I recently went to four Phish concerts at three different venues in three different cities in the North East. (Philadelphia, PA / Albany, NY / New York, NY). This summary isn’t exactly written in proper fashion because I didn’t take many notes during the events, but I wrote in my journal after each show and I will refer to all of my notes to write this blog. Excerpts from my notes will most like be in quotation marks. “Get it?”
The past two years I’ve listened to a lot more of Phish’s music then I ever had before, and I saw them live in June 2009 for the first time at Jones Beach Amphitheater (Long Island, NY). I went to four shows on their 2009 Summer Tour, and four shows on their 2009 Fall Tour. I’ve been listening to non-stop Phish since Thanksgiving. IT APPEARS I’VE TAKEN QUITE A LIKING TO THIS BAND!
I’ve also taken a liking to Phish’s lighting designer, Chris Kuroda. I think this picture, that I found on the Internet, sums up what I can’t put into words. The lights at all the shows I attended were a glorious specatacle. One of my hardcore Phish fan friends quoted Kuroda as being, “the best in the industry.” (Or maybe he said, “one of the best in the industry”?) Either way, Kuroda is fantastic at what he does and I remember thinking during a show that he must feel confident he has the most kick ass job on the entire planet.
My blood flowed so smoothly at the shows. There’s a great party vibration in the air at a Phish show. It’s very awesome, because so many people like Phish. They sell out every single venue they play. (Scalpers?) Tickets for Madison Square Garden, a venue that caps out at 20,000 people, sold out in minutes. Hot damn. That’s amazing. People travel from far and wide to go to Phish shows, and there’re a few good reasons for that. It’s a very feel-good experience. Thousands of friendly faces, all so pumped to be seeing an incredible band play happy music that they can dance and party to with their favorite partners in crime.
My Phishcapades really started out the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I often go to my friend Erin’s house on Tuesday nights, and on that particular night there was a delicious meal her mother had made and I ate like I was at a restaurant! I’m always hungry at Erin’s house. (Do I smell?…I smell home cooking!) Erin’s mom (Fran) is a bomb chef, and actually, so is Erin, for the record. Fran poured me some wine, and it was treating me well so I had a couple glasses over the course of the night. I stayed at Erin’s later then I usually do that particular Tuesday, and I said to her that I felt extra hyper and sociable, but I didn’t know why. Nor did I have anyyy idea that in 20 hours, I’d be at a Phish show.
I got home from Erin’s around midnight and OF COURSE, went on Facebook. I simply can’t go to sleep without checking the stats. Hah, speaking of which, has anybody seen the South Park episode where they lose Internet and head to “Californy” to find it in Silicon Valley? I saw that episode for the first time the other night. It was so right on!! Very hilarious. Well done, South Park creators, but back to the subject of topic, Phish. I signed on Facebook and received an instant message from my friend KM who asked me if I was going to Phish in Philadelphia the next day, Wednesday. I said no, I did not plan on it. She told me tickets were selling for very cheap. I said I didn’t have transportation down there (about a two hour drive). She said she could pick me up, we could stay at her friend’s place in Philly, take the train to the show, and drive back home Thursday morning in time for Thanksgiving dinners with the families. Then she linked me to a website I was then unaware of, http://www.CheapTicketsOnUs.com. The site had two tickets available for a grand total of $35 and change, but you had to buy two. I thought that was a decent price for even one ticket, plus KM offered to give me money to split it and she would come in that seat sometimes. Everything sounded so good and I had the right buzz going on and KM caught me at the perfect moment. Before I knew it I had an e-mail confirmation that I now owned two tickets for Phish at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, PA on Wednesday, November 25, 2009.
I immediately texted Banks, who also happened to be awake, and I think buzzed. “Wanna go see Phish in Philly tomorrow? I just bought tickets. It’s on me. KM said she has room for two more in her car. Meet at my house tomorrow at 2:30 pm.” Banks didn’t refuse, and for that I am soOoOo glad…….because we all had a fuckin’ ball!
Should I go ahead and explain that KM is someone I know from high school, though we were never exxxxxactly FRIENDS though definitely never enemies, either. Friendly associates, I will say. Several years after high school I started seeing KM at some of the same shows and festivals I was at…and eventually I guess we became friendlier to the point where we exchanged numbers and planned to meet outside a moe. show last February, 2009. Anywhoo…when she IMd me on Facebook that was the first time we ever talked like that on there…it was a pretty random occurrence, actually. Oh, who am I kidding, it wasn’t that random. Birds of a feather are flocking outside….
I actually had a professional job interview on Wednesday at 1pm, which worked out perfectly because KM said she would pick us up around 3pm so I figured I would be home by that time. On Wednesday morning I woke up early and found the day to be very ironic because suddenly I was getting ready for a professional job interview, which is an act in itself for me, and then I also had to pack, lay out my outfit and accessories for the concert and organize my belongings.
I made it to the interview in proper fashion and actually thought it went quite well. I even real mailed them a follow-up letter Monday after the interview, thanking the two individuals that interviewed me and reiterating my interest in the position. They were nice enough to mail me back a letter telling me though I seemed well-qualified; I was not selected for the position. I am OK with that.
I was home from the interview by 2:15, and Banks arrived about 2:30. We ended up meeting KM in a parking lot and our car of 6 heads got on the road to Philly at 3:30pm and go to our destination, KM’s friend’s, by 6pm. We chilled there about an hour, waited for two more people to arrive, and then nine of us took the subway to the venue. The only note I took on Thursday night took place at the subway station before the train. I jotted down at approximately 7:30 pm, “Here we are, waiting for the train. (Friend) be takin’ goodies. We shared. Go Phish!”
We didn’t have time to frolic in the lot so directly into the show we went, and got to our seats with about five minutes to spare before show time. Banks and I tried out our assigned seats, which were dead center, but second level / far from the stage. I found out via text message that some of my old college pals, Sean, Jenny, Luke and Amanda, were just a few sections over so we moved by them for the first set.
It was fun to see them at the show, especially since I had a dream that I “went to Sean and Jenny’s section at a Phish show” a few weeks prior.
Amanda had a big antelope sticker on her thigh and right as Banks and I were leaving that section and those friends to meet KM, Phish played “Run like an Antelope.” Banks and I were walking through the hallway to KM’s section during that song, but we stopped at the next closest doorway and jammed out to it.
Right before set break Banks and I went to KM’s section, which was behind the stage but much closer…and louder! It was pretty sweet. So were the intoxicants I ingested, even though I never felt anything hit me and insisted I was “sober” during the show. I felt perfect. For that reason, and that reason alone, in a way Wednesday night was the best night for me, even though I had just as much fun, if not more, at some of the other shows. I know some phans weren’t that impressed with Wednesday night’s show, but I had a grand old time. Danced my booty off. Had fun with old and new friends. The whole night was kind of magical for me, I think because everything about it was very spontaneous…
After the show ended we stumbled around through the lot to the subway. It was packed with kids leaving the show. We had to take the train and then a taxi back to the house where our stuff was…where we thought we were staying the night. But basically, there were more people staying the night than hang out/sleeping space provided for…and Banks had been getting texts from her friend Dubs who said we would come hang out and stay in his hotel room…so at 2am, after standing with our backpacks on for half an hour waiting for it to show up, Banks and I got into a taxi and went to the Sheraton Hotel at 36th and Chestnut. We showed up wide awake and giggling, not even really knowing how we were going to get home in the morning because KM had said she was leaving the city around 8am…but we ended up getting a ride from a friend who was also in the hotel room and lives near my town…
Everything worked out perfectly.
I was so happy with the way things worked out, and with the way I felt during and after the show, in fact, that I decided I “had” to go see Phish in Albany, NY on Saturday night. I had originally said I wasn’t going to Albany because I was going to work that weekend, plus I wanted to save money for the two Madison Square Garden shows I had tickets for the next week. But I was PHEIGNING for more PHISH so I borrowed my family’s Ford Explorer ($50 in gas), drove to Albany by myself on Saturday afternoon and met Paul and his friends at their hotel room.
I recorded in my notes that the Sloatsburg rest area on the NY Thruway is “f’n ridic!” There was a parking garage which totally threw me off so I ended up in truck parking amongst the tractor trailers. Then, once inside the facility I had to get on an escalator to the bathroom, which annoyed me because it was taking up too much of my precious pre-gaming time.
When I look back on the setlist now, the music on Saturday night was excellent. Phish opened with what I believe is a new song, “Party Time”. Aside from when I saw Ratdog open at a festival with a song entitled “Festival”, I felt that “Party Time” was the perfect selection for Saturday night’s opener! (Here’s where I’m supposed to talk about HOW the music SOUNDED but that is not my forte!) Just imagine being at a show with a bunch of very excited fans who are eager for the first song, and then having the first words out of their idol’s mouth be, “It’s parrtyyyy time….!”
Sunday morning after the Albany show I had to wake up and get on the road by 8:30am and made it back to work from 11-5pm. I made it through the work day, and felt like a real champion for doing so!
Here are some notes I took on Sunday night: “I made it through another really fun/incredible show and day! Phish at Albany last night was the shit!! It was dirty in a Phishy way…the music was great…! First set I was with Paul, Parke, Diaz, Banks and her sister. We were on the lower level (but not floor), with a pretty decent view. Halfway through second set Paul and I climbed up 700 stairs and went to the very top row of the top level to meet the friends we were riding back to hotel with. The view from up there was awesome, I felt like I was “on top of the venue”. I could see so much of the crowd with the lights on them…I could see what a huge party it was! How many people love the music of Phish…so many people grooving in time to the same beat. Good vibes!”
….And then came Madison Square Garden….
I had planned to attend two of the three night’s of shows of the Madison Square Garden run since the day tickets went on sale, two or three months prior. I am lucky to have Paul in my life because he scores all the bomb tickets, I myself actually had no luck getting any the morning they went on sale. I tried a Google search of, “How fast did Phish sell out Madison Square Garden?” But I didn’t seem to find a real answer. I saw some things that said minutes, and one that even said seconds.
You know what? I think I need to explain what it’s like to get Phish tickets to someone who has never been to a Phish show. I had no idea that dramatics that can occur over the simple desire that someone wants to see the band perform live.
Now, I had never been to a Phish show until 2009. This is their first time touring in five years. From what I experienced THIS YEAR, securing tix for a show was an intense process that caused anxiety, excitement, and either shrill delight, or disappointment. Apparently getting tickets for a show in prior years was not as difficult, I hear a lot of the problem has to do with scalpers. However, I should add that from what I saw, it was possible to get tickets for a reasonable price outside of any show the night of event.
But yeah…MY experience getting tickets for the 2009 tour went something like this: First, the band announced months in advance that they were going to tour. Then there was then an initial online lottery for tickets. You had to enter your name, billing and shipping information, and then select the date and venue you wished to attend. You could request up to four tickets, though this by no means guaranteed anything. The rules went that a fan had until midnight of a certain date to apply for the lottery. After the lottery ended ticket requesters received e-mails that notified them whether or not they “won” the tickets they were looking for. A few weeks after the lottery, tickets went on sale through ticket outlets and were released at an exact time on a given day, many venues going on sale at different hours, giving more time and a better chance for those who wished to get tickets multiple shows.
For the summer tour I had luck scoring tickets at a Live Nation ticket outlet, Blockbuster. Me and six other heads got about 20 tickets between us. But Blockbuster didn’t have access to Madison Square Garden events, so I planned to try to instantly order tix online when they were released. The anxiety of getting tickets slipped into my subconscious, for sure. The night before tickets went on sale I had an extraordinary dream about being at a Phish show. (One of three of my recent Phish concert dreams, actually. My brain is cool.) So at 10am the day tickets went on sale I got ready at my computer with the webpage open, signed in to my account, debit card at my side. I watched the clock and the second it turned 10 AM I typed and clicked as fast as I could, and waited for the page to load with 20,000 other people trying to accomplish the exact same thing. The website put me into a virtual waiting room where you wait to be informed if your ticket request was granted or not. As I said, I had no luck myself, but I know good people, so everything was secured.
I heard from multiple older fans that seeing Phish as Madison Square Garden was a “must have” experience, and I definitely have no complaints about the nights. Security was very lax getting in the venue; they didn’t even search my fanny pack. I didn’t try to go on the floor or get close to the stage, but from our upper level prospective, the ushers were very relaxed and did not one single time question what seat or section I was supposed to be in, nor did they reprimand me for dancing in the main walkway for the majority of the shows. It was fantastic! I had plenty of dancing space in a main walkway (which is exactly what I need) and I was able to move about freely to visit with different groups of friends.
On Thursday night before the show I met some friends at a bar around the corner from the venue, Hickey’s. The place was packed with phans, and Phish was played on the digital jukebox the whole time I was there. Except, of course, when somebody slipped Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” into the mix. That was a real crowd pleaser. Hah.
There was a nitrous tank across the street from the bar, right outside the main entrance to Hotel Pennsylvania. I witnessed a very average-looking, middle-aged male come out of the hotel, hear the hissing of the tanks and start looking all around him in great confusion, like “what the FUCK is going ON!?” It was classic.
During the show I noted that “MSG = worst venue ever. Bars close at intermission!? 10:13pm and the bars are closed!?” I honestly can’t even guarantee that is factual information, but it could be. My memory is foggy. Was it really closed or was I mistaken? And oh, FYI, a beer at Madison Square Garden cost $9.50. I’d say I spent somewhere around $100 on alcohol between the two nights! Bad girl!
Phish played a lot of what I consider to be great songs on Thursday night, including an old-time favorite of mine, “Boogie on Reggae Woman.” I hate to sound like a complete NERD, but I was very pleased to hear both of the songs I had referenced in my Facebook status update Thursday before I took the train into the city for the show, “Back on the Train” and “Halley’s Comet”. (Madison Square Garden is in the central part of town!)
I was in the bathroom when Phish started playing “Cities,” but I heard it as soon as I exited. I then began running, maybe even “sprinting”, to my section…down the long hallway…on tile…and I remember I kept thinking to myself that I should stop running, or slow down because I might slip on spilled beer and get hurt…..but I couldn’t stop…..I LOVE “CITIES”!!!!!
Paul and I made the trek back to his apartment in Brooklyn after the show, and we re-amped ourselves for Friday night!
Friday night was very similar to Thursday night. Met friends at a nearby bar before the show, had no problem getting seats together inside the venue, and again, I was able to dance in the walkway. I ran into a lot of different friends on Friday night, which was awesome considering what a big venue MSG is.
We heard a lot of great jams on Friday, and I was very, very pleased with the way they closed the show, with a cover of the Rolling Stones song “Shine a Light.” I felt like the lyrics and the melody were so beautiful, and like it was the perfect parting song, since I probably won’t be seeing Phish again for “a while.” (Who knows…)
I know that to some people, eight Phish concerts in one year might be a little excessive. “Don’t they play the same songs every show?”…I’ve been asked that. I’m not even going to answer. I wish I could go to 80 more Phish shows. They are great fun to see live. I’m hooked on Phish! My boat floats in a pool of phish! Yes, Phish, I’m pickin’ up what you’re throwin’ down…!
Thank you, Phish, Paul and phriends for helping to make my 2009 year a lot more awesome than it would have been had I not seen Phish live eight times. I do recommend, to those who are interested, to see this band. I really have no complaints about any of my experiences seeing them, except for the times I didn’t party properly and ended up with headaches, but that’s my own fault.
Oh yeah, one more thing, on my fall tour I saw Phish perform the song “You Enjoy Myself” at 3 of the 4 shows I attended. It’s really cool when they do this song because Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon jump on mini trampolines while laying down sick rhythms on their guitars and bass guitars. They jump around on the trampolines in circles, to the beat, and never mess up a lick. It was incredible!!!