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. gho2it Says:

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

    That pretty much sums it up perfectly. Seems like the West Coasters still get that (dare I say it?) old-school hippie vibe. And to me, that’s really what the “phamily” thing is all about.

    BUT, I also gotta agree with the person from yesterday that said something to the effect of “It isn’t a Phish show if I don’t fear for my life at some point”. That’s what the intensity of the East coast vibe brings.

    Also speaking of yesterday, I don’t know if anyone mentioned the SOAM from 8/26/93 @ Schnitzer Hall in Portland. The boys had just raged it in Red Rocks a few days before and “figured SOAM out”. They came to Portland a few days later and blew the f*ing top off of it. Listen to the Fee before the SOAM in the show because at the end of Fee this nasty jam emerges and you can just tell that they are so amped to drop into SOAM.

    *Last Point* Miner you are right about the kids in SF. I have been coaching middle school lacrosse out here for the last 2 years, and not ONE of the kids I coach has ever heard of Phish!

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Dan from page 1 of comments – don’t take krazy kids komments too personal. you are thru no fault of your own a member of an age bracket which is stereotyped – but it is *correctly* stereotyped – the fact is that a big majority of under 21 fans do get obnoxiously rowdy. So don’t blame us for talking about the truth.

    However! IMO everyone regardless of age is judged by how they actually act at the event. You do not have to sit down the whole time to prove some point or something. I guarantee no one would even notice it, for one thing.

    Go. Have fun. Know your limits if you get high. When you rage, consider the people around you – are you spilling crap on them or whacking them in the head? If not, by all means rage on. This all applies regardless of age, there is no double standard.

    Basically have fun but don’t be a jackass. That’s all it is.

  3. voopa Says:

    Shoreline lawns are down to $60 on stubhub! Cheapest pavs are $74 right now…

  4. Bandito Says:

    Amsbjivein – I agree totally. I remember at Big Cypress seeing some really disturbing, violent behavior coming from some “heady” fans. It was really disappointing. I’ve cut off my hair at this point, too, and look more like a “custy” than ever, but that’s just my disguise to infiltrate the system:)

    @Mr. Completely – nice win for the Blazers last night. BRoy looked filthy!

  5. camman Says:

    i am more excited for this album then any other album thats been released while ive been around this earth. i absolutly can’t wait to hear the new stuff if its as good as Alaska and Number Line. just as much i can’t wait for your review miner!

    @completely, thats jsut dan. hes a self deporcating kid, i’m also 17, and i he seems to be my neagitive alter ego on this site 😉 hah jk

  6. camman Says:

    i also first heard phish back in summer of ’04 between 7th and 8th grades… so maybe thres hope for us younger peeps…. i knew i caught on rigth away though….

  7. Jay Says:

    Alpine will always have a warm place in my heart even though it has changed a lot since my first experiences there. I used to see the Dead there in the 80’s and there was camping on site. We always found shaded areas to camp and even camped on the adjoining golf course’s greens and had fires in the sand traps! Nothing like sleeping on groomed grass 🙂

  8. notkuroda Says:

    It’s funny the Phish picked up the “hippie” label, when I first started seeing shows there were very few “hippies” “wooks” or whatever you might label someone. But I think the east coast fans had the attitude that went along with the music: complex, hyperactive, and a little crazy
    One thing that sucks about west coast phish is how big the west really is!! When I lived in CO, if Phish didn’t play there, it was a good minimum 8 hour drive to the closest show(usually Kansas, Nebraska, AZ, etc)! That’s a plus to the east coast.
    About Red Rocks, I would not limit yourself to the top of the venue. It’s beautiful and majestic, but try to experience the sound and energy in front of the tapers section as well. Also, wind can be a HUGE factor in the picking the best spots. A steady wind can muffle the sound badly if you’re up top.
    I couldn’t get tix to RR this year, I’m feeling fortunate that I’ll be able to experience the Gorge for the first time. But I’ll say the Red Rocks experience is unlike any other in the country. It’s an antenna, that picks up the energy of the universe and creates magic. I could spend hours talking about the MAGICAL experiences I had at that place. Anyone who went to 8-6-96 or 6-10-95 can back me up. When all is clicking, it’s a cosmic experience

  9. SOAM Says:

    could give a flying fuck about “albums” give it to me live or not at all.


  10. msbjivein Says:

    @ Camman, Welcome Aboard!

    It’s good to be “Back On the Train”!

  11. notkuroda Says:

    @Jay, were you at any of the 89 Alpine shows? I remember hearing those tapes and convincing my friends that Alpine was an absolute “must go”. They were kind of pissed at me afterwards 😉

  12. notkuroda Says:

    SOAM…word. I never listen to Phish albums anymore. I’ll listen when they come out to check out the new songs but once they’ve released that material live, what’s the point?

    exception being Rift, great album

  13. camman Says:

    i live to as much live phish and i do studio phish, i just love the crispness of the sound which you dont always get through live recordings…

    @msbjivein- thanks, ive been around these parts for a while… 😉

  14. Billy Breathes Says:

    SOAM/notkuroda – Albums hold the keys to the live performances. Never downplay them…always good to throw an oldy but goody on at those unexpected times. They can be quite refreshing.

    Canman – so nice to have you back. missed you so much. you okay? did you get over all those terrible feelings you were having after the hampton shows? are you okay with phish’s music now? just making sure….you had us all very worried.

  15. nhozzz Says:

    Growing up in the east and slowly migrating to the west there is a difference but there is a difference in the people all the time not just at shows. East coast are more in your face on the move west are more mellow take it easy bro just my opinion. Also growing up on the east the opportunity to take a mini tour was much easier think of travel difference. This summer you could hit Phenway, Jones Beach, Mansfield, and Camden for a travel time of about 14 hours driving. To hit the red rocks, shoreline you are talking about 19hours if you want to see the gorge add another 16 hours. This makes it much easier to “get it” out east with the possibility to see many more show. I don’t think either is “better” but if you are in the east you have the opportunity to become much more immersed in Phish which adds to the younger crowds and more intense atmosphere

  16. Jay Says:

    After this summer, the only outdoor venue of interest that I would like to experience at least once is the Gorge. People talk about Shoreline but I just don’t get it. People used to complain it smelled like methane being built on a dump an all. Does it still? Maybe somebody here can enlighten me.

  17. camman Says:


    i totally agree about albums man, and did you hear what happened? someone ganked my name and spammed the blog… i love the hampton shows man and can’t wait to see them this summer!

    all is right with the world! its Earth Day man! i never go a day without at least 3+ hours of phish amigo

  18. Jay Says:

    @notkuroda. I was at all the alpine shows from 86 onward (until I stopped touring with them that is). Some great memories there.

  19. notkuroda Says:

    I won’t deny the importance of the album, it just doesn’t do it for me. I mean listening to a picture of nectar llama is completely different from a live llama. It’s just personal preference

  20. notkuroda Says:

    canman, when I saw those comments after hampton, I immediately posted that it was an imposter. It was just too obvious

  21. camman Says:


    thanks cause it defintely wasn’t me. i did have my hopes up a bit too high for the shows, but i definitely WASN”T disapointed, just wish i could have been there man.

    question, whats is there best studio track thus far? im gonna say either Guyute or Moma Dance

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    ahhh camping at alpine…the mud…the stolen golf carts…yes in fact in one of those years, it might have been 87, some kids did in fact stage a runaway golfcart marathon

    Phish albums benefit greatly from iTunes playlist/mixtape approach. Rift holds up well as whole album tho.

    Old School Phish mix:
    Tweezer Reprise
    My Friend, My Friend
    Split Open + Melt
    David Bowie
    The Landlady
    You Enjoy Myself
    Run Like an Antelope
    Chalkdust Torture

    New School:
    Limb by Limb
    Get Back on the Train
    Cars Trucks Buses
    Gotta Jiboo
    Moma Dance
    Mr. Completely <– phish played it once so it counts, k?
    What’s the Use?
    A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing
    First Tube

  23. camman Says:

    anyone else notcie no Guyute at Hmapton?

  24. voopa Says:

    Best studio?


    And although it’s kind of raw, I also love the studio Waves.

    And of course, Riker’s Mailbox 😛

  25. Mr.Miner Says:

    The significance of the album is that Phish will be playing new material all summer- LIVE

    Also, Trey has talked about his desire to make a truly great album- that, in itself, is exciting as anything.

    SO EXCITED that “Light” is on that list!!!

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