Interlude: 7/4 – Saratoga Springs, NY > Boston, MA
It’s the morning of Independence Day and I hit the road early to celebrate in one of the most historic cities in the USA, Boston, MA, before Phish takes over the home of the Red Sox, Fenway Park, for 2 nights. I opt for the alternative, more scenic route to Boston at the expense of an added 90 minutes driving time. This route takes me through the heart of Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, the home state of Phish.
The drive is full of winding turns up and down the lush, green canopied mountains, speed limits rarely exceeding 50 MPH. My windows are down and I inhale as much of the crisp Green Mountain State air as I can. I mentioned in the Bangor chapter the tour rule of no listening to Phish on the road, but I make an exception for this leg — it seems perfectly acceptable (and almost expected) to listen in this their state of origin. I tune into Phish radio and in the midst of a stellar Wolfman’s Brother from the 90s, I pull off at an eye-catching antique store. I make it in and out of the store without making any impulse buys.
Back on the road, I set my camera on the dash set it to time-lapse mode with the goal of catching some cool footage of the scenic type of drive I don’t experience often enough living in Lawn Guy Land. Unfortunately, these don’t turn out how I hope, a combination of poor angling and a filthy windshield negating my efforts.
My next pit stop is at a lookout point called Hogback Mountain. I’d stopped here years before on a trip, but in my not so healthy state of living back then, I didn’t have the appreciation for the views I do at this moment. I take in the horizon of endless greenscape before heading into the shop for some coffee. I pick up some VT slaps and a fun Spider-Moose shirt (it’s exactly what it sounds like) for my youngest nephew. Back outside on the overlook deck, a cheerful couple is snagging some selfies. I offer to take a few shots for them and they return the favor for me.
I hop back in the car and complete my drive for the day with no extra stops. My endpoint is a quaint little inn called the Samuel Sewall Inn. Right away it gives off friendly, cozy bed and breakfast vibes. I’m early for check-in and the innkeeper and I begin exchanging pleasantries — very standard stuff. He asks the nature of my visit. I tell him Phish. He asks, in a somewhat assuming manner, if I’ll be coming in late and rowdy. In a turn that reinforces my (for the most part) openness regarding my recovery, I tell him not to expect that from me as I approach 2 years clean. After declaring my recovery based low maintenance, his assumptive tone changes to a warmer one as he reveals to me that he, too, is in recovery. We chop it up for a good half-hour before my room is ready and I get the tour of my rustic confines.
After settling in and getting caught up on some work, I get an invite to a holiday BBQ 20 minutes outside the city. My friend Jilly Bean’s friend is kind enough to open his doors to me on her good word. I’m grateful for the opportunity to make new friends, play with some dogs, and save a few bucks on food. Plus, what’s the 4th of July without a backyard BBQ? When I find myself among Phans, there is rarely any effort required to try to “fit in”, and this occasion is no exception. New friend Lawn Girl and I hit it off instantly with non-stop conversation of Phish and literature.
Around sun-down, I head back to my inn and walk down to the Boston University bridge to catch the prolific Boston Pops fireworks display over the water. Back at the inn, I call it an early night as I ready for the Fenway run to tee off.
Chapter 5: Fenway Park
Boston, MA (7/5-7/6, Shows 10 & 11)
“I found a place that I can’t explain in my state of mind…”
It’s early morning on July 5 and the heat is already approaching 90. I take a delicious breakfast on the front porch and then make the mile trek to Fenway to check out the pop-up shop of special merchandise exclusive to this leg of the tour. Yawkey Way is jam-packed with no shade and I’m not trying to custy up, so I bail back toward my temporary home. On the way, I encounter Suit Guy, a fellow Phell. He’s staying at the same spot so we walk the rest of the way, waxing recovery and Phish.
Just as I get back, TPhish arrives. She gets settled in and we head to a library around the corner. Fast-forward a few hours and we head toward Fenway with a stop for some shwarma. Down at the park, we take in the sights as TPhish politely listens to me mansplain Red Sox history and significance of the surrounding monuments.
We head inside, stopping off at the Phellowship table to say hi to EJ, who is doing service for the next two shows. After catching up with some friends, we head to our seats on the turf. We are smack in the middle and on the aisle tonight, excited about our space.
Set 1 opens with the anthemic Free, a song I could get 1000 times and never tire of. Blaze On follows but gives way to the solitary Phish song that does absolutely nothing for me, 555. Fortunately, Tube follows and I am all the way back in. The melancholic Brian & Robert comes next before TPhish gets hit with her own version of 555, Halfway to the Moon. Unlike me, however, she finds some enjoyment in this rendition and turns to me at the conclusion to declare, “Dude, that was pretty sweet!” Ocelot, Rift, Everything’s Right, and Runaway Jim close out Set 1 which means it’s time for hydration, pretzels, popcorn, and the bathroom.
Sand gets things swimming for Set 2 and instantly our section, ushers included, is fiercely raging. Axilla is next before giving way to an interstellar 20 minute Mercury, after which we find ourselves Wading in the Velvet Sea. We’re soon set en Fuego before an energizing S.A.N.T.O.S – Character Zero combo has the entire stadium shouting refrains in unison and shutting down Set 2 in home run fashion. After a brief break, encore kicks off with the personally nostalgic and sentimental Bug and rounds out with The Squirming Coil.
It’s back to the ol’ inn for a good night’s rest before we get to do it all over again tomorrow.
Day 2 of the Fenway leg starts with an attempted Bird ride to the park for the Phanart show at the House of Blues. If you’re unfamiliar with Bird, they’re these scooters you can rent in big cities. Thinking it’d be a fun, alternative means of transportation, we download the app needed to use them and hop on. Beware: Bird is not fun and presents nothing but annoying inconveniences! My scooter can’t run fast enough to keep up with TPhish. We’re not riding in the right area (while not being told where the right area is). And upon finally abandoning this snake-oil-on-wheels, we’re endlessly chirped at for not parking the wingless Bird in the proper area (again, without being instructed where to actually park). Bird is telling us we’re getting fined for leaving these things out of the nest, so I call up the customer service number and am relieved when the person on the other end frees us from the bondage of Bird. 0/10 do not recommend!
Down at Phanart, we link up with Kinetic, The Wook Dad, and others. We ride-share to a restaurant on the other side of town and share a platter of mixed meats with plenty leftover for a post-show snack. For dessert, we jaunt to the pier for some refreshing Ben & Jerry’s. We split for the time as everyone makes for their respective lodging to rest up out of the heat for N2.
A few hours later, TPhish and I head back toward Fenway (on foot this time) to unload a ticket to a Floridian Phell, Jennie. Around this time, heavy rains and thunder and lightning storms attack. We seek shelter in a nearby parking garage as worry of a possible cancellation creeps in. Eventually, the venue opens and we head in, but not long after, the storms make a disheartening return. We have no choice but to wait and find a balance between worry and optimism. No one seems to know what’s going to happen as the concourse grows increasingly cramped.
We find some breathing room in an empty, loungy family-style waiting room/bathroom that no one in the whole stadium seems to be on to. Mid-conversation, a middle-aged dude pops in and asks if we are in line (we’re not) for the toilets. After he goes in, TPhish is shocked to find I don’t know who the dude is. Turns out he is the light producer and “5th member of Phish”, Chris Kuroda. He re-emerges and, knowing this is our best chance to get the skinny on what is or isn’t going on tonight, we ask if there’s going to be a show tonight. He assures us “Oh yeah, don’t go anywhere. There will be a show tonight!” Relieved, I thank him and ask for a picture, acknowledging fully the awkwardness of a photo-op in what is essentially a bathroom. CK5 obliges!
The seats eventually open and we head to ours, again on the turf, but in a different section from last night. The show is starting over an hour late so uncertainty abounds throughout the stadium as to what we’re in store for.
Phish comes out of the storms swinging with an opening 1-2-3 punch of Carini, Possum, and Set Your Soul Free before a seldom played Thread gives way to a ripping Wolfman’s Brother and Reba, sans whistling. Back on the Train follows and the bounce continues with a recent rarity, Mound. Ghosts of the Forest shred-fest About to Run, Down with Disease, and Simple rain down and it is somewhere in the midst of this stretch where we all realize that, because of the delay, we’re being treated to one long, set-breakless show. About the same time, tonight’s super aggressive ushers of our section, the polar opposite from last night, start to have a negative impact on the experience. They’re keeping us tightly out of the aisles as if we are cattle being herded in the pen as if we have not done this before and have no ability to respect each other’s space. Despite this, it would take a literal catastrophe to really “ruin” a Phish show. We compartmentalize the disruptions from the ushers and dance on.
Backwards Down the Number Line, Death Don’t Hurt Very Long, and 46 Days make up a shattering trio before What’s the Use? sonically and visually melts the faces of the thousands in the stadium. A playful Mexican Cousin leads into a 2001 dance party before the always stereophonic and haunting Split Open and Melt does to my brain exactly what the song title implies. Suzy Greenberg shuts down Set 1 right as the ushers finally let us out of time-out.
Persevering through the storms of N2, Phish and the Phans Rise/Come Together before being sent on our way with tales of the evil Wilson. Fenway is officially in the books, and although the response to the run is instantly mixed, I consider the experience an absolute grand slam (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). Back under the roof of Samuel Sewall, TPhish and I tear into the aforementioned leftover meats before calling it a night, two off days ahead of us before Mohegan Sun.