That said, I was largely unprepared for the experience that awaited me at the Dane County Coliseum that fateful Tuesday night. A group of about twelve of us had driven up to Madison from my hometown of Lake Geneva, WI (near Alpine Valley Music Theater). My girlfriend at the time was going to school in Madison (coolest town east of the Mississippi) but did not attend the show with me. We took care of a little pre-show partying at a friend's place, and then made our way to the coliseum. If memory serves, it was a GA show (or at least we treated it that way) and about six of us (who hadn't found our buddy 'Cid on the way in) sat in the first couple of rows in the center of the balcony. I remember lobbying for these seats as I wanted to be able to take in the whole scene.
I was stoked to hear an opener from Rift (still my favorite studio release). Paul and Silas was great fun, and Taste that Surrounds (was called Fog that Surrounds on the tapes at the time, and only later became known as Taste) was a pleasant surprise. I got to see a Fee through the megaphone, Silent was "our song" so I was pleased to hear it, and a rare Demand. Maze had me delighted that they were playing so much off of Rift. Acoustic Army?!?...what can't these guys do? SOAMelt to finish off a great set...and I was still trying to figure out what was going on.
From the second set my more vivid memories include Theme from the Bottom, Bouncin' (I wasn't yet jaded by the inclusion of this one), YEM's gorgeous lights by CK5 during the quiet interlude and a scary vocal jam (we were guessing it was a dry run for the upcoming Halloween in Chicago), Sleeping Monkey (which was on the 3/11/90 tape that I had), a sick Antelope, and Contact (which I used to play to introduce people to Phish as I drove way to fast on back roads, getting air in my Oldsmobile)...basically the whole set.
I walked out of that place a changed man. I was dedicated to catch as much of these guys as possible. I felt like I'd spent the last three hours in a church that was preaching something I could believe in...that if there was a higher power, it was being channeled through Phish.
It's no surprise that the show from Dane County Coliseum hooked me all those years ago...with the benefit of hindsight, I was treated to something very special: a show full of bust-outs, and even a debut.
My tape collection exploded. In '96 I got to see the boys at Alpine from about the twelfth row, and drove to Minneapolis for one show in the fall run...still my least favorite show, ever. But it convinced me that one show was not enough...that if I was going to ensure my being a witness to greatness, I would need to make an effort to see multiple shows whenever possible...I've seen 48 more shows since then (I never went on tour to sell drugs or grilled cheese), and am looking forward to four more this summer.