coast shows, despite the obvious obstacles. this is america. what bothers me is the bias and hate towards people from the east. one super douche with a chip on his shoulder was the one guy who tried to ‘save red rocks for colorado fans.’ if you read that douche’s blog, you can see an unwarrented hatred towards us east coasters. i know it’s one guy, but he really made colorado look bad with his piss poor attitude and sense of entitlement. homeboy was telling people with extra red rocks tickets to ‘tax’ east coast fans upwards of $1000. i couldn’t believe the hate thrown at the east coast fans….especially since it’s an east coast band. i’ll take so called ‘annoying east coast fans’ over self entitled a-holes anyday.

    say what you will about the east coast, but it has a certain charm and a general acceptance of outsiders. the shows get rowdy, but that’s how i like them. much less of that ‘headier than thou’ vibe. east coast might not have the super dank, but we know how to throw a party.

  18. SOAM Says:

    Frankly-I think it is a litttle ‘much ado about nothing” to say that everything is different about a show in one place versus another-the same attitudes people are citing at shows are present in everyday life. The east coast is overpopulated and therefore there are more assholes-easters are inherently not out going-they hang in cliques and their are less tickets/more people because of curiousity seekers which creates a different vibe-I’m usually in my own world an most people I meet -regradless of where I am-are one of two-tour vets-fun-helpful and looking to get down or rookie/dope seekers ther for the scene not the music. The things people are saying are kinda stereotypical generalizations-it’s what you make of it kind of-no one bothers me at a gig-I’m in a zone and if someone does I just move along-dig

  19. voopa Says:

    One more flash from fall ’99: Seeing like a hundred kids rush the floor the second the house lights went down at Nassau. Crazy!

  20. Bandito Says:

    I hate the “headier than thou” vibe that says since you don’t have dreads and don’t stink you can’t enjoy Phish as much as those that do…

  21. whole tour! Says:

    ^ word

  22. bhizzle Says:

    yes, there is nothing more pleasing than to be classified as part of “the entitled inheritors of a legacy teetering in the balance” clique that never camps or talks to any one beside their immediate family and, god forbid, groove (what is this groove thing you of which you are speaking?)

    Darien has camping but it is park camping towards the hotel, not in the lots. Also I believe there is private proerties that sell camp spots and there is a state park too.

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    I grew up going to east coast dead and phish shows, did a lot of midwest shows back in the day, now I’m a west coast guy – I think Miner is on point as usual. If I could I would go to some of each, say fly in for MSG/Hampton/Alpine (or a festy of course), but just due to family/kid obligations that’s not realistic so it’s west coast for the forseeable future and that’s fine.

    One thing – it is definitely more feasible to take kids, I mean little like 5 year old kids, to a west coast outdoor show without fear of sketchiness. I’m looking forward to that this summer.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    FWIW me and all my west coast friends yell, scream and get down like mad fools – I don’t give a rats ass if it bugs anyone, it’s a freaking rock show. I have been in the 100 level pav of Shoreline for several phish shows and I see tons of crusty old Dead family peeps who by stereotype should be looking down their noses and yawning but actually they are usually rocking out like crazy

  25. msbjivein Says:

    @ Bandit, I think most of the dreadies now aren’t real Phans. I know back in the day there were a lot of real dreaded out phans.(pre Hiatus) Now a lot of those pholks have grown up and cut the dreads(me included) Ever since the hiatus it seems MOST(not all) people w/ dreads aren’t coming purely for the music anymore. It’s more of a place to party and make some cash. I actually hear a lot of hate and negativity from those fucker’s. More than likely your probably enjoying the Phish experience a hell of a lot more than those “Headier than thou” types. I’m not a dready hater at all this is just an observation of Phish dreadies now a days. (speaking more about ’02,’03,’04 than ’09 I didn’t see to many dreads @ hampton)

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