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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2011/03/30
by David Steinberg

Walk Across the Lawn Lawn Lawn Lawn Lawn

One of the trends that I like the least about modern fans is the insistence on only having the best seats. Sure, everyone would love to be the in the front row, but locations that would have been just fine 20 years ago now inspire fans to just stay home. Nowhere is that more obvious than with summer tour venues. Even with a discount, lawn tickets have become hated to the point where it seems like many would rather stay home than use one of those.

Sure, there are some venues where the lawn is awful due to its slope, its sound, its lack of views, or the sheer enormity of it. If we’re talking Merriweather Post Pavilion or SPAC, or Alpine Valley, I can understand the hatred of the lawn in those venues. Having said that though, there are definite advantages to the cheap seats.

The lawn is always general admission. There is always a social aspect of tour and the ability to hang with your friends easily is a good thing. Sure it’s always possible to move to different seats if you end up around some people who are talking or otherwise interfering with your enjoyment of the show, but in a general admission setting, you can start out with a group and know that the people around you will be enjoying the show in the same way that you are. I’ve moved back to the lawn more than once over the years just because it was better to be there with my friends than be closer but more annoyed.

Due to the fact that everyone wants to be up front, the other problem some days with that area is that it becomes overcrowded. Sure there are ushers who are supposed to keep people in the general area of their seats, but the social dynamic of jamband shows is more towards a general admission philosophy. Few will ask for extra people to be removed because at the next show, they might be the one who will be stubbed down. The free for all leads to the popular seats sometimes being two to three deep in people. While that can be fun for a while, frequently it’s just easier to move further back to where it’s calmer and there’s more room.

In my most extreme example, at a Dead show at R.F.K. in 1993, it got so crowded on the floor that we moved further and further back until we ended up in the upper deck straight back from the stage. We were so far away that when Bobby screamed during “Estimated Prophet,” we could see him do so on the video board a full second before the sound of the, “HA!” got to our ears. It was a weird effect, one that you wouldn’t think would be a popular place to see a show, but as soon as we arrived, we saw someone we had been hanging with on the tour, an old school Deadhead from the 70s. He looked at us and said, “You guys are learning!”

Yes, one should always try for the best seats possible and I know that no one would ever trade a lower pavilion for a lawn straight up, but some of my best times in my life have been spent on the lawn, surrounded by friends and seeing great music. Don’t get so distracted by the need for amazing seats that you can’t appreciate seeing a great band from further back. It may not be the same experience as being in the front row, but sometimes it can be better. Some of the best times of my life have been spent on the lawns of sheds all across the country. All I am saying, is give cheap seats a chance.


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 Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He occasionally posts at the blog and has a daily update on the Phish Stats Facebook page

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