, attached to 1994-07-08

Review by EthanP

EthanP (Excerpts From: "Phish Tales, 1994-2000"), by Ethan Pavone

My First Show.....

.....we arrived at Great Woods about 7pm and the concert was scheduled to start at 7:30. It is important to mention that because back then Phish was still small enough, they actually could and did start on time (but the set breaks were always longer then when Trey claimed: ”we’ll be back in 15min.”)

So we parked the car and walked right up to the box office and purchased tickets, minutes before the show began. Again, Phish shows were full, but they never sold out. I believe we paid either $15 or $17 for each lawn seat ticket.

For those of you who don't know Great Woods once had, like some other music venues, a gorgeous lawn behind the pavilion seating.
It was sprawling plush and green. It was the general admission seating area of the show. Sure it was a little bit further back from the stage but it was it’s own experience sitting there on the lawn, for any show. Everyone sprawled out....
....It is also important to mention that lawn seating created it’s own environment. It created a level of intimacy and enjoyment with all the people sitting there, that cannot be found in assigned seating. It didn't feel like the cheap seats, or the back of the area. It felt like we were in the cool hangout area, where you can lay down on blankets, stretch out your legs and run around with plenty of room to dance. Of course at the time I had no idea about how important room for dancing was. I just went and those were where the tickets that were still for sale were.
.....It had only taken 10 minutes to buy tickets at the box office, but then it took us another 20 minutes running around the parking lot, trying to find somebody who was still outside to sell us acid. Finally we found a dude. Rob and I each took two hits of this “Jesus” acid:...
....we could hear the roar of the crowd and we knew the show was about to begin. With acid in our mouth and tickets in our hand we ran to the gate and walked in just as the concert was starting.

I'll never forget what I saw as we stepped onto the lawn. As we crested the top of the grassy lawn of Great Woods the band began to play: ferociously, drumbeat rumbling guitar howling, lyrics thundering: “Sunrise over the turquoise mountains messenger birds in sight they came up from the valley both sides at a time…” (“Llama.”)

The sun was an hour or so from setting but was still hanging tall and bright in the sky. It was very warm. Probably in the mid 90’s....
....the sight was breathtaking...
... It was beautiful and it was crazy....

.....The thick pungent sent of marijuana was everywhere. The crowd began to quiet down as Phish launched into their first song.....

....back then Phish still had these backdrops behind the band; they were painted by Fishman's mom. I remember it was a weird looking underwater paradise. The acid began to kick in, and as I felt the first twinges of the crazy fun rolling over me, I began to tune into the music. I had no idea at the time what I was about to experience.... ...but really nothing, Nothing in the world could prepare me for what was about to happen.
So began Phish’s voyage into Gamehendge. It was my first show: July 8, 1994, Mansfield Massachusetts Great Woods Center for the performing arts.
In retrospect it was a poetic, defining moment for me. This is a new world opening up and the beginning of an experience unlike I ever had, or would have; something that would become my life for the next several years....
.... I know I like to mythologize my first experience because of the Gamehendge, but I will always believe that it was something special for me to experience. And it was a game changer…

As the first song came whipping ferociously to a close, all I could think is: holy shit, this band rocks....
.... It was rock 'n roll in its best rawest most intelligent form. The first song ended the audience cheered and then all of a sudden the sound of drills began. What was going on I thought to myself. Why were their sounds of drills and weird feedback coming from the band? Why was the drummer playing a vacuum cleaner, and why was he wearing a dress!! He looked just like captain caveman with his woolly beard and long hair. Was it just the acid? Did anyone hear the drill noises? Was I at the dentist? What the fuck was going on??! Most of the audience seemed to know what was up, and they were all clearly out of their minds on drugs as well so I began to feel a bit less crazy.

Buzz, whiz, buzz, whiz buzz crack. The sounds of being in the dentist chair were beginning to drive me crazy, they seemed to go on forever, and just when I thought couldn't take it anymore, Trey began to speak:

"There's an old man sitting in the dentist chair……….."

And suddenly I was being dragged into this world… The story began to unfold of an old man sitting in the dentist chair, as the Dr. administered nitrous oxide and began to work on his teeth, Soon the old man began to drift off into a nitrous induced slumber…then he found himself in a corridor speaking to a strange old knight… the music began again: ”Passing through a corridor I came upon an aging Knight you leaned again the wall in aging armor…’”(Lizards)
And on like this it went. Between each song, Trey would expound deeper into the myth, the legend, and the secret stories of Gamehenge. “Tela” a warrior, “Wilson” the evil king of Gamehenge who had stolen the Helping Friendly Book. “ACDC Bag” the mechanical execution device. “Colonel Forbins Accent” the old man from the dentist chair seeking out the God known as Icculus. “The Famous Mocking Bird” a flying beast sent to help the rebellion. “The Sloth” one of Wilson’s evil minions. McGrupp and the watchful Houndmasters “a recapping of the saga of Gamehenge...
... between each song the continuing story became more apparent. The characters and their trials and tribulations began to take shape. This wasn’t a concert. This was an adventure into a phantasy land. The story ended on a sad note. The rebels did not win and battles were still to rage on. But then we went back in time....when all the people of Gamehendge lived peacefully together, and they would gather around to celebrate the Helping Friendly Book....
....Then Phish began to play the song of joy and celebration as the sun was finishing it’s day and night began to set. “Divided Sky”...

....The whole arena was glowing with joy. Up on the lawn everyone was spinning and beaming light. I remember the sun was setting as they began to play “Divided Sky”. I lit a cigarette watching the sun as it was setting and it could not of been a more perfect moment. Like being in the center of a tornado....

...Everyone was smiling and laughing having the time of their life. You could feel the energy from the band to the audience and between each other and back to the band. The song ended, and the audience went crazy. I was out of my head....
... I can say with confidence that I do believe that my first show; that final Gamehenge, was the phinest one they ever performed.

By the end of the first set I had taken off my socks and my shoes and began dancing crazily in the grass. The feel of the summer grass between my toes was wonderful. It brought me back to my childhood running on the lawn jumping through a sprinkler on a hot summer day.
I didn't know what was going on, I didn't know how to process what I just seen...
.... It felt as if the band was sending their “energy” into the audience and the audience was responding and sending it back....I have never seen before or since another band that seemed to be as connected to the feel of the audience. It was as if their mood and vibe was dictating what Phish was playing. And the audience in return was supporting and invigorating the band to reach their maximum potential....
As Divided Sky ended I heard Trey say, “thank you we’ll be back in 15 minutes....”

...You’ll be back. There’s more. That wasn’t the whole show? How the fuck is that possible. How can you go on? How can this be topped?...
... Who the hell takes a set break? What kind of a band wants to play a three-hour show?.....
....
The second set opened with Rift and then immediately jumped into Sample in a Jar....
...At some point in the second set it began to rain, although to be honest I was so messed up that night I cannot tell you exactly when it happened. As the rain dumbed down on us the great lawn got turned into a mud pit and we danced and slid and rolled around in the mud rejoicing..... I always wanted to dance in the mud to great music but I never thought it would happen....

....I do know that at some point Great Woods turned into a UFO and we took off into the cosmos. I remember the purple and green lights flashing out of the bottom of the “spaceship” as we headed towards the stars.....

....they began jamming “You Enjoy Myself” and they got up on trampolines and began to jump around in unison to the music, it was crazy. Suddenly they segued into another tune,... “Frankenstein.”
They ended the show with one of the only other Phish songs I knew at that time, “Golgi Apparatus.” I was singing along with the chorus: “I saw you with a ticket stub in your hand”... I was in total ecstasy.

...And as if it wasn’t enough, they came back to play two encores. ...'Nelly Kane" and “Cavern.” Although I had never heard the song before I clearly remember the last line of the song: “whatever you do take care of your shoes.”

It seemed like such a silly line. But shortly thereafter I learned how important that lesson would be, and it would be something I would carry with me through all my travels.
The show ended with almost manic applause for what seemed to be an endless amount of time. But as the lights came back on a silence flooded the crowd. As if the exhaustion from this musical “decathlon” had begun to take its toll on the audience. People so emotionally, physically and psychologically drained that no one could speak. There was an almost eerie silence for a good 10 minutes as people began to hug each other and wonder out of Great Woods.....
...I could not move. It felt like I had just left some sort of religious experience. I just sat there smoking a cigarette.

...Several minutes later the blood began to return to my body and the shiver left, as the warmth of the beautiful summer night air returned, lightly drying my rain and sweat soaked body. I was covered in mud, but I didn’t care....

Lighting another cigarette I pulled myself up from the lawn. I was one of maybe 50 people still mulling around....

....The show was over. I was still in a complete daze. And then I realized my shoes were gone. Like a laughing omen, I heard the voice of Phish in my head, “whatever you do take care of your shoes.” I wandered out of the venue shoeless, bare feet stepping over trampled grass, broken bottles, extinguished cigarettes. At this point my feet were soft and weak they had not experienced walking on rough terrain without shoes. This would all change in the future but I did not know that at the time.
For about 20 minutes I could not speak...It was the awe of what had just taken place. “Whatever you do take care of your shoes, whatever you do take care of your shoes” continued to roll through my head as a looked down at my bare feet, as I walked along the pebble laden parking lot.

....As I was trying to process what I had just seen I was confronted with a whole new issue. Phish lot. It was like a carnival. Outside people were dancing, playing music,...I wandered around listening to the chatter from all the people in the lot:....
...“Ice-cold beer, get your ice cold beer, one of the phish kids yelled.” I bought two.

....Wandering around sipping the ice-cold beer seemed to refill my body with nourishment and liquids I desperately needed. In the distance I could see fireworks being set off. ” After a couple of hours the police finally made everybody leave the Great Wood’s parking lot. The carnival had ended and everyone begrudgingly got in their vehicles and began to drive off.....


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