There’s an old Gamehendge adage that goes, “opinions are like bad pre-show lot bands: they’re everywhere you look, and no one wants to hear them” (Umphrey’s McGee notwithstanding).
But as any statistician will tell you, the plural of “bad opinion” is “data.” And we Phish fans love data about our favorite band.
With that in mind, I am proud to present the results of the 2021 Fall Tour survey. As I did after the first leg of the Summer Tour 2021, I conducted a survey of Phish fans covering the tour’s music, its Halloween album, and what strategies did and didn’t work to keep fans safe and Covid-free.
Here’s how the sample broke down:
- 1,110 total respondents
- 838 saw at least one show on Fall Tour 2021
- At least 136 respondents attended each show on Fall Tour 2021
- Respondents came from all 50 states, Washington D.C., Canada, and a few outside the US or Canada
- 564 attended some or all of the Las Vegas run
- Among respondents who saw at least one show, on average they saw 4.32 shows
- 16 respondents saw the entire tour
The results are fascinating, even if they are non-scientific: I shared the link on Twitter, Reddit, Phish.net, and Phantasy Tour, which inevitably results in a sample that is more engaged than the many fans who might see the band when they come to town, but does not spend their free time reading “Jennifer Dances” jokes on the internet.
So with those caveats in mind, I invite you to jump on the turnstile and watch me go round as I summarize some findings.
This Tour Was Really Good
The numbers make it clear that, to put it in statistical terms, this tour was fucking awesome. 71% of respondents said this tour was much better than other tours from recent years. Contrast that with the first leg of summer tour, where only 24% of fans said the same. In fact, only 4% thought fall tour was the same or worse than other recent tours, while 25% said the same about summer leg one.
Don’t get the wrong idea, though: summer was also a fantastic tour. In fact, the majority of fans, 60%, said fall tour was just “a bit” better than summer tour; just 15% said it was much better, and 20% thought the two tours were about the same.
How does this tour stack up to all Phish tours from the last 38 years? In these 1,110 fans’ opinions: pretty darn well. 77% say this tour was at least well above average for Phish’s entire career. And 37% say it was one of the best tours the band has ever played. And older fans’ numbers were almost identical to younger fans’, suggesting that there’s no “noob bias” inflating the numbers — even the folks who’ve been seeing Phish for decades think the band is at a career peak.
But this wouldn’t be an article about Phish fans if it was all about things we agree on. Which brings us to the questions about the top shows and jams of the tour. While this summer’s first leg saw consensus on the best show (August 6 at Deer Creek) and best jams (August 6 “Simple,” August 1 “Tweezer,” and August 6 “Blaze On”), this time around, there were quite a few favorites.
On the best show, October 23 in Chula Vista, at 31%, edged out the first two nights of the Las Vegas run, with October 28 being selected by 25% and October 29 by 14%. Chula Vista’s victory was all the more impressive because far more respondents attended Vegas than Chula Vista, and attendees of any given show were more likely to have loved that show than non-attendees were.
Given the sheer quantity and variety of jams, it’s no surprise that there was little consensus about which was the best. There were 22 different jams that at least 10 different fans chose as their favorite. But Chula Vista was once again ahead of the competition by a hair: the October 23 “Piper” was chosen by 13% of respondents, barely beating the outstanding “Carini” from the encore of the first show in San Francisco.
Piper | October 23
Tour MVP: Jon Fishman
Fans Liked, But Didn’t Love, Sci-Fi Soldier
There’s anything but consensus when it comes to Phish’s Halloween album. Though few fans disliked the Sci-Fi Soldier set, respondents are evenly split between loving it, only liking it, and having mixed feelings. Those who attended the show feel a bit warmer toward it: 38% of October 31 attendees love it, 34% like it, 22% have mixed feelings, and 7% dislike or hate it.
As far as favorite songs from the set: 14% would like to see “Knuckle Bone Broth Avenue” at their next show, 13% want to see “Egg in a Hole,” and 10% want to wolf down a rendition of “The Howling.”https://www.instagram.com/p/CVvPqELr_ps/
Visit JamBase’s Phish: The Skinny Hub for links to show recaps, setlist analysis and more
The Microscopic, Infectious Elephant In The Room
Following the four-night Halloween run in Las Vegas, there was a flurry of fans reporting that they’d tested positive for COVID-19. The Boston Globe even wrote a story about it. But I wondered if there was really more transmission per capita at these shows than other indoor shows, or if the fact that most fans attended all four nights simply multiplied the number of cases.
The survey results make it clear that Vegas was really much, much worse than other shows when it came to COVID-19 transmission. More than 1-in-7 Vegas attendees indicate that they tested positive. Contrast that with those who attended indoor shows elsewhere on tour, but did not attend Vegas: only 1% of those folks tested positive. And not one of the 52 respondents who exclusively attended outdoor shows tested positive following the shows.
These numbers don’t tell us why people were likelier to get sick in Vegas. Attendees reported conditions that could conceivably increase the rate of transmission, including poor ventilation and an overcrowded floor. And of course, several days in casinos may have increased fans’ exposure quite a bit.
One thing the survey can tell us is the impact of boosters and masks. And the numbers are clear: they work.
Boosters are associated with a dramatic reduction in the risk of infection, as are masks if and only if they are worn throughout the entire show — even those who wore masks whenever they were in crowds were as likely to test positive as those who didn’t wear masks at all.
As the chart below shows, Vegas attendees who had received boosters were about half as likely as those without boosters to get infected. And those who wore masks throughout the entire show were about half as likely to get infected as those who wore masks sometimes or not at all. And being boosted and masked was the most effective strategy: less than 1-in-20 of such fans got infected.
New Year’s Gag
I asked respondents to guess what song the New Year’s Eve Gag will revolve around. The answers included quite a bit of variety, and quite a bit of creativity, too — one fan guessed “Like A Virgin,” another said “Grind 3.0,” and several guessed “Jennifer Dances.” But the most common guess was “Sigma Oasis,” which 6% of respondents are expecting. Five “Sci-Fi Soldiers” songs were also among the top 10 guesses, as was the Trey Anastasio quarantine epic “Forward People.” Below are the 17 songs that were named by at least 10 people:
View the topline results of all questions here.