The Pharmer’s Almanac
by Andy Bernstein and Larry Chasnoff
Review by Dave Calarco, @mrminer
Before the Mockingbird Foundation put together the all-encompassing Phish Companion, before every fact about the band could be accessed with three clicks of a mouse via Phish.net, before Phish music merged with the instant gratification of modern technology, there was The Pharmer’s Almanac. Standing like a pillar in a sea of fans craving for one, the Almanac became The Helping Friendly book for the Phish community. Now there was a volume to settle all debates and disagreements, a permanent record of those amazing nights of memory, and a catch-all book that a fan of any level could crack out on for hours. Bringing to the people exactly what they needed, the Pharmer’s Almanac has become a legend in its own time.
Conceived and started by fan visionaries and best friends, Andy Bernstein (co-founder of Headcount.org), Larry Chasnoff and Lockhart Steele, the Almanac was first distributed as a 96-page, staple-bound volume on October 28, 1995, at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The book was subsequently published officially and went through several versions in the early years of existence. But on New Year’s Eve ’98, Bernstein and Chasnoff, through their famous Tour Extras handed out on lot, announced they’d be moving on from their Phishy brainchild. But before long, Kevin Cassels and Dick Northrup immediately approached the guys with a mockup of a new Almanac with all sorts of new ideas. Like a child leaving the house for college, Bernstein and Chasnoff had raised the Almanac, but decided it was time to pass it on. Cassels, Northrup and their crew went on to expand the Almanac to the volume we know today.
When it boils down to it, Phish fans are Phish junkies with an insatiable desire to consume anything informational, statistical or otherwise about their favorite quartet. Bernstein and Chasnoff capitalized on the addictive nature of the band, providing the community with the ultimate fix in the form of a book. From setlists to stats and from song histories to fan anecdotes, Bernstein and Chasnoff compiled a book that approached Phish from both the factual and the personal side—the key to the book’s widespread appeal and success. And the rest is history.
Designed so one could flip around the volume with ease, The Almanac became the de facto bible of the fan community. If a setlist debate needed to be settled, you grabbed The Almanac. If you couldn’t remember how many ‘“Tweezers” were dropped in Summer ’97, you grabbed The Almanac. If you couldn’t remember when—exactly—Phish debuted “Harpua,” you grabbed The Almanac. If you needed to know how many times “Run Like an Antelope” closed shows during 1993, you grabbed the Almanac. There was no Phish-based question the book couldn’t answer, and therein laid the beauty.