Wednesday 08/28/2019 by phishnet


[Thanks again to longtime blog contributor, @paulj - ed.]

Over its long career, Phish have played over 1,500 shows in hundreds of different venues, yet there is a relatively short list of venues that are on nearly every fan’s must visit list. Madison Square Garden, Hampton, and the Gorge have been special Phish venues since the 1.0 era. During 3.0, it’s pretty clear that the MGM and Dick’s offer experiences that are likely to reward any fan making the effort.

Most of these bucket list venues offer something much more than a Phish show: MSG and MGM are suffused with the craziness of NYC and Las Vegas, respectively, and the Gorge is home to…the GORGE.

But Dick’s Sporting Goods Park? Seriously? A soccer stadium located atop a Superfund site in an industrial area adjacent to an oil refinery—which is also a Superfund site? (They don’t call it Commerce City for nothing.)

In 2011, the first year Phish played Dick’s, there was little to suggest it would become a venue of lore. Legal weed? Not in 2011. A great Shakedown? Not in 2011. Party buses? Not in 2011. And yet…

Outside of the spelling gag for each of the first five years, Phish has offered only a standard three-night stand composed of two set shows. So, exactly how did Dick’s become “Dick’s!”?

Let’s look to the show ratings here on the .net website. (Yes, show ratings are statistically problematic but it’s what we have to work with.) I’ll use data from 2011 through 2018, though I drop Northerly Island 2013 N1, which had its second set truncated due to weather.

As of August 8, 2019, the average rating over all 24 shows at Dick’s was 4.238, whereas the average rating for 274 shows at other venues was 4.026; regression analysis confirms that the difference is statistically significant.

Fan ratings of a typical Dick’s show are higher than a typical show at other venues, but this masks a bit of variation across the years. The graph below shows the average year-by-year ratings at Dick’s against all other venues played by Phish that year.

Phish crushed it coming out of the gate at Dick’s, with show ratings in 2011 and 2012 that were much higher than the average of shows at other venues. In 2012 (the FYF spelling gag), the average across all three nights was 4.55—a three-night run that is the equal of Magnaball (4.57), Vegas Chilling, Thrilling (4.50), or the Baker’s Dozen run of Jam, Powdered and Chocolate (4.55).

Starting in 2013, anyone not making early travel plans found that scoring a Saturday night Dick’s ticket was tough, and procuring tickets has only gotten more difficult since then.

By 2014, 10 of the 12 shows played at Dick’s had exceeded the yearly average for all other venues during its comparison year. Some runs, such as 2013 and 2015, have been more uneven from night-to-night than others, as depicted in the graph below. Yet even in during an “off year”, Phish typically delivers at least one incredible night.

Complementing Phish’s high standard of performance is the local business community, which has provided a wonderful fan experience. Most people can fly directly to Denver, and then take a free shuttle to a hotel close to Dick’s. From there one can Uber to the venue cheaply or hire a party bus catering specifically to Phish fans. Venue parking is plentiful, and camping is permitted onsite. Legalized marijuana has simplified travel for many fans.

Fans have also contributed: Dick’s now has the largest (best?) Shakedown on tour, @Lemuria’s Runaway Open golf tourney – a fundraiser for the Mockingbird Foundation – is now in its fourth year, and each year @DaleCooper’s Dick’s Meat Up swells ever larger. Finally, what with Dick’s being on the West Coast and all, it's just a short drive down Interstate 70 if you’d like to take a dip in the Pacific Ocean. Yes, Dick’s really is all that.

This year's Dick's run is faced with uncertainties that have not been encountered in the past, and it will be interesting to see how fans react. We do know one thing though: like a prairie dog emerging from its hole, Phish will rise to the occasion.

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, comment by tylergrant
tylergrant What companies offer these free shuttles?
, comment by silvermaroon
silvermaroon @tylergrant said:
What companies offer these free shuttles?
They're not free, they range from $25-150 round trip depending on where you're coming from, they quality of bus and amenities. You can drink and smoke weed on any of them no problem and they bump good music. Bus To Show has always been my go to. Granted Bus To Show buses are school buses they're the cheapest option and pick up-drop off at various Cheba Hut locations which have bars.

Edit: I see the shuttles you mean, I believe the poster is talking about hotel-specific shuttles where you have a reservation.
, comment by GoldenRage
GoldenRage "Finally, what with Dick’s being on the West Coast and all, it's just a short drive down Interstate 70 if you’d like to take a dip in the Pacific Ocean."

Haha- love this!
, comment by twick
twick I enjoy the venue. Easy to get beers, merch, bathrooms etc. Shows have been awesome most years. I will say as a CO resident that I'm ready for change.
, comment by phishphan97
phishphan97 I've only made the '13 run (CDT N2 was the clear highlight for me) and while it's one of the least celebrated (I did OKC in '12 and man I wish I'd gone that year, the Light they played is one of my top 10 Phish jams) the phans I met there, the locals especially, we're so fucking cool. The pipe I bought there had actual dicks fumed in it! Here's to '19 bringing the heat!
, comment by BestBandEver
BestBandEver Interesting facts that validate the way I've felt since Dick's 2011. One thing that was not mentioned but which I think contributes to the hype around Dick's for many is the camping - for those of use who have made it a tradition to camp in year's past (sniff), DICK'S is not just about the shows - it's about the whole package (get it?). The daytime shenanigans (I'm looking at you Camp Slip N' Slide) and mini-shakedown, the free wineballs, the popsicle guy, ROLLING DOWN THE HILL, the awesome shower trucks and food trucks to keep you shiny and sated, the steady pre-game loosening that may involve a thunderstorm or two and likely entails making at least 5 new friends, the eventual gearing up and walking of a whole 2 minutes to the venue where all the hotel-dwellers are just arriving...aaaaah, such a special, unique pre-show feeling. Then the shows (I'll let the stats speak for themselves - there is ALWAYS at least one night of fire and the vibe just plain rules)...then BACK to the campground for the real shenanigans. I would just like to express how unbelievably fun the late night campground scene is (was?). My friends and I have spent countless hours discussing what it is exactly that makes the CG so damn fun every year and have decided that really it's just because everyone tries really hard to have as much fun as possible (and Phish fans are fairly good at having obscene amounts of fun). The Dick's CG is basically an ongoing social experiment where everyone tries to bring/ have as much fun as they can, and improves on it just a little bit every year. Hippy Tug of War? Fox vs. Bear? The Disco Wagon? THE GLOW STICK DICK?!!?!?!? ROLLING DOWN THE HILL?! Anyone who has camped for a few years is familiar with these legendary activities (yes, the glow stick dick is an activity...well, a lifestyle really). I think that part of the Camp Dick's magic is it's size - not too big, not too small, but juuuust's like a quaint wooded village hidden away from the bustling metropolis that is the venue - once you enter those gates, you know you're safe. No nitrous mafia? no cops? no problem! Not that camping at full-on Phish festivals isn't fun - it is - but something about the size of Camp Dick's combined with the fact that there are so many people who have made it a tradition (at this point half of the people I know who've camped for five or more years even make it a point to get the same spot) just make it a really special experience (the super chill security guards help too), which underscores the fact that it's not the size that counts but how you use it.

Anyways, not to get overly nostalgic about this, but for a lot of folks this year's run is already starting at a severe disadvantage due to the cancelled camping. It's a huge bummer, and for those of us who spend all year looking forward to how we're going to make CAMP DICK'S even better, the weekend just won't be the same. That said, at least the shows are still happening (THANK GOD), and at least we now have the scientific evidence to support our expectations that Phish will more than likely crush. Let's make some lemonade, people! See you all there!
, comment by grozphan
grozphan So go to Dick's on even years. Got it.
, comment by Culture_Czar
Culture_Czar My favorite place I've ever seen Phish...including all of the other venues mentioned. Dick's just has such amazing vibes, (usually) great weather, chill fans, no hustle for "better" tickets more or less. On the periphery of a great city and a great jump off point for having nature adventures before or after the run. It's so perfect.
, comment by the_flaxseed
the_flaxseed Hahaha I love the regression analysis! Great post, man!
, comment by olfactory_Splooge
olfactory_Splooge For me and mine, Dick's is a cocktail party and Phish is the house band. Its not better or worse than other shows, but it is different. Thats my two cents.
, comment by Jempphan
Jempphan Love the graphs and stats- are we nerds yet?
, comment by imdano
imdano It's fun to see the stats but I think that Dicks is one of those situations where "you don't know until you know." I think this is easily the best venue they play for a number of reasons, some of which haven't been mentioned. One of those is that it's an outdoor venue where it is dark as set 1 begins; this is definitely a rarity, as most of the outdoor sheds are summer spots and Kuroda doesn't really get going til set 2 because its too light through set 1. Another reason this venue is so good is the incredible sound. I'm not an acoustics nerd but the sound in there is definitely superb; maybe it's because of the altitude, or the shape of the bowl?
The weather every time I've been has been fantastic, and that factors in too. I don't think it's just the fans that love Dicks, the band clearly does as well, or they wouldn't return every year. I imagine the sound, the weather, and the vibe all have something to do with this, added to the fact that they feel a strong connection to CO.

This may get me a .net flogging, but I also want to say another thing about the statistical approach to this post - I don't think we are in an era where it is valuable to analyze Phish shows via data sets based on reviews. I think there is a ton of attendance bias with the way we look at shows now, and far fewer "no-doubter" shows than there were in the late 90's (although one of the few "no-doubters" of 3.0, and possilby the best all around show of 3.0, was FYF 8.31.12, @Dicks). I think many of us go to be with our friends and have fun but would probably agree that the band isn't as regularly/reliably on fire as they used to be. Every time they go on tour I listen to each show, and attend a few. I generally read up on what people thought and there is always, for everyone who was there and says it was sick (great vibes, great energy in the room), at least an equal number of stream viewers who thought it was weak. This is a function of the era to me, and it renders the statistics that this post is based on somewhat meaningless.
Thanks for disagreeing politely and thoughtfully if you decide to!
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd Very cool writeup.

From the graphs, one can conclude that Dick's provides the outlier-good shows in the otherwise sub-par years.

:::runs away:::
, comment by nattyed
nattyed “A great Shakedown? Not in 2011. Party buses? Not in 2011“
I beg to differ.
, comment by jenscoop4
jenscoop4 For the longest time I only averaged one show a year and having them come to Dicks makes it possible for us to do more. Dicks was a quiet underdog. I was skeptical and wishing they did a long run at Red Rocks instead - if they can do at MSG, why not RR? The post is so right in so many ways....the first 2, maybe even 3 (?) years, you could walk up to the ticket window the day of the show no problem. The venue sold me that first year with great sound, easy in / out parking and for's about a 30 min. drive. Also, we struggled to get in Friday night this year (that was a bit of a cluster) and sat in the corner stands for the first time. But we were not disappointed because there's not a bad spot in the place. For me, it's also that magical end of summer time of year, too, that adds something special. End of summer, beginning of fall, is my fav time of year. IMDANO mentioned that it's getting dark by the time they hit the stage. The beautiful CO weather, welcoming cool breezes flowing as they come's something to look forward to every year. And, yes, the Shakedown scene is one of the best around. Not the same this year, but there was a decent after-show one last night. The security / police and Dicks staff get it. They let us Phans be us. I spoke with one of the staff at a Rapids game about a month ago and she said she loves working the Phish run. We're good, fun people who don't (for the most part!) cause trouble. It's not unusual to see the bar staff on the floor getting down :) Oh, and a shout out to, local, Brothers of Brass band who have been rocking the lot each night the last couple years!
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