Where Palm Trees Dipped and Seagulls Swerved

Festival 8 (R.Schloffel)

Festival 8 (R.Schloffel)

If Coventry embodied the dark debacle that Phish and their scene had become by 2004, Festival 8 represented all that is right in the current world of Phish. The most accurate word I can use to describe Festival 8 is “paradise.” We had arrived at a tropical site of dreams, and the entire place was set up for our ease and comfort. When contrasting Coventry’s mud-covered clusterfuck with Indio’s days of delight, things couldn’t have felt more different.

To begin with, as we approached the gate with a caravan of five RVs, we expected to wait in some traffic. After sitting on roadways for anywhere between 12 and 24 hours to enter previous festivals, this obstacle seemed like a given. But to our shock, we didn’t wait for one minute. After the thorough search for glass bottles and pounds of weed, the security let everyone through free of hassle. The only thing seized from any of our RVs were two glass-bottled Starbucks drinks. Onward and Upward!

Festival 8 (R.Gibbs)

Festival 8 (R.Gibbs)

After our team captain convinced the attendants to allow us to park in formation, we set up our home base within 45 minutes of approaching the main gates. Given maps upon entering, some exploration was in order. Prepared to walk a couple miles, everyone was pleasantly surprised to discover the concert field just around the corner from our campsite, about 100 times shorter than any festival walk in memory. The vibe of the Eight remained incredibly laid-back throughout the weekend, with well-behaved fans who appreciated the blissful setting. The entire event seemed like a Phish festival all grown-up. With amenities at every turn, shuttles to and from the lavish, nearby resorts, we certainly weren’t in Limestone anymore. Conducive to the band’s family-oriented atmosphere, the guys could hop back and forth between their loved ones and the festival in minutes.

10.31.09 (W.Rogell)

10.31.09 (W.Rogell)

The ease of Festival 8 seems to be the evolution of the Phish festival – easy access and hassle free. Providing a different feel from the absolute isolation of Limestone, this new model is quite¬† logical for the band’s place in time; just as Limestone defined the late ’90s. Virtually incomparable, Limestone possessed a Phishy magic that Indio could not. Just knowing what everyone had to do to reach the tip of America made those ritualistic weekends irreplaceable. The entire events were bigger, vaster, and more adventurous. We had our own city on the edge of the earth, and no one even knew. The unique majesty of those experiences will live inside us forever. But again, that was then and this is now. I’m not sure anyone who attended Festival 8 would have traded Indio for Limestone in a million years. Just as Phish and their fans continue to mature, and their music evolves, so will their signature events.

10.31 III (G.Lucas)

10.31 III (G.Lucas)

On top of everything else, the choice of locale – the Palm Springs desert – made the weekend flawless. With sunny days and cool evenings, the weather never intruded on our good times – something that can’t be said for virtually any other Phish festival. In addition, the site’s proximity to the highway provided easy access for the sundry artists, vendors and attractions. An amalgam of the Phishy spirit and the over-the-top west coast creativity of Burning Man, the art installations at Eight upped the ante from previous festivals, creating the feel of a psychedelic carnival. Throw in multiple bars, shade tents, countless couches, a jumbo-tron showing sporting events and movies, and golf cart taxis to get around the grounds, and this was most definitely not your father’s Phish festival!

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Festival 8 (R.Gibbs)

Perhaps the biggest difference between Indio and Coventry is the utter joy engulfing the entire community these days. Back in ’04, we were there to celebrate a legacy – an irreplaceable time in our lives that was coming to a pre-mature end. And regardless of how much fun we had, the weekend possessed an irrefutable sadness.¬† Indio could not have been more opposite. With Phish back in 2009 – happy and on the rise again – everyone wore ear to ear smiles, and the positivity was absolutely infectious all weekend long. I never saw one incident, argument or bit of beligerence from anyone all weekend long, just people rejoicing to be back in the promised land.

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

2001 > Curtain > Tweezer” 11.19.95

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

A standout sequence that kicked-off Charlotte’s second set along the road of Fall ’95.

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Festival 8 (Photo: Russell Gibbs)

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

11.15.95 Sun Dome, USF, Tampa, FL < Torrent

11.15.95 Sun Dome, USF, Tampa, FL < Megaupload

Sun Dome - U of South Florida

Sun Dome - U of South Florida

Making their tour of Florida universities, the band stopped at The University of South Florida a day after playing their legendary Orlando show the night before at The University of Central Florida, and three days after playing Gainesville. Amidst a tremendous run in the Sunshine State, a fierce “Mike’s Groove” holds down the second set of this show.

I: Poor Heart, AC/DC Bag, Fast Enough for You, Rift, Prince Caspian, Sparkle, Split Open and Melt, Sweet Adeline, The Squirming Coil

II: Wilson, Theme From the Bottom, Scent of a Mule, Mike’s Song > Life on Mars? > Weekapaug Groove, Fee, While My Guitar Gently Weeps

E: Suzy Greenberg

Notes: The band won the first chess game with the audience.

Source: Unknown

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435 Responses to “Where Palm Trees Dipped and Seagulls Swerved”

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  1. neemor Says:

    First Post!
    The benefits of Insomnia!
    Can’t wait to read this one….

  2. neemor Says:

    We had touched on this not too long ago, closely following those of you lucky enough to be at Indio coming back to the real world. Whether or not we would trade the ease and comfort of Festival 8 with the solitude and secrecy of Limestone.
    This pretty much encapsulates that whole idea and I love how the choice of venue for the most recent festival mirrors the Phish communities’ place in the world today. It was remarkable to see (from the accounts that we’ve heard from the polo grounds-for those of us who were not there) how the organizers of this most recent festival were able to draw upon the volumes of knowledge that had been learned through previous gatherings and put it all to good use.
    It seems to have been a true maturation process and most importantly, the gained knowledge was used in every aspect of the weekend from selection of the venue, (which includes taking weather into account- drawn from the gorgeous fields of Big Cypress) to traffic patterns (most directly in response to the debacle that was Coventry) to accommodations, (including considerations like ice and port-o-let cleanliness, an issue at pretty much every past fest) and finally, the fan’s overall comfort (which encompasses all of these).
    I’m sure that the embarrassment of Coventry sat with the band and their management like a second head for the longest time and if repairing their good name and elevating the festival (which Phish has created and subsequently broken the mold for) back to grand status was the plan, it sounds like they succeeded in spades.
    Strangely, I feel proud of this band that I love so much. I hiked twenty-three miles to Coventry and didn’t miss a note. When I got home afterwards though, the band took a hit from all sides and still does to this day because things went so badly that weekend in Vermont. Much of what went wrong was out of their control, but they took a hit.
    The greatest thing I will take from Festival Eight is the fact that the polish, the sheen, has been restored to Phish’s good name. That they pulled this thing off arguably greater than they ever have and seemingly every single person left those polo grounds with great stories, new friends and smiles to last for the forseeable future, if not forever.
    What a great band. I hope I never have to miss a festival again!
    Thanks, Miner…well done as always.

  3. Uncle Ebeneezer Says:

    Thanks so much for the nod on the first photo today, Mr. Miner….

    It feels so good to be part of such an amazing community. I know you guys don’t hear from me as often as I’d like, but damn it if I don’t feel like I know you guys pretty well.

    Cheers, and happy Thursday….

  4. freshtracks420 Says:

    So…maybe I’ve missed it, but there hasn’t seemed to be a ton of discussion here regarding the official announcement of the New Year’s run. Are many of the PT regulars who commonly post here planning on trying to go? Just curious!?!

  5. Baxter Says:

    I dunno, All though it must have felt like heaven to be in the palm spring desert, I personally would prefer the magic of making our own secret city in limestone. I was not at 8, so its just speculation. I think it is my anti-establishment side that shuns the modernity and revels in the chaos of a wild festival. I personally had the time of my life at Coventry, but I would never bring my family to something like that. I guess that’s what 8 was about, creating a scene we could bring our wives and children to.

  6. c0wfunk Says:

    one thing I’ll say is those polo fields certainly looked like a nicer environment than an airforce base and the concrete military vibe they put off..

    I for one will be in miami..

  7. HarryHood Says:

    Well, I was just getting over not being at 8 and now this article. Damn you Miner!

  8. Looking For Owls? Says:

    Tampa, My Home Town Baby! Wish Phish would play Tampa again sometime in the future. It’s been over 10 years. What gives?

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I have a horror story about Coventry which prevents me from being rational in ever being able to compare the two places. Limestone is Limestone though. However, at this stage in the game, I can say that I really really really appreciated the amenities and overall preparedness that Indio offered us and I will gladly fly across country to go there again. That place was freaking sweet.

  10. Little Buddy Says:

    Nice write up, Miner. I’m glad fall tour is about to begin so I can focus on something besides missing F8.

    I think “the Curtain” part of the JOTD if ef’d up. When I played the JOTD it went 2001>2001>Tweezer for me. Not sure if others are having this problem or not. D’oh!

  11. bhizzle Says:

    I’ve decided that I would start focusing on missing New Year’s

  12. st8 of mind Says:

    The lack of waiting in line to get in 8 was worth the ticket price alone. We were camping within 15 minutes. Everything else was remarkable as well.

  13. Little Buddy Says:

    @bhizzle

    To add insult to injury, I cannot go to NYE due to my work schedule, but wifey is going without me. We’re heading to Florida for xmas to see her parents. I have to come back 12/28 for work, she’ll be hitting up the shows. Gonna be a pretty depressing NYE here in the ROC without the wife or kid. Oh well, I’ll probably go snowboarding or something…

  14. Marshall Says:

    I don’t have other festival experiences to compare but this one was pretty damn good. I was very surprised not to be sitting for hours on the road after reading about previous festival waits. I did have to give up 12 good beers that I’d bought about 10 minutes earlier, because they were bottles. My only real complaint initially was that it wasn’t easy to get from certain campgrounds to other campgrounds (walking the long way around seemed the theme for me). But only a few people had this sort of issue. I did like how they cleaned the port-o-lets every morning and I really liked the mobile shower rigs. But most of all, I liked the Palm Trees and the perfect weather. Oh, and the Sierra Nevada Foam – please brew some more!

  15. HarryHood Says:

    Did everyone have the same experience with the lack of traffic getting into 8? I guess I’m confused because I’m sure that traffic has always been a concern at festivals and yet it was always still a problem. What did they do differently this time that made it so quick getting in?

  16. Marshall Says:

    Neemor – in response to your query late last night, I would love more acoustics sets, but would not be in favor of sacrificing Set 1 for it regularly. Indoors, I would be too amped to sit down and listen to laid back music for 70 minutes. I think acoustic works well outdoors or indoors at small venues (in mini-sets). What would be awesome is if they played an acoustic set somewhere other than the arena during the afternoon, but this would be a logistical nightmare, and would shut out most fans. But it would be cool nonetheless.

  17. Little Buddy Says:

    HH –

    I think there were several highways that you could access the polo grounds from (based on what I’ve heard – didn’t go myself). At the other fests there was pretty much one way in and one way out. The worst for me was either Coventry or Cypress. Ridiculousness…

  18. Danny B Says:

    I missed 8, but everyone who went seemed to have an absolute blast, and that’s what these things are all about.

    I hope that next summer they return to Limestone, just my opinion, but I think it is a place that like Miner suggested is “Incomparable.”

    Limestone always suggested a level of commitment from fans; i.e. I would never do this for any other band. And Phish knew IT.

    That being said, if the do a festival in Indio again next year, I will be there.

    On a side note, yeas I will be in Miami, absolutely stoked about it too!!!!!

  19. Little Buddy Says:

    re: acoustic

    I think we might be in for the little acoustic side stage on this fall tour. I think AW mentioned this recently. They did it in like ’97 too I think. Can’t remember when it was – those days are a bit foggy for me : )

  20. Alex Says:

    water was my only complaint…
    they really botched that part.
    it was still a long walk for us in the Electric Ladyland campground

    but man it was an awesome time!

  21. Birddog Says:

    I have to say Coventry was one of the saddest weekends of my life. Being a Vermonter I was happy to have it nearby, but the mud and the crappy playing and the separate tour busses for each of them after they finished was just heartbreaking.

    Fast forward to Hartford, my first show back – I was skeptical going in and all the frat boys didnt help. I think it was about halfway thru Birds that I finally realized they were back and my buddy told me to stop crying lol.

    Its been amazing to witness this rebirth and have to say reading Miners posts and all your comments has been awesome. Good to know there are real people out there who see Phish for what they are and not just an excuse to party or get spun or whatnot. Thanks for the maturity and thoughtful posts.

    Im gettin a chubber for MSG

  22. msbjivein Says:

    MIAMI BOUND!!! Can’t wait!

  23. Robear Says:

    hey neemor, nice addition to the write-up! Hope you’re feelin’ betta’!

  24. bhizzle Says:

    “Thanks for the maturity and thoughtful posts.

    Im gettin a chubber for MSG”

    maturity & chubber…..oxymoron? lol

  25. Birddog Says:

    Haha I’m 36 and tell people I have the maturity of three 12 year old boys. Despite appreciation of crude humor I would consider myself to be a thoughtful person.

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