Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Phish - The Gorge 2009

Phish was incredible. The entire trip was a blast. It started off by meeting up with Becky and some long-time friends of hers from the east coast (Aishi, Adnaan, Sal and Gina) and cramming into the RV they had rented for the trip. I can't thank them enough for letting me tag along, I only wish I could have done more than just trying to stay out of the way. Eventually, we headed out to the venue, meeting up with three more RVs along the way. Less than a mile from the venue, we managed to get pulled over for running a stop sign (whoops), but were let off with a warning. Still, it was excitment we didn't particularly need.

Finally at the venue, our initial plans were foiled by the parking folks who insisted we 1) not arrange the RVs in a square and 2) move to a different area. Despite some initial irritation and reluctance to comply, it worked out for the best. Our eventual camping spot was right near the entrance as well as a cluster of Honey Buckets; not close enough to smell, but close enough that it wasn't a hike. Through the heroic efforts of Bob, the RVs were arranged in two rows of two, with all of the awnings facing inward. It made for and excellent semi-secluded spot with some much-needed shade during the day. It proved significantly better than the initial plan which would have found us immediately at the end of Shakedown St where we would have been bombarded with tweakers until the wee hours and left us with a much longer walk to the venue. After relaxing around the table briefly and having a few beers, it was time for bed. Which was interrupted by a car alarm. That went off for 15 minutes. Twice. Hippies are, by and large, a tolerant bunch but the second time that alarm went off a lynching was imminent. I'll get back to those neighbors later.

The first day on the lot was relatively uneventful. Sit back, eat, drink, relax, and watch the cars roll in. Talk about the set list, maybe make a wager or two. Before long, it was time to take the long-ass walk to the venue itself. The first night, we stumbled across an excellent spot just in front of the VIP box seats and set up "camp" while we waited for Phish to start. Shortly after posting, we noticed that there was a nice little ledge in front of the railing to the box with just enough room to stand and rest your posterior for a beautiful view of the stage.

Finally, as the sun went down, Phish took the stage. The first set was amazing:
  1. Down With Disease
  2. Ocelot
  3. Pebbles And Marbles
  4. Possum
  5. Sleep
  6. Destiny Unbound
  7. Stash
  8. Sneakin' Sally
  9. Cavern
I'll leave the detailed reviews to others, but the entire first set was amazing. Ocelot, Stash and Sally into Cavern; just breathtaking.
During the set break a bunch of us moved into the actual VIP booth. This was facilitated by our wonderful waitress Robin who served (some of) us drinks all night and neglected to kick us out. I suspect this was greatly helped by the fact that those of us paying for the $9 Coors tipped very well. I, however, was content to perch on the railing. It gave me excellent support and a perfectly valid excuse not to be a more "active" dancer ;-).

I found the second set to be amazing as well, although some of our party (who had seen the Red Rocks shows as well) were underwhelmed (to put it mildly).
  1. The Moma Dance
  2. Light
  3. Taste
  4. Fluffhead
  5. Joy
  6. Bathtub Gin
  7. Harry Hood
  8. Slave to the Traffic Light
Joy was a particular ... um, Joy. Otherwise the set was very solid, with a lot of improvisation throughout. I'm looking forward to listening to it again, especially as I managed to party a wee bit too hard this night and my recollections of the second set are a bit fuzzy.

After the encore, we hung around a while hoping the choke points on the walk back would clear a little. That was a vain hope indeed. Trudging back to the lot was challenging, particularly as several of us were less than sober and not entirely enthusiastic about dealing with crowds of people all struggling to wedge themselves onto a narrow path or particularly capable of finding the campsite on our own. Fortunately, the buddy system proved effective and we all made it back safely to find our little corner of the lot ... thudding with bad techno from our favorite neighbors. Yes, the very same one of car alarm fame. After a wee bit more partying, I went to bed and, after several more hours of thumping bass managed to find a state somewhat resembling sleep.

During the night, our favorite neighbors were setting off fireworks (mortars) and managed to knock over the stand and shoot one right into the open hatch of a nearby tent. Did I mention fireworks at festivals are stupid? No? Well, they are. Fun to watch, but there's no one sober enough to set them off and the entire lot is a powder keg of inflammable tents and dry grass. Brilliant. But I digress. I also have to thank Margaret (again) for watching our for me while I was vulnerable in my tent. Without her efforts I would have, no doubt, been stumbled or fallen upon far more than I was :-P

  1. The Mango Song
  2. Chalk Dust Torture
  3. Middle Of The Road
  4. Tweezer
  5. Driver
  6. Twenty Years Later
  7. Ya Mar
  8. It's Ice
  9. Wolfman's Brother
  10. Character Zero
  11. Run Like An Antelope
  1. Rock & Roll
  2. Makisupa Policeman
  3. Alaska
  4. The Wedge
  5. You Enjoy Myself
  6. Backwards Down the Number Line
  7. Piper
  8. Grind
  9. Good Times Bad Times
  10. Tweezer Reprise

At some point the next day, we repeated it all again. Only to a slightly lesser extent. The second night was more sedate (for me) but we managed to nab the VIP box right off the bat this time, which was good. There were significantly more people that night and the venue was pretty diligent about scooting people out of where I had sat the night before. Which was very nice as now they were blocking my view ;-) On the whole, the second night was the stronger of the two. I don't think there was a weak song all night. The 23-minute "Rock and Roll" second set opener was simply unparalleled and was an excellent answer to the question of what could possibly follow the "Antelope" closer. Finally, the "Good Times Bad Times" encore put Zeppelin to shame. Just an all around excellent show.

After that, the weekend slowly fades out. I made it back to my tent and promptly fell asleep. Woke up the next morning, packed up and fell asleep again. At some point we made it home and I continued the periodic sleeping. I think I'm mostly recovered now. Mostly. An excellent vacation, even if it didn't exactly leave me "well rested".