For a while there has been a smaller project that I have wanted to take on, one that seems to get hinted at and asked about in the various Phish social media circles though I have yet to see a full breakdown of the idea in any one place. It is a notion that flows into many conversations that you hear about the band with broad statements like “they always play hot shows at Deer Creek” or “I cannot wait to get back to the Mothership” or “hands down, Dick’s is the best venue for Phish these days and they always slay it there” and the like being so common as to become part of the band’s folklore. But just how true are those statements?
In order to figure out a somewhat reasonable answer to this question I propose to take a look back at the venues where Phish has played most frequently and put together some form of summary/breakdown of the music that the band played to see if there really is a connection between the setting and the music as we often think. This endeavor will require some heavy lifting first in breaking down all of the various names both corporate and otherwise to figure out the correct number of times played at a particular place and then diving in headlong to try to make some sense of the history there. We will go about setting some criteria in a bit but some of the considerations that I am thinking about include:
- setting a minimum number of times played as a baseline – this will obviously exclude some of the fantastic “one timer” venues and places where they might’ve only played a couple of shows but if we don’t cut it somewhere it will end up being a full history and a highly subjective undertaking at that
- evaluating the music played – this is about as subjective as it can get but at a certain level all of this is so we will try to look at the relative “quantity of quality” in the performances including possibly using outside resources like PJJ to see how others have “valued” the music therein
- special venues – while I could be swayed by a persuasive argument (nudge nudge, wink wink) otherwise my inclination is to keep festival settings out of the conversation though to be honest most will not qualify for the minimum number of shows if it ends up where I think it will
- the venue-specific factors – what about a venue contributes to the whole experience? This could include acoustics, proximity of band to crowd and sightlines, slapback, whether they have good nachos or just that goopy fake cheese bullshit, and the like. While perhaps not as important on the surface, these factors can and do contribute to the overall experience.
- intangibles – this is the stuff people point to that has no objective basis but has become part of the story. Stuff like the prevailing vibe of the crowd in a room, the hype surrounding the shows and venue itself, how hard a ticket might be to acquire, etc. There is some bleed between these factors and the venue-specific ones.
I’m not really looking to get too granular with it such that the overall intent is lost in the details so obviously the primary focus will be the music played. I think this can be a fun little project before heading into another full tour review and also so that I’m not overlapping my way back posts with the new stuff coming out on Fall Tour in just a few weeks. I’ll have another, more detailed post to set about establishing the criteria and putting together the list of venues in consideration but until then let me know what you think in the comments.
What is your pick for Phish’s best played venue throughout their history?