It was the summer of 91 and my best friend Nate was spending the night at my house. We were staying up late into the night listening to music and talking about how much fun we were going to have at summer camp a few days from then. At one point Nate pulled out a tape that his older sister gave to him and said “you gotta listen to this band. They’re really weird. They play this song about cars and tires and jump on trampolines on stage and one of them plays a vacuum and they play all sorts of crazy music.” So Nate pops in the tape. The first thing I think is “WOW…this sounds like total shit.” I remember Nate telling me that it was a live show that someone recorded so it doesn’t sound too good. Looking back it was probably like a 10th generation tape. I don’t remember everything he played but I do remember him playing Contact for me and really liking it. The whole idea of songs lasting for 10 minutes and having all sorts of changes was totally new to me. I never heard anything like it…and I was intrigued. The next day we went into town (I grew up out in the boonies) to do some shopping for summer camp. Just so happens that there’s a record store in the plaza and Nate goes in and picks up Lawn Boy. I remember looking at the liner notes on the ride home and trying to figure out who the crazy cave man was holding the vacuum cleaner. I can’t tell you when we first listened to that tape, I’m sure it was later that day. What I can tell you is that during that week at summer camp we probably listened to that tape 1000 times. It never left the radio and we played it OVER and OVER. I clearly remember running down the path to the lake while blasting Antelope and just feeling SOO good. I was with my best friend, I was at an awesome summer camp and somehow I had a soundtrack to it all. This was the first time that music made me feel that way. Nate and I were the Antelopes and we were completely out of control.
Nate’s sister took him to The Riviera Theater on 5/8/92. He had so many stories to tell I could hardly believe that any of it was true. Phish seemed like the coolest band in the world after he told me all about the craziness that went on. I wish we would have gotten some more live shows from his sister but at the time we both agreed that they were simply too bad to listen to and what band plays songs live that aren’t on an album? We did manage to get our hands on Junta and somehow that kept us entertained until Darien Lake. As with everybody else at this age, this is the time that I was really getting into music and trying to figure out what I liked. Even though popular music generally sucks, I’d have to say that at this point in time it wasn’t all that bad. This was the grunge era so we had Pearl Jam, Sound Garden, Alice in Chains and Nirvana…who I got to see that November! I was also into all the classics… The Dead, Allman Brothers, Beatles, Zeppelin, Floyd etc, etc…all the classic high school bands. At the time I wasn’t a huge fan of the Dead but I did go to see them earlier in the summer at Rich Stadium on 6/13/93. This was my first BIG concert. I remember walking around the parking lot trying to find people that were listening to Phish. Only found two guys and they were quite a bit older than me so I didn’t say anything to them. It’s funny, at the time I thought that Phish was way better than the Dead and that there was some kind of war between Dead fans and Phish Fans. It was like you had to like one band or the other. I thought I was better than Dead fans even though I barely knew anything about Phish OR the Dead. Took me a long time to appreciate the Dead, guess I just got older and wiser.
SHOW DAY! There are a handful of very clear memories I have of this show, more that are kind of blurry and probably a few that by now are completely made up. At this point, my best friend Nate moved a “few towns over” so we were just going to try to meet up at the show later. I managed to get a few more friends into Phish at that point so there were four of us that got a ride to the show from my friends Dad. I remember how lame it was that we had to have my friends Dad drop us off considering that most of my friends had cars but there was nothing we could do about it. None of us had a way to get a car. A sister of one of the guys I went with was going to the show so were able to hang with her crew in the lot beforehand. I was just starting to get into polluting my mind with drugs and alcohol so we consumed just about everything we could get our hands on. We ate some pot brownies, smoked some pot, drank a few beers and split a bag of mushrooms between the four of use. Funny thing is, I didn’t really get that fucked up. The shrooms were either fake or spread too thin, the grass was not enough and horrible, the pot brownie was probably fake or again spread too thin between us and a two beer buzz lasts about 20min. I don’t think that anyone of us would admit that we weren’t fucked up though. It was probably for the best, who knows what would have happened to us if all that shit was as strong as we wanted it to be. So we wander around a bit and eventually start to make our way into the venue. Around this time the Darien Lake amphitheater was much smaller and a lot different looking than it does now. There was shelter over the stage but none over the seats in the front. There was still grass in the back but it was about half the size it is now, maybe even smaller than that. So we get in and head straight to the merch table. I think we ALL bought shirts and hats. Typical noobs. I still have my t-shirt and even wore it to the first 3.0 Darien show as a sort of anniversary for myself. I think that was the only time that I actually wore that shirt to the show. Anyway, we’re waiting in line and the band starts playing. All out panic ensues and we rush to get to our seats. We finally get up to the ticket people for the seats, my friends all get through and it turns out that I have a lawn ticket!!! I scream out my friend Pete’s name as he runs in. He turns around for a second and just kind of shrugs with a “I’m sorry” look on his face and disappears. So here I am, a little buzzed up, my first Phish show and I’m alone on the lawn. I found myself a good spot and enjoyed the first few songs as much as I could. While I’m standing there I hear someone scream out “BB!”…I know that voice, I turn around and there’s Nate standing there with a huge smile on his face. Fucking awesome. At that point I knew Lawn Boy and Junta and could you believe that they didn’t play ONE song off of Junta? Needless to say I was pretty lost the entire night. Also something to consider is the fact that the songs I actually did know didn’t sound anything like they did on the albums. I remember some older guys next to me that were clearly huge Phish fans dancing around, fist pumping, cheering and singing along to every song they played. I couldn’t believe they knew all these songs. The only other songs I knew that weren’t on Lawnboy were 2001, Purple Rain and La Grange. I wish I could remember what the hell I was thinking the entire night but I can look at that setlist and only imagine. I remember Nate and me laughing our asses off numerous times and looking at each other and shaking our heads in disbelief at how weird this was. After probably the weirdest hour of anything I’ve ever witnessed was about to end they start up Antelope. I don’t think we could have been any happier. We were once again transformed into antelopes out of control.
This was the start of it all. Who would have known how much time and money I would spend on this band over the next 19 years. I know that I would have found this band eventually but I’m so grateful that Nate’s sister got us into them so early. From this point on Phish was number one in my book. My friends that I went to the show with never got past the albums and if you asked them now they would probably say that Phish sucks. Nate and I caught a handful of shows together up through the end of 96, including the Clifford Ball where we both REALLY got “it” during the same set. He eventually moved up to Maine where I hit all the festivals up there with him and sometimes I can twist his arm to come down to SPAC or Great Woods. I honestly think I have him to thank for all of this, my first show buddy.