16 Phish Dates Still not Sold Out – What This Means for Us

Below is a list of venues and dates this summer tour that are not sold out yet as of today.

Toyota Park 6/11
Blossom 6/12
Hershey Stadium 6/14
Comcast Theatre 6/17, 6/18
SPAC 6/19, 6/20
Camden 6/24, 6/25
CMAC 6/29
Walnut Creek 7/1
Verizon Wireless 7/2
Alpine Valley 8/14, 8/15
Deer Creek 8/12, 8/13

It is clear ticket sales are slowly dwindling for Phish.  Last summer Phish sold out all their venues, including both nights at the massive Alpine Valley within hours if not minutes.  The only venue that didn’t sell out the same day was Toyota Park–which eventually did sell out.

The fact that the northeastern venues are not sold out yet is an eye opening fact.  If they can’t sell out in the northeast, where can they anymore?  CMAC, both a special and very cool venue in NY, couldn’t sell out, along with the Phish summer staple, Walnut Creek.  Deer Creek, a must hit stop for any serious Phish fan on a summer tour, didn’t sell out either.  This is all shocking, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Dwindling ticket sales can’t do anything bad to the music–if anything, it will make them play better.  More room is always nicer at concerts, along with the greater ease of getting the tickets you want. Despite these possible upsides, the current ticket sales situation brings some questions as well.

Why are ticket sales dropping? — Is it because the fans are getting older?  Because Phish concerts are not as entertaining as they used to be (creativity-wise and/or quality-wise)?

I think the answer is probably that the core Phish fans of 90’s that made them as big as they were moved on.  Many people started to see Phish in their late teens and early twenties between 1992 and 1998.  After 2 hiatuses that lasted about 7 years total, these fans grew up and had families along with serious jobs.  I think the underlying demand to see Phish is no different this year than last year’s sell out tours was–the only reason they sold out was because everyone was excited Phish was back and people didn’t mind dropping other responsibilities to see their favorite band play for the first time in 5 years.  Now that people got it out of their system once and for all they can focus on the more important things they have established in their lives, seeing less Phish shows–possibly only if the band rolls to a nearby town.

The show Phish puts on now compared to pre-hiatus (as in 2000 and earlier, then post-hiatus and Phish 3.0, respectively) is certainly different–however, I don’t think that it is so different that it would have this drastic of an effect on ticket sales.  The current situation of extremely low ticket sales didn’t seem to be a problem in 2003 and 2004 when Trey was playing horrendous–most can agree that, musically, 2009 was far more impressive than 2003 and 2004.  One of the only things keeping Phish from fulfilling their complete potential of entertainment is the fact that the band, mainly Trey, has been less creative in 2009.  Chalk it up to sobriety or age, but it doesn’t change the fact that Phish played far more conservatively than most people were used to.  This was certainly done with purpose, probably making sure they could nail all the songs before they decided getting too crazy improvisationally–Trey seemed to care more about jamming than executing the songs correctly in 2003, the opposite of 2009 (he didn’t care about getting anything right in 2004).  So, if you look at it that way, Phish is just making the steps needed to be a power-house improvisational act once again–nailing the tough stuff so they can work from the structure they have created.  

Another slight contributer might be that a lot of people aren’t as scared they won’t get tickets to the shows they want to see this year.  Last year everyone needed to get their hands on tickets ASAP to ensure they wouldn’t be turned away at showtime.  After people got to the concerts and saw tickets lining the fences and all over the ground leading to the pat-down they realized they could have just waited until show time to get a ticket for cheaper, if not free.  People certainly overreacted last year trying to get tickets, which means people this year are probably under-reacting.  Under-reacting isn’t good either because if enough people under-react, that means there will not be the extras floating around that these people are relying.

How undersold are these venues?  Is Alpine Valley going to have almost nobody in the lawn?  Will Toyota Park and Hershey Stadium have the majority of the fans on the field?  Does this mean a considerable amount more room to rage?  Will the lack of ticket sales be any help in the pavilion regarding dancing space?  These are things we won’t know until show time.

So let’s speculate on how Phish is going to respond to their dismal sales this year thus far.  No matter what Trey says when he’s high in IT documentaries or in any other interview, they have egos.  It’s impossible not to if you’re them–they are used to selling out shows in minutes.  I know I have talked about “sleeper shows” on here–shows fans skipped in order to make it to other concerts on the tour or because it’s on a weeknight, odd location, etc (11/2/98, 8/14/96, 5/7/94, etc).  Well, this tour is shaping up to be a sleeper tour.  If the only shows that are sold out are the ones expected to be hot tickets (Atlanta, Telluride, Greek, Jones Beach) that means everything in between is Phish’s chance to piss people off they wanted to be cheap, lazy or think that Phish isn’t up to snuff anymore.  Judging by how crisp Phish came back to Hampton in 2009 and how every tour got progressively more creative and entertaining from then on out, 2010 will be a bust out year–having dismal ticket sales is only going to throw fuel all over the fire.  

When the summer tour was first announced I wrote about shows to watch for and shows that probably won’t be that great.  I take everything I said in that post back.  I think Toyota Park and Hershey are going to be much better now.  These are both big venues–they probably only sold just about over half the capacity as of now.  Toyota Park is the first show of 2010, Hershey the 3rd.  I think they will use these shows, along with Blossom, to show what the fans are going to miss if they don’t snatch up the rest of the tickets before the rest of the tour passes by.  I expect Toyota Park to be much better than a standard tour opener and I expect an all out throw down at Blossom Music Center, with Hershey topping off the tour opening trio with something special.  Also, think of the idea of having sleeper shows at both Deer Creek and Alpine Valley–enough to make your mind go numb thinking how cool things could get.  I can understand not selling out Alpine Valley, but Deer Creek?!  There is no way Phish is going to let their fans think it is okay to skip a Deer Creek Phish show.  So, along with Toyota Park > Hershey Stadium, expect the non-sold out north eastern shows and Deer Creek > Alpine Vally to be completely off the charts insane (assuming they are still not sold out by show time).  

Phish is kind of like a professional athlete in their last year of a contract–they feel the heat under their ass when they feel like they need to prove something.

Get your tickets now, fans.