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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2003/09/27
by David Steinberg

Fever Shed

On my flight out to Providence for Weekapaug II – This Time It’s
Humorous [1], I was reading Nick Hornby’s book Fever Pitch.
My soccer fanatic friend Jim has been talking it up forever so I figured
it would be a cool read. That it was. While it helped that I knew
enough about the British football system and the sport itself – the
author assumes that anyone who would be reading the book would know
the offsides rule and how promotion works – the fact is that, much
like any character in a Hornby book, the book wasn’t about his
obsession with all things Arsenal. It was about us.
"It’s in there all the time, looking for a way out," the book starts.
That more than anything sums up the nature of obsession. His story
is about how being asked about his plans for his week led to thinking
about meeting a friend who has an Arsenal video that includes clips
of some recent games and HOW ABOUT THAT GOAL?!?!!? That’s pretty
much my life right there, as sad as that is. It’s not just the
obvious things like friends getting married in Weekapaug. It’s not
even that I know people’s birthdays based on the shows that I saw on
that day [2]. It’s that I don’t have stories that don’t start or end
up on tour.
Mention New York and I don’t think of the Statue of Liberty or even
the World Trade Center, I think of the Roseland (Vida Blue NYE 01!!)
and Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden. Philadelphia
brings to mind the time I nearly got shut out of a Dead show in 92 in
the freezing rain before someone handed me a fake ticket that was
good enough to get me in. It’s awfully sad when I hang out with my
friends who don’t even like these bands. I try so hard to not bring
them up but somehow the new mailorder or the great version of Rock and
Roll at It ends up being the subject of long monologues. Let’s not
even mention the fact that I’m going to be visiting my parents for
Thanksgiving – not because I want to see them on the holiday – but
rather because there’s a northeast Phish run right afterwards and it
makes sense to visit them as long as I’ll be there anyway.
While I’m not convinced that _Fever Pitch _ will convince anyone
who doesn’t like soccer to go watch the game – he doesn’t seem to
enjoy most of the actual games that he goes to – it’s interesting to
read an account of obsession. When reading about others doing
something similar, behavior that we do is made more apparent:
I am aware, sometimes, in my group of Arsenal-supporting friends, of
an understated but noticeable jockeying: none of us likes to be told
something about the club that we didn’t know – an injury to one of
the reserves, say, or an impending alteration to the shirt design,
something crucial like that – by any of the others.
If you read the Phantasy Tour message boards, you’ll see this
behavior in action. Whenever a new rumor is starting (no Phish in
2003, Phish will play a NYE run, etc.), you see people jockeying for
position so they can be the first one to tell the board the news.
There’s nothing more amusing than seeing someone post a three week old
rumor with an air of breathless excitement as though they’re proving
that they really are a Phish insider and in the know. I’d like to
pretend that I am somehow above this all and would never do such a
thing, but when the dates were posted, I found myself rushing to
forward the link to some friends so that I could be the person
to tell them that instead of someone else.
Near the end of the book, Hornby gives his seven elements that would
make a perfect soccer game. I’m not going to list them here (buy the
book if you’re curious), but I figured I could do the same. What
would be seven elements that would make the perfect Phish show?
(1) One or two long jams. You need to have some moments of
improvisational goodies to make the show. No matter how good the
setlist is, it’s not quite the same if there isn’t an inspired jam.
(2) One to three but no MORE bustouts/wacky covers. The breakouts
get the juice flowing and bring out a lot more excitement for people.
However a show with a lot of breakouts – such as Pittsburgh – can
suffer because the songs won’t be as well rehearsed as the songs that
are in rotation.
(3) A moment of silliness or banter that would never happen at any
other show. Good examples of this are the Dust in the Wind from
Alpine Valley this summer, the Chalk Dust Torture reprise from the
encore of 7/11/00, the mockery of Fishman in Star Lake’s Harpua, and
the Audience Jam part of 5/21/94 [4].
(4) An encore that’s not a ballad. This isn’t for me. I’m an old
Deadhead so I love ballads for encores. However, it ruins the vibe a
bit to be walking out of the show and hear constant complaints about
the encore selection.
(5) There should be at least one non musical memory. Examples of this
would be the double rainbow I saw on my drive to the 1994 Santa Fe
show, the insane rainstorms of 8/20/93 and 6/14/00 storm, and meeting
an old high school friend (and my date for my senior prom) in 1992 at
a Dead show in DC, long after I had lost touch with her.
(6) The show should be on some sort of special occasion. New Years,
Halloween, 20th Anniversaries don’t just add a little bit of spice to
the occasion, but they also make for harder tickets. When you’ve
worked hard to get into the show, the concert seems to be more of a
(7) A good Shakedown outside the venue. This is a combination of a
few things. Security has to be lax in terms of allowing vending, but
the crowd has to not use that as an excuse to sell pharmies and
balloons – if for no other reason than that a really sketchy Shakedown
drives away the more interesting vending. Ideally, I would find two
or three stickers to buy, maybe a t-shirt, and at least one
interesting food option for post show (e.g. the Lentil Soup in
Asheville SCI 2001, the vegan sloppy joe in Columbus 2000, or the
curried Indian vegetables in Charlotte this summer).
(If you’re curious, just falling outside of the top seven are lack of
traffic (although epic festival traffic can sometimes fall under
non-musical memories) and being at an indoor general admission venue
(such as Greensboro or Hampton or Vegas). )
So has any show had all 7? I can’t think of one off hand. Cypress
didn’t have any encore. Vegas 2000 didn’t have a long jam of note.
Red Rocks 93 didn’t have a Shakedown. Perhaps the one that came
closest is the 1994 Glens Falls Halloween show, but it’s not quite
there. It’s ok though. Boston and Miami both have shots after all.
Maybe they’ll be the perfect show. Until then I’ll keep thinking,
arguing, and speculating about this. After all, thinking about Phish
is what I do best.
[1] Aka Woody and Kitty’s wedding
[2] Annette is born on Red Rocks Day, Melissa gets the Guy Forget
birthday, but George is the luckiest of all because every time I think
of his birthday, I’m reminded of the amazing show the Dead played on
September 19, 1990 at Madison Square Garden. [3]
[3] Set 1: Jack Straw, Bertha, Me & My Uncle> Big River, Roses,
Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again, Help on the Way>
Slipknot!> Franklin’s Tower [5]
Set 2: Playin> Ship Of Fools> Playin> Uncle John> Let It Grow> Jam>
Drumz> GDTRFB> Stella Blue> Around
E: Mighty Quinn
[4] This was a little segment where the band decided to give us a
chance to "play" for them since they’ve been playing for us all night.
After Trey counted us out ("1-2-3-4"), random cheers were done, with
clapping for the drum beat. When we finished, Fishman was shocked
because we never play that one anymore. Thanks to the Mockingbird
Foundation for inspiring me to get out my beat up copy of that show to
transcribe this for the next edition of The Phish Companion.
[5] With an AMAZING Jerry riff at the end of the song that gets me up
and running every time I hear it. Bee bee BEE BEE, Bee bee BEE BEE...
oh wait, 3 steps from George’s birthday to a great Jerry riff. It is
always in there.
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New
Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live
music at the Capitol Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His
Phish stats website is at
He is the stats section editor for
The Phish Companion and is on the board of directors for the Netspace Foundation. You can read more of his thoughts at

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