After a small detour of 140 miles due to overshooting our exit a tad, we managed to wend our way to Townshend. We didn't get there until 3:00, terrified that we had already missed the first of what we knew were going to be three sets. But we were encouraged by the scene that greeted us.
A taste of things to come greeted all comers as we entered the parking lot; cars with Stealie hubcaps, tasty grilled consumables being grilled and consumed, T-shirts, T-shirts, T-shirts, and sack-hackers dotted the blazing, tangible sea of tie-dye and good cheer. Proceeding off through the woods, the human train of joyous aphishionados forded the mighty stream (mighty shallow, at any rate) that separated the parking area from the fields via a rickety, zig-zagging, wooden bridge that led, seemingly, right back into the woods. As one climbed the bank on the far side of the stream, up through the seaweed and the sli-i-ime, one emerged with astonishing suddenness into what truly had to be the center of the universe that day — the Townshend Family Park. This is no ordinary park, mind you, but a lush green bowl of trees and sunshine and water and vast plains of greenly stretching lawn with a well-secluded miniature-golf course hidden right in behind where the stage was located.
I had heard tell of rain all weekend, and that's what I expected. It rained everywhere else in the world on Sunday. The universe was gray…except for Townshend, VT, where the clouds parted and vanished altogether, leaving the undulating, sweaty, joyous crowd dancing, singing, and basking in the glorious heat of the day. All around on a plain of grassy wilderness were hundreds and hundreds of people doing all those things that people do when placed in a setting of ultimate perfection, just before the purpose for existing in that moment becomes fully clear.
And then it was all revealed to us. Over the next five hours, we were forcibly and wonderfully reminded exactly why it is that we follow Phish to the ends of the earth (or at least the ends of New England). They proceeded to play three of the most rip-snortin', kick-ass sets of music that I have ever heard anywhere. It was clear that the whole band was just as into the day and the weather and the scene as the crowd was, and everyone was grooving. The first set was played sans horns, as the guys started us off with a killer “Reba”. Again, without setlist in hand I can't recall much, except for learning the true meaning of the word "peaked" as “Divided Sky” took on whole new worlds of meaning for me. Trey had me taking pictures of the “Famous Mockingbird” as it swooped down to land on “Icculus'” shoulder on top of the mountain to our right, which had crumbled and exploded before us just moments before. The horns were hoppin' with their color-coordinated tuxes, personal trampolines, and shoe-dancing. The band was singing and swaying in the sunshine, Trey soaking up the heat and pouring it back out of his fingertips into the strings, Page riffing his way through massive solos in “Suzie” while basking in the shade, Fish did not one but two Henrietta appearances including the Doors' “Touch Me”. And even Mike was rocking out, in a relative, Mike kind of way. He was smiling a whole bunch. And to top it all off, they ended with a hip, hot, happenin' “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” that had everyone flailing and slamming.
Whoof. That's all I can say. While writing this, I have vicariously relived it yet again, and I loved every microsecond. The general consensus among those interviewed was that it truly was the best concert in the history of mankind. The day, the weather, the location, the crowd, and most of all Phish, made Sunday, July 14, a day that will never be forgotten for Phish fans anywhere. It's shows like this that make it all worthwhile.