When the Circus Comes to Town: A Guide to Phish Summer Tour 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as Phish is about to hit the road for their 10th consecutive summer tour. The Vermont quarter and kings of the jamband world last played on New Year’s Eve at Madison Square Garden. That was the icing on the cake of an epic year at MSG that saw the band play “17 in ’17.” Phishheads all across the country are gearing up for what’s sure to be a fantastic summer. Let’s take a look at the tour dates and learn a bit about the different venues in a guide to Phish summer tour 2018.

Phish Summer Tour 2018

For their 2018 summer tour, Phish will be playing 24 shows in 11 different cities. Fans out west, down south, and on the east coast all have the chance to catch the band this summer. Noticeably missing are any shows in the Midwest, although Chicago will be getting some love on fall tour. There are three different 3-night runs, five 2-night runs, two standalone shows, and one massive 3-day festival. Here’s a closer look at each show, including info on capacity, tickets, and past performances:

7/17-18 Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena

Lake Tahoe, NV

This year’s Phish summer tour kicks off in scenic Lake Tahoe with back-to-back shows at the Outdoor Arena. Phish has played 2-night runs here twice in the past, on both their 2011 and 2013 summer tours. The band has delivered some pretty legendary performances there, including the famed “Tahoe Tweezer” on 7/31/13. This 36-minute colossal jam introduced the call and response “woo” with the crowd, which made for a perfect silly YouTube video with none other than Ric Flair:

Thanks to the history associated with Phish shows here and the scenic location, this is quite the hot ticket. The 7,000-person venue is also one of the smallest places the boys will be playing this summer. We’ve never actually been to Tahoe but really wish we could make it this year. The 2nd night actually happens to fall on our wedding anniversary. Sadly, we’ll be stuck doing couch tour assuming they decide to stream this one.

7/20-22 The Gorge

George, Washington

Phish is no stranger to the Gorge. The band first played what just might be the most beautiful venue in the country back in 1997 and have played there a total of 16 times. What makes this year unique is that it’s the first time in Phishtory that the band will be playing a 3-night run. It’s almost like their West Coast festival, minus the Ferris wheel, of course.

Phish summer tour
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We love the Gorge!

With a capacity of 27,500, it’s not hard to get yourself into the Gorge. The hardest part is getting there, as it’s a 3-hour drive from Seattle and about 5 hours away from Portland. Most attendees choose to camp on site, adding to the festival-like atmosphere. It gets pretty crazy in the general camping, with a massive Shakedown Street and a party that goes all night. There are also a few other campgrounds in the area that are a little less wild.

We’ve been to the Gorge three times to see Phish – in ’09, ’11, and most recently in ’16. It’s by far our favorite venue we’ve ever seen Phish in. It’s somewhat of a Mecca for Phish fans, and I highly recommend you go for it if you’re still on the fence. Unfortunately we’re sitting this one out, as we only have time and funds to do one Phish run this summer and we decided on the festival.

7/24-25 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

San Francisco, CA

This small, indoor venue in downtown San Francisco has been a mainstay on Phish summer tours in the 3.0 era. The band has previously played 3-night runs in ’12, ’13, ’14, and ’16. For the first time since they started playing here, Phish will only perform two shows. With a capacity of only 8,500, it’s totally sold out. There have been tickets popping up on Cash or Trade occasionally, so it’s worth it to keep an eye on there if you’re really trying to get in.

Phish summer tour
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Not a bad seat in the house at BGCA.

In addition to it being a rare indoor venue on summer tour, seeing Phish at BGCA is just an awesome time. It’s pretty hilarious watching the debauchery of Phish lot going on right in the center of downtown San Francisco. This will be especially funny this year, as the shows are during the middle of the work week. People in suits working in City Hall will leave on their lunch break to find a crowd of w00ks peddling their wares, many with a finger in the air looking for a miracle.

A super cool thing happened when Phish was playing here on 10/29/2014. The San Francisco Giants actually won the World Series while the show was going on. The crowd started going nuts and the band must have been alerted, as they decided to slip a few bars of “We Are the Champions” into the middle of “The Moma Dance.” What a moment!

We saw Phish once here back in the summer of 2013. It was the very start of our gap year, and we actually flew in all the way from Beijing. I’ve never been so tired at a Phish show before; I think we even fell asleep during set break the first night! We still had a great weekend and are really bummed we had to sell our tickets for this year’s run. Stupid adulting.

7/27-28 The Forum

Inglewood, CA

The California love continues on this year’s Phish summer tour as the band plays a couple of gigs in the former home of the Lakers. Actually, the first time Phish ever appeared here was when they sang “The Star Spangled Banner” before a game in 1996. The boys have played here four times – each a one-off performance – so this will be the first 2-night run in Inglewood.

Phish summer tour
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Random picture of a w00k, because Phish tour.

The Forum has a capacity of 17,505 for concerts, and it should be pretty full both nights. There are still plenty of tickets available if you don’t mind sitting in the upper level. From what I’ve read, it seems like there’s a pretty decent lot scene here. It should be a fun couple of nights on a summer weekend in the City of Angels.

7/31 Austin 360 Ampitheater

Austin, TX

In one of only two one-off performances on the tour, Phish stops in the Texas capital in between the two coasts. The band has only played here once before, during their summer tour in 2015. This is a large outdoor arena that holds 14,000 people. There’s a reserved seating area of about 7,000 with the rest of the crowd dancing on the lawn.

If Texas at the end of July sounds hot, it’s because it is. Temperatures will be pushing 100 degrees, meaning you’ll want to drink plenty of water in addition to all those heady beers. Due to the intense heat, there apparently isn’t much of a lot scene here. Most people choose to spend the afternoon holed up somewhere with A/C before coming to the show. This probably isn’t really a show worth traveling for, but then again you never know with Phish!

8/2-4 Verizon Ampitheater

Alpharetta, GA

Next up for the Phish from Vermont is a 3-night stand at what must be the millionth venue named after this phone company in the US. Phish has played 2-night runs here on four separate occasions and also had a standalone performance in 2014. Perhaps the most famous show here happened on July 4th in 2010, when the band broke into Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” during “Harpua.”

This venue is a pretty standard summer tour shed and is located in the suburbs of Atlanta. If staying in the city, it’ll take 30-45 minutes to get to. There’s a capacity of 12,000 with 7,000 reserved seats and 5,000 on the lawn. All three nights are sold the F out, so get your finger in the air for this run! There’s supposed to be a pretty solid lot scene here, so it’s worth showing up early to see the circus come to town.

8/7-8 BB&T Pavilion

Camden, NJ

As is the case with many venues across the country, this one has had several different names over the years. In all of its incarnations, Phish has played here a total of ten times, with their last appearance being a one-off show back in 2011. It’s a pretty huge venue, with a capacity of 25,000 during the summer months. A vast majority of the spots are on the lawn, and there are supposedly high-quality video screens and computerized sound enhancement to make the experience better. The problem, if you ask me and many other fans, is that you’re still in Camden…

These shows aren’t sold out yet and probably won’t get there. For starters, they fall on a Tuesday and Wednesday night. Also, many fans are most likely sitting this one out in favor of hitting the festival just a few hours away the next weekend, including us.

8/10 Coastal Credit Union Music Park

Raleigh, NC

The only other stand-alone performance of the Phish summer tour this year goes down on a Friday night in Raleigh. Many fans simply refer to this venue as Walnut Creek, as it was known before it was taken over by corporate overlords. Whatever you call it, this venue lives in infamy among Phish fans for the incredible show that took place here during the summer of 1997. You can relive the show in all its glory on the official DVD release simply titled “Walnut Creek.”

It’s another large outdoor shed, with a capacity of just over 20,000 with around 7,000 in seats and the rest on the lawn. If you don’t mind raging on the lawn, there are still plenty of tickets available for this one. Since it’s in North Carolina, we have a lot of friends who will be attending. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of the best shows on the tour, so it’s going to hurt to miss this one.

8/11-12 Merriweather Post Pavilion

Columbia, MD

This is another one of those venues that the band and fans are very familiar with. Phish has played here a total of 15 times, dating all the way back to 1992. The band most recently delivered an excellent couple of shows here on their summer tour in 2015. Those shows were the talk of the tour that year, leading many fans to believe that these are among the “can’t miss” shows of the tour.

Another city, another 20,000 person outdoor venue. Tickets for the Saturday night show are already sold out, but there are still plenty available for Sunday. And you know what they say about Sunday shows… Early this year, the roof above the reserved seating area here totally collapsed. Venue management says that everything will be up and running and back to normal by the time Phish hits the stage, just in time for them to blow the roof off once again.

8/17-19 Curveball

Waktins Glen, NY

Phish makes their triumphant return to Watkins Glen International to host their 11th festival, called Curveball. This continues the “ball” theme in Phish festival names that was started with their first ever Clifford Ball festival in 1996. Watkins Glen was also the sight of Super Ball IX in 2011 and Magnaball in 2015. Super Ball was actually the first show on the racetrack since the famous Summer Jam with the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, and the Band way back in ’73.

Fans can look forward to seven official sets spread over the three days plus all the usual antics of a Phish festival. If history is any indication, we can expect the band to deliver a secret set in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Past secret set highlights include the “Tower Jam” at the IT festival in 2003 and the drive-in set from Magnaball.

The crowd will most likely be somewhere around 35 and 40,000. Tickets are still available ($250 for a 3-day pass plus $60 per car), but it should be noted that Magnaball definitely did sell out and this one might as well. We’ve got our flights booked and are sorting out our tickets plus a rental car as we speak. It’s tough waiting until the end of tour, but we think we’re making the right call on this one. My only previous Phish festival was Coventry, which is commonly known as the worst show ever, and Rachel has never even been to one. It’s about time!

8/31-9/2 Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

Commerce City, CO

In keeping with a tradition they started in 2011, Phish will end their summer tour with a 3-night run at Dick’s. As many fans have come to learn over those years, Phish loves Dick’s. The band always delivers stellar performances here, including a whole lot of setlist spelling shenanigans. Perhaps the most iconic moment at Dick’s was the legendary “Thank You” encore in 2015. We seriously cried watching that one from afar.

This outdoor venue is the home of the Colorado Rapids MLS team and it fits about 27,000 people for concerts. There’s a GA field as well as GA stands. The secret is out about Dick’s, and all three nights once again sold out almost immediately. There is also on-site camping and a seriously raging lot scene, making it feel like a quasi-festival. It being Colorado, there’s a nice thick haze of weed smoke when Phish plays here. Come to think of it, that happens at just about every venue. At least it’s legal here!

We’ve been to Dick’s twice – in 2013 and 2016 – and had a great time on each run. Tons of our friends live in Colorado now, so it’s always fun getting out there and visiting people while catching a few shows of our favorite band. We won’t be in attendance this year, but we’ll most definitely be sharing in the groove on couch tour!

Phish summer tour
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Phish <3 Dick’s.

There you have it, phans – a complete guide to this year’s Phish summer tour. Be safe out there, stay hydrated, and look out for your friends. And of course, whatever you do, take care of your shoes!

Are you seeing Phish at all this summer? Leave a comment and let us know! And if you’ll be at Curveball, let’s meet up and rage!

2 thoughts on “When the Circus Comes to Town: A Guide to Phish Summer Tour 2018”

  1. Whatta nice read! And for what it’s worth, you’re making the right call on the festival. See you there!

    1. Phish summer tour

      Thanks, Matt! I made the call to go to Curveball because I’ve never been to a phestival before! I’m so excited! The Gorge is great but we’ve been 3 times already. I wanna ride that Ferris wheel!

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