Seven Years Later: Itchin’ For a Radio City Ghost

Living in Evanston, Illinois at the time, I had to choose between two trip options in the fifth month of the new millenium. I could hit the 126th running of the Kentucky Derby with all of my college friends and witness the depressingly awesome infeld debauchery, or I could wait two weeks and return to my home state for the popular rock band Phish’s highly anticipated Radio City Music Hall run.


I chose the former and left for Louisville in an extended highway caravan. The trip turned out to be grueling, gruesome, and part of me wanted to fly home for Radio City anyway, just to wash out the taste of grain alcohol and Kentucky. But when I got back to my room after our long trip home, the well-tacked Grateful Dead at Radio City poster that adorned our walls had fallen down onto the floor, the tape inexplicably losing grip for the first time ever. Like Jules Winfield, I took it as a sign from the gods and gave up on thoughts of heading home.

And every time I hear the Ghost from the 5/22/00 show, I cringe at my amateur decision-making skills. I mean, the Derby was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and I’ll never shake some of those infield images for as long as I live (in a good way). But that multi-faceted, multi-sectioned Ghost shows you everything The Phish are capable of, an improvisational wet dream for fans, with all four band members going off on their own tangents while weaving a jam for the ages.

This is one of those jams that can better be explained with phrases like “Holy fucking shitballs, man” or “Damn, brah, you fuckin’ hear…? Wow, what just happened?” than anything the smartest rock critic can put together. It’s jams like these that mesmerize an entire audience, and sometimes you can only laugh at the dead silence of thousands of like-minded folks whose brains are experiencing the same thoughts at the same time. And therein lies the beauty of Phish, and that’s why we make no apologies for our unconditional love of this foursome, and that’s why, on the seven-year anniversary of this show and this jam, you’re subjected to long-winded bloviation by a guy who wasn’t even there.

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5 Responses

  1. Your post was like Joni Mitchell writing the song Woodstock after having missed the actual festival and putting the lyrics on paper, mystified at her mistake. It may have been a poor decision at the time…but look what good came of it. We could reminisce together 7 years later.

    Kentucky Derby (you) = Dick Cavett Show (Joni)

    No doubt you definitely chose poorly though, my friend.

    Shamless Plug:

  2. Ha, thanks…I think. Ya know, I really don’t think I made the wrong call, even if I said differently. As great as those shows woulda been, that trip to the Derby was unmistakably unmissable — click on that link “left for Lousiville” and read about the ridiculousness of that day. Craisins.

  3. I’m glad to hear that. I have no doubt what may look like a botched decision on paper (and to a former devout Phish phan like myself) would be an obvious right move through your experiences on your end. As someone from Baltimore who has never experienced the Preakness, I certainly don’t have the basis for judgement (Although I do know Preakness is certainly a “poor mans” Kentucky Derby).

    BTWM I also had the Dead’s Radio City poster on my wall in college. Damn thing would never stay on.

  4. elevation is the word that comes to mind when I relisten to this version. I was stunned after it happened and stunned now.

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