Proof That Phish Has the World's Most Dedicated Fans
1. They Come From Everywhere
Phish's following will literally follow the band anywhere. Many in attendance over the weekend at Dick's Sporting Goods Park flew in from all over the country. Some fans drove from Massachusetts and Vermont, in some cases without tickets, hoping to score some in the parking lot. Many fans used to follow Phish in the nineties and camp out, and now they are flying in and staying at hotels. We met people from all over the country. There seemed to be more non-locals than locals, especially in the Shakedown Street market/tailgating area outside the venue.
2. Poster Prices
We spoke to a trio of people who had flown in from different parts of the country to meet up with each other and see the show. One was staying at a hotel, the other two in a tent. They had become great friends through a site, Cash or Trade, that trades Phish tickets and through Phish shows.
Forty-six year old Jim Kelley, who has been to over 200 shows, was wearing a baseball hat full of various Phish pins. Back in the year 2000, he says, he was talking to a guy who was collecting Phish posters and was only missing two. Jim had one of them, a poster from a 1998 Chicago show. The man offered Jim $5,000 dollars for it, saying he saw the poster sell on Ebay for that price.
"I didn't feel comfortable getting $5,000 for a piece of paper," he says. Jim told the guy he paid $35 for it, so the guy offered him $3500. "He told me that I would get a visit the next day." The next day a man drove across several states to Jim's Knoxville, Tennessee door with a money order and a box with padding.
There was a group of fans sitting with their backs leant against the stage inside Dick's. They were the first to file into the venue. Some fans explained that that group does that at almost every Phish show. "They have been waiting outside since eight this morning. Sometimes after a show finishes, they will go directly back in line and start waiting for the next day's show." The same stage leaners were waiting outside all day last New Years Eve at Madison Square Garden in New York City on a very cold night.
Occasionally, someone would try to cut into the leaners' line. "Keep moving," they said, politely but without a smile.
"It's a lot like Pokemon cards in a way," says twenty-six year old Nick Salgo who flew in from Queens, New York. "It becomes like a game for people," he said of those leaning against the stage. "You've also just gotta collect stuff: venues, tee shirts, posters, pins. Any number of things that you can mark off your list."
4. Collect Them All
Century Butterfly sells pins for Phish fans through her company, which is also called Century Butterfly. She had a booth in Shakedown selling pins ranging from ten dollars a piece to a hundred. "The Homer one has been really popular here," she says while pointing to a pin of Homer Simpson wearing a Phish shirt. Then she pointed to a pin that read "Phish."
"All the 'no-no's' sold out. It's called a 'no-no' because it says the word Phish in it, and that's a 'no-no' to do that. Any of the 'no-no's' are really popular." Also popular was a one hundred dollar four piece set of pins made by Mark Serlo.
Not all the pins are Phish-related. Marijuana, Grateful Dead, and Hunter S. Thompson pins also did well. "Some sell out before they are even released," says Century. "People get really into collecting."
5. Analyzing The Band
Fans also really get into analyzing everything that Phish does. On Friday night, the members of Phish spelled out a song that they rarely play anymore. The crowd picked up on the cue and got excited, but the band didn't play it.
Still, fans tried to figure out the meaning behind it. One suggested that it was a clever play on the venue, a "dick move" by the group. Jim Kelley told me he always wears a shirt bearing the name of a song Phish rarely plays anymore. "I was always in the front and they saw me with it," he says. The one time he didn't wear it, he says, they played the song. He suggested it was on purpose.
A lot of concertgoers were sporting shirts that had the trademark Phish shape but instead of Phish, they said Dick's. People have been collecting these shirts in honor of the Denver Phish shows. This apparently all started with a joke on stage at Dick's during one of the previous shows -- something about one of the band members eating a banana, which turned into the joke "Phish loves Dick's."
6. They Want You To Love Phish Too
A look of shock comes over fan's faces when you tell them it is your first Phish show, and they want to make sure you enjoy it. We told some fans it was our first show and they immediately explained why they love the band and related stories of the many memorable experiences they have had at shows. They also usually offered free drugs to help enhance the first time. While in the woman's bathroom, a young woman came in and announced to the packed room that it was her first show, and everybody cheered, including a mother with dreads who was changing her baby's diaper.