Monday, August 10, 2015

Remembrances of 50 Phish Shows - Numbers 1 Through 10

Not my actual ticket
Yesterday I tried to think of how many Phish shows I had been to and counted exactly 50 of them.  I think that's correct.  It will soon be 51 because I am planning on going to see Phish at the end of this week.  In honor of those 50 times past, I thought it would be fun to briefly write about the first things that come to mind about each of these shows, if any!  Not so much about the music, but just the experience in general.

Here are shows one through ten.  

1994-06-30 (Classic Amphitheater, Richmond, VA)
My first show.  I went with my friend Mike who has been to a lot of shows with me over the years - most of the ones on this list.  We heard Phish being interviewed on a local rock radio station driving in.  They were talking about covering a classic album on Halloween and how fans could vote on the selection.  Was impressed by size of the "scene" in parking lot.  Remember thinking that Trey was a full-on rock star.  Sean Hoppe of the local jamband The Headstone Circus got pulled on stage during Harpua for Honky Tonk Women.  Made it home safely this night, somehow.

1994-10-27 (University Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA)
They played some Gamehendge stuff and I wasn't quite sure what Gamehendge was yet.  I wasn't too impressed by the show at the time, believe it or not.  On the ride back I stopped for gas but it was late and the gas station was closed.  My friend Porkchop reached out the door of the car and grabbed some flowers out of a flower pot at the gas station.  That was a big hit.  Ended up having enough gas to get home anyway.

1995-06-16 (Walnut Creek Amphitheater, Raleigh, NC)
This whole show was good but I remember the 2nd set being exceptionally good.  Like, really good.  Jammed out Runaway Jim into Free.  (Free was their new "Southern Rock" song).  Boyd Tinsley from Dave Matthews Band sat in on fiddle during You Enjoy Myself.

1995-06-17 (Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge, Bristow, VA)
Divided Sky opener. Do I recall that or not???  It's hazy.  People were hitting the ground before the show even started. Trey was in a really playful mood this night. Fishman had a coat rack on stage.  Three Little Birds encore with Dave Matthews was a big letdown.

1995-11-22 (USAir Arena, Landover, MD)
Great show.  Night before Thanksgiving.  I imagined some back story for Run Like An Antelope while that song was playing - like there was a history of a certain dance that fans did during that song.  I either imagined it in my head or heard the guy behind me telling his friend that that's what you did during that song or thought it was real and started doing the dance itself.  Also thought that the venue had turned on the house music during The Taste That Surrounds.  Was quite certain I peed my pants during Strange Design but when the set ended I realized that I hadn't.  Rode back to Richmond with my friend Eric and his then girlfriend.  Impromptu.  Not sure they wanted me in the car with them at that moment.  We stopped in a Subway for a sandwich and my sub fit together the way Africa and South America must have once fit together.  Like Pangea.

1995-11-25 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
Thanksgiving weekend.  Multiple Poor Hearts.  Kung, Mike's Song, Rotation Jam.  Didn't we call it "Keyboard Calvary" back then?  Crowd was lackluster where I was for the 2nd set.  Hampton hadn't quite gained legendary status at that point.  Got ride back to Richmond after the show and was dropped off at home alone in the big house we lived in on Grace Street in Richmond.  (We sure used to drive back from shows a lot back then, huh.)  Had to go down into the spooky basement for something that night and pretty sure I saw the reflection of a ghost in the glass door with my back to the basement steps.  Creeped me out, and I'm an atheist who doesn't believe in ghosts.

1995-12-31 (Madison Square Garden, New York, NY)
Probably the best show I ever saw.  First time in New York City.  My ears fell off while hanging out outside the venue beforehand.  I listened to conversations and sounds from the pavement for a while until the ears returned to my head.  MSG seemed swanky inside.  We left our original seats because the usher kept telling my friend Chris that he couldn't smoke a cigarette there.  Wound up somewhere high up in the arena.  There was a dog inside there who had been to like "9 or 10 shows".  No joke.  I was jealous because this was only my 7th show.  I danced next to and/or kinda in sync with some hippie chick for all 3 sets.  She gave me a hug outside later.  When the show ended I looked to a woman next to me and exclaimed "you might think it's over, but it ain't over!". I think I frightened her.  We rode the bus back from New York to Richmond immediately after the show.  Sat next to an old wise man who had oodles of sage advice, but I can't remember what any of it was.  Secular fate had placed him there.  Sleep wouldn't come so I wrote poems and watched an Andy Griffith marathon at our neighbor's house the next day.

1996-10-25 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
Long 10 month gap between seeing Phish.  Hampton is just 90 minutes down the road.  I knew about 20 people from VCU at this one and we were all pretty much together for the first half.  This show will always be remembered for The Naked Dude.  Some very young looking naked kid - like pre-puberty - was flung in the air from behind us during setbreak and landed directly next to me.  He hit his head hard as he landed backwards in the seat with his legs pointed up and muttered "This is a dream".  I said to him "No dude, it most certainly is not a dream".  We tried to talk some sense into him but there was no talking sense into this guy.  Too bad it wasn't a naked hippie chick. I was about to push him over the rail and let him fall to the floor when security came and begrudgingly took him away to a padded room.  Besides that I remember Kuroda doing lots of white lights and feeling kinda old already (I was 22 at the time).  Billy Breathes was toooooo slow.  After the show in the hotel room there were a bunch of people in and out, all over the floor.  The movie That Thing You Do had come out and we dedicated that song to a balloon that was magically hovering above the air conditioner.  Not a good way to impress girls, or was it?  Then we watched some cat litter infomercial all the way through.  Rusted Root might have been on late night TV that night and they were obviously hopelessly out of touch with what was going on...with their leather pants and all.  Snake was at this show.

1997-07-21 (Virginia Beach Amphitheater, Virginia Beach, VA)
My future wife's first show.  I was the Phish "expert" at the time and of course they proceeded to start off with 4 brand new, never before heard songs:  Ghost, Dogs Stole Things, Piper, Dirt.  That kind of put her and me on equal ground for the first portion of the show.  This was the early days of the internet and I wasn't online very much back then, but I figured these were some of the new songs they had debuted in Europe earlier that year.  We collectively saw The Man Mulcahy during that Character Zero first set closer.  The portion of the show with the saxophone guy (Leroi Moore) could have been put to better use, as in not having him out there at all.  A waste of precious time.  Sit-ins rarely work with Phish because too many allowances have to be made for the guests.  This was the type of show that left you hungry for more.

1997-11-21 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
11/21/97 grabs you from the first note and never lets go.  This was my first taste of that Fall '97 phunk and it seemed like Phish had really taken everything to a new level in just a few months.  If you didn't like this show you didn't like Phish.  Plain and simple.  It was a new era of playing, jamming, improvising.  A more mature, unexpected sound that was exactly what we wanted to hear, even if we didn't know it yet.  A seat had opened for Phish in the annals of music history and they pulled up a chair.

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