Phish’s Sphere Game Plan: Show Director Abigail Rosen Holmes Previews Vegas Run

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(More Than) OK Computers: Abigail Rosen Holmes at Sphere in Las Vegas on April 16, 2024. (Photo: Rene Huemer/Courtesy Phish)

The thing about the Las Vegas Sphere, with millions of LED lights lining its interior and exterior surfaces and the 167,000 loudspeaker drivers creating warm, crisp beam-forming audio, along with haptic, temperature and olfactory technologies, is that the creative possibilities are limitless. U2’s historic “U2:UV Achtung Baby Live” opening run was a jaw-dropper and set a high-bar with individual artists commissioned to create incredible visuals (while also becoming the second highest grossing tour of Q1 2024). Phish, who play Sphere April 18 – 21, are a very different beast and their approach to the Sphere and live performances could yield even more spectacular results.

Part of the reason for this has to do with the band’s ethos. As a second-generation jam band that came up in the Grateful Dead’s wake (of the flood), Phish are all about live performances. A premium is put upon musicianship and improvisation with its virtuoso members Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon Jon Fishman, and Page McConnell creating a here and now one-of-a-kind experience with every show having the potential to blow fans’ minds and in the process make band history. They’ve covered entire albums by Prince, The Stones, The Beatles and Velvet Underground while wearing outlandish costumes. They’ve played a Baker’s Dozen night residency, 26 sets of music and 237 songs total, without repeating a single jam. And mind altering—naturally or with enhancements—along with tripped-out visuals are part and parcel of the jamband tradition and experience. The Sphere, with its cutting-edge technologies, can only add to that tradition. (

Phish are only doing four Sphere shows and will not repeat any songs (but they’ll more than likely return considering their longstanding relationship with MSG). Their production, unlike U2’s, can be modified and manipulated in real time. And the Phish team is working with the Montreal-based Moment Factory on the visual components rather than individual artists. (Also, just announced: Phish’s sold-out shows will be the first to be livestreamed from the Sphere as well on

On the eve of Phish’s historic run, Pollstar caught up with Abigail Rosen Holmes, an industry veteran who has worked with Talking Heads, Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel, Miley Cyrus and Janet Jackson. Here, the director and co-creative director for Phish’s Sphere shows explains the band’s creative process, its creative partners, what technologies they’ll use and why there are “too many great moments” to choose only one.

Pollstar: What does your job as director and co-creative director for Phish’s Sphere shows entail?
Abigail Rosen Holmes: My role includes work with all the design elements of the show, from the show concepts and ideas for our approach, the visuals, stage design and other production elements, on this project that cannot be separated from the technical and production work needed to deliver those ideas – from the playback approach, to the technical development required.

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Phish’s Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, Trey Anastasio and Jon Fishman photographed by Danny Clinch in New York City on March 26, 2024. (Courtesy Phish)

What was the creative process for the shows?
Everything initiated from Trey and the band and an idea of what these shows could be. Then we worked creatively to develop and explore ideas with our fantastic team from Moment Factory, with Chris Kuroda, our designers at Atomic Design and Tait. Hugely important are the amazing Phish production and crew—it’s sometimes overlooked how invaluable their contributions are in bringing these shows to life.

Creating a show for the Sphere is a huge undertaking. It takes a team of amazing creative and technical people to pull it off. So, of course, I’m not the person writing code for the video playback; I work on building the understanding of how our end result will be shaped and then working with, guiding and supporting all the teams to pull it together. I also will be executing the video during the show, using a customized playback setup on the GMA console.

You’ve worked with the Talking Heads, Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel, Miley Cyrus and Janet Jackson, how does working on these Sphere Phish shows compare?
Phish are an interesting band in their willingness to continually try new things and take creative risks. This makes working with them an incredible opportunity. It is not downplaying the level of the music and production that also has an element of fun. This allows creative to explore some design choices you might not be able to do with another artist.

How long have you been working on the Sphere show. Did you work out of the Sphere studios in Burbank?
I started work on the project in July and we were work shopping and building creative ideas in early fall. Video production began in 2023 and we did initial programming and testing as far back as January. We have had invaluable technical support from Fuse, Earlybird and the team at MSG to make it possible to do the kind of show we all wanted to deliver. We did not work out of the Burbank Dome, we were lucky to be supported by MSG in having time to work inside the Sphere itself in March.

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Have you seen all 80 songs with the production? I know you can’t give away specifics, but what’s your take in a general sense on these four shows as compared with “usual” Phish shows? 
It’s possible everyone has taken the 80 songs quote too literally.  I think I can say audiences can expect a full Phish show.  : )

I know you’re working closely with Moment Factory, what’s their role in the production?
 We have a great team from Moment Factory – they are supporting the video content and show design. Jean-Baptise Hardoin is co-creative director with me, and Manuel Galarneau is Multimedia Director, along with incredible animators and content developers. Others contributing to the show’s design elements include Atomic Design and our team at Tait.

As Phish is playing dozens of songs over the course of four concerts and repeating none, will the production be different every night? Will there be some similarities?
As with the band itself, we are aiming to bring something new to each night’s performance.

U2 commissioned a number of outside artists for the visuals and stage set (Brian Eno), did Phish work in a similar manner? 
Moment Factory have produced the visuals – working both within their in-house teams and with content creators from around the world.

U2 were fairly restrained with roughly half their show featuring the band performing on the Sphere’s walls with little visual enhancements. Will Phish be similar or less restrained in its use of visuals?
Understanding your story runs ahead of the show, I’ll respectfully say, I cant wait for everyone to find out!

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Tripping The Light Fantastic: Phish perform at Wright State University Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio on Oct. 10, 2023. (Rene Huemer/Red Light Management)

The Sphere also has haptic, beam forming sound, smell technology and I believe temperature controls – do you know if any of those technologies will be used?
Yes – Phish are planning to make the most of both the audio and visual technologies of the Sphere. Phish’s audio engineer, Garry Brown has worked both in the room and in a (previsualization) audio model of the Sphere at Tait Lititz on audio using the Holoplot capabilities.

A Washington Post article on Phish and the Sphere called Trey an “in-house control freak,” a “relentless communicator” who repeats the words “teams win,” how did those qualities coalesce to help with the Sphere shows’ production? 
On a show this large and complex, with so much underpinning in technology, it is critical to remember what is important about the show itself. Trey, the band and their management are such amazing collaborators and have been the touchstone throughout the process to connect the creative team to the core of what the show wants to be.

In that story, you and the band said you wanted to “absolutely make the most out of the room and also support Phish doing what Phish does best.”  Does that mean not having the production overwhelm Phish’s performance?
All our show decisions were shaped by focusing on the primary aspect of the show – Phish’s musical performance. One of the directions this lead to is that all our visuals can be executed, modified and manipulated in real time. They follow the music, rather than being locked in, allowing Phish to play as freely as they would at any other show. Additionally, we have been very careful to consider the varied viewing experiences within the Sphere. We want the show to be amazing no matter where you are seated.

The story also said lighting director Chris Kuroda’s usual rig wouldn’t fit into the Sphere, how is that being dealt with? 
Chris Kuroda’s lighting is an integral part of the show at Sphere, where lighting and video will mesh together to build the visual experience. His amazing touring rig didn’t work within the Sphere, in its place he has a custom system for these performances to take advantage of this room and stage.  

What would be your advice to other artists who are going to play Sphere?
It feels presumptuous for me to be giving advice to other artists.  I hope everyone brings something new and varied to the experience. I’m really looking forward to seeing the different ways other artists make use of this space.

Without giving away any secrets, what was your feeling during the show’s most spectacular moments?
There are too many great ones to have a favorite!