A guide to Phish's on-stage hand signals, from Drunken Bar Swing to Pork Tornado
When a band doesn't rely on a set list, musicians often find other ways to communicate on stage during the music. Phish, a band utterly reliant on improvisation, has gotten particularly good at this. In fact, the band has created a whole non-verbal language to let its members know what song to go into next.
Eric Gruneisen. Full slideshow. You're not a real fan until you know the hand signals. These fine folks definitely know the hand signals.
We've put together a collection of hand signals that have been caught on tape and created a handy guide and naming system so you can figure out what they're doing up there. Some of the signals make sense, others...are a bit of a stretch. So we've also graded each of them, from one to ten Mike Gordon fight bells. For the uninitiated: More fight bells are better. They're like cowbell in that way.
Song it signals: "Bug"
When it was used: 7/3/12 at Jones Beach (:21 mark)
Name of hand signal: The Farmhouse Fly Swatter
How to do it: Put left arm out. Raise right arm. Bring right arm into downward thrust, aiming right palm directly at left forearm. Smack left forearm with right palm as if killing a bug on said arm.
How much sense it makes: Nine fight bells. It is the exact motion you would use to kill a bug if it was stinging your arm.
Song it signals: "Cross Eyed and Painless"
When it was used: 8/19/12 at Bill Graham (:02 mark)
Name of hand signal: The Jerry Lewis
How to do it: Raise hands to sides of face. Stick out both pointer fingers, with remaining fingers in a fist. Take fingers from both sides of face, point them towards each other in a horizontal direction. Bring fingertips closer until they touch in front of your nose.
How much sense it makes: Ten fight bells. The action of the fingers causes you to actually cross your eyes, thus perfectly pantomiming the first part of the song title.