Phish Journey To Alpine Valley (Part 2)
(Bowling Green, Ohio) Night Two at Alpine Valley gave me a new perspective on music and the culture it creates.
The whole idea of Phish is something that has always fascinated me. The subculture that surrounds the band is extremely similar to that of the Grateful Dead. People give up a “normal” lifestyle to follow the band around from venue to venue, with each night acting as a prelude to the next show. Phans forgo work for the summer and embark on an entire tour, usually a few months, full of traveling with friends and family, and oh! You get live music almost every night. I couldn’t help but wonder, what would it be like? Is the idea so far-fetched, giving up everything save for a few friends, camping materials, and a means of transportation? I mean, plenty of people have done it. Just look over the older folks at a Phish show, you can clearly see Deadheads turned Phisheads. Some of them have spent their entire lives making a living during the summer selling drugs and grilled cheese. And you bet they make a damn good grilled cheese sandwich in that lot.
Seeing the same band multiple nights in a row has a very different feel to it; it’s almost as if the entire weekend is one long show with a 24-hour intermission. The majority of the phans going to see the show on Night Two saw them the night before, and quite possibly many of those phans saw them in Noblesville, Indiana, two nights before that.
The first night was very mellowed out and groovy, but the two sets that Phish performed on the second night was an absolute party. They blew it the crowd the crowd away. Bob Marley’s “Soul Shakedown Party” started off the night as beach balls were sailing above the dense haze covering the lawn. It was apparent from the very start that this night was going to top Night One. The crowd was into it from the very beginning and had no signs of slowing down.
Halfway through the first set, the band reached back for some rarities. “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” was followed by “Access Me,” a song which has only been played live five times since its debut at Alpine Valley during the 2004 tour, then right into “Meat.”
Along with the rarities, Phish performed several crowd pleasers. The crowd erupted in excitement as Trey picked up the megaphone for “Fee,” and that crowd rowdiness continued into the stellar performance of “Maze” and “The Squirming Coil” to end the first set.
Intermission gave me some solid time to sprawl out in the lawn, look up at the Wisconsin full moon, and soak in what I had been a part of all weekend. The feeling was absolutely surreal. Little did I know at that time, I was about to witness a Phish set that was crammed with many personal favorites.
Set two began with a fantastic Talking Heads cover, “Cross-eyed and Painless,” followed up by a mind-blowing rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.” I was speechless. The music had taken total control of my body and left my mind wandering in and out. If there was ever a moment in my life where Marley’s lyrics, “The one good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain,” came true. That moment in time was it, I felt invincible. For those eight minutes I had zero care in the world and could conquer anything that was thrown at me.
The middle of the set featured a great triple-threat combo. “Back On The Farm” transitioned straight into a great crowd sing-along, “Farmhouse.” After a quick 15-second break, Phish showed off why they can fill a 35,000-seat amphitheatre with “46 Days.” They killed it. If girls weren’t taking off their shirts in the pit and throwing them on stage, they should have.
Toward the end of the night the band performed “Joy,” for the first time on this tour and a personal favorite of mine. The tune hadn’t been played since 2011 at Madison Square Garden. The lyrics to that song hit me deep. It’s the reason I have such a passion for music. It’s bands like Phish that reinforce the idea that the music is about everything that surrounds it. It’s not only about the band, it’s your song too.
As the band walked off stage after their last song, “Julius,” the buzz in the crowd was how they could top last night’s encore of “Good Times, Bad Times.” Well, there’s only one way to top a Led Zeppelin cover and that’s with “Meatstick.”
During the middle of the eight-minute encore, Trey pulled up 10 or so fans to engage in the Meatstick dance together. The dance coincides with the song and has become a tradition among phans. The band once attempted to break a Guinness World Record for the most people dancing to the same song at one time. Even though the record was not broken, the attempt pushed the dance to a new level.
The musicians walked off stage to a standing ovation. Two nights at the famous Alpine Valley Music Theatre was complete. Phish had rocked people’s socks off for a combined six hours on the two-night stand. The fans were leaving happy, and I was ecstatic. I was on a natural high I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. I was in my utopia, completely satisfied without a care in the world.
After two nights of Phish in one of the biggest outdoor amphitheatres in the world, I can finally understand why people would forgo a “normal” lifestyle and join them on the road. I get it now. The feeling you get after the band walks off stage can only be matched by the first note played on Trey’s guitar, or the first time Jon hits that snare the next night. I’ve seen countless bands, at countless venues and the emotion that takes control of you during each show has yet to be matched by any other group of musicians. Phish takes you on a psychological journey that continues from show to show. One. Long. Trip.