Phish Saves America: Two weeks later and I'm still alive.

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[image-1]We flew in on Thursday and surprisingly, ran in to few phans other than a couple of guys from California who were staying a few doors down. I'm not positive but I'm inclined to believe that it has to do with the economy and people not being able to take the extra days off. I know that leaving town has become a lot more difficult for me of late, much more of a trial than it was five years ago when I was seeing Phish. Ah, those days of fewer responsibilities and a not-quite fucked-up economy. I was making much less money back then, but somehow I managed to do so much more with it.


But I digress.


I don't want to go through each night's setlist, song for song, and give my breakdown of every missed note or every single moment of beauty -- let's be frank, there was quite a lot of both. I also don't want to relate every single little thing that happened, although I will offer some observations below in my awards-show-meets-The-Soup-wrap up.


Feel like I missed out on some key moment/feeling/event/bust of the weekend? Tell me about it. I want to know.


The band didn't spend much time talking to their fans, giving thanks, sharing anecdotes. But it seemed that some of the songs were certainly a message in and of themselves, especially the first three.


"[image-2]Fluffhead"


Phish fans have been waiting collectively and expectantly for the return of this early Phish song. The band never dusted it off post-Hiatus and by the time March 6, 2009 arrived, they hadn't played it in a live setting for nearly nine years. Not an easy number, heavily composed, and every phan -- those of us at the Hampton Coliseum, those stuck outside the venue or at home waiting for the setlist -- were wondering if we'd hear it played sometime during the reunion shows. And not only did they give it to us, they gave it to us first off, as if to say "We appreciate your support and we're listening to what you want. And yes, we've still got it." While it wasn't the most perfect rendition, it was the most heartfelt and made us believe again.


[image-3]"Divided Sky"


From one composed piece to another. Translation: "We know you want it and we aren't fucking around about giving it to you."


"Chalkdust Torture"


Transation: "And now it's time to burn the roof off this motherfucker."


Other randomness:


MVP Award: Page McConnell


Page brought the chops to these shows. He took his solo time and stint with PBS and brought some incredible space and funk and his texturing was better than ever. I missed Page totally flubbing the opening lyrics to "Rock n' Roll" -- that was the night I got shut out -- but I heard the recordings and find this moment of vunerability, his one obvious blunder, to be immensely endearing. And when he busted out the keytar for "Frankenstein," he warmed my heart and made me giggle like a schoolgirl. (Page was so heavily surrounded by his fortress of keyboards and synths that Photographer Phil was unable to get a good shot in the limited time he was allotted. He barely got Jon Fishman due to the drummer's massive unit, pictured above.)


Most confusing sales pitch for nitrous oxide: "Balloons, $10! We only take $20's!"


[image-4]Number of times I bliss-cried/songs that did it: 10; Fluffhead, Divided Sky, Chaldust Torture, Horn, Rift, Sanity, My Friend My Friend, Silent in the Morning, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Slave to the Traffic Light


Best quote from my husband, after "Wading in the Velvet Sea" and during "Slave to the Traffic Light," the last two songs they played at Coventry, when they broke up, and the last two songs they played at Hampton on Sunday: "It's like they're putting all the joy back into those songs."


Wookiest Wooks: The dready kids trying to "buy" tickets to the show with poorly thought-out cardboard signs (pictured).


Most impressive thing for sale on the lot: High definition DVD of the first night's shows.


[image-5]Least impressive thing for sale on the lot: Off-centered Phish welcome mat that ripped off the Phish logo, and poorly at that.


Best way to sell me a veggie burrito: Lie about its contents.


I was hungry after night three but I'm usually never hungry enough for a "heady veggie burrito." But the dude with the cooler convinced me his wonderful one-of-a-kind dealies included rice, beans ... and tomatoes and onions and seasonings. Wow!, I said, I'll take it! And of course, even though there was only the rice and beans -- not even any goddamn seasonings! -- I gobbled that shit up like it was fucking gourmet.


Worst decision of the weekend: Buying fake tickets.


I don't want to dwell on it, but I wanted to bring it up as I hope to help others avoid the same heartache.


[image-6]We searched high and low for tickets to the Saturday night show, from the moment we stepped off the plane Thursday afternoon until the hours leading up to the show itself. We found one person with one ticket who was ony interested in trading for $300 and an 8-ball. We had neither. My husband had a sales gimmick, however -- a pack of a few dozen great-condition rookie baseball cards, the star of the show his Ken Griffey Jr. rookies. The cards were really only a way to catch a potential Phish ticket holder's attention and entice them to sell us their spares for the cards plus the cash we had. Up until an hour before the show, we'd gotten plenty of feedback but no takers.


We'd nearly given up by then, and we should have. But instead, we started trolling the far parking lots, and low and behold, we found a man sitting on the back of his car who perked up at the rookie cards and miraculously had two tickets to offer. I stood to the side as my husband wheeled and dealed -- the guy initially wanted $600 and the cards -- and I knew, could feel that this guy was not right. But were were in desperation mode, and my husband did a quick comparison with a real ticket and it looked okay in that short glance, and I oh so wanted to believe, and a tiny voice in my head was saying, "Even if it's fake, do you think they'll really shut you out?" And because we'd heard a story about people with fake tickets getting in the night before, I listened to the little voice and we blew $450 on fake tickets and we were, indeed, shut out by the cops themselves and our fake tickets confiscated and our dramatic theatrics (me crying alot, complaining about filing a report, etc.) did nothing but make me exhausted. The lesson? Bring a real ticket with you. And never buy from the guy who magically appears with tickets after virtually no one has them, especially the one who's not going into the show himself, and is far away from crowds and/or authorities.


Best props: Gigantic balloons hanging from the ceiling, ready to fall at any moment when the song is right; and a fountain overrun by a gigantic robot made of boxes, smaller robot boxes scattered at its feet and real life people with box heads canoeing through it, happy smiles plastered on all their faces (pictured above).


Best Non-Pollock Hampton poster art: AJ Masthay. His two-poster set is pictured below.


[image-7]


Best use of lights: Chris Kuroda


Not that there was ever any question about his master lighting abilities, but Kuroda spent five months designing the Hampton rig and learning to use all the additions he made to it. It showed in some of the most dazzling lights I've ever seen, which he played expertly against the huge balloons on the ceiling of the coliseum. To hear Kuroda talk more about the rig and plans for the one that'll be used on the upcoming summer tours, check out his interview with Jim of JimOnLight.com (part one and two).


Most overheard discussion at the airport leaving:  When will Red Rocks be announced, and will New Years really be back in our home state of Florida?  Well Red Rocks has been announced, now we can only wait.


To see more photo, CLICK HERE!

All photos by Phil Bardi.

I've had a long time to muse over the Phish reunion shows, to listen to the live downloads over and over again, to read the reviews and see the pictures and laugh at the outrageous (and in some cases, sad and amazing) stories on the message boards, and to plan out all the ways I can scrimp and save so I can hit some more shows on the second leg of their summer tour in addition to the three (or four, or maybe five) I'll be hitting up on the first leg.

I had my soul cleansed in Hampton and now I'm ready and hungry for more.

But before I can set my sights on the shows that are to come, I thought I'd share some pics and other odds and ends from the Hampton shows — my observations a few weeks later, having stewed on things a bit.

It was my first time in Hampton, Va. I was underwhelmed by the town itself, though it held a certain charm I equated with its place in Phishtory. We had a prime spot at the Ramada Inn, likely the cheapest and closest hotel to the venue. In fact, our main room (we had two split between a party of four) afforded us a perfect view of the Hampton Coliseum.

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