Poster images courtesy of Phish Poster archive
[Previously in Nedstalgia: Phish shows 1 & 2, #3 #5 #77 & 78, #79, #80&81); Mule; Widespread Panic #1 (& 'ween 97); The Duo; Robert Randolph HORDE 92 (i.e. Phish #4, WSP #1)]
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Just a taste in last week's minimix or grab full chunks... dude, it's ALL good.
11/22/92: Cornell (all of it)
11/23/92: Binghamton (all I could find)
11/27/92: Port Chester (all of it)
11/28/92: Port Chester (all of it)
Amazing to think about, but 15 years ago, in a matter of less than 10 months I saw Phish 9 times (I should say my 1st 9 times) within a 300 mile radius, 8 of these being in the state of New York, 5 within an hour and a half's drive of Syracuse. Amazing considering there were twelve (12!) other shows in the state that I missed but easily could have made if I really was a wooked-out freak. One of the shows I missed was an 11/20 hit in Albany @ the Palace Theater which coincided with my cousin's Bar Mitzvah weekend in Boston. The silver lining was that my parents were able to bring me a car (under the guise of me being able to drive myself home for Thanksgiving the following Thursday, w/ my poor brother having to find his own way to school for the half-week) which allowed me to ditch my family post-brunch and hightail it to Ithaca and Binghamton for a Sunday/Monday Phish jaunt. Thank Trey for semi-understanding parents!
This arrangement lead to some tricky timing. I had to stop at a friend's house in Cortland to pick up my Cornell-student-rate ticket ($10!) and then find my way to Bailey Hall in Ithaca with barely a minute to spare. Everything was going fine until I showed my youth and ignorance and just parked my car aimlessly in some parking garage without having any idea where the venue was in relation. How hard would it be to find? Well, I walked and I asked and I walked and asked and showtime approached and arrived and I was still walking and trying to find my way there... and then it started raining... then pouring and I was still walking and asking. Man, was I pissed. I finally made it to the show mid-1st-set, sopping wet and in none too good a mood.
I walked in during "Sparkle" but it felt like I was stepping directly onto a battlefield into the middle of an already heated firefight. You could hear the music outside and just feel the place pulsing with complete mania. I immediately bumped into my good friend who I was supposed to be meeting there who had this "I've been dancing my ass off for 45 minutes" crazed glare in his eyes and plenty of sweat on his shirt to match. I was bummed when he showed me the setlist thus far, but not that bummed... they proceeded to play 3 songs I hadn't heard live yet and after a while I adjusted to being inside a Phish show. The scene in Bailey Hall was total anarchy as I remember it. The room is essentially a large lecture hall, I believe that's where they hold the famously gargantuan Cornell Psych Intro course and it was bouncing wall to wall with twentysomething Phish fans and curious student/local/hippie types. The cold November rain outside met the thousand-body heat of the inside and created a thick steam which coupled with a steady cloud of smoke to create an intoxicating weight to the air. There was no order inside whatsoever. A taper held bay in his seat up near where we were in the balcony with a sign above his microphones that read "Kill Wilson" or something to that effect... the freaks had taken over the building.
Musically, I think I was too overwhelmed by the circumstances to truly enjoy everything on its merit. Thank God for the tapes, this is a good one that I haven't given much notice to in the past. But I do remember Trey explaining the Big Ball Jam and just thinking for the first time that maybe they were just throwing shit at the wall and seeing what would stick. When they busted out the balls mid-Tweezer, though, I had a smile on my face. My buddies had all come from the Albany show where they had ripped through Axilla and they were babbling about the pure shred of the new song, so I was happy when they opened the second set with that one. You Enjoy Myself was sublime, I was utterly taken with it, Trey played extended Eleanor Rigby teases at the beginning of the jam and while he did so, it seemed that he was shrouded singularly in his own white light... it was as if the lights were coming from his guitar and shining outward and everything else -- the rest of the band, the hepped-up crowd -- had disappeared. He was playing that to me. Good moment. Fishman came out and debuted "Faht" from the "new album" saying they wanted to call it "Windham Hell" but couldn't... fun to see how they recreated the special sound effects of the studio album on stage. Jonny B. played this roughed-up 4-string "guitar" like a misfit in a mental institution.
Walked out into the night post-show into a crazy swirling movie-set fog. I ran into a very good buddy from high school outside who had traveled from Philly to see the show... I had no idea he liked Phish (ended up not taking for too long as I recall) -- a total "wtf, this is getting big!" moment. My favorite anecdote from that night didn't even happen to me. A college friend tells the tale of post show being near the "stage door" and Fishman walking out with his dress still on, a gorgeous co-ed on each arm and his dingy "Faht" guitar in his hand. They just passed through the crowd and, as the story was told to me, disappeared in the Cornell fog. What an image!
Moving on, I can say that, for once, I have few memories of the Binghamton show the next night. Big Balls again, Vibration of Life (1st time they did that, I guess -- beats out the balls, barely), Mimi Fishman on vacuum, Mike Gordon pulling off "I Walk The Line" admirably. I tracked down some of this recording, but would love to get the whole thing, because it is blurry and there are very few Phish shows I don't remember distinctly. A far cry from 3/20, that's for sure.
Two that I do remember quite well happened post-Thanksgiving, truly 15 years ago today/yesterday in Port Chester. For the second time in a week I ditched my family for Phish, although I can say it is the only time I took Thanksgiving weekend to see music in lieu of leftover turkey and general couch lounging. My 1st two night run taken in with Oopy once again (3rd Nedstalgia appearance this month!).
Wow! Fucking awesome. Like a whole 'nother level of Phish show compared with the previous 7. These are two shows where you can just look at the setlists and know what kind of fun everyone had in there. Something about the two-show weekend run that just works on that different plane. The majority of the room is in it for the long haul and the band settles down with the crowd like it's breaking Thanksgiving bread with its family. Hampton might have been the mother of all 2-night stints, but for me it all started with this Port Chester hit. It was like 4 sets of a single-standing show, best exemplified by the Forbin/Mockingbird & Harpua narrations from each night. They were two of the best I've heard -- the audience shrank down, climbed up the drum set and jumped onto Fish's head, climbed into his ear, went to his brain and found Gamehendge. Brilliant. The best part was the next night during Harpua we were "back in Fish's brain" -- at this point it was just assumed that everyone was in on the secret and anyone who didn't get it or was lost wasn't going to have it dumbed down for them. Catch up or go home. I loved that. Also loved when the show came to a close the "see you all tomorrow night" -- right here, like there was no question.
All in all, these two were like the perfect Phish shows. The crowd energy was in a different place. Even the way the crowd gathered in the parking lot beforehand seemed to be something special. The sets were constructed like a two-day festival, everything arranged in its place with care, there was nothing haphazard about what was played and when. The first night was Jimi Hendrix's birthday -- it would have been his 50th -- and the band made it known early that he was on their minds. Rift > Wilson opened up and when they did the pause in Wilson, Trey announced the birthday to the crowd before finishing up with a fury and ripping into one of my all-time favorite versions of Divided Sky. He was channeling. Then, to lighten things up, bam! right into that magical Col Forbin's>Mockingbird.
Brilliant jamming, pyrotechnic guitar work -- Anastasio is as good as ever hear, download if you don't believe me, silly excursions to Lizard-land... what more could you ask for. Hendrix kept popping up, Fishman made mention before another version of Faht and the set closed with Trey vamping hard on multiple Jimi teases during Cavern... finally encoring with Page singing Bold As Love and Trey amping in pure fall-of-92 style. Listen to this show, you will hear a band that is in control like few others. Saturday night had a few more lulls, but was still as good as you were getting back then: Mike's to end the 1st set, wild and rare Man Who Stepped sandwich that wrapped around a Maze before coming back and Trey bringing his grandmother on stage for the encore, dedicating "Contact" (her favorite song) to her, dancing with her during the breakdown (quintessential "only Phish" moment) and then sending her off to lay down the nastiness of the Tweezer Reprise.
Those two shows felt big. The seeds of all the inside jokes -- the language, the Big Balls et al -- that had been planted over the course of my short Phish career had started to pop through the soil and show some signs of life. It was nearing the moment when I realized that my obsession wasn't an isolated incident -- it was a shared experience and maybe it was a bit bigger than just a rock band. Whatever... it was a lot of freakin' fun and I was going to get as much of it into my system as I could just in case. I bought a cool Phish/turkey t-shirt that was probably the best tour shirt I'd ever gotten...then promptly lost it by December, of course.
I've said enought... great weekend, front row style.
28 November 2007
Poster images courtesy of Phish Poster archive