August 17, 1997 – “The Went Gin”

The first time I made it way up north to Limestone, Maine was with “Black Saab” and “DanO.”  We had attended the previous show together in Darien, NY and it was the first Phish show for both of my brothers.  That night we camped together outside of the Amusement Park in the shadows of the venue and the rollercoasters.  I have no idea how or why we got separated from them before the long drive and the weekend ahead.  But, that’s the whole point of this – maybe “Fat Strawberry” and “Rod B” can help me remember what happened with that.  I don’t remember seeing my brothers at all the entire weekend in Maine.

Two things that I remember vividly from that weekend both occured during the second day of music.  The first was about a minute into the opening song “The Wedge.” 

I’m building you a pyramid
With limestone blocks so large
I drag them from the mountain top
You’ll need a two car garage

I looked over at “Black Saab” and he had that look in his eyes that things were just not OK with being in a field surrounded by 50,000 other people.  The wave of people seemed to be sweeping over him and he leaned over and said something like.  “Dude, I’m freaking out.  I need to get out of here.”  I calmly assured him that everything was going to be alright.  We sat down together for a minute or two in the same spot where we were standing and the tide slowly went back out to sea.  We stood back up and smiled at each other and were able to enjoy the rest of the set.

The second thing that stands out in my mind from this weekend is the performance of “Bathtub Gin.” 

Phish had previously toured with Carlos Santana, and he described the band as a “Hose.”    Trey paraphrases Carlos’ statement here –  “(The Hose) is where the music is like water rushing through you and as a musician your function is really like that of a hose. And, and well his thing is that the audience is like a sea of flowers, you know, and you’re watering the audience. But the concept of music going through you, that you’re not actually creating it, that what you’re doing is — the best thing that you can do is get out of the way.”

 The best way to describe this section of the song is “Pure Hose.”  The music and energy flowing from the stage into the crowd was drowning us in sound.  I find it hard to believe that someone was able to hold a camera during this:

Yeah, The Went Gin has a special place in Phish lore.

The Day We Drove for 2 Days

The drive from New Jersey to Limestone, Maine was supposed to take about 11 hours.  We left the morning of Friday August 1st, 2003 and got to the line of traffic leading into the venue right after sunset.  We parked our car as the sun was rising on Saturday August 2nd.  We were attending Phish’s 6th Festival – titled simply, “IT.”

On the morning of August 2nd – I learned that Leighmo had never pulled an all-nighter before.  A shocking revelation.  She was behind the wheel when we finally pulled into the retired Air Force base.  She had been up for a long time and had that look in her eyes.  You know the look that women get when lasers are shooting out of their eyes ready to cut you in half?  Yeah – this look.

That was the look she gave me as we were being directed towards our campsite.  At one point she pulled the car out of traffic and made a beeline towards the tent village that was already setup.  A Maine State Trooper had to point her back in the right direction.  Back to the same line of cars were were sitting in traffic with for the past 8 hours. We setup our tent in silence and were finally able to crash for a few hours comfortably.  But the damage had been done.  We never fully recovered from the long drive.  The tone for the entire weekend was set.

The highlight of the weekend was grilling the individually wrapped lamb chops that we had brought with us.  The smell of the delicious tender lamb turned a few heads on some Vegan Hippies, but Leighmo and I savored every mouthful that we had.   In fact, knowing that the mere smell of  it was offending some of our neighbors, made it that much better.

I compare this weekend to one wedding that Leighmo and I went to together.  I won’t say whose wedding it was to protect all parties involved, but there was ONE wedding that we attended together that we did not have fun at.  It was still a wedding and the drinks were flowing, there was a party atmosphere and good friends were everywhere – but something just wasn’t right.  Everything was forced.  From the ridiculous amount of pictures taken by the seemingly omnipresent photographer to the the overly loud band with way too many instruments, it was hard to step outside the psycho-bride’s preplanned comfort zone.   And that was how the weekend at “It” felt.  I had two of my favorite things collide that weekend,  Phish and Leighmo.  But they didn’t mesh.  “It” was the last Phish concert we would go to together.

Luckily Phish stopped touring the next Summer.  So I did exactly what I needed to do.  Got engaged on December 7th of 2004, married on October 8th of 2005 , and bought a house in December of 2005.

This weekend in Maine – I learned what not to do with the woman I would spend the rest of my life with.

A Calm Night in Camden? – Phish – 7/31/2003 – Camden, NJ

Back to back nights of Phish during the week in the Summer is one of my favorite ways to use my Vacation Time.  I work a half day the day of the first show – leaving my office at 1:00.  That gives plenty of time to prepare for the 2 nights ahead.  The day of the second show, I take off completely.  Such was the case for these 2 nights in Camden.  Since DanO and I drove back home after the Wednesday night show – we both were able to sleep late on this Thursday morning.

We got back down to Camden early and were ready to “rage the lot.”  But something was different about this night.  We were parked in the main lot, along a fence with some trees overhanging.  Shade in the Summer can be a rarity in a hot and dusty Phish lot.  Having the fence line and trees nearby also meant that we didn’t have to travel far to pee.  The perfect setup for 2 dudes.  We had all the conveniences that we needed, so we did not stray far from the car.  We tossed a Frisbee around before the lot started to fill up, and sat back down in our camp chairs.   

The excitement for the upcoming “IT” Festival was buzzing all around.  I made one of my few lot purchases this day.  As we were sitting in our camp chairs with our feet up on the cooler, a guy came by selling stickers.  I bought a round blue sticker for a dollar that just said “IT.”  I still have it somewhere since I never stuck it on anything.  Reminder – FIND THAT STICKER. 

The most surprising note from this night was that because we were so comfortable where we had parked, we never found Shakedown.  What is Shakedown you ask?  Shakedown – or Shakedown Street is the place in the lot where everyone gathers to sell  all of their stuff.  “Stuff” can be everything from food, clothing, artwork, beer, liquor and jewelery.  Tables are setup under EZ Up tents and it is a wonderful, if not sketchy place to be because you can also find any type of illegal anything you can possible imagine. 

This night turned out to be an unusually low-key night for the 2 of us.  We had actual seats again for this night so we didn’t have to worry about getting in early to secure a decent spot on the lawn.  We made our way to our seats a few minutes before showtime and did some people watching.  Normally we would have used our ticket stubs from the night before to get back down to the 7th row again.  This night we decided to stay in our actual seats and enjoy the show. 

The show itself was a typical Summer show.  The first set contained a lot of songs that were well played, but nothing really sticks out in my mind other than the Moma Dance.  It featured a dark jam that sounds like the precursor to the “Death March” Moma Dance that they would play a year later in Brooklyn.  If I remember correctly it was raining during the first set – a huge benefit of not being stuck out on the lawn.   The second set brought the jams.  A 22 minute Piper kicked off the 2nd set and again featured some more dark jamming.  The show closed out with a Frankenstein (Edgar Winter Band) encore. 

Everyone was ready for the long drive up to Limestone, Maine for the IT Festival.  In retrospect it was probably the fact that I knew I had this long  journey ahead of me that we decided to have such a calm night in Camden..  

Thursday, 07/31/2003
Tweeter Center at the Waterfront, Camden, NJ

Set 1: Llama, The Moma Dance > Divided Sky, Dirt > Seven Below, The Sloth, Water in the Sky, Wolfman’s Brother > Possum

Set 2: Piper > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove[1] -> Free > Friday > Harry Hood

Encore: Frankenstein

 [1] In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida tease.

Notes: Weekapaug included an In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida tease. The tease may have been homage to Iron Butterfly guitarist Erik Braunn, who passed away two days before.