While some fans are willing to travel to the end of the earth to see Phish – from Copenhagen to Tokyo and Telluride to Prague – many simply can’t make these treks due to life circumstances and responsibilities. As Phish 3.0’s second year begins to unfold, Phish fans on the west coast are still left wondering why the band refuses to come their way, playing virtually no shows on the west coast and southwest since their return. While west coast swings used to be hallowed summer traditions, providing the most gorgeous drives of the tour, the band’s overwhelming focus on the eastern seaboard has left many Phish-less fans on the left coast out in cold.
Using this summer as an example, the only shows west of the Rocky Mountains are the three at The Greek, and everyone knows how hard those tickets have been to come by. Last summer, Phish graced the west coast for exactly the same amount of shows – one at Shoreline and two at The Gorge – and then returned for Festival 8, for a grand total of 6 out of 50 shows. While Phish hails from the east coast and have a concentration of fans, friends, and families there, they have seemingly forgot how many people long for them to come westward. Or maybe they just don’t care.
In Phish’s previous eras, the west coast always comprised an integral part of the summer circuit. Some of the venues changed and others stayed the same, but west coast Phish always provided one of the best segments of tour with notably laid-back atmospheres, less crowds, and stellar weather. A far cry from the overrun amphitheatres of the east, Phish’s music adjusted to the calmer settings, often taking a different direction than east coast jams. Thus far in this era, however, unless a west coast fan lives in the Bay Area, outside LA, or in rural Washington, they haven’t even been able make a reasonable drive to a Phish show.
Phish’s current family-based touring model must play a role in their lack of desire to travel far for shows. Only selecting the most choice venues, west coast shows are now reserved for “special events,” neglecting many fans across the region. With limited vacation days, a less-than-ideal economy, and more mature responsibilities, many core Phish fans can’t just drop things and fly across the country for a week; it’s no longer as feasible as it was ten years ago. Just as the band has changed and matured, so has their primary fan base, and one would think their routing would reflect this understanding.
Throughout the modern era of Phish, the band has chosen venues and tour schedules according to their own desires, leaving fans to figure out ways to navigate smaller shows and harder tickets. In this golden age of their career, it seems that Phish will do what makes them happiest without caring about ease of access to shows or tickets, and they have certainly earned that right. Unfortunately, the lack of west coast shows fits right into this pattern, like it or not.
With an over-saturation of east coast gigs this summer, sixteen shows have, ironically, yet to sell out. Staple venues like Deer Creek, SPAC, Walnut Creek and Camden still have tickets on sale. Other shows with stubs still up for grabs include both Hartford dates, Charlotte, Blossom, and Chicago. And the reasoning is hardly a mystery. Without an expanding fan base at this point, Phish, largely, has a “set” number of fans who want to see them play. With so many opportunities within short drives for most fans on the east coast, many of these shows are not selling out because people are picking and choosing what shows to hit. With an aging demographic and no younger generation to fill in the holes, less Phish fans than ever are doing the entire tour – or even extended runs. With most fans seeing less shows in total, more tickets are left available.
Logic would have it that less shows in one area would cause them all to sell out, but by scheduling multiple two-night stands within a couple hours of each other every weekend, most fans don’t have the capacity – or need – to hit each one. I don’t think that there are less people trying to see Phish, but the same number are spread out over 16 eastern shows. If Phish cut that number to 10, I bet most tickets would be gone. We can theorize all day, but when it comes down to it, I don’t think Phish or Red Light much cares what we think. Phish paid their dues, playing every village, town, and city throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and this is their time to schedule their lives out of convenience, not necessity. They have their fans, they have their money, why do they need to play where they don’t want to play? I can certainly see their side of the coin.
Though Phish will only play three west coast shows this summer, rumors have started to swirl about a Fall run down the coast. I don’t have specifics, but we shall see. Murmurs of Indio being rescheduled for Halloween weekend have also surfaced, potentially coinciding with such a western swing. With west cost weather holding strong through the autumn months, an eventful run could be in the works; one can only hope. West coast Phish not only offers locals a chance to see shows without boarding a plane, it also provides a totally diverse live experience for those fans traveling from other parts of the country, balancing the clusterfucks of the east.
Hopefully, Phish will escape from the vortex of Verizon Wireless venues of the east, and figure out a way to unveil more western dates before the year is up; but without any real incentive, west coasters shouldn’t hold their breaths. For the time being, west coast fans will have to live with quality over quantity, as some of last year’s most stellar shows took place at The Gorge and Red Rocks, and this summer the band will hit up the Greek and Telluride. (Though let’s not pretend that Colorado is a west coast state.) With their roots firmly planted on the east coast, it remains to be seen how geographically diverse modern tours will become. But for now, west coasters, score those Greek tickets, keep your luggage accessible, and save those frequent flier miles, because who knows when Phish will be back on the left coast.
Jam of the Day:
The highlight of today’s Download of the Day.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
7.24.98 Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands, TX SBD < Megaupload
A dark-horse show from outside of Houston, along the Texas run of Summer ’98.
I: The Moma Dance, Runaway Jim, Bouncing Around the Room, Stash, My Soul, Taste, Golgi Apparatus, Loving Cup
II: Wolfman’s Brother > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Scent of a Mule > Ha Ha Ha > Scent of a Mule, Slave to the Traffic Light, Chalk Dust Torture
E: Character Zero