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An Interview with Sean ‘Waldo’ Knight on Early Phish Lots, Knighthood Tees and My Respects App

In the history of Phish fans making shirts, posters and other art that was inspired by the band, the starting point for much of the early art is Sean ‘Waldo’ Knight. Well known on tour throughout the ’90s and well into the 2.0 and 3.0 eras, Knight was the founder of Knighthood Tees, which made an extensive line of Phish-themed shirts, including Glide/Tide, 2001/Uno Cards and It’s Ice/ICEE, among many others. Knight’s designs were the most prevalent on Phish tour throughout the 1990s and provided the basis for the wider community of Phish fan art that developed in later years.

Now, living in Humboldt, California, Knight is working on a new venture, MyRespects, while reflecting on his extensive history touring with Phish and setting the stage for the Phish lot and art scene we are so familiar with today. Sean talked with me about his history with Phish, Knighthood Tees and looking back on his years on the road.

Pete Mason: So when was your first Phish show?

Sean Knight: The first show where I got ‘it’ was a few after my first, May 13th, 1989


PM: You started out going to quite a few shows early on. What was the lot scene like in the early ’90s?

SK: The lot scene was kind of mixed. There was only just me for the most part being chased around by Amy Skelton, but there were a few of us out there, all being chased. It kind of blew up right around 1993.

PM: What were some of the early lot shirts and posters you recall seeing, other than your own?

SK: Not so much on posters but I do remember the Jesus Phish and the Christ Phish (car decals) and the Fish Vacuum (sticker). I was rocking the Antelope and the Glide tee. My earliest design was the Phish Maze, but that one was a no-no… Fishman was wearing a bunch of my shirts, then one night in Rochester he said he couldn’t where them anymore and that I should stop making them. So I did.

8-7-93 front

PM: How did that process get started by which you made shirts of your own? Was it just a random idea and a shirt press? Was there more to it than that?

SK: It was more out of need to go see a show on the clean vibe angle. I made a shirt designed by my buddy Jeremiah, with tourdates on the back for Fall ’93, and one with all of the song titles in fishes, but not the logo. Later on, we would make tees on the road. I would by blank white tees, dye them light purple at a laundromat and we would print them in the hotel. Then I would have to dry them to set them. It was a lot of fun.

got it 3-25 or 3-28 1993

PM: When did Knighthood Tees first take off?

SK: From 1993 to 1996, my business was called Glide Clothing, and in 1996 it became Knighthood. I closed up Knighthood after the last hiatus in 2004. I put all of it away to work in Florida and help with my mom during hurricane season. When they came back in 2009, I started up Jamgoods.com. The lot sales were just so over-saturated so I decided in the last two years to not to really pursue the artwork. The Jamgoods.com brand will develop into another project some day.

sub by jake young glide_1994

PM: When did you take on the moniker Waldo? How did that get started?

SK: It started over 20 years ago. I didn’t know what the (Where’s) Waldo book was all about but when I stopped by a friend’s house on the last day before I did my laundry… BOOM! Waldo was born. My first show as Waldo was a Merl Saunders show in Binghamton, New York, where I grew up. The first Phish show as Waldo was in Worcester in 1993. Back then, you would see Phish and people wanted to dress up in costumes for New Years Eve. It went over amazingly, so I decided to wear the shirt and cap at all Phish shows and Dead shows. It was an amazing experience.

In 2001, Knighthood tees was sued by Phish for infringing on intellectual property, including song names and lyrics that were featured on shirts, stickers and other merchandise sold on the company website. Phish alleged that lyrics and song titles were copyrighted, while Knighthood tees did not. In the end, the parties settled out of court and the suits were dropped. He was also sent Cease and Desist letters by a variety of companies, most notably, Firestone Tires, for his First Tube design. Sean declined to comment on these matters.

KH firstube

PM: What were the years like for you from 2003-04, leading up to Coventry? As a fan who had seem them since 1989, the impact of seeing the last Phish must have had an impact.

SK: As an artist it had an intense impact. I moved from Vermont to clear my head and closed down the shop after having a sale. What I found though was that it was a freeing experience. You see I had this hobby that turned into business and as fun as it may sound, there can be a lot of pressure. By the end of Coventry, it was not as much fun as the early days. “Waldo. Can you still have fun?” used to roll through my head back then.

warren Copy of DSC02402new

PM: What did you do between Coventry and Hampton in 2009?

SK: I started a graphic web design company Edoorz.

KH sanitycolor

PM: Where are you now and what’s the next chapter of Sean Knight’s life?

SK: I am currently living in Northern California. I moved out here right after the Phish show in Atlantic City, 2010, when they did the Little Feat album Waiting for Columbus. I do a lot of non-profit websites and volunteer at my local community radio station, KMUD. The next chapter in my life will always be affected by the Phish scene.

I am currently developing an facebook app called MyRespects. The app was conceived by the loss of friend from tour over the years. I have seen a lot of loss of phans and we lost a good friend that summer (2011) named Scotty. I was not friends with him on Facebook and living in a new area, it was really hard to grieve with friends. I couldn’t post on his Facebook page and as I am going through all this, Phish delivers like they always do- the ‘S’ show for Scotty. This really helped me heal from the loss of a friend.


So on Veterans Day that year, we decided to create this app. The big team on this project is mostly comprised of Phishheads. The My Respects Facebook Memorial Pages Application will allow you to create an interactive Memorial Page which will serve as a digital tribute and legacy for your loved ones, a deceased pet or even yourself.  These Memorial Pages are specifically designed to be interactive and wide reaching; encouraging family, friends and acquaintances around the world, to share their memories and feelings with other grievers, creating a respectful community of grievers facilitating understanding, communication and healing.

We decided to launch an IndieGoGo campaign and we are raising $6,500 in  funds to finish the app development phase and bring it to Facebook sometime in 2014.  To see more about this app and receive updates on Facebook, visit the My Respects page. 

An Interview with Michael Hamad, Creator of Setlist Schematics

During Phish’s Summer Tour, more than the music was creating a buzz among fans on Social Media. Michael Hamad’s ‘Phish Maps’, now called ‘Setlist Schematics’, represent a crossover between the music of Phish and the art of Phish fans in a unique way that has not been seen before. Using musical notation, shorthand, paper, pen and Phish, Michael has crafted some of Phish’s biggest jams, as well as some lesser known ones, into pieces of art that bring music theory to the eyes of Phish fans, digging deeper into a jam to discover what is going on in the music from an orchestration point of view.

Michael and I chatted on the phone this past Friday about his background, how these maps/schematics started, and the artistic nature of the drawings that have given him a wide audience, as well as requests for custom-made representations of certain jams throughout Phish’s history. You can follow Michael on Twitter and his work as it is updated on Tumblr. Drop him an email at SetlistSchematics (at) gmail (dot) com if you are interested in getting one of these one-of-a-kind creations custom-made.

Big Cypress Sand > Quadrophonic Topplings

Pete Mason: What got you into doing these Phish song maps?

Michael Hamad: I was listening to the streams all summer whenever I could get a good stream, and I’m in the habit of taking notes for myself as I listen to music. During the Tahoe Tweezer, the one that blew everybody’s mind, I wrote down what I heard, because I got a sense that something interesting was going to happen. At the end I didn’t even realize that a half hour had gone by. I took an iPhone picture of what I drew and I tweeted it, and people started sharing it all over. I called it a “road map,” because I felt like it could help people navigate through the madness.

The response was just silly, and it occurred to me that people might be interested in visual interpretations of what I heard. I did more and more as the summer went on. With each one, I refined my approach, so I think they got better and better. I discovered different types of shorthand and notation that captured more of what I heard. I kept sharing them online, and eventually, it turned into what it is now, which I’m not sure what it is.

PNC Xid-hood
PNC 2013 Crosseyed>Hood

PM: These maps seem pretty intricate for casual fan to complete. What is your musical background?

MH:  I have a Ph.D in musicology and a master’s degree in music theory. I wrote an analytical dissertation on the songs of Franz Liszt. It took me six years. I was on a path to be a music professor, but I kind of veered away from the academic world. Life does that to you. I’m now a music journalist and editor in Connecticut, and I also play in bands and stuff.

What’s funny about this whole situation is that, long before I started studying music in any formal sense, Phish was the music that turned me on to more complex musical forms and improvisation. It led me to jazz and classical music. To come back to Phish after all these years with an advanced set of analytic tools is sort of a trip.

alph CDT
Alpharetta 2013 Chalkdust Torture

PM: What’s your method for doing these maps? Describe the setting when you get into starting one.

MH:  I try to get everything in place — pens, paper, lighting, white-out, etc. — before I start, so that I don’t have to step away for any reason. Then I try to empty my mind and forget everything else. If I can prepare in that way, then the maps turn out better. It’s pretty much a one-time shot through the piece. I rarely listen to a jam or show twice. Each map represents me listening to a piece of music once and writing down what I’m hearing.

hwood hood
Hollywood 2013 Harry Hood

PM: How has the response been to your Phish Maps/Setlist Schematics?

MH: I can’t really believe the response. It’s been great. I’m happy with the idea that music theory and analysis would appeal to people on some level, even to people who don’t understand it. But I’m not surprised either, because this audience is among the most analytical audience for music out there. A lot of people in the Phish community listen on a deep level, so to introduce concepts of music theory into that discourse is gratifying. But I recognize that this isn’t for everybody. Some people react negatively, and that’s cool with me. This is just the way I process music. I’m not trying to suggest that this is the only valid interpretation, or means by which to interpret, Phish’s music. I could probably do a better job of explaining the symbols, for sure, so I’m happy to answer questions if people want to e-mail me out of the blue.

albany ghost-toe 10-9-99
Albany 1999 Ghost > My Left Toe

PM: In terms of art, how do feel that what you take from each song and put to paper becomes art?

MH: For me, the maps are functional. When I was in grad school, I used to make charts like this for myself, to help keep track of what I was hearing, to compare pieces to one another, and so on. It’s a form of shorthand. I can look at a map and trigger a memory of what I heard based on what I wrote down at the time, and I have complete faith in my hearing, that my initial impressions hold up over time. I’ve worked really hard to develop my listening skills, ever since I was a teenager, and that gives me confidence to believe what I wrote down.

That said, there are people who are attracted to the purely visual nature of the maps, and that’s cool. I can’t really define what qualifies as “art” and what does not, but people seem to dig how they look. What would really make me happy is to find out that people have tried listening along with the maps. That would be really great. But I’m also pleased with the way they look on the page. It’s hard work, and when a map is done, sometimes I’ll unfocus my eyes and stare at one for awhile, without thinking about what it represents. I’ve always been attracted to this sort of chaotic arrangement of information that still makes sense somehow.

dicks 9-1-13 full show as it happened
Dicks 9/1/13, Full Show as it Happened

PM: So you are selling these Maps/Schematics? How has that process worked so far?

MH: People have been writing in and requesting certain songs and shows. There’s a huge gap in my Phish listening, so when I hear something, it’s educational for me. Someone asked me to map the “Mr. Completely” sandwich from Utah in 2003. It’s like 45 minutes long, and I never heard it before. There are so many of these abstract jams that I’m discovering every day, for the first time, based on people’s suggestions. I stopped listening to the band in 1993 or so.

Utah 2003 Mr. Completely -> Low Rider -> Big Black Furry Creature from Mars -> Buried Alive > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars > Ha Ha Ha > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars > Mr. Completely

PM: How come?

MH: When I went to graduate school, I got heavily into classical music. It was a different time for Phish and Phish fans, you have to keep in mind. I saw them in Syracuse in 1994 after not having seen them in a year or so, and I remember thinking they had gone too far outside, that they were going too far out. That was my impression in 1994. So, I moved away from it and started I listening to other stuff.

Funky Bitch - Jam - Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, 112294.
Columbia, Missouri 11/22/94 Funky Bitch>Jam>Yerushalayim Shel Zahav

PM: What brought you back to the music?

MH: Hampton in 2009 hit me with a big nostalgic streak. A lot of people were hurt by the breakup/hiatus, but I was relatively unaffected by it. So in 2009, I started finding my way back to Phish and found there was a lot of great music there. So the music from 1994 to today is new to me, and it’s a pleasure. It’s surprising — or maybe not, actually — how innovative they were in the ’90s. I’m looking forward to hearing Niagara Falls 1995 because it just sounds like a ridiculously good show.

Since February, I’ve listened to every available minute of every show between 1983 and 1991, in chronological order. Hours and hours of listening, every night. I don’t know how many Possums that is. But I enjoyed every show, even the ones that sounded horrible. It was like reading a great novel, listening for the subtle changes from night to night, following them on tour. I highly recommend doing that. The maps grew out of the notebooks — 600 pages or so — that I kept during that process. My original idea was to write a book, but now I’ve become obsessed with mapping. It seems like a more direct way to get my interpretations of the music out there. But the book is coming, when I can find time to write it. I might produce a flipbook of a certain tour — summer 2013, perhaps — annotate the maps with explanations.
I’m also interested in other bands – I’d like to hear more Umphrey’s McGee, for example, or to try some Max Creek or Miles Davis. I’m a huge Deadhead. I’ve already mapped out the Veneta Dark Star (8/27/72) and the entire ’77 Cornell show, but I’m not sure I’m ready to share those yet. But soon.

Roundtable discussion with screen-printers

Within the Phish community, we are fortunate enough to have small businesses that are created by fans, for fans, to satisfy the need in the Phish community.  Whether they be food vendors, clothing makers or designers of jewelry and clothing and other wares, Phish lot is the home to not only a unique genre of art (PhanArt) but also to a number of small businesses that start out on the lot and sometimes move into a larger existence as demand is generated.

We are fortunate to have four fans that run their own screen-printing businesses which were born from the demand of Phish lot and fans in general, or other avenues that have eventually brought them back full-circle.

Included in this roundtable discussion are:

Tripp Shealey, longtime Phish fan and owner of Taboot Clothing, Denver CO – Check him out at trippsprints.com and tabootart.com;

Kyle Donaghy, North Carolina resident and the inspiration behind ‘Kyle’s Song’ by moe., has owned and run John Street Graphics since the late 90s. visit his business site at johnstreet.net;

John Warner, owner of J dub All Stars printing, he has been making designs for nearly two decades and has been seeing Phish since the early 90s;

Jesse Brust, owner of 518 Prints began creating shirts as a recreational activity from the basement of his house, and within a year his business was in full swing.

Pete Mason: How did you first get started printing shirts?

Jesse Brust: I went over to a good friend’s house. A fella by the name of Chris Stain  (www.chrisstain.com) to get tattooed.  We were in his basement and just as he was getting ready to lay down the first line I noticed he had a small bench model press, dryer and flash.  It didn’t look like he was doing much with it so I asked him if he wanted to sell the equipment. That was it. I called a family member up to borrow the money and purchased the equipment the following week.

Tripp Shealey: I used to buy my shirts that I designed from another printer.  I got tired of paying higher prices than necessary, so I decided to start printing in house. A couple of friends and I who were like minded decided to save up some money on Summer Tour 98 and buy some printing equipment. The rest is history!

John Warner: A long time ago, I actually started printing my own shirts as a teenager so I had something unique to wear. I used to make stuff for local bands in San Diego and eventually I found I could make a living out of it and formed J dub All Stars

Kyle Donaghy: I took a course in process screen-printing at a community college during summer break in college. I started selling shirts at Grateful Dead concerts to pay for my show expenses (By saying that I’m dating myself). Later I bought a press when I was in school at Appalachian State University.

PM: What are some of your most memorable designs?

JB: Five-color discharge lion and dragon design with application foil outline and a six-color simulated process on a black zip hood.

KD: The YEM/STP, The Piper/Pabst, the Icculus/Adidas, the Sloth/Sopranos, and the Treyhound/Greyhound. Those are my favorites.

YEM/STP A John Street original
Icculus/Adidas A John Street original
Piper/PBR A John Street original

JW: There are some that stand out mainly for clients; I really like the shirt I did for year of the dragon lately.

ph1-n1, fall 2009

ph1-n1, fall 2009

TS: My Bonnaroo lot shirt from the third Bonnaroo on my birthday!  Good luck finding one of those.  Oh, and Clifford Ball 96! There are too many to choose! I really like the boat print I just did from Miami.  Totally new style for me!  Opens some doors.

miami boat print
Tripp's Miami Boat Print

PM: When did you decide to make the jump from ‘a fan selling and making shirts’ to ‘a business making and selling shirts’?

KD: I was waiting tables and selling advertising for a local newspaper during the day. When my paycheck bounced at the newspaper, I knew it was time to start something new. I got a loan from the bank, bought another press, and kept at it.

JW: In my case it was the opposite, I had my business and I would make shirts to go on tour, kind of like a paid vacation.

TS: When I realized I really liked the artistic aspect of what I was doing: touring, and selling and designing shirts. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than creating art. Sometimes I wish I could just be an artist and not have to run this whole screen-printing business.  It pays the bills though, and that’s where I’m at for now!  Trying to find that balance between business and that pleasure that is art!

JB: I worked a full time job plumbing from 8-4:30.  At 5PM I would come home and hit my basement and print until Midnight-1am everyday.  My client base was building to the point that I really didn’t need to do plumbing anymore but I continued to do plumbing for consistent money.  I was unsure about going out on my own until one morning my plumbing boss called me up before I was even suppose to be in work and said  ” Where are you” I said “I’m on my way and I’ll be there on time just like every morning”  He came back with  “I wanted to leave early this morning so get to fucking work” I snapped! I told him to fuck off and to do the work himself.  At that point it became all business!

PM: At what point did your fan-business grow into a larger entity?

JW: Well, J dub All Stars was always the main business and the fan art stuff was auxiliary

JB: This happened gradual, client by client.

TS: It’s been growing this whole time, from a little seed we planted back in 98! It will probably never stop becoming larger and larger if the past proves true again.

KD: When Jerry died, I started staying at home long enough to take local orders.

PM: What are some of the challenges you face with your transition to business from just starting out printing?”

KD: Not knowing all the in’s and out’s of the business, what types of inks to use, screen mesh counts, how to quote out jobs, etc…

JB: Employment!!  Making sure you have the right team.  My employee’s are amazing! Great workers!  This is what makes a good business, having people that care about your business as much as you do.

JW: Taxes and paying government agencies so you can operate legally

TS: Well, knowing the in’s and outs of printing for one.  There’s a lot of technique involved.  Then it just gets crazier from there. Profits, losses, taxes, expenses, customer service, shipping, production, procedures, insurance, registration, etc, etc… There’s a lot to running a successful business, it ain’t no picnic.

PM: Have you found any drawbacks in running a screen printing business?

JB: None. I have fun everyday. New designs, new people.  This isn’t a huge money maker.  If you get into screen printing thinking your gonna make a ton of money right off the bat, don’t even start.  Profits in screen printing come in the long haul.

KD: No, it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of nice people around the country via my business and music. Sometimes the solvent odors can really get to you though, and the heat from the dryer.

TS: Sure, like any business working for yourself, you’re responsible for you getting paid. You make as much or as little as you allow yourself to.  You’re business day doesn’t always end when you leave the shop.

JW: Taxes on income and goods and anything else the government can take from you.

PM: For fans who have the idea to start their own screen printing business, or design their own shits, what advice can you share with them?

JW:  Don’t do it, it’s an unforgiving job. Lol, just kidding. Do good work at a fair price and treat your customers like family.

JB: Same as in my case, work two jobs and put everything you earn back into your business.  Don’t spend any money you make.  This also means you can’t go on Tour! Clients want a reliable service and most importantly they want to speak with the owner of the company.  If a client calls your company for a job that needs to be completed in a short time frame that last thing they want to hear is your out on tour!

KD: Go to work 5 days a week, keep decent hours, and deliver when you say you will.

TS: As far as starting your own screen printing business, be ready to put in some serious time, I’ve been doing this for 12 years, and I’m still no expert.  There are people who spend their whole careers being screen printers, and have incredible skill.  Jeff Wood has been screen-printing since I was in diapers almost, and you can tell.  That’s not something you can just learn real quick!  If you love it though, it’s a great art. I will be screen printing for the rest of my life!

We thank Kyle, John, Jesse and Tripp for their time for this roundtable discussion.  We fully endorse these fan-businesses for all your shirt making needs. If you have any questions, post them in the comments section below.

PhanArt Pete

PhanArt Pete Radio Interview Mon 11/23 @10pm

This Monday, 11/23, PhanArt Pete’s interview will air on The Acoustic Record with ‘Java’ John Goldacker.  ‘Java’ discusses with Pete the recent 8 festival, the Phish lot scene and economy, the creativity inspired by band, as well as the PhanArt Blog.

Tune in at www.wift.org at 10pm.  Locally, you can tune in at 89.5 FM Melbourne

‘Java’ John Goldacker is an artist living on the Space Coast of Florida with his wife and son.  Java paints murals, design logos, draws and paints portraits, aas well website design and more.

'Java' John

Goldacker is also a PhanArtist featured in PhanArt: The Art of the Fans of Phish who made two great posters – one for Big Cypress, and another for IT