Yesterday Phish confirmed what had been circulating on the rumor train for weeks — that they'll be hosting a 3-day Halloween Festival from October 30th to November 1st, 2009.
See above for the custom announcement from Phish.com. The map is being updated every few days with a new animated clue, slowly revealing the festival location and potentially the name:
“Save the Date”
Speaking of which, all signs are pointing to the Phish Halloween Festival being held at the stunning Empire Polo Field in Indio, California, home of the annual Coachella festival and fertile spot for growing dates.
The Coachella / Empire Polo Field rumor is strong enough that nearby hotel rooms and rentals are pretty much sold out. And apparently there's already huge demand for Naked Wizard costumes.
Read on more analysis and speculation about the Phish Festival 2009.
Update: June 28, 2009 @ 11:00 pm
Nothing confirmed of course, but word on the street is the band will be playing eight (yes, 8) sets over the 3-day festival. Two sets Friday, three sets Saturday, and three sets again on Sunday including an early one. Take it with a grain of salt as I'm only about 50/50 with the rumors on Jamtopia.
And while I'm speculating, the latest I've heard or read from the few remaining sources that have any credibility, Fall Tour 2009 is going to be a whopper. Supposedly Phish will play a 26 show Fall Tour ending in North Carolina in November. And that'll be followed up by a (rumored-to-death) 4-night stand in Miami for New Years.
Maybe it's just me, but that sounds like a heck of a lot of shows and if it pans out this way I can only hope it doesn't “drag on beyond the point of vibrancy and health.” Oh wait, I can also hope they stop by the UIC Pavilion for at least a few nights!
Provided the rest of this info is correct, you can look for an announcement on or around July 4th.
Update: June 29, 2009 @ 12:20 am
Just got a comment from Johnny Goff (aka @PhishNQuips) saying that Phish will appear on Conan / The Tonight Show on October 28th. Take it for what it's worth.
::wonders if he can program Tivo that far in advance::
Update: June 29, 2009 @ 1:00 am
~~~ Spoiler Alert ~~~
Stop scrolling now if you don't want to see spoilers from the Phish Halloween Festival map!
From the looks of it we'll be seeing a merman swimming from somewhere near North Carolina to Colorado, and an alien zapping Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Nevada before going “home” to New Mexico. Here's a composite image from another intrepid PT'er showing how it all comes together.
Notably, the band has removed these elements from the live Flash file, so there's always the chance they'll change things up just to keep it interesting.
Still not sure how I feel about having seen this in advance, but I know for sure I've got tons of respect for the creative concept and love that the band is back to their old playful ways.
Update: June 29, 2009 @ 3:00 am
Okay, I wish I could take credit for this but alas it was pointed out by someone else. Take a gander at this snippet from the “Economy” section of the Indio, CA Wikipedia page:
Indio has been one of Southern California's most important agricultural regions, once responsible for a large percentage of the nation's date crop; however, with all the new residential and recreational development, the date groves are now more limited to south and southeast of Indio. Even the grove of date palms at the Riverside County Date Festival fairgrounds has been torn out by the county.
There are citrus groves and vegetable fields surrounding the city limits, but rapid development of new housing tracts and golf courses in the “East Valley” in the 1990s and 2000s has displaced most of the agricultural space.
Turns out “Save the Date” might not just be a directive, but also the actual name of the Phish Halloween Festival, a brilliant pun, and a potential cause marketing angle for the Fest. If this is the case, somewhere out there a marketing genius lives among us. Well-played whoever you are.
Update: June 29, 2009 @ 5:30 pm
Not sure when, but some time today the map fell victim to an infestation of red fire ants who devoured North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Washington.
Once again the super-sleuths at PT are doing a great job of reverse engineering this concept. Turns out about 10 years ago a turf farm in Indio, CA was invaded by South American fire ants prompting eradication measures by the state Food and Agriculture Department.
If the fire ants are not eradicated, state officials could eventually order a quarantine to isolate the insects, which devour fruit, flowers and tree bark, officials said.
Apparently the problem has only gotten worse since then. A long-term eradication program that started in 2000 was suspended in 2004 due to lack of funding and as recently as 2008 the fire ant infestation was reportedly spreading eastward.
The map version of California remains (not surprisingly) unharmed by the animated ants, but the overall creative concept continues to prove itself to be extremely well thought out.
Update: June 30, 2009 @ 5:30 pm
Holy crap. I think I just figured out the clue to the first animation in the Halloween Festival map — the one where Oklahoma, Idaho, West Virginia and New Hampshire seemed to simply deflate.
My theory: the animation represents a groundwater plume. More specifically, a plume with an overly-high nitrate concentration.
The nitrate plume is a potential threat to deeper underlying groundwater via improperly constructed, sealed, or abandoned wells.
I'll give you one guess where you can find these poisoned plumes… that right, the Indio Subbasin of the Coachella Valley Groundwater Basin. At least according this report from the California Department of Water Resources which I've quoted above.
Presumably, if left unchecked, these nitrate plumes will ruin the water that's used to irrigate the date crop, not to mention the drinking water.
So at this point I'm going on record: I'll buy you a Nintendo if the Phish Festival 2009 isn't in Indio, CA. Save the friggin' date, and book your flight already!
Update: June 30, 2009 @ 9:00 pm
Today the map was updated again, and this time Kansas and Ohio were unceremoniously yanked from contention by a clipper-type boat.
And again the folks on PT are all over it, quickly surmising that this is a reference to “The Lost Ship of the Desert” — the subject of legends about ancient ships buried in, you know it, California's Colorado Desert.
The [Los Angeles] Examiner also published a story [in 1919] of a Spanish galleon half-buried in the sands near Indio, its hold bursting with a cargo of precious stones.
So like the forthcoming UFO, this one isn't quite a direct reference to Saving Dates, but it still has Indio written all over it.
Update: July 2, 2009 @ 4:00 pm
Well for whatever reason the map isn't doing anything for me, but word on the street is that an alien Vannah White cyclops has come in and taken out Oregon, Wyoming, Illinois, and Pennsylvania Wheel of Fortune style.
…and above the counter, there are still pictures of the Shields themselves outfitted in safari gear and helmets, as well as hand-colored black-and-white photos of pinup girls holding bushels of dates and caressing date palms with the aplomb of Vanna White.
Pretty tenuous for sure, and given the previous animations I'm guessing there's a more compelling reason for this one hidden out there somewhere.
Update: July 3, 2009 @ 3:00 am
I think I figured out the Vanna White animation, and it's got nothing to do with Vanna White. The important part is that she's a Cyclops!
Let me preface by saying this is WAY over my head and I'm not sure I totally understand it well enough to explain, but I'll take a stab.
Apparently cyclops is not just a one-eyed bastard living in a cave but also a newly identified part of the “common symbiosis signaling (Sym) pathway” in plants. And best I can gather from this report, certain mutations in the cyclops portion of the Sym pathway can help plants work harder to extract nutrients from soil.
Because of these benefits, scientists are working to better understand and clone the more successful cyclops mutations.
A number of plants have entered beneficial interactions with microorganisms that facilitate the uptake of nitrogen and phosphorus from the soil. [The authors] provide new insights into a novel genetic component in the plant that allows the establishment of these nutrient-capturing symbioses… Our challenge now is to take this genetics into a coherent understanding of the mechanisms of symbiosis signaling.
— How CYCLOPS keeps an eye on plant symbiosis by Ward Capoen and Giles Oldroyd
If the scientists can pull this off, not only will the crops be more healthy, but farmers won't need to use as much fertilizer which is expensive and emits a ton of greenhouse-gasses.
This same type of genetic control may also have something to do with preventing bayoud disease in date palms, but I'm not exactly sure how it all ties together.
Either way, if the above is anything even close to the correct explanation, this is yet again another brilliant clue tied right back to the Save the Date theme.
In other news, I've had a few people email asking if I knew what the background music to the map is. Turns out it's part of the 30+ minute Wolfman's from 10/31/98. This monster includes multiple jam segments, tons of teases, Fishman on vacuum, and more.
And to wrap up tonight's update, it seems we've got our first parody of the map. Not even gonna comment on this one.
Update: July 3, 2009 @ 10:30 am
Some alternate Fall tour date rumors have started making the rounds on a variety of message boards, one of which comes complete with photographic “evidence.”
This rumored 20-stop tour schedule has the band playing the Hollywood Bowl, Warfield (the night after Save the Date), Austin Music Hall, Hampton Coliseum, three nights at the Spectrum, and two nights at MSG among others. Not to mention the Tonight Show and of course the Save the Date festival.
If these dates pan-out I'll feel a little bad that the info I posted above was wrong, but I'll sure feel great about going back to Rosemont Horizon.
Update: July 6, 2009 @ 8:00 pm
Another update, another three states out of the running.
This time it's bad news for Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky, all of which were blown off the map by the winds of Thor (or some other wind-related god).
And of course as luck would have it, about 3 seconds of Googling brings a curious factoid… date palms in nature can be pollinated by wind.
Not really sure what exactly this has to do with saving dates though, as it's apparently been common practice to hand-pollinate date palms for centuries “to avoid wasting a lot of space and energy growing sufficient male plants” — at least according to Wikipedia.
Will keep you posted if I learn anything else. In the mean time, here are some interesting facts about date palms.
Update: July 6, 2009 @ 11:00 pm
A few theories about the wind have made the rounds on PT — one that it's a reference to the Santa Ana winds and another that it's a reference to the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm. I was even working up a theory involving wind propogation of Date mites that can ruin a crop in no time.
But a comment left below by someone named Neil stopped me dead in my tracks.
Neil points out that the god in the animation isn't Thor at all, but the biblical God as depicted in Michelangelo's “The Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The famous fresco illustrates the Book of Genesis story when God formed Adam out of “the dust of the ground” and then “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”, causing him to “become a living soul” (Gen. 2:7, KJV, emphasis mine).
As Neil further reminds us, after God created Adam he brought forth trees from the ground (Gen. 2:9), one of which was the Tree of Life.
You guessed it, the date palm. Imagine that.
Update: July 7, 2009 @ 8:00 pm
Looks like Mike just rolled in on his Segway and mowed down another trio of states — North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Don't foresee an obvious Indio connection, but you know I'll post an update if I find one.
And I'll also post an update if I can find a patent for a Segway lawn mower. Phenomenal idea.
Update: July 9, 2009 @ 8:30 am
Two things to update this morning.
Seismic activity is what triggers earthquakes, a common natural but on occasion, destructive phenomena in the Coachella Valley, and fault lines causes hot water springs or geysers to rise from the ground.
Funny because I had originally been looking for geysers when I found the nitrogen plumes.
In other news, been thinking a bit more about the Mike Segway animation and may have stumbled across something there too.
Something beyond the fact that the Coachella Valley is riddled with golf courses, not to mention the Empire Polo Fields themselves, and that the whole area needs tons of lawn mowing.
It's possible the Segway lawn mower may be a subtle nod to Palm Desert-based sod supplier West Coast Turf.
The company, headquartered a mere nine miles outside of Indio, helped Jesse James's Monster Garage create “Switchblade.” It's the Mustang convertible lawn mower seen at right.
Now that may be a bit of a stretch, but I can think of at least one place where any type of lawn mower, be it Mustang, Seqway, or plain-old John Deere would be completely useless — Datelan Army Airfield.
Update: July 10, 2009 @ 6:30 am
Alaska, we hardly knew ye. So sorry to see you go.
Details to follow, I've got “real” work to do.
Update: July 11, 2009 @ 10:30 am
Try as I might, I'm just not making any sort of connection between Alaska and Indio. But there's still plenty of potential symbolism to ruminate on.
For starters you've got the obvious — Alaska, the song (and background track for the animation) failed to make the cut for the new Phish album Joy.
Then you've got the delicious desert item bombe Alaska (see at right) — a decadent variation of baked Alaska that adds a dark rum flambé to the already delicious combo of ice cream, sponge cake, and meringue.
And given the detonation's proximity to lovely Wasila, Alaksa, one can't help but think this might be some sort of social commentary on a political career up in smoke.
Meanwhile, if you have read the comment thread below you're missing out on some great entertainment value, not to mention a simmering East Coast / West Coast feud.
Update: July 13, 2009 @ 10:30 am
California (along with the bulk of my credibility if this pans out) was just airlifted off the map by a fleet of hot air balloons!
For the moment, I'm stumped. Totally appreciate that much of the speculation above was far-reaching, but at least a few of those animations point straight to Indio. Not to mention the incredible array of “in the know” folks saying Indio was a lock.
If this proves nothing else it's that Phish likes to keep you guessing, and that's about all I have left to do. Keep guessing.
Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for a free Nintendo Wii giveaway when the final location is announced — assuming they don't have one more twist up their sleeve. Part of me thinks California may have just been airlifted away for safe-keeping :)
Update: July 13, 2009 @ 5:30 pm
Well needless to say this latest animation has lit-up the Phish message boards like a Christmas tree, but really only a few things worth noting (not including the picture at right which is just for fun).
First, as ZZYZX was (I believe) the first to identify on PT, California is not really gone if you zoom out on the map. Now this could just be lazy programming, moving an object off the stage instead of actually killing it off. But either way it's led to plenty of additional speculation that Cali's just hovering up there safely, waiting for a triumphant return once the rest of the states are eliminated.
Second, the latest animation has resulted in at least one public wager for a 3 day festival pass.
Finally, and perhaps most curiously, is this recent tweet from Kevin Shapiro that reminds us to “never trust a prankster.”
Can't imagine what he means by that.
Update: July 14, 2009 @ 8:30 am
Sorry for the late update. I've been having trouble with my AT&T DSL at home so couldn't see the animation last night. I did however call them and after explaining that I wasn't able to do my “very important work” they gave me a $100 credit!
Turns out last night the entire map turned into a pinball machine and the ball took out Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Montana, Michigan, and Utah before dropping into Lake Michigan.
Plus a little bonus at the end showed the ball to be super-imposed with Fishman in a Viking hat a la Fall Tour 98.
In the spirit of completeness, I set out to find an Indio connection to see what would turn up. Answer, not too much.
I did however find this cool vintage Palm Springs pinball machine made by (Vegas-based) Bally back in 1953. Learned that IPD is not just an acronym for Indio Police Department but also Internet Pinball Database. And found a Plinko like contraption called Fantasy 5 Dream Machine that was part of the California lottery's TV show The Big Spin. Don't miss the previous segment from that episode to watch a lady win $3 million bucks.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as most people have noticed California is no longer “floating” above the map in the latest Teaser.swf file. No big surprise. It was just conveniently stashed off-stage at the end of the hot air balloon animation.
Not content with just viewing the .swf, some folks on PT have continued to decompile the Teaser, an effort that's been light on clues since the UFO / merman incident. But this latest decompiled swf revealed the asset seen at right, a large image sprite with a mundane name, Shape6.jpg.
The asset hasn't generated as much speculation as one might think, despite the fact that it bears mild resemblance to a pumpkin, is the same design as the balloons that carried away California, and is significantly larger than the other balloon .
Not that this couldn't just be a left-over masking asset from the previous animation, but you know I can't help but speculate :)
One more quick note — today is the last day to enter Jamtopia's Mike Gordon bobblehead giveaway. Could be your only chance to score this great piece of Phish memorabilia.
Update: July 17, 2009 @ 5:00 pm
In the biggest state-take-down yet, the latest animation finds nine states — Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Indiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, and New Mexico — getting targeted and subsequently taken out by darts.
It only took me about 20 minutes of research to tie this back to date palms, and like the Cyclops above it has something to do with plant genetics and breeding.
Specifically, I think it's a reference to something called Diversity Arrays Technology, or DArT.
[DArT] will make comprehensive genome profiles an affordable and powerful tool to accelerate plant breeding.
In short, DArT is a relatively cheap and easy way to analyze plant genomes. Armed with this knowledge, scientists should be able cultivate plants that are more disease resistant, better adapted to local environments, and more generally allow for healthier crops and higher yields.
Haven't been able to find specific references to DArT being used on date palms, but presumably this application would be a positive step towards reducing or even preventing (the previously mentioned) Bayoud Disease.
Now I realize that California is gone from the map, so say what you will about this analysis, but either way I'm still having fun sleuthing and plan to keep at it until the very end.
And speaking of gone from the map… Michigan seems to have re-appeared (for now), though presumably only because the developer failed to include it in the _deadStates array.
Update: July 18, 2009 @ 2:30 pm
With respect to saving dates, there's an interesting comment below from Austin resident BathtubGin09 who points to a 2008 Texas Department of Agriculture alert entitled Date Palm Lethal Decline. Per the article:
And apparently most of the date palm trees infected with the so-called Texas Phoenix Palm Decline are coming in from Florida. Looks like Indio isn't the only place that could use some DArT :)
Recently the Texas Department of Agriculture adopted an Emergency Quarantine in Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces and Willacy counties of Texas against Date Palm Lethal Decline disease caused by a phytoplasma.
Update: July 18, 2009 @ 8:30 pm
A dump truck just came in by boat, picked up Missouri, Arkansas, and Colorado, then redeposited Washington back on the map.
And with that, this whole chicanery just got a whole lot more interesting (or less, depending I guess on who you ask) given that the map now has the proven ability to return what it hath once taken away. Can't wait to see how this wraps up…
Update: July 21, 2009 @ 8:30 am
No map updates, but a late-night Tweet from someone (presumably) at The Chopping Block is worth noting:
Phish promo almost done. Starting to suck the life out of me when I leave work at 2am. But fuck it's a cool spot we did for them.
— @nathancali via Twitter
I guess it's obvious that the map is“almost done,” but this really helps me appreciate all the work that's gone into it. And I gotta agree that it's a cool spot.
Update: July 22, 2009 @ 10:30 pm
And then there was one.
Tonight Phish brought back the Golden State after purging the remaining contenders with a standard-issue power drill.
I was a little surprised the hot air balloons didn't return, but the drill still entertained. The animation played-out with applause and cat calls, ultimately drilling through (recently revived) Washington which leaked South into California.
Meanwhile I wonder if the drill was a late addition in response to the recently passed California budget which could allow for offshore drilling as “a new source of desperately needed cash.”
Maybe we'll never know, but you gotta figure there's one more animation to come — the one that reveals the Halloween Festival location, ticket info and other details.
And if we're lucky, Fall Tour dates!
Update: July 22, 2009 @ 10:30 pm
Tonight the Phish Halloween map came to an end, falling apart as California came front-and-center accompanied by 2001.
A golf flag and number 8 appeared, the latter of which promptly exited stage left leaving the flag waving in the breeze.
At this point the map was replaced by the official festival site, finally divulging the details we've all been waiting for.
A expected, the venue is none other than the Empire Polo Club in Indio but there was a small curveball with the name — it'll be called Festival 8, not Save the Date as I had presumed.
Now that the map is done, head on over to our follow-up post to learn all about Phish Festival 8 in Indio, CA.
Update: September 28, 2009
Today Phish launched a Festival 8 cover album teaser where they'll be slowly revealing the album for the musical costume. Learn more about the musical costume album teaser and see which albums have been eliminated right here on Jamtopia.
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