Last week saw a leaked date, and the resounding opinion is that there could be tour dates as early as today, or as late as next week. Here are ten reasons why I can’t wait for summer tour….
1. The first sets. I know some people aren’t fond of it, but I like the requisite daylight set. I’ll admit it’s not as raging as arena shows when you’ve got the lights in your eyes from note one, but I’d also argue it doesn’t need to be. A big part of summertime is spending your time outside. The first set sometimes has the vibe of a backyard barbecue, I applaud it. Besides, what better time to hear a Ya Mar, a Mellow Mood or Ocelot?
2. A home field advantage. Star Lake Ampitheater, now First Niagara Pavilion, in Burgettstown, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh, is my “hometown” venue. I’m from an hour south, in the West Virginia hills, but many youthful roadtrips have ended up in the parking lots outside Star Lake. Left off of the tour docket last summer, western PA has always been a staple of the Phish repertoire and I’m hoping the band makes a stop there again this year. While the Penguins’ brand new arena may make Pittsburgh a more attractive winter tour stop, I don’t see why they should skip Star Lake. The Deer Creek > Star Lake > Watkins Glen rumor gets me really, really excited. There’s nothing better than a venue you know like the back of your hand, and I hope a return trip this summer follows on the heels of the epically Phishy shows in ’03 and ’09.
3. The heat. The windows down, the music up, the road to the next show. Nighttime doesn’t get cold, and you can rage as long as you want pre or post show. Sure, that summer heat breaks into a few massive thunderstorms, and I’ve spent more than one show on the lawn in a downpour. That’s no fun, but it does add to the excitement of things. The inclement weather on fall tour makes those shows fun in spite of the weather. Summer tour is great because of the weather. There’s nothing I’d rather do than listen to music, and there’s no where I’d rather do it that outside.
4. The Creek. I’ve seen more shows at Deer Creek than anywhere else, 2009’s one-off being the only one I’ve missed since my first trip in ’98. Nothing says “Phish” to me more than my annual vacation to the cornfields of Indiana. I’ve stayed in all sorts of campgrounds big and small, and loved them all. While Phish’s post-Cypress festivals have had a slew of issues, the real summer “festival” is at Deer Creek. Sure, it’s a shed like any other, but the close camping and local Midwestern hospitality make it feel like you’re all in it together. The easy walkability of it all just makes it even better.
5. Eating crab at Merriweather Post. Merriweather is the only other venue besides Deer Creek and Star Lake that I feel any particular affinity for. It’s got bad sightlines, an armored police presence in the parking lot, and terrible sound on the lawn. That said, despite all its flaws, it’s got my people. Doing four years of schooling at University of Maryland means that the one and only time I can guarantee the whole college tour crew back in one place is when Phish is at the Post. Last year’s Saw It Again-fest was the best show I’d seen since the breakup… until I went to Atlantic City. Either way, if the band announces a date, you’ll find me in Columbia, Maryland trying to keep my nose clean.
6. The new tunes. Phish’s comeback brought a great batch of new songs, the bulk of which comprise Joy and Party Time. Many of those tunes have found their place in the band’s rotation, some have turned into jam vehicles, and some force phans to the bathroom in droves. Either way, the Joy songs have established themselves. A few other tunes, like Burn That Bridge, are trickling out, but I’m hoping the summer sees another big block of new material added to the setlists.
7. Mike’s Song. I mean, c’mon. I’ve seen ten shows since the comeback and still no Mike’s Song. It’s got to be happening for me, right? I feel like I’m seeing Stealing Time and Harry Hood at every show. Give me Mike’s Groove! I’m banking on the summer holding that for me. I really, really want it, but the great thing about Phish is that, in the heat of the moment, they can play anything they damn well please and I’m alright with it. A Mike’s Song would really make me feel better about that statement.
8. An east coast festival. I’ll be honest, I haven’t had the best luck with Phish festivals. Big Cypress was magical, but my luck after that has been not so good. I thought It was a logistical disaster and, despite some fun playing by the band and some cool trip toys built into the experience, I left and said I’d never go back to a Phish fest. Of course, I had to go to Coventry, and we all know how that turned out. With the Watkins Glen rumor seeming to have legs, I look forward to another chance at an on-site chance to rage in one place for a whole weekend.
9. At the end of the day, this is what Phish is all about. I’ve been blessed to see Phish in a lot of unique places, and they’ve all been fun. At the end of the day though, the bulk of my experience is loading up for a week or so in the summer and hitting the road while the weather’s warm. That’s what Phish is to me. If I had to give up seeing Phish at all other times of year, I could do it. There’s nothing that tops listening to great music in the great outdoors. In my book, Phish tour IS summer tour, and I’m ready to get on with it!
10. Because summer’s coming and I wanna review. This whole Phish blog column thing will work better when the offseason’s over, lest I find myself doing too many more top ten lists. I’m looking forward to writing about Phish as it happens. I’m going to catch Trey and TAB this weekend, and I’ll have a review in this column’s place next Tuesday. Now announce some tour dates already! I really just can’t take the suspense any more.