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Phish at BB&T Pavilion — Camden, NJ

Interlude: Bangor > LI > Camden (6/27)

With 4 shows behind, its time for an off day.  Instead of making a lengthy and arduous drive straight from Maine to Jersey, we decide to spend the night back home in Lawn Guy Land.

I text Island Girl to see if she’ll be around to hang, and sure enough, she’s had some plans change.  TPhish and I make our way to Island Girl’s cozy abode and she whips up some fried fish. There’s no better meal than a home-cooked one after nearly a week on the road.  The company with which we break bread makes it even better.

Island Girl and TPhish have known each other in a periphery sense for a while, but this is the first time they’re really getting a chance to hang out.  It’s wonderful to be a part of because they’re two of my favorite Phans and have been huge fans of each other. This meeting feels long overdue.

After a few hours of music, conversation, and food, TPhish and I head home to call it a night and gear up for tomorrow.

Chapter 3: BB&T Pavilion

Camden, NJ (6/28-6/30, Shows 4-6)

“…I’m still upside down.”

Camden N1

On Friday morning, TPhish and I take separate cars and make way for The Garden State.  We leave early enough to bypass bad traffic. Upon arrival at the hotel I booked, I get an uneasy feeling and make a switch to friendlier, cleaner confines down the road at a DoubleTree.  Really, my subconscious just wants some free, warm cookies upon check-in.

Since we’re early for check-in, we swing over to the local library, our third so far of tour (is this library or Phish tour?).  Eventually, we get to the hotel and check-in to those sweet, gooey cookies. YUM! We settle in and head out to the venue, BB&T Pavilion in Camden, to kick off the next 3 nights.

On our way over, I mention a hope to run into the wonderful couple we’d met during Bangor N2, Rick and Mandy, and the larger but nameless crew, knowing both groups will be in attendance.  We find a (cheap) parking spot and jaunt over to an overwhelming and claustrophobic Shakedown Street. I’m not really one to knock the ways in which people choose to enhance their get down, but I’ll be damned if the general way of nitrous balloons don’t harsh my natural buzz.  There’s a lot of issues at stake with balloons, none of which for me relate to the issue of them being mind or mood-altering. Despite being in recovery and abstaining from drugs and alcohol, I’m in the “all substances should be legal and regulated” camp. My qualms with the balloon scene are the litter and waste they create and the interference with one’s literal ability to mobilize throughout a pre and post-Phish show area.  Please, fans: throw your damn balloons away, or put them in your pocket, and do that shit in a way that doesn’t impede the rest of our ability to get safely and easily to and from the show! As a community, we should hold ourselves above this.

After a lap or two through Shakedown, we head inside, ready for a hot, gorgeous evening…

And then the rain came.  And it came hard and fast.  Posted up in the moat (the area between the lawn and pavilion — more on this later), we run over to the lobby and claim as much cover as possible.  The Phans are wet and cold, but not dismayed. Cheers and laughter erupt as the rain intensifies, followed by even more voluminous hurrahs as the torrent finally subsides.  Ready to step back out, we make way toward what is now a literal waterlogged moat.

Amidst a discussion of our ill-preparedness (both of us sans poncho), we hear two friendly voices and turn to see our Maine Phriends, Rick and Mandy! Delighted, we exchange hugs and snap some photos. And then, out of nowhere, downpour take 2 ensues.

Mandy, me, TPhish after the first rain

This time, TPhish and I hope up under the pavilion for shelter.  After shaking off some rain, we realize that right behind us is our other Maine crew.  We spend the second rain chatting it up, hugging, and taking a few pics. The sky clears a short while later and we hop back down to what is, in my opinion, the ultimate dancing space on all of Phish tour — the moat.  We are soaked but cooled and ready for N1.

TPhish & I with the other Maine Crew

Set 1 fires up 30 minutes late from the rains and  Phish lets us know its time to release with an opening Set Your Soul Free.  Strawberry Letter 23, a rare but beloved cover of Brothers Johnson, follows, and the Phans erupt into joyous laughter and dance.  My Friend, My Friend haunts next and later we are treated to a slappy, funk-filled Wolfman’s. Set 1 winds down with the 3 in 1 Ghosts of the Forest song Drift While You’re Sleeping.

Set break includes a stroll to the Phellowship table to see some friendly faces and stock up on some candy.  Back at the moat, we catch up with Rick and Mandy and Rick gifts us some more UNO cards.

Soon, Set 2 is underway with a torrential downpour of Mercury that sends my mind around all of the planets.  This is a fairly new song, and each version seems to top the last, this one being no exception to the rule. There is no post-Mercury cool down with a segue into No Men in No Man’s Land and We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains.  Guitar heavy GOTF song About to Run is next, and despite the cooling breeze, the joint is scorching and faces are melting. Light follows in an unusually subdued manner and my 2nd Antelope in a week closes Set 2 strongly.

Encore brings an emotional Sleeping Monkey and a Quinn the Eskimo that brings the house down in cacophonic fashion.  We are sent on our way more than pleased.

On the way back to the hotel, we stop for a taste of (my) home at Miller’s Ale House.  Some good, old fashioned bar food serves as the appropriate sleeping aid.

Camden N2

I’m not gonna lie — I am playing catch up with these Camden write-ups and have little recollection of Saturday morning.  I know the forecast looked iffy and TPhish & I wanted to jam on lot, but the timing of the weather makes it tough.

The N2 storms come as we approach the venue, so jamming is no dice.  Fortunately, all of it comes and goes before the show, avoiding a repeat of the delay from N1.

We link up with Phriends in the moat and ready ourselves for another rager.  Right off the rip, the crowd realizes we are in for some heat as Mike’s Song kicks things off, followed by I am Hydrogen and Weekapaug Groove for an old school, vintage Mike’s Groove.

Next is one of the “Big 4” TPhish has been calling for days, the classic, intricate and intimate Divided Sky.  Finally! Everthing’s Right jams next and then I get my long-awaited Guelah Papyrus. This song doesn’t exactly go deep or provide a vehicle for improvisational jamming.  Nonetheless, it is one of the most badass sounding Phish songs, lyrically and sonically. The subversive Sparkle follows and the masses laugh and laugh and fall apart, as is tradition with this hasty, nervous cut.  I dance 1000 steps in under 4 minutes. Set 1 closes out in blissful fashion with another personal favorite, Roggae, and an abundantly gnarly 46 Days.

Not gonna lie… don’t recall much of tonight’s set break either, so, well… on to Set 2.

Blaze On and a bouncy NICU get Set 2 rolling.  One of my favorite Phish covers, TV on the Radio’s Golden Age, comes and goes (in my opinion) too quickly, but all is well when the GOTF jam heavy Ruby Waves follows and segues into a crunchy and catastrophic Death Don’t Hurt Very Long.  After Rift, Phish debuts another GOTF song, Beneath a Sea of Stars. Ghost and Say it to me S.A.N.T.O.S, two songs that could be misidentified at their onsets (a la Maze/Bowie), close Set 2. S.A.N.T.O.S by now has proven itself a perfect set or show closer.

YEM pops off encore, another of the “Big 4” TPhish has been calling for, giving us 2 in 1 go.  The YEM vocal jam gives way to the a capella Grind, a whimsical quartet endeavor in which the band counts, by days, their respective ages.  Before we head out, I attempt to collect what I can of my scattered brain.

Camden N3

There’s an old adage in the jam band scene:  Never Miss a Sunday Show.  The parenthetical to this is “(especially at the end of a 3 night run).”  Waking up on the morning of a Sunday show brings with it increased excitement and expectations, and today is no exception.

But before the show is an overabundance of room service breakfast food. Oops. As noon approaches, TPhish and I head to the Philadelphia Zoo for a rendezvous with Aaron and Kinetic and all sorts of adorable, captive creatures, including but not limited to: red pandas, a sloth (!!!), a sleeping aardvark named Sunshine, some giraffes (always my favorite because honestly, wtf evolution?), and some rogue peacocks. Somewhere along the way, I fall victim to the totally resistible but also irresistible pull of Dippin’ Dots (no longer the ice cream of the future, by the way), and my Phriends follow suit.

Red Panda at Philadelphia Zoo

After a few hours, we all head back to my hotel to hang with Adman, Jilly Bean, and CC, who is hours away from her first show!  We get some R&R before heading to BB&T. I meet up on lot with Barka and 8 Days Sober Guy (my friend from the Trey Doc, and my second Phish scene celebrity friend besides TPhish… I’m basically famous by proxy, y’all).  We exchange some tickets before exposing CC to Shakedown, still overwhelming on N3. We head inside a little later than the first two nights, but the long line moves quicker than expected.

Barka, my Phish mentor, and TPhish

Once inside, TPhish and I give CC the lay of the land, most importantly bathroom locations and an explanation of why the moat is love, the moat is life.

As has been tradition the prior nights of this run, a group of Phells organically gather in the moat as Set 1 approaches.

The Curtain With, a 30+ year old classic with a storied history and a universal Phan favorite, kicks things off, instantly affirming the adage mentioned at the beginning of this N3 passage.  Fast Enough for You rears it’s beautiful head from an 82 show absence. Next is Buried Alive, indicating an urgent need to buckle the hell up. Reba comes two slots later and another bust out, Pebbles and Marbles, appears out of a 71 show absence.  Tela, Mango Song, and Drive lull me into an ethereal bliss before a walloping David Bowie comes crashing down to round up a sublime Set 1.

TPhish, CC, and I snag some popcorn and (free!) ice water and catch our breath.  Asking CC her thoughts on her first Phish set, she proclaims “I don’t know what just happened, but I’ve never experienced anything like that…”  I am elated by this response and am officially 2 for 2 on roping in new Phans. Both only took 1 set. Phans everywhere are raving over the classic, old school Set 1 that has just transpired.  There is a palpable feeling permeating the air that what comes next will (hopefully) undo us.

Mr. Completely (officially a Trey Band song) opens Set 2 in violent fashion and proceeds into an exuberantly experimental Twenty Years Later that ceaselessly discovers new spaces.  Throughout what might be my favorite jam I’ve seen live, I am reminded of an interview in which Trey equates improvisational jamming to improvisational comedy and the principle of “saying yes” to what your partners do.  This jam is non-stop yesing at it’s finest and most unpredictable. Twenty Years Later is not necessarily a song known for funky, dancy tempos, but in this rendition, Phish proves once again that there is nothing they can’t do with anything in their expansive catalog.

The Camden moat is where wooks can truly and freely spread their wings.

A mosh pit erupts next during the chaotic, metal Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, a highlighted standout in a night of many.  Anyone who says Phish kids don’t know how to mosh will stand corrected after paying witness to a BBFCM get down. Tweezer elevates the already maddening frenzy before Shade provides a much needed cool down.  Most Events Aren’t Planned grooves in to heat things back up, the lyrics “out of space and time and the boundaries of my mind” summing up perfectly how I feel. Makisupa Policeman comes next, but I miss the Trey outburst, too lost in the dancing and joy shared among our outrageous moat squad.  Chalkdust Torture and Suzy Greenburg bring a raucous, sing-along finish to an absolute monstrosity of a set. Before I can regather the exploded bits of my brain and melted pieces of my face, Punch You in the Eye tears open the encore in grip tight fashion. A crashing and haunting What’s the Use? follows and gives way to a most classic of closers, Julius.

The collective masses, myself included, have just been run through…actually, screw it, I don’t have the proper analogies or metaphors to describe what just transpired over the last 3 hours.  Expletives are tossed about in a lack of ability to form coherent expression. Hugs, high fives, and head shaking abound. A historic show has been witnessed by all and everyone is celebrating in a unifying joy found only in the aftermath of a Phish show.

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