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My Phirst

August 20, 2010

It finally happened – my first Phish show.

I saw them play over spring break last year at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Induction (in which they performed 2 Genesis covers ~ the band Trey inducted that evening).  I attended the event with my mom who was invited for work, and ever since then started listening to their music, gradually getting more and more hooked (no pun intended).

After Sunday night, I feel like I have been sucked into something bigger than myself and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what exactly it is.

I-94 and the rolling green hills of Wisconsin ~ Alpine Valley bound

My friend from high school, Cara, and I made the 6 hour drive out to East Troy, Wisconsin on Sunday morning to see them play Alpine Valley Sunday night (previous commitments prevented me from attending both nights unfortunately).  After the long-ass haul in an old ’94 camery with no air conditioning,  I was thrilled to finally make it to the campsite – a 300 acre farm 3 miles from the amphitheater (best deal there was – ask me if you are headed to Alpine for any show and want details!).  Upon arrival, everybody was very friendly.  Originally there was supposed to be a shuttle, but too many people cancelled so they couldn’t get one – but when we said we still needed a ride, the couple who lived on the farm arranged for us to ride with some fellow phans who still had room in their car and gladly let us ride along.

They even helped us pitch our tent (something I haven’t done for, um, well awhile) and gave us beer to drink while we were getting ready.  After a quick blaze session (which nearly knocked me on my ass since I hadn’t done that in awhile), we drove to the amphitheater, luckily pulling up three cars from the group from Minneapolis we were planning on meeting (Alpine Valley lot is HUGE, so this was basically a miracle). 

pregaming in the lot

We pregamed in the lot on the back of a truck, Bobby (Cara’s boyfriend) kept running off because he had been schwaysted out of his mind, at least since we were pulling off of I-94 and we received a drunk (hilarious) call.  I enjoyed watching the diverse, colorful group of people meander the lot.  My favorite was a man who came around selling polished stones made into charms for jewelry.  I’m really into jewelry making, hemp in particular, so I bought a few off of him and decided I would weave it into a hemp necklace, which would be my first Phish show souvenier (it’s still in progress).

We headed into the amphitheater about 20 minutes before Phish came on, staked out the same place everyone else had sat in the night before on the lawn and waited anxiously.  One of the girls in the group (a chick from Aspen who’d recently moved to Minnesota) and I left for awhile to check out merchandise, but decided against spending the money.

And there they are!

When the boys finally walked onto the stage, the crowd of 40,000 roared, the noise echoing off the rolling green hills that sat behind the amphitheater.  Prior to their strut onto the stage, there was an intense energy building throught the field, people gradually standing up and bursting out in unprovoked cheers, waiting.  When they finally came on, the intensity released, leaving an orgasmic feeling of positive energy and excitement amongst the crowd.

They started out strong with Tweezer, and everyone immediately went crazy.  Literally it took a split second for everyone around to begin dancing, myself included. 

During the first set, I met this guy, Ryan (or Brian?).  We blazed a bit together and Cara couldn’t help but laughing.  When he was out of earshot, she goes,  “That’s exactly how I picture a Phish fan!”  Br/Ryan had dreads down to his waist, no shirt and was dancing even crazier than I was with fistfuls of glowsticks (which he did not throw into the air the way everyone else did when the jams would peak).

The first set sounded like this:

Tweezer, AC/DC Bag, On Your Way Down, The Divided Sky, Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan, Water in the Sky > The Moma Dance > Farmhouse, David Bowie

I was thrilled when they played Farmhouse.  Although the phan I was kickin it next to at the time tells me its his least favorite song of all of them (perhaps a lot of people’s too? ~ what’s your opinion?) I felt it was fitting.  We were, afterall, in the middle of Wisconsin farm territory.  The boys also always tend to play Farmhouse when they rage Alpine, as I had noticed looking back on previous years’ setlists.  I also have a tiny connection to Farmhouse myself.  It was the first Phish song that stuck with me, the first one that I listened to repeatedly and the song that made me want more.  That one song made me listen to the album, the album made me listen to another, and another.  Those albums made me want to hear their live albums, and those finally made me want to see a real show.  When it came on, I felt like it was meant to be.

The second set was more energetic, bringing out faster beats and more intense jams.

It sounded like this:

Ghost > Theme from the Bottom > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, You Enjoy Myself > Piper (<3) > Also Sprach Zarathrusta > While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Character Zero

Later that night, one of the guys staying at our campsite who had attended roughly 50-60 Phish shows in his life said that version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps was among the best he’d ever heard.  I remember during that song (and during a lot of them, actually) getting goosebumps up and down my arms as the jam peaked. 

At one point, I had been so enthralled into my crazy-person dancing, I didn’t even notice the trampolines.  I looked up toward the sky, noticing on the big screen that they were actually jumping on mini trampolines while playing!  I fought my way to a better view of the stage, and watched them intensely as they jumped in unison while jamming along impeccably.  I laughed.  The smile, the smile that had been there throughout the entire show, broadened and never left my face.

That night, they played a four song encore (epic!).

Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ > Cavern > Joy > Tweezer Reprise

I never expected the feeling I got at this show.  As the show went on, the music took me over from the inside out.  I didn’t care what was going on around me, I hardly talked to anyone aside from a few words here and there.  It was just me and the music inside my head, and that’s all I needed.  By the end of the show, I wanted more.  I never wanted that night to end.  Now I know why people follow them, because one night is just simply not enough.  I feel like I’m beginning to understand the concept of what makes Phish so amazing ~ its not merely the fact that Trey Anastasio is a guitar playing God, that their chemistry as a band and their individual talents make their music absolutely legendary ~ but its about the experience.  The journey their shows take your mind on.  All I wanted to do after the show was hop in a car headed to Jones Beach and have this experience again.  I felt there was so much to learn.  About life.  About music.  About the simple concept of living.  About getting on the train and leaving my bags at the station.

I’ve never felt so alive in my life.  The last couple years haven’t been easy for me, and I’d rather not divulge the details why on the internet, but it took until about spring of this year for me to begin getting over something that brought me down to what I would consider rock bottom.  It took a lot of effort, finding out who my real friends are, in some cases the hard way, and a complete change of pace as well as change of mentality to really get my life back together.  By the end of this last school year, I felt like I was beginning a new life finally, one I needed to undertake years ago.  Coming back to Minnesota this summer in many ways disrupted this process, but I indulged myself in work and counting down the days until the end of summer, thinking that’s all I needed.

Then, one day, something told me I needed to go to this show.  I’d been considering it on and off since about April, when I found out they’d be in my vicinity this summer.  Weeks before the show, a gut feeling from inside, mixed with a few blatant outside signs, told me that I just needed to be there.  Now I know why.  I needed to live.  I needed more Phish in my life.

Its difficult to put into words what exactly this show has done to me (although I’ve clearly tried!).  I know it was only my first, and there is so much more I can gain from doing this again (fall tour’s rumored to come to Denver, baby!) but whatever it is that Phish can teach me, whatever it is I can learn from their music and this experience, I truly intend to find out.


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