This is not a music review. If you’re looking for a song-by-song breakdown, I will refer you to the excellent work on this very site by Guy Forget and Aaron Hawley. This is not a review at all. This is a thank you letter. Trey had his list at the end of the final set and I have mine. Some of them overlap, but many do not.
Let’s start with the man who made it all happen: Thank you Watkin’s Glen president Michael Printup. I’ll admit, I haven’t always been a fan. Your desperate publicity whoring and smarmy twitter picture made you seem like some sort of forgotten David Mamet character (with a far worse command of the English language). Some of us were worried that you might crash your own party for publicity purposes, perhaps while driving around the festival grounds in a car shaped like your giant head, a’la Eddie Murphey. Thankfully you did not. We appreciate it.
Thank you Lars Fisk and all the artists who designed the festival, especially the ones responsible for the human hamster wheel. You provided hours of entertainment. The only thing more fun than looking like a complete idiot on a hamster wheel is watching other, even more intoxicated people, look like idiots on a hamster wheel. Whoever conceptualized this is an artistic genius and should be given millions of dollars or, at the very least, a merit badge.
Thank you all the people who beat me in the 101st Memorial Runaway Jim 5k. These people include, but are not nearly limited to: A naked guy, a man in a Vegi-Tales outfit, a man carrying a large boombox on his shoulder, a four-year old, a baby, a mother pushing said baby in a stroller, a guy smoking a cigar and a whole bunch of fat guys. It’s not often that comparing myself to other Phish fans motivates me to get in better shape.
Thank you anyone who sprayed me with a water gun. You not only cooled me down, you also had the courtesy to not dose rape me with liquid acid while doing so. Thanks a lot, bro.
Thank you bathroom attendants. Before the first set began, my girlfriend said “If the music is anywhere as good as the toilets, we are in luck”. The jury is still out on that one. You were even better at your jobs than the hamster people. I’m awarding you two merit badges.
Thank you to our neighbors in the SUV with the DMB bumper sticker blasting your favorite live versions of Heavy Things and Sample all hours of the night. Every good story needs a villain and you provided ours. I hope your crocheted tie die frisbee got stuck in your wheel joints on the way home and all that’s left of your crew is a smoldering Under the Table and Dreaming CD insert. You suck.
Thank you What Cheer? Brigade. You guys fucking rocked. Your Ferris Wheel mini-set greeted us when we entered the festival grounds and set the mood for the whole weekend. Your other sets after the shows, when you let fans circle around and mix right in with you without any security, were fantastic. Everyone was hoping you would play with Phish, yet no one was disappointed when you didn’t. That’s not a knock on you, it just shows how amazing of a weekend it was.
Thank you to the fans watching the Runaway 5k and making wisecracks, some of which were genuinely hilarious. I’d like to offer a particularly special merit badge to the guys that kept yelling “Hurry up, your baby is beating you!” to the stroller-pushing mom referenced above.
Thank you to the fans in general. I never felt better about Phish nation. It was the best combination of old and new energies, each equally enthusiastic. There were less annoying signs and incessant talkers than I’ve seen in a while (aside from the gent in the “Molly is a Slut” shirt that kept wanting to show me a picture of his friend’s languedoc and seemed genuinely perplexed when I chose to concentrate on the ASIHTOS jam instead of him). Most people were tapped into the music, thrilled to be there and generous to those around them. Even before the secret set, when people were antsy and easily could have gotten out of control, everyone was chill. Maybe getting older isn’t such a bad thing.
Thank you Phish. Your attention to detail, on every level, is inspiring. Musically and otherwise, the festival embodied that mixture of meticulous craftsmanship, risk-taking, spontaneity and humor that you embody so well. There was a prevalent feeling that anything could truly happen at anytime, whether on stage or off. In this era of blogging/tweeting/streaming fans, that is a very difficult thing to accomplish. Thank you for caring enough to keep us guessing.
Finally, thank you real world. If we didn’t have you hanging over us all the time, we would never appreciate how amazing it feels to get away from you. You’re what drives us to these shows and festivals and what makes us enjoy each and every moment when we’re there. And then, when we return home to you, we somehow appreciate what you have to offer even more. That is, until the Leg II rolls around.