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

Tags: ,

211 Responses to “East and West”

  1. Mr.Miner Says:

    best studio track , hands down, IMO, is the “Antelope” from Lawn Boy. BY FAR!

  2. notkuroda Says:

    I’ll agree on the Reba. It’s the song that made me NEED to see phish live!

  3. snigglebeach Says:

    What are the west coast traffic jams like if u don’t get there 4 hours early??

    Nothing worse than trying to pull into a show after 6 in the east coast. Always a disaster.

    You West Coaster’s with your red lights on the freeway entrances, and everyone waits there turn at 4-way stops. (if u drive a Volvo, no point in me waiting for u to go) But i bet everyone pulls into the lot in an orderly fashion.

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    oh and Phish fans arent’ the only ones getting screwed by bad online ticket sales. After last night’s gutty win, tickets went on sale for Game 5 of the Blazers-Rockets playoff series today. The stated onsale time was 10am but when I went a little early I found that apparently they were allowing people to get in a “server queue” much earlier than that – I got totally shut out – sound familiar?

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    The Antelope studio cut reminds me a lot of the studio version of Playin’ in the Band that’s on Bob’s solo album Ace – but it is actually a full band GD performance. In both cases the studio version actually captures lightning in a bottle and has the intense feel of a live performance.

  6. Pence Says:

    going based off videos, Japanese outdoor festivals look like a blast. Everybody seemed really laid back. If thats what you’re into. I wonder when they may be planning some international shows…I hope they keep it here(in the US) for a while.

  7. Twiggy Says:

    What’s The Use from the Siket Disk is up there for me as far as studio. Love it.

  8. msbjivein Says:

    Speaking of Lawn Boy. Best album cover ever!!!LOL!

  9. Dr SF Jones Says:

    I happen to think that Billy Breathes is a perfectly constructed album from start to finish. I can listen to that any time.
    I was kind of surprised to read that Trey doesn’t think they have made a “great” album yet. Can’t wait to hear what they come up with.

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Twiggy some What’s The Use love!!!! awesome

    it sounds like the death of the universe or falling into a black hole or something

  11. VTsnowboarder802 Says:

    I was indoctrinated on the albums: junta, rift, lawnboy. Once i found out about live tapes, i mostly swore off albums. I’m not sure i own any post-hoist albums…
    Well a summer or two ago my car was ripped off, and the only thing left was rift that by random chance was in the deck at the time. I rolled around listening to that for months, and re-realized how great of an album it is.
    Point being, yes SOAM live is where it’s at, but go back and listen to rift and be surprised at how great of an album it is.

  12. ma Says:

    mr. miner,

    is the shoreline -steal your face reference in the picture accurate? i’ve seen man shows there and either never heard of it or never thought of it.
    enjoy the day!

  13. ma Says:

    sorry, many

  14. Billy Breathes Says:

    Yes, Billy Breathes is indeed a gloriously constructed and executed album. 🙂

  15. Pence Says:

    does the skiet Whats the use have lyrics. Ive heard a studio version of it with lyrics….”Whats the use of going fast, if your not in a race”

  16. Bandito Says:

    What’s The Use is the shit. First time I heard it live at the Gorge I thought Mike might cause an earthquake or just rip a whole in the earth or something. Huge, booming, droning bass! Good stuff.

  17. Pence Says:

    siket that is

  18. Twiggy Says:

    @VT, check out Miner’s write up on Rift a few months back. made me reappreciate that album and now I love it even more than ever.

  19. Twiggy Says:

    That’s the version with the lyrics. Mind melting!

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    @ma – I did hear that back when The Dump first opened, I was there for the first Dead shows in the venue, and it’s plausible at least when you see the overhead. Certainly Bill G explicitly built it to be a new home shed for the Dead who had outgrown the local venues. Of course deadheads hated it with a passion for a few years as it suffered in comparison with the Greek and the Frost Ampitheater.

    A friend of mine named that pavilion tent there the “horns of the dilemma” after the lyric in Victim or the Crime – after the staggeringly incredible Scarlet > Victim > Fire in ’91 – the name has stuck with me thru the years

  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    “is the shoreline -steal your face reference in the picture accurate? i’ve seen man shows there and either never heard of it or never thought of it.
    enjoy the day!”

    ^^ of course!! That’s why they built it like that- for the overhead view…can you not see it?? The lawn in the top of the skull, and thsoe white square buildings behind the stage are the teeth….getting it?

  22. Dr SF Jones Says:

    I recently went back and listened to A Picture Of Nectar. That is awesome too.
    Billy Breathes came out during a time in my life when I really needed it. I had just finished working a very depressing winter and freezing my ass off as a lifty at Okemo Mt in Vermont and moved to Vegas for the polar opposite in temperature (among other things…) It was like that album helped to breathe the life back into me. Fucking Theme from the Bottom….
    I do suggest flipping the insert page so that the picture of Marley is the cover instead of the shot of Mike’s nostrils staring back at you.

    my favorite studio album.


  23. Mr.Miner Says:

    “What’s the Use,” though on Siket, is an outtake from a studio jam- so technically, its not a “studio” composition

  24. ma Says:

    i see it , i see it

  25. Hooks Says:

    phish being an unreal live band certainly doesn’t limit their potential in the studio. it’s just two different kinds of playing, obviously being known for one way over the other. they can still make their mark on record on top of what they already have. album version: Esther

Leave a Reply