Tuesday 09/01/2015 by Lemuria

THEY'RE AN AMERICAN BAND

Today's guest blogger is Professor Paul Jakus, of the Department of Applied Economics at Utah State University. We are honored to share his writing and research, and welcome other academics to contribute scholarly analysis of the band's history, as well.

Before the 2015 tour kicked off, @Lemuria analyzed where Phish has played over the years using Census divisions. He argued that not only does the west coast not get screwed; it gets more than its fair share of shows, while New England — the band’s home turf — is the region that gets shafted.

But analysis by Census divisions didn’t seem right to me. Census Divisions in the east are much smaller than those in the west, potentially distorting the analysis. Instead, why not calculate the geography of Phish shows the same way the Census Bureau determines the geographic center of the population?

What is a geographic population center? Think of a map of the U.S. as a table to be balanced on a single leg. Each person is a weight placed on the table where they live: In 1790, more Americans lived on or near the Atlantic coast; so, the leg on which the table is to be balanced must be placed very far to the east. (In 1790, this was in Kent County, MD.) To maintain the balance as Americans migrated west, the leg was moved further and further to the west. This Census Bureau map shows the westward movement of Americans with every Census since 1790:

Center of the US, based on census data

We can do the same thing with Phish shows, using the latitude, longitude, and the number of shows played in any town. Restricting the analysis to North America, Phish has played at 322 known locations since 1987. I calculated the mean geographic center of Phish shows, by year, using the Census Bureau formulae with the number of shows (instead of population) as the weight. Holiday runs breaking over more than one calendar year were assigned to a single year.

In 1987, the geographic center was located just south of Burlington, VT. The well-known Telluride shows of 1988 pulled the geographic center further west (to near Canandaigua, NY), but then it reverted back to Stratton, VT, in 1989, as Phish spent that year closer to home. The band’s growth as a touring act can be seen when the geographic center rocketed over 600 miles to the west in 1990 (to near Utica, OH). The geographic center has since stayed firmly rooted in the heartland of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois for most years. Prior to 2014, 1996 was the only year that the center moved west of the Mississippi River. But Lemuria’s central argument is correct: In 2014 and 2015, Phish played, on average, further west than it ever had.

What about that green dot near the 2014 and 2015 geographic centers? That turns out to be the 2010 geographic center of the U.S. population (Texas County, MO). Like it or not, Phish’s recent touring years have been almost perfectly balanced with the U.S. population. They’re an American band.

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Comments

, comment by Golgiappa789
Golgiappa789 Very cool!

, comment by DividedSkySolo
DividedSkySolo That's very interesting. I guess being a Chicago Phish fan is better than I thought, and I thought it was pretty good already!
, comment by grozphan
grozphan Oddly enough, in 1996, the first time the marker crossed the Mississippi, Phish did this. Of course, they also later played it with Kid Rock in Vegas.
, comment by tmwsiy
tmwsiy @grozphan said:
Oddly enough, in 1996, the first time the marker crossed the Mississippi, Phish did this. Of course, they also later played it with Kid Rock in Vegas.
Huh, that's amazing. Nice catch!
, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin
, comment by psuphan
psuphan This article is why I love .net!
, comment by Just_Ivy
Just_Ivy Intriguing stuff! Thanks!
, comment by vtspeedy
vtspeedy It's only surprising that it took us this long to figure out that they figured this out a long time ago.
, comment by nickulus
nickulus Nice analysis - I really enjoyed reading
, comment by Voraciously_Alternate
Voraciously_Alternate thanks for the write up. i love to see info like this so feel free to return anytime to wet our statistical appetites
, comment by dyn0mite
dyn0mite Cool analysis. However, the eye test still makes it seem like it is much easier to catch a string of shows with minimal driving for those in the North East and Mid Atlantic. New York City in particular has it best chance. NYC in can easily access upstate(SPAC), NJ, Philly, Worcester/Boston Area, DC/Baltimore/Merriweather. All are within 4 hours driving distance.
, comment by GoonieBuff
GoonieBuff Great stuff!
, comment by Fishmarket_Stew
Fishmarket_Stew The is one of the most interesting essays I've seen on this site. Not only does this reach into the depths of a geography lesson, it also delves into one of the greatest bands in modern America. You are good sir. You are good.
, comment by TheTimberHo
TheTimberHo I love PaulJ
, comment by dorn76
dorn76 Still easier distance wise to see them as a Northeast fan, but this should put some whining re: routing to rest, not that it will. Just means people want to see our band. Nice to see yet another clear demonstration of how much they give us and how lucky we are.
, comment by User_11821_
User_11821_ I always thought @Lemuria was a lady
, comment by i_yam_highdrogin
i_yam_highdrogin lol the timing of this in relation to the Mexico announcement is the definition of ironic.
, comment by PhishMarketStew
PhishMarketStew So perfect, Viva Phish!
, comment by glpgeorge
glpgeorge I I was walking on a dirt road in Warren,VT along with my teenage children a few years ago and came upon a huge beautiful bronze plaque that identified the EXACT SPOT of the Geographic Population Center of Vermont. We read it, tried to understand the "If the population of the state were to be balanced on one point" and we all stared at it quietly. We looked around...then at each other, shook our heads and shrugged. We could not understand the significance of this spot , on a dirt road in the middle of the beautiful countryside, Nor could we imagine how much that bronze cast sign cost to make and install, or how much the grant was to hire the team to study it and come up with this information. The overwhelming uselessness of this spot compelled me to write what seems to be a nasty rant. To put it bluntly...Who the fuck cares? The wonder of having been able to calculate this exact spot is shadowed by the sheer insignificance of having LOCATED the exact spot. Sir, I appreciate your vocation, your education AND your dedication, but I just don't see the point of this particular piece of information.
peace to you,
george
, comment by glpgeorge
glpgeorge BTW, this spot is about 1 mile from and within sight of the base of Sugarbush resort, where phish played 7/16/94, and about 3.5 miles away from Gallaghers Pub, where I first saw Phish 3 weeks in a row during the winter of 87
, comment by relax_
relax_ Nice, very interesting. Thanks!
, comment by CanandaiguaRyan
CanandaiguaRyan Cuz Canandaigua is cool.
, comment by JMart
JMart whet, dude. whet
, comment by Runawaymeat
Runawaymeat @dyn0mite said:
Cool analysis. However, the eye test still makes it seem like it is much easier to catch a string of shows with minimal driving for those in the North East and Mid Atlantic. New York City in particular has it best chance. NYC in can easily access upstate(SPAC), NJ, Philly, Worcester/Boston Area, DC/Baltimore/Merriweather. All are within 4 hours driving distance.
That probably just goes back, again, the pre-railroad America where population centers had to be close together to facilitate easier travel. The developed West didn't spend much time in the pre rail times, so their population centers could be a bit more spread out, and not much has changed.

So my very flawed theory is that Phish knew that, which is why they don't do shows on trains, stagecoaches, or in Pahrump, NV.
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