Why Are Glowsticks Dangerous

In Brief: Phish fans have become part of the show in a number of ways (including clapping, singing, chanting, flyers, and more). But one of the most interesting, vibrant, continuous, and controversial aspects of audience participation are the "glow wars". (There have also been marshmallow "wars".) Thousands of phans throw glow-in-the-dark objects (sticks and rings) into the air in incredible arcs, across the crowd, during jams while the lights are dimmed. This came about spontaneously. Much speculation has taken place about the band's attitude towards the now not-so-spontaneous glowstick wars, but the message by now is clear: we like the glowing, but rings are better than sticks.

Caution: Please be very careful throwing things at show. There have even been extensive concerns, at least one lawsuit, and debates on rec.music.phish about whether the band even likes them, given the risks involved. Glowrings are better than glowsticks, and while the band likes the glowing, they've sent clear signals in favor of the rings. And marshmallows are even lower risk. 

Origin and History: The original glowstick war was during Harpua at 11-25-94, UIC Pavillion, Chicago, II Tim Wade , but then there was a long lapse until they began to appear during "Harry Hood", where they now appear consistently and predictably. During the Harry Hood on 8-2-97, Trey askes Chris ""Topher" Kuroda" to cut the lights, so the band could play while watching the stars. At the Great Went, 8-17-97, Trey again asked Chris to cut the lights, but this time the audience began tossing glowsticks. Soon hundreds of glowsticks were flying through the darkness. The band clearly fed off of this, a fine example of the mix of band antics, jamming, and audience interaction. Trey threw some of the glowsticks that landed on the stage back into the audience. After the Great Went, Harry Hood and glowstick wars went hand in hand. By the end of 1998, they were also appearing in such songs as "Down with Disease" and "Piper". (See Harry Hood entry for longer history.) And now their placement is nearly random -- such as a 7/4/99 glow event during "Silent in the Morning"!

The band likes the glowing:

  • Verbal support: There was a glowstick "war" during the second set of 8-17-97 during "Harry Hood", after which Trey yelled, "Go get some more of those things, man!.".
  • Passive environment: At several shows, Trey has called for Chris kuroda (aka "Topher") to cut the lights off during "Harry Hood" (e.g. 12-30-97), presumably so that the glowsticks are easier and more fun to see.
  • Active participation: Trey has often caught glowsticks in mid-air (encouraging other folks to throw them in his direction), and has on occasion gathered up couples or handfuls and tossed them back into the crowd. And, much earlier, the band apparently tossed "glowsticks" into the audience at the 1994 Thanksgiving show, although that was a much smaller crowd. And for 12-31-98, (tens of) thousands of glowrings were distributed to the audience.
  • Public pride: The 1997 Christmas card from the band and its management company featured a photo of the Harry Hood glowstick war at the Great Went (mentioned above).

However - and this should be obvious but apparently isn't - you shouldn't throw anything at the band! Here, let Trey tell you...

Download Trey Banter, 12/2/05








Moreover, sticks are problematic. The 4"-6" sticks with tapered ends, usually dayglo lime, pose several problems:


  • People: In most cases, the things are thrown up into the air, though of course came down on top of people -- but some folks seem to brutally flick or peg them at folks, particularly from the stands to the floor.
  • Lights: It's difficult to distinguish the sticks from Chris' crazy lights.
  • Design: Sticks are heavy, hard, and pointed (whereas rings are lighter, softer, very pliable, and entirely rounded) and have caused serious damage to eyes and skin. (See Chris kuroda quotation below.)
  • Equipment: Beyond personal injury to band and audience, the heavier glowsticks can interfere with or harm equipment, including both recording equipment in the tapers' section as well as band rigs on stage.
  • More: For more thoughts, see article in JamBands.com.


And glowrings are better: Look for the 6"-10" diameter rings (really a long thin tube, the two ends of which connect inside a small clear connector), with these advantages:


  • Design: Lighter, softer, more pliable, rounded, and bouncy upon landing, so are less likely to hurt anyone or anything.
  • Motion: They sail more smoothly and gently, so fit the dimmed-lights jamming better.
  • Color: They come in more colors: red, blue, yellow, purple, orange....
  • Cost: They're cheaper! Whereas sticks range from $1 to $5, glowrings can be purchased from GlowStickWars.com for just 9 pennies each! And a portion of each sale is donated to the Mockingbird Foundation.


The band prefers rings:


  • Chris speaks: In an interview with Jeff Waful for Jambands.com, Chris kuroda voiced support for rings versus sticks: "I think that the glow-rings, the kind that fit together in the little plastic insert, they're great. They look great flying around up there. They're not gonna hurt a fly. The thick, plastic glow sticks are hurting lots of people in the crowd with serious injuries requiring stitches. Some friends of mine, as a matter of fact [have been injured]. There is no need to throw those. I mean, it looks great and it looks cool and you're at a concert, and it's the heat of the moment. I can understand why people do it, but….. I don't like the glow sticks. Every time it starts, the first thing I tell my two guys is, 'everybody, watch your head; duck.' We're all looking out. Some people really just whip them. I really have no tolerance for that. You're gonna really hurt someone. That's not the heat of the concert-moment getting to you. That's just a jerk whipping a glow stick. [When it first happened, and at the Great Went, it] looked great, but you learn as time goes on. We thought the glowstick thing was gonna be the greatest thing in the world until we realized people were getting hurt. [At one time Trey said "get more of those" but] Since then, I would say that they [the band] are a little down on them. I think they feel the exact same way I do. Get thousands and millions of those little ringed ones. They're thin. They couldn't hurt a fly. Throw them around. They'll look amazing. They really will. But I think everyone's against the thick, plastic ones.
  • Band acts: At the 12-31-98 New Year's Eve show, the band (well, eight dancers) tossed out thosands of glowrings. This was the culmination of a four-show run that began with dayglo lime caterpillars milling about the stage (heavy and pointed, like glowsticks) and ending with a mantage (multicolored and sprite, like the glowrings.)


"A great spontaneous event is happening. The feeling is, we're all in this together. It's different from being entertained by us." -- Trey Anastasio, The Associated Press, 7/3/94








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