By Jim Stanford on October 30, 2009
I’m on the road again, this time fleeing snow for the desert. After a few days of mountain biking around St. George, Utah, I’m headed to Indio, Calif., and Phish‘s Festival 8 for Halloween.
Tens of thousands of hippie gypsies are expected to converge on Indio, site of the Coachella music fest, for the weekend’s musical trick-or-treating.
For Phish Heads, this is the ultimate: eight sets over three days by a reunited and revitalized Phish. The festival grounds have been transformed into a playground with lighted palms and art installations. There is a farmers’ market on site, and Sierra Nevada has brewed a special beer for the weekend: Foam.
I feel like I’m headed to Woodstock, only much better equipped.
The journey is at once a celebration of the present and a step back in time.
I first caught Phish in 1991, when as a college student I was thrown out of the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, N.C., for being underage with a beer. (I snuck back in for the “Good Times, Bad Times” encore). A string of memorable shows followed: Jones Beach ’92, Winston-Salem ’94, Jazz Fest ’96 (which inspired my very first article for the Jackson Hole News).
In 1993, I was fired from KMTN radio for playing Phish’s “Cavern” on the air, a story I recounted for drummer Jon Fishman at the Stagecoach Bar in 2003 when the band stopped in Jackson. (His response: “I’d have fired you, too, for playing that song.”) I later took Fish, keyboardist Page McConnell and then-manager Brad Sands rafting down the Snake River Canyon.
But I’ve never been to a festival, and haven’t even seen a concert since 2003. Phish usually holds these extravaganzas in northern Maine or Vermont at the height of summer. Finally, the fest has come West.
The Halloween show will feature Phish donning a “costume” by covering an album in its entirety, a tradition from past years. The audience has been kept in suspense; while “Thriller” was rumored to be the pick, only a handful of albums are still in the running on the band’s Web site, including “Exile on Main Street,” one of my all-time favorites.
Sometimes a Phish show is just a rock concert. Others have been life-changing events. The music has fueled me through countless late-night road trips, journalism deadlines and outdoor adventures. I aspire to live life the way they play music. (Cue “First Tube.”)
I’ll be posting stories periodically throughout the weekend. But if the Foam keeps getting thicker, it will just keep … getting harder …
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