Champlain Valley Expo Center, Essex Junction, VT
Shit man, I started a new gig last week and never had time to review this show the way I wanted, but here's the gist. 2 weeks ago, Phish played their first show in Vermont since that wretched Coventry disaster back in 2004. The concert was pulled together as a benefit for Vermont Flood Disaster Relief, after that cunt, Hurricane Irene, came through, causing flash floods that destroyed anything in the vicinity of a river, brook, or creek- including roads, bridges, houses, farmland, businesses, downtowns, yards, etc.. Towns became islands and people’s lives were washed away in a matter of minutes. Vermont’s microclimates are not meant for Tropical Storms. It’s a FACT.
The Champlain Valley Exposition Center is a smallish venue (the VT State Fair is held there) with a 12k capacity, so I didn't think I'd actually score lotto tickets for this, but I freakin’ did, so I was all, "Ohh, poor me, I gotta drive to Burlington on Wednesday and hang out with my friends to do charity work! TOTES WAAAH!"
There was a ton of traffic and lots of happy people heading into to the Expo, where I almost nearly saw Def Leppard play in 98 or 99 during my UVM days, but no one would go with me for that cuz, 1) no one gave a shit- Def Leppard in VT in the late 90's?? and 2) then it started raining and I was like, "they aren't gonna beat that show in Jersey I saw when I was 13 when Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora came out to ‘jam’ on Wanted Dead or Alive, so I'll just go get drunk at VPB instead.” Which I most certainly did, yes.
But this is a Phish review. The vibe for miles around the Expo was love and chill. It was a total clusterphuck trying to get into the venue, but everyone was so psyched for the last minute show, it didn’t matter. From the line, we listened to Governor Shumlin and Mike Gordon talk about the massive destruction that Hurricane Irene caused in the wonderful state of Vermont, how people have pulled together for strength, and then they thanked us all for coming. MY PLEASURE.
I had already run into a handful of friends in the lot, but upon entering, I ran into even more. The place was packed with my VT running crew and it was just flat out fantastic to see such an intimate Phish show with all of ‘em. While the field was crowded, I had no desire to push forward to get to the stage, cuz I was totally content hanging with my peeps wherever we landed. Shit yeah.
Some folks were picking apart the setlist, but it wasn’t really a concern of mine. Many expected full on Gamehenge. Realistically, I saw this show as an addition to the Summer Tour. I prepared myself for hearing YEM, Prince Caspian, and Free, but if I had to suffer through those this time around, at least it’d be for a good cause. They played none of these things-- of course there’s always that damn Rock and Roll to contend with, but whatever. It wasn’t about the setlist.
Which brings me to the main point of this review: no, this wasn't the greatest Phish show of all time, but the crazy love and energy in the air made it into a fucking amazing and magical night IN Vermont, FOR Vermont. A hometown gig for a great cause. You can’t get more genuine than that. The practically-Full-Moon and gigantic glowing Jupiter hovering above only added to that magic. Gorgeous.
HIGHLIGHTS: Funky Bitch, Cavern, Bathtub Gin, Alaska, Wolfman’s -> Julius. Carini -> Down with Disease was TOTALLY SICK AND AWESOME. Sweet baby Cheesus, I love Carini!!! Made all the more dark by Chris Kuroda, who is a fucking Evil Genius. Theme From the Bottom was stellar, and Loving Cup just topped it all off with a frothy foam of good vibes (the foam is the best part!).
They chose songs with appropriate themes: VT (“a picture of Nectar”), water (the crowd offered a more spirited than usual “and we love to take a bath!”), and/or hurricane related lyrics (“It’s like a cross between a Hurricane, and a ship that’s run aground.”), and every time they hit one of these points, a wave of excitement and goosebumps ran through the audience. There was absolutely no mistaking the love and energy that combined to make this night so special. My one complaint was that the ice cream stand didn’t have any sprinkles. WHAT THE SHIT, EXPO??? Don’t make me ask for Jimmies! I WILL NEVER ASK FOR JIMMIES.
A quick visit to the merch booth for an adorable Phish VT Flood Relief t-shirt and hoodie (the logo featured a classic pair of rubber boots) made this some of the easiest charity work I’ve ever done. All proceeds, including merch, and webcast-streams, raised over $1.2 Million for VT Flood Relief. Not to mention all the money pumped into the local economy by thousands of VT’ers and out-of-Staters from as far away as Colorado & California (hotels and restaurants were packed!). Additionally, the Police stated that the Phish fans were the most pleasant crowd they’ve ever had to deal with, so-- way to keep the good vibes flowing in the community, hippies! Hopefully we’ll be welcomed back with open arms!
Thursday late-morning/early-afternoon was the icing on the cake, as I had a wonderful Sneakers brunch, complete with old friends, new friends, and a delicious Bloody Mary. My drive home later that day featured a patented Western VT Sunset Over the Adirondacks- my favorite kind. What a fucking fantastic last-minute trip!
Thanks again to hippie bands like Phish for making grueling charity work not only enjoyable, but also completely accessible. Loads of love to my home-away-from-home, Vermont. I hope the land, people, and infrastructure recover sooner rather than later! See you this Winter! Let's hope for snow next time around! Phish, 9/14/11, A Benefit for VT Flood Recovery: 10 HUZZAHS!!!
TO DONATE to VT Flood Relief via the Waterwheel Foundation: http://phish.com/#/waterwheel
Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, The Moma Dance > NICU, Funky Bitch, Sample in a Jar, Cavern, Bathtub Gin, Alaska > Possum, Wolfman's Brother > Julius
Set 2: Carini > Down with Disease > Slave to the Traffic Light > Rock and Roll > Twist > Backwards Down the Number Line, Theme From the Bottom > Suzy Greenberg > Character Zero
Encore: Loving Cup
DAVE VANN’S OFFICIAL AWESOME PHISHY PICS