Often times there has been a Phish show scheduled with a lot of hype around it. People look ahead to the show saying how the specific show or string of shows is going to be the show(s) of the tour, year and so on. People come up with their different reasons–end of the tour, first show back in the north east, a place Phish has not played in a long time, etc.
The fact of the matter is, Phish rarely hints at when they are going to play a bust out show (or string of shows). Last year’s 4 nights at Red Rocks, I think, certainly lived up to all the hype surrounding it. Phish knew that it was a huge deal they were playing there again. However, for Phish to come out of the ordinary for a bust out show, they not only need to know why the specific place is special to a lot of fans–they also need to be excited to be there themselves.
History has clearly shown that Phish doesn’t wait for there to be fan hype before they tear a venue down, only if the band is excited is the show going to be outstanding. Obvious examples would be The E Center in Utah on November 2nd 1998 where attendance was only half full and Phish played Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon along with a throw down of a show, Hershey Stadium in Pennsylvania on August 14th 1996, right before the Clifford Ball–fans overlooked this show, only thinking about getting to the Clifford Ball in NY. Phish ended up playing a stellar concert with stand out versions of Wilson, Reba, Stash, Runaway Jim, Tweezer and You Enjoy Myself, all with attendance only at half capacity. Or, how about The Bomb Factory in 1994
Only sometimes does the band’s excitement over a venue match the hype generated by fans. Phish was excited to play Red Rocks last year, along with the fans excited to see them there. Phish was excited to go back to the Gorge, fans were excited to see them there. Phish was excited to play in Florida for NYE 1999, fans were excited to be in warm weather and at a festival for a Phish NYE show finally. Almost all Hampton, Alpine Valley and Deer Creek shows are also examples of this.
One good example of where fan hype severely outweighed the band’s excitement over a concert was last year’s concert at the Fox Theater in St. Louis. Secondhand ticket prices shot through the roof for this small indoor stop on the summer tour. The first show after their stop at Bonnaroo and before the last 4 concert run of the early summer tour–lots of hype was behind it. The show wasn’t bad but certainly isn’t worth listening to again. Some people (including some I know) wasted a couple thousand dollars that night. They could have seen the last 4 shows of that tour for less than a quarter of that price and had a lot more fun.
Ok–so why is Telluride going to be one of those shows where fan hype is going to perfectly cross with band excitement? A number of reasons, we’ll start with the obvious–Phish has not been there in 19 years, and when Phish first went there in the 80’s Telluride helped launch their band nationally. When they got their gigs at The Moon and The Roma in 1988, it helped them finally break out of the northeastern scene where they had finally established themselves. After driving themselves across the country to play in Telluride, this location surely has a lot of memories for them. They also owe a lot of gratitude to this small city for allowing their totally off the wall weird and virtually nameless band outside of New England to play there. I have a feeling because of this important history between Telluride and Phish the band will play less new songs and more “classic” Phish songs, hopefully including a bust out or two. (Gamehendge? Ok, now I’m getting greedy–moving on)
Let’s say that Phish didn’t have this close and important history with Telluride, in fact let’s say that Phish has never played in Telluride before–there are still other reasons why these upcoming two nights must go down in Phishtory.
The location of Town Park is obviously another huge factor. Telluride, a town of just about 2,000 residents according to Wikipedia, is in the middle of the Rocky Mountains with only one way to enter with a normal car. The town sits in what is called a “box canyon”, surrounded by steep cliff walls and Bridal Veil Falls at the end of the town. Telluride is a solid 20 hour drive east of The Greek Theater, where Phish will be playing only two nights before Telluride’s shows. It is also 24 hours west of Deer Creek where Phish is playing only 2 nights after the end of the Telluride concerts. These concerts are in the middle of the summer, in the middle of the tour, in the middle of the country and in the middle of the Rockies.
Telluride is also know for it’s music culture, holding the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival and other concerts at Town Park all summer long–lots of jazz and rock acts.
Phish is also well aware of how hard it was for fans to get tickets (notice I wrote “was” and not “is” because tickets are pretty much gone at this point) to this two night party. This is why they limited tickets to only two passes per buyer and are did paperless ticketing for most of the public sale–making sure to cut down on scalpers trying to resell tickets like they always do for big Phish concerts (all NYE shows, Hampton 2009, Fox Theater, Red Rocks). Phish is going out of their way to make sure that only fans get these tickets and for as close to face value as they can. Phish knows that only the serious, responsive fans will get their hands on these special tickets–and they are willing to make multiple day drives to use them. When Phish knows that the fans in the crowd of a given show are responsive to what they are doing they almost never let down–which is why the northeast always seems to get the goods.
Along with Phish fans bending over backwards to make the jaunt to the middle of the Rockies, it was no cake walk for Phish, either. Phish obviously really wanted to book Town Park, otherwise they would not have went through the whole Telluride Town Council debacle, trying to get the green light to bring their traveling party to this quaint town. The city officials needed to think a few weeks if they should allow a crowd almost 5 times its population to settle there for 2-3 days.
So, picture it, Phish will be taking the stage just as the sun sets behind the mountains to the west of the stage. The crowd will be made up of only the most serious and knowledgeable of fans roaring as the band takes the stage. It will be a beautiful August night, with Phish happy knowing they put such a great evening together. As the night falls, Kuroda will come out, lighting the mountain sides, the fans and, of course, the band.
There is no way this is going to be anything short of spectacular. If it isn’t, I’ll be done with Phish.
I have never looked this forward to a Phish concert in my life–maybe aside from my first.
Wednesday, 08/14/1996 Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA
Monday, 11/02/1998 The “E” Center, West Valley City, UT