The Art of Phish

phish-gorge-99-pollockEveryone loves souvenirs.  Whether it’s a Van Halen mirror that you won at the county fair for popping balloons with darts, an “I heart NY” tee you scooped on your first visit to Times Square, or a new snow globe to add to your collection, every grand experience deserves a memento.  Experiences don’t come much grander than Phish, and while there’s always  generic tour merch available at each venue, Phish often took it a step further and offered limited edition posters that represented their stop along the road.  By the end of 2.0, other artists had entered the Phish poster scene, but the artist who will forever be linked with the ultimate Phish souvenirs is Jim Pollock.


Jim Pollock (J. Kaczorowski)

Pollock’s unique and labor intensive hand-pulled prints became a staple of big Phish shows and weekends come the late ’90s.  A hand-press process using linoleum or wood blocks resulted in every print being unique depending on how much pressure was applied, how much ink was on the block, how the paper was pulled, and other such variables.  These one of a kind reminders of epic nights gone by created a subculture within the Phish scene of serious Pollock collectors.  Appreciating in value from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars depending on the rarity of the print, the initial $40 price tag no longer seems so steep.  The posters of Jim Pollock have become cultural icons- representing the magic-filled evenings of yesteryear.

phish-allstate-00-pollockWhat make Pollock’s art so special is not just the limited nature of his print runs, but the subject matter of his posters and how they convey the band’s place in time.  Pollock used all types of imagery to symbolize the venue and location of a particular show- and often went further, symbolizing where Phish’s music existed at that point.  Some examples of this congruency are the posters from Deer Creek ’99 where a tractor amidst a cornfield is pictured with a farmer yelling the dates of the show; Hartford Meadows ’00 where a pilgrim is depicted riding on a rooster as a horse grazes in the background, symbolizing the bucolic life of the nation’s first settlers in New England; Polaris ’00 where a Hindu goddess clutching many fish in her arms represented the more layered ambient psychedelia that the band experimented with that year; Shoreline ’00’s cowboy lassoing a fish for the last shows of 1.0; or Coventry’s image of a Phish corralled within fences.  From the literal to the abstract, Pollock’s posters always held meaning to their specific time and place.

phish-polaris-00Sold all over E-Bay and Expressobeans, Pollock prints have acquired status in the world of art collectors.  And it all started so many years ago.  Pollock attended Goddard College in the early-mid eighties and wound up roommates with Page McConnell before he was even in Phish!  Having been there for the genesis of the band, Pollock was in the right place at the right time.  He began early on doing work for the Phish, creating ink drawings for their early show posters.  Their affinty for his work soon developed into Pollock doing the classic art for Junta.  Over the years, Pollock’s art grew inseparable from Phish, as his images graced their tour shirts, mail order tickets, concert (and non-concert) posters, and their Live Phish CD covers, each of which contains hidden clues that represent that show.  Pollock also had booths at Phish’s initial festivals where he created unique postcards and prints.

phish-shoreline-00-pollock-lePollock’s work became so popular among fans, that many began to go into venues early just to make sure they could scoop one (or ten) before they sold out.  There were many a night in ’99 and ’00 where the posters were actually sold out before the first set began.  Unique in style and always vibrant in color, Pollocks made classy home decorations for even the most mature fan.  And with the online secondary marketplace, believe it or not, some fans found a way to scalp their extras for a pretty penny.

When the final jam had ended and the last cymbal crashed, the front-of-house music welcomed you back to reality.  Alas, it was time to go.  Sometimes the experience was so powerful, you just wanted to curl up on your dance space and stay forever.   But even if you tried, and I have been near the last one out of a venue or two in my time, the security guards will always, in fact, make you leave the building.  However, when this harsh reality descends, you could always grab your poster tube, head back to the hotel, and unravel the colorful night right in front of your eyes.  That night was with you forever- poster or no poster- but hey, everybody loves a souvenir.

Read an interview with Jim Pollock from 2005. < LINK



7.15.99 PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ < LINK

1999-07-15moThis is the first, and far more psychedelic, night of a northern New Jersey stand during Summer ’99, and it never really gets the credit it deserves.  Following some lengthy “Meatstick” banter to open the second set, the band improvised out of the ’99 anthem for the only time ever- and it was a smashing success.  Creating a gentle funk-ambiance out of the song, Phish creatively played their way through a unique jam landing in a massive “Spilt Open and Melt.”  Crashing into “Kung” at full speed, the Split jam then morphed out of the golf cart marathon into an eerie psychedelic opus.  This was some truly intense Phish, not to mention the chock-full 90 minute first set.

I: Punch You in the Eye > Ghost, Farmhouse, Horn, Poor Heart, Axilla > Theme from the Bottom, I Didn’t Know, The Sloth, You Enjoy Myself

II: Meatstick > Split Open and Melt#  > Kung > jam, Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture

E: Brian and Robert, Frankenstein

Source: Senheiser mics (model not known)/FOB

77 Responses to “The Art of Phish”

  1. If I want a poster, should I bring my own tube???

  2. Of course bring your own tube-blasting big ones during makisupa is a must

    can it be confirmed that saucedogs will be served inside venue?

    need the soft serve after coming off the poli spring like red.

  3. SOAM… your quite vulagar… and gross

  4. I was in the grocery store last night, tired and just picking up some basics. I look at the expiration dates on the gallons of milk. I’m just staring at them, they’re all the same. huh, makes it easy to choose, wha… All of the ones in the section I was shopping, there must have been 40 of em, said “03/06/09”. Coincidence? I prefer not to think so.

  5. Yeah it’s a sign! are the magic numbers! 😀

  6. !!!!!!!!!!! Llama opener. anybody?

  7. TT-Better than illiterate !

    Vulager ? nice work spelling gross though.

  8. Yeah I too feel the Buried Alive > Llama opener! Tear the roof off the sucker! 😀

  9. Mr. Icculus Says:

    Hey whats the hold up of the announcement of the 2nd part of this summer tour. I saw the article in the Denver Post that basically confirmed a 4 night run at Red Rocks at the end of July. Think it has something to do with this merger of Live Nation and Ticket Basterd>

  10. Miner,
    I wish I had known about the posters before my first show… I was in early enough to see the table and the guy in the row in front of me had 3 of them.

    Me: “Hey, that’s a cool poster. Where’d you get it?”
    Nice guy: “Over at the table, go grab one before it sells out. If you get there and it’s already sold out then I’ll sell you one of mine since I got 3.”
    Me: “How much is it?”
    Nice Guy: “40”
    Me: “Dang, for a poster? I’ll have to pass, I’m kinda broke already.”

    Needless to say, I learned my lesson and eventually had the rents get it for me for my bday and it cost close to 200 on expressobeans. It’s cool tho and sits above my computer so I look at it all the time.

    I’ll be in early for Hampton but back to those who were asking, poster tubes are usually on hand. I guess better safe than sorry but I never take my own.

    Someone else asked about Hampton 03. They were Pollack and each night was different. Check out

    Here’s hoping for Pollacks at Hampton this go round.

    Also, I remember at IT seeing all the VIP getting to buy posters before everyone else. I saw a lot of pissed off people in that line. You guys are right, during 2.0 there was the poster freaks. I was standing at the gates debating (poster… or up close??) I went with up close and raged. I can see myself on the DVD for split seconds here and there about 10 rows back. Well worth it but I really like that IT poster. I’ll buy it one day when I’ve got cash, maybe snag an extra Hampton for a trade.

  11. Maybe I missed this but… the art on the mail order tickets for Hampton Pollock?

  12. I am a bit nervous about west coast summer tour. it only makes sense we get hosed since i live out here.

    pumped for hampton……..cant wait to boogie on shakedown

  13. ^^ chill. it’s happening.

  14. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    ^^ West coast tour definately happening… chill everybody, and see you at the Gorge.

    The Hampton tickets make me miss Pollack and original mail order tix even more. Their big, and while not quite generic, they rea certainly not artistic.

    Mail order used to be such a treat -with uniform structure for all shows only differing by color and the Pollack design on each… It’s no wonder the band sells/gives away magnets of Pollack mail-order tix only…

  15. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    *their = “they’re”
    “they rea” = “they’re”
    Chist, time to go home and get some sleep.

  16. VT POSSUM 93' Says:

    … Best Phish site ever …. I mean it man… From a maxell king, in the hills of Warren, to listening @ 12:20 am mtn from the torrent, in the Northern San Juans of Colorado. Way to be, !st set was Victory !!!!

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