My brother Josh, my friend Brian Zelizo, and I drove up from Pittsburgh that morning, through Erie (saying hi to relatives and dropping a car off), on our way to a theme park outside of Buffalo, NY. The night before, at Star Lake, Phish played a nice show, opening with the only “Amoreena” ever, a great “Gumbo” jam into the only “Horse” > “Silent” of the tour, “Crosseyed” -> “Wilson” with the “Little Drummer Boy”, and “Ghost” -> “Isabella”. A really fun show.
I wasn't really expecting much out of the Darien Lake show, since it was the last show before the Great Went. I was thinking that the band was going to play some throwaway songs to set themselves up for six sets of strong music with no repeats. But it was a gorgeous day as we drove along, listening to some tapes from earlier that summer in Europe (thanks to Charlie D.), playing Piper and Limb by Limb for the first time for Brian. Josh and I didn't have tickets, but we weren't too worried, thinking we could snag some there.
When we arrived at the venue, we realized we had some work to do. I was incredibly surprised to find that 'heads didn't want my cash; they wanted nugs or other “kind” things for their extras. But I had lots of cash! It was kind of amazing, if you ask me. Nevertheless, Josh found a lawn seat. After a little more hunting, I actually found a nice mail-order ticket, halfway down on Fishman's side. We headed in close to show time.
The first set included a fun “Ya Mar” opener, “Fluffhead”, a “Limb By Limb” — new for all of our ears, a beautiful “Tela”, and to close, a raging “Antelope”. This is a great version, where Trey starts and stops three or four times, building a huge tension and releasing it. They picked it up a notch at the end, and left us wondering what to expect for the next set.
After the “Chalk Dust” opener, they played two songs for Elvis: “Treat Me Like a Fool”, and "Elvis' favorite Phish song", “Sparkle”. Now is where the weirdness and surprises started. They broke out into “Harry Hood”, which caused a huge smile to cross my brother's face. This otherwise normal “Hood” went into a little five-minute jam at the end. Very cool. After the show, some were guessing it was “Blow Wind Blow”, but I think it was just a jam all to itself. The jam flowed into “Colonel Forbin's Ascent”. As Trey began the story, he said it began just like all of the other stories, except this one was a little different.
That was a definite understatement! Trey introduced Uncle Ken "Easy Greazy" Kesey, and that is where reality stopped. Ken Kesey and His Merry Pranksters (The Bozos!) proceeded to turn Darien Lake on its head. "The Wind doesn't blow — it sucks!" Costumed Birdmen walked through the crowd, midgets and monsters walked the stage (including “Frankenstein” with accompaniment by the band), all while Phish tried to play along. When they weren't laughing they were playing a low, funky sort of beat. I couldn't stop laughing myself.
That was surprise number one that night. It really shouldn't have been a surprise though: Ken and his Krewe were making their way east from Cleveland, after the Further bus was "inducted" into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The bus stopped in Erie, and made their way to Darien that afternoon. We could actually see the bus from our seats behind the stage.
As for surprise number two, well, that came as Ken left the stage. Phish's groove started to pick up a little, getting louder and funkier, as Trey started his story back up again. He started talking about going to find the Mockingbird that Ken helped them find, but he realized they couldn't, because "the Funk was too thick!" With that, the band launched into “Camel Walk”. I lost it right then and there, listening to one of only three or four “Camel Walk”s since the early ‘90s. Wasn't really a throwaway show after all, eh?