This was definitely the show that hooked me for life. It is now known as the “GameHoist” show, for obvious reasons. I won't go into much of a performance review besides saying they rocked and the setlists speak for themselves. Of course, the music is what brought me there, but the main reason this show had such a big impact on me was the circumstances surrounding it.
I had just gotten back from studying and traveling for a semester in Florence (Firenze), Italy. I went with my buddy Dogger, and as we departed I gave him a little crap for bringing twenty Phish tapes along. Though I had seen the boys three times already, I was not a huge fan yet — still sticking to my Jerry-is-God opinion and not really opening myself up to the Phish experience. Well, needless to say, those damn tapes grew on me like fungus on cow dung. By the end of our four-month adventure, I was thanking the Dogger for bringing that music. By then I knew about every note and lyric on all twenty tapes.
Back in the States I dubbed a few tapes and was off to an adventurous job supervising youth groups in the repair of poor peoples’ homes in War, West Virginia. This was one tough job. Sixteen- to eighteen-hour days (no exaggeration) of some of the most satisfying and hard work I've ever done. When I found out Phish was playing two hours’ drive from War in Charleston, I felt I deserved a break and immediately told my supervisors that I had a "wedding" to go to. They bought it and I was off to see Phish — the band I now felt I really knew after listening to those twenty tapes and many others.
So going into this, my fourth Phish show, having done my "homework" listening to tapes, I felt I was ready to rock along with every tune note for note. Maybe I would finally figure out what this Phish thing is all about. What I did not realize was that I had never heard a Gamehendge tape and that Phish had recently released Hoist — an album I had never heard, or heard of, for that matter.
I walked into Charleston's Municipal Auditorium right as Fish crashed a big cymbal to start “Kung”. Huh, “Kung”? What's this weird chant? As Trey began to tell his intricate story of the fall of the Lizard people, “Wilson's” abuse of the Helping Friendly Book's powers, and the rest, I was mesmerized — drawing parallels in my head to our government's treatment of Native Americans and to the Bible. Wow, these guys are a lot more than the noodling, nonsense-lyrics band I had pegged them to be. Oh, I forgot to mention, the auditorium was about one-third full with no more than nine hundred people in attendance. Since I was alone, I walked right up to an empty second row seat in front of Trey. By the end of Gamehendge, I was fully impressed and ready to hear some tunes I knew. (Of course I knew “Divided Sky”, “Lizards”, “Llama”, etc., but the rest were not on tapes I had heard.) So what do they do second set? They played all new tunes I did not know, but quickly caught on to and enjoyed. This was the only time they have played all the songs from one album in the same order as they were on the album. Pretty cool. They encored with the first “My Old Home Place”, which I remember Trey saying they had just learned on the bus the night before. Then I think I recall Trey saying something about Internet people requesting this next one — “Tube”. Another rare one that I had never heard before, but loved. End it off with a killer version of my favorite guitarist's (Hendrix) song, “Fire”, and you have the show that would hook most people and definitely hooked me.
Moral of the story: You never know what you’re gonna get when you see a Phish show, but it almost always satisfies your soul. If it was predictable, we wouldn't travel fourteen hours to see them like I'm doing this weekend (12/6–7/97).