What are the ingredients to an excellent weekend? Take one road trip, a couple of friends, several thousand nomadic strangers, a cult band, and a break-taking venue in the desert, and bingo! You’ve got what Ashley, Angie I did for the last three days: a road trip to the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington to see Phish on their first tour since returning from hiatus.
Located in George, Washington (yes, you read that right), the Gorge Amphitheatre is positioned on cliffs above the Columbia River, presenting a spectacular view to concert attendees. When we arrived on Friday afternoon, it was beastly hot, a condition that continued through Saturday, which demanded the majority of our time was spent seeking shade and hydrating ourselves. But it was well worth it for two reasons: the northern lights, and Phish!
As the sun set on Friday night, the majority of people around us had their attention focused on the John Mayer/Counting Crows concert in the Gorge. We, however, noticed a slight greenish haze forming in the opposite direction that grew stronger until streaks of vertical curtains of light became visible once the sun has set completely. Given that Phish would be playing by itself the following evening, I suppose this experience counted as the opening act.
At the Phish concert the next evening, spirits were high and the weary Gorge campers were ready to have some fun. In a “Dead Poets Society” moment, someone in the audience discovered that the flour tortillas being sold by the concession were amazingly aerodynamic, especially in the presence of the wind blasting the amphitheatre from the ravine. Before the concert even began, tortilla UFOs streaked across the concert audience, sometimes making it almost the entire way across the amphitheatre in brave defiance of the laws of baking and gravity.
The concert itself was usual Phish fare, with numerous jams on songs old and new. It appeared that the band was a little out of practice at some points during the concert – though the cruised through some songs in perfect form, they seemed lost in others, wandering to a finish without really coming together. In particular, we noticed that Trey and Page seemed to stepping on each other’s toes a little when it came to solos. Weird.
The final song in the encore, the reprise of “Tweezer”, was really neat. All through the concert, people had been tossing around glow sticks and glow stick bracelets, having previously exhausted their stockpile of tortillas. As the song approached the finish, glow sticks were being thrown forward towards the stage, bouncing over the crowd with a life of their own. By the end, the mosh pit right in front of the stage looked like it was bubbling with glow sticks, as the song came to a close. A perfectly surreal finish to the concert.