i’ll be the first to admit, i’m not a rabid Phish fan. Sure, i was really into them back in the day (their first few albums are monsters), but once Jerry died and those damn Deadheads took over the scene, i pretty much made with the exit, stage left. Of course, when one of my best friends, an admitted and self-affirmed Phish fan for life, opted to celebrate his 40th during the jam band’s recent weekend stint in A.C., well, naturally i was going to go, too.
Truth be told, this marked at least my fifth or sixth concert, assuming you count IT as three. (Ed. note: Of course, i was pretty tanked that entire trip, so i don’t know if i should count it at all. i did lose my shoe in a mud pit and was helped by hippies, though, so maybe i had the truest Phish experience of them all. But i digress…). For those of you who never have attended one of these circuses, well, little lady, allow me to elucidate.
For starters, you’ll actually find a rather interesting cross-breed of society. Sure, there are far too many white kids with dreads who need a bath in the worst way, but you’ll also find large numbers of professionals, minorities (you haven’t lived until you’ve been called “brah” in a perfect stoner accent by an Indian Hindu with whom you’re sharing a cab while he tries to score an extra ticket) and various other decidedly non-Phishy types. The vibe is about as laid back as one can get without lapsing into a coma, which probably is aided by the Rastafarian Dutch amounts of weed in the air. i believe i can honestly say i’ve never been surrounded by that much pot smoke in one setting in my life, and i’m a two-time judge at the Cannabis Cup, for chrissakes. During the performance, if you can see through the smoke, you’ll notice the air is thick with flying glow sticks, beach balls and balloons. If you should happen to get smacked in the noggin with one, play along and throw it back into the crowd. When in Rome, right? Now, every Halloween, the band plays a double album from a different band (this year it was Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus), so this particular weekend is pretty highly attended.
Now, whether you’re into jam bands or not, it’s nigh impossible to deny that Phish is comprised of some uber-talented musicians. As long as the music doesn’t get too, too “jammy,” the boys can rock with the best of ’em. On this particular night, personally, i dug the show. With little exception, the sets were crisp and the energy was high. From various random strangers who chose to pontificate, i heard the night prior was somewhat lackluster. Fortunately, that was not the case here. Now, my Phish experience (and admiration) pretty much sticks to their first four albums. As fortune would have it, the boys played fairly heavily from their early materials. Of course, things were pushed into hyperdrive by a second set thick with Led Zeppelin covers. Personally, i could have done with a rousing version of “Contact,” too, but what can you do?
i have no intention of touring with the band any time soon, but with sets as strong as these were, i’m not going to wait another seven years before my next show, either. A good time certainly was had by all, Phish devout or occasional listener. And that, kids, is what it’s all about.