I don’t always recap, but when I do, it’s because it was a kickass run of shows.
Having Phish play on weekends around their base in the northeast benefits New Yorkers like me, so when the tour was announced earlier this year, I saw the obvious NY and NJ runs of shows as givens, while the three shows in Ohio and Pennsylvania looked like a nice venture into (mostly) virgin territory for myself and Tim. Figuring that we could sell beer and water, as well as the usual selection of shirts, stickers and other bits of phanart, we hoped this would allow us to cover our tickets and gas for the shows, keeping the cost limited, if not returning a slight profit. I’ve vended since 2006 in various capacities but hadn’t gone all out, so Tim and I figured we could take a try and beer and water and see how that went. If nothing else, we were going to drink a lot of good beers if no one was buying. But this is a Phish lot and people always love tasty beers and ice cold waters, among other things.
Thursday night I left Albany at 8pm, far later than I planned to get on the road. I got to Tim’s in north Jersey about 10pm and we proceeded to slowly start packing the car with our gear and the water and beer. Using a mammoth cooler via Shaun, we were able to get most of the cases in, but had to leave a few out of the mix for the time being. Saranac, Sam Adams and Long Trail summer samplers meant that the Midwest could taste some of the finest of the northeast, plus some dirt cheap Wegman’s waters were icing on the cake. A fully stocked car and we were on the road around 1am. Long chats got us through Harrisburg and well into PA, where we stumbled upon a Waffle House. It seems the yellow-thatched restaurant chain is inching more and more north each year, with a needed break of scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, peppered and (new!) countried hash browns grilled up. Tim took over driving us well into Ohio and into the day of the show.
Friday – Riverbend
Switching up driving I got us down to Cincinnati in three hours and to our cheap suite at the Best Western. The older you get, the nicer a hotel room you need to acquire, for your own sanity. Plus there were a few others who needed a place to stay and the room could accommodate us all. After showering and relaxing, my friend from days back at Syracuse University, Denise stopped by so we could go to lunch for her birthday. We stumbled upon a Big Boy next door to the hotel and had a fun lunch of catching up, burgers with tartar sauce on them and impromptu birthday singing from the very folksy staff. A great birthday gift would have been a Phish ticket, but Denise is more of a metal kind of girl and even the best BBFCFM or FYF would not sell her on The Phish from Vermont. Back to the hotel, Kyle, Tyler and Brynn stopped by to drop off some cases of Sweetwater from down south. Yes, the nectar of Atlanta, Tyler was good on the hookup, especially since I can’t get this unless I’m in the deep south in select markets, or Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta. A trade of some tasty Saranac and we were on the road to the show, with a stop to ice up.
Friends tipped us off on what lot to head for, and we got there but wound up just slightly off the beaten path when we set up shop. An hour or trickle sales led us to put the low sellers away and rack up sales on beer and water, which had been going along decently. Folks loved the selection of Northeast beers, a solid improvement on Yuengling and Sierra Nevadas that are always in high number on lot. Sweetwaters were saved for another day while Saranac and Long Trails and Sams went fast, along with water. Add in a stack of Surrender to the Flows and we had cornered the market in the immediate area.
Hastily we packed up and headed into the show, buying tickets and arriving inside just as Wolfman’s started. It got funky but it takes me a bit to settle in and calm the OCD a bit as we got to the lawn Page Side alongside Tyler, Kyle, Brynn and Holly, all of whom (aside from Brynn) I was with at Bonnaroo just two weeks earlier. Once settled, I got to hear my first (finally!) Peaches en Regalia and I relaxed as I got to bask in the song that got me into Zappa, surrounded by friends. A pause and a chat with Tim and then HOLY SHIT ITS SHAGGY DOG!!!! Tim and I momentarily lost our shit while NO ONE in the crowd near us reacted like we did and just stared in awe as if we had just discovered great news no one else knew about. This was partially true, since the reaction to Shaggy Dog was lesser than to Destiny Unbound 2/28/03, which we both reacted to as well, but not in this way. We really never figured we would see this, or No Dogs Allowed, so a few moments of focus were needed to embrace the Shaggy Dog. Another dog song, Runaway Jim gave us the start of a canus settus, but the Shaggy Dog elation was not leaving anytime soon. I had just seen Steve Winwood play Light Up or Leave me Alone a month prior at The Hangout Festival in Alabama, but hearing Page sing this one is just as good. I wish Page would press for more Winwood tunes, he could nail I’m a Man, Roll with It and Can’t Find My Way Home with ease. Wilson and Alaska, a double song pairing that screams ‘go get that pretzel that’s been on your mind’. I did that and eased my way back up the lawn during Stash. The antics of Llama with the botched starts of Moma and Poor Heart were funny and as Trey started to introduce songs like a conductor it was a banter-lovers dream. Buffalo Bill and I Saw it Again are nice rarities to see, and the latter gives some breathing room for a jam to develop. Bowie ended the set with some tasty teases inside.
Set two started with DWD and Guelah and KDF, three songs that I love but needed a break from simply because I was fading on energy after the long drive and a dearth of energy in my knees. The Twist, Halleys->Sand all got me up and moving, because this was the highlight of the night for me, especially the dark and spooky Twist and a Sand that aborted Halleys but still gave the night continued funk. A segue into Roggae is always welcome and was perfect and soothing. Chalkdust was fine but Golgi meant t-shirt sales would be good as always. We walked out during the Fluffhead encore to get a head start on beer and move up to a prime location. Needless to say, we did damn well with the post show crowd, sold a few shirts, even traded one in a deal better than Manhattan Island for $26 worth of beads. As the cops started to get itchy, we loaded up and headed back to the hotel, now with Mel in tow and a packed car. The show was awesome, the drive and day were awesome, now all we needed was to get to the hotel and rest. Sadly, there is no food open in southern Ohio at 2am by the way. This was not helpful and resulted in granola bars eaten late at night alongside some delicious Sweetwater 420 ales. Nothing beats this beer in my book.
Saturday – Burgettstown
The initial plan was to wake up nice and early and get on the road and be on lot by 3pm or so. That was thrown out the window when I ignored the 5 alarms I set for myself. Leaving at 10am turned into a slightly rushed leaving at noon, complete with a stop to get cough drops at Kroeger and coffees at Starbucks. I informed the cute girl taking care of our drive-thru order that Phish played Shaggy Dog the night before and emphasized how awesome it was. She did not share my enthusiasm. This is why I normally don’t go to Starbucks. So out of touch.
I-71 out of Cincy was smooth and then chock full of traffic and construction, even though there were no visible workers at the construction site. Yes, Cincy and southern Ohio qualify as being in the south, all they need are the Stars and Bars to make if official. I sped us through the whole way, sailing through some beautiful countryside I had never seen before. Central and Eastern Ohio look a great deal like the familiar territory of driving in New England and Upstate New York, which was refreshing because every other part of Ohio has been less than attractive over the years for various reasons. And just when I thought it couldn’t get better, we stumbled upon the best combo possible – a gas station with an A&W Root Beer restaurant attached. This was a sign that we were in for a treat tonight. A burger, fries and float later, plus gas and we were back on the road to PA. Thanks to Jamie’s directions, we could take a much smoother route than going to 79 and found ourselves dumped out off the highway right at the venue. Mel hopped out to get inside with Waterwheel while Tim and I drove around to the K and L lots to vend. (Having just re-read that last sentence, no, people were not selling K and L in our lots, although what if that’s what it was like?). I found someone who was looking for PhanArt Pete Dolan and sent them on their way. Clearly, this imposter is playing a dangerous game…
The setup was solid, the police ignored us but one security guy asked me not to hand out flyers or anything like that. Done and done. If unfettered vending is allowed, but not handing out flyers, that’s glass 90% full territory. Some really fun folks stopped by during the day, adding to an already hilarious afternoon in the lots. Hanging with Switz and a few others, we chilled and had a nice day in the lots. As we left a band was setting up a few cars down from us, and not a bad band either. Walking in, the line for tickets was long because NO ONE had an extra. They just weren’t floating around this run like you would expect. Seems that most folks have wised up and stopped eating tickets by only buying exactly what they need. This time, Tim and I went with less than we needed – zero – and had to wait in line to get lawns, although we stumbled upon Laura and Kat, where a conversation about underwear continued as we got to the lawn. We grabbed drinks and found Ranger Steve as we centered ourselves on the lawn in a prime spot. This was my night to get toasty and the lack of search meant that free flowing vodka was in my favor. The entire show was fun and had a nice song selection all around. Funky Bitch and Number Line opened it up nicely, but Gumbo and Maze showed that there was something else in the air – 7/7/00 to be exact, since three of the first four were played here 12 years prior. It didn’t mean much of anything, but I loved that show and felt that bringing elements of that show back in any way would mean a fun show was on tap. I finally got to hear Torn and Frayed, a song that had been buzzing in my head for weeks. I don’t chase songs anymore, but I do hope to hear certain ones over the course of a run or tour. Moma and Mule were funk and the highlight of the first set thus far. 46 days was ok and then finally they bust out YEM! Somewhere, Holly was kicking herself for not making the drive. We made it out to the Waterwheel table, bathrooms and beer line during setbreak, finding our friends at all three and entertaining a few more drinks than expected. Indeed, tonight was my night to party and live it up. The second set started with Jibboo and then dipped into Mike’s Groove which was much meatier than usual, including a very nice jam in Simple and then a monster Light that really renewed my faith in this song – it hasn’t sold me on a regular basis, but this one made up for it. Weekapaug was great and the dancing on the lawn was thriving. -7 and Bouncing were mellow take a break moments before Julius set us back a dancin’. Slave is always nice and capped off the evening. We started to make a break off the lawn but then we heard the opening notes to Lizards and stayed put like everyone else. Vending could wait ten minutes so we could hear the tale of the fateful lizards. We made a break to get the cooler and set up near the band that was playing again near our car. If you want to see live music, enjoy a cold beer! We cleaned up and repacked the car when we finally got moving to leave. Some GDF wooks demanded a free beer from me but I declined. I was then warned to stay off Dead lot because this girl would remember my face. I’ll remember this if I ever go back in time to a Dead lot.
We had to drive out to get my other cooler from Jason and this proved to be slightly more of a chore than planned. Being in the wrong lane when leaving Star Lake means you wind up on rt 22 and have to double back at the next exit, about 10 miles away. Tim was driving and I was shitty at navigating. But we turned around, went to the campgrounds and got the cooler from Jason and got back on the road. It took about 45 minutes to get to the place we were staying but when we arrived, it was worth it. There were beds for all, a lively crew outside drinking and enjoying the night, folks from all over the place and all on tour, relaxing at our friend Jamie’s house and in the backyard. We hung out, talked about the tour, where we are from, the usual banter among fans you don’t know, and then Tim had a great idea – Calvin Ball! After a good 20 minutes of devising this game of Calvin Ball, Tim determined that we would each attempt to kick a ball at the X shadow on the grass, which was ever so slowly fading as the sun came up. What was a random idea entertained us for a solid hour, with yours truly nailing the center of the X after a few rounds. Around 5:30 it was bedtime and I claimed myself some couch on the way to a solid 6 hours of sleep before showering, waking up Tim and Mel and getting on the road to Cuyahoga.
Sunday – Blossom
A quick two hour drive into Ohio on yet another new highway (for me) got us to a gas station and grocery store where we iced up and indulged in a very tasty salad bar before getting to the venue. The drive in was smooth but the layout was confusing and while we snagged a spot up high, we lamented not aiming down farther near Shakedown. When we later heard beer and coolers were being confiscated by cops, we counted out blessings. A bunch of folks from Twitter stopped by or were parked nearby, including Switz, Justin from OhKeePahBlog, Atara, Fletch and Laura, Josh and Amy, Jenni and many others. It was a good day hanging with friends and some truly gorgeous Phish ladies, plus we all had some tasty Sweetwaters with good friends while taking it easy getting into the show.
The walk to get in was nothing terrible and to think of all the folks who made the walk in over the years for Phish and the Dead, it made me nostalgic for a new venue that many had spoken highly of over the years. we weredenied brignig in the signs I spent a great deal of time working on. there would be no Lushington, TMWSIY, Mound or Weigh sign to bring in, but they were waiting for us when we got back outside, so props to Blossom security for being men and women of their word.
Here, you get searched, THEN go show or buy your tickets, but the line for tickets was long although moving quickly. It seemed no one had an extra or planned ahead and bought more than one ticket. Lawn’s acquired, we weren’t missing much with a Sample, Tube and Axilla trifecta to open the show. We made our way around the big gigantic lawn to lower left Page side, all the while I ate my rainbow sherbet Dippin Dots, a rare find, even if it is the ice cream of the future. Down low for Gin and Roses, Atara stubbed us in for Roses and the rest of the set, which was all well played and featured a really great Limb x Limb, Wedge and Corrina.
Then The Meatstick grew quietly from Page and Trey and the set closing dancing shoes were adjusted for a proper Meatstick danceathon. But what was this? Trey is pulling people on stage to dance with him? Hell yes! You cant ask for more than a band that does spontaneous shit like this, as opposed to the predictable nature of nearly all other bands when they perform live. 10-12 fans got on stage, hugging Trey and jumping up in the air before Trey got everyone quickly arranged to dance the Meatstick, along with the 90’ rotation. The crowd ate it up, the folks on stage were lucky as hell and everyone was doing The Meatstick! Two years ago, folks didn’t know it like they did in 1.0 or even the rare 2.0 appearance, but after MSG and a semi-regular rotation spot, we all know it now, and that’s a good thing.
The fans left the stage, shaking hands and hugging the rest of the band on their way off stage and into the lore of Phish shows. Setbreak was a mission for more Dippin Dots, but when we saw a crowd with lights at the center, Tim and I had to take a look. We had stumbled upon a wedding! Some joked it was a wook wedding, but these weren’t wooks and the moment was very fleeting – only 10 minutes were we watching before the ceremony between a gorgeous blonde and your standard 30-something Phish dude was completed and the couple’s friend blessed the rings, then the vows and finally a passionate kiss and hugs to the minister. It was a very touching thing to see, and very quickly done since Phish was due back on stage in 10 minutes or so. I don’t know if I will ever see that again at a Phish show, so the experience will stay with me for a while. It was really a very tender moment and the most real of the entire run for me.
Dippin Dots mission resumed, we acquired target and made it back down the hill. Stubbing down was not happening this set, so we rocked the Golden Age and Ghost from Page side, soaked in Sweet Virginia and Rift. Then Fletch helped us with a stub and I got in for most of Tweezer, but I headed back out when Tim didn’t get in. We caught Walk Away, Horse->Silent, Piper and Waste from mid-lawn on our way through the crowd. (What a giant fucking lawn this is!) Antelope was a nice cap to the night, along with the teases and such, and we raged this one proper from a great vantage point. We headed out during the encore, because when you have heard one Loving Cup->Tweeprise, you’ve heard a lot of them. The folks with coolers on wheels and better parking spots had us beat on beer and water, so I rocked the ‘My Other Vehicle is a Second Set Tweezer’ stickers and found that yes, these were VERY highly sought after. I’ve sold stickers for years, but never been tipped in the process. So @tweeterreprise, remind me I owe you an extra dollar. I ventured up to the car to begin the exhausting process of repacking the car and making enough room for Andy, who was joining us on the ride back to Jersey and back north to Albany with me. It was going to be a tight fit no matter what, but we made it work for the 6-7 hours back to Jersey then smoothly back up to Albany by noon. Only 10 hours total drive back – we couldn’t ask for much more from the trip. The entire trip took just about 3.5 days to see around 12 hours of music. That’s a fair exchange rate.
Overall, the run was all I could have hoped for. A great set of shows, great times with great friends, new experiences in vending and seeing shows, as well as some late nights that make seeing Phish just the best thing ever.
Stay tuned for more sporadic recaps from this summer. See you at Jones Beach and SPAC!