Wilson, We Have A Problem: Ruminations on the Rumble at Dick’s – It’s Only a Symptom

by Russell S. Glowatz

Last night Phish made their long-awaited return to Dick’s Sporting Goods park for their 7th annual showcase in the storied Rocky Mountain venue, and while the scene was generally vibrant, some bad juju was simmering just below the surface. During set break, and in clear view of all those watching the LivePhish webcast, a fairly ferocious fight broke out at the front of the floor. While the details are hairy, one thing is abundantly clear; this type of behavior has no place at a Phish show and simply serves to threaten the good-natured, good-vibed,  general goodness that our scene regularly manifests.

Speculation is rampant on the interweb, yet no one but those directly involved, and in the immediate periphery, truly knows what went down. Did a dude hit too hard on someone else’s girl? Was an accidental spill of a beer on someone’s heady threads the impetus for this knock down? The consensus says no, and that this tussle had everything to do with someone getting in another’s claimed space. 

Straight up, at a general admission show, no one has claimed space. That’s simply the nature of general admission. Sure, you can lock down a spot, perhaps hold it down with a small towel or blanket, for a friend or two, while waiting for the festivities to begin. Happily, Phish management has quashed the tarping fiasco prevalent at the outset of summer tour by banning tarps altogether (Tarps are banned at Dick’s, right?!). Yet still, up front at these shows, a general essence of anxiety and entitlement remains when it comes to space.

The words “entitlement” and “Phish” should never be used in the same sentence. Ever. But here we are. There is a growing sense of privilege in placement in general admission environments, and the smell of douchebaggery is wafting widely over the whole scene. If you enter early into a show to lock down one of those coveted upfront spots, all the power to ya! Yet if you walk away for a piss break, a beer run, or whatever else, there’s no guarantee that spot will be waiting upon return. Usually in such circumstances, folks in the area (maybe your friends!) will remember you, and make way to welcome you back into the fold. Yet if that’s not possible, use your words, not your fists to rectify the problem. And the option always exists to find another spot too; sometimes a change in view, mid-show, is just what the doctor ordered.

If you were on hippie time prior to your arrival on the floor, and the front is already packed to the rafters, you are not entitled to smash your way through the crowd. Getting up in phans faces in order to find a better vantage point is the epitome of disrespect, a disrespect for the time those folks kept their asses planted for sometimes upwards of an hour before show time. There’s so many freewheeling, dance friendly, sound solid, spots towards the back and the wings; find one of those and be grateful you’re on the floor for the greatest show on earth. Since no one is entitled in general admission, you might even find an opportunity to better position yourself for set two.

A message to the rail riders: I watched you closely during The Bakers Dozen, and you kids throw down like Chinatown on Mao Tse Tung’s birthday. I’m super impressed with your exuberance and vigor, yet I’m a little unsure of how that whole process works. Is there some type of bracelet system where you wait online all night to get dibs on first entry? You folks obviously commit a massive amount of time and energy to lock down those golden spots. I respect the dedication. Do you wear diapers to get through that epic wait? Not since Moses hurriedly led the Exodus out of Egypt have folks committed to such a tumultuous trial for a face melting payoff! Is the rail truly the land of milk and honey?! I’ve never had the pleasure myself, and odds are it’ll never happen as the number line keeps ticking forward, but it’d be phantastic to have that opportunity, just once.

However, I digress…Lately, there’s a sourness spreading around about your sub-scene as well. Stories are abound that folks pay squatters to wait in the rail line all day, while the ultimate rail rider goes about other pre-show business. That sounds a bit Machiavellian to me, and the preferred philosopher of mobsters (truth!) really has no place at a Phish show. If your aim is early entry, you damn well sit in the trenches with your fellow Phans, and that way the juice will be that much tastier as you personally took the time to squeeze. The ends should never justify the means at a Phish show. How you go about achieving your goals is as karmically as important as whether Trey is in spitting distance once the show begins.

As a fan base, it seems high time we have a scene wide discussion about general admission etiquette going forward. While the tarper memes and joke cracking is hilarious, I’m beginning to think it’s exacerbating the situation at hand. By and large, Phans do it right. We use our words, tact, common sense, and apply a mutual respect towards each other that usually leaves the scene as harmonious as ever. Yet with Phish playing less shows than they used to, and the fan base simultaneously expanding, a recipe for disaster is formulating, and it might just manifest a gumbo of catastrophe on the horizon. Stoking a respectful and mindful conversation about these issues might very well lead to some steam being released from the pressure valve. And I know the band is peripherally aware of Phan discussions on the net as well, so perhaps they’ll come up with some mindful solutions too.

Generally, it comes down to common sense, a mutual respect with our fellow Phans, communication with words, not just body language, and the golden rule. Do unto others, as you wish them to do unto you…or something like that. You get the gist. That Jesus cat dropped some timeless bombs of wisdom.

So, this frenetic fight caught on LivePhish last night was merely a symptom of a larger problem. A dilemma we can easily deal with as a conscientious community of committed Phans. The question we should all be asking ourselves is, do we want to be like Bassnectar fans? Do we want the reputation of resorting to sheer disrespect and violence to lock down our spot next to the band? Do we want the Phish scene to devolve into the chaos of the latter days of the Grateful Dead? Me thinks not. The Phan community is of equal importance in this guy’s eyes to the band itself. You are who makes this scene so serene, magnificent, and marvelous, while Phish provides the celestial soundtrack. It’s “so stupendous, living in this tube!”


© Stand For Jam, 2017.
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? fighting at Phish!? I don’t like this.. #phish #phishdicks

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37 thoughts on “Wilson, We Have A Problem: Ruminations on the Rumble at Dick’s – It’s Only a Symptom”

  1. Fighting at shows is awful, but the fact of the matter is that you have no idea what caused one to break out at Dick’s. Rail riding culture may well be a problem – – it’s a contentious issue – but if you don’t know that that’s what caused the brawl, it would be to treat the two separately rather than implying guilt by association.

    1. I really didn’t mean to imply that rail riders were in any way complicit in this brawl. They weren’t. I was just riffing and rail riders came up in my head. I actually commend their dedication and complimented them as such. If you reread, you’ll see I wasn’t laying any blame at the feet of rail riders.

  2. If anyone wants to know what happened during set break on the floor during the 9-1-17 show, this is what I witnessed from two feet away. Three males showed up at set break looking for new spots for the second set that were closer to the stage compared to wherever they were standing during the first set. Of course they didn’t look to hijack spots from any of the other men down there. Instead they targeted a group of about five or six smaller, weaker women, and stood in the spots where the women had been standing the whole night. When one of the women told them that they were standing in their spots, they continued to look straight ahead and would not respond. Some other men who were behind the women (but not with the women) intervened and the instigators immediately began to challenge the intervenors to a fight. Security was told and security came to escort them out. On the way out, one of the instigators sucker punched one of the interveners, and a brawl ensued.

    This was an act of gender terrorism. The objective was to terrorize women to free up more space near the front for men. They succeeded, as one of the women who’s spots was targeted left for the second set because she was so shaken by the incident.

    These men happened to be guys that sell Lot food and have a food truck. They were also wearing their work shirts when it happened. Phish security watched it and also videoed the situation to take action against then.

    Most folks up front put in the time so that when the get inside her can get a prime spot. But the people coming up during the show to “take” someone else’s spot are usually drunk, drugged, belligerent and commonly combative.

    And for the record, no paid line waiters are allowed. Fans self police themselves and are very hip to the rules and cooperative. There was an LA couple that used paid line waiters for several years that really irritated a lot of people. But now they just find some poor friendless kid to do their dirty work but clam they are friends.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Your version of events seems to be what everyone is coalescing around.

      I mentioned the paid squatter situation because it actually happened at the Bakers Dozen. I believe the squatter(s) were eventually rooted out, but ppl are still sometimes trying to pull that shit. Glad it’s been mostly rectified though.

    2. This very similar thing happened to me this summer at a Greensky show…. I’m 5’2″. Rather than fight… we backed off an lost our spot.

    1. Your ga ticket entitles you to the amount of floor space that your (vertical) body takes up. Nothing more.
      That said, who wants to stand behind Bill Walton, either?

    1. Thank you for the article.
      People seem to be very territorial this year about being in their actual seat, at least I noticed that at the Garden. I hope that was the last of the fights….

      1. You’re very welcome! I actually think the territorial nature of being in assigned seats at the Garden had everything to do with security though. They were live and let live in regards to smoking, but if you weren’t in your appropriate section, there could be hell to pay! Actually had a friend torn out of his assigned seat, accused of counterfeiting his ticket (long story), and was almost arrested. Luckily he had the email chain to approve his seat was legit. Kinda ruined his show though. It’s unfortunate that since the renovation at The Garden, they’ve cracked down on seating…used to be a free for all, like it should be. Anyways, keep on keepin’ on…see you at New Years! 17 in ’17!!!

        1. On the contrary, if someone pays for an assigned seat in a certain spot, why should they have to fend for themselves? GA is a different story, but I beige if you have a seat you should stick to it. In some circumstances, if you would like to sit with a friend feel free to ask and hopefully someone will switch with you or squeeze you in. But I think “free for all” in assigned seating is just another recipe for disaster.

          1. fair point. depends on the venue and a pleathora of other factors. things seemed to work fine in the old days at the garden, but things were equally as cool this round where assigned seating was the rule of law. went to 7 BD shows…got to sit with my friends at two, but partied with phriends at all 7! when it comes down to someone slipping into an unassigned seat, if the seat holder comes along, that other person should graciously slip away as it’s not their place. “free for all” was a poor choice of words. -Russ

        2. GA floor should be a free for all, but in arenas like MSG, with assigned seats and security and ushers being strict about it, I completely disagree.

          I had a great seat at MSG for show #10, it was in section 102 and was dead center with the stage, some younger girl asked me it is would move over and 11 or 12 seats so her boyfriend and 4 friends could sit together, I said no I like my seat and am going to stay in it.

          She proceeded to call me every name in the book, tell me I didn’t understand the “culture” asked me how many Phish shows I had been to (it was actually show #80) told me that no one at the show or in the Phish scene would like me and cussed me out using language that would make a sailor blush. I also had a drunk guy incident at Dick’s this weekend in the stands and will just leave it at that.

          I agree GA floor, no should be expecting to have their spot the entire show,mouth there are a LOT of entitled jerk right now on the Phish scene and concert scene in generally. I just turned 48 in June have been to 80+ Phish shows, Saw Grateful Dead 165+ times as well as hundreds of other concerts, the BIG problem is there is a LARGE group of people that have no respect or etiquette at shows, EVERYTHING is about them and unfortunately it is only getting worse.

          I went to 15 Phish shows last year and 11 this year, I have already made the decision to cut way back next year and see more of there bands and take non concert trips. I saw Dead and Company at Hollywood Bowl, Boulder and Wrigley Field this summer and it’s just as bad.

          1. great feedback. that girl was completely out of line. while i personally feel it’s okay to squeeze into an empty seat, if the owner comes along and wants it back, move along. you paid for that seat! and she felt entitled. sad. and with MSG since the renovation, the seating areas are tighter, ushers are checking stubs left and right, and the name of the game is assigned seating (other than GA). years move on, things change. By and large I had a great time at the BD with limited douchbaggery encountered. but i witnessed a few terrible things, and there’s def an air of wtf out there. thanks for reading. -Russ

          2. Jacob,
            THIS; “the BIG problem is there is a LARGE group of people that have no respect or etiquette at shows, EVERYTHING is about them and unfortunately it is only getting worse..”
            If you remember, this is exactly what happened to the ‘Boys’ the last 4-5 yrs before Jerry passed. Middle to the end of the 80’s the ‘scene’ was cool. ’90’ still not bad. After that though….the ‘scene’ was progressively turning into a nightmare. Way too many people coming for the ‘party.’ Way too many ‘young’ people especially. No. I’m not that, ‘Deadhead’ that was against new fans, I experienced that ‘Deadhead’ quite a few times in the beginning. Never understood going to a concert to just party? I could party anytime, so why wait for a show to get fucked up?
            First saw Phish 25+ yrs ago (Canandaigua) I’m 48 now. The scene will end up eating itself. Phish and the Phans will not be immune to this.
            I’m sure you remember the vibe in lots in 92-95. It wasn’t good. You could feel it, almost see it. We sold our tiks and bailed on Chicago in ’95’ just because of the scene.
            As was with the Dead…so shall be with Phish. Folks won’t ‘police’ each other because no one wants to be the ‘cop.’ The Dead and the ‘Heads’ were built on this principle.
            Phans believe much the same. They are entitled to what they believe. Be it right or wrong.
            Peace all. ‘If you get confused… split open and melt.’

      2. When a show is close to sold out or sold out, it helps to remain in your paid seats. We did each time. Too many shows in the past where there are 17 people In a crew squished into 9 seats, two of which are ours and there’s no room to move an inch. It’s the worst for dancing or even bending and putting your beer down. I know it’s ultimately impossible to get a crew worth of tickets together in the same Row or section, but end of the day, we trade out spots so there’s at least 9 people in 9 seats…. or rage with your crew before and after the shows. It’s all about respect. It always ends there.

  3. It Ian my understanding that the group of women who were harassed were not acting “entitled to their space” but were bullied by a group of guys who marched up and demanded their spots. It’s also my understanding that they tried to ask the guys to leave and when they wouldn’t, some males in the area stepped up to help and as security was escorting the guys out, one of them threw a sucker punch.
    Assuming this is the fault of entitled fans who are selfishly airading their space is kind of a stretch, in my opinion.

  4. It’s my understanding that the group of women who were harassed were not acting “entitled to their space” but were bullied by a group of guys who marched up and demanded their spots. It’s also my understanding that they tried to ask the guys to leave and when they wouldn’t, some males in the area stepped up to help and as security was escorting the guys out, one of them threw a sucker punch.
    Assuming this is the fault of entitled fans who are selfishly airading their space is kind of a stretch, in my opinion.

    1. your version seems to be the most valid one circulating. not assuming anything in this piece. however entitlement was involved…the entitlement felt by those guys getting up in those girls space. entitlement in general is one main issue, but the girls were not the instigators here at all. at least as the major hearsay tells us.

  5. That’s a great, GREAT perspective and this editorial does acknowledge the ambiguous nature of general admission. I agree that if you wait hours to be front row, you deserve that spot. I also agree that if you’re on “hippy time” and show up late, you shouldn’t feel like you have a right to push up to the front.

    But, even if those rules were established and followed, they don’t consider two dynamics: physiological processes and satiety. People have to take a piss. People get hungry and thirsty or want to get a cocktail.

    So, what if you and your friends waited hours for a spot and your bladder is about to explode in the middle of the first set? What if you agree to go on a beer run for a friend or friends? Is it not fair, then, to get back to your spot?

    And, at setbreak, this mass exit/re-entry of the general admission section just happens on a larger scale. Should we all get a placemat that only venue security can physically remove and have them do so after the show?

    It’s a tough thing. It’s tougher for bands with different scenes. My suspicion is anyone reading this article is already familiar with the dynamic and generally agrees with the writer. However, there will probably be disagreements over rejoining your group or reclaiming your place.

    As alluded to in the article, folks generally just want their space. People don’t mind if you walk past (ahead or behind) and continue on. But, no one wants that guy to stop next to them so they have less space to groove.

    I try to get a spot before the show and acquaint myself with the folks around me. Then, when I mosey off to pee or get a beer, I go back to the same spot and if the folks around it remember you’ve been there, they tend to quickly get to a “welcome back” mindset.

    My two cents. First I’d heard of the fight. In all likelihood, this was an isolated incident and won’t become a trend.

    1. Thanks for your words. I think your notion about acquainting yourself with your neighbors is right on the money. Communication is always key. If people already know you, you’re more than likely not gonna have a problem. But I think your other comments also reflect the ambiguous nature (blurred lines) of the etiquette here. If you have a group of friends in a spot, and one of you runs off for a bathroom or beer run, I believe you have every right to get back to your friends. But let’s say there’s 6 of you, and 5 go off…leaving one person to hold down the fort ain’t right I believe, and that space may become fair game.

      My goal here was to stoke discussion…my real hope is that someone that’s able to make changes on a grander scale (phish management) reads this. one sure fire way to solve the problem, end GA, go back to assigned seating…i think that’s a bit drastic. other alternative would be to split GA into sections again, somewhat alleviates the madness up front…another idea regarding the rail riding (while ppl that wait hours deserve their spot up close) i’m not sure if this type of thing in general is healthy anymore. At certain festivals (Bonnaroo for example) they have a pit up front that is emptied and refilled after each set…something like that would give more opportunity to more ppl to get those coveted spots….I don’t particularly appreciate that it’s generally the same group of ppl up front (generally speaking) throughout the entire tour…maybe a random lotto system while entering GA for that front pit spot could be a way to go…if you’re randomly braceleted (or something), you get to ride the rail for a set. just spitballing, and unfortunately all these ideas lead to more physical division in GA, but we’re dealing with human nature here…short of a come to Jesus moment for thousands of people, a policy change might only make the real difference.

      Thanks for reading, and even more thanks for providing your 2 cents. Ambiguity is the name of the game here…here’s hoping we’ve hit bottom and the only way is up!

      In regards to the fight, it was isolated, but had everything to do with space. Another commenter, a witness, painted the scene above. -Russell

    1. not that this is a GA etiquette issue, gonna play a lil devils advocate…remember the Jones Beach Jumper? Jones Beach (other that VIP) is a dry venue. It’s a little more complicated than beer. But you’re right, intoxication throws major fuel on the fire. -Russ

  6. Thanks for this thoughtful reflection. Fights have no place at a Phish show.

    A few random thoughts and recollections: first, can we stop referring to women as “girls?” Aside from some summer outdoor shows, rarely do “girls” actually attend Phish shows. Women do, though,

    Second, a friend of mine wandered up toward the rail in Pittsburgh during the second set. She’s about 5’2″ and 100 pounds. She just wanted to get a peak and take a picture. Three different guys up front lifted her up (as if she were a girl and not a grown woman) and moved her out of the way.

    Third, I hate when people come and stand in front of me after stake out a spot all night. I used to stand my ground and not move an inch when dudes would nudge their way forward past me. But then once in Rochester, I was doing this, and the guy who was trying to get past me couldn’t because I wouldn’t budge and then he just puked all over my shoes (“whatever you do…”). Now, I kindly move out of the way and let whoever wants to pass, pass.

    Fourth, I was at a Rusted Root show way back in the day (maybe ’95?) and a fight broke out up front. The band stopped playing and said, “unless you guys leave, we’re not playing anymore.” Security escorted them out and the rest of the night was blissful.

    1. thanks for the great feedback. fair point on using “girls” to describe women…however the term guy is thrown around for men (guys & girls)…gals i feel is a bit antiquated term though as well. another thought, many also refer to the band as “the boys,” and when talking about phans, phish “kids” is a term widely used. I appreciate your critique though, and will try to abide by it when it’s appropriate to the prose.

      in regards to everything else u mentioned, real issues…i hope some of this collective conversation is getting to the band. some things need to change. -Russ

      ps- go Rusted Root!

      1. Thanks for your kind reply, Russ. You’re the sort of fan that makes the community so warm and welcoming and that makes Phish shows so much fun.

  7. Really great article. The whole front row situation is ridiculous. The fact that the band knowingly turns a blind eye to it is appalling.

    Also, you said “entitlement and Phish should never be used in the same sentence.” Is that a joke? Phish fans are some of the most entitled fans there are. Have you seen the environmental impact from N2O and glowsticks alone? Entitled Phish kids seems like it should be in Urban Dictionary

    1. fair point. i just feel we should never feel entitled to this beautiful community and beautiful band. it’s a supreme gift. such gratitude. but you’re right, entitlement runs rampant. the wish is i wouldn’t have to use those words in the same sentence…but we live in reality. thanks for the feedback! -Russ

      ps- glow sticks deserve their own article. agreed.

  8. I often see shows up at Jorma Kaukonan’s fur peace ranch. You put your name on a piece of paper, find a seat, leave the paper and go have fun til the show starts. But they don’t serve alcohol at that venue either.

  9. I would like to recall my own unfortunate experience at a PHiSH show, SFCA Bill Graham Auditorium 7 19 or 7 20 2016…

    Sometime during the show my pal and I observed from the balcony tons of room “in the pit”, approximately 2nd to 4th row stage center– before going on let me describe what I mean by “tons of room”, I mean that the lucky phans there had about 2 to 2.5 spaces per person, as compared to the average phan everywhere else in that historic low-capacity venue–so we decided to go down and grab a spot, surely there was room.

    Once we made it to the promised land what happened next made me feel embarrassed, ashamed, and very angry. One after another people started pushing me. They treated me like a ping pong ball. I was in disbelief. They had SOOooo much room!!!! I could not believe it! They had more room than mostly anyone else in the venue. More room than anyone else at any show I have ever been to. FAAAAR more room than any rail rider at any show I have ever been to (PHiSH, or otherwise)!!!!

    Well my friend and I got separated and I eventually got violently pushed out by some, pardon my judgement, entitled phans. One of the pushers said to me, “I’ve been waiting all night for this spot.” My reply of, “I’ve been waiting all tour”, was met with pigeons playing me.

    So here I remain, still waiting…

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