Considering A Smaller Fall

Telluride - 8.9.10 (G.Lucas)

While no official statement has been made regarding the considerably smaller venues comprising fall tour, different theories have surfaced to explain the change. There has been an unquestionable decrease in demand for Phish tickets, especially since they have been playing so many shows. But I think the move has less to do with creating ticket hype or building a younger fan base than it does with the band’s current state of mind. Regardless of anything, Phish could still sell out east coast arenas in their sleep, but for some reason they are choosing a different route. Returning to mid-sized venues throughout this fall, Phish will travel back to the environments where their creativity once soared and launched them into the national music scene to stay.

New Year's Eve 1995

Between 1993 and 1995, Phish made the climb from theatres to arenas, capping ’95 in triumphant fashion by announcing their ultimate arrival with a New Year’s Eve blowout at Madison Square Garden. But that famous show at the Garden was a culmination of so much more. Representing a victory for creativity over conformation and for grass-roots over the industry path, New Year’s ’95 brought the spoils of Phish’s arduous, 12-year, career which spiked between 1993 and 1995: an era many fans still view as the band’s best. Playing far more shows per year than they would after 1995, Phish earned their wings as a touring act, spending much of the calendar on the road to small towns and cities alike. And over this three-year period, the size of venues continued to bulge: from clubs to theatres to college gymnasiums and mid-sized venues to full-on arenas. But this fall, Phish is taking a step back in this pattern, returning to rooms ranging from 6000 seats to 14,000. Gone are the glistening palaces of the NBA and NHL arenas, and back are the gritty, mid-range rooms and minor-league arenas.

But the question remains – why?

8.9.10 (G.Lucas)

With the ability to make exponentially more money playing the largest arenas tour, there is clearly more behind this move than meets the eye. Phish is opting to play rooms slightly smaller than their market demands, shutting some people out but creating a fundamentally better concert experience for the band and audience alike. With general admission floors at every fall stop and half the shows totally GA, the feel of Phish shows will be one of old – and that in my opinion, is the purpose. Riding the crest of a breakthrough summer, Phish is ready to dive deep int0 the pools of reinvention, and what better place to do that than in the environs in which they caught fire the first time.

There will be a different energy in the smaller shows of fall, where even the biggest venue still pulls up thousands shy of the standard NBA shack. In fall’s more intimate environment, the exchange of energy between the band and crowd will take on a more personal and more intense nature. With fewer tickets available for Northeast shows, there will be fewer people attending on whims or casual interest. Put fewer fans in smaller rooms and the vibe becomes instantly more focused and electric. In 14 free-for-all floor scenes of fall, gone will be the 20-something ushers keeping people in their seats and the omnipresent security guards of summer. In these smaller and inherently more laid-back rooms, everyone will tangibly feel the difference. By shrinking their venues, Phish is intentionally creating combustible environments.

12.29.09 (W.Rogell)

Through the years building to their first peak in ’95, Phish shows were defined by an intimate electricity that was lost when the band made the permanent leap to large arenas in 1996. With the palpable energy that filled the smaller rooms of yesteryear, Phish pushed their music through several torrid improvisational phases in 1993, 1994 and 1995. When Phish moved into the college and minor-league arenas of 1994, the rooms most resembling the venues of this coming fall, their music delved deeper than ever and jams were transformed into mysterious voyages into the unknown. A youthful exuberance drove their musical creativity and risk taking overflowed nightly – not such a different dynamic than in August. By no means comparing the music of these eras, the band’s modern approach, however, has taken a distinctly retro feel. Gaining musical momentum throughout June and August, Phish, perhaps, feels their creativity blossoming once again and they are ready to take on the experimentation that comes with reinvention. Maybe this time around is about getting back to place that they had permanently lost with the collapse of The Grateful Dead. Today, with Dave Matthews and plenty of other “jam bands” drawing young bohemian seekers, Phish just may be able to recreate the feeling they forgot over the late’90s and post-hiatus. With another peak musical era emerging, the band is returning to the type of rooms that hosted their original ascent.

While I have no inside information about the intent in planning this tour, it follows common logic that the band is making a conscious decision to alter the fabric of the Phish experience this fall. For whatever reasons, Phish is harnessing 1.21 jiggawatts and sending us all back to the future next month. With no plotted course and the collective imagination teeming, fall tour is bound to be something special. When Phish came back, we didn’t know what form they’d take but understood that the return, itself, was the ultimate blessing. As the band prepares to embark on an unprecedented fall tour, the line they sang at their Hampton reunion has never seemed so appropriate as it does now: “The only rule is it begins…”


Jam of the Day:

Light > 46 Days” 8.18.10 II

In their last set of tour, Phish threw down one more shining “Light,” their unquestionable anthem of summer. Merging with “46 Days”  again, Phish strengthened the modern song pairing




4.16.1994 Mullins Center, Amherst, MA < Torrent

4.16.1994 Mullins Center, Amherst, MA < Megaupload

4.16.1994 - Amherst, M

This is Phish’s first visit to Mullins Center at UMASS in 1994, a college-based venue hosting a two-night stand sixteen years later in Fall 2010.

I: Runaway Jim, Fee, Axilla (Part II)*, Rift, Stash, Fluffhead, Nellie Kane, Run Like an Antelope

II: Sample in a Jar, Poor Heart, Tweezer > The Lizards, Julius, Bouncing Around the Room, You Enjoy Myself > The Vibration of Life > You Enjoy Myself, The Squirming Coil, Tweezer Reprise

E: Fire

Source: AKG460b/ck61 (FOB-17th Row Ctr) > DAT (Teac DA-P20

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788 Responses to “Considering A Smaller Fall”

  1. beepaphone Says:

    I don’t know why I said “but” and not “and”

  2. beepaphone Says:

    Comes with the territory. I guess he felt he needed to develop more of a schtick, and honestly, it probably payed off in the end for him. Not to mention the scores, many uber talented, of loopers he spawned.

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    oh sure I understood the process. it made sense while he was doing it. when I think about it, I can’t separate it from the fact that in ’99 was when his crowd became fully overrun by the Cheese People so the shows got bigger and cornier. KW already drew the hotties so there was no benefit there. And then he needed a way to make the Cheese People dance…

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    damn this Doin’ That Rag is excellent too

    some of his covers work much better than others

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    it certainly paid off for him, no doubt

    he was playing to crowds of 5 to at most 100 people the first several times I saw him….

    holy shit my old mix of his Dead stuff is in CDDB, that’s hilarious! no way! too much.

  6. beepaphone Says:

    If Keller just wanted the SCI crowd to dance he could have thrown them bags of Mahl and hoola hoops.

    But thats never good for PR. Ask this guy.

    Sorry had to do it.

  7. beepaphone Says:

    blasted invalid link. night, bb.

  8. Mitch Says:

    “only problem is I’m starting to torrent in my dreams…”

    ^perfect for me to read right now. Just woke up from the lamest nightmare in history. I had to run forever for the poster line. Get my poster and it starts raining. I yell at Robear to grab a tube but they are tearing down. To pay or not to pay. Give back the poster before it’s soggy or find a tube and keep it. They end up packing. I never had to pay but now I’m battling to keep them dry.

    I wome up and even I was ashamed at that lame ass dream. That’s what I get for looking at the coral sky DVD on drygoods before bed.

  9. Diron Baker Says:

    I like your theory and I like your article. I especially liked your take on what the 1995 shows in MSG meant. You are exactly right… I was there. (In fact, after a ticket mix up, I spoke with Shelly personally over the phone to work out the problem… those days are long gone for sure- seeing tickets on StubHub for 3,000 for this year’s Halloween)

    But as much as the MSG 1995 show was a culmination of a backyard band making it big
    (as you so eloquently convey), I would argue that the Island tour was the true pinnacle of Phish, pre-hiatus.
    There was basically an impromptu announcement that the band needed a few live shows to work the kinks out of some new material. Immediately, followers filled nothing less than Nassau Coliseum (18,000) and The Civic Center in Providence (14,500).
    And I think we both can agree, no matter which jam segues you prefer, those shows are oozing with inspiration and creativity.
    From the Roses> Piper> Loving Cup that inspires pandemonium at Nassau to the funkiest of funk in P-Town: Maze > Oblivious Fool > Possum > Cavern (which I was front row center for), these shows are all that Phish ever was to me.

    But then, I really don’t think there was ever a pinnacle or climax of creativity from the 12/31/02 to 8/15/04 stretch.
    In fact, I am completely uninspired by any of that music. Sure there was the “bust outs” like Alumni and Destiny, but overall, Phish 2.0 reminds me more of Homer Simpson sleeping (drooling on himself) than of the Phish I know and love.
    BUT, I can draw one comparison from that return to today’s Phish 3.0… the second time around they were together for a year and 8 months. By the end of this “small venue” run, Phish will have been back for a year and 8 months.

    So, why the small venues? I won’t go into the idea of someone’s (or the bands collective) ego not being able to handle not selling out in the Northeast… even if it is a terrible economy.
    In fact, just as you, I believe its time to find that creativity from yester-year, and maybe these small venues will allow for that, as you so optimistically suggest.
    (Though I doubt there will be those rough edges of budding stardom with a polished act and a refined light show of today.)
    I do share the hope that the can find inspiration within a song, taking it to exploratory new places that yield the future gems that only flourish over the years.
    Believe me, I think that’s EXACTLY what this is about. But, there is another side of the argument you haven’t presented… the other side of the coin that none of us ever want to face again…. as my grandfather used to say- its time to piss or get off the pot.

    While I’ll admit my biggest fear is that a clean and sober Trey cant find inspiration,
    I will venture a guess that 3.0 has taken the adult mindset of constantly re-evaluating themselves,
    and have agreed that if it doesn’t work out, they won’t draw something out that limits creativity on other fronts.

    So my best guess is, they either find it now… or call it quits… again.

    I guess we’ll see.

  10. Saxscraper Says:

    So, if someone doesn’t agree with what you say you don’t allow the comment. Weak sauce, Miner…..

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ actually, no. I moderate childish arguments that focus on the author rather than the content. Especially when these people use false emails as to not be held accountable for their posts. Try again son.

  12. Diron Baker Says:

    ^^ In fact… I can attest first hand that he posts stuff from people that completely disagree with him! (Greek v. Telluride!) I think its alot like Jim Rome’s forum (not that I like Jim Rome)… have a take, don’t suck! Bring it stong!
    Minor- any thoughts on the above? Not trying to be Debbie Downer… i just remember a flubbed saying by a certain ex-president that actually goes: Fool me once- shame on you; fool me twice- shame on me!

  13. Diron Baker Says:

    my 1995 NYE T-shirt and Halloween 1995 too… is for sale …on eBay …right now!!!!

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