It’s been 13 years since Phish last played in Canada and their dedicated ‘Phans’ couldn’t be more excited. After having the show postponed due to the “stormpocalypse” of two weeks ago, the jam-band kings from Vermont will finally hit Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre tonight – promising a night of vigorous jams and nobody doing any drugs at all.
Phish’s concerts are an experience unlike any other. Their extended improvisational jams can last for tens of minutes. (Tens of minutes, I tell you!) The elaborate light show is so spectacular that the light man is commonly known as the fifth member of the band. Their absurd lyrics will have you singing at the top of your lungs. But one of the defining characteristics of a Phish show is the audience participation. They don’t exactly pull the fans up on the stage; the fan participation is a little more subtle, including cues for clapping, singing, dancing, and even entire games of chess. For your consideration, below are 10 examples of audience participation at Phish concerts…
Song requests by sign
Do you have a favourite Phish tune? Is it Wilson? First Tube? Suzy Greenberg? Grab a Sharpie and write it out on a Bristol board, they might just play it. Trey Anastasio (Phish’s guitarist, but you knew that already) has been known to call out songs on signs that strike his fancy.
So you requested the song “Wilson” via Bristol board and they decided to play it. Well done, now don’t mess this up. The beginning of the song has two drumbeats, and then you have to yell “Wiiiiiilson” at the top of your lungs. If you miss it the first time around just listen to what everyone else is doing and you’ll catch on.
“Stash” is a Spanish-sounding little ditty, presumably about a stash of money or something. Definitely nothing to do with illicit substances. During the breakdown, the band cuts out and the audience joins in by clapping out a little “Cha-cha-cha.” This is another one you have to listen for and maybe you’ll catch it on the second go-round.
Audience v. band chess match
This was done on tour in the 90’s. During the tour there would be a running chess match between the band and the audience. During the first set, the band would make their move, and during the set break the audience would make theirs, probably with a lot of yelling and wild gesticulating. Of the two games played, the band won the first, and the audience won the second. One of these days we may see a tie-breaker.
One of the iconic elements of a Phish concert is the glowstick war. People bring bundles of glowsticks into the venue and during the most climactic moments of the set, they will unleash thousands of the things up into the air. Gather them as they fall and throw them around. The visual effect of seeing tens of thousands of glowsticks tossed around is absolutely spectacular.
“Punch You in the Eye”
No, nobody gets punched. Phish fans are a peaceful bunch. In the intro to this song, you simply get to yell “HEY!” as loud as possible. Keep your ears open for this one; you’ll know what to do when the time comes.
Big ball jam
This was done way back in the early 90’s. Each band member would release a large inflatable ball into the audience, and when a ball was hit into the air, they would play a note. In this way, the audience would essentially create the jam themselves. There are still balls tossed around the audience, but sans jam-interaction. Hit one, it’ll be fun.
Also back in their early days, the band had a ‘secret language’ involving subtle musical cues which the audience had prescribed reactions to. (For example: if the band played part of The Simpsons’ theme song, the audience would say “D’oh!”) Find some tour veterans and have them regale you with stories of the old days and the ‘secret language’.
The song “Meatstick” (I wonder what that one’s about) has a dance that goes with it a la Macarena. They once tried for a world record, getting tens of thousands of fans doing the dance at the same time. Unfortunately if you’ve ever met Phish fans, they’re not the most co-ordinated bunch, and the record attempt failed. Click here for instructions on how to do the dance.
This one is pretty simple. In the song “Harry Hood”, when they say “Harry”, you yell “HOOD!”
There you have it, have a great time at tonight’s show and get participatin’!