As summer tour rumors and sets of fake dates continue to swirl around cyberspace, let’s look at a few venues that, in my opinion, Phish should and should not return to thru the lens of the dancing fan’s experience.
Let’s Go Back!…
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Alpharetta, GA
This smaller amphitheater, new to the Phish circuit last year, replaced Lakewood as the hot spot in—or in this case—outside Atlanta. With a massive. seat-less, GA “floor,” Verizon Wireless provided ample dance space and flat ground, two things that are always at a premium on summer tour. Though the security could have managed the the over-crowding of the floor more effectively, everyone still found their spot for the July 4th stand last year. Removed from Lakewood’s seedy environs and placed in suburbia with all hotels and restaurants within miles of the venue, Alpharetta is the perfect place for Phish fans to take over for another weekend. And rumor has it that we will return come June.
nTelos Pavilion, Portsmouth, VA
Set up with a large cement dance floor in front of the stage, much like Alpharetta, Portsmouth’s intimate 6,500-person nTelos Pavilion one ups its southern counterpart with a total GA policy. Set right on the water in southeastern Virginia, the freedom to roam this undersized venue provided wonderful respite from the yellow-clad, security guards who plague summer tour.
Hershey Park Stadium, Hershey, PA
Overhauled with a bumping sound system and rubberized dance floor since Phish’s last visit in 2000, Hershey Park—once scorned by fans— provided, arguably, the best concert-experience of 2010. With a total GA policy and ample room for groups of twenty or more to throw down together in prime real estate, dance pits popped up all over. The powerful, open-air sound and endless personal space make Hershey high on any list of venues Phish should play again.
Venues That Should Jump Off Tour:
Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
Despite the fact that Merriweather Post is a historic venue that Phish tears apart, it is at the bottom of the barrel in terms of fan-experience. The lower pavilion is patrolled by teen-aged girls who are backed by inner city bouncers, ready to kick people out of the pavilion (or the show) as if they have a quota to fulfill. Treating their paying customers with utmost disrespect, the security staff at the venue should, honestly, all be fired. A venue where crossing a painted lines is cause for banishment or ejection, there is barely room for enjoyment at Merriweather. The side sections of the pavilion are removed visually and acoustically from the stage, and the lawn may as well be in another county. If I had to pick my least favorite venue on summer tour, Merriweather would take home the first, second, and third place trophies. There is not a single part of the Merriweather experience I find enjoyable, and the staff is there to ensure it stays that way. If I had one tour-based request to be granted by Red Light, it would definitely be to get Phish (the #&@!) out of Merriweather forever.
Jones Beach Amphitheatre, Wantagh, NY
After a fourteen-year absence from the Long Island venue on the water, Phish has played a two multi-night stands at Jones Beach this era, totalling five shows. But if they care about their fans’ experiences, they should not return. Run more strictly than a military academy, anyone in the lower pavilion is another zone where one is reprimanded if they cross painted lines, and are implored—sometimes physically—to get back in their row. Moving into the stadium seating, the audience becomes so far removed from the band once in the second deck, I can only imagine the ants on stage from the upper deck perspective. With no space anywhere in the venue, fans are forced to stand side by side while watching music meant to move your body. When leaving Jones Beach ’09’s three-night stand, it felt like being freed from a cage and let out to prowl on summer tour. There are plenty of locales for Phish to play in the New York metro area, so let’s leave this one behind.
The Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA
Though Phish played some of their most impressive shows of the year at this Bay Area icon, the experience, itself, was far from ideal. With a total GA policy, very few fans went to the steep lawn that is hardly in the concert, causing an incredibly overcrowded situation in the free-for all amphitheatre. Thankfully, The Greek has the best acoustics on the planet, because any real dancing was all but impossible. As people flooded the venue in the early afternoon to hold down space, it created an unnecessarily annoying situation. A beautiful place to visit, I see no need for Phish return to a venue in which people are packed together like sardines and any official attempts to ameliorate the situation are non-existent. With proper strategy and aggressive territoriality, one can make The Greek happen to some extent, but for those of us who need more than a square foot of room, it just doesn’t cut it. The next time Phish visits the Bay Area, they should finally get with the program and play a stand at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, formerly named Oakland-Alameda Coliseum when it was the stomping ground of The Grateful Dead.
Jam of the Day:
“Reba” 10.18.94 I
A re-post of a classic version.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
11.26.1994 Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
This beast from Fall ’94 boasts, likely, my favorite “Bowie” of all-time and “Slave” made famous by A Live One. A classic night through and through, this show goes out via reader request to Dan A! Enjoy this one of a kind adventure.
I: My Friend, My Friend, Possum, Guyute, If I Could, Foam, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Poor Heart, Cavern
II: Halley’s Comet > David Bowie, Sweet Adeline, The Lizards, Sample in a Jar, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Rocky Top
Source: DAUD/OTS AKG SE 10’s > Marantz PMD-700@48kHz