How rampant speculation is negatively impacting Phish Tour

Over the past few weeks, rumors of the Phish Festival at Watkins Glen International Speedway have been promoted online in the greater Phish Website, Blog and Message Board Community. In the past few days, these rumors have increased in degree of confirmation noting that contracts have been signed and the event details – 4 days and $200 tickets – are to be expected, along with only Phish.

While we don’t refute these rumors, we do think back to a time when festivals were announced with little warning and the enjoyment was held by all when that announcement did come. It has been some time since this happened; IT and Coventry in the Phish 2.0 era were talked about, but they weren’t revealed to us until told us the event was going to be held (the latter with a sad letter from Trey). Some in the know might have known about those festivals, but we were all for the most part pleasantly surprised when the festivals were announced in 2003 and 2004.


Going back farther in time, Big Cypress was announced in the summer of 1999 and only those who were close with the band or were in the know, knew about it in advance. Word wasn’t disseminated as fast because word of mouth only travels so far when all you have is a voice. This is before the Internet took off, cell phones became handheld computers and the momentary announcement of an event in a band’s history (like sitting in grad school class and hearing of the pending breakup of a 3rd tier jamband in late 2009) could be shared with friends and followers worldwide in a few short moments typing away on a keyboard or touchscreen.

Go back even further. Who knew about Oswego before it was announced? Lemonwheel? The Great Went? The Clifford Ball? Amy’s Farm? The answer is a minor population of people closely associated with the band and a circle of friends, few more. And most of THEM knew to keep it under wraps because that’s the right thing to do.

Railing against the technology we use isn’t sensical here because it is currently being used to write this piece. We all use the current technology, so why not stay up on news, Retweet that thing you saw about Dave Matthews and Phish, Repost that report that Watkins Glen is now Kangfirmed, talk on that message board about how awesome this will be because you KNOW it’s on because you live 145 miles from the site location and that makes you a resident expert, even though you aren’t a resident, or an expert. Ah, technology. It’s great, right?

But what if, just what if Phish, or any band for that matter, were to just go ahead and announce their tour, their shows, their festivals WITHOUT the rampant speculation that quickly devolves into a ‘I announced it first!’ race.

We’ve been there, twice.

back in the day.....

In the spring of 2010, a good friend of ours called us up and said ‘Hey, you want to hear the dates?’ and of course, we said yes. We posted the dates and with the exception of the Alpine Valley dates he didnt know about (later added) and for the most part, we had them right. This was the night before the tour was announced, and while rumors of some dates were out there, nothing was set in stone until the next day.

Everyone reposted the dates. We felt so loved. We had scooped Phish! Our server went down. Then back up again. It was a long night. But dammit we had the dates first!

While there is no place on our resume to put this achievement, it was written with a strong degree of humility….

Just a couple months prior to this, we speculated on the possibility of Spring Tour 2010 in Europe. We basically bit on the same thing many others did and since it never came true, we looked like the weatherman who forecasts for rain and when there is none he just goes on with his day. There isn’t any accountability for this aside from sheepish mea culpas that are left up on the blog as a sign of ‘yeah, we got this wrong.’ So yeah, we got this one wrong.

This is an example of what is happening now. A cycle that needs to be realized and stopped before the fun of anticipating tour dates is ruined forever. Do you know why Phish takes 5-6 months off  to start the year? Because they have shit to do! They have families, all of them, and not just the band but the staff and crew as well. They need downtime and so do we. This is also the time of year where we work our collective asses off and SAVE MONEY for Phish Tour. When Phish tour comes around we can enjoy ourselves at countless shows, see tons of friends and see the country. That’s why we do this – because these 6 months build up to Phish Summer Tour!

When the first rumors develop 2 months or so before tour dates are announced, the cycle begins…..

Step 1. Hear of rumors and post them on your website or blog with commentary, allowing other blogs to repost these rumors.

Step 2. Rumors get repeated like they are the truth and soon they become facts. The rumor has now been heard so much that it is now a fact with nothing but dozens of websites turning to each other as proof that the dates are for real.

Step 3. Websites and blogs start jockeying for position to be the first to have the ‘official’ details on the event/tour.  Once any small detail is announced, it is quickly repeated amongst others online, especially individuals, prior to the official announcement from

Step 4. Phish announces the event/tour, everyone reposts the official announcement on top of their advance announcement. Facebook is overwhelmed with ‘158 Friends shared a link: Summer 2011 tour’ and the enjoyment is felt throughout all of Gamehendge.

Now what if steps 1, 2 and 3 weren’t a factor? What IF we just waited for Phish to announce these tourdates, even in an old-time fashion through the Doniac Schvice? It would be to the advantage of the veterans still on tour who know the rituals of money orders and separate orders (and paying in advance for all tickets, not running up credit card bills). Sure, this probably won’t happen but fans in the 3.0 Phish era are missing the anticipation that would creep up in February of each year, when Summer Tour was on the brain and the mailbox was checked daily – the actual mailbox outside, not the 3 email account’s mailboxes.

So we have this Festival that looks likely to happen and everyone knows about it. Contracts are signed, per and we can probably expect to see only Phish over the 4th of July. is the final say and only when that day comes, its all just a rumor.

Phish 3.0 and social media – too much of a good thing, it’s not always good.

17 thoughts on “How rampant speculation is negatively impacting Phish Tour”

  1. Fantastic article Pete, you nailed it. Things certainly have changed, the old days of the Grateful Dead 1-800 Hotline, having to send in your money order in a separate envelope for each show, drawing or otherwise decorating the envelope so Ruby would pick yours out of the mountain of mail. On Saturday night at the McL’s gig in Northampton, people wanted the band to announce on-stage that The Glen was confirmed, just silly stuff. There is this immediacy that everyone seems to want ot be part of, first one to call the song, first one to post, first one to blog.. sometimes it’s just nice to sit back and let it all happen in it’s own time.

  2. I liked it better when shows started with a van honking in my driveway and ended with calling in sick to work from a random truck stop pay phone. Man the word pay phone even sounds funny, is that really what they are called?

  3. While I appreciate the sentiment of the article, I do think this kind of speculation has existed since the mid-’90s on Sure, it’s far from the level it’s at now, this is just part of the information revolution. Any schmuck with a few bucks and some basic web skills can write a blog. Believe me, that’s how I started.

    You mention that back in the day only those “connected” folks knew about shows/festivals before they were announced. Well those “connected” folks now have Facebook and Twitter accounts. In the past they may have called their circle of friends with these details, but now they tweet or give a status update and their words spread like wildfire.

    “There isn’t any accountability for this aside from sheepish mea culpas that are left up on the blog as a sign of ‘yeah, we got this wrong.’”

    I disagree with that. Phish fans are pretty smart and are untrusting of speculation by nature. If a site publishes a rumor as fact that turns out not to be true, fans will be much less likely to believe that site the next time around.

    So, what do you think the solution is?

  4. Great article Pete…and great comments Scotty.

    For myself… I do post rumors, why? Because I feel it’s fun to speculate. More in the tradition of sites like and Two of my favorite sites from “back in the day.”

    However, any rumor I do post is listed on a “rumor” page with a disclaimer and I don’t broadcast it. It’s up to visitors of my site to find it on their own. I would never post any rumors as “confirmed” until posted officially on

    As far as the solution? Who knows, maybe just ignore it. It’s a sign of the times. It’s the same reason why I never visit Phish message boards.

  5. You make some good points that speculation is kind of wheel-spinning, but on the whole, I’m with Scott above and think this is pretty much same as it ever was, particularly with r.m.p. and Andy Gadiel’s page, where “rumors” were frontpaged back in the day.

    Coventry in particular was just another mini-sumer festival tour ender, kind of like Oswego ’99 and had been announced IIRC **before** Trey decided to hang it up and inherently repurpose the gig as the “last” shows ever.

    Where we draw a line on blog with discussing “rumors” (it’s always OK on the user forum) is where government permits have been applied for and/or received by promoters, and the event is being openly discussed at Town meetings and so forth and then reported in journalistic sources, which are usually daily or weekly (dead tree) newspapers with websites. Websites or blogs only are probably a no-go unless they are well known and quote verifiable sources, etc., however fine a blog it may be, doesn’t make this cut.

    That’s how the details of Telluride last summer became known, before the show was announced by .com, and I think other past shows and festivals have been “leaked” because of the requirements that promoters get local permits, approvals or “buy in” from residents who are fearful of mass events — definitely in Watkins Glen where festivals were a disaster to be “lived down” and were banned by ordinance from 1973 until last year!

    I’d like Doniac Schvice to come back as a way of giving people on the mailing list a couple of days heads up, maybe, and because I liked getting them in the mail (was just looking at one the other day!). But it ain’t gonna happen. Phish used to spend over $100,000 on postage yearly on those things, that’s why they stopped doing it when they realized that email and website promotion was almost free and worked just as well.

  6. 100% agree. Check out or phantasy tour and you will see a bunch of “experts” telling you how it is going to be. Most of them are wrong.

    An example of this is a guy I met while waiting to board my plane to get to Atlantic CIty for Halloween. He said he is in the know and knows the band and the album was 110% going to be Physical Graffiti. We know how that turned out.

  7. Letting word leak out is important as it lets fans plan ahead, all the more important as many of us have more responsibilities and commitments than we did in the 90s. I suspect the band knows this too. The more time I have to plan ahead, the more shows I can attend.

    If you want to be surprised by a festival or tour, don’t read the rumor mill sites. But then you may end up with conflicting engagements, more expensive hotel or RV rental rates, etc.

    Anyway, the rumor mill has always been around. It’s just easier to plug into.

    1. word, Sumo. while the speculation may take some of the magic away from the official announcements, i rather appreciate the ability to book hotels and ask for time off as early as possible.

  8. While I appreciate the sentiment of this post, from a business perspective rumor-milling is one of the major secrets to Phish’s success. Today it’s called word-of-mouth marketing, and the key to any successful WOMM strategy is a shared feeling by participants that they are “in” on something others are not. Businesses, brands, (record labels,) dish out beaucoups in hopes of generating the fervor Phish has come by naturally. Another essential element of such a strategy: You cannot control the message your fans put out there. When you try to, you lose fans.

    On a personal note, I can not recall rumor-milling ever not being a part of this scene. The only difference for me is that during 1.0 and 2.0 I got phone calls from a high school friend telling me rumored dates, sit ins, etc. Today I get tweets and facebook messages from all kinds of people. For the record, my high school friend has a better track record for accuracy, and to this day I have absolutely no idea who he knows.

  9. see…i hear ya… but like in AC,,, everyone thought it was gana be zep. and the band knew everyone thought it was gana be zep…. then they play some heartbreaker and HA HA HA… basicly laughing at us before a little zep medley,,, i felt truly connected with the band at that point….. rumors are rumors… take em for what they are worth,, book your hoddies …rent ur Rvs… just have fun,,right? and don;t believe anythin on PT… and boy do i miss gadiel’s page and RMP in its prime,,,

  10. I think people have discussed tour rumors long before the twitters. You don\’t like that people have a forum to discuss rumors publicly? Do you really feel this strongly? or is it just an observation of an ironic hipster who want\’s to poo-poo social media because its a \’cool\’ thing to do? I have trouble believing that it actually bothers you.

    As a phan myself, I like that the community is active and people have stuff to talk about besides page\’s sandwhiches

    (first world problems)

  11. Pete, I have long respected you, your site and your spirit. But I’m kind of in the dark on this one.

    Not being a wise-ass or a hater here, (truly) but was this article an attempt to show the Phish Organization some respect? I know they hate leaks about tour dates but this hasnt been coming from the inner sanctum and they know it.

    Plain and simple, I’ve been to every phish festival. Yet, amazingly, all have been kept under wraps for 3 basic reasons. (unlike Watkins Glen)
    1) new media (FB, twitter, etc.) 2) phish wasn’t really dealing w/ real formal business entity like WGI and its evenflo of corporate identities 3) Each prior festival site had “an inner circle” of peeps in the know that kept their mouth shut. (unlike WGI)

    Sure, speculation has existed. I’ve been right in the mix of it. However, speculation quickly became fact based on my and many other sources “close to the situation.”
    Mind you, none of these sources are from the (other than the security guard @ Amherst who confirmed he was working this)

    So again, I’m still at a loss on how all of this “is negatively impacting Phish tour.” IT’s always been there. Just this time ’round, peeps on the inside didnt keep their mouths shut.

    When I heard this first in March of 2010, I was asked to keep my mouth shut. Then, 5 months later, it was formally leaked to PT. Then, MISTRUTHS began to get spread. That is when, and only when, I decided to start letting the FACTS known.

    If anything, I think these rumors/specualtions are helping Phish tour. Sure, the Schvice and my Maxell II’s bootlegs and paper setlists are a thing of the past. But we’re adapting and changing….as we should.

    I have no problem whatsoever with these speculations because as w/ , they are the facts. They are true. This is legit.

    all of this is simply fueling the machine known as “phish tour.” we should be so happy so many are so passionate about what could, potentially, turn into an annual destination for Phish.

    Cheers. Happy #PhingerLakes Phans!

  12. Good post, but… Whenever I get tour date rumors from friends, they always ask me to keep them quiet because they don’t want to have to compete with too many other people for hotel rooms, etc. Is this better than broadcasting to the world? With twitter, etc., at least now we all have a shot at booking the lodge at Alpine — not just the insiders.

  13. I do think the long hiatus has contributed to the seemingly rapid nature of the 3.0 rumor mill (along with social media). Being on the west coast i’m desperate for some local action, so I can only dream of a big Phish tour out here an unfortunately pay attention to the rumors.

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