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Published: 2011/02/24
by David Steinberg

Featured Column: Hiatus 3?

Tour date announcement day is usually one of excitement. The people who get local shows cheer and those who were skipped over this time lick their wounds and try to figure a way of maximizing their shows while minimizing expenses and vacation days. All was going to plan when Phish added a statement to the announcement, “Following the summer, the band has no touring plans for the remainder of the year.” Sure they just threw it on the end of the dates like it wasn’t a big deal, but that’s going to catch the attention of an obsessive fanbase.

The initial reaction was to try to parse the statement. “The band has no touring plans?” Well yeah, they’re just organizing summer tour right now. Of course they don’t have plans yet for the fall. Others tried to distinguish between a tour and a run, hoping that at least New Year’s Eve could be salvaged. However, as the day went on, the impression leaned more and more towards it meaning just what it said, rather than being some sort of trick, summer tour (well and 1/1/11) would be all that Phish would play.

One of my rules in life is that you should never get back in a relationship after two breakups. One could easily be a mistake, but after the second one, you’re liable to fall into a habit of breaking up and getting back together for more and more trivial reasons. Once something happens once, it’s easier to find reasons to do it again. Even if you don’t actually do it, it’s hard to be quite as confident in your situation. That’s what seems to be happening here. Any talk in a break of playing gets people a little antsy. Are they breaking up… again? Are we going to have to come up with a 4.0 name now?

In this case though, it probably is exactly what it says on the tin. Providing the world doesn’t end, I fully expect to be seeing Phish in 2012. Sure people can – and will (this is why message boards were invented after all) – come up with all sorts of outlandish theories as to what’s going on. People who have never met Trey in their lives will explain in detail about how they know he’s back to using drugs. Others will assume more benign reasons; maybe they’re making an album or just wanted some time off to prevent burn out. Maybe the poor ticket sales of Fall 2010 played into things. The key about speculation is to not fall into the trap of thinking that people know more than they do. I could easily come up with dozens of reasons why they’re taking a fall break, e.g. Mike is having a new kid, Trey wants to focus on this musical for a while, Jon is building a new windmill on his farm and the permitting process is going to take his full attention, they got jealous of the attention DMB is getting with this year off thing and wanted some of their own. It seems like I shouldn’t have to remind people this in the Internet era, but there are people who like to make up facts and are good enough writers to trick people. The fact that someone literally made up some dates on PT, called them, “Here’s what I think this tour could look like if I were routing it with the rumors,” and then the thing got passed around the Internet with no labeling – I was presented them at least a dozen times – proves that our skeptical skills are not up to speed with our fake reporters. Unless the person who is telling you this has a name that rhymes with Bage BicBonnell, remain skeptical.

There are two kinds of Phish fans, those who prefer summer shows and those who think Phish are best indoors. While I understand the rationale for the fall tour supporters, I have to confess that I’ve always been about the summer. With a few exceptions ultimately most basketball arenas start to look the same. When you’re seeing a show outdoors, you’re part of the environment. You get wet if a storm rolls through; sometimes even if you’re halfway down in the covered seating as happened to me in Columbus 2000. Phoenix 2003 was so hot and dry that the mist in the mist tent evaporated about 7 feet below the ground. You have the great views at the Gorge and Red Rocks, the CRACK-A-BOOM of the “Taste” in Raleigh 97; the music and the crowd are interacting with the world instead of being shut off from it. So from my perspective (and the fact that West Coast fall shows are rare and it can be a lot harder to travel starting in late fall), I’m largely fine with this decision. There are just two exceptions I’d like to see.

Being a math geek, I’ve been very amused by the concept of binary shows. A binary number is one that only has ones and zeros in it. It can be seen as a number written in base two. Phish have played 4 binary shows: 10/01/00, 10/10/10, 10/11/10, and 1/1/11. However the great big one was coming up this fall on November 11. I was looking forward to getting excited on 11/11/11 at 11:11:11 PM. That would be towards the tail end of the second set and maybe something amazing would have happened then. Alas though, it looks like the final binary show has happened as 2011 is the last year in the 21th century where that would work.

More importantly, I’m hoping the band find a way of performing a New Year’s Run. New Year’s Eve is the one day where I really feel like I should be seeing Phish. Even after I adjusted during the breakup, I got a little sad in late December when I tried to find something else to do that night. Since 1989 the only years without a New Years show either had Phish not play at all or had them announce a hiatus or a breakup halfway through the year. I could understand if the creative well were drying up, but the stunts the last two years have been especially inspired, which of course makes it even harder to go to the Tractor Tavern and see McTuff or something.

Even if there is a sudden inspiration to do a show to ring out 2011, the lack of fall tour means that people are going to be scrambling to see more outdoor shows. The one thing I beg of management is to not delay in announcing the second leg (and the alleged Watkins Glen festival, implied heavily by the fact that there will be more summer announcements… plural). I’m trying to figure out how to maximize my shows given my vacation days, and I need to know the entire tour schedule before I can make plans. I understand that sometimes earlier plans get finalized before later ones and festivals are more complex than normal shows, but it’s hard not to come up with conspiracy theories that have the festival/second leg announced later in order to get people to buy more tickets for the first leg. If that is the case, that’s a great short-term strategy but it will backfire in the long run. You can only do that a few times before people get annoyed and delay buying tickets in general or just get frustrated to the point where they walk away. Obviously I’m way too addicted to ever claim that I can do that, but others are starting to drop off a bit. So if this is a game, please stop. We have plans to make here. There’s going to be a summer Phish tour! Even with the bad news about fall tour, that’s something to get excited about.

*****

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 http://www.ihoz.com/PhishStats.html and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He occasionally posts at the Phish.net blog and has a daily update on the Phish Stats Facebook page

Comments

There are 18 comments associated with this post

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Me March 3, 2011, 18:51:33

While I would love to know all dates… people need to relax… Believe me, I understand the power of Phish… but take a step back and realize we’re talking entertainment and, like myself, 4 guys in their 40s (quickly closing in on 50)... and I can tell you that after my three mini tours this past year, each time I felt those days and had an aching neck from the “jam bob”... these guys are at every show, they gotta feel it… we’d all love to turn the clock back and be in our mid-twenties… but it is what it is… and in the end, you will find yourself in front of the stage again… Relax, the world will spin…

D-Hause March 1, 2011, 17:02:39

Editors of Jambands…it might be time to change the name of the website to Phishandotherbandsthatwedon’tcareabout.com. I mean seriously, a 1300 word column about about a hypothetical question about another hiatus? Its crazy the amount of Phish content you choose to run while ignoring so much other great music news out there. Phish and the Dead, Phish and Philly. Phish and a Philly cheesesteak…enough already. They aren’t even on tour right now!!!! Its starting to be pathetic. Where’s a full JamCruise review? Or how about sending someone to review Panic’s 25th anniversary shows. Its no wonder Jambase has been kicking your ass for years now.

skeptical March 2, 2011, 12:14:49

phish is no longer a “live” band. they are now officially just a nostalgia cover band of themselves. what made them great were their lengthy winter spring summer fall tours. if they are only go to play 30 (?) shows in 2011, they are not a “live” act and not compelling to see more than once a year. just my opinion.

blair February 27, 2011, 14:39:32

I really appreciate what you have to say. When you started stating with Phish may or may not be playing for the rest of the year you allowed to under and be ok with it because there people to and they deserve to live how they want and need to live take care what they need to. It’s a beautiful thing they give us and I think that everyone there should be thankful for what we get and should and help one another get into the show so that rather then being upset upset over a skip out on Fall tour we are get are fill this summer and don’t worry and until time. Keep it touch!! Keep the times rolling!! I have a feeling you know what I mean. Oh and also I would of really really loved to see a 11/11/11 show @ 11:11 PM…now that is magic ;)

Frinkazoid February 28, 2011, 17:07:10

I agree that they are just pacing themselves…no need to get the ol’ panties in a twist about a autumnless tour. They probably need some time to enjoy their families and decompress every once in a while. That being said, what the fuck am I gonna do with all this free time coming? Guess I’ll have to go back to being obsessed with Umphrey’s…

David February 25, 2011, 08:54:31

Nice article, of course being British I can only dream about some more Euro Phish dates

myclampdx February 25, 2011, 16:04:47

I remember back in 1993, they didn’t play between Summer and the NYE run. Of course, they had done a huge Spring tour prior and deserved a break from the road while recording Hoist. I think this is just 4 guys, 18 years older, pacing themselves. I think it is important to them to still be creating new music, so if 6 months off the road yields a fine new album, it is time well invested in Phish. They’ll probably still do a NYE run, then step up the touring in 2012 when the album is hitting.

zzyzx February 25, 2011, 10:01:42

GmG – Most of the sell outs were well after day of sale though and there were tons of tickets available for face or lower. Factor in the venue sizes (much smaller than where Phish were playing) and that could be a worrisome trend for the band/management. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how well leg 1 sells.

PhingerLakinGoodY'all February 25, 2011, 10:21:29

great piece David. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I completely agree, if Live Nation cont’s to pull these ticket marketing maneuvers (w/in their right), they are going to eventually lose phans who, unfortunately, buy tix through PTBM. and Barry, the Glen racing schedule really only allows for the June 30-July 3 weekend.
And Yes, The Glen is a full-Green/White Checkered Flag Go! boogity-boogity phans!

Ian February 25, 2011, 10:25:29

The Watkins Glen rumors started when a major race on 4th of July weekend was canceled.

Todd February 25, 2011, 13:26:39

Great post.
I completely agree that if there is no fall shows, dont delay announcing all the dates. They wont hit the same places twice and if leg II is a mid-west and west coast swing, it only helps us be able to plan what works best for us working class people

Jeff February 25, 2011, 14:00:16

Provided that there are external forces (i.e. family, commitments, studio time, side projects) at play, i am SO O.K. with taking a tour off once in a while. In fact when they “broke up” I remember wishing they had figured out this balance earlier. I think it’s a courtesy to let people know so they can at least catch them a couple times, and not wait for the indoor shows. That being said….already got my RV…see you suckas at Watkins Glen.

Uberchef February 25, 2011, 16:08:52

Did anyone think they just want to record a new record…possibly their best one EVER...now that they are firing on all cylinders?

GmG February 24, 2011, 21:06:47

Nice article, expect that all but two shows in the fall tour were sold out, and those two shows were above 90% capacity.

Barry February 24, 2011, 21:28:27

If there is a festival at Watkins Glen, does it necessarily have to take place on July 4th weekend? I wonder if that’s going to happen on that actual weekend. Usually Phish festivals are end-of-tour affairs (except Oswego). So if you look at the current dates you’ll notice that there is only one week between the current final date (June 19th) and the July 4th weekend. So if they decide to add more shows, I suppose they will have to either cram them in the final June week, or move the festival to another date. If there will be another leg in July or August, most likely the festival will be at the very end of that.

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