, attached to 1999-07-23

Review by Anonymous

(Published in the second edition of The Phish Companion...)

Whoever designed the parking scheme for the Polaris Amphitheater must have had a few screws loose. I mean, there is only one lane for traffic to file into the parking lot. What happened at the countless Phish festivals that featured only one lane for the traffic to file into the venue? Cars were backed up for hours. Well, the same thing has happened at every Phish show at Polaris since the first show there in 1998. Due to this modern marvel of American ingenuity I missed almost the entire first set of this fantastic show. Well, some of it may be my fault as well.
My friends Matt, Mike, and Laura, along with myself got a room at the Ramada Inn Limited, about five minutes away from the venue. We arrived there after driving from the previous show at Star Lake Amphitheater in Burgettstown, PA. None of really felt like getting to the venue super early and just sitting around the parking lot. Besides, The Simpsons was coming on. The cartoon ended at about 6pm, and that's when we decided to go. We figured we were only five minutes away so we'd still get there pretty early.
We all piled into Matt's van and entered the highway that led to the venue. Almost immediately we came to a dead stop. Traffic was backed up from the venue's gate and stretched past two exits. The cars were literally at a stand still. Along the side of the highway cars were left abandoned, and kids were walking up and down the line of cars, mingling and trying to peddle their wares. Sure, we should have anticipated something like this, but still, I'd never seen anything like this in all the Phish shows I'd ever been to.
As it was we ended up sitting in traffic for about three and a half hours. We missed the first six songs of the first set including "NICU", "PYITE", and "FEFY". As we parked the van and began walking to the venue we could hear the opening of "David Bowie"; however, we were still too far away to really take it in. We finally got to some halfway decent spots on the lawn as "Bowie" finished and the piano lines of "Strange Design" began. This song had some nice dynamics and Page sounded wonderful as always. "Strange Design" came to a close and I prayed for Phish to really rock out the set closer. As I prayed for no "Chalk Dust"s or "Character Zero"s, the opening bounciness of "Possum" began and was met with many hoots and hollers. This version did not disappoint, and featured many wonderful guitar licks from Trey. It found itself to be quite an extended version.
As the band left the stage, I sat down and tried to convince myself that missing most of the first set wasn't a big deal. The harder I tried, the more my mind wouldn't accept it, so I gave up. That's when I took notice to the drastic weather change that had taken place. The beautiful summer day was darkening and huge storm clouds were moving over top of the venue. These were huge, dark storm clouds that filled the sky and covered the moon. The band took the stage once again and began the delay loop that started off "Ghost". This "Ghost" was off the hook and brought forth almost an hour of jamming. The band bobbed and weaved through thematic changes and peaks and valleys. During one climax, the crowd erupted into a frenzied glowstick war. As this was taking place you could see lightning forming in the storm clouds and it seemed like the band, the glow war, and the lightning were one.
"Ghost" found its way into an extended version of "Free" that featured Trey laying down some crunchy heavy metal chords and pumping his fist with fury. It seemed as though the lightning and now thunder were energizing the band. "Free" stumbled into a twenty five minute "Birds Of A Feather" that featured somewhat botched lyrics; however, just like the "Ghost" and "Free", "Birds" featured some intense jamming that drifted through many different themes and at one point found its way far from the actual "Birds" groove.
"Birds" ended the three song segue-fest, and was followed by the song of the tour: "Meatstick". The band worked its way through the lyrics before Trey stepped forward, bringing the band down behind him, making it obvious that he was going to speak. He began by telling the audience that the attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people doing the same dance, which took place at Camp Oswego earlier that tour, had failed. Apparently, Phish was in second place behind the Chicken. However, Trey announced they'd be trying it again at New Year's, which was set to take place in Florida. Trey explained that he felt the only way to get into the book was to teach the world the Meatstick. He then pulled two of the luckiest girls from the front row up on stage with the band together along with Trey and Mike, and proceeded to teach the audience the Meatstick.
After all the hoopla the band launched into the set-closing cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire". Trey delivered some authentic Jimi licks before the band brought the song to a close. As Phish headed off stage to discuss the encore, the weather began to take a turn for the worse. The clouds moved directly overhead and grew very large. The lighting was abundant and the thunder was loud. It was going to dump any minute now. The band returned and began a mediocre "Bouncing". As the song drizzled its way to a close, the heavens unleashed a fury. Buckets and buckets of driving rain fell upon us. The drops were huge, the size of nickels, and they were driving with such force that it was almost like being caught in a hailstorm. This rain hurt. With this, the band kicked into "Rocky Top" and the crowd danced the hardest they had all night in order to take their mind off the stinging rain. Naturally, as the song came to an end, the rain did as well, though leaving us drenched for the long walk back to the car.


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