30 Years Deep: The State of Phish vs. The State of The Grateful Dead


748px-Red_Rocks_Amphitheater_with_deadheads_waiting_to_start_taken_8-11-1987I’ll be the first to admit that the differences between Phish and The GD far outnumber the similarities between the two bands. And God forbid I sound like some douche-bag journalist for Esquire Magazine or something, who states that Phish inherited the jamband crown from the Dead, yadda yadda mubo jumbo tye-dye fuck-nuts. And also I of course realize that in the Deadhead community, there’s perhaps no greater polarizing topic than discussing one’s love for some prog-nerds from Vermont. But let’s get down to the brass tacks – in terms of improvisational live experiences that are centered on communal psychedelic expansion, there’s no other bands on the plate. If you want to mention any bands that involve hula-hoops, Southern rock, or shitty live techno, then you can probably stop reading this blog right now and call me a formulaic dick-wad in the comments section.

So let’s cut to 1995. At this point, 30 years into the Grateful Dead’s lifespan, the band had played over 2,300 shows and was established as the cultural reference point for any lingering emotions of the 60’s and hippie state-of-being. Unfortunately, the band was also a faint shadow of their former selves. Hard drugs had not only ravished Garcia, but had also taken a massive toll on a good portion of the crowd and the scene in general. What’s even scarier is that despite how dark the scene had become, it was the environment itself which was the biggest draw. To be a part of the collective had become more important than hearing quality music. And again, don’t get me wrong – there were still amazing moments. There were still times when Garcia could break through the heroin-fueled haze and grace his magic upon the crowd. But the thunderous attack and mind-melting jams that put the band in everyone’s hearts in the first place were no longer there. The greatest moments of the show were the slow Jerry ballads – the moments where his emotions were so palpable that your heart quivered. And then gates were crashed, and platforms fell, and the fat-man took his final bow.

Now cut to 2013. At this point, 30 years in Phish’s lifespan, the band has played 1,451 shows, which is nearly 40% less than the Dead had played at this point. This statistic could potentially be the most important factor for the current state of stability in the Phish world. Essentially, 2004 was to Phish what 1995 was to The Grateful Dead. And had a pharmaceutically ravished Trey Anastasio not decided to break up the band at that point, we would probably not currently be discussing a 30th anniversary for his band. Like the Dead’s final year, 2004 found the band at all-time lows. Sure there were still great moments, but the ugly and the mundane far outnumbered the face-melting moments. But let’s focus on now – 2013. From the majority of first-hand reports, Trey is maintaining his sobriety. The band is playing a higher percentage of routine performances than at other points of their career, but fortunately it never really “sucks.” While nothing in 2013 matches the magic of 1993-1997, there are still phenomenal moments from this band. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. Yes the Tahoe “Tweezer” is incredible, and yes the San Francisco “Runaway Jim” is stupendous, but they are still but drops in the ocean of amazing music that was previously standard on a song-to-song and show-to-show basis from the band. But the thing is, Phish can still play any song from their catalog as tightly as they ever once did. The complexities of “Reba” and “YEM” are still nailed to a point that when compared to a 1995 “Slipknot,” the accuracies aren’t even in the same book, let alone on the same page. Now sure, when it comes to new emotional songs – a 2013 “Show of Life” has nothing against a 1995 “Days Between,” and in some ways those emotional daggers are the one thing that Phish is still lacking. On a good night you’ll still find me wiping a tear away during a “Bug” or “If I Could,” but in terms of new songs, I still think “Light” sounds like the soundtrack to a fat-camp infomercial. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the jam’s great, but still…

So musically, Phish is performing at a whole other level than The Dead were able to perform at in their 30th year. And in terms of the crowd, there’s no arguing that the Phish scene is a far warmer and more inviting place than GD lot was 18 years ago. There’s a level of maturity that’s present at Phish shows now that’s something to be quite proud of. Yes, seriously. Sure, Ketamine and Moon Rocks are far-too present, but overall people seem to be able to take care of themselves. Thus the conclusion of my ranty, pointless blog is that relatively speaking, Phish are fucking amazing right now. Non-relatively speaking is a whole other story, but either way the state of things is spectacular. And while I don’t want to spawn this rant over to the current state of the GD universe, I can’t help but comment on what’s happening there. While in San Francisco last week for Phish’s 3-night stand, I happened to check out Jerry Day. Stu Allen’s band played and sounded great, as did JGB, but it was the scene that shocked me the most. There’s still a solid mass of the love of the dead-head community, but there’s also this new wave of young kids who thing that the Grateful Dead is like the Mafia. I saw scores of folks wearing t-shirts and sweatshirts that said things like “Grateful Gangster” and “You don’t fuck with GDF.” They think that imposing fear and imposing a sense of exclusion is a key part of the scene. It’s sad, and it’s frightening. And I’m sorry, but I’m not gonna shrug off the fact that Bob Weir collapsed on stage a few months ago – no matter what the reasoning for it was. Phish has taken many cues from the Dead, but in terms of stability and relationship with the fans, it could be time that the remaining members of the Dead took some cues from Phish. Slow down. Be patient. Take it easy. Realize your roll in music and in the world.

61 comments

  1. Xavier says:

    A waste of mind and energy to debate which band was better. Either you know, or you don’t.

  2. McGrupp says:

    At 21 yrs old, I do not have the luxury of nostalgia for the old days, so all I have is what is in front of me today. Trey cites Jerry as one of his biggest influences. Mike’s bass rig is almost identical to Phil Lesh’s. Further invited Trey to play with them a few weeks ago at Lock’n festival. Warren Haynes jams with both bands regularly. DMB is right there in the mix. WSP too. The band’s seem to have nothing but love for each other and strive to foster a collaborative culture of inclusion that creates new and exciting music at every turn. So any bad blood between any of them is on us. We get it, Deadheads, you got to the party first, but why the hate when younger generations come along to try and partake? And Phans, have some respect for the guys that were there first. Comparing lot scenes? Really? Shake your dicks, this pissing contest is over. Go to a “tailgate” for any top 40 pop artists show today and then tell me you still hate Shakedown Street. The fact of the matter is we’re scaring each other away when we’re the only cool ones left! Let’s be grateful for the scene that’s still alive and well. Tell me your stories about Altamont, Winterland, and Harpur; I eat that shit up with a spoon, but look alive because I’ve got some good stories from MSG, SPAC, and Hampton myself. The Dead were great, Further IS great, Phish is killing it right now, and that should be enough for everyone.

    Great read, btw. A thorough ANALYSIS (not comparison) of two exceptional bands after nearly 50 combined years of music.

  3. Olompali says:

    Comparing the Phish bowl to Deadland is akin to comparing
    Bad Co. to LZ
    Jimmy Buffet to Bob Dylan
    Aerosmith to the Rolling Stones
    It’s not surprising that Phish are strong at thirty. It’s a job, a project, no more than a good time out.

    Phish really should be compared to WSP, SCI, DMB. That’s their scene. To dismiss those acts as incomparable is a weak diversion.

  4. ARS says:

    Another take might be where was the Dead in their trajectory at show number 1451?

    Just on a wild guess, I’m thinking mid to late 70s. By many accounts, their peak touring period.

    (My first Dead show was ’78. I saw Phish a few times in the 80s, but, never became a big fan. Frankly, I preferred their cover versions to their original tunes. They were/are superb musicians, but I don’t get into their songwriting. Different strokes.)

    • Jam J says:

      This is interesting

      Another take might be where was the Dead in their trajectory at show number 1451?

      Just on a wild guess, I’m thinking mid to late 70s. By many accounts, their peak touring period.

  5. Eric says:

    Interesting article. Here’s my perspective on what you are talking about….I saw the Dead 246 times from 11/79-9/94 and Phish from 7/87 (yes 1987 in a backyard in Burlington) to just last week at the Hollywood Bowl. I am a lover or the Dead and listen to live shows literally 5-6 hrs a day. As for Phish, I’ve loved them, been interested in them, but as my life matured the “need to see them” diminished as i realized not only am I maturing but their music and performing, while amazing and uplifting at times is not written, preformed, or experienced the same way i once did with seeing the Dead.

    After each bands 30 year mark I can say unequivocally that the Dead were well into a progressive decline in musicianship, ability to bring consistent “wows” to even the most deadicated heads, and surely the state of the crowds and their makeup were much more there for the ability to party freely and some small percentage to “explore” what all the fuss is about this magical band. The band themselves have stated that they were merely “going through the motions”, Garcia felt as if he was carrying on his back the responsibility of the the livelihoods of many staffers by continuing to tour out of necessity to keep the organization “alive”. IMHO if Garcia had lived longer he would have been playing regularly at a “Terrapin Crossroads” kind of place with his old friend Grisman at his side, picking up a banjo or pedal steel every once in a while because he wanted to not because the organization needed to perpetuate the party as the Dead did post Brent. Brents death was a blow to Jerry like non other, wrong place, wrong time. Weir has stated he felt 1988-89 Dead was amongst his favorite as they were exploring again and reaching places not yet achieved. Brents death ended the glory sadly. There was no picking up the pieces emotionally, spiritually, and ever more so physically for the band, especially Garcia.

    As for the boys from Vermont, when I first started seeing them (late 80′s) they were the best bar band I had ever experience that played “Deadesque” rhythms and melodies. It wasn’t the same but it was awesome. As the 90′s progressed I followed them to Colorado in the spring and helped produce a few of their shows in Western NY and became quite intimate with them, having many chats with them all and getting to know what moved them to and how they “created” their brand of magic. Good times great music. There fans were kind of like Deadheads “lite” in that there wasn’t the history that existed in the form of a direct link to the 60′s that the Dead had, The crowds were younger, a little less “road hardened”, and certainly less numerous. I saw some of the greatest acts of humanity and the most depraved at Dead shows and their environs. Phish crowds were a bit more chill and less magical and diverse therefore generally calmer.

    Fast forward to last week when I saw Phish at what was perhaps the zenith of their performing abilities. The show they put on was tight, clean, funky, fun, ambitious, and very in synch with the crowd that they played to. It was far from the greatest Phish show I’ve ever seen of the 70+ that i’ve seen, but it was for lack of a better phrase “the most perfect jam band show I’ve ever seen”. Really amazing, they are on top of their game like no other have almost ever been. Based on reports from friends who saw other shows that tour it is clearly evident they are “ahoist of their collective petard” and loving it with many productive years ahead if they choose that course. I tip my hat to their organization and presence of mind to control their beast in order to save it, something the Dead never were able to do both personally or as an organization, but that was never their nature either.

    To sum up I’d have to say the magic the Dead brought to 15-20% of the shows I saw cannot and will never be topped, no matter how good Phish gets or can be, it was something that will never happen again, thats just what it is….pure x factor…….magic for real.

    However Phish has something the Dead ran out of and thats desire. The desire to keep it going and keep it fun.

    The phrase “if it doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger”, sums up where these bands at 30 years stand/stood better than anything else I can come up with.

    Phish is just beginning in some ways at 30, while 30 was too much to bear for the Dead given their respective and collective minds and bodies…….

  6. Tim says:

    I enjoy how talentless, irrelevant hacks like Widespread Panic are immediately eliminated from discussion in the first paragraph. It’s necessary.

    • Daniel says:

      I cannot believe that people still have the GD vs Phish debate. Really. Is this 1996?What really amazes me is how you dismiss the panic right off the bat, unbelievable. But not susurprising from a person who issued the “techno” diss. You are obviously a dinosaur with his best days behind him. Some of the most creative psychedelic music on the planet are coming from the laptops of artists like Kalya Scintilla and Whitebear but you will never get it because you, like alot of “heads” our age (I’m 37) have closed there minds and live in the past. I never saw the Dead with Jerry but I consider them the best band ever. I had incredible experiences seeing Phish (Halloween 96, Summer 97) and WP (over 250 times). But I know that music evolves. So why don’t you do the same or just go somewhere and die already.

  7. Jimbo Va says:

    I had the pleasure of enjoying Grateful Dead shows in the mid 80′s up until 92…I quit going when I saw folks shooting up in the shows and it became an uncontrollable circus…don’t get me wrong…i liked to party at the shows…just not in that way….I have been to some Phish shows and saw them come up through the southeastern bar/college scene (first time I saw them there were about 10-15 people at the bar)…I never had an experience at phish shows like I did at the GD…I have also seen Phish at larger venues and really enjoyed the music but the “scene” seemed to pale in comparison (must we do that?)…Ahh it may be my age and the time, I don’t know…sorry to ramble…I enjoyed reading your perspective!

  8. EllisDean says:

    Phish has by far been more consistent from a musical standpoint. Even their worst shows have been relatively listenable for a Phish fan. But for me, the highest of the highwater mark of Phish performances (even in ’97, my favorite year for them) could never even touch the Dead from ’68 through ’74. For every shitty Dead show in ’95, there were five face-melters from ’72.

    Crowd-wise, the Phish scene, in my opinion, took everything I loathed about the late Dead scene and distilled it to a douchey essence.

    Yes, there were some “dark” episodes in the later days of the Dead’s road journey, but you take aside ’95 Deer Creek and a few of the other unique instances and really…you have a large concert crowd, which is what the Dead was drawing post 87. You got a lot of people? You’ve gonna have a few problems.

    Phish seemed to get these awful “lot kids” and “brahs” that used the damned shows to talk during the music to their friends about how dank their nugs were. My friends and I stopped going because we wanted to hear the goddamned music (which wasn’t good enough to warrant a long drive, anyway) and couldn’t hear the playing over Timmy Treebark talking about how his cousin made him a bong out of a glass skull but his dog Runaway Jim knocked it off a shelf and broke it, maaaaaan, so now he’s using a Fiji water bottle he found outside a Jack In The Box.

    Ugh. I bought the Ventura Phish release and it’s quite nice. But when that Dead Veneta ’72 comes out…well, I guess we’ll all be reminded of who showed up to fuckin’ play.

  9. Patrick Dunham says:

    Thankfully Phish has not reached the level of popularity that the Dead achieved, nothing good came of that. The Dead would have been really tight in the final years if Jerry had not been using, the scene could not have survived however.

  10. josef says:

    hmmm…welll i think u are comparing apples and oranges here..
    Phish music in no way shape or form conveys the depth, soul and sweetnesss that the grateful dead ever did …even in their deepest depths of depravity…The Dead was trully a unique entity that can not be compared, so i think your efforts are trully misguided..
    I was in the dead world since mid 70′s and indeed the 90′s tumbled into quite a mess, but the highest sparkling sweet highs of the dead can hardly to be said to be touched by thhis Phish band…
    I gave them a chance, my friend was there first road manager, but i found their music silly…and not very deep ..soulful or sweet
    so like i said…apples and oranges…..and i have always loved sweet appples….mmmmm

  11. jonny blowjob says:

    your first sentence says it all…
    “I’ll be the first to admit that the differences between Phish and The GD far outnumber the similarities between the two bands. ”

    ** SO WHY GO AHEAD AND WRITE SOME POS THAT COMPARES THEM? **

    I do not understand phish fans and their need to try to form a NON EXISTENT affiliation w these 2 bands. You notice it is not Dead Heads who make these comparisons.

    You notice it is not Mercedes who compares itself to a Toyota but rather the Toyota that tries to align itself w Mercedes etc
    This is not to argue who is better, rather to point out it is always the pretender who tries to nudge along the standard and make comparison or “prove” they are better/as good as.
    Again they do not belong in the same breath!

    GD fans over 40-45 don’t know who “trey & page” are and couldn’t care less.
    You seem to refuse any comparison of your beloved phish to other jam bands SCI, GM, DMB, disco biz etc (I think that is what this refers to):

    “If you want to mention any bands that involve hula-hoops, Southern rock, or shitty live techno, then you can probably stop reading this blog right now and call me a formulaic dick-wad in the comments section.”

    So you instantly dismiss any discussion of other bands (that actually should be be closely aligned w phish – after passing judgement of course by calling them shitty)
    yet you want to write about the gd & phish?

    WHY?????

    Let me tell you something you do not know the first thing about the GD “lot”
    Did you go to Giants Stadium in 1992 or something?
    A portion of the crowd by then were thrill seekers, partiers, curious peepers etc
    As for the GD mafia kids you refer to,..they are as out of touch we GD as you and the phish fans are.
    Those kids are in their teens and twenties…barely alive when the GD existed. ridiculous to push them on the GD.

    Do they know what Legion O MAry is? Do they have a favorite version of Russian Lullaby?
    Did they see the JGB or GD before 1987?
    Did you?

    Would you want me to compare the phish fans to sorority girls drinking ZIMA? To the bloated frat boys w their visors and man sandals?

    As for “maturity”
    I was shown “phantasy tour” as a place to learn about the phish crowd
    jeeze..a website devoted to the discussion of flatulence, teenage girls, sports, bad music whose members must be under 30 ~!

    Leave the GRateful Dead alone…
    why do you phish fans have a grateful dead fetish?

    we don’t “hate” phish..we simply don’t give a crap about them and find it annoying that fans who were not even around for the GD feel free to sit around and remark on what is/was sacred music and journey for many of us…give it a rest.
    phuck phsih

    • ThisAdamKing says:

      Again, what I’m comparing is what had become of both each band’s scene and music after 30 years of existence. I love both bands, and that’s why I wrote a post comparing the two scenes. If you don’t care about the comparison, then why did you bother to read the post? And you yourself state how shitty the GD scene was in the 90′s, so it kind of seems like we’re in agreement here. And learning about Phish from Phantasy Tour is the same as learning about The Grateful Dead from a pipe shop on Haight Street. I like how you spelled fuck with a “ph” – that’s really neato! Thanks for the comment Mr. Blowjob!

      • jonny blowjob says:

        well yeah, my “neato” “ph” spelling simply echos the musical geniuses you worship…and the whole “phan” and “phil and phriends” embarrassing crap.
        As far as the scenes sucking go…yeah, so what…dumb kids who have little/no interest in the music showing up late to the game and causing a scene.
        Speaking of which…y the phish fans name their lot “shakwedown” ?
        use phish songs for your loit references
        gd fans didn’t even call the lot shakedown street..maybe some kids once it got organized in the 90s…again, this is NOT what the GD experience was like for GD fans who were there for more than the last handful of yrs…

        Jerry played guitar in the 60′s, 70′s, 80′s and 90′s, played at Altamont, was part of the post Beatles scene, played pyschedelia & was drug additc etc why not compare him to Keith Richards?
        THere are a HELKL of a lot more similarities between him and trey.
        Why not compare Jerry to Prince?
        They play soul, rock funk and reclusive etc

        Where this phish associating themselves w GD to try to legitimize them in some way is just weird…
        I’ll bet it would bug you if every time you mentioned Phish or watched Phish vids on you tube or read sites w people under 30 talking about how Phsih and DMB are sooooo similar because people smoke weed at the shows and play hacky sack in the lot…wow they even played together a bunch of times….they are the same thing !

        LOL !
        wouldn’t that annoy you?

        • alatari says:

          They’re both crap bands with single octave singers and monotonous tempo songs.

          Neither deserves to be written about.

    • I have seen Phish but am not a huge, huge fan. I enjoyed the shows. I am 46 years old, a Deadhead since 1982. I’ve never understood the comparison. Don’t get it. I don’t meant that as negative at all. I’m sure there are people who prefer the Phish music, scene, or both. I just never found the two all that similar. Generation-wise: there seems to be a lot of overlap in the youngest of the people who got to see the Dead with Garcia and the oldest group of people who are Phish fans. But I see very little commonality between cohort of >45 Deadheads and the cohort of <30 Phish fans. Those seem like entirely different "types."

      • Row Jimmy Row says:

        That’s probably because there’s usually little commonality between people 45+ y/o people and under 30 y/o people. I’m 24, been a fan of the Dead and Phish for around the same amount of time (that is, the early 2000s… let’s say 2001, when I was 12 or 13). I definitely missed the Dead as a live act: Jerry died when I was 6. Saw the band masquerading as the Dead in 2009 and they sucked, which was depressing, but that’s what happens when you start a tribute band to yourself. I’m a 3.0 noob as far as live Phish goes, and while they’re definitely less forward-looking than in the past they’re definitely not in self-tribute band territory.

        What I would say as a young fan of both bands, one who missed the Dead as a live act entirely and missed the supposed zenith of live Phish, is that both scenes need to get over themselves. Yes, I’m happy for you that you were at Barton Hall, or at Big Cypress. Yes, I would like to hear a cool anecdote or two about your tour experiences, as long as you keep it brief and coherent. No, I don’t want to hear you bitch and moan about how “it’s not the same anymore”. Deadheads don’t do this anymore for obvious reasons, but I’m sure they were in the early nineties. However, old Phans are some of the most ungrateful people alive. This fall tour I drove 14 hours and one international border to see the two-night run at Worcester just to end up beside some wook complaining that it wasn’t as good as the late nineties and that we might as well all go home. It was like all the acid he gobbled had confused him and he was surprised to have been transported 20 years into the future.

        In short, I can’t comment on the Dead live experience for obvious reasons. I love their music and I’m jealous of those who got to see them, especially in 1977-1978. I can comment on the very much still alive Phish scene though, and I can tell you that the second most destructive force in the Phandom, aside from the nitrous losers and drunk fratboys who get angry when Farmhouse doesn’t get played, are the bitter Phans who wish it was the mid-1990s and want to ruin Phish for new(ish) listeners. Sorry, I’ve only been listening for a decade and a half and been to a dozen shows, Mr. Wookie, and I’m sure this Antelope will never measure up to the one you saw with your buddy at the Mothership will hippie flipping, but can you please not ruin MY Phish memories?

    • Owen says:

      There’s a lot of overlap between the two scenes! I saw nearly as many Dead shirts as Phish ones at the Gorge campground this summer, and heard countless GD shows playing from people’s car stereos. Why can’t we enjoy both?

    • Jam J says:

      JBJ is my brother so tread lightly.

      • TerrapinCaboose says:

        Because your affiliation to him some how worries anyone who would talk about his jaded, and pessimistic attitude? What will you do if I tread with force? I’d love to know.

        I’m a HUGE deadhead, obviously never got to see them live, and I’m becoming a HUGE phan, despite having never seen them live either. What’s great about today is that I can discover both bands simultaneously and see their entire existence through footage and recordings.

        So Mr. Blowjob may not give a shit about one or the other, but some of us give a shit about both. Sorry that confuses you, but some of us CAN enjoy two things without comparing the too.

        I used to hate on Phish really hard, I couldn’t find an end to the things I disliked about them. Eventually they found their way into my pandora stations for other Jam bands, I found myself listening without any notion for what I was hearing. At first I’d skip it when I found out it was Phish. After a while I found myself deeper in jams and out of skips and I just let it grow. They’re incredible, I’m sorry ya’ll disagree, and that’s fantastic! You’re absolutely allowed to.

  12. Michelle says:

    With all due respect, the scene for Phish is not warm. In fact, I can recall on two separate occasions having to duck behind someones car because “phishheads” were throwing random beer bottles from the hoods as they drove away. It was basically the makings of a riot. Grateful Dead has a far warmer, loving, environment where people come to hear the music not play in the lot whole time. I would love to compare how many people actually went into the shows with Grateful Dead compared to PHISH. The revolution behind PHISH is not the music but the community, everyone loves a place to come together with likeminded individuals and party. However, the dead brought the community inside the venue.

    • ThisAdamKing says:

      That sucks that you’ve had such negative experiences. Were these recent? Because these days, once a Phish show starts, the lot is empty. I would say there’s only a handful of folks who don’t go in, as compared to thousands who didn’t go into Dead shows because they didn’t have tickets. In fact, I used to work with an old head who went to over 100 Grateful Dead show and never got inside.

  13. Shelagh says:

    I respect your perspective, Adam, but respectfully disagree. I wonder how much time you actually spent on Grateful Dead lots? From my perspective, having spent time on both (more phish, due to my age, obviously) my perspective is quite opposite when it comes to the scene/community. I totally agree with you about the music, as I dont believe the GD I saw live is the hot shit. Its not ever what I listen to, all the shows I listen to are from before my time. Phish is an amazing band, musically right now. So in that sense I completely agree. They are healthy ad happy and having a blast and you really couldnt ask for much more from your favorite band!

    In regards to community I have had a MUCH different experience with phish over the years. As a person coming from a very different background than most people who fill these lots, my experiences with GD lot were always nothing but extremely positive and welcoming. In fact, te first time I ever set foot on Dead lot, it was the first time in my life I ever felt at home, completely welcomed with open arms. The first time I ever felt unwelcome or out of place or was treated unkindly on a lot was definiteley phish. My experience at Phish a couple weeks at the Gorge was much different than yours it seems.

    After nearly 20 years of seeing phish, I felt an exclusivity, a cliqueyness that made my entire social experience really sad. If you arent part of the right crew/have the right look, etc, you are not welcomed. I also had a conversation with a colleague just the other night who isnt in to Phish but went because she thought the music was interesting and wanted to experience and she said the music was fine but, “the people were so shitty it kinda didnt matter and I just wanted to go home” She is one of the most phenomenal, loving, non judgmental, community oriented, strong, powerful women I know, too. That comment made me beyond sad, to know the place I spent so much of my life, so much of my youth, would make someone on the outside feel so unwelcome, but I could not refute it because I myself have had those same experiences in Phish world. People have not always been nice to me, there, and this time around I felt more out of place that I ever did. Maybe growing up and having new responsibilities and being at a different place in my life has given me a perspective I didnt have before. Maybe I have grown out of all the excess and debauchery, and just want to connect with my music and community but realize that most people just want to get fucked up and have their tight little crews.

    And of course the last time I was on a GD lot I was 18 so I had a much different perspective then but I had always felt unwanted most places I went in life until I went there. Experiencing the Grateful Dead community for me 20 years ago changed my life for the better in more ways than I can ever name. I am sure there are some young kids out there having similar experiences on Ph lot now, and thats a beautiful thing. I dont think either scene was ever perfect, but in regards to being welcoming there was never a place more welcoming than GD lot for me, if there is such a place, I would love to go there! I think your perspective is very personal to your experience, but certainly not the experience everyone has. thanks for writing about it though, I enjoyed reading and was happy to see you and give you a hug at the Gorge :) <3

    • ThisAdamKing says:

      Sure Shelagh, everything is relative and all dependent upon perspective. And that being said, I don’t really go to Phish shows these days with the intent of meeting new people. I think the Phish scene these days is more than ever based on whatever each person personally wants it to be. I go to the shows with no anticipations or preconceptions. I don’t expect to be wowed by either the band or the audience, so when I’m wowed by either I accept it as a pleasant surprise. For the most part, the best times I have at Phish shows these days are when I’m with a couple good friends and we find our own little nook to have our own experience in. Immersing myself in the fashion show is the last thing I really want to do.

      With the GD scene being such a massively larger scene in its time, I think it allowed for both a larger swarm of welcoming arms and a larger mass of negativity. You were easily able to be held in the warmth at any point, and keep your distance from the negativity. Now it seems the lines between those two realities are much more blurred, and thus that’s why I feel holding onto one’s individual perspective is the only way to maintain your sanity in the scene. Along those lines, I think it’s really difficult for a 16-year old to go their 1st Phish show these days and feel as welcomed in as they would have been 20 years ago in either the GD or the PH scene. “Noobs” aren’t necessarily welcomed with open arms by everyone these days. Personally, I love to reach out to young kids who look cool, and had a blast with a couple of 17 year olds at SPAC 3 years ago who were actually physically writing down the setlist. On the flip side, at Worcester last year I saw another predominant blogger tell two 16 year old girls to move because they were in “his crew’s dancing space.” Perhaps the ends of the spectrum are just farther apart then they’ve ever been before.

      Anyway, I’m rambling. I’m sorry you had such a drag of a time at the Gorge, but hopefully it will turn out to be more of an isolated moment in time, and you won’t feel so shitty next time. The best thing to do is just laugh at the jokers and make fun of them with your friends – it’s a blast. I hope you haven’t forgotten the empowerment that can come from talking shit – sometimes it makes everything better. It was good to see you too.

    • Owen says:

      I think there is such a welcoming place: Furthur tour. The scene is a lot smaller than ’80s or ’90s GD or present day Phish, so I think you end up with a higher percentage of people who really care for the music. There are a few “tree thugger” sketchy types, but almost all of the young heads I’ve encountered have been wonderful people.

      I’m sad that your experience at the Gorge wasn’t aligned with mine. I’m a 21-year-old 3.0 noob (first two shows at the Gorge 2011, then none until this summer’s run), but I still felt welcome there. There definitely wasn’t the same level of openness and kindness that I’ve found on Furthur tour, but there was still a joyous energy circulating everywhere.

      I also noticed how much GD family presence there was. I saw almost as many Dead shirts and heard almost as many GD shows coming from people’s cars as Phish ones. It seems to me that most Phish fans respect the Grateful Dead, while a lot of deadheads can be pretty dismissive of Phish. Personally, I am so grateful to be able to experience both!

  14. Mark says:

    Enjoyable read. I think your typical older Dead head is so out of touch with the current state of their scene that it’s almost irrelevant to mention. There are also so many different decades of Dead Heads now all with different habits and in different places in life. Yes 1995 GD vs 2013 PH are totally different “states” — Walking around outside Bill Graham, I was proud of where the Phish scene had come. I think the age of IT has brought about a smarter and healthier fan. Who knows what the age of information would have done for GD scene had is started in the early or late 80′s. Musically, this line sums it up perfectly: Yes the Tahoe “Tweezer” is incredible, and yes the San Francisco “Runaway Jim” is stupendous, but they are still but drops in the ocean of amazing music that was previously standard on a song-to-song and show-to-show basis from the band.” Agree 100%. But if you come into the show just wanting to have fun and here music that shapes your life, played well, not “epic”, there is just no comparison between 1995 GD and 2013 PH. There is no comparison between 1992 CD and 2013 Phish. Thanks for the read.

  15. Henry Schwab says:

    Very interesting read. I thought the blend of Jerry week with Phish playing in Nor Cal was an amazing time in Jam Band history. I loved the shirts with the Phish/Dead together. I actually put up a great one of Stu Allen outside the Phish show. Seeing both bands on the Friday playing a block apart was very exciting. As a Dead fan and a Phish fan I would only want to add that in many ways Phish is peaking right now. The band is on fire! It is a wonderful time to still be able to see both of them. Keep the conversion going.

  16. chris says:

    First, you mean “ravaged” not “ravished” (twice). Other than that, you don’t have much to say – yeah Phish is killing it, and the GD are long gone. Real take-away from Jerry Day isn’t the gangstas (huh?) but the tepid rehash that passes for good music there.

  17. Deborah says:

    You had me at “I shit music”; then I read “And God forbid I sound like some douche-bag journalist for Esquire Magazine or something, who states that Phish inherited the jamband crown from the Dead, yadda yadda mubo jumbo tye-dye fuck-nuts.” Thanks for taking the time to write for the rest of us.

  18. WSPSUX says:

    “If you want to mention any bands that involve hula-hoops, Southern rock, or shitty live techno, then you can probably stop reading this blog right now and call me a formulaic dick-wad in the comments section.”

    hahaha great

  19. stonybonz says:

    Perfectly stated. I have been saying the same things about the maturity levels since 09′. 93′-97′ were amazing years and will never be forgotten, but the tightness of these latest tours has been what keeps people like me coming back. They have been spot on. See you in the fall!

  20. Matt says:

    Good read. I disagree with a few points, yes there are plenty of bad apples left in the GD scene, but the Bay Area has one of the grimiest scenes for GD family shows, this was also a free show you are talking about. If you had to pay 60 bucks a lot of those people would still be outside. The majority of people that still come to GD family events are amazing people. I wish you would have commented on the state of the music that the respective core four are playing (which is pretty good IMO) instead of just commenting on the apparel of a few tour rats.

    • ThisAdamKing says:

      Yeah Matt – you’re right, I probably was in one of the grimier scenes around, but it was still a touch shocking for me to see. And yes, the core four are still making pretty darn good music – I just wish they would perform as the core four.

      • Owen says:

        Joe Russo is playing with more energy than either Billy or Mickey these days, so I’m happy to see him behind the kit! Now Furthur just needs to convince Jay Lane to come back…

    • Owen says:

      I saw Phil & Friends play at Terrapin Crossroads last week, and it was one of the most friendly and relaxed scenes I’ve ever encountered at a show. The respect for the music was palpable — during the show people were either listening or dancing. Got to hear stories from some long-time family as well. Such a magical experience!

    • Jam J says:

      Thumbs up

  21. trey says:

    i think your useless article and obvious love for phish biased your writing and thought process….. the dead paved the way for phish and to not accept that shows that your naive and out of touch, the crowds at any phish show is a magnification of what ruined the dead scene, drugged out wanna be hippies who care about nothing but themselves…. obviously you were never at any dead shows that were after 92-95 cause if you were your opinion and outlook would be vastly different…….

    • ThisAdamKing says:

      Certainly the Dead paved the way – I’m sorry you don’t think I accept that. And I’m not sure if you read the title of the article, but I was specifically discussing where both bands were in their 30th year of existence. You really don’t think I know that the GD used to play better shows than what was happening in the 90′s. Thanks for the comment.

      • Pocky says:

        90′s Dead is some of my favorite Dead. Have you heard that Spring 1990 box set? Brent is on FIRE.

        • ThisAdamKing says:

          Oh no dispute there. But Spring 90 is a whole different world than Summer 95.

          • Possum says:

            Some of you may be missing the point of this article entirely. It’s not a discussion of who’s better, blah, blah, blah… tired old conversation. It was an analytical review of the State of Affairs at the thirty year water mark. Great article and entirely relevant!

  22. aNDREW says:

    i disagree with you “magic years” range. i would say that from 1991>2000 the band explored unique territories, soundscapes, & improv styles that were all magical in their own ways. I can even say 2003 was in that category to some extent.

  23. Chadbyrne says:

    Great read. You make some valid points. The one item I wish you had touched upon is the fact that The Grateful Dead are about 1000x more popular than Phish. GD sold out every show (stadiums too!) and Phish can barely sell out smaller venues. Keep up the good work!

    • ThisAdamKing says:

      Yeah Chad, that’s what I was basically getting to (but never did) when I said they were a cultural reference point. The Grateful Dead were a household name, while Phish are still unknown to even some avid music fans.

      • Marc says:

        Wouldn’t disagree with the household name point, perhaps a contributor to their happier state of existence I would argue. The pressures and expectations are less for them to live up to (though as a whole we are very judgmental fans).

        To touch on concert attendance, I think there are other variables to consider when it comes to selling out places in 2013. For instance the ticket prices have grown at a fast pace in recent years (which is mostly out of the bands control btw). I know it’s kept me away.

        Which brings me to my next point, I compensate that urge by buying the live streams. In terms of revenue, I wonder how that math works in comparison to the Dead after inflation is considered.. The fan attendance too after live streams are factored in.

        A moot point perhaps because in 95 the Dead would have taken advantage of the technology as well if it existed.

        • Jeffree says:

          To counter on the whole attendance debate – Dead spinoffs like Weir and Ratdog, Futhur, and Phil Lesh and Friends still sell out their shows – Furthur would be the main one. Phish has a huge following as well, but the Dead goes back to the 60s and now young kids are getting into to it too. The comparisons are a bit unfair due to this, but in the end the Dead will always be a bit more popular. IMO thats due to song writing not just the musical talent.

    • Tim says:

      “Phish can barely sell out smaller venues.” They have no trouble selling out smaller venues when they actually play smaller venues, which they usually do not

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