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PhanArt’s Summer Tour Recap, Part 1

Better late than never, and just in time as I head west to Dick’s, here’s my recap of the 14 shows I did this summer, from Bangor>Toronto, warts and all. Plus a brief recap on Summer in Saratoga: A Rock Art Exhibition, which you can see more photos of here.

Phish tour in July meant that I could plan to see a bunch of shows without fear of missing school or having to rush home after a show to be up in time for students. This summer was filled with incredible music, great times, good traveling from show to show and meeting new friends and experiences along the way. Here’s my recap of Phish tour from Bangor through Toronto.

Myself, Sue and Bryan – all planned to leave on the 2nd from Albany, so we weren’t driving six hours the day of the show. About a week before, Jake hit me up looking for a ride. When a girl like Holly is your reference, say no more. Jake was in with us and we headed up to Bangor after a whirlwind day of getting things in order before starting tour with a clean slate. I had just finished writing a children’s book two days prior that I had put off for entirely too long, and the lack of time to get it finished was a nice propellant to get it done. With the book done and my first Phish show in Maine since IT on tap, the drive was an easy one. Albany>Bangor took just about six hours, but the longest part – Maine, was made extra creepy with a rolling fog on the 95 the entire time. We joked that the home state of Stephen King would be like this.

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Arriving at a Motel 6 around midnight, we checked into a fine 2-star motel and ordered Dominos, because that’s what Maine has to eat at midnight on a Tuesday. We missed the Trey interview on PBS’ NewsHour at 11pm, but we were lucky enough to get a replay at 1am and stayed awake to watch it. Aside from Trey and the interviewers voice, we were so silent we may as well have been in space. I’ve seen this before – when Phish is on TV, or a member of Phish, you stop what you are doing and remain SILENT until it is over. Trey’s interview was the equivalent of putting up three fingers in Boy Scouts or a teacher counting 1….2….3…., but it was all instinct. And an awesome interview taboot. If there’s one aspect of Trey I am fascinated with, its his playing with orchestras these past few years. I actually wrote my first post on PhanArt about the Carnegie Hall show in September 2009. 

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We all woke up the next day excited as anyone could be for the first show of the tour, and for Sue, Bryan and Jake, the first show they’d see in Maine, which is cool if you’re into traveling for Phish. By awesome coincidence, Stu, who I went to Syracuse University with, happened to be vacationing in Bangor. We planned to meet for lunch as a group and visited Sea Dog Brewery, which was located just down the street from Darling’s Waterfront and right on the Penobscot River. The beers were far better at the brewery than in any bottle I had ever had – while this is true for most beers, it is especially true for Sea Dog – and tasty Fish Tacos with the local catch. For only seeing Stu a couple times since he graduated, and our chats and interactions on Facebook, it was a welcome treat to go to a new town and find a friend there, even more so because that friend wasn’t in town for Phish. After lunch and a couple of pictures together, the four of us, now sans Stu, took a short walk up the road to find Stephen King’s house. You couldn’t have found a more awesome/creepy house, complete with dragons, spiderweb gates, a Benz in the driveway, and a gate that was wide open. A few photos and it was back down the hill to the lots, but not before some random as hell dude drove by and tried to sell us pot; apparently Phish being in town means that locals who grow their own use this method of marketing. Naturally, we balked and found an open spot in the lots next to Sea Dog and set up the EZ-Up among a few old friends, and got some more to join us in a packed lot (carwise) for a good 3 hours on lot vending some and catching up with friends we hadn’t seen since NYE in most cases.

We could hear soundcheck from where we were, not too bad and how many people can say their favorite band gives them a treat like that pre-show? We wrapped things up on lot, walked to the show and ran into Parker Harrington who was shooting the show for Livemusicblog, just as Possum was about to get started, because naturally. Overall, I thought the show was fun, with first set a series of standard with some jams, but the Golden Age and Antelope from the Second Set boded well for what lay in store the rest of the tour. (I’m not getting into details on music with these recaps, unless something was pretty awesome).

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The ride back… I had been up since 9am (still on teacher sleep schedule) and it was nearly midnight when we got on the road. I’ve driven farther on less sleep, and with the help of (no joke) the new Donna the Buffalo album and assorted Disco Biscuits and Daft Punk, I was able to make it within 2 hours of Albany before handing the reigns over to Bryan, just as the sun was breaking through. Endurance driving is fun, but after a while, it gets old. Alpharetta to Chicago was easier than this drive and nearly twice as long.

We dropped off Sue and Bryan, Jake and I went back to my place, getting whatever sleep we could. The 4th of July was looming and with a party at my folks place, this was going to be the one night I would sleep halfway-decent until Sunday. After unpacking and squaring things up, I was in bed by 9 AM and able to enjoy the 4th of July, so so much for that plan. Food, pool, drinks, new friends, old friends, everyone filtered in and out during the day over at my folks place, a perfect spot for those days off before SPAC, now in its 4th year! Some folks from School of Phish stopped by, Satoshi flew in to start tour the next day, plus Jules, Scott, Laura, Erika, Adam, many others as the night progressed, because there’s only so much to do in Albany on the 4th besides wait in traffic leaving the EmpireStatePlaza fireworks display.

I woke up on the 5th needing to get to last minute advertising for the art show in Saratoga the next day. Phish was the furthest thing from my mind at this point. I shot up to Saratoga, got some flyers printed, laminates made, checked in at the hotel and helped assemble some of the cardboard displays before rushing back out to get to Albany Airport to pick up Sam (90 minutes late) and Dr. John (30 minutes late), grab food for myself, Sam, Dr. John, Jules, Laura, Jake and probably Toombs, shower and get ready to drive up to the show.

This all unfolded in the short span of 4 hours and got the adrenaline going nicely. To top it off, I had to be on the road by 4pm so that we were in the ‘good lot’, the one across the road from the venue on Route 50. There’s limited vending while you’re up there, and this was the safer of the options. Plus, I had to get out as soon as possible after the show, with the art show and all the next day.

Picking up the media pass for the day and catching up with Andy Hill, photographer for UpstateLIVE.com where I’m the Online Editor, we snuck in just under the wire before they wouldn’t let anyone else in due to a strong thunderstorm cell that was passing over. This is the kind of caution that I can respect, unlike say, NortherlyIsland, but I’ll get to that later on. Watching the crowd pour from the lawn into the balcony, then back out in an orderly manner was actually a thing of beauty – how many other bands have fans that would have done that, without making a scene, pushing, shoving, or being general dicks?

With seats in the third row Page Side, I got some pre-show time to chat with ScottyB from Jambase, talked to some local press and saw familiar faces around the venue (Scott Marks, taper Lenny Stubbe) before resting my legs for a bit prior to the show. I thought the first set was a solid one, especially the Bathtub Gin and Yarmouth Road, but second set had that incredible jam leaving 46 Days that stuck out more than anything. I was happy to be down close and get a good view of the band, something I’ve been more cognizant of in recent tours. Naturally, the rain came down as we left and I wasn’t home until 12:30 AM.

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I love being a part of The Mothership Art Collective and help to put on these great art shows that feature amazing artists and a little something for everyone. I hope to continue being a part of this as long as the band is around and longer. Here’s an idea of what its like to put on these art shows the day of the event:

I woke up on Saturday the 6th around 730am, when some were still awake from the night before, and rushed to shower, put my final art and boxes in the car, filling the entire thing up (plus cooler – these events are dehydrating). These events are great because they are in the middle of a three-day run, so its just one night of sleep, but it’s also a REALLY long day. I’m used to them by now as I’ve been part of a half-dozen or so art shows with PhanArt and Mockingbird, so it’s a marathon like no other. Leaving by 8am and arriving around 830/845am, we unpacked the car and quickly watched the largest room we have ever had (!) come together. There were last minute additions (Michael Boyer, Mark Serlo) and many regulars (AJ Masthay, Isadora Bullock, Noah Phence, Branden Otto) and first timers (Nate Duval, Drew Suto) among the two dozen artists in attendance. Some see each other on Shakedown at shows throughout tour, some are meeting for the first time, or some degree of familiarity with each other. I set up my tables with PhanArt goods and a wide spread of art donated to Mockingbird Foundation – shirts, posters, ties, stickers, and finally assembled the PhanArt pin board with all the pins donated, and for sale, to benefit Mockingbird Foundation. THAT was a task and a half, and done mid-show taboot. There were great volunteers helping out this time, which made things a bit easier and I was able to chat with fans to a greater degree than past shows. Great thanks to Chris, Kelley, Jesse, Windy, the always helpful Dr. John, Satoshi and other I am forgetting, but wow, what a show! We raised nearly $500 for The Mockingbird Foundation, brought in other donations from artists at the show and had the largest crowd yet – 1200-1500 Phish fans, friends and locals coming to check out some awesome art. I was pleasantly surprised when Marc, who I went to SU with, happened to stop by – he was in town and saw about the show, so we caught up and got to introduce him to the Phish art scene, as well as a little Phish. The entire day was just that great.

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My good friend Shawn, who I saw TAB shows with in 2001 as I drove across the country, stopped by and joined the party for the next two days. We packed up the cars, drove over to the lots, barely got into the West 50 lot and had time to breathe for a little, amid the Tweetup of all the Phish #twibe folks. That was awesome too. The show, not so much. The first set was a dragging affairs, until that Melt came around. Second set Tweezer>Sand>Carini was a highlight of the night, and the tour for me, although I didn’t like Architect since it feels like a TAB song at best. For my one night on the lawn, it was a nice party with everyone.

Post show, Shawn and I decided to hit off Twiddle at Putnam Den, because if I awake after this long of a day, I’m certainly going for the trifecta – three shows in one day (and yes an art show counts). We only stayed for a drink over an hour, but it was a great night. Twiddle are quite incredible and are on the rise in just the right way, not rushing it or pacing it. Bed finally came at 4am, when a few of the other 8 staying upstairs and downstairs at my place, were just getting to sleep. Ah, youth.

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Waking the next day, my friend Erika caught up with us as we had lunch at Dinosaur BBQ, a must for anyone who likes food. It’s a regional delicacy for us and damn if it isn’t some of the best BBQ out there. We were on the road in time enough to meet up with Tim and Shaun and Steve and Katie, to set up TWoLArt again on lot. Perfect timing too, as we were one of the last 50 cars to get in that day. One day, I’ll get there early. One day.

With rain looming, as it did for most east coast shows this summer, we headed in a bit early, picking up the 3rd poster to cap off the three prints for the run – great work Drew Millward! – got our seats in the balcony, somehow, the second time for me, and this is a ‘hometown’ summer venue. First set was a rocker, second set a jammer. DWD>Ghost>Piper and Antelope>Meatstick>YEM are the things fantasy setlists are made of. We rocked out with security stopping by to make sure we didn’t breathe on the walkway (but still did anyways) and ended the night with a Loving Cup encore, with full release. Here’s my review for UpstateLIVE. 

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Post show, the fucking Rains of Castamere came down on us, that is, the handful who were dicking around leaving the venue. I was soaked when I got back to my car, but no complaints – Erika was driving us back to my place, a relief after so much driving already for me. Jake and Laura had decided to skip a Sunday show, a lesson quickly learned. Toombs did too, and left me a cooler full of warm PBRs. We mostly stayed up late, knowing there was little to be done on Monday, aside from travel for some and sleep for me. Monday was a take-it-as-it-goes day, with no rushing for any reason. Satoshi, Erika, Sue and I went to see the Lone Ranger (Jerry Bruckheimer old-west action film porn) and had an early night by comparison. I had Tuesday left to me for editing and final preparations for the next 9 shows I would see, taking me all the way to Chicago. It sucked to hear about Toronto being cancelled, especially for affected friends, and was able to attend the rescheduled date, making it 10 shows for the summer.

4 down, 10 to go.


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