B List: 10 Toughest Phish Tickets Ever

With many Phish fans fretting about the New Year’s run pre-order results, we wanted to share a list we published early last year of the toughest Phish tickets ever. While I haven’t updated the list, I don’t think any shows within the past two years deserve to be included.

[Originally Published: April 8, 2010]

With tickets for Phish’s upcoming Summer Tour going onsale last week, there’s been a lot of talk about the difficulties of scoring entrance to the band’s more intimate shows in Telluride and at the Greek in Berkeley. Phish shows selling out immediately is nothing new as the group’s fans have been dealing with high-demand shows for over 15 years. The Greek and Telluride sell outs coupled with the launch of CashOrTrade.org got us thinking about the toughest tickets in Phish history.

We asked a few of our friends with Team HLA about what they thought the toughest tickets in Phish history were and each answer we received was extremely different. This is one of those questions that doesn’t have a right answer as we all had differing experiences getting these valuable ducats. So for this week’s B List, I’ll list what I think were the 10 toughest tickets in Phish history followed by two lists that friends of HT have put together.

Scotty’s List:

10. Red Rocks ’96 [8/4-7/96] – For my list, I went with groups of shows in some cases, such as for Red Rocks ’96. As hard as it was getting tickets to last year’s Red Rocks shows, it was even tougher back in ’96. I had a bunch of friends who got shut out, plus the town of Morrison was overrun by those without tickets.

9. Providence ’98 [4/4-5/98] – With Phish coming out of hibernation to play four shows known as the “Island Tour” in April ’98 demand was intense. The shows were all within striking distance of most Northeast-based Phish fans and everybody wanted to see all four. While I had a few friends who found Nassau tickets, it seemed that tickets to the Providence shows were much harder to score. It was a sad scene in the parking garage on the 5th as hundreds of fans did laps with their fingers in the air.

8. Halloween ’98 [10/31/98] – Tickets to all of the Phish Halloween shows – outside of Festival 8 – were hard to come by, but the ’98 shows brought things to a new level.

7. MSG NYE ’98 [12/31/98] – When people say “I wish Phish would go back to snail mail order” I remember all the complaints from fans about the NYE Run ’98 mail order where it seemed as if 1 out of 10 orders for the New Year’s show go filled. Tickets for NYE ’95 and ’97 at MSG weren’t much easier to obtain, but ’98 was a bit harder than those shows.

6. Fox ’09 [06/16/2009] – When Phish announced the dates for the first leg of last year’s Summer Tour, this date stood out like a sore thumb due to the intimate concert experience of seeing a show at the Fox. Tickets were extremely hard to come and prices from scalpers didn’t drop much before showtime.

5. Flynn ’97 [03/18/1997] – Phish played a special show at this hometown venue to celebrate the launch of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food flavor. Tickets were only sold at the box office and were put on sale the same day the concert was announced. As such, Phish fans from outside of Burlington didn’t stand much chance of getting in.

4. Hampton ’09 [03/06-09/09] – For the first shows after reuniting following a five-year breakup Phish decided to play three shows 13,800 capacity Hampton Coliseum. Considering most Phish fans were interested in seeing these comeback shows, tickets were in high demand. Scalpers knew the demand would be ridiculous which sent prices skyrocketing.

3. Fillmore ’98 [10/15/98] – To celebrate the release of Story of the Ghost, Phish played at the 1,200 capacity Fillmore in San Francisco. Tickets sold out immediately leaving thousands of Bay Area fans in the lurch. Some of the ticketless went to the venue in hopes of getting in with offers of a Nolan Ryan rookie card or $500.

2. Radio City ’00 [05/21-22/00] – For the release of Farmhouse in 2000, New York City got an undersell with the band playing two shows at the newly-renovated Radio City Music Hall. These were the smallest East Coast shows in years and everybody wanted in. Fans without tickets did laps around the venue trying to score the elusive extra, but I know many folks who weren’t able to get in to either show.

1. MSG NYE ’02 [12/31/02] – After a two-plus year hiatus, Phish returned to action on New Year’s Eve ’02 – ’03 at Madison Square Garden. The show sold out in seconds and the scene outside the venue was truly unbelievable with what seemed like thousands of fans trying desperately to get in.

Now, we present Mike V.’s list of the 10 Toughest Phish Tickets…

10. Vegas 10/31/98
9. Vegas 12/06/96
8. MSG 12/31/95
7. Red Rocks ’09
6. Radio City ’00
5. Roseland ’00
4. MSG 12/31/02
3. Lowell ’95
2. Hampton ’09
1. Flynn ’97*

We asked Steve K. for his list and he adds some variations. He also hit many of the European and Japan Phish shows, so he offers some perspective on the difficulty of those tickets…

Here is my rearrangement, and I also guess it depends on some personal perspectives, as I never really thought that any of the ’98 tickets were difficult, except for the Fillmore. Also, in fairness, runs like RR and Hampton should be subdivided, as the Friday night comeback show was a lot more difficult than Sunday, and Friday Saturday RR were much different than Thursday Sunday, not that any of the others were easy, but individually, they rank behind other shows IMHO.

9.-10. Red Rocks ’96 Had tickets, obviously serious fan issues, but I don’t remember them being more in demand than ’09, or costing as much in the “secondary market” So add any two of these.
8. Red Rocks ’09 Friday
7. Red Rocks ’09 Saturday
6. Fox Theatre – St. Louis ’09 (Again, wish I had sold my ticket)
5. Flynn ’97 Not there
4. Hampton ’09 Friday night
5. Fukuoka ’00 Less people, but only 300-350 tickets
4. On Air East ’00 It looked like Deer Creek during the height of the Dead era, with hundreds of people walking around with fingers up, for 800 total tickets.
3. Radio City ’00 Can’t comment as I was not there, due to leaving for Japan, although I had tix lined up.
2. Fillmore ’98 Assaulted by people when exiting car, offering $500 for a ticket (wish I had sold them)
1. MSG – 12/31/02 Probably clear leader

We’d like to know your thoughts on the matter, so please leave a comment after the list with your 10 toughest tickets in Phish history.

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26 Responses

  1. For me my toughest tickts were hampton 09 and honestly never really expected to get in and flat out REFUSED to buy from scalpers. But there is one that stuck out to me and I have been seeing shows since 95. We could not get into the first night at great woods in 99 to save our lives. All of our friends got in but we were shut out and i did 1 or so shows that tour and got in every time while gettting my tix in the lot. It still amaze me to the day that we could not get into that show. I guess the gods were not with us that sunny afternoon in mass. However I was able to get into the Radio City Music Hall Show in 2000 so I guess I can’t complain. Oh and Stop buying from Stub hub abd tickets now that is what makes it so hard to get tickests sometime. My friend works at Snub Hub and they say it is a joke. See you all this summer I will only be going to Spac!

  2. kwartin…don’t diss the fox. that mike’s ripped. halley’s was great. jim was virgin tight. mcgrupp encore. don’t be such a florida lawyer type 😉

  3. Since 1990, with one exception, I have never been shut out of a show that I wanted. Not because I have any connections or am particularly wealthy – I just try very hard and have often recognized early on what the tough tix will be. That said, NYE2002, was impossible. I believe I had $400 in cash and could not get anyone to even look at me. I was forced to convert that $400 into a horrible hangover and was very bitter for several months.

    But recent success at Hampton, Red Rocks and now Telluride has eased the pain of that memory. Telluride is shaping up to be this year’s rough one – the prices have been close to the return at Hampton on ebay. I can see the Colonel climbing up those mountains !!

  4. I’m a fairly new phan (i started listening heavy right around their last tour before Coventry) i wasnt really financially secure enough to start going to shows then, but I got into the first night of Hampton pretty easily, but i got them through Public Sale. Then last fall i got lucky with a few friends and got 3 tickets to both nights of philly fairly easily. But this year has been rough, we managed to get 3 to Hershey through public sale, but Merriweather has been a bitch, the prices this tour are horrible. Seems like every show, people are trying to get 600+ for shit seats, hell people trying to scalp lawns for 120 plus on stubhub, but i guess its like that with any concert now a days, huh? Hopefully prices will come down or i can get those golden tickets through Cashortrade.org.

  5. Like Mike V’s inclusion of Vegas 96. First time on the Best Coast that I was stressed finding a ticket. This was one of the shows that made whatever you did to be there totally worth the effort! (especially if you bet black 17 after the show)
    I’d also have to include Amsterdam 96 at the Melkweg. This was before the internet kiddies so you had to call in for tickets. The small group of kids on tour (they were opening for Santana and playing select headliners) figured they would just score tickets when they got to town. That worked everywhere on tour… except here. Another show worth every bit of effort to get in. Stoned and a little sloppy? Sure, it’s their first time in Amsterdam. But you got 3 sets for over 4 hours. An unbeleiveable experience for those that got in.

  6. Ok, I realized that it just happened and most Phish fans have adopted the trend of immediately disregarding anything that happens in the Phish world for at least a year, but how are you NOT going to include T-Ride on this list??? I live in Colorado. For 3 weeks I ate slept and breathed Telluride news. Since the tickets went on sale, I have only even heard of one person getting tickets (didn’t even get the privelege of meeting the lucky soul!). I have probably talked to or heard about at least 15-20 people that tried to get tickets and didnt. one out of ten? those odds sound great!

  7. Andy – This is a list of toughest tickets in Phish history, as such we didn’t include any events that haven’t happened yet. I have no doubt Telluride will get a spot on this list after it happens. Best of luck getting in. 🙂

  8. Flynn Theatre got a little under-rated here. Close to ten thousand came in from out of state, causing a last minute decision to simulcast the show over PA’s around the Park, and up and down Church street. My buddy sold a pair of his tix to a couple who flew in from Key West for $5000. I remember being broken hearted that he would do that. Hah. I think at the time the Flynn sat just over 1,000, which was the smallest venue they’d played (stateside) as Phish in years.

  9. Any RR shows–bitter b/c I’ve always gotten shut out there-1996 & 2009 being foremost in my mind. I remember trying to call for 09 tix and getting interupted by my calling card company (remember those?!) asking me why I was making all these calls. Once I kangfirmed it was me and not some wook who stole my calling card, the operator goes, “OH, you are one of those people trying to get tix for ‘The Phish’!” Funny now, not at the time.

    Greek 2010–I think this is one of those “hard to get when they go on sale” but “you can probably get tix closer to show date” shows.

    To-Hell-You-Ride 2010–did ANYONE get tix for this mini fest?!

    Hampton 2009

    Asheville 2009

  10. oops…I was using a calling card for *96* deercreek tixs-not 09. LOL-I pitty the fool trying to use a calling card for phish 09/2010. Do they even make those anymore?!

  11. I’d push hard for Roseland 5/23/00. only way to get tickets was to wait in line, with cash, and you could only buy one ticket that was a non-transferable wristband. tickets went on sale at something like 10am on 5/22/00. with the band playing 5/21 at Radio City already a hard ticket and lots of ticketless fans in town for those Radio City shows, it was only natural that the line outside Roseland would be nuts. phans exited Radio City on the 21st and went straight to 8th ave to wait in line, in addition to everyone already waiting there. fans lined up in sleeping bags, chairs, whatever at least 10 blocks down 8th ave all night, until about 6am when they consolidated the entire line onto 54th st. which consisted of the entire line sprinting from a single file line to a mass block of people 10-15 deep on the sidewalk and street. for the next 5 hours, we all waited, standing, in that giant mass of people, and one by one bought 1 single wristband ticket. I remember driving to my friend’s apartment to pass out at about noon, so happy with myself that I actually got this ticket. that’s a tough one.

  12. my brother and I both requested 2 tix for each nite, new year’s run 2011. I was shut out, my bro got 1 nite.

    oh, the days when you could go to an obscure ticketmaster outlet and be the first in line.

    like back in 1995, who knew Marshall’s had a TM counter just five minutes from us. we were the first ones there @7am and scored floor seats right next to the soundboard.

  13. I remember decorating our tix by mail envelopes in hopes that someone would a) pick our envelope out of the pile and b) that it would get picked early.

    What about Terri Tickle? Those were desperate times…I think that was around NYE 1996.

  14. Flynn theater was by far the toughest…people were offering $1000>$2500 each but no one budged…luckily they simulcasted it in Nectars and outside the Town Hall steps….funny, I saw that short dude from Key West offering HUGE sums of money

  15. You’re all off:
    Melkweg 1996
    Shepards Bush 1996

    Melkweg held 300-400 and Phish was selling out runs at MSG. The scene outside was like people trying to get on lifeboats on the Titanic. It was like travelling back in time and going to two shows at The Academy in NY right before the summer tour that would end with the Clifford Ball

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