Interlude: 6/24 – Maryland > Maine
It is early morning of Monday, 6/24, and two shows are in the books. Perception of time has been entirely warped. What is Monday? 2 days is 2 weeks.
The drive ahead is around 650 miles, the longest stretch of the tour. We depart at around 6:30 AM and beat any metro traffic. About 4 or 5 hours in, I let TPhish take the wheel. Normally disinclined to let others man my vehicle, I’m quickly relieved to see she is a safe and capable driver.
Some ground rules are laid out regarding the car tunes — NO Phish; Trey Band and Ghosts of the Forest are debatable, but mostly no. If either passenger is absolutely not feeling a song, a skip is all good. If either passenger finds themself peaking during a song, a skip is not all good and a holding of thoughts until said peak ceases is proper etiquette.
Driving past TPhish’s childhood stomping ground, I am audience to personal histories of her younger years. A few miles down the road, it is my turn to dive backwards in time — we pull off the highway to swing by the house I lived in at age 15.
Many miles and hours later, we stop off in Portland, ME for some work, food, and wandering. Portland presented a fascinating cultural and social landscape of endless juxtapositions — a melting pot, indeed, but in a more stark manner than a place like NYC. Walking about the downtown area, we are caught off guard when, while reading some bills, the payphone behind us rings (as if it wasn’t odd enough to find a payphone in the first place). A local passing by picks it up at TPhish’s encouragement, but alas, whoever made the call has abandoned any desire for communication. We pop into a whimsical antique map store and are greeted by a friendly feline proprietor. After, we indulge in “The Best Sushi in Town.” Not sure who came up with the claim…it wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t change my life. If that truly was the best sushi in the town of Portland, let’s not consider Portland a sushi town.
After dinner we head up the rest of the way to Bangor. We meet our host, Evan, and his two cats. A little introductory conversation before heading off to sleep, weary from the road.
Chapter 2: Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion
Bangor, ME (6/25-6/26, Shows 3 & 4)
“It’s not an experience if they can’t bring someone along…”
Tuesday morning in Bangor starts off with a trip to a cozy, friendly local coffee house. TPhish and I settle in to do some work (are you sensing a theme here yet?), but after some time the environment becomes a little too disruptive, so we jaunt a block down the road to the (beautiful) local library (our second new library in less than 24 hours). I break around noon for a day meeting back up behind the coffee shop. The first guy I talk to at the meeting is a fellow traveling Phan, so I pull up a chair and engage in a tour themed “meeting before the meeting.” I’m a little bummed at first when I realize I’ve gotten myself into a Tradition meeting (for those out of the 12 step/recovery loop, the idea behind Steps is an emphasis on the well being of the individual, while the idea behind the Traditions is an emphasis on the well being of the group/program). There’s nothing wrong with Traditions, I have nothing against them, I just haven’t “worked” them yet, and often they can feel a little over my head. Fortunately, it is soon revealed that the specific Tradition being read and discussed today is Tradition 3, which states The Only Requirement for Membership is a Desire to Stop Using. Of all the Traditions, this is the only one that instinctively clicks for me. It is right up there with my most beloved concepts and pieces of Recovery.
Though I am fulfilled in the hour long meeting and after, my immediate application of what I have just heard shared about compassion and empathy is too short lived. A few hours later I make a snap reaction toward TPhish. It is one of those moments where I am too absorbed in myself to catch it before it starts, and then as soon as I cross the line I realize what I’ve done and proceed to feel like shit. I knew this would sting both parties and, at least for me, the guilt and embarrassment and shame lingered through the night.
In the moment, we pivot and move forward. Evan, our host, meets us outside the venue. For opening his home freely to us, I had offered him my extra ticket(s), the first of which he graciously accepted. This is his first foray into Phish, so TPhish and I enthusiastically explain all we can think to and answer any and all questions he has for us. We waltz around Shakedown Street and Evan can’t help but repeat how beautiful the energy in the scene is. Whatever the music has in store for him, it is great to see him instantly comfortable in Phishy space.
After a lengthy wait in line, we finally make it into the venue and find some space in the rocked pit. The rocks caught us a little off guard but would turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
The Phish from Vermont open with a ripping 46 Days, and immediately I feel like it’s off to the races for our new friend, Evan. I have a strong sense that Phish is about to ruin him in the best way possible. One of my favorite grooves, Back on the Train, follows, and the dance party is in full effect. After BOTT, Trey alerts the crowd that a local politician is “sitting in” with the band tonight, calling out muumuu clad drummer and Local Selectman Jonathan Fishman. They descend into the always hilarious Ass Handed, the truest song ever whether in regard to life or politics.
This playful segment is followed by a nasty Bathtub Gin that has the whole crowd fully immersed. The sample heavy and ripping The Dogs and smooth sailing Waves make way for what turns out to be a truly mind-bending back half of Set 1. When Mike’s Song pops off, you know things are about to lose control. The Mike’s Groove bread is filled with the ingredients of a thin layer of Water in the Sky atop a spicy Limb by Limb for the ages. TPhish would later declare this rendition “uncomfortably good.” Limb crescendos into Weekapaug Groove, polishing off the scrumptious Mike’s Groove sandwich just right. Sometime in the midst of all this, the rains started coming down, steady but not heavy. One does not exactly notice rain while entrapped in the sonic showers of Phish, and it isn’t until after the Set 1 closer Julius that we even realize we are damp.
Catching our breath at set break, TPhish and I eagerly ask Evan how he was feeling so far. His almost immediate response was, “I think I should rearrange my plans. Do you still have an extra ticket for tomorrow?!” He was, as I had hoped, ruined, and I was delighted for him.
Set 2 kept the brains a-melting. Down with Disease started a bit rocky, but quickly tightened into a cacophony of interstellar, experimental jamming. Next came what I hadn’t realized is my favorite Kasvot Vaxt “cover”, Play by Play, a weird mix of mellow funk space grooving. A Type II Simple ensues, and as the rains refused to cease, this is where the rocked pit really came in handy, providing a stable, not slippery dance floor. I am psyched for this stretched out Simple, having listened to the Baker’s Dozen and 10/31/96 versions countless times and being hit with a truncated version on NYE. Later, a vintage, rapid fire Llama tears the rain soaked Phans into as many pieces as notes played. I get my first Meatstick, and indelible piece of the Phish catalog. Set 2 closes with a classic Slave to the Traffic Light, and encore brings a standard but delightful Loving Cup which proves a perfect ending to a rain soaked voyage.
Evan, TPhish, and I regroup from our minor disbursement and head toward the gate. Evan tells us he “has work to do” to get ready for tomorrow’s show, so without asking many questions, we wish him a safe and good night. When TPhish and I reach the car, she queries, “Dude, what do we do?” to which I respond, “About what?”
“Oh…yeah…YEAH…dude, I dunno.”
It was that kinda show.
Tuesday, 6/25, Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion:
Set 1 — 46 Days, Back on the Train, Ass Handed, Bathtub Gin, The Dogs, Waves > Mike’s Song > Water in the Sky > Limb by Limb -> Weekapaug Groove > Julius
Set 2 — Down with Disease > Play by Play > Simple > Piper, Miss You, Llama, Meatstick > Rise/Come Together > Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: Loving Cup
The first half of the day of Bangor N2 begins with what has become, at this point, standard (responsible) productivity. We get some work done at the local library and head down to lot, music gear in tow, with a stop at some music shops first to enhance our sound. After some initial trepidation, we get into the groove, with TPhish again serenading with sweet, smooth riffs while I keep the rhythm on my new (old) drum. A Phan asks to play along on TPhish’s extra guitar. Of course, dude! That’s why we brought it! We’re excited to have a new “band member” but this excitement is soon deflated when it becomes evident dude is not entirely cognizant. In layman’s terms, he is f$%&ed up. He strums about for a while before a gal seeking party favors calls him away for a plug, much to our relief. Shortly after this, a friendly, more coherent dude comes and joins us on the tambourine. With chills in our hands and hunger in our bellies, we pack up to get some grub. On our way back to put the gear away, an adoring fan recognizes TPhish from the ‘gram (she’s a bit of a celebrity within the Phish scene after her multi-instrumental solo cover of Limb by Limb went viral). Melissa, the TPhish enthusiast, peppers TPhish with plaudits and praise, which TPhish graciously accepts and returns with shocked gratitude.
On our way in, we pass an awesome gal in the balloon area scouting the grounds with a trash bag and sign that reads “Throw You Balloons Away!” She is the MVP of the tour for this alone, and we feel compelled to let her know.
Upon entry, we cop a dope spot about 6 rows off rail, Mike side. I catch a friend I made at Umphrey’s McGee in February and go say hi and congratulate him on tonight being his 300th (!!!) show.
Set 1 is chill. It wasn’t terrible, but outside of my first Petrichor (an oft maligned song among Phans, but one I happen to find a beautifully complete composition), there was nothing truly remarkable. Which is ok. With a catalog and style of a band like Phish, you have to accept that not every single note, song, and show will be the best ever, and even still, it actually is the best ever. Despite the not over the top set, TPhish and I find ourselves among a kickass group of Phans, more than making up for any sense of musical underwhelming.
During set break, we spot Evan but decide to let him do his own thing, as it seems like he is finding his way and surrendering to the flow. We sit and talk with Mandy and Rick, who have been seeing Phish since 1995 and were in town from Sand Diego. They are two of the nicest folks I have met so far on tour. They give us UNO cards (my first) and tell us they love our dancing and vibes. We listen as they share stories of their early days of Phishing and in return, tell them of ours. Somewhere amid the conversation, the lights go down and Set 2 starts up.
Ho. Lee. Smokes. The first half of Set 2, for me, was what Set 1 N1 was for TPhish — some of my favorite Phish I have ever experienced live. Turtle in the Clouds, a song I was previously not big on, hit all the right spots for me. I’m officially into it. Gotta Jibboo follows, one of my mom’s favorites. Jibboo segues into a torrential downpour of Fuego. Toward the tail end of this top tier Fuego, I smell a Cities coming miles away. They stay en Fuego longer than I expect and convince me Cities is abandoned, left for just a tease, only for it to find it’s way back into a cataclysmic, dark version of perhaps my favorite cover that Phish does. Cities seamlessly grooves into a damn fine Final Hurrah. Things get a little weird toward the end of Final Hurrah when we hear a transition to Heavy Things, only for Trey to make a hard left into Prince Caspian, which is abandoned a mere few minutes later. A few songs later, Chalkdust Torture closes Set 2 with a bang.
Encore came with the classic The Lizards, a story song that tells of a race of people practically extinct from doing things smart people don’t do and invokes the ultimate life lesson — Surrender to the Flow. Suzy Greenberg follows and closes, and again I am reminded of my mom. The night seemed sprinkled with mom-associated songs, which gives me a vast mix of emotions.
All in all, a Phantastic night and run in Maine. We head to our temporary home to get some much needed rest before an off day spent driving back to Lawn Guy Land.
Wednesday, 6/26, Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion:
Set 1 — Crowd Control, Plasma, Army of One, Alaska, Kill Devil Falls > How Many People are You, Petrichor > Saw it Again > Sand
Set 2 — Turtle in the Clouds, Gotta Jibboo > Fuego -> Cities -> The Final Hurrah > Prince Caspian > Farmhouse > Backwards Down the Number Line > Chalk Dust Torture
Encore — The Lizards, Suzy Greenberg