It was June 6th, 1996. I woke up just like on any other day, but before the day was over I'd have experienced a stealth Phish show that would indeed change the course of things to come for me.
I got a call at around 6 p.m., that a friend was on the Phish Bowl back in the Grateful Dead Forum on Prodigy, and got a flash from someone in the band that they'd be playing a secret show that night. I called my buddy, skipped a girlfriend’s high school graduation, and got on the road with nothing but a milk gallon container to piss in and a few tabs of blotter.
We had to rush. By the time we got on the road it was almost 7:00 and we had over two hours to travel from Hartford, CT to get to the Bearsville area.
When we finally got to the bar, we saw a line outside the front that was easily 40 deep. Since I was19 at the time, with no fake ID, my heart pretty much broke as I realized that I was "this close" and now would have to just hope that no one would boot me from the parking lot so I could at least hear the music. That's when I saw some kid climb about twelve feet up and over the balcony that formed the outside sitting area outside the bar. And that’s what I did, too. I snuck in the side door just as the notes of “Split Open and Melt” echoed through the bar.
Trey was wearing a Boston Bruins black T-shirt, and Page and Jon were sunken in the floor on either side of he and Gordon. I didn’t dare buy a beer at the bar; I wasn't getting kicked out for sure. The place was packed with an assortment of old school Phish fans, locals, and those of us that were lucky enough to get in to see our favorite musicians tear it up.
“Funky Bitch”, “BBFCFM”, and the “Scent of a Mule” from Set I were awesome. I still have Trey's Rolling Rock bottle that he used as a slide during the “Mule”... we were that close. “YEM” in the second set was particularly good; other musical highlights were “Bowie”, “Stash”, and two debuts: “Character Zero”, which ended abruptly because "we don't know the end yet" (Trey), and “Waste”.
After the show, the crowd poured out into the gravel lot, and who did we end up talking with but Mike Gordon, for fifteen minutes or so. He talked a lot about the soon-to-be-launched Phish.com, their plans for Europe, and music in general. What a great guy Mike was that night, he was so thankful for us all coming to their little secret show, and assured the summer tour to follow wouldn't suck. I ended up only hitting Hershey and the Clifford Ball, but I thought about this after: I bookended the summer with Phish's smallest show in years to start, and their biggest ever to end.
God, I love this band.