Origins Of The Phish.net Setlists

The setlists, song notes, show notes, soundcheck, venue, statistics, and related information on Phish.Net are the product of several decades of work by countless people, including bassist Mike Gordon and Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro. The vast majority of this information was published in the second edition of The Phish Companion (“TPC2”), but there have been thousands of additions and revisions made to that data since TPC2 was published in 2004.

Origins: Documents detailing the setlists of Phish shows have been around since the early 1990’s. The earliest was originally compiled via the Internet by Phish fan Shelly Culbertson, with assistance form John Friedman, Richard Stern, and others, for the free use of fans and out of love for the band. It was titled “The Helping Phriendly Book” (the “HPB”), inspired by the “Helping Friendly Book” of Gamehendge lore---containing all of the knowledge in the universe, everything the Lizards ever wanted or needed to know. Back then, lyrics and chords were kept in separate electronic files, and they were eventually removed from the collection of material referred to as "the HPB" for reasons of data integrity and legal ambiguity. Lee Silverman took over the editing and compiling of the HPB for about a year in 1992. Richard “Chip” Callahan, with the help of Shelly and Sean Kennedy, helped to collect setlists for 1992 and the summer of 1993. In fall 1993, Ellis Godard (aka Ellis of Lemuria) began to manage the online version, including significant revisions and additions. Considerable contributions were made by scores of online fans in the early 1990's, notably Brian Bettencourt, Mike Pollack, Ben Miller, Harry McQuillen, Joe Rioux, Chris Bingham and Patrick Sprowels. After Ellis began concentrating on developing other areas of Phish.net, Michael Weitzman and Dan Shoop began to administer the online HPB. (Interestingly, on 5/10/93, the band conveyed plans to publish their own version of the HPB; Phish.com finally included setlists in June 2010, although the Phish.net collection remains the most comprehensive Phish setlists compilation.)

Divergent Development: In 1994, several divergent efforts began paths toward improving the HPB. Michael Weitzman and Dan Shoop, who announced a "Helping Friendly Book Working Group" on 3/14/94, began a complete overhaul but suffered a machine crash. Shortly before that time, Charlie Dirksen began to edit the Godard-edited version of the HPB (dated 1/17/94), seeking out tapes of every show available from many tapers, and using setlists that were distributed by Mikey Perrot through a mailing list (run by Shelly and Sean). He revised and appended that version of the setlists file in 1994 and 1995, while the online HPB continued to be appended with setlists of new shows, but rarely revised otherwise, under joint but loose management by Ellis, Dan Hantman, and Robert Johnson.

Publications: Ironically, just as the integrity of the publicly available HPB data was arguably going stale in 1994/1995, at least one person started selling printed copies of the HPB setlists in Phish lots. Another group revised and appended the HPB and began to use that version to begin publishing The Pharmers Almanac series of books. These actions upset scores of fans who had volunteered countless hours to produce a freely consumable treasure trove of Phish setlist information in the form of The HPB. The first response was informal: Charlie passed out 49 printed, three-hole-punched, binder-clipped copies of the version of the Godard-edited HPB (that he had had started to revise and append in January 1994) for free to fans at the Sugarbush shows during summer 1995. The second was formal, but also non-profit: The Mockingbird Foundation was started in October 1996 by a group of fans (who knew each other through Rec.Music.Phish) in order to publish The Phish Companion and use the net proceeds to fund music education for children programs nationwide. The point was to meet the demand for a printed setlists resource but do so through volunteer efforts and for charitable benefit. The Mockingbird Foundation, which was formally incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in March 1997, wanted to renew the spirit of the Helping Phriendly Book by making setlists available to fans for free as a reference, with no fan profiting at all from their distribution.

Revisions: Late in Fall 1996, when the Mockingbird Project was in its earliest stage, Dan Purcell assisted Charlie in making significant changes to his setlists file, based on hundreds of Phish tapes gathered primarily from the collections of Dan, Charlie, and Bill Bowman. Rare setlists also were added from fans Matthew King, Jason Rose, and Dean Budnick (himself; setlists were not taken from those listed in his book, The Phishing Manual.) In January 1997, Charlie sent Craig DeLucia the file that eventually became the basis for the first edition of The Phish Companion in 2000. Craig spent hundreds of hours editing and appending Charlie’s setlists file (e.g., making song names and abbreviations consistent, developing show notes, and appending the file with new information). Craig and Charlie then assembled a group of eleven fans to further update the setlists file, including Benjy Eisen, Charles Franz, Herschel Gelman, Matthew King, Phil Nazzaro, Dan Purcell, Jim Raras Jr., Dan Seideman, and Darius Zelkha. These fans remained in routine contact and performed substantial and continuous updates to the setlists file, including the verification of older shows and the addition of many show notes. Dan Hantman, Keith McCrary, and Phillip Zerbo in particular also contributed substantial information to the setlists, especially between the first two editions of The Phish Companion, as the second edition of The Phish Companion was published in 2004.

Current Setlists File: The setlists from the first and second editions of The Phish Companion were published online (after following contractually specified delays) but in static format on the Mockingbird Foundation's website, while the online HPB on Phish.net continued to be appended but was nevertheless incomplete as compared with the TPC version on Mockingbird's site. However, beginning a few years after TPC2 was published, a new effort began. Scott Marks sent a number of suggested revisions to the TPC2 setlists to Ellis, who forwarded them to Charlie. Scott and Charlie then worked in approximately 2007 to revise and append the TPC2 setlists (which were themselves built on efforts initially started in January 1994 with the Godard-edited HPB setlists file), also integrating any new information from Phish.com's setlists, Kevin Shapiro, the Phish.net online HPB, and fans/tapers. When Adam Scheinberg's work breathed new life into Phish.net and created a online database for setlists, setlists data entry was performed primarily by Scott Marks, but also by Steve Paolini, Marco Walsh, Ellis Godard, Jeremy Welsh, and Charlie Dirksen. The version of the setlists you see on the site debuted in 2009. The Phish.net setlists file (database) is now available on mobile device apps and on other websites through APIs. If you have any corrections or suggested revisions, please do not hesitate to "Submit A Correction" (look for the button, before where the "Show Reviews" begin, beneath any setlist on that setlist's permalink page).



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