Geeking Out: We’ve Got Seven Line Graphs

When this news hit, I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine and we started talking about the number of shows that bands play in a year, and how that progresses over the span of their careers. As we started talking about it, we realized that we didn’t actually know what we were talking about. So I started to dig in and do a little research and I found it interesting enough to share with the likes of you fine people that read this blog.

via phish.net FAQ:

“It’s kind of silly when [fans are] are making pie graphs about set list openers. But then, I always liked a good graph.”

– Mike Gordon, Detroit Free Press, 12/5/97

You got it Mike, good graphs for all!

Before I get into it, these numbers are probably a little off in the earlier years for each band, but we’re working with the best data that we’ve got. Thanks to Phantasy Tour and The SetList Program.

The Disco Biscuits:
Most Shows Played In a Year: 162 (1998)
Total Documented Shows: 1026

The UPs and Downs of The Disco Biscuits

So this may be the funniest looking chart of them all, but I’m not picking on The Disco Biscuits I am simply going in alphabetical order. The Biscuits have certainly seen there up’s and downs over the years, when things seem to be going really well, something bad always happens.

On fire in ’99, things got a little crazy internally and Brownie departed the band for a brief period of time. Everybody kissed and made up and things were really clicking in ’02. The future looked bright with a few big Phish after-shows planned down in Hampton, but there was an incident at The Electric Factory when Barber attempted to defy gravity. After that, they just never really toured hard again with Sammy and then he left the band (and that took a couple of years). They are back on track though, putting in over 80 shows in both ’06 and ’07 with drummer Allen Aucoin. They however do not tour like they used to, they haven’t played over 100 shows in a year since ’02 when they played 103.

Grateful Dead:
Most Shows Played in a Year: 150 (1969)
Total Documented Shows: 2355

Grateful Dead leading by example

The peaking early model – in terms of playing lots of shows that is: Over 100 shows in 5 straight years starting in ’66. Then after ’70 they put in another 1,682 shows averaging 67 shows a year. One of those years (’75) they played only 4 shows. What’s really amazing about the post-’70 Grateful Dead touring schedule is how many of those shows were multi-night runs. For Example, in ’77 they played just 60 shows and 10 of them were at Winterland Arena in San Francisco (3 separate multi-night runs). Add those shows to the 5-night run they had at The Palladium in NYC and you’ve got 25% of their shows that year. But they kept it up, as late as ’94, they still put in 84 shows a year, an impressive mark for a band that spanned four decades of touring.

moe.
Most Shows Played in a Year: 157 (1997)
Total Documented Shows: 1501

moe. started a few years ahead of it's counterparts

So there’s a couple shows there at the beginning, a total of 13 shows from ’91–’93, we’ll put those aside and say these guys have averaged 104 shows per year from ’94 – ’07. They’ve put the brakes on a little over the years, haven’t played 100 shows since ’03, but were damn close last year with 95. It’s been a pretty steady touring model and they were at it a few years ahead of their counterparts if you will. They were playing 100 shows a year before SCI, 2 years before The Biscuits and 5 years before Umphrey’s McGee would hit the 100/year mark.

Phish
Most Shows Played in a Year: 123 (1994)
Total Documented Shows: 1183

Phish's somewhat deceiving touring chart

These stats surprised me. They hit it hard in the early 90’s. Phish averaged 118 shows/year from ’91 to ’94. But this really blew my mind: They never played more than 81 shows in a year after that. To date Phish has played less shows than: moe., Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese Incident and Widespread Panic. Give The Disco Biscuits two more years each and they’ll surpass Phish as well (err, maybe). We all know quantity does not equal quality, but it’s just crazy to think that SCI played more shows in ‘97 than Phish did in ’97, ’98 and ’99 combined.

String Cheese Incident
Most Shows Played in a Year: 214 (1997)
Total Documented Shows: 1345

Cheese Chart

Good Lord! 214 shows in a year? Take out weekends, 2 weeks of vacation, 5 sick days and the federal holidays and you’ve got just a few more that 214 days. That is pretty damn wild and so is a 149 show/year average over the span of 6 years starting in ’96! The ridiculous high peak in ’97 and resulting decline of shows afterwards makes this chart sort of have a better to burn out then to fade away vibe to it.

Umphrey’s McGee
Most Shows Played in a Year: 160 (2002)
Total Documented Shows: 1237

UM, does slow and steady win the race?

Umphrey’s McGee seems to have a slow and steady wins the race mantra to their touring philosophy. But it’s more like fast and steady wins the race. These guys have put in over 100 shows for 7 years running, and they are on pace to do it again this year. Sure, they are playing a few less shows as the years go on, but these guys have kept it pretty darn steady. Brendan Bayliss is quoted recently saying: I don’t speak for the band, but I feel like this is it. I’d like to stay out there, keep playing and be Uncle Brendan to everyone’s kids one day.

Widespread Panic
Most Shows Played in a Year: 173 (1990)
Total Documented Shows: 2246

Widespread, Still Touring After all These Years

Widespread Panic played 100+ shows every year in the 1990’s. Then they messed it up and only 96 shows in ’00. These guys have kept their touring regiment strong even after the passing of guitarist Michael Houser. With Panic once again hitting their stride with Jimmy Herring, they show no sings of stopping putting in 89 shows last year, their 23rd year as a band.

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27 Responses

  1. A
    and can we get one graph with all the bands?
    I mean…for once…a way to measure all the bands in an objective manner. Surely you can’t pass up an opportunity like that.

  2. You know, I was going to, but I was still throwing this together last night at 1am, and then when I did a group graph, it looked kinda crappy when I reduced down to blog size. Tell ‘ya what, I’ll make one and link to a nice full-size one for ‘ya Jon!

  3. Your Honor. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I’m not here to call you “newbs.” No, I’m here to simply argue that the years 97-99 were the best time to be a fan of this music. Exhibit A: DaveO’s sweet charts.

  4. now lets debate about how much you tour per year equates to how good you are playing in a given year 🙂

  5. “The ridiculous high peak in ’97 and resulting decline of shows afterwards makes this chart sort of have a better to burn out then to fade away vibe to it.”

    Who the hell finds these people? Jeesh. Burn out? Well shit what the hell do you cal lthe Dead then? How burnt out were they when they healthily adopted new fans EACH freaken decade of their existance AND STILL GET FANS TODAY like myself who were mere children when Jerry died.

    Not to mention the fanbase of Cheese and its growth circa 2004 on…yeah, that’s really burning out.

  6. I was quoting Neil Young, I wasn’t trying to take a swipe at SCI. . .

    What I was saying was that they played a whole lot of shows early on in their career, started playing progressively less until they hung it up as a band…

    Like for example, ‘The Band’, I’d say they just burned out instead of fading away. . .whereas Cheese sort of faded away.

    This all was sort of has the under tones of, “Isn’t it a tough lifestyle to play 100 shows in a year and live in a van/bus” vibe to it…in light of moe.’s announcement.

  7. I would like to see the numbers on tickets sold each year for each band. As bands get more popular and older they seem to play less shows at bigger venues. Ecept of course for the Grateful Dead. then cross check those with the nomber of shows. NOW THATS A SWEET GRAPH

  8. Bayliss wants to be Uncle Brendan to everyone’s kids? He’s gonna have to wait a long time before the 26 fifteen-year-olds in the front row have kids of their own. Heyyyoooo!

  9. Great stuff DaveO. Got to agree with Chilly ’97-’99, I’ll even throw 2000 in there was the peak and sadly since then the scene has slowly been fading away.

  10. I WAS TOLD THERE WOULD BE NO MATH! Seriously, nice work. Interesting to ponder. Can you draw correlations to support certain democratic candidates?

  11. I would like to see them compared proportonally in order to understand their growth better in relation to one another. Something kind of fraction thing I cannot figure out at the moment. But it seems interesting to note the jumps in many of the band’s number of shows during the first inclines. The only thing better than line graphs are ven diagrams.

  12. I would like to have seen the Radiators included in this comparison. The same five guys have played 4256 documented shows. Since their first gig in February 1978, they have never gone a calendar month with no shows. Their longest gap between concerts was six weeks. Here are the approximate yearly tallies: 115, 149, 159, 162, 163, 171, 177 (1984), 163, 155, 124, 105 (1988), 152, 106, 138, 148, 141, 138, 156, 151, 119, 119, 133, 118, 156, 151, 142, 135, 139, 120, 130.

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