Phish is from Vermont, but they have a lot in common with San Francisco. Both are perpetually associated with the Grateful Dead — who launched the hippie jam band movement from 710 Ashbury St. — and they both more or less left that past behind. San Francisco went from the Summer of Love to “bro-culture,” startups, and $2,000 closets, while Phish ditched their road warrior status to break up twice and went sober enough for frontman Trey Anastasio to declare “I fucking hate drugs.” (One can imagine from this quote that Anastasio might stare at the plumes of tripping youngsters who come to his shows with the same disdain a Mission District artist feels for the hordes of millennial tech workers who now live in the ultra-hip Valencia corridor they helped create.)
Phish also embraced “disruption,” long before it was a startup buzzword. They actually beat us to it. The band's musical theory bypassed the album decades ago. They didn’t sell records, but rather a participatory experience that couldn’t be replicated. Fans were allowed to tape the shows, and distribute them for free (or trade) to anyone who was interested. It’s a business model that was largely unaffected by the rise of Pandora and iTunes (both Bay Area companies), and the parking lot scene created by fans was a sustainable alternative community years before Burning Man’s “gift economy” went mainstream. And if that's not enough for honorary SF status, consider this: their drummer Jon Fishman performs wearing a dress.
But their biggest similarity boils down to a classic San Francisco conundrum: space, or rather, the lack thereof. Tickets to Phish shows have a habit of selling out faster than cheap condos in North Beach. For anyone who didn’t get tickets to their October run at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium through the band’s pre-sale system — which reads like a piece of affordable housing legislation with phrases like “all requests, regardless of when they are placed, are treated equally” — the public sale starts Thursday. This year Phish is coming to what should be their hometown on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, which increases the chances of getting tickets for anyone willing to plop down at the computer by noon. Which shouldn’t be too hard in a city full of freelancers and people “working from home.”
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Photo by Dave Vann from Phish's Facebook page