Is Summer 2012 the ‘Sleeper Tour’?

Alpine Lawn (B. Benton)

We all know what a ‘sleeper show’ is: it’s a show that is overlooked for any number of reasons and yields little attention and attendance before going down as quite memorable in Phishtory (11/2/98, 8/14/96, 11/7/96, etc). The way it seems many people are treating the upcoming tour is similar to that of a sleeper show. It seems like people aren’t that excited, people aren’t as raring to go, and there is far less speculation. I was in this group of people. Aside from a lack of buzz from the usual suspects on Twitter, there is less buzz on Facebook and fewer articles being written (or I was just more reliant on YEMBlog than I thought).

One of the most telling factors about the general desire and excitement to see Phish this summer is simply ticket sales. [At the time of writing this], only nine of 33 shows has sold out. The itty bitty venues like nTelos and Starlight Theater took weeks too (each about 6,500-7,000 people). The other sell outs are the obvious big tickets: San Fran and Jones Beach. The Zoo in Oklahoma, a state Phish has never played before, isn’t sold out (which tells me they won’t be extending themselves to too many states out there again anytime soon). The 8,000-person, UIC-sized Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis still has plenty of good tickets left too.

Just because demand is low doesn’t mean show quality will be though. I look at this tour as one giant sleeper, ready to make people mad for missing a second of it.  2011 contained the best tour Phish put together in 3.0, preceded by the second best tour of the era (Fall 2010) and an epic NYE run. I think many people are forgetting the heat Phish threw down last summer because of the disgustingly long break we’ve had since. Some will point to the recent NYE shows as an oasis, but I think it was received by most phans as a lackluster attempt to capture what they wielded just months earlier and will largely go as forgotten. It’s been nearly a year since we’ve had quality Phish on our plates and I think the aging phan base is quick to get caught up in other life events more quickly–including me, I’ve got a lot going on (as you can see with the lack of material on OPT).

Well I’m calling on you older, more responsible phans to open your eyes and remind yourself that we are just about at the pearly gates of yet another Phish summer tour! SNAP OUT OF IT! Pour some cold water on your head, pour a cold beer down your gullet, and turn on your favorite Phish summer jam!

UIC Pavilion (N. Richter)

In the weeks leading up until today, I told a few of my Phish friends that I just wasn’t feeling it–that I wasn’t feeling as excited as I usually do this close to tour. That all changed this past Saturday when it was sunny and 85 out and I swung by a rural watering hole after a lake-side hike with some good friends. I had two light beers, perfect for the noon-hour on a gorgeous day. After chatting for a bit, we hit the road to head back home. I was driving and I was also manning my iPod–I didn’t want to spend a lot of time browsing my show catalog so I just went to the Live Bait recordings (which, by the way, hopefully will have a new one really soon!). I chose Live Bait 4 and put on the 8/12/93 Landlady > Tweezer. Driving lakeside with all the windows down and the stereo up was getting my panties wet. Trey slays the Landlady and the Tweezer features some ridiculous full-band improv. As we moved away from the lake and closer to the freeway for the more extended portion of the drive, I skipped a few tracks to the 7/4/00 Twist -> Slave. As I’m sure most of you do with your friends, when Twist started dipping into the jam, I asked my bud, “you know what it is yet?”
“No.” he replied. Following with, “2000?” just seconds later.

The thickly patterned jam in the 7/4/00 Twist put me in a sunny trance. The kind where you’re fully aware of what you’re doing but when you snap out of it, you can’t remember driving for the past 10 minutes. The feeling I forgot since last year. Instantly I had flashbacks to summer tours of yesteryear and yesterera; windows down, music up, sun beating in, and feeling good.

As the years float by, I seem to be seeing less and less shows. I’ll only be seeing 5 or 6 this summer but I plan on making them count and, thanks to my experience this weekend, my excitement is finally coming to a head. Yeah, I have more stuff going on–some really important things in fact–but I look at Phish as my release, my drug. Yes, I know it’s as cliche as the butterfly girl in Bittersweet Motel to say “Phish is my release, maaan”; but they are. While I looked at Phish shows as my party and my place to get down to have fun in years past, I now look at Phish shows as my time to get down to let go and forget about the pressing things in life. It’s a place to get lost with thousands of other people from all nooks and crannies of life.

Phish knows excitement is at a low for them right now, they know demand is almost embarrassing. I have faith Trey and the boys will be motivated by this and crush this tour. They were motivated last year by their stellar fall tour,  NYE run, and high excitement going into summer. This year, they have the opposite situation and I think that will push them even higher–we all know they have the ability to do it again.

I’m hoping Trey got sick of all the symphony stiffs and purely composed songs (which was all beautiful by the way) and is ready to really let loose. Come home, Trey–come back to Phish and us. We have open arms and we are ready to get this fucking summer started for Christ’s sake.