13 Days in a Row
They played 13 Nights in a row at Madison Square Garden.
How is that possible?!
To understand how that is possible, one has to understand the culture.
I first heard Phish when I was in Junior High, sometime right after my Nirvana phase.
I'm not sure who lead me to them but me and my group of friends were hooked. Our class was rare in that we all had the bug, and picked up other rituals along side the music like frisbee and long boarding. I was obsessed all through high school.
But I'm not trying to convince you about the music.
I'm saying it's worth talking about the culture. Would any brand (or band?) be so great to command such a performance?
Can you name a band you'd want to see 9 nights in a row?
But Phish music isn't just a band. It's a sub-culture.
It's an ongoing discussion among a group that varies way more than you'd expect.
Businessmen, families, children, teens. All attending after parties, pre-parties. And everyone's got stories about long road trips to go see them. Times where it rained all during the show but it was the best set. Everyone's got opinions about the best set or best show or best cover.
Because even though they are playing 13 nights, they will rarely repeat a track. With improvisation, and a loose structure around it all. They only way you could make it through such a creative performance feat is to have done this for decades. And Phish has been at it for 34 years.
"The approximately 39 hours of music Phish will create by the end of the 13 shows might contain just as many secret codes as David Lynch's Twin Peaks revival." - Jesse Jarnow
People love it because they can study it. Read between the lines, speculate.
So it's not uncommon for people to bring notebooks to the show, Like someone taking stats at a baseball game! Notebooks they've been keeping for years as their personal journey of every show they've ever been to, what songs were played... a journal!
Then there's the forums, which is about speculating upcoming shows or discussing previous sets.
It's like a Wine club!
Ever heard of a Gap Chart?!
It's where they track how many shows it's been since the band has played a certain track. People count the gaps between shows, then create an average.
"This data is generated using the following rules: first, we analyze the songs played in the last year. From there, we examine the most frequently played songs that have not appeared in the last 3 shows that count "for stats purposes." Those songs are then listed above. We also include the average show gap for each of these songs, which might help better explain the likelihood of a song's appearance." (from Phish.net)
When you reach this stage, you become more than a band.
More than a brand.
You are part of someones life.
Part of their upbringing. Phish fans manage their life schedule around shows. They use shows as a signal for when to take vacations and you better believe there have been phish cover bands at someones wedding.
So what can we learn?
At some point, every brand or company has to face this question:
Do I make more products for my existing customers?
Or, do I get new customers for my existing products?
Basically, more product? Or more new customers?
And every time, for 34 years Phish (like many other jam bands) has chosen more products for their customers.
This is the simplest way to look at this series of concerts.
Phish isn't playing 13 shows in a row to find new customers, new listeners. Phish is trying to give massive enjoyment to a demo that can't get enough, those that are already listening!
They see that it's worth a risk. They're not promoting to new audiences, they're saying "we know what you want, and we're going to give you all of it." And they took a risk but had fun with it. Being that it's called the Bakers Dozen, there's free donuts every night for fans, crafted to fit the setlist or give hints at possible songs they might play.
For example a strawberry fields donut might hint at a cover of The Beatles. And those that are loyal see this signal and embrace this with love. They love them for it.
How can you not??
Which is why you see incredible stories of those that attend..
"there’s Scott Marks, 38, a business analyst in Cranston, R.I., who manages the set list section of Phish.net, a nonprofit volunteer-run fan site. He’ll drive to New York three times to see nine shows, bringing his Phish concert total to 283." - From CAROLINE TELL, NYT
"There’s Ira Lindenberg, 34, a real estate executive, who will fly back and forth from Toronto for six Phish shows"
- From CAROLINE TELL, NYT
They come out because they know Phish are are giving there all for the fans. And so the response is to show up and support. Be a part of something unique. To not miss out on the legendary Bakers Dozen.
And for those that can't make it...
There's digital downloads. Posts from fans about what tracks were played and highlights. Youtube videos posted.
"You had to be there."