Since Dave Calarco, a.k.a. Mr. Miner, author of Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts: An Anthology By a Fan for the Fans and Phish Thoughts blogger, has seen and reviewed nearly every Phish show since the band returned to action three years ago, we asked him to share his take on the venues the quartet will hit on their summer tour. While our look at the venues focused on the history of Phish’s appearances, his piece contains tips of how to make the most of your Phish experience in each room.
Words: Mr. Miner
With this summer’s Phish dates just announced, the excitement in the fan community has skyrocketed, as everyone has begun to plot and scheme their own summer plans. On the heels of a triumphant year of game-changing music for this era, 2012 is filled with anticipation to see what is next for the band. Will they delve deeper into abstract jamming—a hallmark of 2011—or will they veer off that road? All that remains to be seen, but the one thing we know for sure is where the shows of the first leg will take place. Aside from Bader Field, this tour is comprised of venues that hold a significant amount of Phish lore. But let’s forget about the band for a moment, and take a look at the places where the magic will happen. Below are some tips from personal experience that might enhance your enjoyment at each stop along the way.
DCU Center, Worcester, MA
Phish will kick off this summer indoors in a building they have visited more than a few times. A staple of northeast runs during the late ‘90s, Phish returned to “The Centrum” for first time this era in December 2010, and the venue had changed for the better. Instead of a floor jam packed with seats, the arena had decided to implement a GA policy—the staple of an intimate-feeling indoor show. These upcoming shows have the feeling of something big, as the band will return to a classic indoor arena on the heels of a meh-tastic New Year’s Run with a pattern of blowing out the beginning of tours this era. If I had to choose two shows to go to in on this tour, these would be the two. Though many fans have lamented indoor shows in the summer time, I find the prospect incredibly inviting.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Manchester, TN
For festival-goers attending only for Phish, Bonnaroo is a clusterfuck and that’s the bottom line. Depending on your age and place in your show-going life, you will either be enamored by the constant goings on and waves of people, or you will be completely turned off by the very same things. There’s not a hell of a lot of middle ground. Though once the band starts to play and the people who want to see them are gathered in front of the festival’s main stage, it really turns into a festival-sized Phish show with speaker towers and plenty of dance space for everyone and their moms. If you want to deal with the surrounding hassle, the band may expound upon their usually glossy festival slots—the ’09 shows were quite good—but they also might not. With only one show this year, the trek seems a bit arduous following two nights in Worcester and three in AC the following weekend. I wonder how many more people than Antelope Greg will find their way from Worcester to Manchester for the single performance? But if you’re going for other music as well, embrace the madness and have a blast!
Bader Field, Atlantic City, NJ
This set up will new to the Phish crowd, but it seems like it carries a festival feel minus the creative concept and art installations. From what I can tell, there is huge GA field that can fit 60,000 people, and there will be the necessary concessions. However anything beyond this will be a discovery for you and me.
nTelos Wireless Pavilion, Portsmouth, VA
Although this tiny venue’s full GA policy allows fans to go wherever they’d like in the pavilion or on the lawn, once showtime nears, there will be very little room left to navigate the floor or the seats in the pavilion. In order to be where you want to be, get to this show early or you’ll be uttering a lot of “excuse me’s” as you work your way further and further from the stage. The small lawn must open up to some extent due to the amount of people that cram into the pavilion. nTelos, situated right by the water, is dramatically smaller than all other venues on this run, and you will get to know your neighbors quite well—like it or not.