The 10 Most Wonderful Things From Phish's Magnaball

August 26, 2015


Just got back from Magnaball? We did, too! And now we’re reminiscing about all the things we loved the most. Here’s what’s on our list:

1) Wow, What Weather!

By the time Magnaball kicked off on Friday, the weather in New York’s Finger Lakes region was glorious. Kicking off their Saturday afternoon set the band drove the few clouds away with their classic Divided Sky.

2) Return to the Scene of Former Glory

Watkins Glen International Raceway is the site of one of the largest concerts in history: 1973’s Summer Jam featuring The Grateful Dead, The Band, and the Allman Brothers Band. Phish played 2011’s celebrated Superball IX there as well. Vocalist and guitarist Trey Anastasio noted from the stage that the return to the venue was the culmination of years of hard work by band management and state and local officials. The location is fast becoming a piece of Phish legend as yet another festival went off without a hitch.

3) Family Friendly Fun

Early during the first set on Friday, Trey took a moment to recall that the band’s first festival, The Clifford Ball was held just a little more than 19 years ago. At that point, the band members had just one child among them. Today they have 11, all of whom were in attendance. Family was a theme throughout the weekend, as more than ever before Phish is becoming a multigenerational affair. Drummer Jon Fishman’s family was selling meats and vegetables in the farmer’s market and bassist Mike Gordon pitched in at his daughter’s lemonade stand.

4) Ben & Jerrys and Phish Fans Team Up To Fight Climate Change

If it’s melted, it’s ruined. Phish fans turned up in droves at the Ben & Jerry’s tent to cool off with free scoops of Phish Food ice cream. While they enjoyed ice cream in the shade of our tent, we gave them the opportunity to let their voices be heard on climate change. Phish fans came through in a big way: over 4,000 fans signed a petition calling for 100% renewable energy by 2050. Our partners at Avaaz will be presenting the petition to leaders in advance of the Paris climate talks in December. You can add your name to that list here.

Ben & Jerry's at Phish Magnaball

5) One of The Greatest American Bands And Still Getting Better

There is near universal consensus among Phish fans that this summer’s tour is one for the record books. Magnaball was a triumphant statement from a band that’s been playing for over 31 years. Over the course of 8 sets and almost 12 hours of music, Phish delivered inventive, stand-out jams all over the place. Fans were alternately riotously delighted and spellbound.

6) Best Prince Caspian Ever?

One of the pure delights for all of us Phish fans at Ben & Jerry’s is the sense that anything can happen when the band takes the stage. Prince Caspian, a relatively delicate song from their 1996 release Billy Breathes went from straightforward to stratospheric over the course of almost 17 minutes.

7) Drive-In Jam

How do we even begin to describe this? Okay. So it’s a movie screen more than half the size of a football field. Parked in front of this gargantuan drive-in movie screen is an assortment of old muscle cars painted silver. Sometime after midnight, fans begin to congregate. Lights pulse. Fog pours forth. Psychedelic images of wolves, deer, and mountain goats give way to even more psychedelic animation of the cosmos. Strange noises from deep space emanate from speaker stacks flanking the screen. Over the next 50 plus minutes, Phish (hidden behind the drive-in movie screen) deliver a piece of improvisation that will be discussed for a long time to come. Minds blown!

The Magnaball

8) More To Do Than Hours to Do It

When Phish hosts a festival, they go all out! Fans at Magnaball could participate in high-intensity trivia game shows, complete with jeering audiences, celebrity judges, and Phish trivia hard enough to stump the band, but clearly not hard enough for some fans with encyclopedic knowledge. A corn hole tournament attracted hundreds of competitors vying for medals, concert tickets, and bragging rights. On the concert field, bewildered fans were sure to stumble upon the campus of the Glurt Institute and the Laboratory, a zany world of mad scientists. Did we mention the late night movie screenings? The night club? The WaterWheel Foundation tent?

9) Our Very Own Radio Station: The Bunny

Since 1996, Phish has provided a radio station during the duration of their festivals. It’s a way to get up-to-the minute updates from the festival site, hear the sound check, and get hip to loads of great music. Coming into range of the FM dial was goosebump-inducing for us back in the 1990s and still is today. If you’re a fan of the eclectic, obscure, and the undeniably danceable the Bunny is for you. The Bunny is an elusive and special radio station. It only exists during the festival, but you can listen to a fan-assembled playlist of 779 songs played over the course of the weekend here on Spotify.

10) Friends

It all comes down to friendship. Phish festivals are a magical way to see friends, meet friends, and be friends. There was an energy at Magnaball that is totally out of this world. If you were there, you know. It’s thousands of happy people sharing euphoric times. Our goal is to take that energy from the festival and bring it back to our homes and communities around the country and around the world. Magnaball was a huge dose of positive energy. Thank you friends, and thank you Phish.